Wow. (blinks) Weird. This has nothing to do with my writing challenge or Puzzleshipping! The world is ending – (flails) – haha, I kid. Finals are, however, starting to make me twitch with nervousness and I feel so tired from studying. Thus, this was born. (...makes me wonder if I'll ever get the urge to write a story just on Tendershipping. (ponders) Hmm.)

LJ writing challenge will most probably be updated on the 25th (day of last final exam, thank the gods), which will probably give me a bit more time to finish writing the next five following theme 020.

Well, that's all the...unrelated-but-still-related ramblings on my part. Onwards!

Ghost of You
By – Hime no Ichigo

Genre: General/Angst
Rating: PG-14
Pairings: primarily none, but maybe a bit of (perversely twisted) Bronzeshipping – Marik/Malik – if you squint hard enough
Story Type: One-shot
Summary: It couldn't be true–the voice was just part of his hyperactive imagination, wasn't it?

Disclaimer: Don't own Yuugiou, sobz.

Spoilers: Um, none.

Warnings/Notes: Malik is seventeen. I'm not entirely sure about the age-frame, but he's seventeen here, and that's that. (folds arms)

Keep in mind I haven't written a story solely focusing on Malik in ages, and as I reread the only other time I did, I cringed at how...OOC-ish (suicidal Malik) I made it. So here's a second attempt because my perception of the Yuugiou characters have changed since I first started writing about them. (I have a feeling more possible one-shots will be spawned of my less-written pairings as time passes...if the idea strikes. If and only if.)

In other words, this is sort of dark-ish. And I'm going to try to keep them IC...hopefully.

This is also partially inspired by a post in PlayTheDamnCard (a LiveJournal community), asking for our opinions on "what each character is most afraid of".


The shadows were moving again.

Malik squeezed his eyes tightly, pulling the covers up until they were above the tips of his hair, and pretended that if he couldn't see, then the shadows would simply go away. But he knew...of course he knew better. Seven days ago they had left Domino Pier; seven days ago they had come back to Egypt; seven days ago he could sleep on his own bed again; seven days ago the darkness started to plague his dreams and nightmares to the point where he couldn't sleep, forced to stay awake and fight away their unwanted presence.

The first night had been terrifying enough, for him, for Isis, and for Rishid.

But they kept coming back, no matter how much he wanted to believe in Isis' reassurances and Rishid's optimism.

The candle in his stone room was flickering, barely making an effort to stay aflame. He couldn't blame it; it was roughly around two in the morning, and it was the closest thing to a 'nightlight' (as Ryou had excitedly explained once). He bit his bottom lip lightly; he would not run to his sister or his half-brother again just because he was afraid of the dark...just because there were those shapes flitting across the walls. He was seventeen. He was more than capable of taking care of himself. Isis already had enough things on her plate to worry about, and it would not do for him to be a permanent addition to the list. Since their duty to the Pharaoh was finished, it was time to find a different place to live in. However, finding a new house was difficult, despite his sister's status with the Egyptian government, but it was understandable; Isis would only want the best for her family, and she would not settle for less. And Rishid...

If either of them found out he was, once again, cowering in the middle of the night, scared of the stupid dances on the wall even after they told him "it's all right"...

Why are you afraid of yourself?

He twitched, almost lifted off the bed. Although his blankets kept him hidden and his eyes unseeing, he couldn't block out the whisper that sounded too close for comfort.

"I'm not," he grounded out, forcing his voice to be quiet and level. It would be more intimidating and deadly—confidence, next to silence, was, is, and always will be his greatest weapon in such situations—but then, what was he talking to anyway? Air? Nothingness? His wall?

Of course you are. I can smell the fear rolling off of you... Tch, have I taught you nothing?

"Whatever you are, you've done nothing good except deprive me of sleep and making it hard to concentrate at work. So Ra-dammit, go away."

Oh, grown up now, I see.

Malik took his pillow and used it as a second shield for his ears. It seemed to have no effect; that...voice was just as loud, just as close, just as real.

Too grown up and self-important to pay attention to yourself now, is that so?

"Leave me alone," he grumbled into the pillow.

The 'voice' sneered. Running away again? When will you learn?

"I am not," he repeated, this time more firmly to hide the growing panic. Why wouldn't it go away? Why was it being so persistent, annoying? Why couldn't—

You can run, Malik, the 'voice' continued to taunt him. But you cannot hide. Ah, it sounded to have adopted a thoughtful tone. But how can you? You cannot outrun your shadow; you cannot hide from yourself, especially not when your existence is all I need...

His eyes snapped open to meet darkness once again. The words chilled him. Yet it wasn't the only thing affecting him. He felt tendrils of cold air seeping under the blankets, felt them wrap around his toes and legs, about his fingers and up his arms; teased his navel and swept up his neck and caressed across his face and curved his ear shells and breezed lightly on his eyelids and tangled in his hair... He instinctively curled up, shrinking into a human ball, and struggled to ignore the sudden clenching and unclenching of his heart. The shadows didn't stop; if anything they tried harder to pry him out of his position. The blankets slid down past his shoulders.

"I thought I got rid of you for good. Why are you here?! Rishid...Rishid will—"

I am you, as you me. You cannot 'get rid of me for good'. As long as you live, I will be here.

"You are not me," he whispered vehemently, the grip on his pillow so, so tight and so, so unyielding, his eyes unwilling to look up from the safety of the cushion.

Forgive me then, my creator, the 'voice' mocked, its shadow-head seemed to tilt to its right in amusement on the wall. Even in its wispy formation the hair stuck out at odd angles in all directions, in the same psychotic hairstyle. Malik breathed harshly. As for the fool who thought carving his face would mean loyalty to the Ishtars, his presence no longer affects me. I can, and will, manifest myself even if he is awake and about.

Malik's eyes widened a fraction. That couldn't be true! Rishid had been his last hope...

Oh, it is true all right. I must thank you, for letting me wander in the Darkness. I have learned so much from them. I have been watching you, Malik, and the Darkness has taught me the ways to overcome my previous weakness. So you see, the 'voice' smirked, and Malik hated the new quality in the tone more than anything, I—

"Enough! You can't," he tried desperately, forgetting to keep his voice down. "You can't! You're lying! You're not supposed to be here. You're in the Shadow Realm – both the Pharaoh and I made sure of that. I sealed you myself, and it's only further proof that the Pharaoh has the Rod and the God Cards! He defeated me, and you paid the price to your twisted Dark Game. You're not here, you're not here, you're not here, you're just a figment of my imagination because I have insomnia, because I can't sleep, because I'm too exhausted, because work is too strenuous, because my mind has always been overactive, because you're not real! Not here, not here, not here!"

He stopped, breathing hard, and for a moment, he could hear nothing other than his own panting gasps. Relief flooded him – temporary or permanent, he couldn't tell but could care less. Had he known that if this was all it took to banish the 'voice' and the shadows, then he would've done so—

My, my, always the ever delusional one. The 'voice' took on a painfully patronizing tone. Malik, Malik, Malik... You forfeited the duel, or have you forgotten? The Pharaoh, the 'voice' emphasized with distaste, did not beat you. Had he accomplished that then perhaps I would be sealed more securely. However, you were the one who got ahead and rushed headlong into what you thought was the right decision – and of course, surrendering the duel was the most obvious solution!

I do not need the Rod. I never had real use of it, except for the dagger; its magic already flows in your blood, as it has been handed down your family line for generations, and it belongs to the damned High Priest anyway. I would have been unsuccessful in unlocking any useful knowledge from that thing. But you created me and I only needed to wander into your unsuspecting mind to learn all that I needed to.

I am you. You are me. You can never get rid of me.

He felt like crying tears of frustration. "I am not you! I will never be you, and you can never be me!"

As long as there is darkness inside you, I will always be—

"Stop it!" A tear leaked through his shut eyes. "Stop it!" His grip on the pillow lessened and transferred to his head, where he clutched at platinum blond strands with enough force to yank them out by the roots. The pain would at least distract him from this—this voice, this nothing born of his own hallucinations and insomnia and paranoia and stress.

Nothing. An absolute nothing!

'Sister! Rishid!'

Why wasn't his sister shaking him awake from his nightmare yet? He would've liked her to scold him right now...

Why wasn't Rishid placing a towel on his forehead to soak up the cold sweat that broke out all over his body yet? He would've liked him to pat his hand and give him that reassuring smile of his...

Sister! Rishid! The 'voice' mimicked, high-pitched. It is useless to think of calling for them. They will not hear if you try.

"What did you do to them?!"

Nothing. They simply will not be able to hear you.

"You lie," he snarled, throwing off his covers and quickly moving to the door. The shadows swirled around his ankles and his knees and his hips and his elbows and his jaw and his temple, and suddenly it felt too compressing, too suffocating, and then he couldn't see anymore.

Somehow, somewhere—inside his head?—he heard the echoing cackles bouncing off the walls before he collided heavily with the stone floor. He laid there in a heap, feeling small tremors roar up and down and all around his nervous system, shooting up to his brain then numbing his digits. He sucked in a breath before it turned into shallow gasps, too quickly. Inside his head? What silly notion was that? He laughed softly, choking slightly on the saliva collecting at his throat, vision blurring. He squinted; the black and grey fuzz persisted to swim in and out like a bad television with poor to no satellite detections. Vaguely he saw the shadows continue their eerie movements, seemingly much, much closer to his huddled form.

Then the 'voice' was next to his ears once more, breathing and murmuring and chuckling and everything in between, being too real for his liking, but he couldn't move—why couldn't he move?

His vision swam again. His eyelids felt so, so heavy.

And how could this even possibly be true – the 'voice' was just part of his hyperactive imagination, wasn't it?

Wasn't it?

- Owari -

Authoress Notes: I'm sorry, Malik. ;.; He's not dead, honest! He just...passed out, because dealing with the shadows always take a toll on him (read: his sanity).

I'm compensating for the fact that I always write solid!Marik in my other stories even though I know he's disintegrated after the Battle City finals. So, um, just trying something different now. I know this doesn't explain why I write him as a solid being – and it's not supposed to – but I figured this would be the first step if he somehow could come back.

So...tell me how I did. (hides)