A/N: Fall over in shock if you will, for I have finally posted something new up. It isn't that I have gone off writing in any way; I have been extremely active over the summer holidays, and I now have over 35,000 words of Northern Darks 2 sitting in my computer. Unfortunately, it all happens to be chapters relating to the middle of the story, which is why nothing has been published. I also have 2258 words of 'Ryou Bakura's Best Friend'; I do know how it is going to end, but have been too busy with ND2 to work on any other multi-chaptered stories.

This is a one-shot centred around Yami Malik. I was pondering on just how long he had actually spent in his soul room in solitary confinement (six years) and wondering just what he ended up thinking and doing during that time. This was the result of that thought. It feels a little short to me (although it is slightly over 2000 words) and I wasn't sure at first whether to leave it where it was or to write a little more. Because of the situation, this story didn't seem to have a conclusion in the normal sense of the word; I'm just concerned as to whether it feels cut-off or not.

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Awake. Or a reasonable approximation, haze sprinkled generously over every atom. He wondered whether he had been dreaming, and had now woken; or was still asleep, and dreaming; or just awake all along. It still seemed to matter.

He rolled over, carefully, letting his limbs find their natural resting place as his shoulder-blades carved out shallow dents on whatever he lay on; his eyes stayed closed, maintaining the uncertainty of what state of consciousness he was in. He thought that perhaps he was awake; it was too blandly, blindingly dull to be any other way. Yet recently even his dreams had grown bland, softly blurred around the edges so that most of the time he did not even know what was happening; and it was as if it were a further punishment, as if now he could not even find temporary solace in some exotic dreamworld. Occasionally he wondered if this was sanity taking a chemical form and trickling slyly away as he supposed it must be doing; but as he had no model of what a sane person was like he had nothing to compare his own state to, even if he had known how to judge it.

He opened his eyes and felt nothing; was that what it was like in a physical body? Or did they feel some brief touch of wind as it gently stroked the corneas of their eyes? Oh how he wished he had something, anything for his senses to latch on to, to greedily examine its surface and try to consume it through sight alone.

Merely opening his eyes did not really do much to confirm how real everything around him was; and in this confused existence that he eked out, reality and fantasy were pieces of the same jigsaw, slotting companionably into place alongside each other, perhaps even raising a hand slightly in sly greeting. Why couldn't they fall out? He needed some sort of boundary defined, even if it were only to confirm that he was on the wrong side of the sanity/insanity one, and slipping away fast. Like the one between he and the physical shell around him, and the puny worm of consciousness that occupied it still: that border was undefined. He only knew that he was on the wrong side.

His eyes swivelled up towards the ceiling, or wherever he supposed it would be. Not that he expected that, after he had covered the surely mammoth distance between, that there would be some sort of physical obstruction, say an actually physical ceiling, there. The very concept had yet to be understood by his mind. But he was absolutely sure, in the vague, cloudy way that he was sure of most things, that the darkness around him could only reach so far in each direction. He knew, having explored and examined and paced the surrounding area for weeks on end (although that was only an approximation, because measurements of anything were something he was largely ignorant of; he was, however, aware of distances such as near and far and that there were stages in between, and this was how he measured them) that the darkness ended. Unfortunately, with it so did he. It was an arrogantly unarguable way of ensuring that he remained caged here, as he slammed his fists into the walls over and over and over again, until his knuckles might have been raw and bleeding (if he had stopped to see). There had been retribution to pay afterwards too: hands claws of raw pain for days afterwards. And he would stop and stare into the distance until it dimmed, and then start again.

And he had stopped now, but that did not mean that he didn't miss it. Something to do. He needed action. Something which could fill him, even temporarily, with purpose. He had given up long ago with most of the 'what-ifs', but one of the ones which still remained, rooted in stone, was: if he did ever get out, he was not going to stop doing things until every metaphysical cell lay drained of every last shred of energy, and he could not bring himself even to fling out his hands as he collapsed. Then he would fall asleep, and then he might end up back here. Forever. Again.

Outside the barrier void, there were others who were not caged as he was. They were ambling about meaninglessly on the face of whatever physical flat surface supported them, while he rotted away. He had no doubt that they would be wasting their time so, perhaps even standing around while their sparks trickled steadily and gloomily away; his maddeningly brief spell as a physical being had shown him all he needed to know about the dominant beings in this world.

He should have been quicker, he reflected. Most of the time, when he boarded this train of thought and watched himself chug slowly up the hill, climbing, climbing, he knew that in actuality the train was going down, and he with it, to sink into the ooze of melancholia that sucked him greedily under, while he looked on in lethargic nothing. Mostly, though, he was too far gone to know, and as a darker haze descended down upon his vision like the last curtain (show's over, folks…) he almost welcomed it, even if it hurt, so that when he was forced to accept reality again he was dumped there like being in the wrong airport in some country half-way across the world, with no luggage and a map that looked as if it had been designed by a chimpanzee. In and out, sticking his head in the hole only to wrench it out again, hair sodden and thoughtfully obstructing his vision.

Images skipped across his subconscious, and for once he embraced them, not cheerfully but with weary acceptance. It was something, after all. And he let himself drown once more in the shallow waters of his lighter half's memories; but of course, they were his memories now. It still interested him: that whatever blurry recall of him still lingering in the shell's mind was now only accessible by him, for the ignorant keeper of his prison appeared to have shoved the knowledge deep into his subconscious mind, far beyond his own reach, in a pitiful attempt at self-protection. It seemed to have worked, though; and just how good was the memory of a ten-year old child anyway? Perhaps it was merely shock that had drawn the curtain firmly between them, so that the weak creature who stumbled through life actually now had absolutely no recall of his first (and, sadly, to date, the only) succumb, his surrender to the higher being now lodged immovably in his mind like shrapnel from an explosion.

At times it was not full-blown repression, (and the fact that it was unconsciously done bloated the humiliation further) for if he approached the barrier quietly (although not marked out in an normal way, to him it was as brilliant as a freshly-established scar across the hemispheres, circled again and again in ecstatic pink highlighter), slinking, fox-like, to the borders of haze, he found that his state became different and this time he was hovering; swaying a little, held in place by what he liked to think of as pure willpower, and granted snatches of what was going on outside his own limited world.

In a borrowed sort of way he could see the appearance of the shell that housed him, as he watched the reflections in people's eyes. Eyes swept places like huge spotlights and he was left in the shadow behind them, trying to keep up. He wanted to have it on his own terms, to manipulate those orbs himself – but whenever he tried to take over in the way that he had done as the very first thing ever, there was a hopeless sliding sensation like trying to climb up a playground slide and failing, and he was tipped back down. He stuck at it, clawing his way determinedly back up, fancying that he got a little further each time; and when he got there one day, into what was almost like a little alcove as he snuggled comfortably into place in this shell, like worming his way into a shirt that was a little too small, he was confronted with images that left him reeling, not the scribbles themselves but what they represented – and then before he could look away he had toppled and was plunging back down into the abyss. It only added to his resolution; and one day he would make that person crumble beneath him like he had done to the other two. He knew he could do it. He just needed to get slotted into place first.

It wasn't as if it would even be a hard thing to do. He had seen how easily their shells had shattered, so hopelessly tightly intertwined that both were vanquished together, soul and shell. That was his strength, that he could slip back out of this armour whenever he fancied (getting in was the hard bit), to crouch, untouchable, into his cage again. Like some wild animal, unreachable and snapping at the hands of those who might save it. But he didn't need saving; he could sort this out for himself.

Time skated past again, and he watched largely without interest, feeling the flame inside himself dim a little more with each passing day until, just when he thought it would dissolve into the air, he felt some distant tug and it flickered unwillingly back, renewed for now. Mostly he just slept, trying to smother his internal fire and always failing. He never knew how much time had passed while he slumbered; neither did he care. And yet sometimes it still had the capability to shock him: recently, he had caught sight of the child that housed him as he passed the mirror – taller; face losing some of the roundness of childhood, cheekbones pushing their way to the surface. It made him wonder what he himself looked like, and caused him to squint impatiently through the darkness at himself. He could feel his arms beginning to grow knotty with muscle, and flexed his hands curiously, wondering if he could snap the necks of those who paraded around him, just out of reach. The number of strides which he could take from one side of the room to the other decreased, and instead of travelling to and fro he found himself forced to pace around the room in useless circles.

There came other changes, too; and he was excited by them, feeling whispers of the same incomparable energy from before promising to surge through him again. It had been electrifying, every millimetre of his skin crackling with energy…and the driving force behind it all whispering seductively in his ear, showing him what to do. He wanted to ride that wave of euphoric heat again; and he would, one day; he was sure of it. Another chance to show what he could do. He had fucked up the first time; never again. And he could be forgiven for revelling in it, gambolling in the heat and the electricity until standing still was torture…but anticipating it meant that next time he could usurp that driving force just enough to do more. And he would be stronger, and able to resist that thing which made all the fire unravel, cutting off the supply with a simple snip. He had felt it instantly: current at once becoming jagged and halting; and in that moment, he had hesitated. And then his treacherous hands had loosened and the Millennium Rod slid from his grasp, even as he too had slid back, screeching protests which were really a covering layer for what was underneath.

That was what he was paying for: that moment of weakness. Years and years for one little mistake, while people ambled about, their lives all one big mistake; they would eventually pay retribution, just as he had been forced to do. And this time it would be he who dictated the terms.