Marik could only stare dumbly at the shimmering ghost behind him, his jaw becoming slightly unhinged in his daze, both from the shock of just how good looking Bakura was and the realization that he had probably been there too long. Oh, very not good. He couldn't believe he had been caught saying something so personal and embarrassing by his spirit. Nor could he come to terms with how gorgeous Bakura truly was. You know, in the, "this guy is going to ruin my life" kind of way. What the hell was the pharaoh thinking, sending one of the most alluring ghosts in the history of ghostdom to him? Did he not know Marik had enough pent up sexual tension for an entire armada?

No, no of course that bastard pharaoh knew of Marik's non-existent sex life. That's why he kept interrupting all his would-be escapades and delivered a total hottie of a ghost right to his doorstep. Because the pharaoh hated him and most definitely wanting him to suffer. He couldn't wait until he was fined with breaking the rules because Bakura had made his boner come back full force just by announcing his presence. Abuse of the bond they shared and what not. Then he'd get to deal with the consequences of his actions that were literally so bad no one was in the right state of mind to talk about them afterwards.

Oh, but he couldn't help but feel something for Bakura, mostly in his pants. He was the worst medium in the world.

Bakura smirked at him, those deep black eyes going half-mast. "Please, I know I'm handsome, but if you keep your mouth open like that spiders will crawl in there and lay eggs."

At this, Marik's mouth closed with an audible click of teeth. There was silence in the room for a long moment, save for the thunder echoing in the distance and ran pelting the house as the human and ghost regarded each other. Marik could not think of one intelligent thing to say while Bakura...Bakura was totally content with letting Marik suffer through the silence. Calling himself handsome had just made Marik look even closer at him, noticing the rest of his body. He had a lean build, with sparse muscles and long, graceful legs. He stood with his arms over his chest, one leg propped up on the same wall he leaned against, looking like a typical after school special bad boy with his long, black trench coat. His shirt and jeans hung from his body, oversized on his lacking body.

Marik caught himself staring at the sagging fabric between Bakura's legs and forced his eyes back up to Bakura's face. A silvery eyebrow arched over one coal-black eye curiously, but still the medium said nothing. He was too busy looking over Bakura's face, taking in the dark rings under the ghost's eyes, the collapsing skin near his cheek bones, the light stubble on his cheeks that was only visible due to the white glow surrounding him, highlighting the short, prickly hairs.

When one took all of this into consideration, Bakura really wasn't all that attractive. Especially in comparison to the healthy looking muscle mounds Marik usually sought after. But Marik could not bring himself to look away from this ghost. Was it just his presence? How he carried himself? Marik did usually go for the "bad boys". Or was it that other worldly illumination that flickered around his frame, making him look like some undernourished god. Or could it just be their bond was already bringing them closer, and was agitating his earlier desires for Duke? Yeah, yeah that was it. He'd go with that.

Clearing his throat, Marik finally forced out a greeting. "Hello..." His throat was suddenly so dry again. He swallowed and turned away from the ghost to take a long drink of his tea.

Bakura seemed unimpressed, rolling his eyes at the less than amusing reaction. "Yes, hello."

Marik licked the karkady from his upper lip, searching for more words to force out. "You have an accent," he noted. Maybe that was why Bakura seemed so sexy. Being British automatically made a person 50% hotter, right?

Bakura raised his eyebrow again. "As do you."

"Yeah..." Nodding, Marik swallowed around the lump in his throat. Why was this so awkward? Wait, never mind, he knew why it was awkward. He just didn't understand why he was letting it be awkward. When he wasn't ignoring summons and cursing the pharaoh he was the no-nonsense sort of medium, getting right down to business with each of his ghosts to get them out of his hair as quickly as he could. If this were an ordinary meeting with an ordinary ghost, Bakura would be spilling his guts about some high school crush that had broken his heart and made him swear off love forever and Marik would already be forming a plan to get him to fall in love with the next suitable woman they came across. As it were, Marik was just sitting there, wishing he was the ghost so he could disappear into the floor while Bakura took some enjoyment from his discomfort. And why? Because his body just had to decide Bakura was pretty enough to have a reaction to.

Come on, say something else, Marik commanded himself. He pursed his lips, motioning to the ceiling. Rain was still pounding mercilessly against the roof, almost as if Mother Nature herself was laughing at Marik's embarrassment. "It's raining," he pointed out quite lamely.

Bakura looked up, nodding. "So I've noticed."

Marik visibly winced. "That's why I'm wet."

"Really?" His voice was heavily laced with sarcasm. "Why, thank you so much for clearing that up! I was under the impression that you were dripping with sweat." He tilted his head, a grin pulling at his lips. "Though, from all of those bruises on your neck, I can't be blamed for misunderstanding." Now he feigned an apologetic expression, adopting the sort of mushy tone you would use with a child. "Were you with someone when I came knocking, Marik?" Marik blushed, and the ghost grinned more. "Did I mess up your chances for an honest-to-gods, rock-your-?"

"Shut up!" Marik cut him off, suddenly finding his voice. With a glare he pulled the collar of his jacket up to try and hide any other marks Duke had left on him from Bakura.

Bakura laughed, the sound so dark it made Marik shiver, yet so mirthful it was obvious Bakura delighted in the teasing.

Marik frowned. Apparent good looks aside, this guy was an asshole. As if some hypnotic spell had been lifted, Marik's nervousness and discomposure melted away only to be replaced by anger and annoyance. His summons just had to come during his alone time with Duke, and he just had to get a ghost that had more of a sex life than him, and he just had to be fucking attracted to his off limits asshole. This was turning out be a real fun assignment, and they hadn't even known each other for ten minutes yet! He was not going to last the next nine days.

He forced himself to take a deep breath. No, no use at getting angry. Not at the pharaoh, not at himself and not at Bakura. Anger didn't get anything done. Level headedness and patience, and force got shit done. He'd need it. Sighing loudly, he rubbed his eyes with the pads of his thumb and forefinger. He had to get his mind off sex, as well as he slow burning hatred he was beginning to feel for Bakura. The sooner he got over those, the sooner he could get on with his job, and best of all, the sooner Bakura would be on to his afterlife and he'd be screwing around with Duke again.

Easier said than done, of course, but he got points for trying.

"Why don't you just have a seat?" he offered with clenched teeth, motioning to one of the many arm chairs that faced the alter in the middle of the room.

Bakura snorted, but pushed himself off the wall and glided forward. He passed through the couch on his way, not looking at Marik. "And what? Listen to you spiel about how wonderful my afterlife will be? Or are you going to ask me about what a sad life I had so you can make it all better in death?" He plopped into the chair, dropping his feet onto the coffee table, making Marik's glass rattle. Marik raised a brow at this -most ghosts, especially newly departed ghosts, usually fell through furniture and walls and the like if they put enough of their weight on them. But he disregarded it. He'd known a few talented ghosts who could manipulate their surroundings or themselves enough to where they could comfortably sit down or pick something up. It was unusual, but after a time it stopped being impressive.

He put his own feet on the table, near the edge away from Bakura's to avoid accidental touching. His arms draped over the back of the couch, and though he still had a big of a problem trying to break through his zipper, he put on a great show of being utterly comfortable. When he spoke, it was as if he'd never stumbled over his words in his life. "Actually, I know exactly what you lacked in life, so we can skip all that bonding bullshit." He didn't know if Bakura knew they were already "bonded", but he decided that wasn't important. "I'm sure you want to get on with your afterlife as quickly as you can, so-"

"I don't, actually."

Marik studied him. "What?"

Bakura passed a critical gaze over him, like he was wondering whether or not he could trust this medium with his secrets. Then he grinned and relaxed back in his chair, putting his arms on the arm rests. His fingers curled around the ends of them, and Marik noticed with a slight interest that they were long and bony, each one looking tensed with some unknown purpose.

"I have no interest in the afterlife," Bakura said smoothly, bringing Marik's attention back to his face and the matter at hand. The ghost tilted his head back to gaze at the ceiling and the cedar beams that supported it. "I dislike the thought of having to spend eternity in my own little paradise. Or hell, I should say." He smirked like he was remembering a joke Marik wasn't in on. Then he shrugged like it was no big deal. "What's the fun in that, really? No surprises, no challenges, no goals. Everything's perfect. An eternal Hawaiian cruise."

Marik began to respond, but then closed his mouth again. He couldn't say much to it either way since mediums were given a choice as to where they wanted to spend their afterlife. "But," he ventured carefully, remembering something interesting Bakura had said. "If you're here, that means you weren't in line for reincarnation. Nor were you so horrible in your life you were sent straight to Hell." He smirked a little when Bakura looked surprised. How bad had he been when he was alive to be expecting a ticket to damnation?

Putting his feet back on the floor, Marik leaned towards Bakura, suddenly very interested. He really couldn't help liking his job a little bit. Especially after seeing that look on Bakura's face. His smirk grew. "So... I'm getting the feeling that you chose to stay in the middle, not because you never fell in love like the papers say-" He tapped his summons. "-but because you were really afraid you'd wind up in Hell. Right?"

Bakura held his tongue, a troubled shadow passing over his face. Then his eyes narrowed. "Bullshit. Like I'd be afraid of Hell." He snorted and turned away from Marik. "I was in line for Heaven. The old asshole at the gate said I didn't pass and that I'd be sent back for reevaluation." He glanced over to see Marik's reaction, then averted his eyes again. "Then some fucker with stupid hair and a lot of gold pulled out a giant file with my name on it and read it. Read the whole god damn thing. Then he said, 'Oh, I'm sorry, looks like you never fell in love. Too bad.'" The voice he used to quote the pharaoh reminded Marik of Barney the Dinosaur, but he said nothing and listened as Bakura continued. "Then he said not to worry, he'd find someone good to help me fall in love so I could get to my afterlife. And here I am." He passed a pale hand over himself.

Marik nodded slowly, but didn't speak. For Bakura to remember that much from his trip to the gates... Extraordinary. The rest of the ghosts he'd talked to never recalled much more than talking to the pharaoh, but even though he always left an impression they could never remember what he said, much less what he looked like. He rubbed his chin, wondering why and how this could be, aware that Bakura was studying him but not exactly caring. And then that last part. The pharaoh would find someone good to help Bakura fall in love. He finally looked up.

"So this guy chose me," he said, cocking his eyebrow. Bakura snorted again.

"Yeah right. You're the sixth... No, seventh medium he's sent me to." When Marik's jaw flopped open, he smirked. "Yup. Lucky number seven. So Marik, will you be the one to send me packing?" He slowly turned his body back towards his medium, eyes growing even darker. With his pale skin and dead eyes, he looked even more like a god, one that was ticked about a lack of virgin sacrifices. "Because I promise you it's not that easy to make someone fall in love. Especially when that person laughs at the very idea of love."

Marik stared at him before just flopping back onto the couch with a groan. Perfect. PERFECT. Mother fucking perfect, that's what this was. Oh yeah, nothing like having the worst client ever. Bakura just had to tack that information on too. Seven mediums? What was he going to do? He rubbed his forehead, feeling a headache coming on. "Why?" he asked.

"Why what?"

"Why do you..." He wasn't sure how to phrase it, so he threw his hands out to his sides like the motion would make it easier to phrase. "Why won't you let yourself fall in love? Do you want to spend eternity in the middle?"

Bakura didn't even hesitate. "That's exactly what I want to do."

That just had Marik making more vague hand gestures. "Why?"

The spirit grinned, raking his eyes over Marik like a carnivore selecting his next meal. "Because the middle is so much fun."

Now Marik was even more confused. It just didn't make any sense. Why would a ghost ever want to stay in the middle for fun? Certainly for the fear of the unknown. Maybe the fear of going to Hell. Even some sort of warped vengeance after a traumatic death was more sensible than staying behind for fun. What could a ghost even do in the middle? Scare people. Maybe move some things around. Chill the room. Flicker the lights. Make kids cry to their mothers at night and Supernatural fans scream for salt. Was that seriously Bakura's idea of fun?

Bakura seemed to sense his thoughts and drifted back over to the couch, letting himself come to rest beside Marik. "You've got it all wrong, Marik," he purred, not faltering when Marik shimmied away from him. He wasn't really surprised that Bakura was reading his mind. Their bond had developed fast, and was just getting stronger each minute. He could even feel some of Bakura's emotions now. Amusement, worry, desire, and arrogance, all wrapped up with a nice ribbon of devious cravings. Marik shifted even further away.

The ghost either didn't notice or didn't care. He just continued with his little musings, holding Marik's attention captive. "See, after being passed back and forth from incompetent medium to incompetent medium, I'd gotten a good look at the middle. I liked what I saw. There were no rules -outside your jurisdiction," he added when Marik opened his mouth. "Nothing bothersome to worry about like eating and sleeping or burglar alarms, but just enough challenges for me to tackle. I could have my fun and then I could relax, and then I could have more fun. Then maybe I'd scare some kids out of an abandoned house, or misplace a car, or steal something valuable. Sometimes people tried to exorcise me. I loved it, but it was in no way paradise."

He looked at Marik closely, lips curled in a smile, his eyes pleading with him to understand. Marik was tempted- oh so tempted, especially when Bakura leaned closer and he could feel the chill of him against his chest. But he knew Bakura had to move on. Ghosts and time did not make a happy couple. After a few decades, even the most cheerful ghost could become a malicious poltergeist. Taking a breath, he opened his mouth. "You know... That might be your paradise. All of that." He swallowed uncertainly and leaned away from Bakura. "You never know."

Instantly Bakura's smile dropped and he pulled away, letting himself float into the air. He looked as if he'd just been betrayed by someone he'd considered a close friend. The shimmering white glow around him seemed to intensify, and Marik felt a rise of foreign emotion enter the back of his throat.

"You know... Foolishly, I actually expected you to understand," Bakura said absently, staring right through Marik. "You hate what's expected of you just as much as I do. Going to Heaven. Helping people get to Heaven. It's all bullshit." He turned and flopped back into the chair he'd sat in previously, for all the world resembling a child in time out.

Marik swallowed around the ball of emotion in his throat, a little surprised at Bakura admitting that. He knew he was only saying all of this because of the bond they shared now, but... he'd never had a bond so strong before. It was like Bakura's emotions were his own, as raw as they'd be if they were being experienced firsthand. He opened his mouth several times to try and say something to Bakura -apologize for not agreeing with him, or ask him why he'd expected Marik to understand in the first place- but after several failed attempts to communicate, he sighed and flopped back into his respective seat as well. Most of what he was trying to convey would get to Bakura either way.

Bakura scowled at him. "Everything the middle has to offer beats any paradise that awaits me, you know," he mumbled, almost to himself. "I'm staying here whether you like it or not."

That did it. That pushed Marik's biggest button. He hated when people questioned his authority. Especially ghosts who should be grateful he'd even consider helping them find peace. Especially especially ghosts whom he didn't really even like in the first place. He stood up, hands balling into fists at his sides. He strode over to the alter, his wet boots squishing out water with the force of his steps. "Sorry, Casper, but that's where we disagree. See, I'm going to teach you how to love whether you like it or not, and you'll be on your merry way to the afterlife and I'll get back to my life." He stopped at the altar, touching his fingers to the rough limestone. He traced the hieroglyphics explaining the first medium's duty, then glared at Bakura. "Got it?"

Bakura returned the glare before pushing himself back into the air, gliding over to him. He cocked his head, his black eyes flashing. "What? Getting cockblocked by ghosts?" He smirked, getting right in Marik's face so the tips of their noses were nearly touching. This time, Marik didn't move away. He stood his ground, setting his jaw in determination. "I propose we make a deal," Bakura continued, his raspy voice low. "I give you nine ghost-free days where you'll be free to have as many curl-your-toe orgasms as you like, and you forget about me until our time together is over."

Marik's nose wrinkled in disfavor. "I can't do that." He gripped the edge of the altar.

"Oh yes you can. You aren't punished for not being able to help a spirit, right?" He pulled himself onto the altar, sitting himself on the sacred items that lay peacefully in their place. Marik had to bite his tongue to keep himself from screaming at him. "You're not the first medium I've been to, Marik. Seven in all. No one can help me. I'm a lost cause. So forget about me. I'll become some tourist attraction somewhere. Bakura the Unfriendly Ghost." He cackled at the play on Marik's earlier nickname.

Marik growled softly. He could handle being attracted to off-limits ghosts. He could deal with those ghosts being total dicks to him. He could even come to terms with the fact a dead guy might have had more sex than he ever will. But to ignore his responsibility? Just because some spirit didn't like the idea of paradise? No way. He might not like the job and he probably hated dealing with shitty ghosts all the time more than anything in the world, but that did not mean he was going to take the easy way out. He would have been marked for no reason if he did that.

He was about to blow up at Bakura about just how much he did not give a fuck about Bakura's afterlife pickiness and that he would be getting his ass there one way or another, but just then Mariku entered the attic.

"You and your ghost. Out," the younger twin commanded, jerking his head towards the stairs. His hair was still wet, and it hung stringy in a style not so unlike Marik's. His voice was strained but cold, and his usually wide eyes were narrowed in discomfort. Though he was good at not showing emotions, Marik could easily see he was tense and worried. All anger at Bakura faded immediately, and he took a step towards his brother.

"You okay?" he asked, though he already knew the answer.

Mariku growled and snapped at him. "Out!"

Marik flinched slightly, holding his breath as he nodded. "Yeah..." He looked at Bakura, mimicking his twin and nodding towards the stairs. Bakura was disgruntled to have to actually obey the medium, but Mariku glaring at the two of them was making him uneasy. He wasn't one for feeling fear, but this man just oozed things to be afraid of. He hopped off the altar and lowered himself through the floor, down into the kitchen. After a few moments of regarding his brother, wanting to help but not wanting to make Mariku even angrier, Marik followed suit, just barely brushing his fingers over Mariku's arm as he went.

When he stepped off the bottom stair, he noticed Bakura waiting in the doorway of the kitchen. Like a dog, he thought to himself, but kept it to himself.

Bakura considered him for a moment, then spoke. "Brother?" He looked pointedly at the ceiling.

Marik rolled his eyes. "Gee, how'd you guess?" He ducked passed him into the kitchen, riffling through the cupboards until he found some painkillers. A headache had sprung up sometime during his and Bakura's conversation, and it was just getting worse the more he saw the specter. He popped two and swallowed them without water, then sat himself at the island counter that separated the kitchen from the dining room. With a sigh, he laid his cheek on the counter, relishing in the chill of it against his burning face.

"He seemed like a real sweetheart." Bakura parked himself on the stool next to Marik's, putting his chin in his hand. Marik barely looked up at him.

"I'm not dropping this." He sat up quickly, pausing as his pulse banged against his temples in protest. After a wince, he scowled at Bakura. "I'm going to take a shower, and then I'm going to have a very long nap. After that, you and me are going to watch as many chick flicks as it takes for you to learn how to love."

Bakura raised his eyebrow and stared at him for a long moment, just waiting for him to say he was kidding and that they were actually going to go on and find him a date. When he never did, Bakura threw his head back and laughed loudly. Marik tried not to wince and rolled his eyes once more, leaving his ghost in the kitchen to laugh as he made his way to the bathroom. Oh, this was going to be the worst nine days ever.

First off, I apologize for taking off and adding on so many of the chapters seemingly willy nilly. I promise I know what I'm doing!

I rewrote it because my internet was out and I was DYING to write something. I tried starting chapter 5 (oops I haven't done that yet?) but nothing came to me, so I just reread all the previous chapters to hopefully spark some inspiration. Needless to say this chapter was not the best (but you all knew that) and I couldn't stand it being like that anymore. So it got a complete makeover. Chapter 4 will probably get one too! I hope you all are able to read this because it's now 5 AM and I have somewhere to go today. I DID THIS FOR YOU!