So I started this a year and a half ago as a homage to my favorite pairing. It was small, and for a while I forgot about it. I wasn't really going to do anything with it. I just wanted an excuse to write porn. But then I became involved in it, and the world which I shoved the characters in became more and more real.

Malik's fear of touch came from my own slight aphephobia, but I've since been able to let it finally die. I put myself into the characters, all of them. While writing Malik, I wrote using the my own mindset of blaming myself and fear. For Mariku was not being able to come to acceptance. Bakura I wrote with my own inclination towards masochism. It was easy to get into character, and in some sort of roundabout way, I tackled some of my own problems.

Of course, it was always just a hobby. It was for fun, even though I'd get paranoid over updating. I've met so many people through this fanfic, and fandom, and would like to thank all of you. It's really meant a lot to me. I'm sad that it's over, but I'll be working on other things now, so keep watching~

But I guess it's time to finally let things die. I've put Malik through so much, and this is finally the end. It was inevitable, and I'm happy about the conclusion. This fic marks a milestone in my writing, and has helped me evolve so much. I'll really miss it, and what I gained from it. But in the end, fandom is fandom, and every story ends.

-Ami


"Malik?"

It was cold again. It was cold and the air was suffocating. Biting, pulling, chilling his skin. It was cold and the temperature seeped into him, like a virus, eroding away at his bones and leaving only ice in their place. Malik hated the cold.

"Malik, it's time to get ready."

He could see outside. The trees had no leaves on their branches. Bare. He felt as bare as they did. Even now, stripped down and left to be abused by natural causes…

"Malik, please look at me."

Malik stared out his window. He sat motionless with his hands in his lap and his shoulders hunched. He didn't want to leave, he was too scared. Terror had been dulled. He was used to fear, but still, he was scared. Malik didn't want to go, he didn't want to face it. Not after so long. He didn't want to, he didn't want to-.

"Malik, pleas-"

"DON'T TOUCH ME!"

His eyes went suddenly wide as he twisted around and smacked the hand away that had almost moved to rest on his shoulder. He stared at them for a while, heart beating fast, hyperventilating as he thought about what would have happened if that had really come in contact with him. But he calmed, and his fear leveled out. Malik's shoulders slumped once again and he let out a shaky sigh. He moved his eyes away.

"…I'm sorry, Isis, I didn't mean to react like that…"

His sister stood silently in front of him. Her expression was hard to read. She was sad, he knew, but it was like she was trying to hide it from him. It was pointless, anyway. There wasn't any reason to be sad anymore… It wasn't her problem. It wasn't her problem it wasn't her problem it wasn't her problem… Malik looked regretfully up at her and shifted on his bed so that he faced her.

"You know not to touch me…"

There was something so heartbreaking in the way she looked at him. But she nodded and her hands moved to her sides. He expected her to leave, but instead, she moved towards him and sat next to him on his bed. Malik stiffened, but did nothing other. This was his sister. He didn't have to be scared. She wouldn't touch him, she wouldn't hurt him. …Right? She wouldn't, would she?

"It's over, Malik." Her voice was soft.

"I know." Was his reply. He looked down at his lap.

"You don't have to be scared anymore."

"I know." This time, his voice was flat.

They had gone over this so many times. He agreed to everything she said. He always had. But nothing ever changed. She said it would come with time, but… How long? Who measured his pain? Who decided that it was time that he recovered? What higher being? Malik almost laughed. The same ones who had decided everything, from the very beginning. Malik had no god.

It was silent after he spoke. His sister seemed to have nothing to say. His clocked ticked in the absence of voice. He wanted her to say something. After so long, Malik appreciated her voice. But he didn't want to be force fed the same lines over and over. He already knew what that felt like.

"Maybe it'll be different. After now." He was surprised to find that it was his own voice.

Isis looked over at him. Her mouth was open slightly and her eyebrows were furrowed. She looked sad. The light from his window made her eyes appear so hauntingly blue. She looked at him, just looked, as that clock just kept ticking and ticking. Time was passing, going by, second after second after second! He wanted her to say something! He didn't want her to lose time, life! Talk, talk! But his eyes gave away nothing. Malik was good at that. None of them knew what was going on in his head.

"You know…" Something within her seemed a bit defeated. The sadness was still there, but it was dulled, pushed down to create a foundation for other emotions as they built a sturdy structure within her. "I always said that to myself. Everything will always be different, Malik. Even in the beginning I told myself that it would be different, without you, even though it hurt. And then the investigation began, and I told myself that my pain would be different because I had hope." She laughed softly. "That didn't do much. It never does. You can hope and hope and believe all you want, but the only change that's going to happen, is if you do it yourself."

Pessimism wasn't one of his sister's traits. But actually, Malik wasn't sure if her words were cynical or not. Perhaps they were true, and he didn't want to deal with them. And she was right. Something inside Malik hurt.

"It's hard."

"Of course it is, would it be anything else?" She sighed, and moved her elbows back so that she was reclining, and stared up at the ceiling before closing her eyes. "You know life isn't fair. But it's not attacking just you. You aren't the only protagonist. How do you think I felt when my baby brother never came home? When we looked and looked and the months passed without you here? It was hard for me, too. It was hard for all of us. But we had to make the best of life. All of us do. We're all given obstacles, and it's our duty to overcome them. Survival of the fittest… Your main challenge is over, Malik, but there are other ones that have still lasted.

…He's gone, Malik. Nothing's going to happen to you ever again."

"He's not. He's not gone, he's never gone, Isis, you don't understand…" Malik moaned and fisted his hands into his hair. He squeezed his eyes shut. It was something she would never understand. She didn't understand that while, although his physical touch was gone, he was always there. Mariku was always with him, reminding him, touching him, stalking him.

At night he was there. In the evening. When he looked into the mirror. When he changed his clothes. When something brushed up against him. It was Mariku's other final gift to him. He would never, ever leave.

Isis said nothing. He didn't look at her. He didn't want to. He knew she cared about him, that she loved him and that she would never take for granted having him back again, but even still he knew that she grew frustrated with his retorts. He made minimal progress. She had heard everything he had said at least twice before. He didn't mean to make her frustrated or upset, but he did nothing to try and change it. There was no point.

So it was quiet, once again. Tick, tick, tick… The passing of time unnerved him as he sat silent and still. He didn't know what to do, and apparently, neither did she. She hadn't given up on him, but-… What was there left to say?

She shifted on the bed next to him, and he heard her heels click on the ground as she moved to his doorway. He glanced up at her.

"…You should get ready, Malik. We have to be there in two hours."

"Okay."

And she shut his door.

Malik let out a soft sigh, and turned away from the door. He didn't like to be left alone, but he didn't really like to be around people that much now, either. While he missed his sister's presence, he felt less suffocated. He didn't like people looking at him, touching him…

It was time to get ready, though. Today was it. It was the day of Mariku's trial. Today was what meant everything to Malik. His physical demons would finally be gone forever, permanently…

Inside his head, Malik felt the beginning of turmoil once again. Pulling, grabbing, groping at his mind. Don't do it, don't do it, don't do it, don't do it… But it was something he had to do without setbacks. Malik had to turn off his mind, just as he had done before. Being naked always had that affect on him.

He turned, and looked for what he needed. Spotting them, Malik reached for his crutches, and put them under his arms. Standing up shakily, Malik breathed out heavily in exertion. It hurt to stand, but inside the house, he had to walk. Malik didn't look down at his ankles. He couldn't bare it.

Walking slowly to his bathroom, he shut the door behind him. He was completely sealed off from the rest of the world, no windows, and a locked door. His heart sped up just a bit. Malik looked up at his reflection in the mirror, his eyes never leaving his alter's as he gently put down his crutches and held onto the rail that had been installed. His eyes haunted him, but he was no longer emaciated. He had gained weight.

Even still, his body was ugly. So, so ugly as he forced himself to pull his shirt over his head. He felt sick as his skin was left to the open air. The same was done with his pants, and he was naked. And he was scared, but- no. He had to turn off his mind. He couldn't do this if he thought. Thinking was too hard. He had to be a robot, just as before.

Limping to his shower, Malik tested the water and waited for it to heat up. The water was cleansing as he stepped in. His balanced faltered for a bit, so he quickly reached out for a different rail. He sat down on the ledge that had been installed. It admittedly felt good. The water poured on him, over him, touching him everywhere, but it didn't hurt. It felt nice.

Routine, routine. He had to wash his hair, so he did. He had to use conditioner, so he did. He had to clean himself so- so he did. His own touch wouldn't hurt him… Nothing would happen, he just had to scrub himself clean. Because he was dirty. So, so dirty.

Mariku's hands were his own. Touching himself, touching, touching… He was so disgusting. But- no, goddamnit, no! It wasn't the same anymore! It was different, it was different!

Malik made a stifled scream, and threw the soap at the shower door where it fell to the floor with a thud. His eyes were wide as he shook but didn't see what was in front of him, only what he imagined. He grabbed at his hair and clenching his teeth. He wasn't home. He was in his room, that horrible, horrible room. He was washing himself and Mariku was there. Mariku was touching him and Mariku was hurting him. It hurt so bad, so bad! And it wouldn't stop! Over and over and everywhere Mariku could reach. Malik was crying and Malik was begging but it wouldn't stop.

Please, please, please stop. No more, I'm scared, I-I'm so scared.

I love you.

I can't take this anymore. I'm going to d-die.

I love you.

I hate you! I want to go home! Let me go, please, please, stop!

I love you.

They said it was over, but it wasn't. It never would be, and the water did not feel good. It violated him. Malik never said it could touch him! Mariku was touching him! No- no- n-no!

"No, no no. No no no no! N-no, stop, don't, please- no!"

Malik eyes went wide, and his hyperventilation stopped. That was- his voice. And he was- at home. This was his bathroom, and Mariku was not there. The only hands on him were his own, wrapped around himself. He was so pathetic…

He looked down at his feet. They were bent strangely, now. His knees were deformed. The angle was macabre, bending in just a bit so that his feet didn't line up right. It disgusted him. A cripple, that was what he was. And everyone pitied the a cripple. Except for himself. He blamed himself, but this was not his fault. Yet, he did not mourn over it. It was simply a fact. He would never walk correctly again. The end.

The water continued to splatter down on him and the shower door, making a hollow pattering noise. He didn't feel like moving. He was in a state where he didn't think about anything, but felt everything at once. He felt as hollow as the sound of the water. What was left of him but an aphephobic cripple? Nothing, nothing. There was nothing.

Would it get better? Malik looked to his hands. He supposed it would, just as his sister had said. But he wasn't sure. He didn't know. When touch burned like fire and made him freeze up, when would it ever change? It wasn't as if Malik had anyone to impress. He didn't want anyone but his family in his life. Malik never wanted to get married. He didn't want to be touched, not by a woman or- by a man. So what did it matter apart from his own comfort level? Malik didn't know. He didn't really want to go outside, either. Even if he had before, all he wanted was the knowledge that he could. But now that he was free, he didn't want to see people. It was his own choice, and that alone did not cage him.

The water was starting to feel cold. He had to get out, he had to get ready. It was important. Things would change. So he, once again, became a robot. He didn't think, he just stood and turned off the water. He didn't think, he just dried himself off and shook out his hair. He had gotten it cut short. Long hair reminded him of Mariku. He looked better this way, he thought, anyway. Malik remembered years ago when he had thought about getting it cut, before- Malik didn't think. Malik was a robot.

His room was cold and cool as he stepped into it, the temperature colder then the heated bathroom. He shivered slightly and pulled the towel tighter around himself. He had already picked his clothes for the day. They were laid out on his bed. Using his crutches, he moved to his bed where he sat down. It hurt to let go of his towel, but he did so anyway. After all, things were going to change. No more fear. Nothing was going to hurt him.

A suit. He had to look nice. He had to impress the judge. But for what reason? Malik knew what would be the outcome of the trial. Who did he have to impress? There would be only one person who noticed what he looked like.

The fabric of the white undershirt felt uncomfortable on his skin. His sister had ironed it so that it was unnaturally crisp. It slid across his skin and he shivered as he buttoned it up. He felt more secure the more layer of clothes he put on. First the shirt, then the pants, then the jacket. It was hard putting on clothes, at least, his pants. He grew frustrated. But he liked to be mad. It was better then being scared of depressed. Anger was something he knew and was used to since he was a child, having been hot headed. Fear and sadness were emotions that were forced upon him.

He stood and looked at himself in the mirror. The crutches ruined his image. He hated them. He hated his ankles and he hated his crutches and he hated having to wear the suit. It was okay, though, he didn't really mind. Hating was easy so he allowed himself it. He looked acceptable, though, and he supposed that was what all that counted. Still, there was something within him that hurt, other then hatred.

Remorse. Regret? He didn't know, but it was slightly nostalgic in value. Because this was it, right? This was real life, this was his home and his room, exactly as it had been when he was fifteen. It really was over. He could pick his own actions and his own words and his own clothes and what he wanted to do. Malik could go outside. He take the elevator and go outside, to the city, to the air and not be caged. And most of all, he would be alone.

So, he had to move forward. This had to end. He had waited so long for his life to be back, begged for it, and here it was. He had to make the most of it. Adjusting his hold on his crutches, Malik opened his door and left his room.

The hallway smelled like something sweet. His sister had made pancakes. Malik smiled. It was sort of funny. Walking to the kitchen was difficult, but he made it. It was a small apartment, after all. He had been right, and his sister stood with her back turned to him, cleaning the dishes. His brother sat at the table, reading the newspaper. It seemed just so- perfect. The perfect family, the perfect life. On the outside. At least, until the camera zoomed over to the crippled boy standing in the door way. Rishid looked up at him.

"Your sister made you pancakes." He always gave such obvious, factual answers. Malik smiled a bit.

"I know."

Isis turned to look at him, and smiled, turning off the water in the sink. She wiped her hands on a towel and faced him.

"You look good, Malik. I think it suits you." It was a pretty bad pun, but Malik didn't care and just raised an eyebrow. She paused. "I made you breakfast. Are you hungry?"

"…Not really."

"Well you're going to eat anyway. I made it for you and you're going to have breakfast. I'm not going to let you go to the trial with an empty stomach."

Malik frowned, pretending to be a bit upset. But he didn't mind. He liked this. It made him feel so at home, like things were the same as they always had been.

"I'm not a kid anymore, I'm almost nineteen."

"I know, I'm just looking out for you. Now sit down and eat."

He faked a scowl, but did as he was told. She sat down next to him as he looked at the food that was presented before him. He really didn't feel hungry, but poked at the pancake anyway. It tasted good. She wasn't a superb cook, but it just tasted okay. Just fine.

It was quiet for a bit for his sister started to talk again. Rishid didn't say much, just nodded and agreed. He had to go back to school and finish high school. Isis said that she had learned about online programs, and that he could go to college, too, depending on the circumstances. He needed a job but they wouldn't push it. He wasn't quite ready to be outside that much at the point. Everything was moving forward. He was getting his life back.

Malik looked down at his empty plate, and then looked back up at his sister.

"…They're going to give him life, aren't they?"

Both his brother and sister seemed to freeze up a bit. They all felt the atmosphere, the questions that lingered, but had never really addressed them. It was a sensitive topic.

"Pr-Probably." Isis stuttered. It was uncharacteristic. She glanced over at Rishid. He looked back with his hard eyes.

"I wish he would die."

Malik looked away, not wanting to see how they looked at him. It was horrible, to wish death upon anybody, but Malik did. Just this one case, he did, and always had.

"We all do, Malik…"

After that, it was silent once again. Tension was high. They were all nervous, high strung. Malik breathed quietly as he waited for something to break the mood.

"I think we should go. We have to be there in an hour. I don't want to be late." His sister was the saving grace. Rishid agreed and stood, folding his newspaper that Malik knew he hadn't really been reading anyway, and setting it onto the table. He walked over to the coat closet. Malik hated this part.

He hated using the wheel chair. At least he was independent with the crutches. But out of the house, he was forced to use it. It was too far to walk. He was going to get an operation in the slight chance that his legs could be fixed, and was ordered not to strain them. Rishid wheeled it to him as his sister went to her room to get the keys to the car. He offered his hand out to Malik, but he refused it. Malik didn't want to be pathetic. He stood, using his crutches as support, and walked to the wheelchair himself. Sitting down, he gave his crutches to Rishid and waited for their sister.

Rishid stood silently next to him. He hadn't even really talked much. But right as he seemed about to say something, Isis came back into the kitchen.

"I thought we'd take the nicer car today, I couldn't find the keys." She gave him a reassuring smile, and they left the house.

--

The drive to the courthouse was long. In the city, it took a long time to get through lights. Malik liked it, though. He liked being around so many people, so long as a door and a glass window separated him from them. The city was full of life, and was dirty. It didn't have to hide itself behind the perfect cleanliness of suburbs. All of its problems were displayed fully on the streets. It was not enigmatic, and Malik loved it. This was home.

Eventually, though, they left the city for the outer belt and for the highway. It was a dull trip. The scenery, anyway. Inside, Malik's stomach churned. He hadn't seen Mariku in nine months. The trial had been delayed month after month, but Mariku couldn't pay his way out of it this time, he was trapped. Malik was glad. Now he could know what it felt like to be caged and terrified. But Malik doubted Mariku knew the true weight of what was going to happen. He was too fucked up to understand anything.

It would be hard seeing him. Malik knew that. He planned out how he would react in his head, but that was just mental simulation. Their lawyer said that he would not be allowed to speak to him or touch him or anything along those lines. It would still hurt to see him. Malik was scared.

He thought about the trial, about Mariku for a long while as he stared outside at the snow that rushed past the car window. It hurt bad, as always, as most things did. Because it felt so real. The thought of him was just so real. Mariku had overdosed him with his presence and touch. He would never forget about it.

Malik leaned his head against the window. Was it really Mariku's fault, though? His actions were his own, but Bakura had told him about Mariku's history. In some sick, twisted way, Malik felt sorry for him. Somebody in his life could have changed him, given him attention. But instead his parents left him, abandoned. Alone. It didn't make up for anything that he had done, but the world was not always just in black and white.

The hardly changing view of the highway drew to a close as they went on the exit ramp and entered an area more of the suburbs. Small shops and grassy lawns. A small town and small ideals. It was quiet, reserved, and such a harsh contrast to the concrete steps of the courthouse as they pulled into the parking lot next to it. Malik's heart beat fast.

Rishid put the car in park and turned the keys. The car went from rumbling to quiet as they stepped out and helped Malik into his wheelchair. The wind was cold against his face, but he hadn't wanted to take a coat. Too much trouble. So Malik shivered and sucked it up, wheeling himself to the door of the court room.

The turmoil inside of him reached an almost unbearable point as he waited for his brother and sister. He heard Isis's shoes behind him, and he looked up at Rishid who stood next to him. He looked down at him, cold, as always, but his eyes showed compassion and encouragement. It would be okay. It would all be okay. Isis opened the door for them, and with a deep breath, Malik wheeled himself inside.

It was warm and he was glad he had not taken a coat. The heat would have suffocated him. Inside, there were wooden walls and a light carpet. It was nice enough, though hard to move his wheelchair over. There were rooms to the side, and waiting near one of the doors, was their attorney, Mr. Morrison. He, too, looked nervous, and adjusted his tie when they came in.

"Ah, Ms. Ishtar." He greeted Isis first. He knew her better. "It's starting in fifteen minutes. I was wondering when you'd get here."

Isis smiled and shook his hand before moving behind Malik and placing her hands on the bars of the wheelchair behind him. He didn't like it when people did that. It made him feel suffocated, that they could move him, take him anywhere without his consent.

They talked for a while, about legal business, and Malik was left alone to deal with the pit of dread in his stomach. He felt sick.

It's going to be fine, it's going to be fine. There's nothing to worry about, he can't hurt me…

Malik jumped a bit when he felt his sister move her hands back onto the handlebars. He had been lost in thought. Malik wanted to be sick.

"It's time, Malik."

Her voice was reassuring, and he took in a shaky breath, nodding his head. He hadn't seen Mariku in so long. He never wanted to see him again, that was what Isis had promised him when she had saved him, but she lied…

The courtroom was almost completely full, a large turn out, and Malik hardly recognized any of them. They were probably people who knew Mariku. His heart felt like it was going to tear out of his chest and swallow him whole as it beat louder and louder. Malik then understood the fear the man in A Telltale Heart felt when he heard the heart beat increase in decibel. He kept his head down, watching the floor as he wheeled himself to the seat in front of the table that was designated for Mr. Morrison and him. His sister and brother took a seat back in the audience.

Malik didn't dare to look to the right side of the room.

"Five minutes, Malik." Mr. Morrison said, leaning over and whispering to him as he got his papers together and the jury filled. Malik nodded.

Watching them take their seats and the judge walk to the platform, Malik's nerves began to settle. This was… really it, wasn't it? It was all over. Mariku would be locked away forever, and Malik would finally, finally have his life back. The courtroom was no longer daunting. It gave him hope. It gave him optimism, and it gave him memories.

Because it really was over, and Malik remembered all the things he would be leaving behind. Being stalked, Joshua's death, being kidnapped, being raped, being starved, being mutilated. And he would leave Mariku behind in his prison cell where he would never be allowed out again. Mariku would never hurt him. He would be safe, forever.

A bang, and Malik looked up as the judge slammed her gavel down onto the podium.

"I call this court to an open. Will the defendant please present their case." Her voice was loud, and it seemed to almost boom around the room.

Malik looked straight ahead, not to the right, not to the right, not to the right. He could see only out of the corner of his eye, Mariku's lawyer stand. He didn't listen to his defense. It disgusted him. Mariku didn't a free court trial. He didn't deserve the amendment that was given to him. He should be dead and pay for his crimes.

Eventually, Mariku's lawyer sat down, and Mr. Morrison was ordered to stand. He gave his opening, and Malik knew that they would win. It was plain and obvious. It was what he deserved. He deserved to be paid happiness for once in his life.

The case stretched on, and Malik's heart began beating fast again. Mariku's defendant was giving his case. He didn't want to hear what he thought was an excuse for the atrocities that Mariku committed. He felt so sick, so scared. He wanted to it to be over, and to go home. And he felt someone staring at him.

Staring, staring, staring. Malik knew, and Malik cried inside. He had to look forward, just look forward, and-

Malik turned his head, and Malik's heart stopped still. Mariku sat a bit reclined in his chair, and he looked directly at him. Their eyes met for the first time in nine months. It was as if every emotion Mariku had harbored since being pulled from him was being shoved upon Malik in a single look, and Malik was washed over with a feeling of guilt and terror. They both knew the outcome. Mariku would never live again. And although he hated him so much, wished him death above all else, Malik was guilty. It was some sort of sick Stockholm syndrome, and Mariku's eyes pulled him under. Malik was drowning.

His eyes didn't move away from his, didn't look at his body, but still, Malik felt naked. It felt like he was back in that horrid room and Mariku was touching him. Even not connected to him physically, Malik still felt as if he was a slave to him as he looked at him. Mariku's lips parted just a bit, and he whispered something. Malik knew what it was. Malik felt hopeless. The optimism was drained right out of him, and it was only Mariku and him. Mariku smiled and his eyes softened. Malik clenched his hands in his lap. Malik wore no clothes.

"Would the defendant please stand and give their defense?"

The bond was broken, and Malik held his breath, watching as Mariku's attorney sat down and he rose. Mariku wore a smile on his face. He stepped out in front of the judge and jury, with all eyes on him. And then, opening his mouth as if to talk, he turned around on the last moment and swung his arms open wide, and looked only to Malik.

"I have done nothing wrong. There is no excuse that I can ever give, for I have committed no crime. Love is the basis of humanity, and that's what this is. I would go to any lengths for you, anything you do to me. Even though you've hurt me so much and I can never forgive you for this, I will accept it. I will come out of this because this is only another test of my love. Nothing will separate you from me, not ever. I will always be there, even when you're alone. I did it out of love. This is my defense."

The courtroom was completely silent. Mariku continued to stare at him, a smile on his face as Malik looked back. He wavered, started to crack, and then- and then it stopped. There was no more fear. Malik was no longer afraid of him, as he stood in front of the court. He wouldn't win. Malik had won and Mariku was defeated. They were only words, no matter how sick or twisted. Malik looked back with strength. And Mariku sat down.

"Will the complaint please stand and give their testimony?"

In a way, it was holy judgment as Malik moved his numb arms and wheeled himself to the podium. He faced the crowd, and Mariku looked up at him. This was his chance to give himself justice. He blamed himself for everything that had ever happened, and now it was time to let it go. It wasn't his fault, and he would have to explain it. This was it. This was the end.

Malik's closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. When he opened his eyes, he felt the strength that he had missed for so long, and he spoke into the microphone in front of him.

This was his testimony, his story. And so he told it as such. He told the jury, the judge, his family, and the world what had happened to him. He told him about the letters that had been given to him, and glanced down as they lay upon the table for evidence. He told about the murder of Joshua, about being stalked. He told about being kidnapped and drugged. He told about the many days that he spent psychologically dying inside of that white, white room. He told about the way Mariku spoke to him, and about how Mariku touched him. He told about how he had been raped so many times. He told about his attempts at escape. And he told about how Mariku had broken his knees.

And then he paused. Because it was hard to remember. Again, he closed his eyes. Nobody said anything or told him to hurry up. They were all there for him. Nothing would happen. He was safe. Mariku could not touch him. Malik regained his strength.

"And- and then I don't remember much after he broke my knees. All I remember is being hollow. There was nothing left inside of me, after that. It was like I was dead as my body continued to live. I didn't resist any more, and I don't remember pain. I do remember fear, though. That was my constant companion…

He had called a special doctor, and paid him well to keep secrecy about me as he oversaw my recovery. It took a long while. The bones in my knees had been completely shattered, and because of it, something had gone wrong with the muscle and tissue- I don't remember the technicalities, but I got very sick. I very might have well been dead. I wouldn't have known. I didn't really think anymore.

He liked this, though. I was perfect to him, then. He still touched me even though I was so sick. But he didn't restrain himself anymore. What- what he did to me was s-sick, I don't- I don't really want to explain it. I didn't have any will or strength to fight, anyway. And what would have happened if I had? I couldn't walk, I couldn't run. I couldn't defend myself. I was literally his doll, then.

A couple of months went by like that with hardly any change. I was allowed to go outside, though… Because I couldn't walk or run. Ironic, how that is… After those months, though, he became increasingly more violent. He had always hurt me, but this was different. Since I was allowed around the house now, I didn't have to stay in my room, but he would get mad if he caught me out of it at the wrong time. They were always spontaneous times, and I could never guess them coming.

He would it me and kick me and- and tie things around my neck and get me to the point of near suffocation. I don't know why he did, and I blamed myself. I gained a bit of living back, then, but only in the form of depression. I later learned that it was because of Bakura. Their relationship was failing, and it was my fault, so he hurt me. Bakura wanted him to let me go, but he refused, of course, and they fought constantly.

It was violent fighting, too. It made me scared. Bakura was the only one who I had, then, even if he was still cold. I didn't know what to do, but I had given up on the night that I had been crippled, so I didn't dwell on it much. Two years had passed since then.

And then one day, everything changed. Mariku grew frantic and terrified and started trying to take as much things out of the house that he could. He had a gun with him, and was screaming at me to come with him. He wasn't thinking straight, since I couldn't walk. He told me that we were leaving, and that I would do exactly as he said. I was scared again, because this was something different. I hadn't seen Mariku truly scared before. Bakura was no where to be found.

He tried pulling me along the ground, but I was too heavy so he just carried me. I feared for my life. He wasn't sane, and he had a gun. He had made it all the way to the garage, but then Bakura was there, and Bakura blocked it. He told him that this was it, that the police would be there in a matter of minutes, and that Mariku had to give up. He told him that it was for the best, and it hurt him too much to stand to the side for years and years and watch him committee atrocities as he did nothing about it. He told him he loved him, that he always had, and he wouldn't let him kill me.

Mariku said nothing, and only punched him. Bakura swayed a bit and they were screaming again. Bakura had slit his tires.

And then, the police. They showed up without a warning, and told Mariku to freeze and put me down. He refused, and cocked the gun, and pulled the trigger, aiming for one of the policemen. He missed, though, and hit Bakura instead. Bakura died instantly. I remember the blood. I never thought that it pooled around the body, but it did. Right out of his neck.

Mariku was in shock, then, and he dropped me. That was when the police swarmed him and hand cuffed him. It's blurry, it happened all too fast that I don't really remember. I was in shock, and I didn't realize that I was safe. Even as he was forced into a police car and they let my sister who had come, see me, I wasn't mentally there. I wasn't for a long, long while. The last thing I remember was Mariku screaming for me as they took him away and left me behind. And that's it. That's the end."

Once again, the court room was silent. Malik felt nothing. He wasn't even numb. He was just- nothing. Everything left him. All the guilt. All the pain. All the fear. All the depression. He was left with what he had, what he had before he had been stalked. When Malik breathed, he breathed life.

Malik was slow as the judge gave him permission to wheel himself back to his table with Mr. Morrison. His face was blank, and he didn't look at his family.

"The jury will decide the fate of the defendant."

The courtroom filled with voices, talking, discussing the case, but Malik didn't listen to them. He heard nothing and felt nothing. Now Malik was numb with realization. He sat and stared blankly down at the table where his hands rested. He could see the scars on his wrists where he had been bound in the beginning, and where they had been agitated to become permanent so many times. But they no longer bound him. They only reminded him. Malik no longer hated them. All they were, were reminders of his own strength.

It took the jury only fifteen minutes to decide on an answer.

They filled the jury box quickly, and the judge took her place at the podium. Malik did not look back at his brother or sister for reassurance. He needed only himself. He was an adult. He was not a child. He had survived so much. He would lift his head up as he heard the most important words of his life.

Looking down at her papers, the judge paused only seconds before speaking with her loud voice.

"On the cases of two accounts of first degree murder, rape, kidnapping, and stalking, the court hereby sentences Mariku Tamar Ismail to: life in prison with no chance of parole."

Noise, noise, noise. So much noise, but Malik heard nothing, only those words repeated over and over in his head. People around him, his brother, his sister, crying and congratulating him. But he heard none of it.

He blinked. He looked up. His sister smiled at him. His brother smiled at him. Everybody smiled. Did he smile? Malik supposed he did. He was

Free.

He was

Released.

He was

No longer tethered to pain.

Malik did not speak, but he did smile, and he cried. It was all just finally, finally over.

And then he heard screaming. He looked around Rishid, and Mariku was being taken away, and he screamed to be released.

"LET GO, LET GO OF ME! YOU CAN'T DO THIS! HE NEEDS ME, HE NEEDS ME!"

They struggled to restrain him, and out of some miracle of Mariku's, and a tiny bit of fate spiting him, Mariku struggled out of their grip and ran to him.

He thought he was going to touch him, and Malik's heart stopped still in dread. No, no! They said he wouldn't be able to touch him!

"I won't leave you, Malik!" Mariku screamed, but his eyes were pleading and he was crying. He was caught again, but he screamed to him, only feet away. "I'll always be with you! Remember that! Every breath you take, every morning you wake up, I'll always be there! I won't ever leave you! You can't leave me, Malik! I love you!"

He screamed as he was dragged away. Malik's sister tried to console him.

"He can't, Malik, he can't. He's gone and he's not ever coming back."

But Malik knew. He had always known. He wasn't free. He would never be free. Mariku was right. Even though he was gone, he would always be there. He would always be his stalker, and his memories lived inside him, and his touch lingered. And so giving it all up, Malik came to acceptance. Malik hung his head into his hands and cried.

He would never be alone.


End