Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters presented here and am not making any profit off of this whatsoever.
Title: One Room
Word Count: 11,150
Rated: PG-13
Romance: Yami no Malik x Malik Ishtar
Notes: This takes place a bit before and somewhat during Battle City and was written for the second season of the Yu-Gi-Oh Pairings Challenge. Comments and criticism gratefully accepted.
Summary: One particular room holds the key to the relationship between Malik and his other.

There was only one room in Malik's soul. It had always been that way, and perhaps always would be. The differences that had come with the split in his mind had caused a touch of redecorating, however. For the most part, the room was a wide one, full of every kind of lighting imaginable, from sunlight to moonlight to starlight to electric lights. No shadows were allowed to exist anywhere. Anyone who studied it with an eye to knowing the meanings behind the language of the soul would have read his absolute terror of the darkness easily.

Which was why that one small spot of shadow in the very back, behind the large portrait of Rishid and the slightly smaller one of Isis, was so jarringly out of place.

Out of place, but there, and try as he might, Malik could not ignore it, nor the soft whisper that came out of it. He could forget it, and always did when he was awake, but when the night came and he slept, there it was.

And did you have a good day? The question was a common one, but laced with acid contempt and a thick coating of hatred. Malik tried not to look at the darkness the voice had come from. He didn't come here every night. Just sometimes, when he was very tired or very stressed, he would open his eyes in this strange place and have to deal with that voice, with it's sliding, whispering, taunting, demanding hollowness.

"Who are you?" He'd asked a hundred times and always got the same answer. This time was no different.

Malik Ishtar.

"That's my name." He wanted a real answer, and not an echo. There had to be something in there, and it wasn't something that was him. He had no darkness like this. This was what came from the soul of someone who was evil, not someone like him! If anyone were evil, it was that pharaoh! But Malik was going to fix him, and gain revenge for three thousand years of Ishtars.

He put aside the thought for now, as pleasant as it was. He wanted to find out more about this whispering darkness. Even if he forgot it when he woke up, and he felt that he would, as he always did, he wanted to know now.

I know. But it is also mine. I am you. Again, words he'd heard before, but ones that he didn't believe. This was not him.

"No, you're not. I'm me. You can't be me." Malik would've poked into the darkness if he'd had something to poke with, just to see what would happen. He wanted to know what was there, beyond the shadows. Sometimes, when he stared long enough, he thought that he saw bars of some kind. Was there a cage there? "Tell me who you really are."

I did.

Malik wanted to scream. Couldn't he be given a straight answer for once instead of all of this running around? "Why can't I see you?" Maybe this would help things.

Because you don't really want to. I'm what you don't want to see or do or remember. A thick, liquid, dark laugh came from the depths of the shadows. Every little thing you think or say that is too much for you, becomes part of me. It makes me stronger.

That didn't bring Malik any reassurance whatsoever. He glared into the darkness a little more. "You're crazy."

Coming from you, that's a compliment.

Malik growled deep in his throat and wished that he had the Millennium Rod there. Then he'd be able to show this creature or whatever it was just what the penalty was for playing mind games with the leader of the Ghouls!

The Millennium Rod would have no effect on me. You cannot use it on yourself. And it chose me before it chose you no matter what. It would be mine. As you will be, in time. The words held a promise, one Malik didn't want to see fulfilled.

"No. Whatever you are, you can't use the Rod. It's mine, and I don't belong to anyone!" He'd had enough of being owned by the Pharaoh. He wasn't going to give in to something or someone that was only a product of his own mind at best and a hallucination at the worst. The marks on his back twinged just at the thought of it.

I've already used it. Something that could have been a memory flickered in the very back of Malik's thoughts, but he shoved it aside without bothering to think about it. Another of those unpleasant chuckles sound. Thank you. I needed that.

Malik stared in surprise as the darkness inched a little closer. "What...what's happening?" It stopped before it had moved more than an inch, but the rest of the room was now just a little darker. He wondered if he were going to somehow have to change the light bulbs or something.

I told you. When there's something that you're afraid to think of or speak of, it comes to me and strengthens me.

Malik shuddered at the thought, and wondered if there was some way he could take away this shadow's power. It should be possible. He'd given it to the creature, if what it said was true. Maybe if he thought about good things that would help. The vengeance he planned on the Pharaoh...

Amazingly pleasant visions of his nemesis, bound in chains and forced to kneel before him, rose up in Malik's mind as he closed his eyes. He virtually purred at the sight. He had no idea of what the Pharaoh, or the vessel he would be using in this time, looked like, but it didn't matter. In his mind, this was the Pharaoh, and that was what mattered.

As he contemplated the painful, agonizing death that he would unleash on the person of the one who had condemned his family to darkness for all eternity, he didn't notice the shadows getting just that little bit darker and a little wider.

He did sigh a little as he opened his eyes and saw that the splotch appeared to be no smaller. That obviously wasn't going to work. "What are you doing in there?" Malik wondered, trying to get another view. He didn't quite stick his head in the darkness, but he did lean in a little more closely, staring as much as he could.


Malik really didn't like one-word answers. His fingers clenched and unclenched, and he imagined the hefty weight of the Rod in his hand so clearly he was actually surprised when he looked and didn't see it there. He couldn't force an answer out of this being. He was going to have to do it the hard way. "Waiting for what?"

You to release me.

The answers that weren't one-word long weren't really worth getting either. "Whatever you are, I'm not going to let you out of there." He didn't believe that this thing was a part of him, but he wasn't going to let it run loose either. Any time he got a little too close to it, shivers and shakes ran all through him, and he wanted to run back to the waking world and never sleep again.

You were trapped underground all of those years. Why do you want to condemn me to being trapped inside of you, in the darkness you refuse to acknowledge? There was nothing pathetic or weak about the words, as might have been with someone else. Instead, more of that hatred and contempt flavored them, and another layer of something else, something Malik couldn't define at all. It stirred images in his mind of chains, bondage, and living forever at the will of another.

Again, the shadows grew stronger, and he didn't notice. They had almost touched his knee where he sat, and he moved slightly away without thinking about it.

"That's different." It wasn't the best answer, but it would do, he felt. He was getting really tired of sitting here, and he wanted to be somewhere else, without all of these questions that weren't getting any kind of answers. He needed to wake up and get the reports from Rishid and his Ghouls anyway. They should have found all of the God Cards by now, and he wanted to know where he had to go. His revenge was so close, so very close at hand, and he didn't want to miss a moment of it.

Is it? Are you so different from your reflection?

That made no sense at all now. "You're not a reflection. You're just...something else." He still couldn't figure out what else. He didn't want to believe that this was anything of his. How it had gotten here if it wasn't, he didn't know, but there had to be some kind of an answer that he just wasn't getting.

I'm a reflection of you. What you don't want to be, I am. And more. This was getting Malik nowhere. He pushed himself to his feet and started to turn around. He wasn't sure where to go or how to get there, but anywhere was better than listening to this insanity. Leaving so soon? And we were just starting to become friends.

"I don't want to be your friend!" Malik spat the words out. "I don't need any friends!" Friends were just something else to hold you back, like family. He hadn't begun to get anywhere with his revenge until he'd begun to treat Rishid like the servant he was and Isis like the pest that was all she could be. All she'd done when they had finally emerged from the darkness that had been their home was just try to forget, to let the past slide away. That didn't come close to the burning flames of vengeance that lit Malik's soul. He would never forget. He couldn't.

Memory had been carved into his very flesh, after all.

But I want to be yours. And perhaps...more than friends. Malik didn't think that the voice was really meant to sound seductive, but it was trying. Deep in the deepest parts of himself, something twitched in response to the aching need that filled that voice as well. It was wrong in so many levels and in so many ways that he couldn't describe it, but he didn't move, even though he wanted to. You have never had someone be more to you than that.

It wasn't a question, and Malik didn't think for a moment to treat it as if it had been. "I don't want someone like that. No one here would ever understand what it's like." He loved the world of the surface, and would do anything he had to in order to keep it for himself. But the few people he'd met didn't seem to understand that kind of dedication to a cause. When they'd first left the caves, he'd hoped he would find people who could understand, but it hadn't happened like that.

I understand, Malik. I will always understand. In the voice of another, the words may have been comforting. Malik turned away completely, his back tingling as if someone were watching him, and he walked away, refusing to say anything else.

Behind him, the shadows watched, and waited. His time would come, he knew. Sooner than Malik expected.

When Malik found himself in that room next, he didn't waste any time staring at the darkness or even attempting to start talking to that voice. Instead, he stalked up and down in the emptiness of the room, swearing in both Japanese and Arabic. If he had been taught any of the profanity of the old tongue of his ancestors, he would have been using that as well.

The other half of his mind only chuckled in amusement, knowing full well what was bothering Malik so. Though he couldn't really do anything beyond the occasional muffled and whispered word, he knew everything that Malik knew. Try as the other might, though he never really did, he could keep nothing from him.

He, on the other hand, could and did keep several things from Malik. There was no need for a relationship to be that open, after all.

Malik's shadow watched calmly as Malik himself ranted and raved. The light-dweller had probably not even noticed that he was still here. Sometimes it could take him a few minutes to acknowledge the other half of himself. There had been times when he hadn't done it at all.

"I can't believe she did that!" Malik growled, his voice now approaching something that resembled coherency. "I can't believe she did that to me! We're supposed to be family, and she knew what I was planning! And she still did that!"

She is loyal to the Pharaoh. The shadow whispered, laughing softly. Malik's buttons were so easy to press, his emotions so easy to manipulate. If it weren't for Rishid and that damnable vow of his, he would have already been able to release himself. But that would come in due time. He would not allow it to be otherwise.

"He can't even leave me my sister, can he?" Malik's question didn't need an answer. His shadow wouldn't give it even if it had. "He has to have everything. My family, my life, the light...my sister..."

His fists clenched over and over, and the shadows grew stronger, sucking in his anger as if it were wine. The shadow grew a touch larger, coming just a breath or two closer to Malik himself. Soon, soon, he would engulf him entirely, and be free of this wretched prison...

"I'm going to make him pay for it. No matter what it takes me." Malik swore. There were still many preparations to make. He had to get some of his Ghouls sent to Domino City first, to get things set up for him. He didn't doubt that Isis would precede him somehow and make her own plans, probably allying herself in some way with the Pharaoh. She'll tell him about me. The plans he had depended on no one knowing his true identity until he chose to tell them.

But Isis couldn't know that. He hadn't told anyone but Rishid, and he trusted the scarred man more than he trusted anyone else in the world. After all, Rishid's greatest wish was to be like him, to be an Ishtar and carry their destiny proudly into the world. Rishid would never do anything that would risk Malik banning him from that forever.

He sighed and leaned against the wall of the room, not noticing just how close he was to the shadows this time. They were only shadows, anyway, and this was just some sort of semi-delusional, semi-sleep spawned fantasy. They couldn't hurt him.

The shadows couldn't touch him, not yet. Only when this room belonged to him could that happen, and Malik's shadow ached for that moment. There was so much pain that he wanted to introduce the shadow caster to, and so much pleasure.

If he had possessed lips, he might have licked them as he watched Malik sit there, so unknowing. Unknowing, but not innocent, and that pleased him the most. He didn't want some kind of an innocent. He wanted someone who knew the darkness and feared it, so he could see the terror in those pretty purple eyes when the shadows took him for their own. That would be a sweet moment of triumph.

Malik feared the shadows and the darkness. The shadow he had cast reveled in all of that, without a doubt. He was carved from shadows and blood, from pain and anger and rage. Love wasn't something he had ever thought to bother himself with.

Watching Malik, however, he could understand a little of what it was to love someone, if love meant that he wanted that person all to himself, to keep all others away, no matter what. Since Malik understood very little about love himself, his shadow was likewise limited. But he was learning. He also had Malik to thank for that.

The Ghouls may well have been ashamed to know that once in a great while, their terrifying and dominating leader amused himself with common trashy romance novels. It wasn't very often, but sometimes, when Malik wanted to get to sleep but couldn't, he would pull out some product of an airhead's assault on a typewriter and read poorly done prose that couldn't have had a sad ending if someone had paid for it. Indeed, no one would have paid for such a thing.

Malik himself found the most of them boring, unimaginative, and as cookie-cutter as the one before it and the one after it. That was why he read them when he was trying to get to sleep. It generally worked like a charm.

He didn't bother trying to think about how they presented love and romance. It was all worthless to him. The girls he'd met since coming from below hadn't impressed him either. For the most part, they were weak-willed creatures, and few of them had the strength of will it took to be a duelist. If they couldn't do that, then they simply weren't worth his time.

Even more rarely than the romance novels, Malik dreamed of kisses, touches, and hot breath in his ears or fingers ghosting over his chest and down his legs. There was never a face to his phantom lover, if he could even name them such. When Isis had been in college and had had to take certain classes, he'd found himself reading her text books out of curiosity. Some of them had mentioned such things as a normal byproduct of growing up. Ever since, he had dismissed them as mindless fantasies, not even as productive or interesting as destroying the Pharaoh.

The shadow within had other views on the situation. It wanted nothing more than to escape, and any tool was useful to nudge Malik's mind in the correct direction. It did not sleep as he did. It's entire existence was something of a waking dream. All the dreams that Malik couldn't remember or see clearly, it had a hand in.

Even more, those were his hands that brushed by Malik, his lips that hovered over the golden-haired duelist. They could not touch still, but dreaming was not touching, not even for him, and he would do anything he could

But with Rishid being there to bind him in those chains that nothing he knew of could shatter, there was so little he could do, and what he could wasn't enough to truly affect Malik. Malik scarcely remembered even coming here, much less anything they spoke of, even less those few stolen moments when he touched him. Or came close to touching him.

Somewhere in one of those novels, he had read, or Malik had read and he remembered, that love and hate were simply two sides of the same coin. The shadow believed that with all that passed for his soul, for the coin that was his feelings about Malik flipped and switched over and over again. One moment he hated him with all the intensity of a nova, the second he wanted to keep all others away from him, and keep him to himself for all time.

There would be a time when he would make a choice, he knew, and whatever that choice was, he would abide by it forever. For the moment, he chose to love, to watch Malik as he lamented over his sister's treachery, to admire the gleam of the light in his hair, and imagine how sweet it would look to be over him, to see Malik staring at him with fear-filled eyes as their lips met with enough force to shatter suns.

Malik paid little attention to the shadow, except to note that somehow, it had grown larger since last he'd been in here. If anything that it had said about drawing strength from the darker aspects of himself was true, then he wasn't surprised. He'd been feeding it very well lately, with the acquisition of two of the God Cards, and finding out just now that Isis had managed to take the third and spirit it away. There was still a chance that he could get it. He knew where she lived, and he could take her mind with the Rod, force her to tell him where she had hidden it.

Something held him back. He didn't know if it was the residue of the love he had for her, not wanting to bring the power of the Rod to bear on the sister who had done so much to help him and raise him through the long years or what. She might not even know where it was. He wouldn't put it past her to have handed it to someone else to hide away, just in case he did try something on her. She was cunning like that.

He stared into the shadow for a few moments, and wondered if he saw something or someone stirring around there. The bars were just a little clearer now, and he was certain that was what they were. Bars and chains, holding a vague figure.

As he watched, the other lifted its head, and Malik caught sight of eyes for the first time. They were much like his, a glittering, gleaming violet, but without any warmth in their depths. He snorted to himself; he had no warmth at all in his, or so he'd been told. But this was a different kind of emptiness. Was it a lack of sanity? He didn't know, and he wasn't certain how much he cared.

There was something oddly attractive about that gaze, however. He didn't want to say hypnotic. He knew what it was to control a mind and have it bend to his will. It was what he did every day, and it had long since ceased to hold any wonder for him. But they were powerful. They were eyes he couldn't see anywhere but here, and he wondered if it would be possible to keep coming back here, to see those eyes again.

The shadows were pleased. Malik was coming along nicely.

Malik hated times like this. It had been over three months since he'd lost Obelisk to Isis. He'd had her shadowed for a few weeks to see if there were any clues to where she'd hidden it, but nothing came of that. Either his minions were incompetent or she simply did nothing that indicated where it was. For all he knew, she'd hidden it in her own deck, and as she hadn't touched it in all those months, he couldn't know for certain. She would know if he intended to invade her small apartment and check for it, which was why he didn't do it. He didn't want to talk to her about her treachery. She would just give him one of those sad-eyed looks and say something about saving him from the darkness. He didn't have to put up with that, so he ignored her. He'd get the card back somehow or other.

His informants had managed to get one bit of information to him. Isis was making plans for a trip to Domino City herself. It was something to do with their museum and her job. He suspected that she would be taking the card with her, and that meant he was going to have to follow her. He'd intended to go there anyway, since that was where the Pharaoh and his vessel lived. Now he had extra incentive. His ship was already being prepared, and he would be leaving shortly after she did. Let her get there first and make whatever plans she wanted. He would stop them all.

But at the moment, he was at loose ends. Rishid was handling all the other details that he didn't have time for. There was no one that he wanted to duel, and none of the ones who might have accepted even a challenge of boredom were skilled enough to give him more than a five minute fight.

He wanted to save all of his skill for the Pharaoh, at any rate. That was where the duels would count. He'd had enough of dealing with his Ghouls. They were good, of course. But not good enough for him. He would have to duel through them, with the power of the Rod, when it came time to face his enemy.

All of that lay in the future. He wanted something to do now. He didn't want to sit in his room and wait. All of the books he had on hand had been read to the point he could recreate their dialog in his head just by looking at the title.

He glanced outside and considered his options. There was at least a couple of hours before he would even seriously think about going to bed. Perhaps a long walk would clear his mind and help him prepare for the future to come? There was little else he could think of doing at the moment.

Pausing only to slide his dueling deck in his pocket, just in case he happened to run across some duelist he'd never met before who might be worth his time, and to hook the Millennium Rod on the back of his pants, in case someone tried to ambush him, he stalked out the door. He didn't bother leaving a note for Rishid, for two reasons. One, he wasn't a child anymore, required to leave some warning of his passings, and two, he passed Rishid on the way out, and caught his eye long enough to let the other know that he would be out for a while.

Most of the day's heat had already evaporated from the streets as he walked, and the cool evening air soothed away most of the tension from him. Malik relaxed as he walked farther and farther from the warehouse that was his home. He hadn't bothered with the cloak that usually hid his movements when he was out recruiting. Tonight he just wanted to be himself, and to be alone.

Alone. He shivered briefly at the thought. He didn't really think he was all that alone. Not with the way the shadows moved ever so slightly as he passed. He hated the dark, feared it with all of his soul, but sometimes it seemed oddly attractive as well. There were times he could have sworn that the dark was looking at him as well. Those were times when he made some excuse to stay near Rishid, who sent the darkness fleeing just by his very presence.

It was when the shadows appeared to be attractive and alluring that Malik feared them the most. For weeks, almost since the day that he had learned that Isis had taken Obelisk, he had dreamed of a pair of violet eyes watching him virtually every night. If he didn't know better, he would have sworn that they were his own eyes, but that wasn't possible. Why would he watch himself, for one thing? His eyes didn't have that same look to them, either. He was sane. They were not.

But regardless of their sanity or lack of it, those eyes called to him over and over again. Malik wanted to think they were a good sign, perhaps a sign of the future. Maybe those eyes belonged to someone who was going to be an ally or even more in the future, and he was being told of them ahead of time. He would have to watch out for whoever it was.

The thoughts that wanted to go along with those eyes and all that they promised were not thoughts that would concern a simple ally, however. They did circle somewhat around the thought of being more. Much, much more.

There were other things happening in those dreams, though it was hard for him to remember just what those other events were. The eyes overpowered everything else, and their aching, pleading, demanding expression. He wished at times he knew what they wanted, so he could have a chance of giving it to them once he met them.

He had never wanted to do something for anyone else the way that he wanted to do something for whoever it was that had those eyes. Helping them felt as if he were helping himself in some odd way. Helping them would gain him his revenge. It made no sense, but that was simply what it felt like, and Malik was willing to put some belief behind his feelings. It was his feeling, his lust for revenge, that drove his life, after all.

Malik didn't know if this was what it was like to love someone that he had never met. He had no idea of what they were like or who they are, if they were male or female, with pale hair or dark, someone from his neighborhood or someone from far, far away.

Perhaps even from Domino City?

His lips twitched in amusement at the thought of his mystery love being one of the Pharaoh's entourage. That would be a form of revenge that he hadn't really contemplated. He'd thought about claiming one or two of them to take part in some of the later parts of his scheme, but not quite in that way. He'd received pictures of them all, and the two that he thought might serve him the most were both attractive in their own way. Seeing either Jounouchi Katsuya or Mazaki Anzu on his side would certainly throw the Pharaoh's game off.

But neither of them had eyes like the ones in his dreams. He had seen pictures of the Pharaoh's vessel, and he had eyes that were that color, but they weren't the same still. No one's were, save for his, and his were still different, as he'd noted before.

He tried not to let it worry him as he walked on through the cool evening. He believed, for the most part, in fate and destiny, though he intended to force them both to serve his own ends. It was his fate to conquer the Pharaoh and bring an end to the despot who had ruined his family. So it would be. If that meant that he met this strange violet-eyed person, then so be it. He would accept that as well.

As he walked, he passed a motorcycle parked by the side of the road. He stopped and looked at it, the lust to possess it stirring in his heart. He already had one of his own, but he never would pass up the chance to have more than one, if he could. The more he looked, the less he truly wanted this one, though. It wasn't as good as his, being ill-kept and uncared for. If there were things that Malik couldn't stand, it was treating one's possessions roughly. Such things should be treasured as the wonders they were, not thrown casually to the side as if they were nothing.

He started to walk away, but before he moved properly, he caught sight of his reflection in the cycle's mirror. He stopped and looked, surprised as he usually was by the sight of himself. He never bothered much with mirrors. They were rumored to reflect the soul, and that didn't set well with him. He knew he was on the right course, but the few times he'd seen himself reflected, he had wondered if the mirrors knew that. When he looked into them, he could almost be certain that he was being laughed at by himself.

This time didn't appear to be that much different from any other time. He stared into his own eyes, and almost convinced himself that they were the ones from his dreams. He lifted one hand to touch his lips, thinking of the caresses that had been showered on him night after night by lips that had to be attached to those attractively soulless eyes in his dreams. He was touched in so many other places, arousing him to a fever pitch before his eyes would always snap open in the cold light of dawn, and he was alone in his bed again.

Dreams. Nothing more than dreams. Malik shook his head and his fist flashed forward to slam into the mirror, shattering it and all the fantasies it reminded him of. He really needed to think of something other than this nonsense when he was so close to achieving his revenge. Within a month's time or less, he would have it, and after that, he could dream all he wanted.

He glanced only absently at the pieces of mirror as they fell to the ground, and brushed a few out of his knuckles as he started onward. He hadn't been hurt all that badly; nothing that a couple of bandages wouldn't clear up in a week or so. He paid no attention to the person who came rampaging out of the store the cycle had been parked in front of, screaming and wanting to know what had happened. A single brush of his fingers across the Rod, and the exertion of his will to override their own, took care of it. There would be a suicide for the authorities to deal with in the morning, but that was none of his concern.

In the shattered remains of the mirror, a faint flicker of mad violet eyes laughed, and the shadows danced all around in glee. Yes, Malik was coming along so nicely.

To someone who could see into the soul, the difference in the room within Malik was astonishing. Now there was only a small spark of light, and the darkness had overwhelmed virtually everything. There were still chains that held the beast within, but they were loosening with every moment.

He could feel his strength growing as Rishid grew weaker and weaker, and he lunged forward again and again, aching to be released. It had been so long since he had been able to be free! He wasn't going to let this chance slip away. He would never be held down within the darkness again!

It was time for him to claim his Malik. The other had fled from him long enough. He'd even had the nerve to look upon the Pharaoh's vessel and be pleased with how he looked! The darkness would not accept this. There had been other ideas Malik had had concerning that Yuugi, ones that did not involving shattering his mind or breaking his spirit or slitting his throat and watching him choke on his own blood.

That could not be tolerated. His fingers flexed as the spiritual mirror of the Millennium Rod appeared in his hand. Malik would know the sweet taste of pain before very long, and he would bow to his master. There would be no more looking at any other. He would never share his Malik with anyone else. Even if it meant destroying him completely, so that no one else could ever have him. Better to have only a memory than to have a traitor.

When he strained enough, he could see what Malik saw, and that was Rishid whispering his words of confession to the vessel and the blond as they knelt by him. The darkness sneered; he had always known that Rishid wasn't capable of being an Ishtar, or of being the marks of the Pharaoh, much less being worthy of wielding even a copy of the Winged Dragon of Ra. Only he held that honor.

Then Rishid's eyes slid closed all the way, and he could hear Malik screaming, and it was such a beautiful sound. He couldn't wait to make it happen again and again, and the sooner the better.

As Rishid's form went limp, the chains that bound the shadow born melted away, and he leaped forward, his hand landing firmly on Malik's shoulder. "Now, it is my time. You've failed, and I will deal with this from now on."

With a mighty jerk, he yanked Malik away from the front of their mind and cast him into the darkness that had kept him imprisoned for six long and painful years. Chains whistled down from above at a flick of his mind's power, wrapping around Malik's wrists and ankles. He was drawn into the air, hovering there, unable to move and too shocked to speak at first.

"You..." That obviously didn't remain for very long. Malik wasn't exactly coherent, but he did speak. "What are you doing?"

"What I should have done six years ago. You've had your chance at life and failed. Now I will deal with the Pharaoh and everything else that you could not." The darkness placed one cool hand on Malik's cheek, caressing it softly. "But don't be worried. I will be back here soon to deal with you. We have much to discuss."

He leaned forward and brushed his lips firmly across Malik's. The other froze in shock, not returning the kiss. That was fine with the darkness. Malik would learn his lessons, in due course, and would surrender to him. His tongue probed carefully at Malik's lips, demanding entry, but not getting it.

Malik would learn his lessons, but first they had to be given. The shadow reached up and grasped Malik's hair firmly, pulling just enough to make it plain he meant business. Malik still refused to open his lips, and the other found himself smirking.

"Stubborn, I see. Very well." He had plans that needed to be started and couldn't spend all of his time here anyway. He released Malik's hair, then leaned in to whisper in his ear, "But next time, I won't let you off so easily."

He turned his attention to the outer world, taking full control of the body for the first time in six years. He flexed his fingers and laughed, straightening himself and smirking at those around him who had no idea of what was going on. Most stared at him in anger and shock, surprised at the revelation that their 'friend' Namu was really the enemy who had been stalking them all along.

And I believe this is going to scare them even more. He liked the looks he was getting. Fear was such a sweet tonic.

He didn't waste too much time talking to them. If they chose not to believe his words, then it would be their problem, not his, when their ignorance destroyed them. He'd given them fair warning.

Finding his way towards his room wasn't all that hard. He heard over the intercom system that there would be a brief break before the announcement of who was dueling next. That made no difference to him. If he dueled next, then he would crush whoever was fool enough to face him, and make ready to stomp the Pharaoh as flat as possible as soon as he could.

But first, he wanted to do one little thing: get as much out of this silly outfit that Malik had worn as he possibly could. The pants and boots were serviceable enough, but he was not going to parade around in that shirt! An there was another accessory he wanted that would show anyone who looked at him that he was not to be trifled with.

The trouble with that was that Malik hadn't brought any extra clothes with him. He'd obviously not expected his darker side to take over. Really, how foolish could he be?

That was a little of his charm, however. He could be so completely clueless and not even know it, acting as if he actually knew what was going on around and within him. He would have to fix that at some point. As charming as it was, he himself preferred to face reality head on. Life was darkness, shadows, destruction, loss, and despair, and the sooner that was acknowledged, the better.

Now, where was something he could use to modify for his new clothes? There had to be something, somewhere.

Then a much more interesting idea occurred to him. He settled on his bed and closed his eyes, slowly turning inward until he stood before Malik once again. No, not Malik. He was Malik. This was just the one who had cast the shadow which had become him. It didn't need a name. It belonged to him, it was his toy, his plaything, and that was it.

So, Malik reached out a hand to rub his fingers through the golden strands of his pet's hair. "Did you miss me?" he asked with an icy smirk.

The other glared at him, eyes blazing in fury and hatred. Malik drank it in deliciously, all but purring in his pleasure. "Let me out of here!"

"No, I don't think so. I like the way you look like this. It's much more suitable than anything else." Malik ran his fingers down the toy's cheek and gripped his chin firmly. "Now, I think we need to have a little talk. What were you doing eying the vessel?"

He had never really noticed the shadow caster blushing before. But now a faint hint of pink spread across his dark cheeks. He shook his head as best he could and tried to pull away from Malik, who refused to let him move an inch. "That's none of your concern!"

"Oh, but it is." Malik licked his lips and stared down at him, considering what to do next. He didn't have quite as much time as he would have liked to deal with this disobedient little brat, but he would do what he could with what time he did have. "You belong to me. You made me of your own darkness, and you think that I will permit you to simply wander off to someone else? No. You will not."

His prisoner glared at him even more, conveying as much hate as he could with those pretty eyes. Malik reveled in the increase to his powers. He wanted to get the other to hate even more. It would make him so much stronger. He lifted his captive's chin and leaned closer, taking another kiss. Once again his tongue demanded entry to the other's mouth, and again he was refused.

Malik was not going to let this simply happen, however. Instead of seizing more strands of hair, he stretched out a hand and the Millennium Rod appeared in it. "I told you once that this could not affect me. But I'm afraid that you do not have that lovely immunity." He concentrated, his will reaching out to crush the little plaything's under his. Purple eyes twitched, narrowing in fear and fright, and again Malik sucked down the sweet emotions. This was simply too wonderful. How could he resist such a beautiful prize?

Slowly, the other's mouth fell open, just a little, just enough. Malik swooped down to seize his kiss, his tongue now entering freely, probing and pleasuring. He did not believe for a moment that the enjoyment was mutual, based sheerly on the amount of loathing he was receiving from the other. He didn't care. His plaything was his, and this was meant only for his own pleasure.

When Malik had had enough, he pulled back a little, just enough so he had a good view of those sweet, furious, fearful eyes. "Do you understand yet? I own you. I can do whatever I choose with you. Break you. Destroy you. Discard you. But no one else will ever have you."

He stared into those eyes, expecting some sort of capitulation. What else could his little toy do but obey him? It was what was meant to be. He'd proven that he was stronger. He had enfolded his creator in the darkness of his soul, and the light was nothing more than the faintest of sparks, soon to be extinguished. Could he not understand that this was fate? It was what was meant to be, just as the destruction of the Pharaoh and all that he loved was. Malik was going to do that for him, and bring about a reign of darkness unconquerable at the same time. The darkness that would never leave him, never betray him, would always be there in the deepest depths of his soul.

It would be more loyal to him than even his own family had been. His father had never cared for what he had wanted. The old man had insisted on his son following his path no matter what, and had paid for that arrogance and uncaring with his very life. Malik couldn't help a fond smile as he recalled skinning the fool. Rishid had looked much better with the blood-splattered skin draped across himself. Even he hadn't been good enough for Malik's toy. He had failed when it had mattered the most. Though perhaps that was not such a bad thing. It had granted the real Malik, bred of shadows and night, to take control.

Isis was the great traitor, the one who had stolen away with one of the God Cards and brought all of this about because of her loyalty to the Pharaoh. Malik had some very special plans for her once he had disposed of Rishid.

Strangely, his pet did not submit, his eyes still shining with that thick hatred. He chuckled a little. "Very well. So be it, then. You'll learn." There was still time. But before he left his little one, he did have one last thing to deal with. He concentrated hard, creating what he felt would be the perfect outfit to express his true nature. The shirt shifted on him, becoming black and a little tighter, still covering his scarred back, but revealing his muscled arms more. The cape that his Ghouls wore finished it. He glanced down at himself, and nodded in approval. Due to the links between himself and the Rod, he knew when he returned to himself, this was what he would be wearing.

He turned to caress the soft cheek of his pretty little one once again. "Don't miss me too much. And enjoy the view when it's my turn to duel. It could be anyone who falls to my power." Well, not quite, as the Pharaoh, Rishid, and Jounouchi had already dueled. But perhaps it would be Kaiba, or the mysterious eighth duelist. He had a suspicion on who that was. Perhaps he would be the one to see.

Malik returned to himself, opening his eyes, and noticed first and foremost that his outfit had indeed changed. He smiled, a sight to drive anyone who saw it mad, and stood up. Now it was time for him to deal with Rishid. There was no way he was ever going to return to the chained imprisonment within the depths of his soul. This was his body now, and his world. If that meant killing someone, then that, in his opinion, was a simple perk of the job.

Another duel was over, and another person had been chained in the darkness. Malik all but purred at the power as it surged through his veins. Of course Jounouchi had sworn his eternal vengeance for what had been done to the other blonde, who he seemed to have some kind of attraction towards, but that was par for the course for Malik. If someone hadn't insisted on revenge, he might have been a little disappointed.

There was to be another break before the final duel, which would be Kaiba and the eighth duelist. Malik paused briefly before their door and considered knocking, just to see if she would actually answer it. Of course he had no proof, beyond his own instincts, that the eighth one was actually his sister. But he didn't need proof. He knew her too well. He looked forward to watching her duel with Kaiba. The stubborn CEO would learn quickly not to interfere with those chosen by the Millennium Items.

He wanted Isis to win that duel for many reasons. It would not only crush Kaiba completely, but she would be given back Obelisk, which meant he would be able to duel her in the finals and get it back from her. That was the perfect revenge.

But there still remained time, and he wanted to pay another visit to his little pet. He would have really preferred going to finish off Rishid, but there were guards posted here and there. Kaiba might not care about someone illegally entering his tournament, but he was reasonably certain being caught in the act of murder would play havoc with his chances for winning.

It didn't matter that much. He would still kill Rishid, he just couldn't do it right now. Playing with his toy was much more interesting at the moment.

Once again sealed in his room, he relaxed and went inwards. His other side hadn't been able to do this at will like he could. That was the advantage of having lived so much of his existence in their soul room. He could go back whenever he chose.

He loved how this place looked now. It was so dark, the shadow enfolding everything everywhere. No, not quite everything. Where his property hung in the chains, a small light glowed. It wasn't enough to push back the darkness even a little, but it was still there. He would get around to extinguishing it.

Malik casually strolled up to the imprisoned boy and leaned in for another kiss, his hands gripping onto the other's hair tightly in a reminder of who was dominant here. He was quite pleased to find his pet opening his mouth obediently without having to be forced this time, and he took several moments to enjoy the kiss. Yes, the other really was learning his lessons. He'd almost doubted, but now he knew better.

When he drew back, he could see the faint flickers of hope in those eyes. He loved the sight of it. Hope meant that he could crush it under his heel and watched it be extinguished forever.

He knew what the other hoped for as well. Having responded to the kiss made it plain. The toy expected that since he'd bent a little, Malik would now leave him be, as he had before. No, no, that wasn't going to be how it was. He brushed his fingers briefly through the other's hair, then sank back down for another sweet kiss. He could taste the hatred on his pet's lips still, sweeter than wine.

"You're learning," he whispered into the other's ear. "Now for the next lesson." Bronzed flesh flinched away from him, and he smirked. He could only imagine what kind of thoughts had to be tumbling over and over in that terrified mind. "I think you'll like this one. I know I will."

His plaything shifted again, as best he could in his chains, and Malik relished the fear. This was so wonderful, such a deliciously struggling beauty, unable to escape, unable to do anything but what Malik would permit. For all their wealth, this was something that neither the Pharaoh nor Kaiba could buy. For all of the foresight that his sister's Item granted her, she could not predict his domination of the other, the one she considered her true brother. For all their friendship, there was nothing that the Pharaoh's lackeys could do to stop him. Nor did he think they really wanted to. As far as they were concerned, the fool here had made his own bed and could lay in it.

Which really wasn't that far from what Malik had in mind, but all things in their proper course.

He stared down into the fearful violet eyes and whispered softly three words he knew would send the other into a frenzy of panic. "I love you."

He was not disappointed. His sunlit-haired beauty thrashed in his chains, frantic and panicking. "No. No, you don't...you can't!"

Malik wanted to laugh. He didn't care about arguing the point. He could do as he chose, and if that included love, then was there anyone who would dare say that he couldn't? If there was, he would change their minds to suit him, and quickly at that. He caressed a warm satiny cheek. "I do. I love you. I was made from you and cannot love anyone else. Why would your protector, your guardian, your defender, ever love anyone but you? This is what I was made for."

His toy shook his head quickly and fiercely in denial. "No, you didn't. You don't. I want out of here! Isis! Isis, help me!" He screamed her name as loudly as he could, and Malik frowned. That wasn't what he wanted to hear. He liked the name that came out next even less. "Yuugi! I'm sorry! Help me, please!"

Mad violet eyes narrowed and in the flick of an eye, he'd backhanded the other. "Don't say his name. Don't say her name. Ever again." The only name that he wanted to hear from those lips was his. "If you will call any name, it will be mine."

The other lifted his head a little, hope still shimmering in the deep depths of his eyes, joined now by a few hints of his own cruel amusement. "You don't have a name. Even if I wanted to say yours, you don't have one."

"I am Malik Ishtar!" Malik backhanded the other sharply, hissing softly in pleasure as he saw the mark of his hand appear on his pet's cheek. "Say it."

"No. I am Malik Ishtar, and you're nothing but a body-stealing splinter of me."

Malik smacked him again, then forced another deep kiss, sucking up all that sweet hatred. "Say my name," he growled when he broke apart. "Say who I am. I am Malik Ishtar."

"No." The refusal was fierce and proud, and Malik considered cutting into his toy with the blade of the Rod. It wouldn't cause him any damage whatsoever, but it would dig into his possession as if the dagger were actually cutting into him.

He unsheathed it slowly, making certain the other saw him do it. "Why do you insist on trying to resist me? I'm more powerful than you. Submit, and everything you could ever want will be yours."

"I want my body back. I want my life back." The other said, yanking at his restraints a little more. "You won't give me that."

"What would you want with it if you had it? You didn't succeed in any of your goals. I have already sent one of the Pharaoh's lackeys into the darkness, and there are still others that I will enjoy crushing before this tournament is over." Malik stepped closer to the other and stared down at him. "You have no choice in submitting to me. I own you, and I am you. Why fight when you can have pleasure instead? I do love you...in the darkest ways that love can exist. Could I lie to you, my other?"

His pet shuddered at those words, and Malik smirked as he reached out with the blade, laying it flat across the cheek he hadn't struck. "Perhaps I should show you just what I mean when I say that I love you."

He turned the blade a little, letting the edge caress flesh. "Yes. I'm going to have to explain this to you." He hoped his playing would scream a lot. He liked hearing him scream.

Breaking up was always a difficult experience, Malik decided, but sometimes it simply had to be done. It wasn't enough that his little toy had not only uttered the name of the Pharaoh's vessel several times during his lesson, but after Malik had gotten fed up and pushed him completely out of the body, he'd had the nerve to go to someone else in an attempt to get it back.

Really, Malik felt as if he'd been cheated on in a way. Of all the people to go to for help, he'd picked the thief? Of course the Millennium Ring did have the power to seal souls into objects, so that was more than likely the logic behind the choice.

Malik also suspected that there had been more going on between the thief and his plaything than met the eye. Perhaps since the Pharaoh's vessel was unavailable, his possession had decided to look elsewhere? Or had the thief wanted some form of payment other than the Millennium Rod for his assistance?

The more he thought about it, the less certain he was that he and his so-called creator were as meant to be as he'd expected. His affections, twisted and cruel as they might be, had never swayed from him. Whereas his pet had run after anyone who he might possibly think could help him. It wasn't the kind of relationship he wanted at all.

He didn't think that his other was really gone, though. The blond was as stubborn as he was, as reluctant to give up the ghost as he could possibly be. He'd simply found somewhere else to contain his soul for the time being. Malik was certain that they would meet again.

Perhaps he could force that meeting. Where would the other go? It would have to be someone who had some kind of a connection to the Items. It was those magical energies that allowed either of them, at the moment, to have a connection to the world. The Rod allowed him to totally dominate his former pet's body, as marked by the blazing symbol on his forehead. His other had taken temporary refuge within Bakura's body, latching onto the power of the Ring.

Could he be with the Pharaoh and his vessel? Would he have fallen that far? Or perhaps he had found a way to go to Isis and beg her assistance, borrowing her body? With the extra tie of blood, it wasn't that impossible.

Or perhaps...even Jounouchi? Though he didn't bear an Item, he had been touched by the power of one more than once. The Rod itself had ripped his mind to shreds, forcing him to duel his closest friend. Malik licked his lips as he remembered watching that duel. If he had been the one in charge at the time, he would have enjoyed it so much more.

There was also the girl, Anzu. Malik couldn't imagine what his reluctant toy would do in that body, but it was a chance. If she wasn't so obviously protected by the Pharaoh, he would have dragged her to him and found out for certain. The same protection covered Jounouchi. He wasn't afraid of the Pharaoh, but he wanted to take him down in a duel, break him by defeating him in the way he'd shattered so many others. He wouldn't spoil his chances for that.

Which meant for the time being, he had nothing else to do. The semi-finals were over, and he didn't have his plaything to torment any longer. Perhaps he'd been a little hasty throwing him out. The other hadn't really learned his lessons that well, if at all. Though he had shivered and quivered deliciously when Malik had managed to get him to declare at least once that he was the true Malik and no other.

That had been a wonderful moment when it had finally happened. It hadn't taken as much time as he'd thought it would, either, nor as much pain. In the end, he hadn't bothered with using the Rod. Not using it made the anticipation so much worse, for his other had wondered over and over if he would be forced to speak the words that he hated so much. He was, of course, but not in the way that he had expected.

"You're Malik Ishtar!" The breathy, pained voice gasped at last. Malik smirked, his fingers pressing a little more tightly into one area of the other's body. It was amazing, but even now, hung in chains in what had once been his mind, his pet could still feel pain when the right places were touched. A little spot on the neck, that was all it was, but agony tore into him with invisible spikes.

Malik thoughtfully considered his emotions. They were fresh and new in all kinds of ways. He had never really had any before he'd come into control of this body, at least not any that weren't hatred or rage. Those formed his core, and were the ones he was most able to express. Regardless of what the other had thought, he had loved him, in the most delicious and twisted ways he could manage. Perhaps it wasn't the sweet, sappy kind that was present in those romance novels, but it was love all the same.

He reminded himself to burn all of those once he had the chance. It didn't befit him at all to have those anywhere near him, and they were something of the other him that he didn't want any longer. He'd never really wanted them in the first place.

There would have to be a complete housecleaning when all of this was over as well. Any of the Ghouls who weren't strong enough to deal with him as he was now would have to die. He considered possibly keeping the Pharaoh's vessel about for torture purposes. His fingers clenched a little, imagining closing over that slender neck slowly and choking the life out of him. It was because of him that he hadn't been able to convince his other that they were meant to be together. His other had simply refused to believe otherwise, and had been falling prey to the vessel's babble. Those words hadn't even been directed at him, and the other had listened anyway.

Such a disappointment. But not everything worked out according to plan, unfortunately.

Perhaps events would have turned out differently if he'd seduced his other. The damage done to the other's mind could've been incredible, managed properly. Malik smirked to himself; he wondered if his other had ever thought that the reading he'd done from Isis' old schoolbooks would have given him such wonderful ideas on what to do with him. It would have been an experience that neither of them could have ever forgotten.

If the pet was still alive, or aware, or whatever the proper word for a disembodied spirit wandering around in search of someone to latch onto for survival was, perhaps he could have his chance yet. All would depend on the last rounds of the finals went, of course. If it were possible that his plaything had taken refuge within Jounouchi's body, then everything would be very nearly perfect. The Japanese blond was almost certain to seek him out, in revenge for what had been done to Kujaku Mai. If his pet was there, Malik knew that he would know about it, and he would bring the duel to the most crushing and humiliating end he was capable of.

He licked his lips in amusement. Perhaps he would suggest a special ante to go along with whatever Jounouchi's rarest card was. Or perhaps in place of it, as the other didn't have one of the God Cards, and nothing else in his deck was of any interest to Malik. The look on his face alone might be worth it, no matter what.

As sweet as that would be, it would be even sweeter if his plaything was there. The chances were good. His other would want to duel him again, for the merest scrap of a chance to get his body back. It wouldn't be as easy as it would be if Bakura had won their duel. Malik stroked the Ring where it hung around his neck. He really needed to learn how to use this. The extra power it gave thrummed all through him.

Now that he thought about it, could he bring what remained of his other's soul to him, using the Ring? Bakura would have known how to do it, but he did have a lot more experience with this than Malik himself did. There could be unwelcome side effects from attempting it, the kind he was neither prepared for nor wanted.

It had only been a passing thought, at any rate. His property was still out there somewhere, and he would find it again, no matter how long it took. Maybe they weren't as 'broken up' as he'd been thinking minutes earlier. Perhaps this was only something on the order of a trial separation. He laughed; how much more separated could the two of them truly be?

But if this was what it took to convince his plaything that they were to be together, united as one in a way that no other pair in all the world could ever possibly be, then he would deal with it. Love was hard and cruel at times, and never something easy. That was one thing that the trashy romance novels had been correct about. Before the two who were meant to be could truly be together, they had to suffer. He counted the six years he'd spent as little more than a slowly growing shadow in the other's soul as suffering. Now it was his toy's turn to live off of someone else.

Parasite, he'd been called, leech, feeding off of another. The best relationships did come from those who had something in common. This would only be for the best in the long run. It would teach his plaything a good and harsh lesson and give them a way to relate to one another that could only help.

He walked over to his room's window and stared out, watching the clouds as they poured by. Kaiba hadn't yet told them where the location of the finals were, but they would be there by morning. For one of the few times in his existence, Malik felt tired. It would have been more pleasant to have a warm little form, mental or otherwise, to curl up against him while he rested, but he would have that, in due course.

For now, he went back to his bed and stretched out, not bothering to remove his clothes. He closed his eyes and soon was back in his soul room, so sweetly enshrouded in darkness. Soon. Soon we'll be together again, and if he does not submit to me this time, I will destroy him.

He smiled to himself at the pleasant thought. No one could blame him. After all, to truly love someone, you had to hurt them. Love was pain.

The End