By kumiko & tzigane

It had been raining all day, a miserable downpour that had started off as simply drizzle but had steadily gotten worse as the day went on. Still, he'd promised to help Relena move into her new apartment with her boyfriend, and he had -- the price of having siblings, he supposed. That was what had left him where he was now, unfortunately: stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat on a road full of clay and the last house he'd passed had been nearly a mile away from where he was NOW.

"Damn! So much for the Dean's cocktail party," he muttered, kicking the deflated tire and hanging his head in the rain. He was a tall man, lean and leggy with long, silvery blond hair, which was now hanging like a heavy wet blanket to the middle of his back.

Looking up and down the deserted road, realizing as he did there was precious little hope of getting a lift anytime soon, he scanned the horizon for any sort of shelter. He really didn't hope to find anything, but...

The night sky lit with intense blue, rumbling thunder spilling after it, and he thought he made out the reflection of a window up ahead -- a house, perhaps empty. Empty would be all right, so long as it was inside out of the wind! With any luck, someone would be there and the electricity would have simply been knocked out for a bit.

It was farther away than it looked, almost a full mile down the road, and by the time he reached the front porch he was soaked to the skin. The pounding of the rain on the porch roof was deafening and he knocked on the door, wondering if he'd even be heard.

There was no answer, and a quick check of the large window in the porch showed a dark, dusty house, seemingly empty of occupants. Going back to the door, he tried to open it. It stuck a bit, but with a small shove it swung open on squeaky hinges to reveal a dim entryway, illuminated briefly by the lightning strikes nearby.

"Hello?" he called. "Anyone here?"

The sound of another door creaking open sent shivers down his spine before the light of a flame spilled in with it, revealing a small, slim Oriental boy glowing in the candlelight. His eyes seemed to widen at the sight of Zechs and his lips curled up into a smile. "Come in! You're drenched! I was expecting no one, I've only just come here, myself..."

"Uh..." Zechs stood in the hallway and dripped quietly. "Do you... do you live here? I'm sorry I just barged in -- I didn't know anyone was here and my car broke down and the rain --"

"They say there's a hurricane coming," the boy told him solemnly, "but the electricity is all out. We'll be safe enough here, and warm, besides. I've only gotten to the back so far. The heat's gas, so it will be fine. Shut the door, and I'll fetch towels for you. I have nothing of your size, but..." That little smile was back again as Zechs closed the front door. "You should take off those wet clothes. It would be terrible if you became ill!"

Zechs looked down at his sodden clothing and then up again, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks. "I... I... Yes, well, maybe I could just wear one of the towels... do you have a gas dryer? Or a fireplace?"

"A drying rack," he was informed. "It may be placed close by the heating grille, however, so if you would come with me...?" That said, the boy turned to go back from where he'd come.

Following the boy down the hallway towards the back of the house, Zechs found himself feeling very self-conscious. The boy looked so young -- surely not more than sixteen or seventeen -- and now he was having to tend to strangers in distress. He'd have to make it up to him somehow.

From the next room came a soft glow that seemed to flicker every now and then. "Have you lived here long?" Zechs asked, as they stepped into a room that glowed with the light of what must have been at least seven oil lamps.

"Oh, a while," he replied softly, stepping farther inside and shutting the door behind Zechs. The room itself was something of a nexus -- a large octangular hall with a heating grate in the center of it that gave warmth to the hardwood floors and the Ponderosa pine walls, the faint golden glow of them seeming somehow exquisite. Zechs could see the black and white tile of a small kitchen with a battered old table in its center, an even older refrigerator to the side, and a bathroom was opposite where they now stood. Only one other door was open through which he caught a glimpse of mirror and poster bed; the room beyond was most obviously a bedroom. "If you would, go into the bathroom and have a warm shower. Perhaps I can find a robe that will fit you, hm? That, you would like. Perhaps you like tea as well? Or are hungry?"

"Oh -- I don't want to put you to any trouble," Zechs said, moving towards the bathroom. "But... well, tea would be great, thanks. " He gave the boy a quick, shy smile and closed the door behind him.

What he saw made him stop dead in his tracks. The room was small and cramped and everything in it was covered with dust. Taking a step into the room, he saw several spiders scurry across the tile floor and disappear under the baseboard.

"Well," he said softly to himself, "beggars can't be choosers..." and he leaned over into the small shower stall and turned the tap. There was a rumble of pipes and the water poured from the tap in a dark, red stream. Unable to help himself, he jumped, gave a little gasp. So red! But... if the boy hadn't been here long, perhaps it was just rust after all...

After a few moments, it cleared, spilling pristinely into the small tile stall, quickly filling the little room with steam. It didn't take long for him to get warm, and the towels that he found tucked in the small cabinet beneath the sink seemed clean despite the dust on everything else.

He wrapped the largest one he could find around his hips, but it barely covered him decently. Taking a second, he began the arduous process of blotting his hair dry before picking up his dripping clothes and heading out into the main room again.

"You... said you had a drying rack?" he said to the boy, whose back was turned to him.

"Oh..." Turning, the boy's head tilted to the side and he *smiled* again, that same almost mysterious look that made Zechs's heart jump. "Yes. In the bedroom... I found a robe there, too, if you'd like, you can try it. It's on the bed, in the room next to the bathroom -- the door is open. If you put the rack beside the grate, your clothes will dry more quickly, Mr...?"

"Marquise," the tall blond said, holding out his hand and having to grab his towel quickly with other. "Zechs Marquise. And you are...?"

"Wufei," the boy said with another of those smiles, lightly taking his hand and caressing it more than shaking it. "You can call me Wufei. Come on, I'll help you with the rack, all right?"

The touch of the boy's hand made him shiver, not only at the oddly intimate gesture, but the fact that it was cool -- almost cold. "Thanks," he said, a little weakly, and then added, "are you warm enough?"

"As warm as I get. I'm very cold-natured," he admitted with a sparkling-eyed gaze. "It comes from being so short, or so I'm told. I'm sorry; have I chilled you?" he asked. "Stand by the grate and I'll bring the robe and the rack, then, so you can warm up..."

"I didn't mean to insult you," Zechs said quickly as they crossed into the bedroom. "Just... didn't want you to be cold... that's all."

"It's nothing to worry about," the boy assured him. "I'm just that way. Some people are, you know."

The bedroom itself was like the room with the heating grate, the same sort of hardwood floors and pine walls. There was a rug in the room, though, to take the chill out of the floors on cold mornings, undoubtedly. In one corner stood an old-fashioned silvered mirror bound in cherry wood to match the poster bed, draped with heavy dark blue curtains and velvet spread.

"There's only the one bed," he was informed without apology as Wufei held out a robe to him, a thing of silk that looked as if it would likely swathe the boy entirely. "Change into this, and we'll fetch your clothing to hang on the way to the kitchen."

"Change... here?" Zechs said, half to himself. The boy was making no signs of going away and Zechs could feel his cheeks reddening again at the thought of taking the towel off in front of him. It was embarrassing... and slightly arousing.

"There is only me," Wufei said, tilting his head to the side. "You must be shy!"

Zechs ducked his head, cheeks now flooded with color and slowly let go of the towel, feeling its heavy, damp weight around his feet as he reached for the robe. As he drew the small garment up off the bed, it brushed between his legs and he felt his shaft twitch. Worse, the boy knelt down at his feet to gather up the towel, and those dark eyes were unarguably *on* him, andthat smile never left!

"See?" Wufei murmured as he stood, watching Zechs slip on the robe. "It is not so bad. I have the tea ready... when we've hung your clothes..."

"Th-Thank you," Zechs managed to say, wishing so badly he could just sink into the floor and disappear. The robe fit him to just below his knees and he tied it around himself gratefully. "Here -- let me help with that..."

They loaded the rack with Zechs's clothes and Wufei held the bedroom door open. While not as bad as the bathroom, the bedroom had its own fine layer of dust on the floor, and the drying rack left a little trail through as Zechs pulled it out to the large grate in the octagonal room.

"Thank you, again," he said, when they'd finished. "Hopefully they'll dry quickly and I can be on my way..."

"Not," Wufei pointed out, "if there's a hurricane coming. I heard it on the radio before the electricity went off. I shouldn't like to let you go out into something like that and endanger yourself! So, for now, come into the kitchen. Perhaps you'd like soup as well?"

"Really -- tea is just fine," Zechs murmured behind him as they entered the kitchen.

It appeared to be completely empty, with no sign of food or drink, or even dishes. Only the battered table in the center with yet another set of oil lamps upon it and a cup of tea brewing. Rain lashed at the windows and the frequent lightning burst gave the entire room a sense of the surreal.

"I've been away for a while," Wufei admitted. "My friend..." His face clouded momentarily. "Someone was supposed to be here when I came back. He wasn't, though, and things are a bit... Well. I apologize," he said, nodding as he moved to the stove, turning on the gas beneath an old kettle, the slightly odd smell of burning dust in the air.

"You don't need to apologize," Zechs said, taking a sip of tea and finding it excellent. "I'm just very grateful you've allowed me to come in for a bit. Not sure what I would have done if you hadn't."

"Been most wet and cold," Wufei told him with a brilliant smile, pouring his own cup full and moving to sit at the table as well, beside Zechs. "It will be much nicer to have a bed in which to sleep and a warm body close by, don't you think?"

Zechs turned to the boy and stammered, "W-Warm b-body? Oh, I can sleep on the floor if it comes to that, really. I don't mind at all. I don't want to... to put you out at all..."

Sipping his tea, the young man smiled. "You won't be putting me out at all. I don't mind. I couldn't let you sleep on the floor, either. It's very hard, and more than a little dusty. You'd be wheezing from cold and allergies come morning! It's much better if you sleep in the bed. It, at least, is clean..."

It wasn't at all the answer Zechs had wanted. Still, he'd have to brave it, embarrassing as it was. "Well, thank you, then. It's very kind of you." The windows of the kitchen rattled as a huge crack of lightning struck somewhere very close by. It lit up the boy across from him and made his skin look white as porcelain, his eyes like dark pools of black. Zechs gave a little jump at the sight of him that way and then laughed self-consciously. "Sorry," he said, "the weather must be making me a bit edgy..."

"It's all right. I don't like bad weather, either," Wufei admitted. "It brings back terrible memories..."

"I'm sorry about that," Zechs said. "Are they something you want to talk about?"

"Not right now. Maybe later," the boy murmured, a hand moving to lightly tuck silky black behind an ear, revealing a white scar that spread over his throat. A wound like that could easily kill someone, Zechs supposed, and it made him shiver again. "Tonight's not the night for talking of sad or upsetting things."

"Oh, of course," Zechs said, feeling both intrigued and repulsed at once. "So, do you work around here?"

"No," Wufei said, lightly lifting his own teacup to drink from it before sitting it down once again. "But I've only just arrived again from being away so long. What do you do?"

"I'm a history teacher at Maplehurst," Zechs said, "the boy's school over in Forsyth? Do you know it?"

The boy's eyes crinkled with amusement. "Yes. I know it well, it's a very pretty place, isn't it? The campus has all of those lovely ginkgo trees that turn such beautiful yellow in the fall..."

Zechs gave him a surprised smile. "You've been there?" he asked. "We're you a student?"

"A very long time ago," Wufei demurred. "I'm older than I look, I'm afraid." He returned Zechs's look, tilting his head to the side, a curtain of black silken hair falling to the side. "You probably think I am very, very young, perhaps even still in school."

"Um, yeah, I admit I did think that," Zechs said a little sheepishly. "Sorry..." He sipped his tea and looked over at the boy again. "You said you've come back after a long time. Did you live at the school before you left?"

"Mmmm," was the answer by way of agreement. "I'll bet you could find me in the yearbooks they keep in the library!" That seemed to amuse him, because he laughed softly. "I was president of the literary club. It seems as if it was forever ago!"

Making a mental note to check the yearbooks when he got back to campus, Zechs gave his host another shy smile and asked, "Did you like it there, then? Have a lot of friends, that kind of thing?"

"Too many!" Wufei returned with a little laugh. "I'm afraid that I had more friends than I could count! It caused some jealousy, though. Boys are strange creatures, no? What about you? Do you have... friends?"

/But you *are* a boy,/ Zechs found himself thinking and then answered, "Oh,I know a few of the other teachers, and the Dean, but it's a small town and I'm... shy, I supposed you'd call it. I never had a lot of friends at one time."

"Hmm, that's a shame," Wufei told him, smiling again brilliantly. "Truly. Would you like some more tea? Yours seems to all be gone!" Another crack of thunder sounding, the simultaneous lightning filling the room with that white haze again. "I'm very glad you're here. I... I don't like nights like this..."

"Thanks, I will have more -- it's very good." Zechs watched Wufei walk gracefully to the stove and fill the teacup with hot water. "It's funny, " he murmured, "I've never been afraid of storms."

"Really?" the boy asked. "Then I'm so glad that you're here! They terrify me, so I'm very glad to have company. Another most excellent reason for you to sleep in bed and not on the floor!"

Zechs blushed again and stared down into his empty tea cup. "I... I wouldn't think you'd want a complete stranger sleeping in the same bed with you."

"Oh, that," Wufei demurred. "That does not bother me at all. Here..." He slowly poured another cup for the blond man and smiled. "You should not be so embarrassed. It will be fine."

Taking a long, slow breath, Zechs tried to smile back. "Right," he said, "it'll be just fine." He took another look around the strangely-shaped room. "Have you been in touch with your friend? The one who was supposed to be here when you got back?"

"Oh, no," Wufei sighed. "When I got back, the phones weren't working, and I haven't managed to call him. Perhaps soon, though, I will go looking for him again."

"Are you two going to live here together?" Zechs asked. "You're not here all on your own, are you?"

"I'm all by myself for now. Since he was not here when I came..." The boy shrugged. "I doubt he will return." He smiled, all the same. "So, I'm glad you are here, instead."

The sound of those words made Zechs tremble. Instead? What was the boy implying?

"But... if he... well, if he was planning on coming back," he said, stumbling over his words. "I mean -- were the two of you... close?" If there was one thing he didn't want it was a jealous lover coming in the middle of the night and finding him in this boy's bed.

"Not so much when I left. Then..." The candlelight flickered, causing the sad expression to become morbid. "Things were not so good. Perhaps, had I not had so many friends, it would have been better. I'm afraid he did not understand at all. If he is gone, he will not be coming. I am sorry for it, but that is all. You will cause no trouble."

"Well," the blond said uneasily, "if you say so..." He looked towards the octagonal hallway and its heater. "I think I'll turn my clothes over," he muttered.

"I can do it," Wufei murmured, patting his hand. "It will be all right, you know. We're safe here, in the house. Even if it *is* a hurricane, it will be all right. We're very far inland. The damage will not be so bad. Once you have drunk your tea, we can go to bed, perhaps."

Hoping that the gulp he made wasn't too audible, Zechs smiled back at the boy. "Right -- that's probably the best thing. Just sleep it out."

The sloe-eyed look that gained him was DISTINCTLY erotic. "It is best," Wufei agreed. "That way, the worst is over, and you miss it entirely!"

"Y-Yes," Zechs murmured. He felt like an insect, pinned by that dark gaze, at once terrified and fascinated. "I... I'm done."

"Come, then. We'll turn your clothes, and turn out all of the lamps, and that will be that," the boy murmured, lightly placing their cups together in the sink.

A strange feeling, equal parts of dread and anticipation, filled Zechs as they bent to turn his clothing over and moved about the room, turning out the oil lamps. Then he followed the slender boy into the bedroom and stood, awkwardly, not knowing quite what to do.

"It will be all right, you know." It was said gently, with tender assurance, the last lamp left lit as the boy turned back the bed and began to remove his clothing. He was lovely in that golden light, the only thing to mar him that terrible white scar, and he enticed Zechs with nothing more than his movements -- nothing more than his smile. "You should climb into the bed, to keep warm. It will grow cooler, soon. The hazards of such hard flooring," he said knowingly.

"Yes," Zechs breathed, tearing his eyes away from the lovely boy and turning his back to Wufei. He opened the robe with shaking fingers and let if slip down over his shoulders. Shrugging it off, he put every ounce of will he had into *not* being hard and turned back to the bed. "It is a little chilly, isn't it?" he murmured nervously.

"A little," Wufei agreed, sliding into the bed on his side. He was naked, very much so, not even the smallest sign of underwear existing. "Even with the heat, the floor will be cold in the morning, so don't forget that."

"Right," the tall blond said, getting under the sheets and laying stock still on the very edge of the bed. "Well... good night, and thanks again for letting me stay..."

"You're very welcome," the boy murmured, turning out the lamp so that darkness swallowed the room save for the occasional flash of lightning.

For a while, Zechs laid there, carefully hugging his side of the bed. It was so soft, surely filled with feathers, and the natural inclination to sink towards the center was an undeniable urge. The boy's slight weight was enough to slant the mattress and make it more difficult to stay where he was -- particularly when Wufei shifted towards him, most likely in his sleep.

He could feel the coolness of him, and a sweet scent -- gardenias, as if the boy had rolled in them. It was strangely alluring, the scent, and the thought of the boy's smooth skin and glossy hair... Now semi-erect, Zechs clung harder than ever to the side of the mattress and buried his face against the pillow. "You cannot sleep, way over there," came the sound of that voice, speaking softly so as not to startle him. He jumped, all the same, particularly when the boy shifted even closer. "If you will come closer, we will both be warm, and you will be most comfortable. I promise you..."

"I... don't know if that's such a good idea," Zechs said softly, but the boy's hands were pulling at him gently, or at least, he thought they were, and he found himself turning on his side to face Wufei, his body sliding towards the center of the bed. "I suppose... I'm just not used to sleeping with someone else in the bed with me," he said.

"Then perhaps it is time to accustom yourself, no?" This was said by way of blatant invitation, that warm scent of gardenia rising, Wufei's lips very close to his own. "I should like very much to kiss you. Would I offend, if I were to do so?"

A small whimper was the only sound Zechs made. The boy's eyes were like liquid ebony, commanding attention, and the drowsy odor of flowers seemed to weaken his will. "You... you want to kiss... *me*?" he whispered, unable to stop staring at Wufei's mouth.

"Oh, yes," he was assured, flickering lightning filtered by the curtains lighting the room, showing that face and its slightly uptilted mouth. The boy's arms slid around him, lips pressed lightly against Zechs's, and the man was lost. The kiss was warm and long, starting out tender and growing in its intensity, sweet and fierce and breathtakingly seductive. Zechs let out a soft moan, every inch of his body responding to the boy's touch. "See?" Wufei whispered, a hand stroking slowly down his side. "It is not so hard, is it?" He gave Zechs no opportunity to answer, but instead kissed him again, the touch of soft lips lingering against him before wandering lightly to a high cheekbone, the line of his jaw. "You are welcome to tell me to stop..."

Another soft whimper and Zechs tried to speak. "I... shouldn't... ohhh, so good... don't know you... ahh!" Wufei's lips found a sensitive spot on his throat and Zechs felt his back arch automatically, his eyes closing as a flood of adrenalin went through him. "Wufei..."

"Yes..." It was a whisper of sound covered by rumbling thunder as the boy came over him, straddling him, hands stroking over arm and shoulder. "Yes..." That was the only thing he said, nipping sharply at that spot, just what Zechs wanted, before abandoning it for the winging delicacy of collarbone, the hollow of throat. His nose brushed against it, just there, and that, too, was exciting somehow; as delicious as the fingertips caressing slowly over him, as wonderful as the feel of the slim young man's body pressed against his own.

Zechs let out a soft sigh of delight but then shook his head back and forth on the pillow, hair a silvery mane beneath him. "Shouldn't... you don't know me... ahh, *God!*" A hard suckle where his neck met his shoulder sent shivers of pleasure through him and this time his hips came up off the bed, hard cock pressing against Wufei's thighs.

"I know you are very nice," Wufei murmured, chuckling softly as he pressed kisses to a bicep, tracing Zechs's upper arm lightly. "I know that I like you very much, want you to be happy... this, I think, is all I need to know just now..." A sharp cry came from the blond as clever fingers flickered over his nipples, teasing at them and making his shaft twitch. "Oh, please," he whispered, "please... I need more..."

"More, hm?" That seemed distinctly teasing, the boy rising over him, soft strands of dark hair spilling wildly around his face. "Perhaps you would like for me to kiss you, here? To suckle you... to taste you even farther down?" Wufei purred.

Zechs shook his head again but then stopped and squirmed under the boy's fingers. "Uhhhn... *yes*! I want it... ah, feels so *good*!" His hands strayed to Wufei's hair and he began guiding the boy's head downwards.

The sound of husky laughter filled the small room, the canopy above holding it in as Wufei steadily mouthed his way down Zechs's belly. "Hmmm. You taste of soap," he purred. "It's very..." The words stopped as he found the blond man's erection, taking it easily between his lips and sucking at the tip.

Perfect -- the boy was a master, his suckling wonderfully intense and smooth and Zechs's hips arched upwards again, wanting to drive into that skillful mouth. "Oh, *yes*!" Even that motion was accepted, the whole of him nearly swallowed!

"Mmmmm," Wufei declared around the thickness of him, hands lightly holding his hips, the feel of Wufei's nose pressing to his belly. It was enough to drive him wild, to make him come then and there, but it stopped only to be followed by kisses upon his belly. "Perhaps you would like more?" the husky question was asked.

Zechs gave a few desperate whimpers. "More...? Oh... ohhh..." He could barely speak and only wanted to beg for the sweet, erotic feeling to continue, to fill the sudden emptiness he felt. "Oh, *God*..." he whispered.

"Yes," Wufei sighed, coming over him, rubbing against him with careful motions of hip and thigh. "Yes, you want more from me, I think..."

Blue eyes turned to Wufei's face, imploring, beseeching. A sudden, fierce submissiveness flooded through him, making him want it. "Please... oh, *please*..."

Silently, fingers trailed between his legs, lightly cupping him, holding him close. "Yes," the boy told him, kissing his chin with a tender touch. "Yes..." Lubricant seemed to come almost from nowhere, slick between his cheeks, sliding deep into him, and he didn't question it; how could he, when he needed it more than life, more than breath?

Color heated Zechs's his cheeks as Wufei pressed his legs open. It had been such a long time since his last lover and nowhere near this exciting -- to feel himself yield completely to the boy's probing fingers. A rub over his prostate and he whimpered, squirming under the boy, far gone with pleasure.

"Ah, lovely," Wufei sighed, nibbling again at the line of Zechs's throat as those slim digits darted wetly in and out of him, teasing at the rim of him. "You like this. You like this very much, and oh, I'm glad..."

"More," Zechs whimpered, eyes opening slowly and looking into Wufei's. "Give me more... I want it... need it *deep*..."

The words brought on movement, the dark-haired man shifting over him and*into* him, a quick movement that should have been painful but wasn't -- only filling, deep and hard. It drove a quick cry from Zechs, stealing his breath even as Wufei kissed him, capturing it, holding him close for a moment. "Yes," he sighed, shuddering. "Ohhh, yes..." What utter bliss that was, to be held close and fucked so very deeply. Zechs gave a long, low moan, a sound of pure wanton pleasure, and turned his face prettily into the pillow, hiding scarlet cheeks from the boy above him.

"Poor thing," the boy sighed, nearly moaning it out, hands moving to lightly clasp around Zechs's wrists, tugging them down to the mattress and holding them tightly. "Poor thing, has it been so long, then? I'll make it good for you. So very good..."

Now the blond man's writhing began in earnest. That feeling of being held down, making him feel wanton and so very submissive, a fantasy he cherished above all others.

"Please," Zechs whispered, "fuck me..."

Those words earned him a rough rock of hips, the boy above him smiling down, hair flying around his face with the force of his motion. "Like this?" he panted, doing it again, hard, shoving. "You like it, this way?"

"Yes... oh, *yes*!" Zechs was arching upwards, meeting every thrust and at the same time he pushed up against the boy's strong hands, sweet with the knowledge that he couldn't do a thing about what was happening to him. It was all pure, erotic surrender and the dark-haired boy made it so terribly easy...

"Surrender..." It was the sound of voice and rain and wind and thunder, the rub against his belly and cock that made him shiver, the hands holding him down, the erection penetrating him deeply. "Give in to me..."

"Anything," Zechs moaned, feeling himself tense, "everything is yours... Uhhhn!" The feeling was too deep and pleasurable to last any longer, paradise waiting just over the edge, and in another moment Zechs was nearly screaming it was so good. It felt as though he came forever, clamping down on the shaft that had impaled him so completely and shaking his head in disbelief that anything could ever feel that way.

When it was over, the weight of the boy heavily atop him, he could see the faint gleam of Wufei's smile in the dark. "That was very good," he sighed, kissing the hollow of Zechs's throat once more. "You'll sleep well, I think..."

And sleep he did, his dreams full of dark hair and smooth skin -- the boy who held him down and fucked him like sweet fire.

When morning came, it was with sunlight splashing in through the windows, defeating the curtains entirely, birdsong sounding just outside. The rain had come and gone, no hurricane at all, and the scent of dust and decay was strong in Zechs's nostrils long before he woke.

His eyes opened slowly, his mind unwilling to let go of a lingering morning dream. It had been disorienting -- he had been lying in bed with a lover,just who he couldn't tell, and the next moment he was in a church and there was organ music playing. He was searching for the door to leave and it was nowhere to be seen, but there were shapes moving outside the stained glass windows, shapes in the churchyard beyond...

For a few dizzying moments, he couldn't remember where he was and then he moved slightly and the exquisite soreness in his ass brought everything back. Propping himself up on one elbow, he looked around groggily. "Wufei?" he called, seeing he was alone in bed. "Wufei, can I open the window? The smell in here is really awful."

No answer.

Most CONSPICUOUSLY no answer, and worse, the sound of the wind lightly blew in from some unknown source, whistling faintly. The house was undeniably cold, almost freezing -- no great surprise for an early morning in October except for the fact that it had been so warm the night before, the air delicious around him so that he was even comfortable when they had been in bed together.

Zechs sat up. "Wufei?"

There was still no sound from the other rooms of the house, so he got up, looking for the robe and unable to find it. Shivering, he ventured into the room beyond, and saw his clothes still a bit damp, lying on the old heating grate. He ran over and started pulling them on, giving a small yelp at how very cold they were.

A quick look around told him Wufei was not in the bathroom, nor in the kitchen or front hall. "Wufei?" he called louder. "Where are you?"

No answer.

No answer, and no Wufei. No drying rack. No towels in the bathroom, even the one he had used. A single tea cup sitting, stained, in the kitchen sink.

Even the bed was covered lightly in dust, the dark blue velvet turned gray with the stuff, only the sheets upon which he'd slept beneath the coverlet free of it, and there was only one set of footprints upon the dirty hardwood floors.


"What the hell..." He looked wildly around the house, determined to find *some* trace of the boy he'd slept with. He looked in every closet and cupboard, noticing as he did that the house only had one small oil lamp, and that was out in the entryway. Everywhere he looked there was only dust and the feeling of a house abandoned for a long, long time.

After he'd searched in vain for almost an hour, Zechs put on his shoes and went outside. There were little puddles of rainwater everywhere and parts of the yard had regressed to mud. He walked around the house three times, but Wufei was nowhere to be seen.

The hair on the back of his neck shivered, standing up despite himself. There HAD to be an explanation! There had to be! Wufei had said that he'd gone to Maplehurst.... ! That was the answer!! Reluctantly, he left the house and walked back down the road to his car, double checking it was locked before hiking further down to the house he'd seen before coming upon Wufei's. While he was walking, he told himself that the boy must have had a car or a bicycle, must have gone out early, before he woke up. Surely he'd find him *somewhere*!

By the time he got the auto club to bring a tire out to him and drove home it was nearly noon, his Sunday half gone. He showered and changed, ate a little lunch, and then decided to go into the school because he could think of nothing else but finding those yearbooks and looking up the boy called Wufei.

The librarian seemed awfully surprised to see him when he arrived, looking at him from behind the lenses of her glasses with astonishment. "My goodness, Mr. Marquise. What are you doing here on a Sunday, after all of that bad weather last night?"

"Oh -- just a little research I'm doing on the school," Zechs lied. "Thought I'd work on it a bit today since I've got a stack of exams coming in tomorrow. Grading is going to take up all my time this week. Would you happen to know where I can get hold of the school yearbooks?"

"They're all up on the third floor," he was informed. "I'll show you where. Just a moment." Quietly, she spoke with the other young lady behind the desk, nodding, and then slipped out from behind it. "If you'll follow me, it's just up these stairs."

They walked up the glowing wooden staircase, a lovely spiral rising two floors from the center of the main reading area. Along a balcony and through a small gap in the stacks of books there was a small collections room with just one small table and a few chairs and, in back of them, a set of glass cases, filled with books.

"What year are you looking for?" the librarian asked him with a smile. "Perhaps I can help you with what you need to find?"

"I think I'd like to start about ten years ago," Zechs told her. "Do you have that one?"

"Ninety-one... oh, yes, we have that one. Tragic, that year. Truly tragic," she sighed, opening the case and pulling it out, handing it to him gently. "What with the murder and all."

"Murder?" Zechs said with a frown. "That was before my time. Who was murdered?"

She blinked almost audibly. "Oh, dear, well, I suppose it was, then. You wouldn't know. The literary club president. Poor boy. So sweet, really, you wouldn't have thought he had that kind of private life. Always serious, always on time. Here. There's a dedication in the front. They yearbook staff INSISTED that the book be dedicated to him." She opened the front cover, lightly pointing to the boy.

"Dedicated to the memory of Wufei Chang, 1975-1991." Zechs couldn't help but read the words aloud. If he hadn't done something, he knew he would have fallen to his knees right on the spot. As it was, he stumbled to the table and pulled out one of the chairs, sitting down heavily. "M-Murdered, you say...?"

"Goodness, yes." She sat down, leaning forward slightly. "Apparently, the boy was *making the rounds* amongst the other boys, and I'm afraid one became awfully jealous. This one, here," she said, turning the page and pointing to the picture on the opposite side. "They had a little house, oh, out on a road going towards Lizella. No one lived there and they'd been using it for a meeting house. There was a bed and everything!" she whispered, scandalized.

Zechs knew the road well. He'd been driving on it only yesterday.

He hated to ask, but a growing sense of morbid curiosity wouldn't rest until he had. "How did he die?"

"The other boy slit his throat and hid his body underneath the front porch. They wouldn't have ever found him, except..." She paused, biting her lip. "Well. The *smell*, you know. The neighbors could *smell*... well, whenever they drove by. It had been hot that spring," she continued. "Afterwards, of course, they weren't sure who'd done it, but then this boy here, Klaus, he started talking about how Wufei -- that was the literary club president, you know. The Chinese boy. Well, he started talking about how Wufei just wouldn't leave him alone. That he saw him everywhere, following him around, in mirrors, over his shoulder. Confessed to the whole thing, but he was quite mad by then. Who knows if he actually did it?" She sighed. "They locked him up over in Sweetbriar. I'm sure he's still there today. The Dean said that he screams all the time now..."

Try as he might, Zechs couldn't block out the image her words brought up -- of Wufei sitting at the kitchen table in the dusty house, drinking tea while lightning lit up the long scar around his throat. "And he did this... just because he was jealous?" Zechs asked, beginning to shiver slightly, though the library room was warm and stuffy.

"Oh, terribly so," she sighed. "It was an awful tragedy. Poor boy. He had been accepted at Tech, you know. Full scholarship, and so young! It broke so many hearts, and for more reasons than one." The librarian nodded. "I suppose that's a lesson for you, though. Immorality's the ruination of a good boy."

"Immorality?" Zechs murmured. "Surely you don't blame the boy himself for being murdered, do you?"

"Oh, no, not at all," she assured, "but if he'd not had so *many* other interests, maybe he wouldn't be dead. That's all. Poor boy," she murmured on a gust of breath. "He really was terribly sweet. It's a shame. Ah, well. What were you looking for, Mr. Marquise?"

Zechs had been staring at Wufei's picture and for a moment he said nothing. When she said his name again, he jumped slightly and said. "I... think I'll just browse in some of these yearbooks, if it's all right. You've been very helpful. Thanks. "

"You're welcome. Just be sure to put things back the way they were," she told him with a smile, heading out of the room and leaving him quite alone.

It was only after she left that he could allow himself to consider the full horror of his situation. For several minutes he sat, staring down at the picture of Wufei and trembling violently.

This *was* the same boy. There was no mistaking it, unless he had an identical twin. This boy, though, had been dead for ten years and yet Zechs had slept with him not twenty-four hours ago.

He shifted on the hard wooden chair. *That* at least he knew was real. He *had* definitely been fucked by someone last night, and fucked hard. Yet... there had been no trace of the boy that morning, not even a footprint in the dust.

Shaking his head as if to clear it, he turned the page of the yearbook and read the 'Personal Messages' page. There were tons of little initialed notes, printed clearly in times new roman font -- k. t. <3 m. t. , sickeningly sweet little things on occasion. A few of them were clearly meant more for friendship than romance, no notes scrawled in illegible handwriting since it was the library's copy...

At least, not until he turned the page, a delicately scrawled penmanship appearing almost before his eyes. 'z. m. ; be seeing you soon. thanks for last night. -- c. w.'

Zechs dropped the book on the table and moved his chair back with a start. He stared at the handwriting, eyes wide and heart beating wildly. It couldn't be happening! Just a trick of the light, surely. It must have been in the book already, some other 'z. m.'

And yet... Wufei couldn't have written in this yearbook. It had been published after he died.

The horror was creeping over him again when a flicker of light against one of the glass cases caught his eye and he looked up.

The memory of that white face in the flickering lightning, the black pooling eyes, swept over him, accompanied by vicious smile... a smile that was matched by the scar on the boy's throat, one that opened and wept blood even as he stared, horrified, at the reflection in that glass case, turning frantically to look behind him.

No Wufei.

No Wufei, but there, in the glass...

In the glass...!!!

The small room suddenly seemed to have no air at all and Zechs ran for the door, desperate to get outside. He took the stairs two steps at a time, ignoring the strange looks he got from the students on each floor and the occasional murmuring of, "Mr. Marquise...?"

The librarians looked up in shock as he ran through the lobby and out -- at last! -- into the autumn sunshine. Stumbling to a large clump of bushes, he hid himself as best he could, and then became violently sick.

Even at that moment, it seemed the breeze had become fingers, the light scent of gardenias wafting from some unimaginable place. It caressed over him, intensifying that sense of nausea, and the voice of the head librarian scared him almost to death when she spoke up in the nearby courtyard. "Mr. Marquise? Mr. Marquise, are you quite all right?"

"Uh... yes," he called, not moving from the bushes. "Yes... I'm all right. Just feeling a bit nauseated. I'll be all right out here in the fresh air. "

"If you're sure..." the woman said reluctantly, frowning. /How odd. / "If you need some help, don't hesitate to ask."

Zechs sat back on the grass and put a trembling hand to his mouth. That image -- the scar and the blood and that horrible, horrible smile... surely this wasn't the boy he'd been with last night. He had seemed so kind, then. Gentle, even. So perhaps it was just his own overactive imagination. Yes, that had to be it -- the story the librarian had told and then all the information in the yearbook.

He closed his eyes and let himself lay back on the grass.

His heart slowed down a bit, finally, the soft scent wafting on and around him teasing at his nostrils, lightly filling his lungs. /Terrible, terrible story. Horrid.../ It was, too. Wufei had been so sweet... so...

Zechs's cheeks flushed just thinking about it, but then the image of that blood flowing made him shiver despite the mild afternoon.

He tried again to get comfortable, turning his head a little to look at a flower bed about five feet beyond the bushes. It was pretty, with one of those large reflective balls on a pedestal that the Victorians were so fond of, bushes waving lightly around the thing. He could see the reflection of white flowers blossoming and glanced around for a moment, but there were no white flowers to be seen in the bed -- nowhere at all.

Looking back, he saw them again, saw them shiver, saw the clear silvery ball streak slightly with rivulets of soft red that stained those pretty white flowers, saw again the smile from upstairs...

He scrambled to a sitting position. "Oh, God..." he whispered, unable to do anything but stare in horrid fascination. "What do you *want*? Why are you *here*??"

No immediate answer came, no words, nothing, just the smell wrapping itself around him, touching him, sweet upon him, and that *smile*, that horrible TERRIBLE smile echoed by the gaping wound at the throat!!

"Why are you *here*?" Zechs repeated, hearing the hysterical edge of his own voice. "Why are you following me?"

" you..." It was the wind, sighing in his ear, that gruesome smile unending.

The sound of it made Zechs shiver and he shook his head. "I thought... I thought you were real," he whispered, hoping no one would walk by and see him talking to himself.

"...real.... " The sound echoed mockingly in his ears when met with that smile, that dripping sanguine liquid that seemed to irrevocably stain the gazing ball. ".... like you.... .... real.... "

As much as he wanted to end the strange conversation they were having, Zechs found himself answering back again. "But... you're dead... how could you do what you did...?"

The wind laughed in his ear, the white-red blossoms shivering in the reflective surface, the smile turning to an angry frown, blackness fading into deep vermilion pools. " me......"

"It was so good," Zechs whispered. "And all the time... you weren't really there. "

The gleam of red intensified, that pale face becoming angry. ".... THERE...... *LIKE ME*!!!!!"

It was too much for Zechs and he put his head down on his knees. "I was so unhappy, when I woke up and found you were gone... and now... oh, *hell*." His arms went up over his head and he fought back tears, though just what he was crying for he didn't know. "Why couldn't you have been here... been real..."

The smell of flowers dying all around him assailed his nostrils, wind buffeting wildly against him, singing. "LikemelikemelikemeLIKEME!"

In an instant the wind turned to fingers, moving over him, touching everywhere. The sickly sweet scent of gardenias seemed to follow them and he writhed away from it. "No... please!" he said in a pleading whisper. "Too much..."

".... angry......"

Oh, and that made it worse, somehow, that simple emotion! Angry, furious, enraged, and the rotten scent of the flowers intensified along with the touch that simply wouldn't go away!!

"Get away from me!!" Zechs hissed, unable to stand it any longer. He stood quickly and began to run, not knowing where he was running to, just needing to move, to feel the fresh air around him, to flee those demanding fingers.

It was a good half hour before he stopped running and realized he'd managed to shake them off, finding himself only a handful of blocks down from the Dean's house. In a daze, he kept walking, heading up the front steps to knock, hands trembling wildly even when the door was answered.

"Zechs!" Blue eyes gazed at him widely, the man tilting his head to the side. "Good heavens, you look as if you've seen a ghost!"

"I... Maybe..." Zechs was still catching his breath and wondering what light the older man might be able to shed on what he'd just been through. "Do you have a few moments, Treize?" he said at last. "I... really need to talk to someone."

"Come in," the elegant man replied, eyebrows raised as he held the door open, allowing the other man to move into the foyer. "Follow me, I'll make some tea for you..."

"Thank you," Zechs said quietly. "I appreciate your time."

Treize led him to his study, and then disappeared into the kitchen, leaving Zechs to sit and stare at the many school photographs that were framed and hung on the study walls. There were several graduation shots, a couple of the school's soccer team, and others with small groups of students in them.

/One of these delightful school boys was a murderer,/ he couldn't help but think, /and now he's stark raving mad. /

"Here," Treize murmured moments later, returning with cups and pot, lightly pouring a fragrant cup of tea for the shaking history teacher -- one that smelled altogether too familiar, the same as from the night before! "This should help some..."

"This smells wonderful," Zechs said, forcing his voice into an icy calm. "What kind of tea is it?"

"A special blend from a little tea shop down near Ingleside. Someone showed it to me years ago," Treize replied, eyes darkening momentarily. "Quite lovely, really."

Zechs decided to force his hand. "Are you meaning the tea -- or the boy?"

Looking directly at him, Treize paled. "Both," he answered slowly, frowning. "What do you know? Why do you ask?"

Zechs took a long sip of his tea, memories of the night before flooding his mind. He put the cup down with a trembling hand and said, "Something very strange has happened to me... and it involves that boy."

"Where?" That single word was tense, the Dean terribly intent as he looked at Zechs. They had been becoming close, but...



What would he think?

It wasn't the question Zechs was expecting. He blinked up at the older man and asked, "I beg your pardon?"

"Where?" Treize asked him. "Where did it happen to you? WHAT happened to you? He's... him, he's..."

"He's dead," Zechs offered. "I know that but... I was driving back from helping my sister move late yesterday afternoon and got a flat tire..."

After Zechs had finished, the other man remained quiet and still in his chair for a long moment, not speaking or moving. The violent trembling in his hands was more than obvious, however, as was the pallor on his face. "Yes," he said, no more than a breath of sound. "Yes. He's dead. He's..." Treize paused, shaking his head. "You're not the first I've heard this from."

*That* was a shock! "I see," Zechs said, hiding discomfort by being glib, "so this is a ghost who sleeps around? Has he done half the school then and finally come around to me?"

"No," Treize answered. "He did that before he died. Now..." He shrugged, biting his lip. "Look around you. Do you see any mirrors? Any glass? Any reflective surfaces?"

Zechs gave the man a strange look but did as he asked and took a good long look around the room.

There was nothing at all reflective. Not one thing. Even the pictures he'd been looking at earlier he now noticed had no glass in their frames.

"Uh... no, there isn't," he said. "Is that on purpose?"

With care, Treize placed his elbows on the desk, folding his hands beneath his chin. "I had thought, if I told anyone, they'd think I was crazy. At least as crazy as Eberbach was -- that was the boy who killed him. Eberbach... Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach. Terribly long name, that. That house... it wasn't one that they used. It actually belonged to me. It still does..." He sighed. "I would guess that it's me he expects to be there. I don't look in the mirror anymore. Electric razors, you know. I avoid windows. Since then, I've even gotten rid of my silverware. Would you believe he even manages that? And the nights are the worst. The nights will be what will kill you, Zechs. The nights will be what will drive you mad..."

"But he couldn't have *been* there!" Zechs, still in disbelief. "You're talking about... about being *haunted* by someone and that just can't *happen*! Surely I was just exhausted from the rain and hallucinating. You knew him -- the shock... couldn't *that* be the reason? There are no such *things* as ghosts!"

"Do you really think that's so?" Treize sat back, sighed slowly. "Do you really believe that you just made him up, right down to the smell of all of those flowers? That's what they asked for, you know, his family. For gardenias. They filled the chapel. It was sweet enough to make you sick.... Do you honestly believe that you just made it all up, and I'm crazy enough to believe he haunts me the way he still does Eberbach?"

"I..." Zechs stared across the study desk at him. "I don't know *what* to think," he said at last. "What really happened... to Eberbach, that is?"

"Afterwards?" Treize asked, opening a drawer and drawing out a pack of cigarettes, a lighter. It was a habit only rarely indulged, but one for which he felt a great need at the moment. "He's in a small room at Sweetbriar. Cries all the time. They took the mirror out, but they can't cover the window. No, he tries to kill himself if they hang blinds or curtains. I've not been to see him in years. I can't bear to look at that window myself. "

"And what does he see in that window?" Zechs asked, not certain he wanted to hear the answer.

"What did you see in the library?" Treize questioned in return. "What did you see in the gazing ball? What do I see in every reflective surface I pass?"

"But *why*?" the younger man said, putting a hand to his head. "Even if it is a ghost -- which I doubt -- why would he be so... I don't know...*angry*? He wasn't that way last night, if it was *him* I saw and not someone playing a very sick joke. "

Treize smiled, though it seemed so sad. "You left him alone this morning. He... hates to be left alone anymore. That, you see, is what gave Eberbach the opportunity to kill him. *I* left him alone."

"You..." It had been obvious, of course, from the way Treize was acting, but to hear the man actually admit that he'd been having an affair with a student...

"He was one of your pupils," Zechs whispered. "How could you... with him..."

"EVERYONE did. Everyone. Me, Red Gloria, Yuy, even Saotome. He wasn't exactly the *faithful* type, but he was sweet, and fun, and..." He sighed. "And he wanted so much to just be happy. And now, I don't know what he wants, except to be sure that Eberbach and I suffer forever, Eberbach for killing him, me for leaving him alone. And now, there's you. I don't quite know what to make of that..."

Zechs frowned. "Yes, what about me? I didn't 'leave him' as you suggest, you know. He was already gone when I woke. I spent a good hour looking for him!" He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and added, "Of course, that's when I still thought he was just a normal young man."

"Maybe that's why he's following you now," Treize suggested quietly.

"I'm not sure what you mean," Zechs said.

"Maybe the reason he's following you now is because you stayed and looked for him," the other man clarified. "Though if that's so, I can't imagine why he'd appear to you the way he does to Eberbach and myself..."

"Yes," Zechs said quietly. "It seems as if he's terribly angry with me... and I don't know why." Looking up at the Dean, Zechs tipped his head to the side and asked, "Tell me... what happens at night? I want to know... so I can be prepared, just in case..." It was ridiculous, really, no doubt some strange mass hallucination, but to have a man like the *Dean* claiming it was true...

"He comes to you," Treize whispered, closing his eyes. "Touches you. Makes you want him, want to be in him, want to be taken by him, and then he shows you what you've done to him, when he's strong enough. It's hell," he finished bitterly.

"What you've done to him?" Zechs said in a puzzled voice. "But you didn't kill him, Treize. You didn't do *anything* to him."

"I left him alone. I left him to Eberbach. That's what he sees, anyway. He was so young..."

Zechs's gaze dropped to his hands, tightened into fists on the desk. "I'm sorry... it must have been terrible for all of you.

"Zechs..." The other man leaned forward, hand raking back through gingery locks dusted lightly with shimmering white. "You must think terribly of me now. Hadn't you?"

"I... was just surprised," the blond man said, unable to meet Treize's eye. "I've never... well, not with a student."

"He was different," Treize murmured in a low voice. "So different. So bright, he seemed to shine... I honestly couldn't help myself. No one could. I wish..." He wished Zechs understood!

"If you felt that way about him, didn't it bother you that he slept with all those other people?"

The Dean shrugged. "Trying to stop it would've been like putting out the sun. If you did, what would be left for light and warmth? If I stopped him from being him, what would be left of what I loved?"

Zechs's head came up and he gave the other man a searching look. "So you *loved* him. Was it serious?"

Another shrug. "Maybe. He's dead now. He wants to drive me mad. I doubt I do any longer, considering the circumstances." And oh! How dryly that was spoken!

"So why didn't you end up like Eberbach?" Zechs asked quietly.

"I've known I was gay since puberty -- not fun, back then, but still. Eberbach didn't have a clue. I'm not even sure Wufei ever slept with him -- not absolutely sure, anyway. After all, he could have done. Eberbach was utterly phobic about it, though. That's probably got something to do with it."

"I see," Zechs murmured, not seeing at all, but not knowing what else to say. Well, I've taken up enough of your time," he said, standing and holding out his hand. "Thanks again for talking to me. At least I have a lot to think about."

"Zechs..." Standing as well, Treize moved around the desk, taking his hand, pulling him close for a moment. "Don't go," he whispered, tucking his face momentarily against the other man's shoulder. "Please. Don't... go just yet."

/Don't leave me alone with him on my mind, with night falling.../

Frozen for a moment by the sudden, intimate gesture, Zechs stood bewildered, wondering what to do. Treize seemed genuinely upset, though, so he patted the older man's shoulder, letting his arm rest on it in a light embrace. "Is something wrong?" he said softly.

For a moment, it actually seemed as if the older man would pull himself together, step away from him, withdraw. He didn't, though. "*Him*. It's unbearable. It's horrid, and I thought I'd never be able to tell anyone..."

"So, you've been going through this for ten years?" Zechs asked, giving Treize's shoulder a squeeze. "I don't know how you've done it. One day and I completely fell apart."

"Zechs..." Almost haggard, he seemed, as he looked up, face drawn. "Stay. Just for a while. Just for the night. Just... Please. Stay. "

Staring into the older man's eyes, Zechs felt a wave of unreality. /Just like last night... and if *this* one turns out to be a ghost, then I'm checking myself into an institution.../

"The night...?" he murmured, dizzy from the thought. "What is it you want, Treize?"

"Just that you stay," Treize pleaded. "Just that you don't leave me alone. Just for a single night's safe rest. Just..."

The blond man's cheeks reddened. He'd thought sure Treize was asking for sex, but it appeared he'd been wrong. "Well... yes, all right. I don't suppose *I'd* be all that comfortable on my own either, what with all that's happened today."

"Thank you," the man sighed, wrapping his arms tightly around Zechs's shoulders, shivering. "Thank you..."

They made dinner and ate in the kitchen, preferring its coziness to the colder formality of the dining room. Afterwards, Treize brought out some brandy and they sipped it in his den, in front of the fire.

"Are you sure," Zechs said, stretching his long legs out in front of him, "that this isn't just some deranged young man playing a joke?"

"It's been ten years," the older man murmured. "Ten years without mirrors or glass or anything in which he can reflect." Even their brandy glasses were, unfortunately, *strangely*, made of opaque plastic. "Ten years in which I rarely see his face -- only if I find myself in a vehicle, actually, and I don't use one unless I have no choice." After all, the school was within distance of a good long walk. "Ten years in which I can feel him touching me at night while I lay with my eyes closed and plead with him to leave. I can still remember what he looked like when I found him. It... it's no joke."

Zechs frowned into his liquor. "Then what happened last night? That's what I'd like to know. I didn't see a reflection. I saw a real person, very solid -- solid enough to pour me a cup of tea and to..." He blushed and looked across to the fire, unable to meet Treize's eye. "Well, real enough, anyway. What of that?"

"You were in the house where he was killed, in the bed where he loved to sleep. That's my best guess," Treize sighed.

Zechs looked over at the other man. "So... you think the same thing would happen to you if you went back to the house?" That was unnerving to him, and he didn't like the fact that it was. Something in him wanted the strange episode to have happened because the boy thought him somehow special, not because he would have fucked anyone who came into the house. Then he realized he was talking about a 'boy' who'd been dead for ten years and took a large swallow of his brandy.

"I think if I ever went back, he'd find a way to kill me," Treize replied softly, morosely.

"Why would he want to do that?" Zechs said, troubled by the tone of the Dean's voice. "Why would he come every night to touch in the way you described if he wanted to kill you?"

"I don't know," Treize groaned, dropping his head back against his chair. "I don't *know*. Maybe he wants me to suffer and suffer and never have it *stop*..."

Zechs put a hand on Treize's knee, seeking only to comfort. "Is there anything that keeps him away?" he asked quietly.

A dry chuckle came in answer, the Dean smiling at him slightly. "He detests Wagner. It's hell to sleep through, unfortunately."

"But at least you've been experimenting," Zechs said. "You haven't given up."

"Haven't I?" He seemed so tired, eyes so needy, lips so close and beautiful...

"Well you certainly cover it up well, if you have," Zechs countered, laying his own head back and looking at Treize's face. "Up until this afternoon I had no idea you were going through this kind of thing, and I've known you for what -- four years?"

Nodding, Treize closed his eyes slowly, peeking at Zechs from beneath his lashes. "Four years," he agreed sotto-voice, wishing that Zechs would kiss him.

"And I never knew any of this." The blond man's voice was quiet, reflective. "Why doesn't anyone talk about it, even once in a while?"

" was a bad time," Treize said softly. "The whole campus mourned. He was a senior, so smart, and he was sleeping with half the graduating class and no few of the juniors down through the freshman." He laughed a little at that, as if reminiscing. "Hm. The entire school was shattered. No one wanted to talk about it, to think about it, and you'd find boys crying in the strangest places. One poor little thing just carried a box of tissues with him everywhere he went... No one wants to remember things like that."

"Mmm," Zechs murmured in understanding, "and I came long enough after that all those boys were gone..."

He finished his brandy and set the snifter on the low table before them. His mood had gone all funny. Somehow the news that Wufei had been with so many boys (and at least one man) made the night before feel cheap. That wasn't how he thought of himself and the rather unpleasant contrast of it ate at him.

"Am I keeping you up?" he asked, staring at the fire.

"Oh, no, not at all. Not in the least," Treize assured, sighing slightly. "I don't sleep well at night, and it's nice to just sit here and look at you..."

That made Zechs glad he'd finished his brandy -- otherwise he probably would have choked on it. "I... beg your pardon?" he said, slowly looking at the other man. "What did you say?"

"It's true," Treize told him with a frown. "I had hoped, perhaps... well.... " He sighed again. "I had rather hoped we could be more than friends, but now you must think so terribly of me..."

More than friends? Zechs blinked in disbelief. He and the Dean had always gotten on well, but this... "I... I didn't know... well, that you *felt* anything like that... for me."

"How could you not?" The other man gave him a rueful smile. "I nearly tripped over my tongue the first time I met you! And it certainly hasn't gotten any easier over the past four years..."

"Another thing you've hidden well," Zechs murmured, considering the man, for the first time, as a potential partner. He was certainly handsome, all smooth elegance and grace. Attempting a smile he looked back into the fire and added, "Either that, or I have been very, very dense."

"Zechs," he murmured, catching the other man's attention. As Zechs turned to look at him, he shifted, lifting his face and kissing him, the touch of it almost sweet.

Oh, the man was good at what he did, just as the boy had been. For the second time in as many days, Zechs tasted a stranger's lips and found them delicious. The sweetness of it was such a relief after the horrors of the day and he let himself be drawn into a light embrace, opening his lips to Treize's gently insistent tongue. The way it traced his upper lip, slid to lightly tangle with his own, made him shiver, especially when Treize's arms shifted up to hold his shoulders, wrapping around him tightly. "Hmmm..."

It was heady, to be there in the older man's arms, desire brushing through him with every move of Treize's mouth and fingers. Then a quick thought, unbidden, made him shiver. Did Treize teach this to Wufei? Is that why they were so similar...?

"Zechs..." His name again, and it seemed so terribly *sweet*, so *needy*, and the way that the Dean's arms tightened seemed to ask him for more. "Zechs... just for tonight, even if it's just holding, please don't leave me alone..."

"Yes," Zechs whispered. "Yes, all right... I'll stay with you..." And then he was lost in kisses again, letting the sweet fire of them burn away the chill he'd felt since the library, hours ago.

Hours later, laying naked on the floor with the gas fire still going, Treize sighed and laid his head upon Zechs's chest. "So tired," he whispered, eyes drooping, and he *was*. "Thank you, Zechs. Mmm, that was beyond anything I'd imagined it would be. I..." He paused, biting his lip. "I'm very fond of you. More than fond, actually," he murmured.

Zechs turned his head lazily to look at the other man, body glowing and satiated. "I'm... growing very fond of you as well," he murmured. "Is that bad -- the fact that I'm a teacher, I mean?"

"Hmmm... no," Treize decided, kissing his shoulder. "Never."

Lifting a hand to Treize's cheek, Zechs smiled softly. "Good..."

It was hard, though, to keep the image of another face from imposing itself on Treize's refined features. Blue eyes turned dark and almond-shaped, the hair became ebony, and the blond man's heart gave a leap. /Wufei... if only you'd been real.../

" *could* you...??"

It seemed to echo in the air, not a sound so much as a hiss, betrayal and anger singing in it.

" *could* you...!?"

Drawing a quick breath, Zechs sat up suddenly and looked wildly around the room.

"What was that? Did you hear that, Treize? It sounded like..."

"Hmmm?" Sleepy blue eyes wafted open, looking at him. "What? Sorry, I drifted off..."

Zechs heart was racing, but Treize looked so relaxed he couldn't bring himself to say anything negative. Instead, he shook his head and stretched out again on the floor. "Nothing," he said, trying to sound calm. "I must have been dreaming."

"Let's go upstairs," Treize murmured, leaning up to kiss him once again. "I'm too old for sleeping on the floor..."

"Oh, all right," Zechs said, getting up again. "Lead the way." He gave one last, wary look around at the room before they slipped up the stairs. Nothing was amiss... no one was there.

Sleepily, they moved up the stairs, clothing left scattered on the floor, arm in arm. Treize seemed almost drunk with pleasure and exhaustion and some strange tiredness, his eyes mostly closed as they turned to the right. "Hmmm. 've not slept well in so long..."

"Well get some rest, then," Zechs said soothingly, and then froze at the door to the room. The light from the hall cast a dim glow over the interior of the bedroom. Everything about the bed, from the headboard to the sheets, was identical to the bed Zechs had slept in the night before. He had a sudden, disturbing image of it, standing there perfectly clean amidst the grime and dust of the rest of the room, and it made him shudder. "Treize... why that bed...? Why...?"

Tiredly, Treize murmured, "Sometimes... sometimes, he lets me rest. He seems to like it." It was a half-assed explanation, one that Zechs couldn't place somehow.

The blond man really didn't want to lay in that same bed, but Treize looked done in and it would have been rude at that point to leave or demand different sleeping quarters. So, trying to ignore the bed itself, he slid under the sheets after Treize and put his head down gingerly on the pillow. Instantly a flood of images and sensations assailed him, all of them scenes from the previous night -- the night he'd spent with a ghostly boy who could make him feel as if a living being had been with him in that bed. Desperately, he tried to keep his breathing calm, not wanting to alarm Treize, who was already dozing off.

"...betrayer!..." Immediately, he was wide awake again, though Treize seemed not to have heard it at all, heavily asleep beside him already despite the short amount of time they'd been laying there.

/It can't be! Oh, God, please... it can't be him! Treize can't hear it, so it must just be my imagination... too many stories today... surely that's it!/ He twisted the sheets in his fist and willed himself to close his eyes and try to sleep.

"...betrayer! liar! ...howcouldyou...!" It seemed to fairly hiss, sounding with an almost sob next to his ear, so very close by!

Zechs hands flew to his eyes and then his ears, trying to block that impossible sound. It kept coming though, coming from inside his head, it seemed, so there was no getting away from it. He looked at his companion and gave him a little shake. "Treize? Are you awake? Did you hear that?"

No response -- the Dean was dead to the world beside him, almost unconscious.


Zechs sat up, arms covering his head, hands over his ears. "Stop!!" he said loudly, convinced that Treize would never hear him. "Why are you doing this to me??"

", betrayer... want need love want need love lie lie LIE!" With that last word, the blinds on the window ripped out of position from being nailed to the sill, revealing the gruesome sight of Wufei in the glass, glaring with eyes that gleamed red with anger. "*LIE*!"

Zechs gave a scream, long and loud -- an expression of pure terror. He leapt from the bed and took the stairs two at a time, stopping briefly in the den to throw on his clothing, and then actually *ran* from the house, out into the dark night beyond where he hoped there was nothing to reflect the horror that Wufei Chang had become.

The problem with that was simply that he hadn't *realized*; hadn't considered what it would be like to be out *there*, to be in the dark, to be *alone*, and there were so *many* reflective surfaces, and Wufei was in *all* of them, *ALL* of them, following him, words and invectives sounding in his ears!

"...wanted you... like me... liar... betrayer...!"

"No!" Zechs screamed, hands over his ears and still running. He didn't know where he was going, there seemed no place to get away from that terrible voice, the bloody image on every window, every car on the street. He looked up to find himself at the school and decided to head indoors, to find a room with no windows. Opening the doors to one of the dormitories, he raced inside and saw the stairs to the basement.

The basement! No windows! He could hide there until morning, surely, and then pack his things and get as far away from the school as he could.

The wind blew wildly around him, banging open doors and windows, singing words in his ears, sobbed, miserable little sounds, and it was in that moment, in that wild distraction, that he missed the first of the steps. He tried to grab the railing, but it felt almost as if his hand were pushed away from it and the next thing he knew the world was spinning around him. It seemed that he fell in slow motion, an eternity until he reached the basement floor and gave a last, weak gurgle before the world went black around him.

It was dark when he woke -- strangely so, no light filtering in from anywhere, and surely there should have been some *somewhere*, shouldn't there have been?

He sat up gingerly, wondering if he'd broken anything in the fall. So far he felt fine, and was able to stand up and move forward fumbling for a light switch. He didn't find it; in the end, he didn't *need* it, for the strangest light seemed to be filling the room, a pale, glowing thing, tinged lightly with a pinkish red that made him shudder.

"Liar. *Betrayer*. How could you?" came the mournful question. "How could you? I thought you liked me. I liked *you*..."

That voice again! He was sure he'd escaped and there weren't any windows down here. Why was it still with him? "Wufei?" he called out nervously. "Why are you following me? I wasn't involved in your murder!"

"But you stopped!" came the miserable tear-filled voice. "You stopped and you stayed and you were so nice! And then you went to *HIM*!" Oh, and that was filled with *fury*, with an anger that was undeniable as the softly glowing boy came into view. His face was no longer filled with the black pits for eyes, but his throat was undeniably still mangled, blood slipping down from it in cascading gobbets, as if the stuff came from some never ending spring.

Recoiling back, Zechs willed himself not to gag and asked the apparition, "Wufei... I thought you were a real, living boy. I looked for you this morning... but you're not living anymore, and you shouldn't trouble the living. Why do you torment Treize? I can almost understand Eberbach -- almost -- but why Treize?"

"BECAUSE HE KILLED ME!" Wufei screamed, shaking his head wildly so that hair and blood alike flew from him. "*BECAUSE HE'S A MURDERER*!!"

Zechs drew back again, staring in horror at the boy before him. "No," he said faintly. "No... not Treize.... it was Eberbach... Treize was only the one who found you..."

"Treize, Treize!" Wufei mocked. "Treize was *jealous*! Deathly, horribly jealous!! Eberbach saw him do it on his way to meet *me*, because I'd promised to see him after Red Gloria got rid of him!"

Zechs was still shaking his head. The boy's words just wouldn't register. "No... it couldn't have been... Eberbach went crazy, just from thinking about it..."

"Whose word do you have for that?" the ghost asked him sarcastically. "You have only *his* word, and that of the librarian Une! She would believe him if he said the moon was made of green cheese! Eberbach..." Wufei sighed. "I tried to tell him, to show him that he needed to tell someone... poor Klaus..."

"And I have only *your* word as well," Zechs said, feeling around in back of himself, trying to find a light switch, or even the stairs...

Hesitantly, Wufei told him, "I wouldn't turn on the light, if I was you. Not just yet..."

"Why not?" Zechs challenged. "Are you afraid of it? You weren't last night... so many lamps in that house. " Zechs could feel anger rising in him, anger and more than a little hurt. "Were you just waiting there for someone to screw? I just happened to come along at the right time? What an idiot I was! And you did the same thing to half to people at this school, didn't you?"

"Just HIM," was the slightly sullen reply. "Him and Eberbach and Red Gloria... what does it matter? WHY would it matter? I had been alone for so long! You'd begrudge me that? You don't care, after all... don't care at all," came the bitter sigh. "I made a mistake..."

"I did care," Zechs said quietly. "I wouldn't have let you do what you did otherwise, no matter what you believe. But... if you can tell me where any kind of proof is, I'll make sure the police get hold of it. I promise you that."

"Zechs..." The voice seemed to soften, to fill with an unnamed dread. "You can't..."

"No, I want to. If... if you're really telling me the truth... and if he really did it, there must be evidence somewhere... and I can help get it to the police. They'll... they'll catch him. That's what you what, isn't it?"

The ghost shook his head slowly, sadly. "It's been ten years. They never even thought of him, never thought to check the knives in the kitchen. Besides. It's too late now..."

"Then I'll just tell them to check him out," Zechs said, feeling the wall in back of him now and trying to calculate where the stairs would be. It was frustrating that his eyes weren't accommodating to the darkness at *all*...

"I'll go right now... would that make you happy?"

"You really shouldn't, Zechs..." It was warning and wistfulness, all in one, the glow dimming in the darkness. "I'm warning you. You really shouldn't..."

"Why not?" Zechs said as he reached out in the darkness and felt for the stair railing. "Don't you want him convicted?"

"Zechs, you can't," was the sad reply. "You can't..."

At that moment, Zechs felt the tip of his fingers brush the railing and then he tripped over something and came down hard on top of it.

A body, warm but unmoving -- there in the basement with him the whole time. It had to have put there before he'd come down because there hadn't been a sound since then.

"W-Who is... who is this?" he whispered, feeling for the neck to check for a pulse. There was none.

"God, I have to tell someone! I have to get the police!"

"I'm sorry, Zechs," Wufei told him simply, his own glow rising exponentially. "You can't... you can't..."

Glaring at the specter, Zechs turned to the body. "Why do you keep say-"

Then his voice died away. The glow that came from the murdered boy had revealed the identity of the person at the foot of the stairs and Zechs Marquise felt a scream rise in his throat as he looked down upon his own, lifeless body.


The day of Zechs's funeral the weather was gray -- a soft, misty sort of day with the leaves gleaming orange and gold through the wisps of cloud come down to earth. The whole school turned out for the walk to the chapel where the casket lay, half open, making Zechs appear to be merely sleeping. It had taken the mortician quite a while to straighten out his neck, but the job was nicely done and expert make up had covered up the bruises.

He could have been a golden prince, waiting for a kiss to wake him up, and it made Treize miserable to think of him laying there, gone from him. /Oh, Zechs,/ he thought with a sigh, pausing there to look at him, wanting to reach out and touch. The scent of the gardenias piled atop the casket was almost sickening, and he shuddered slightly, concentrating only upon that beautiful face. /We could have had so much together.../

The sermon was brief, but moving, and many of the boys cried. When at last the pastor concluded, he gave a nod to the pallbearers and they moved forward, the chief one standing just in back of where Zechs's head lay upon a linen pillow. He brought the top of the casket slowly down over the blond man's face and its silver surface caught a dull gleam from one of the nearby windows.

Unable to help himself, Treize *gasped*, shuddering with sudden horror. /No... NO!!!/ "NO!" he moaned, shaking his head wildly, standing up shakily. "No, no, NO!"

No... For Wufei smiled at him viciously from the lid of the casket, bleeding throat gaping open to reveal the horrific wound he'd been given....

And next to him, now, another smiled -- Zechs, golden hair flowing around a neck that was crooked at a nauseatingly unnatural angle. Both of them, grinning at him...

Now, Eberbach wasn't the only one who was mad.