*Sigh*, I'm really bad at keeping promises, aren't I? The sad part is, I'm about half a chapter and an epilogue away from finishing my chapter story, and I completely lost inspiration! It'll come back, I know how I'm going to end it, I just don't feel like working on it. Oh well, I only write to pass the time, I shouldn't have to worry about deadlines and such…

A few things to know: AU fic (as usual). Mariku is his own person (Malik isn't in this fic, but if he was, he'd be Mariku's brother or something). Dark Magician Girl is a real character. And yes, I totally ship this. In my twisted mind, these two go perfectly together. It's called Jointshipping, incase anyone's wondering.

I'll write a cannon version of this pairing (and yeah, I can do that) another time, right now, I'm just playing with their characters. I mean, really playing with their characters. Although I do like the "bipolar-psycho Mariku" people often write, it gets a bit tedious. I tried to make him a bit more civilized while still maintaining his primal instincts. Hopefully I did all right…

As for DMG – she's a stripper! Of course she's not going to be the cutsie-tutsie girl she is in the series!

Stripper

Freedom.

Some believed that freedom was an object that could be obtained. It could be placed in a box and handed over if the right price was given. Some believed that freedom was the greatest gift that could be received.

But they are wrong.

Freedom is not an object. Freedom is what freedom is. It is the pure nature of living outside the normal border of this so-called "civilization" theory that humans have wrapped their heads around. It could be borrowed from time to time, but never owned.

That was what made him addicted. That was why he had become so entranced by this world. It was the first place he had gone to visit after his sentence had ended. It was a place where freedom existed.

Mariku stood outside the building, grinning to himself as the music pounded out the doors and onto the streets. He breathed in its presence. People passed by him, giving an occasional glance of confusion, but he didn't care.

He didn't care about anything.

That was the purpose of being here.

Finally, he put one foot forward and stepped inside.

The strip club's lights flashed heavily as he made his way through the crowd. A few flirtatious women walked by, noticing him immediately. He threw them a quick grin; he knew he looked good. He had on a brand new outfit, clean shoes, and made sure the Rolex on his wrist was perfectly visible.

The women paraded around him, rubbing their bodies up and down his until he pulled a couple bills out of his wallet. Satisfied with the generous amount he had given, they walked off. He wasn't all too concerned, though.

Tonight, Mariku lived for Mariku. A chuckle escaped his lips. So… this night wouldn't be any different from the last year and a half, really.

He cringed, and tried to suppress the memories but failed…

Cold steel bars…

Shouting and crying echoing down the hallways…

The constant threats and fear of not living to see the sunlight –

"Mariku?"

He spun around at the sound of his name. Behind him was a large horde of people, but he spotted the speaker immediately. A familiar brunette stood not too far away from him.

"Anzu?"

Instantly, the girl appeared to have regretted calling out his name. She looked around, trying to see if she could ditch, but it was too late, he had seen her. And she was the last person he would have thought to see at a place like this…

He stepped up to the girl. He grabbed her shoulder lightly when she still tried to walk off. She yanked away, yet stayed put.

Mariku couldn't suppress his confusion. "What are you… oh lord, please, you're not… you're too much of a good girl…"

"No, Mariku, I'm – "

"Look, seeing you here is going to ruin my evening. Please just leave, okay? Go home and play scrabble, or whatever it is you 'good people' do."

"Mariku!" She stood with hands on hips and a look of exasperation on her face. "Will you let me explain?"

He flashed her a serious look. Maybe he was being too harsh, but he didn't think he'd ever be able to look at strippers the same way again if Anzu had joined in.

"Honey, you know if you have money issues, you can come to me, right?"

"Oh, please, you wouldn't lend me a dime and you know it!"

"Very true. Explain."

Anzu rolled her blue eyes. These two went way back. There had been once upon a time where Mariku had found her somewhat attractive, at least in a physical sense. But she truly wasn't his type, and she had made it very clear that he was not hers, either.

She crossed her arms as she faced him. "I'm not working here, for starters."

"Oh, hallelujah." Mariku responded with very little sarcasm. He may have lived outside the law, but he still maintained a certain level of dignity. If someone as moral-centric as Anzu had started working the pole… there was no telling how low this pitiful world would stoop.

Anzu seemed a bit hesitant to explain any further, so Mariku gave her a little nudge.

"And your reason for being here is…"

She leaned in slightly and whispered: "I'm here to see the Dark Magician Girl."

"The what and the who?"

Anzu cursed under her breath. She reached into her purse to pull out a small pamphlet. She handed it over. Mariku quickly glanced over it, running his eyes across the text at the bottom, when suddenly, he stopped. He turned his gaze upward slightly when he realized what was being presented on the pamphlet.

There, in the center of the page, was an extremely sexy woman. She wore a rather gaudy outfit, he would admit, but that didn't take his attention away from her features. He did like the fact that her skirt was just a little too short, showing off her milky skin and those luscious, luscious legs. She had a knockout smile and a face far too cute for that mature body of hers.

Those huge green eyes she had… they were immensely innocent, especially considering this woman's line of work.

But Mariku wouldn't deny. One glance – and he was hooked.

He tried to cover up his growing emotions by looking at Anzu with a smirk.

"Well," he started with his usual cynicism. "Looks like you've turned over a new leaf…"

"Shut up!" She snatched the pamphlet out of his hands, and fortunately for her, he was in the type of mood to just let her take it. "You know I have a girlfriend!"

Mariku's grin just grew wider. "Ah yes, her…" he thought but fondly. "She know you're here?"

"No, and I don't want her to know." Anzu placed the pamphlet back inside her purse.

"You do realize the Lesbo club is only a little bit away, right?" Mariku would offer to take her over; he always wanted an excuse to go into that place.

But Anzu shook her head. "No, the people there, they… chatter. Here, I'm just another face in the crowd, but there – I'd be labeled as one of them, you know what I'm saying?" Mariku nodded. "Someone would talk, word would get back to her somehow if I went there. It's safer here."

"Besides, they don't have – 'The Dark Magician Girl'…" Mariku added emphasis to the stripper's stage name in a mocking fashion.

"I'm serious."

"I know. And I agree, you would be safer here…" Mariku then added with a sinister smile. "Unless you bump into a familiar face…"

She glared at him, and he lessened his smile just to humor himself. "Don't you dare go blabbing to her about this." She pointed a finger menacingly towards him. "Trust me, Mariku Ishtar, I've got enough dirt on you to put you back in that hellhole you just got out of."

Mariku's smile faded completely, this time it was genuine. He blinked, trying to hide the hurt in his eyes as her words stung deeper into his skin.

He sighed bitterly. "Did you really have to bring that up?"

She lowered her finger and her features went soft. Soon she was the Anzu that everyone knew and loved to hate.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly. Wrapping her arms around herself, she rocked back and forth on her ankles. "Look, it's just – she and I are having problems, and I just – I need a night to myself. Me time. You understand that, don't you?"

She was using the puppy-dog-eye trick, but she had no need to. He understood perfectly. He nodded in response and soon the two parted.

After the whole affair had settled in his mind, Mariku shook his head slightly. Imagine, Anzu, at a strip club! This night was turning out to be very interesting…

Although, honestly, he hated seeing such innocence being thrown away for something like this. Mariku wouldn't deny that his hobbies weren't exactly the 'right' sort of thing to do, but still, some people did have values. He had every right to be there because no one was waiting for him at home. But Anzu… she had someone… and she was still here.

There was something just plain wrong about that.

He watched mindless men throw dollar bills aimlessly at the women for lap dances. He frowned at their carelessness. True, he liked sex and he was here to have a good time, but he was always trying to find… a little bit more.

He envied Anzu for having a significant other, and hated her just a little for taking advantage of that. Mariku didn't necessarily want to be tied down, but… after what he had been through… it would be nice just to have someone to hold…

No, it wasn't a smart idea to go looking for love, or anything along those lines, in a place like this, but Mariku couldn't help it. He had become so adjusted to the way things worked around here. This place was his home.

Mariku had not inherited his wealth, he had earned it. So he felt a certain emotional connection to these strippers, because they were working from the lowest of low to get through life, just as he had. That was where most of his obsession came from; the other was the mere bliss of it all. But still, he maintained a level of sympathy, even though none of them had ever seemed to truly return the favor – they only saw him as he was now.

An investment.

All contemplations of Anzu had quickly faded and returned to the picture on the pamphlet. Mariku licked his lips as he envisioned the incredible-looking woman on that sheet.

Dark Magician Girl. He smirked. Sounded like a video game character or something. Oh well. It was better than some of the names out there.

Yet he had to admit, he was a little disappointed in himself for never hearing about her. Had he really been away that long? But never mind. He was here now and they were there to present themselves, so he would simply have to enjoy the view.

He took a seat near the stage, wanting to be close to the show when his lady of interest made her entrance. A handful of strippers were working up there at the time being. They were all rather attractive but nothing too special.

Mariku had a preference for girls with lighter skin, simply because he liked the way it contrasted against his own. It made him feel as if he was getting something more exotic, although he truly wasn't prejudice; he just had his preferences. He had been to many strip clubs; he was no longer easily impressed.

But this one, this 'Dark Magician Girl'… she had caught his attention.

The strippers took their place behind the curtain, and the lights dimmed slightly as the announcer came on.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, the Crowned Jewel of 'Bare Skins Night Club' – The Dark Magician Girl!"

The audience roared with applause as a single spotlight came on. Mariku couldn't resist peering around in an attempt to spot Anzu, but his search was brief. He wanted to see this girl.

A figured lowered itself down the pole, and the audience began to tone down as they became more entranced. Mariku gulped as the figure came out of the shadows and her features became distinct.

There she was.

Mariku was quite please to see that she had been wearing only part of the outfit she had been advertised in. That ridiculous cone-shaped hat was gone, as well as her boots and arm-covers. It was just her and that tiny excuse for a dress.

She slowed down, smiled, leaned into the pole and winked. Mariku would do anything to make it so she was winking only at him. She soon sped up, however. Her body danced up and down the pole she was holding on to.

Mariku was always astounded at the moves these women could do. He was well endowed himself and remained confident that he could do the same if he had the determination. But he was sure he would be more impressed with her dancing if he wasn't so focused on those legs… those incredible thighs… what they would feel like…

He leaned forward in his seat, growing hot. This was a sensation he had not felt in a strip club for ages. Of course, it had been a while since he had last come to one, so perhaps that was why. And he also had not seen a woman, let alone a sexy woman acting so erotic, in such a long time.

Not since he sentence…

She pulled up her skirt, showing off her pink thong, and Mariku had to bite down on his lower lip to keep a moan from escaping. Then she rubbed her hands all over her chest, rotating her cleavage. Sweat dripped down her body, made visible by the spotlight.

Mariku sat back, trembling, thinking lightly over the fact that moral-centric Anzu was sitting somewhere, watching the same thing. But no. This night was for him, and he wasn't going to let odd little thoughts such as that be a bother. Instead, he continued to watch the performer massaged herself on stage, imagining his own hands all over her…

He had known, the instant her saw her picture, that she was going home with him that night. As the announcer had stated, she was the 'Crowned Jewel,' and Mariku had never been interested in anything that was less than the best.

Yes, he always got what he wanted. He had become wealthy because he had wanted it enough. He had gotten several men and women underneath him in bed because he had wanted them enough. He had gotten his sister because she had been the best, and he had wanted her enough.

He had not found a significant other yet, but then again, he had not wanted one enough.

And now he wanted this Dark Magician Girl.

Freedom.

That was his reason for living. That was his philosophy.

Freedom.

No one could own freedom, it was something that could only be borrowed and then returned. That's what these strippers represented – they are taken for a while before they go back from whence they came. That's why Mariku was so obsessed. For those few hours he had one with him, he was in pure freedom. Outside the law, outside civilization.

Until they came and locked him up…

She made eye contact with him. He knew it. She had to have been looking at him. Those eyes… those large, green eyes… they didn't match the rest of her. That body she had screamed woman, but her eyes belonged to a little girl. His mismatch beauty.

So there she was, a girl in a woman's body. Hey, he was a blond Egyptian, and one with a very unusual haircut, at that. He figured that was her motive for looking at him, which seemed to be the case most of the time, but he truly did not care. He wanted her to look at him. He wanted her to look at him all night as he did things to her that would make her forget all about her previous lovers.

Freedom.

Freedom was temporary, and must be taken advantage of while you had the chance. That's what Mariku was planning on. He had complete freedom to take her and make her his. He had the freedom to do with her whatever he wished.

She turned away from him and continued her routine. He frowned slightly; she wasn't cooperating. He had the urge to get up on the stage and force her to look at him. He could do that… he had the freedom and, in his mind, the right.

He would step up there and grab hold of her chin, maybe even tight enough to leave a mark, so the world would see just who it was she belonged to. He had the urge, he had the right… but he resisted.

Yes, he could hold back. That was another thing he was free to do. He leaned into his chair, proud of himself for resisting his instincts. He wasn't the same person he had been a few years ago. He had more will power now.

Besides, it would make the night's later events all the more enjoyable…

She stood in the middle of the room, many men crowded around her. She was handed several dollars, phone numbers and gropes. But never once did her smile fade or her charisma waver.

This was what she called life.

Soon the crowd died around her, somewhat, as other strippers approached the stage. She sighed, relieved to be left alone momentarily as she adjust her outfit and counted her night's earn. It was a pretty decent amount, all things concerned. She was still relatively new here but was growing fast in popularity, a fact she wasn't so sure she should be proud of…

Suddenly the stripper felt a hand grab at her shoulder from behind, but she showed minimum surprise – this was typical. Without turning her head, she slowly moved her eyes to look at her new suitor. She recognized him immediately. He was that strange-looking minority who had been absorbed with her on stage.

He smiled down at her, gently pulling her closer, and pressed his face into her hair. She calmly permitted him to do so. He kept a firm grip on her shoulder as he reached into his wallet and pulled out a one hundred dollar bill. The sight of this didn't truly shock her; she had been impressed by that Rolex on his wrist.

He slipped the bill down into her bra, and she could tell from his hesitance that he was enjoying the touch. The suitor pulled her close one last time, slightly clutching her chin as he whispered into her ear:

"I want you to come home with me tonight…"

He had such a smooth voice. Her eyelids were half-opened as she looked him over. His figure was incredible and he seemed to know what he was doing. Although she did have her suspicions; after all, a man like him was rather rare.

But hell, what was life without a few chances? And she had lived through plenty of those…

She leaned up so that her lips were hovering in front of his ear. She felt him shiver against her form.

"Let me go change…" she whispered. "I'll meet you in the back…"

She had to be careful the way she phrased her sentence. Men didn't often like to be told what to do by a stripper. But really, though, she needed to change. Her dress was far too loud for her to go walking around in public. She was in luck that night. Her new suitor nodded, gently slid his arm off her shoulder (running it across her back as he did so) and headed for the door.

The stripper smiled as she watched him leave. This was going to be a fun night.

He pressed his back against the car's door as he waited for her to get out. She was taking what he considered to be a long time, but then again, that was always part of the game. Make them wait, make them want it. He didn't care. As long as she went home with him that night, he would be fine.

Finally she stepped out of the club's back door and sauntered up to him. She now wore a simple black dress that hardly covered anything, much to his delight. Her heels added to her height; she was practically looking him in the eyes. He continued to stare at her, smiling, until she returned it. He liked the way her lips curled.

He turned around and opened the car door for her. She blinked at his actions.

"My, my, what a gentleman!" She replied, following it with a giggle. He shared her laughter as he waited until she was seated comfortably before shutting the door.

Mariku tried to hide his enthusiasm as he drove them back to his place. He kept taking little glances at her while he drove. He noted that the seatbelt had placed itself snuggly between her breasts, defining their form. She crossed her legs, making the dress's edge ride up even higher. All Mariku could think about was that amazing body. Keeping his concentration on the road took more effort than he wanted to admit.

The car ride couldn't have taken longer. Three red lights, traffic… the world seemed to want to keep him from reaching his destination. But it was all right. He hadn't done something like this in a while now. Mariku took one last long look at his night's companion.

He was going to make this last.

She let out a small gasp as she entered into his room, gazing with amazement at the sheer luxury of it all. It was almost as if she had never been inside a mansion before. Maybe she never had. Mariku felt sorry for her.

He knew what it was like to have nothing, to have to strive your way to the top.

You couldn't have freedom if you never acknowledged the times when you didn't.

That's what kept him going.

Mariku closed the door and told her she could take off her shoes if she wanted to. Still giggling, she kicked away her heels and ran barefooted around the room. He couldn't help but smile at her childish behavior. She was so cute!

This was the sort of thing he needed after the past two years of hell he had went through. Tonight should be fun and she was in the right mindset for it. She skipped onto the couch in the corner and playfully hopped on it a few times. Mariku wondered how long it had been since she was last in such a comfortable environment.

Poor thing.

He let her run around a few more times before reaching out and taking hold of her – firmly, but not forcefully. He didn't want to break her playful spirit, but she needed to be reminded that she was there for him.

The stripper didn't seem too bothered, though. He loosened his grip slightly and she came in closer, wrapping her arms around his neck as she pressed her lips to his. Mariku happily returned the favor, his hands roaming over her figure, memorizing every curve. Finally he could explore her…

His fingers found their way under her skirt. A small moan escaped from her mouth as he caressed her. He pulled her in, pushing her breasts against his torso, trying to feel her heartbeat. A small smile formed across his lips when he realized she wasn't wearing a bra.

She let go of her grip on his neck and moved her hands down. Lower, lower… to his pants…

Too fast.

He wanted to drag this out, build up to the climax, make this all seem worth it. He pulled away from her suddenly.

"Do you want something to drink?" He asked.

She was taken back and gave no effort in concealing it. The surprised woman crossed her arms, weary of her next move.

"What do you have?" She asked skeptically.

"Um…" He scratched the back of his neck. Maybe pulling away like that was the wrong way to switch things up. But oh well. "I think I'm out of white wine. Is red okay?"

"Sure…" her tone was low, a cross between confused and slight annoyance. She knew she was here to have sex. Mariku smiled at her reassuringly as he turned around to go retrieve the promised drinks.

She wants to have sex with me, he thought happily. It wasn't that big of a surprise, he knew he was attractive, but it was still a nice ego-boost to know that someone he wanted could want him right back.

Mariku reached his kitchen and pulled two wine glasses from the upper cabin. He had to wipe off the light layer of dust. After he had set them down, he grabbed the bottle from his fridge. The one good thing about being gone so long – the wine would be that much sweeter.

Even though he was aiming to take things slow, Mariku couldn't help but rush back into the room she was waiting in. She gave him that same strange expression, but this time pursed her lips in the cutest way possible. He handed her one of the glasses and her frown faded just so slightly.

"Thank you," she half-whispered. She hesitated and examined the glass over. Mariku wasn't surprised, although a tad insulted.

"Trust me, honey, if I wanted to drug you, it would have been back at the club." He took a long gulp from his own glass, never once taking his eyes off her.

She nodded, still not completely convinced. Regardless, she knew the possible consequences if she did not accept his offer; he was much stronger than her. With eyes shut, the stripper took a small sip from her glass. After a moment of nothing, she took the risk of another sip. And another, and another, each such small sips.

Mariku smirked at her actions. She seemed so innocent, completely unlike the woman he had seen dancing on that stage. How had she ended up in a world like this? He wanted to know more about her…

"So this is how you live your life, huh?" She turned towards him. "Just go to a strangers' house every night and hope for the best?"

She placed a single hand on her hip. "You criticizing me?"

"Not at all. Just trying to start conversation."

"Well, I'd rather you didn't ask such questions." She raised the glass to her lips.

"Fair enough. I'll stop if you give me your name."

The stripper faced Mariku full frontal. There was a small trimmer of fear in her eyes. Mariku had foreseen this, though. The poor girl, someone as lovely as her must have had stalkers in the past. He hated how they lived in a world where men were automatically labeled as 'dangerous' stalkers. Not that he blamed her for being suspicious, but his curiosity was harmless.

"My name's Mariku, by the way. Mariku Ishtar." He took a step closer and she moved back.

"I know who you are," she retorted, keeping that hand on her hip. "They talk about you, ya know… they say you go downtown to strip clubs all the time. You're hard to forget,"

Mariku nodded in agreement about his appearance.

"Why you – why you doing this to me, huh?" she continued. "You lead me on and now you wanna talk like we're two 'civilized' people?"

"I'm only curious."

"I choose not to get involved with my clients."

"Pity."

She shuffled her feet slightly, looking at them as she did so. He knew he was making her uncomfortable, but Mariku was not one to give up so easily. He stood his ground. Finally, she sighed and looked back up at him.

"If I tell you my name, can we just get this over with?"

"Perhaps…" he took a sip of his wine with a grin.

She rolled her eyes. Then, she chuckled. Not the same giggling she had been doing before, but a sarcastic chuckle that sounded almost broken. Mariku pulled his glass away from his lips.

"I can't even remember my name," she shook her head lightly. "I've had so many… I got a nickname, though. The other girls gave it to me. It's so…" she chuckled again, less sarcasm this time. "It's Dee."

Dee.

She probably wasn't telling the truth about forgetting her name, but he liked it. 'Dee' was cute, just like her. It suited that sweet little face she had.

Mariku nodded. "There, see? That wasn't so hard, was it Dee?" She smirked before finishing off her wine. He took the empty glass from her hands and set both down on a nearby side table. He pulled her close again and she started to snuggle into his chest, ready to move on.

He nestled his face into her hair, and said: "Well, Dee, would you accompany me out onto the balcony?"

She let out a small sigh of exasperation. The frustrated stripper looked up at him with those adorably pouty lips. Mariku still smiled and winked at her.

"You're a strange one, you know that?"

"I've been told so."

The two of them walked out of the room onto the balcony. It was a relatively warm night, with a comfortably cool breeze every so often. The sky was lit up with stars, which were easy for them to see because there was a great distance between Mariku's home and the city.

He took a hold of Dee's hips and set her down gently onto the balcony edge. She held on tightly to the rail, not wanting to fall as she peered over the side. But he placed himself next to her casually, ensuring her that this was something he had done before and that she wasn't at risk.

Dee looked pretty in this lighting. Her skin was so pale it almost seemed to glow; her eyes reflected the stars. She truly was a prize. Mariku was going to treasure this night with her.

They sat there quietly. She fiddled with her fingers, keeping her focus on her feet as Mariku continued to stare at her. Then at last, she faced him.

"What do you want with me? You seemed so forward at the club, and now…" She gulped. "Look, I'm sure you're nice, you've been good to me all evening. Heh, better than a lot of men I've met, actually. But – Mariku," his face lit up when she mentioned his name. It sounded so sweet coming from her voice. "I just… I can't grow an attachment. It's not in my contract, get it? I've been down that road before…" she took her gaze off him. "I just can't do it again."

He could tell she was on the verge of tears, and his heart sank. He really didn't want this. Their night together was suppose to be good. Mariku scooted closer and wrapped an arm around her shoulders in comfort.

"You and I are one in the same," he told her. "Just a couple of lost souls, trying to get by night after night, looking for that little taste of freedom,"

"Freedom." She repeated, more to herself than him.

"All I want," he continued. "Is this one night. You're welcome to stay as long as you like, you're welcome to come back whenever you'd like. But if you leave tomorrow morning, I will not hunt you down. You're not mine to keep. If I see you again, it's coincidence." He gave her a gently kiss on the cheek. "All I ask is that you stay with me this one night."

"Then just take me," her voice cracked. "I don't understand."

He stood up at that moment, crossing over in front of her, taking hold of her shoulders and staring into her eyes.

"You are more than a stripper, Dee. Just like I'm more than a sex addict. Don't you see it?" That's why he had become so entranced by her. That's why he had wanted her and no one else that night. Her body told him why she felt she could survive a life like this, but her eyes… they told him there was more to her. "The world doesn't get people like us. They only see our outer shells, they don't see how we struggle just to get through this life…"

He was becoming hysteric. These thoughts had haunted him for years now, and finally there was a person around who he felt would understand. Dee shivered underneath his palms.

"Mariku… you're scaring me," she replied.

He blinked, suddenly regretting his words. He was being too forward, after all. She hadn't expected this when she got in the car with him. She had grown to a simple conclusion – live. And if sleeping with strange people meant 'living', then so be it.

Poor girl.

How this world could warp a person's mind…

"I'm sorry," he told her, taking his hands off. "I didn't mean to get carried away, it's just…" he rested his arms against the balcony, staring off into the distance. "It's just been so long…"

He could feel her fingers running through his hair. Her hands were so soft.

"Mariku… what's your life like? Tell me, please? I want to know."

"Why the sudden interest?" He had meant for the question to be sincere, but his tone was rather bitter. He hated himself for it.

Dee recoiled her hand. "No one's ever treated me like this. Look, if I never see you again – I want to have something to remember. I want to be able to look back on this night and remember something about the man who… who actually cared about me."

Mariku sighed deeply. She had no idea how happy her sentences had just made him. He knew at the club she was a treasure worth keeping. The best of the best. He had a little regret that he would be letting her go the next morning…

Turning his head, he looked up at her, longingly.

Please stay…

She shuffled a little. "So…?"

The Egyptian man pondered over her words. He closed his eyes and allowed her to resume stroking his hair. His life… what a trip…

He had to give her something, though. She deserved to at least understand his motives for this rather unusual one-night stand. So he bucked up and replied:

"Well, for the past two years, I've been in jail."

"What for?" Her bluntness caught him off-guard somewhat. Then again, she was a stripper, and probably did business with the lowest of scum. Perhaps, she had even sensed it, somehow.

Mariku, however, had decided that the conversation had gotten much too solemn for his tastes. He stood up and she pulled back her hand.

"I killed a man," he said with a smirk.

"You did not!" She playfully swatted at his arm. "Two years for a murder? Ha! Yeah right…"

"Well," he went on, moving ever so closer to her. "That's partially true…"

"A partial truth is still a partial lie," she responded seriously.

"Perhaps," he gently placed a hand underneath her chin and lifted up her face. The two shared a passionate kiss.

Oh, how he wanted to keep her. This gem, this 'crowned jewel', all to himself. But no. She was his freedom, just as he was hers, and freedom was temporary. They would have each other for the night, before moving on with their lives. Yet it was still so tempting…

Mariku broke the kiss, but still held onto her chin. She smiled up at him, trusting him. He smiled back.

"Let's go do what you came here to do."

The rest was mere instincts. Even though Mariku hadn't had a woman in years, everything that needed to be done came back to him naturally, like riding a bicycle.

Dee became very enthusiastic as the two made their way to the bed. He enjoyed that immensely – she was so eager to sleep with him. Such a sweet compliment.

Mariku blasted his stereo. He hadn't checked which song was playing, but the vast majority of the music he listened to was about sex, so it had to be something good. She was getting into it, anyways, dancing around, turning back into the woman he had paid for.

He let her take control from there. She swirled around him, rubbing her body all over his, turning him on. She knew what to do.

Dee ripped his shirt away before pushing him down onto the bed, something he found very attractive. She positioned herself on his lap, rocking her hips side to side, moving him along with her. She continued her routine, putting on a little show for him, swaying her body to the music.

And he let her.

The stripper pulled off her dress in a single move, revealing what Mariku already knew – she wasn't wearing a bra. He let out a small gasp at the sight of her. She leaned down on him, her light skin contrasting against his, making each one of her features stand out. Her soft breasts touched his torso, sending shivers down his spine.

He reached out and lightly touched her cheek, making her grin. She was so beautiful!

And she was his. If only for the night, she was his. She was his freedom; his momentary escape from reality. His drug, his addiction, his –

This is why freedom is only temporary.

After a while, once a person had too much freedom, they became its slave. Too much freedom had put Mariku behind bars. Too much freedom had led Dee to the pole. Too much freedom had caused their actions right now.

Sure, Mariku had the freedom to take her, to have her all night long.

But did he have the freedom to resist?

He thought of Anzu at that moment. Moral-centric Anzu… had been at a strip club! Did the world just not care? Was this… all that there was?

If they went through with this, then they would be as the world saw them – a stripper and a sex-addict. Nothing more. There was no 'freedom' in this scenario; they were merely doing what society expected – almost wanted – them to do.

She ran her fingers along his chest, but he grabbed her wrists. She looked at him fearfully, worried that she might have done something wrong.

"Dee, I just… I can't…"

When she realized what was going on, she practically let out a screech of exasperation before she plopped off his lap and fell backwards onto the bed.

"You are the absolute weirdest – " she turned on her side and rested her head against her palm. "Why you doing this to me, huh? Why can't you just be like everyone else?"

"Because we're worth more than that." Mariku answered calmly. She lifted her head and blinked at his words. He stopped looking at her. "I've always needed to live outside the law. But it's almost as if there are laws within laws," he glanced back over at her. "Is this all that's expected of us?"

"I don't know, Mariku…"

He held onto her chin, making her look him in the eyes.

"I know why you chose this line of work." He told her.

"You… do?"

He nodded. "A normal job isn't good enough. You need to have fun, to be free. But Dee, look at us… this is what you go through almost every night. This is what I've been through so many times. This isn't freedom – we're slaves to this life now."

She yanked her chin away from his grip. "I don't know what freedom is."

"Neither do I…" he admitted as he fell back. "Maybe… we could find it… together?"

Dee fell face-first into the mattress. Mariku could tell she was holding back tears. He gently began stroking her exposed back, forgetting his sexual desires and seeing her as a person, just like him.

"Mariku…" she sobbed. "Please…"

He understood.

He didn't know what he was doing.

He didn't know where he was going as he drove them out far away from his home.

He didn't even know why he was bringing her along.

He was not in love with her, she only intrigued him. Or perhaps it was simply because she was the prettiest thing he had seen in two years. But it was still nice to have someone around for company. He never liked being completely alone – things got boring that way.

It was nice to have someone around who could understand.

Two of a kind.

That's what they were.

Two lost souls.

Searching.

Freedom.

Yeah, sorry to all the people who were hoping this would be a lemon. I almost did, but… it seemed too predictable, too… porno-esc. But don't worry, in my humble opinion, this is one of the sexiest pairings around, so there will be a lemon for them, whether I have to write it or not (hint hint wink wink nudge nudge…)

Not too sure how Anzu got into my story. She just… sort of fell into my mind while writing this and I decided to keep her. I'm not really a big fan of Thornshipping, but I like basically anything that has Mariku in it. I almost used Mai instead of Anzu, but… she seems like the type who would work at a strip club, doesn't she? Maybe? A little…?