Disclaimer: I do not own YuGiOh!. That pleasure belongs to Kazuki Takahashi. This is solely written for fun and not for profit.

A/N- So here is the start of last year's NaNoWriMo project. Now Azureshipping wasn't really my thing, but this story came to me sometime last year and would not leave me alone until I had written it out. I had a lot of fun writing it and I certainly have a better appreciation for the pairing now!

The first draft of the story is complete and I shall be editing as I post. Hopefully it won't take me forever to get it done. :)

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Seto Kaiba scowled as the chartered ship sailed down the river away from the God forsaken place where that so called 'ceremonial duel' had taken place. He still wasn't exactly sure what had happened there, but whether it were hologram or hallucination, seeing the 'other Yugi' separate from his host like that had been most... disconcerting. Then when the spirit had lost and had left to go back to his afterlife? The most alarming thing that occurred there had been the moment he had seen the man that could have been his twin on the other side of the portal. But no matter how much the geek squad pestered him about it he would never admit that he was related to that doppelgänger in any way, be it ancestor, past self or both.

The second most disconcerting thing had been watching the friendship fusion dissolving into tears as the 'ancient Pharaoh' had passed through the portal to his eternal rest. Yugi especially had been most upset, although he had done his best to put a brave face on it for the sake of the others.

However, Kaiba knew that this was his chance. With the ancient spirit no longer around to support Yugi and with that causing Yugi to be burdened by grief, he knew that there would be no better opportunity to defeat the diminutive duelist that was his rival. If there was anything that Kaiba had learned over his time in the business world, then it was to strike when it was most advantageous and there was never likely to be another chance like this!

Kaiba stood there at the stern of the ship for a few moments longer as he watched the place they had left receding into the distance. He was running through strategies and scenarios in his mind when he was disturbed by a familiar presence approaching from behind him.


Kaiba turned to find Yugi standing right behind him, his little entourage not far behind. "What is it that you want, Mutou?" he asked, crossing his arms arrogantly and glaring down at him.

"I just wanted to thank you, both for bringing us here and taking us home again," Yugi said.

"It was just a means to an end," Kaiba said, waving a hand dismissively. "Speaking of which," He regarded Yugi with a sinister smirk. "I challenge you to a duel. Right now."

"What the hell, Kaiba?" Jonouchi said, moving towards the pair threateningly. "Yugi's only just..." Jou stopped as Yugi held a hand up, stopping him in his tracks. This was something that caused Kaiba to sneer.

"Nice to see that you've managed to train that mutt somewhat," he said, casting a contemptuous look across at the Jonouchi who was now having to be restrained by both Honda and Otogi whilst Anzu looked on helplessly. "However, he obviously needs some more training yet."

"I accept, Kaiba," Yugi said quietly, that simple statement enough to make his friends stop in their tracks. "I will duel you."

"What? Yug', you don't have to..." Jonouchi started, only for Yugi to raise his hand to stop him again.

"Yes, I do," Yugi said, never taking his eyes from Kaiba. "What would..." he faltered slightly, "what would Atem think if I just gave up without even trying? As I said, I will duel you, Kaiba."

"Good," Kaiba said coolly. "I will be generous and see you here on deck after giving you one hour to prepare. Don't be late." With that he stalked off to his own cabin to prepare for the duel as the group of friends surrounded their 'leader'. Kaiba knew that this was definitely his last chance. If he couldn't beat Yugi now, then he knew that he never would.

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Two hours later found one very dispirited Seto Kaiba slumping back to his cabin, the very image of a man defeated. Far from being weakened from losing the spirit that had resided within the golden puzzle that no longer hung around his neck, Yugi had instead been even stronger, almost as if he were out to prove that the defeat of the spirit had not been a one off, to prove that he was more than capable of standing on his own two feet and quite able to duel on his own.

Kaiba sighed as he poured himself a drink then booted his computer to review the video footage of the duel. He shortly had the video up and running, seeing the look of determination on his face that was a mirror for Yugi's own. Yugi's friends were rooting for him all the way and cheering him on with gusto whilst he stood on the opposite side all on his own.

Was there nothing he could do to defeat Yugi? Yes, he may have Money and the largest gaming company in the world, but all that felt as though it counted for nothing when there seemed to be no game that he could best Yugi at.

He took a large gulp from the cut glass of expensive malt whiskey he held in his hand, the warmth of the alcohol spreading through his system as he contemplated his lot. Then he continued to sip at the amber liquid, somewhat numbing the pain he felt as he watched to the end of the duel and beyond, the group of friends surrounding Yugi and slapping him on the back even as he himself made his bitter exit.

Then he thought he saw something that seemed to be out of place. He backed the video up, let it play for a moment, then stopped it at the critical moment.

On the screen he could see that he was just leaving the deck, head held high despite his defeat, determined not to show any weakness until he was out of sight. Jonouchi and Honda were enthusiastically congratulating Yugi on his latest win whilst Yugi was looking wistfully at Anzu. But Anzu wasn't watching Yugi. No, the cheerleader was watching him as he left the deck with something approaching concern etched upon her features.

That was the moment he hatched The Plan™. It was painfully obvious to anyone with a pair of eyes that Mutou was infatuated with the cheerleader girl. It was also plain for anyone that cared to see it that Anzu had only had eyes for Yugi's 'darker half'. Now that the spirit was no longer around, the dweeb was obviously hoping that Mazaki would transfer her affections over to him, something that clearly wasn't going to happen.

But that was where he, Seto Kaiba, would step in. Of course, he couldn't just go up to her and say "Mazaki, be my girlfriend." No, that course of action would inevitably be doomed to utter failure. Instead he would use her love of 'friendship' to insinuate himself into her life in order to enable the circumstances where he could win this particular round, and he thought he had just the way to go about it.

Yugi Mutou may be able to beat him at Duel Monsters, but there was no way that he could ever win the girl. At least, not if Seto Kaiba had anything to do with it.

But how would he manage to talk to her without all her geeky friends interfering?

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As it happened, he wouldn't have to worry about that for very long. About half an hour and a couple of drinks later, there was a knock on his cabin door. He walked across the room on unsteady legs in order to answer it, only to be surprised at just who it was that had come to disturb him.

"Mazaki," he said, affecting indifference as he walked away from the door, leaving her free to follow him into the room if she so desired. He sat back down, noting that she had indeed entered the room and closed the door behind her. "So, to what do I owe this... pleasure?"

Anzu, as was expected of her, came right to the point. "That was a low thing you did today, Kaiba," she said, crossing her arms as she glared across the room at him. "Yugi had only just said goodbye to Atem and was still in grief. He didn't need you to challenge him on top of that."

"On the contrary," Seto said coolly, swirling the liquid in his glass and taking a sip before continuing. "As much as it pains me to admit it, I may have actually done him a favour."

"How on earth do you qualify that as a favour?" Anzu asked incredulously.

"It proved to him once and for all that he does not need his... other half to make him a good duelist and it will have helped to shake him out of whatever funk he would have got himself into if he had been allowed to brood over it." He sighed and took another sip of his drink. "And I have to accept that if I can't beat him even under these circumstances then it is most likely that I never will."

"I... suppose you're right," Anzu said grudgingly, "But I know that it wasn't something you did out of the goodness of your heart."

"No," Kaiba said, staring off into space. "After all, if he were to give up dueling then I would never get the chance to defeat him. Not that I suppose I could as long as he has the support of his friends." He said that last with a sneer.

"Oh Kaiba, why do you insist on pushing us all away?" Anzu asked. "You should know by now that we have no ulterior motives and we just..."

"I know that," Kaiba cut her off, "it's just... hard for me." He chanced a glance and Mazaki and she was clearly eating his act up with a spoon. "I've been reliant on myself for so long that I suppose I've forgotten what it was like to have friends..." he trailed off and stared off into space, acting as if he were thinking about what it would be like to be in a group like theirs and as though he'd been drinking an awful lot more than he really had.

"Just let us in, Kaiba," Anzu said passionately. "I can't promise that it will be plain sailing, but we just want to be there for you."

"I don't know," Kaiba said as he sat up in his chair and looked at her warily. "Maybe... maybe I could let one person in," he said, fixing Anzu with the intensity of his gaze, "just to... get used to the idea."

"I suppose that's a reasonable way to go about it," Anzu said uncertainly, "but... who do you have in mind?"

Kaiba suddenly got up from his chair and began unsteadily pacing the room. "Not Yugi. He's my rival... I can't do that just yet," he mused. "I can't trust Otogi and the Mutt is completely out of the question, as is his primate friend," his features twisted in distaste at the thought of either of those two hanging all over him, then he stopped and looked at Anzu. "You," he said abruptly. "You can teach me how to be a friend and how a friend should act."

"I... I suppose that would be OK." Anzu wasn't sure about this. Kaiba had most definitely been drinking for a while and she wasn't sure how he would react when he sobered up.

"But you can't tell anyone," Kaiba said seriously, "not even Yugi."

Anzu continued to think for a moment. Yes, this could be a chance to finally make the elder Kaiba brother a part of their group, something that Yugi had lamented over on more than one occasion. But then Kaiba was obviously under the influence of alcohol and even if that were taken out of the equation there was always the chance that he could be playing some kind of cruel trick. However, even having considered all of that, Anzu was too much of an optimist and she couldn't let this chance pass by, so she found herself agreeing.

"OK Kaiba, I will help you to learn about friendship," she declared, "and as my first act as your friend, I shall ask you how much you have been drinking and whether it is likely to have affected your... decision making processes?"

"I haven't really had all that much," Kaiba said. "I will probably have a bad head in the morning, so you should avoid me then, but I won't change my mind if that is what you are worried about." That wasn't a lie either as he already knew full well that he wouldn't change his mind. He hadn't drunk very much at all really, but almost any amount of alcohol left him prone to waking up with a killer headache the next day.

"I'm glad to hear that," Anzu said, "and I think I can help you with the headache. Do you have any paracetamol?"

Kaiba nodded and opened his desk drawer, pulling out a small packet of the painkillers.

"Good. Now you should take two of those and drink a large glass of water before you go to sleep," she instructed.

"And how is that supposed to help?" Kaiba asked sceptically.

"I'd have thought you would have known this," Anzu mused before answering. "Alcohol dehydrates and the hangover that you experience the next morning is mainly down to nothing more than a lack of fluid in the system. Drinking a glass of water before you go to sleep will mitigate some of the effects, the paracetamol will help with the rest and you should wake up feeling a whole lot better than you would have done otherwise."

"Hmm... I'll take your word for it," Kaiba said, then he yawned. "I think I shall turn in then. Good night Mazaki."

"Good night Kaiba," Anzu said as she left the room. She looked slightly troubled as she left as he had clearly given her a lot to think about.

As the door closed behind Yugi's little cheerleader, a sinister grin appeared on Kaiba's face. Phase one of his plan had worked out perfectly and with relatively little effort on his part. Now he just needed to plan the rest and soon Anzu would be putty in his hands.

He could imagine the look on Yugi's face as the news broke right now and he could hardly wait to see it, but he forced himself to calm down.

He knew that this would take time and he would have to be patient as he worked it through, but that would just make victory all the sweeter.

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The next morning, Kaiba blinked his eyes open then sat up in shock as he realised that he did not have a headache despite drinking more than enough to give him a hangover the night before. He had followed Mazaki's instructions on how to avoid one to a T, taking a couple of painkillers and drinking plenty of water before he went to bed, but he could not help but be surprised to find that it had actually had the effect she had promised. Of course, drinking all that water had a predictable effect on him, so he wasted no time in getting out of bed, heading to the bathroom and relieving his bladder before getting washed and dressed.

He still felt slightly woozy, but he knew that he could mitigate that by obtaining some breakfast, so he headed towards the galley, steeling himself to deal with the geek squad, but he was surprised as the only person there was Anzu.

"Good morning Kaiba," Anzu said politely as he entered.

"I'd hardly call it good," Kaiba snapped reflexively, then he mentally face palmed as he remembered that he was supposed to be making friends with her in order to seduce her away from the midget's side.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Anzu said, radiating sympathy. "Did my suggestion not work?"

"It did, thank you," Kaiba said, making an effort to be more gentle this time. "Is there any more coffee?" he asked, noting that Anzu was nursing a cup of the steamingly hot beverage.

"There's a fresh pot over there," Anzu said, indicating the counter. Kaiba nodded and poured himself a cup, making it just the way he liked it, then he returned to sit opposite Anzu.

Kaiba grimaced mentally as he realised that he would have to make small talk, but then he had to think of his plan. Whatever was to happen, he would let Anzu make the first move. He knew that she couldn't help but talk, although he was eternally grateful that she wasn't as loud as the mutt.

"Are you feeling alright, Kaiba?" she asked, somehow concerned that he wasn't actually biting her head off yet. She knew that she was inviting him to do so now, but she really couldn't stand protracted silences.

"I do believe that I already answered that question," Kaiba said, regarding Anzu coolly over the rim of his coffee cup.

"That's not what I meant, Kaiba," Anzu said, shaking her head. "I was wondering if you were OK after... Yugi won the duel yesterday." She worried as Kaiba was silent for a long time and Anzu wondered if she had just ruined this 'friendship' before it had chance to begin. "I'm sorry," she said, "I shouldn't have brought it up."

"No, it's fine," Kaiba said with a sigh. "I have already accepted that I will never defeat him and it is time to move on."

"I'm sorry, Kaiba," Anzu said. "I know beating Yugi meant a lot to you."

"It did, but I think I can let it go now," Kaiba waved his hand as if he were brushing the defeat aside, then turned the conversation back to Anzu. "But what about you?" he asked. "It can't have been easy watching your friend... leave like that."

Anzu looked at Kaiba stunned for a moment, surprised that he would even think to ask her such a thing. "I... I'm OK I guess," she said. "I know it probably had to happen that way and he is back where he belongs, but it was still a sad occasion." She looked up at Kaiba with a smile. "Thank you for asking."

Kaiba nodded then stood as he heard the noises of the other passengers as they made their way to the galley. In a way he was grateful that the mutt was so noisy as it gave him ample time to make his retreat. "See you around, Mazaki," he said as he made to leave the galley.

"Hold on Kaiba," Anzu called him before he could go. He turned to look at her and had to bring a hand up quickly to catch the cereal bar that she threw at him. "It's not good to skip breakfast," she said. "Eat that and it will help clear the rest of your hangover."

"Thank you Mazaki," he said, then he turned to leave the galley, plastering a scowl on his face as he walked past the rest of the geek squad in the corridor outside, determined not to give anything away. However he waited out of sight to listen in as he wanted to hear what Anzu would say to her friends when he wasn't around. Would she keep his confidence or would she give the situation away?

"Oi! Anzu!" Jonouchi was heard to yell. Kaiba shook his head as he wondered why the mutt was shouting as Anzu couldn't have been more than a few feet away from him. "Did Kaiba do anything to you?" he demanded.

"No, Jonouchi," Anzu replied patiently, "he didn't bother me at all."

"You mean he didn't even say anything to you?" Honda asked incredulously.

"Look, he came in for his coffee, that's all," Anzu insisted. "Don't be so hard on the guy. After all, we could have been left to make our own way to the site for the ceremonial duel and back. He didn't have to do this for us."

"That much is true," Yugi chimed in, "and you know I've always said that underneath that hard exterior, Kaiba isn't all that bad."

Kaiba moved away, now having heard enough. He was satisfied that Anzu was going to do her part and keep things to herself so he would be content with that for now.

But he would do whatever it took to win the game.

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Thanks for reading!