Greetings, people! So... remember I made vague hints as to writing something set in the Doors of Perception universe from Marik's perspective? Well, uh, you probably don't need to be a genius to guess what this is. A lot of you may have noticed that much of the above text is in italics. I'm sorry; I know it's irritating – but it's literally the only way I can denote a jump from third to first person. I could change it to bold, if people felt that would help?

At any rate, this is set after the events of the manga, but before Ryou meets with Marik in the epilogue of Doors of Perception. But that's only the text in italics; the normal text is all flashbacks to various points before Bakura's fall. Hopefully the format is reasonably logical, even if it sounds ridiculously complex when explained.

For those of you who haven't read DoP, it shouldn't be too much of a problem – the fic will still be intelligible. But it'll make more sense if you do. XD

So... shall we begin?

Giving up the Ghost

Sometimes Marik thinks that a vast portion of his life may be summed up by all the things he never said to Ryou Bakura.

They have accumulated over time, you see, a never-ending stream of never-saids: those empty husks of missed opportunities for the communication of vital words. They detail vast epics of profound advice, some of which blaze brighter and more eloquent than anything to which Marik has ever actually given voice; others the feathery shrapnel of minute ideas. Throwaway lines, liable to melt in the heat of emotion or disintegrate from the pressure of the air.

For instance:

I can see the idolatry in your eyes: believe me, the screens are off when you're half-conscious and unawares. You lust after evil. You're drawn to the splendour of its innate rightness, and you shudder to think that anyone could ever make a values judgement for certain. Don't argue – it smoulders on your face like a fire he lit himself. Look at you. Your eyes are his candlesticks. I'm not telling you to extinguish their longing. Far from it; how well do I know that particular draw, after all? Far too well to criticise.

Personally, I never understood what you guys found so compelling about the dark. Oh, sure, I've heard it: the endless closed system of Bakura's philosophy. But it rots in on itself. There are only so many oxymorons you can string together before you've cut yourself off in your own paradoxical universe which operates perfectly in and of itself, but only encapsulates a snatch of reality. Reality is chaos, and Bakura, despite everything, is all about order: his own, law-abiding anarchy. How can your rule over anarchy? Nah, he wants it both ways – he aspired to be both liberator and tyrant – which is why he'll fail, in the end.

But you. You, Ryou. You're better than that. It's a frenzied, insane sort of longing in you that perfectly mirrors what he evoked in me – but I think that where he sees imperatives, you see a range of unlocked doors and possibilities. My compliments on the soul room, by the way. I doubt that anyone could find their way around your maze without the help of following you – and he did, you know; he didn't just find you by accident or skill.

So listen to him while he prates on about leaders imposing false beliefs on blind followers – because it's true. But stop right there and block your ears when he says he'll be a force of nature amongst the world of shadows, because he's deluding himself. Wreak your own havoc. Make your own anarchy. Step down and resist the urge to rule: that way lies madness.

But that advice is now too late to be of much use; it lingers like the final chord of a piano piece, mingling with the atmosphere until feebly, it dies in the throes of its own weakening resonances. He does not know if it would apply these days; suspects not. He would sort of like to say it anyway, if only for the sake of catharsis.

And then:

Guh. You two really are Romeo and Juliet, aren't you: heads full of hot air and tawdry sentiment and twice as stupid. Ryou, listen to me. In Bakura's little nutshell-world, he's King – he's genius, he's fucking Einstein and Marx and Nietzsche all rolled into one. Outside, from where I stand, he's a jumped-up, half-baked Nihilist – albeit one with deadly grace and a silver tongue. His speeches are symphonies: grand, avant-guard and gloriously dissonant. But he's only ever infallible in his own sphere. You've crossed into it, so too late, he's your messiah.

People like me, Ryou – we really believe in subjectivity. He slams all the doors of perception fast shut; we wrench the doors off their hinges and revel in the madnessof ideas fluctuating, combining, battling it out with ferocious abandon. We live with incessant contradiction, without ever feeling the need to reconcile anything.

I'm no disciple, Ryou. It's why I'm so good at changing. And I'm not about to shut myself off from compassion. There's delicious irony in the fact that you're his lifeline. As in, you're probably the only bona fide emotion he's experienced in years. No, hate doesn't count. Not resentment, either. Seriously – you call those emotions? They're just power struggles. And yeah, you can simplify the world into one great power struggle, but where does that even lead you? It just puts you on a sliding scale: up, down; up, down; fucking tedious.

Look. You, unlike him, are so infinite and varied: forget cool, sharp blankness with the uncompromising values to match – you are all colour, and warmth, and softness. I have never said one word to you before. Not a single word. And yet I need to know what myriad of thoughts thrive under that glacial, paper-thin surface. Please tell me. I'll listen; I promise. You can repeat everything you thought was particularly apt, or well-phrased – I'd like to hear it again and again and again. You could fill every void from here to hell and still remain unique.

Later, now that it is all over, Marik has re-evaluated somewhat. Accepted, for instance, that many of his steadfast, iron-clad beliefs were something of a cloak. Accepted that, in this sense, it is the spectre Bakura's philosophy making a reappearance – and his own light hypocrisy smirking slyly from a fair distance. Typical that he should have the last laugh. Also typical that neither he nor Ryou should be given the opportunity to mourn. Lamenting the loss of an errant shade would be perilously close to legitimising its existence, after all.

Marik has never been shy. Absolutely never. Shyness is thoroughly pathetic; communication as natural as breathing. Something other than reserve or bashfulness inhibited him during that trip to Egypt, before Atem's final duel. The speeches in his head remained perpetually unvoiced. He was paralysed by some kind of silent stupor – not unable, but unwilling to make any form of contact with Ryou – Ryou, now free, aimless and most likely miserable. Perhaps it was his flawless serenity that ensured Marik's silence. Tranquil as still water, Ryou made it impossible for Marik to venture a guess as to what thoughts seethed beneath the undisturbed surface; he allowed not one ripple of explanation to escape, save that enigmatic, unreadable look of introspection. Marik could not bring himself to even skim a hand over the water's shallow edge. For all he knew, it might elicit a tidal wave.

But he knew what he would say, if only he could break this impenetrable seal of silence:

I'd like to hear your reflections on all of this. You weren't innocent in any of it, I'd wager. I'd bet anything. So why won't you be his advocate? Regretful? Scared? Or is it treachery? Give me a glimpse into that pretty head; it's sure to be worthwhile. You've been injured, I reckon. Having your soul torn asunder won't have been painless. You've been robbed of your thief! I wonder why you won't acknowledge the fact that you were wronged. Moral ambivalence? I can only guess, owing to your silence.

... Could we talk?

Marik remembers keeping aloof from the others during the journey, moving to the very end of the boat to watch the light skim its way across the rippling waves. Sun on his skin; he revelled in its wondrous heat, marvelling at how anyone could crave the cool cast of darkness when saturated by such bright, benevolent warmth. He, for one, has always adored the sun's tendency to make every green a crystalline expanse of emerald; every orange and yellow a streak of tawny gold. At the time, it hit him as a revelation; as though he had forgotten how to enjoy the day's splendour or the landscape's unconquerable beauty until that moment.

And yet:

Believe me; I empathise. His presence was always meant to be transient – you can't cling permanently to a beautiful, impossible ideal: it dissolves in the heat of your hands. Shadow is dispersed by light – and both are temporary. Better to settle for something more solid, Ryou: try reality. This world of dreams and nightmares has been displaced at last by the regular day – which, in turn, will give way to restless nights... in which their absence is tangible. Got to learn to connect again. For the first time, in my case. Else the very nothingness of the situation will choke us.

Life is no longer a game, Ryou. Help me disrupt the real world, why don't you?

Another thing he never said:

I'd sort of like to run my hand through your hair. If you'd let me.

And another:

We'd make a fitting match, with my caprice, and your defiance, and our blend of innocence and experience and isolation that's just beginning to be thwarted.

You're still pining after what amounts to a shadow with ideas above its station.

I know. He was wrong, but I miss him, too.

And to cap it all:

I think I love you, Ryou, for what you represent. You've been ravaged by angels and devils alike – but you remain an untarnished constant, sceptical in the face of both heaven and hell. You're a compound of dark and light, and you're so much stronger for it. Step out of your kaleidoscope of chiaroscuro: I promise you, reality will be so much more vivid. Give up the ghost, already.

Marik can map out a great proportion of his life according to this obsession. Irony of all ironies, the words remain as insubstantial and moribund as the spirits which cloud his idol's vision.