Huzzah for the next chapter! This was so darn fun to write. I just love writing our beloved Mister Manipulative! :D So without further ado, enjoy!

Echoes In My Mind

Marik's grip on her shoulders tightened as his body went stiff. "You're here concerning my mother's death?" he murmured softly, his lavender eyes fixed on hers. She tried to read the emotion swimming within them—sombreness, grief, even guilt.

She nodded slowly. Damn my hot headedness. I could've sympathised with him straight away and saved myself all this trouble but no—I had to be sad and say I didn't care! A'isha exhaled a breathe she'd unknowingly been holding. Here goes nothing…aside from my pride.

Her eyes glanced over his shoulder as she attempted to avoid his scrutinising gaze. "Elissa told me what happened to your mother," she whispered meekly. "And it criticized what I said about how you weren't plagued by the guilt of knowing that—" She paused for a moment, wondering if it would cause him grief to voice it aloud "—your parents would still be here if you'd never been." A'isha's eyes began to shimmer as a wall of tears threatened to fall. "I'm sorry for making such a horrible assumption." She remembered the frown that had curved onto his lips when she'd spoken those words. "And I know that what I said hurt you."

Marik glanced at the floor for a moment. She wondered if he was trying to hide tears that may or may not have been forming in his eyes.

"So—" She sighed deeply "—what I'm trying to say is that I'm…I'm sorry." She gulped. "I'm sorry for being so ignorant and self-absorbed. I'm sorry for saying that I don't care that you're an orphan." She bit her bottom lip, which was trembling ever so slightly. "It's hard…and I've only been one for a little over two weeks; you've been an orphan since you were ten."

Marik raised his head to gaze at her, shock ridden across his face. Her apology had been unexpected, to say the least. Of course, it wasn't that he believed what she said was not worthy of an apology. He was simply confused that she was apologising to him after his less than amicable nature towards her. She was certainly more difficult to interpret than most. "Thank you," he whispered softly.

A new thought arose then, which caused his eyes to narrow coldly. Perhaps her apology is simply a failed attempt at receiving an apology from me in exchange, he considered. If that is, indeed, her incentive, it has sadly fallen upon deaf ears, my dear. He fought back a smirk. For toying with her emotions is far more amusing, and I don't wish to end this little game of ours before it has even begun.

In his mind, he chuckled mirthfully. But he maintained a calm exterior, until the sound of flicking pages met his ears. Only then did he realise A'isha no longer stood before him, but had seated herself on the edge of his bed, where she was casually flicking through a large book.

"What are you doing?" Marik hissed. "You're touching my things!"

A'isha smirked at the blond. "Kinda like how you touched my iPod speakers, huh?"

Marik glared at her.

She glanced back at the book. "So this is, like, a photo album?" she asked.

"What gave it away?" Marik replied with a roll of his eyes. He sat down beside her on the bed. "The photos stuck to each page?" He tapped the current page twice with an amused smirk. "Or the bold words on the cover that read 'Photo Album'?" He laughed.

A'isha snickered. "FYI, I was just trying to make small talk," she shrieked, shoving him playfully before realising who she was actually laughing with. She immediately stopped laughing then.

"Perhaps you should ask a question you don't know the answer to."

"That doesn't really help," A'isha murmured as she flicked through the pages. "I know everything." Her lips curved upwards slightly.

Marik opened his mouth to retort, but A'isha spoke up once more. "You, Odion, Ishizu and your mother are all in here," she drawled, raising her eyes to meet his, "but what about your father? He's not—"

She jumped when the book suddenly slammed shut. Her eyes fell upon the book in her lap just in time to see Marik's tanned hand rip it from her grasp.

"That's none of your concern," he snapped as his eyes suddenly narrowed to slits.

Woah. A'isha blinked at him, her eyes wide and her mouth slightly agape in shock. What did his father do to him?!

Before A'isha could piece together a sentence to reply with—not that she wanted to after that lash out—a soft knock seized her attention.

"Yes?" Marik almost hissed, his mood clearly soured by the mentioning of his father.

The door opened slowly to reveal Ishizu, her expression gentle with—perhaps—mild concern. Whether said concern was for A'isha or Marik was unclear.

"Dinner is ready, Marik." Her eyes turned to A'isha as she smiled. "Would you like to join us for dinner?"

"Uhh…" was A'isha's only reply. She wasn't too thrilled at the idea of hanging out with the bipolar nut that presently sat beside her.

Marik's bitter mood suddenly evaporated, and a smile lit up his face. "How ironic. Ish and I were just talking about her staying for dinner." Marik successfully fought back a smirk as A'isha's narrowed eyes fell on him a little too quickly. "We decided that she'd love to stay!"

Ishizu's gaze went from Marik, back to A'isha. "You did?" she asked.

A'isha failed to realise that Ishizu was suspicious of Marik's words. She knew that her brother could be manipulative and that it was more than plausible that he was lying.

A'isha pursed her lips together nervously. That jerk off. Why does he want me to stay for dinner? To prolong the torture? She sighed. But I hate being rude, so…

"Sure, I'll stay for dinner," A'isha stated with a forced smile. "I am quite hungry."

Ishizu nodded with a warm smile. "Very well. Our dinner is ready and waiting for us at the dinner table."

The moment Ishizu left the room, A'isha's narrowed gaze snapped toward Marik. Her eyes narrowed further upon noting the arrogant smirk he wore. "What the hell was that?" she quietly hissed through clenched teeth.

Marik raised a blond brow in false confusion. "Whatever do you mean, Ish?" he replied innocently. "I simply thought it'd be lovely for you to join my family and I for a peaceful dinner."

"Peaceful?" A'isha hissed. "Ha! That's the joke of the century!" She rose from the bed, her eyes never leaving his. His face was lit up in amusement, his lips curved into a mocking smirk as his eyes laughed at the unfortunate girl. "You're planning something!" she hissed, poking a finger into his chest. "What're you gonna do this time?" she growled. "Humiliate me in front of your family? Ridicule me? Claim I'm—"

A'isha paused as Marik suavely rose from his bed, smirk never wavering. He closed the little distance between them so that they were nose to nose. She felt his hot breath grazing her skin. He leaned closer still, his lips positioned by her ear. "Stay and find out," he whispered in an icy voice that almost sounded hypnotic.

A'isha jerked her head away from him, nerves running wild. He seemed to loom over her, eyeing her as if she were a pitiful gazelle and, he, a hungry lion; taunting his prey to the brink of insanity. She was afraid. Marik was different. And not the good kind either. "And if I don't?" she challenged, although her shaky voice was anything but challenging.

"I'm afraid that isn't an option, my dear," he whispered snidely.

A'isha's eyes narrowed further. "You're not giving me the option to leave?" she hissed, although not surprised at this point.

Marik chuckled darkly. "Well, we wouldn't want to be rude, would we?"

She furrowed her brows in confusion, so unnerved by this whole new level of manipulation that she trembled. "How did you—"

"—Know your reason for staying?" Marik interjected, his mocking smirk growing wider still. "How many questions is that in that last two minutes? I'm counting eight." He laughed when she only glared. "Unfortunately, I'm afraid we lack the time to raise that number to twenty." He coolly made his way to the doorway, no doubt satisfied by the control he held over this situation. "Our dinner grows cold, my dear." His eyes laughed at her. "And we don't want to be rude." He gestured to the doorway. "Ladies first."

A'isha stormed past him and down the hallway, not bothering to wait for him.

Marik only found more amusement in that. His expression was smug as he gently closed his bedroom door behind him; however, not before throwing a leather jacket around him, the movement causing a golden object tucked under his belt to gleam for a mere moment before the jacket settled into place and hid it from view.

A'isha muttered curses under her breath as she entered the Dining Room, barely refraining from storming in there. She quickly hushed herself upon realising that Ishizu and Odion were already sitting at the dinner table and were quite possibly within earshot. She forced a smile. Polite, A'isha. Be polite, she instructed herself as she breathed in and out in a failed attempt to ease her nerves. It's Marik that's the crazy jerk. Ishizu and Odion have done nothing, so don't be bitter and ruin their dinner.

"Ah, A'isha," Ishizu chimed. "Take a seat." There were eight seats in total surrounding the rectangle table. She was sitting on the chair closest to the end on the far right of the table. She gestured to the chair on her left.

"Thank you." She took a step towards the seat, when rushed steps suddenly piqued her ears. Before she'd even registered it, Marik was standing before her, pulling out her chair.

"You are our guest," he stated with a warm smile.

She barely resisted the urge to scowl. Aww. One would almost think him sincere, she thought sarcastically. As his siblings were present, she concluded she had no choice but to go along with it.

She feigned flattery. "Why thank you, Marik." She placed herself in the seat. "You're very different from other guys I've met."

Marik suppressed a grin; only he understood the truth behind her words. He gently pushed her chair in before claiming the seat opposite her, beside Odion.

"Help yourself, A'isha," Ishizu insisted.

A'isha nodded with another forced smile. "Thanks." She scooped up some stew from the large crock pot placed at the centre of the table, and placed into her bowl with a soft plop. It smelt awfully good. It looks interesting…I wonder what it's called.

"It's called Bamia. An exquisite Egyptian stew," Marik pointed out, a smug glint in his eye.

"Right…" A'isha voiced, although in her mind she shuddered. Is he reading my mind? she wondered uneasily, eyeing the blond as he enjoyed his dinner. Could he even be reading it right n—? She froze when his eyes snapped up at her, right as she thought that.

Her eyes grew wide in fear and shock combined into one. An amused smirk curved Marik's lips upwards, but a few short moments later and it was gone.

It's not…possible.

"Oh, it is possible, my dear. For me, that is." His voice suddenly rung in her mind, a hypnotic edge to his otherwise icy tone. She jumped, banging her leg against the table.

Ishizu gasped softly. "A'isha, are you alright?" she asked. Odion glanced at the panicked teenager with a worried gleam in his hazel eyes.

A'isha let loose a shaky sigh. "I-I'm fine," she stuttered. At this, Marik couldn't resist a soft snicker. "I-I just thought I…left something in the, uhh, in the oven!" She grinned sheepishly, waving her hands in a dismissive manner.

Ishizu frowned in slight disbelief, but she decided not to press the matter. "Very well…"

A'isha smiled rather awkwardly as she continued to eat her stew and, for a few moments, eerie silence enveloped the room, aside from the scraping of cutlery and the soft chewing of food. But A'isha barely noticed; her mind was too busy racing with thoughts of sheer disbelief at what was taking place.

Finally, Ishizu broke the silence. "So, A'isha," Ishizu began as she glanced at the girl, "I take it that, like Amara, you are attending Alexandria High School?"

A'isha swallowed and nodded simultaneously. "Yeah." Another forced smile. "From what I've been told, it's a respectable school."

Ishizu nodded. "Yes; most students do very well, Marik included."

"Ah," A'isha voiced, daring a glance his way. He flashed a smile. A'isha detected a smug air about him even then. "That's great."

"Are you fifteen, like Amara?" Ishizu asked curiously.

A'isha shook her head. "No, I'm sixteen. In eleventh grade."

"In that case, perhaps Marik will share some classes with you." Her eyes turned to Marik.

He barely succeeded in holding back a plotting smirk. "If that is the case, I'd be more than happy to show you around the school." His eyes held a cunning edge. "What subjects do you take?"

A'isha fought back a scowl. "Thanks." She sipped her water, before continuing to speak. "I'm taking French, English, Mathematics, Drama, Biology, History and then Dance as an after-school activity." She double checked in her head to make sure she'd listed them all.

"Any subject you favour in particular?" Ishizu asked.

A'isha nodded, finally showing a genuine smile. "Dancing! I love it!"

Ishizu grinned at A'isha's sudden enthusiasm. "I take it you're very good?"

A light blush grazed her cheeks. "Well—"

"From what I saw yesterday, I can assure you that she's a great dancer," Marik interrupted, grinning at Ish.

A'isha fought back a glare. After all, yesterday he had mockingly stated "How graceful" when she had fallen over – and she hadn't been trying.

"You haven't seen anything yet," A'isha stated somewhat proudly. "But thank you."

"You are most welcome," Marik chimed. "I'm sure you hold strengths in other subjects?"

A'isha began to chew nervously on her bottom lip. She wasn't particularly great in any of her other subjects, aside from English and French. For a moment, she was sure she'd heard an amused laugh echo in her mind. "I'm, uh, good at English and French," she finally said, suddenly finding her near empty bowl very interesting. Her hair purposefully covering her flushed cheeks.

Marik raised a brow, faking disbelief. "Nothing else?"

A'isha slowly shook her head. Her eyes suddenly ached. He was mocking her; making her feel terrible about herself, doubt herself. Her blue eyes seemed to flicker a shade darker, a frown weighing down her lips. Why did she feel a pang of self-doubt? Marik knew nothing about her. Or did he? After all, there he was. Inside her head.

Her bottom lip quivered slightly as she shook her head, her silver earrings jingling at the abrupt movement. "Not really," she whispered solemnly.

"Oh." Marik faked sympathy, but within the confinements of her mind he laughed.

"How pathetic," he spat, causing her to flinch. She wanted to cry. More than anything, she wanted to cry. She clenched her eyes shut for a moment as her eyes began to tear. She just wanted to cry so badly…to wash away the sadness that plagued her mind of her failures…of the disappointment she must be to her parents. Wherever they were. But she couldn't bare to cry in front of him. And yet, why did it matter if she cried on the outside? In her mind, she was already crying. He knew it…He liked it.

Get out of my head, you callous jerk! A'isha screamed in her mind.

She heard a dark chuckle. "Too weak to force me out of your pathetic little mind, Ish?"

A'isha shook her head furiously as she suddenly rose from her seat, the legs of the chair seeming to groan as it scraped along the wooden floor. She couldn't handle this. She was too weak. And she was absolutely terrified. How was it possible for him to read her thoughts? And to speak to her within the concealments of her mind? The place that should remain just that: concealed. She growled almost inaudibly as her eyes met Marik's piercing ones. Eyes that seemed to lash right into her mind…into her soul, as if discovering her deepest desires and darkest, most embarrassing secrets.

"S-Sorry, but I…I have to go!" A'isha stuttered. She truly was sorry. Sorry for Ishizu and Odion. It wasn't their fault. None of this was their fault. And now guilt slowly nibbled away at her.

"Oh," Ishizu simply voiced, shocked by A'isha's sudden outburst.

Odion stared on with wide eyes at the distressed girl.

A'isha noticed how unsteady her breathing was and tried to better maintain it. She was trembling…so afraid. Marik could read her mind. And speak to her in her mind. How could she not be terrified?

"I truly am sorry, but I just realised—" She quickly thought up an excuse "—I have to get school stuff sorted out for tomorrow…" A'isha glanced at the analog clock on a nearby wall: 7.56 PM, "…a-and it is getting late."

"Then, please, allow me to walk you back," Marik intervened, only exasperating A'isha further.

She scowled at Marik but, after glancing at his brother and sister, she reluctantly agreed. "Thank you for the lovely dinner, Ishizu. It was yum. And it was nice to meet you both!" She waved, before almost jogging out of the room with Marik right behind her.

Marik overtook Ish to open the front door for her, smirking almost triumphantly all the while. He eyed her mockingly as she glared venomous daggers at him. She stormed at onto the patio and shivered as the night-time air mercilessly clawed at her skin.

"Well," Marik began in a satisfied tone, "that was fun." He chuckled menacingly.

A'isha grimaced at him, her cold hands diving into her coat's pockets as she began to walk along the pathway that led the sidewalk, where she would cross the road to her house. She paused, however, upon feeling cold, metal coins and silky notes against her skin. Her frown grew. "I have your money," she spat.

Marik's eyes widened in slight shock.

"What?" she hissed. "Did you not think I'd pay you back?"

Marik breathed out a sigh, shaking his head dismissively. "I thought you'd believe tonight's entertainment to be payment enough," he quipped with a smirk.

"While damn true," she spat, "I'm not that kind of person…so just take the freaking money." She shoved the change hard against his chest and he awkwardly accepted it.

A shaky, stressed sigh left A'isha's lips. "I think I can walk across the street." Her next words were laced with sarcasm, "And don't take this personally, but I'm sick to death of that mocking smirk and that little conniving laugh and…and—" A'isha huffed, clenching her eyes shut for a brief moment.

Marik only chuckled. "I shall see you in the morning." He smirked, only causing A'isha to shudder. She wasn't looking forward to school one bit. She hoped with all her being that he wouldn't be in any of her classes.

"Good. Night." she forced through clenched teeth.

A hypnotic reply echoed throughout her mind, causing her to shake once more. "Good night, my dear A'isha."

Oh ho ho! Marik, you little jerk, you! But that's partially why we love him, no? Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Because I love torturing A'isha. She's my fave OC to write! And thanks a heap to those who reviewed the last chapter, although I'm a little sad that I haven't received more reviews than that considering the amount if hits the chapter got... Remember, guys, reviews are very rewarding and much appreciated! :)