A/N: Yay a Mai pairing! Boo, a not-JouMai pairing.
There are a suprising number of settings to plausibly make these characters interact. Besides the obvious Duelist Kingdom and Doom, there's Battle City, post-KCGP, the tag-team circuit, and 5Ds (both "lost" to Mukuro Enjo).
Shark's Australian, so I figured he was the most plausible of the Grand Prix competitors to actually move to Japan.
While the timeline has never been confirmed, 5D's is ~27 years after DM. (10 yrs for GX and 17 years time passed since Zero Reverse, aka Yusei's lifetime). It could be longer, but that seems a stretch with Ushio. Anyway, Yusei's still a kid, but Mukuro has to be a duelist, so let's say this is 23 years after DM.
...um, I think I turned this into Mai/Ethan Shark shipping. WTF? Has anyone ever written a fanfiction about him ever?
Disclaimer: Now and always, not mine.
Ryuzaki was angry when he threw open the door of the bar. Several kilometers of walking and a few hours hadn't done much to cool his temper. Mukuro Enjo was some punk newcomer, and just because he knew how to ride a stupid motorcycle, Ryuzaki lost any chance of a comeback.
A few heads turned when Ryuzaki stormed in, but they turned away just as quickly when they realized it was Ryuzaki. He didn't bother to look, but most of the faces were familiar ones. Ryuzaki took the first seat he could reach, and waved the bartender to him.
"What is this, a Mukuro Enjo pity party?" he smirked, putting down a glass. His brown hair parted down the middle and stuck in two points above his head. Something about him was familiar, but Ryuzaki wasn't in the mood to think about it.
"Yes," Ryuzaki said. "So give me something to drink."
"'Something' coming right up." He poured something clear and slid it down the bar to Ryuzaki. "First one's on the house. I saw the duel."
Ryuzaki grunted something in acknowledgement, downing his drink and nodding for a second.
"It's a tough world for duelists," the bartender replied casually, pushing another glass his way. "I couldn't even stick around long enough for motorcylces."
Ryuzaki took half a second to stop feeling sorry for himself and stared at the bartender.
"Shark. What are you doing here?" Ryuzaki recognized the Austrailian duelist from their brief time in the KC Grand Prix together.
Ethan Shark shrugged. "Moved to Domino just before Zero Reverse to try to make it in the dueling circuit. I failed. Now I'm making old pro duelists feel a little better about themselves. Empasis on old."
"Shut up." A voice next to Ryuzaki cut in. Ethan grinned at her. The jab was intentional. Mai met his jovial expression with a dull glare. Her hair was short now, and at long last, she had actually aged. She certainly didn't look all of her almost-fifty years, but she wasn't the supermodel Ryuzaki met on the boat to Duelist Kingdom.
"Kujaku Mai," he breathed. Their last significant encounter had been stealing souls for a crazed Atlantean spirit. She stared at him. His own features had matured in the two-odd decades since they were dueling together. His hair was still long, still tied back in a loose ponytail from the riding duel. But his face was clean-shaven, and he still wore that red hat.
"I saw your duel, too," Mai ignored his question. "I wish you'd put that asshole in his place."
Lingering anger over his duel mixed oddly with surprise and alcohol. Ryuzaki struggled for words. "Yeah. Uh... how have you been?"
"Is that the best conversation you have for me?"
"Wha... I..." Ryuzaki tried to recover for half a second, and then just gave up. "Yes. Right now, I'm pissed about my duel, and I don't feel like acting nice. So how the fuck are you?"
"I was betting on you to beat Mukuro, so probably about the same as you." She tossed back the rest of her drink. Ethan appeared quickly.
"Stop watching me," Mai glared. Ethan refilled her glass and pushed it back in one practiced motion.
"Gotta take care of my best customer," he winked before turning away.
"You remind me of someone," she muttered darkly.
"And where is he?" Ethan goaded over his shoulder. "Getting ready to duel Enjo and redeem your honor! Or something equally lame and chivalous. Not here."
"...that was low."
"You started it." Ethan departed to attend to other customers.
"You guys fight like a couple," Ryuzaki joked, taking a drink. Mai was not amused.
"He's an ass," Mai replied lightly, and raised her voice. "I'd never date him!"
"And yet I remind you of..." Ethan called back.
"Shut up!" Mai was vehement enough that he let the subject drop this time.
"I see you still make all the guys fall for you." Ryuzaki put his glass down.
"You're telling me you didn't get guys like Varon and Jounouchi fighting over you all the time? Those two were just some random freak occurance?"
"Don't talk about them," Mai said. She swivled the stool around to actually face Ryuzaki. She was serious enough that Ryuzaki let it drop for the time being, but wanted to know about it all the more.
"I... how'd you know about that?"
"See, there's this little thing called the internet..."
"Don't you get funny, too," she narrowed her eyes at him. "I can't take any more witty men."
"That why I can't talk about Jounouchi? Shark seems to know." Curiosity got the better of him.
"What did I just say?" Mai demanded. "Just... get out of here. Go sit somewhere else."
"And you'll drink alone?"
"Isn't that what you were planning on tonight?"
"I just lost a duel."
"And I lost money on it."
"So we should drink together if we're drinking for the same thing."
"You..." Mai rubbed her forehead. "Why are you still so stupid?"
"Why are you still so stuck-up?"
"Now who's fighting like a couple?" Mai said unabashedly, taking another drink, and Ryuzaki did the same, giving himself a moment to recover. Not that he had been head-over-heels for her, but... well, yeah, he'd been-still was-attracted to her. He'd been a gangly teenager, and she was a hot girl wearing a corset and a miniskirt. And then a corset and hot pants. There wasn't much to think about. But he never lost any sleep over her. Nor had he risked life, limb, or soul to fight for her honor like seemingly every other male duelist that encountered her.
He couldn't believe things had just fallen out with Jounouchi. And he didn't really care about her feelings on the subject, he was drunk and curious: "What happened with Jounouchi?"
"Dammit, Ryuzaki!" Mai growled. "What's your problem?"
"This is ridiculous."
"Tell me and I'll leave."
"Act like a grown man, for crying out loud. You're almost... what, forty?"
"Something like that. Why won't you talk about it?"
"There's nothing to talk about!" Mai exclaimed. "He doesn't drink. I do. End of story."
"What do you mean 'that's it'!"
"I mean... he couldn't just deal with it? Or you couldn't just stop?
"No. I couldn't!" She put her glass down and sighed. "I mean, there is more to it. But I think that's what it all boiled down to. I don't know if he ever understood just how fucked I was after... everything. He couldn't fix it all because he was the problem. He made me feel bad about myself. And it wasn't his fault, it just... was. Is. I needed something, but then it was there between us, and we knew it wasn't going to work."
"Well. Damn. I didn't expect that."
"What did you expect?"
"I dunno. That you'd be with him. Or that you'd be with someone. Or maybe even settled down. And some kind of dueling champ still.
"Yeah, well, there's only so many winners. Someone's got to lose in the first rounds of those tournaments."
"But why's it us and not the new kids?" Ryuzaki lamented. "They all get to go straight to the top!"
"That was us when we were their age, hon."
"The game was invented when we were their age! We started it!"
"And now they're going to finish it. We're washed-up, Ryuzaki. You're not Japanese runner-up, and I'm not Asian tag-team champ. Co-champ. We're just plain old duelists. No titles."
"So my options are to stay stuck in the glory days or accept that I'm a chump duelist?"
"Or both," Mai shrugged. "That's what this place is for. Right, Ethan?"
Their persistant bartender returned. "That it is, a haven for pre-riding-duelists. Back when we played on tables and duel arenas and not even duel disks."
"Were YOU even around that long ago?" Ryuzaki chuckled.
"Yes, my uncultured friend, Duel Monsters was in other countries besides your own."
Mai finished her drink and dropped some cash on the bar. Ryuzaki grabbed it and handed it back to her.
"I got it."
"You don't have to do that."
"I lost you money, didn't I? Just shut up and let me buy your drinks."
"...Ryuzaki, you are not a terrible person."
"You think you'll come back here again?" Years of practice hid just how much she wanted him to see him there again.
Ryuzaki looked around at the people in the bar. All were over thirty-five. Most of them were older. They were all familar faces, not people he had met or talked with properly, but duelists, titles, champions, names on a bracket, rankings just above or below his own. Everyone had some claim to fame, now long forgotten.
Did it hurt so much to relive his past? He was still dueling. It wasn't over yet for him. These people knew him in a way none of these new kids could.
"Yeah. You'll be here?"
"Oh, I think so."
Dialogue-heavy because bar conversation and last-minute fic writing.