Dedicated to my Lola Apple and Loony-chan ^^

Dying.

Her nineteen-year-old mind was too young to even imagine the weight of such abstract word. She clasped and unclasped her hands, all the while feeling the cold rush of sweat from within her. She was reared to think of that word as a beautiful surrender to the Kingdom of God, to be taken by the cherubs and the angels and be enveloped with their wings.

But this stormy night, when not even her trusty guardian, Marco, or her trusted confidant, Lyserg Diethyl, was not around, was not how she imagined she would leave the world.

Her scarlet eyes roved around the empty halls of the convent. The nuns who kept her company were still probably held back by this awful torrential rain; they were in a distant town giving away relief goods. She bit her lip. No one would be around to bless her when she leaves.

How did she know she was going to breathe her last air tonight? It wasn't just Tamamura Tamao's prediction. She could feel it. The cruel Iron Maiden that abused her young body and soul in the name of heaven's dispense of eternal reward and damnation – she knew it finally took its toll on her.

"I will die tonight," she mused, a bitter smile on her face. "Lonely and cold."

A tall man with a dirty, worn-out shroud around his body sighed as the rain poured heavily. "Just my luck," he said. "Getting stranded in a storm with no decently-sized cave or tree taller than a bonsai to give shelter to me." He trudged on, enduring the cruel lashes of the chilly wind and needle-like downpour on his back.

"Too far from Funbari…and from Izumo." He weighed his options. Now that he lost his Shamanic abilities since his brother defeated him in the shaman fight a decade ago, he once again came to a conclusion that his options now were limited.

"I could use my Spirit of Fire right now," he said woefully, but the genki smile remained on his lips. "I need something warm. If I am to die tonight in the middle of the storm just because I didn't have enough sense to buy an umbrella or a raincoat to replace my mantle…I'll be damned."

His eyes then spotted an edifice of some kind on the north. From his place, he could see the towering crucifix on its roof, with the frighteningly angry strikes of lightning as the backdrop.

"This is the last place someone with my reputation would go to, but I have no choice," he said to himself as he hastened his pace. "I know that even formerly powerful shamans like me possesses bodies that are impressive conductors of electricity."

Jeanne suddenly jolted awake when she heard the heavy wooden convent doors open and shut. She looked out at the window; it was still raining like there was no tomorrow, and it was impossible for the nuns to make it back.

"Maybe a lost traveler," she thought as she weakly gathered herself and walked down the stairs.

 She went to the main worship room to welcome the unexpected guest, and instead found a tall, long-haired man with a familiar aura and even more familiar outfit, drenched to the bone.

"Asakura Hao," she said, her eyebrows knitted.

Hao thought what he was seeing before him – the matured version of the nine-year-old girl who dared to get into the way of his world domination plans - was a mirage caused by his overexposure to the storm. But when she spoke his name, in her usual soft but authoritative voice filled with barely-concealed contempt, he knew that it was not an optical illusion.

Besides, common sense told him that the condition of the lower strata of the air are at a very different temperature from the higher strata was not present, thus producing a reflection was impossible.  Plain good ol' common sense.

"Iron Maiden Jeanne," he said, the name rolling out of his tongue pleasantly. It felt good to see someone so familiar unexpectedly after a decade of aimless wandering.

"You were the last person I would expect to enter the holy temple of God," she said coldly.

"I thought so too," he agreed. "If I haven't seen this personally, I wouldn't have believed it either. Ah well, your God is my God too, if only for a temporary shelter from that unkind storm."

"Blasphemy!" she hissed, her scarlet eyes roaring in flaming wrath.

"Jeanne-sama, spare me the sermon. I'm cold, I'm drenched, and I'm hungry," he said, smiling lazily. He didn't exactly look like the three things he just mentioned.

Jeanne thought so too, but she motioned him to follow her. She gestured to the table and proceeded to the stock room. She returned with a towel and an alb.

"Is that a table cloth?" he asked disdainfully as he looked at the white garment she was holding.

"I know it pales in comparison to your leather pants and buckles and boots, and that silly mantle you are wearing, but make do with this," she said in a blank tone.

"Touchy," he remarked as he toweled himself dry. She disappeared from the room once more and returned with a cup of steaming black coffee.

"Is this in the house too?" he asked, amused.

She didn't reply. She sat down in front of him, hands placed primly on the table as she watched him dry himself and drink the coffee at the same time.

He paused and smiled cheekily. "Will I have the liberty to change into this table cloth without your hawk eyes all over me, Iron Maiden?"

His outspokenness took her by surprise. No one had dared make fun of her that way! Blush tinted her pale cheeks. "Yes, you will," she said, voice shaking in anger. "And I implore you to address me with the respect that I deserve."

He looked at her blankly, then shrugged. She, on the other hand, got up. "You may stay in here until the storm is through. Refrain however from committing arson. Mother Superior will be displeased, especially since each of the utensils here costs quite a fortune."

He stared at her, then chuckled. "Are you making a joke? Am I supposed to laugh?"

Her blood boiled. "No, I was not making a joke. I was laying down a rule. Hao Asakura, I have long buried the hatchet ten years ago, when your brother told me that you have reformed yourself into a wandering priest that exorcizes evil spirits in towns you visit. Do not force me to dig that hatchet and slam it on your head."

He burst out laughing. "Wow, Jeanne-sama, your humor has improved, I must say. Do you say that to your fellow nuns here?" He looked around. "Which reminds me…where is your bodyguard?"

"Bodyguard?"

"The fine blond man who couldn't stop himself from throwing death glares at me whenever our paths cross," he explained.

"Marco?"

"I believe so."

She shrugged. "He is dispensing his duties in the secular world."

"Fine way to say that he quitted being your…how do you say that? Hatchet man?" he asked, eyes twinkling.

"I also beseech you to not make fun of his good soul, Hao Asakura. I give you my second warning," she said.

"I don't remember the first!" he protested. "Ah, alright then. Where is the dowser?"

"Lyserg Diethyl is in London, if you must know, continuing his studies," she snapped, wondering when the rain would let up. She would much rather have her desolation awhile ago than conversing with Hao in civil manners this animal didn't deserve.

"No one is keeping you company tonight?" he asked, frowning. She could have sworn there was concern in his voice. Before she could react, he spoke again. "Then the rain was a blessing in a disguise. I will be with you tonight."

She was aghast. She couldn't believe that he had the audacity to suggest such a preposterous idea. My last night will be spent with the person I hate the most. This has got to be a joke…one big cosmic joke.

He was amused by the open aversion on her face. "Jeanne-sama, try to contain your alacrity. Whether you admit it or not, you are faced by the danger of strangers coming into this convent. At least with me around…"

"You are insane, Hao Asakura!" she whispered fiercely. "Nothing could possibly terrify me more than the thought of a whole night with you. YOU."

"I give you the word of an onmyouji, Jeanne-sama," he said earnestly. "You shall not be touched against your will." He got up and took the alb with him.

It had been hours, and yet, the driving rain kept on coming. Jeanne stepped away from the window and clasped her hands together. It was cold, bitterly cold. And she hated the thought that it was the commencement of her soul parting.

She lied down on her bed again and shut her eyes. She was afraid to face death. She didn't know how it would feel…would it hurt? Would it feel like air being strangled from her lungs?

Sleep. Maybe if I sleep, I would go peacefully.

But the coldness was crushing her bones. She realized with a falling heart that she wanted something warm to envelop her.

Furyoku. Yes, that would solve her problem. But first, she must awaken it from its hibernation, after ten long years of suppressing it. And the only person she knew that held the power to that was the person staying in the next room.

She hesitated, but a minute later, she decided to swallow her pride. She wouldn't see him in the morning anyway, wouldn't hear his insults.

She quietly approached the room and knocked on his door.

Hao was just starting to sleep when he heard the knock on the door. He frowned, then spoke up. "The door is open."

In came Jeanne, looking innocently ethereal in her nightgown. Her slender and shapely body concealed by her ridiculous habit was revealed in her cotton gown. She looked particularly nervous, which amused him greatly. The Jeanne-sama entering a male's room in the middle of a cold, rainy night, escortless — he didn't know what to make out of it.

"I came here to ask a favor," she began.

He smiled at her, prompting her to go on.

"Y-You see…my furyoku…after years of not being used…has gone to sleep…and for it to wake up, I must be…in a state of…stirring and high emotion," she stammered. By the small light from the candles he lit awhile ago, he saw how her face flushed.

"You need to be aroused," he said matter-of-factly.

Her eyes widened in surprise and embarrassment. She licked her lips nervously. "Y-Yes, I must be…excited. Yes, that's the word for it…excited."

"Why do you need your furyoku all of a sudden?" he wanted to know. He loved how the lovely woman before him twisted in discomfort.

She ignored his question. "The other favor I shall ask of you is to not ask questions."

Hao was intrigued; very, very intrigued. But at the same time, there was a strangely unpleasant feeling building up within him. The way Jeanne spoke…

"All right," he said. "But I must remind you that I gave you my word that you will not be touched without your initial movement."

She froze. "W-What do you want me to do then?"

"Initiate the contact," he said simply.

She suddenly wished that the earth below would swallow her whole right now. How in the world would she do that? He looked at his face, blank as a paper. He wasn't going to make things easy for her, that was for sure.

Trembling, she stepped towards him and bent down to meet his face. He was seated on the bed, waiting for what she would do next.

Slowly, she moved her delicate hand to the side of his face, and was strangely warmed by the pulse she could feel at the base of his ear. It was synchronized to her own heartbeat.

Then slowly, uncertainly, she lowered her lips into him and touched them. She didn't know how to kiss, but when she was about to let go, his hand rushed to the back of her head and pulled her down to him once again. Their lips met; his mouth crushed her with sweet, fiery passion that nearly made her lose her consciousness. His kiss seared deeper into her, and slowly, something within her was starting to inflame.

"Your furyoku?" he murmured in between their kisses.

She nodded. "Yes, a little more, please…" Her voice itself was feverish and rough. She had no idea that it burned the blood running around the Asakura male's body.

"Of course, Jeanne," he said as his hand ran at the base of her smooth, long silver locks. No one had ever touched her hair that was perpetually covered by her bonnet. His hand massaging it sent thousands of tiny shocks of electricity within her, add to the fact that his mouth was playfully teasing her mouth, knowing just which part was sensitive.

His hands brushed down to her neck, and to the smooth skin of her slender neck. His lips followed, leaving trails of burning kisses everywhere his lips pass. She let out a moan—one she would never have thought she could ever make. It was a sound of primitive cry, one of pure ecstasy. This couldn't be possible…how come her hours of meditation couldn't give her this kind of pleasure?

Because it's sinful. It's lust. It's earthly pleasure, she thought miserably.

Hao looked up at her for a second. "You must concentrate on the furyoku, Jeanne. I could feel it dying down."

"I'm sorry." But it came out as a gasp when his hands traveled down to her waist, then to her buttocks. She felt him gather all of her, and the next thing she knew, she was lying on the bed, hair spread all over the pillow, as Hao's figure loomed over her.

"Work with me, love. Think not of guilt; this is once in a lifetime," he whispered as he unbuttoned her gown. "Your furyoku will roar to life, I promise you that."

She gasped when his hands began to explore the valley between her shoulders. He was expertly massaging each peak, kneading it gently. She felt herself wrench anxiously below him as her hand tugged on the strings of his garment. She blocked the shame forming within her; all she wanted was to feel him the way he was feeling her, to show him what he was doing to her…this sinfully delicious sensation.

Her small hands finally slid into the loose garment. Her hands caressed his burning skin, her fingers equally burning. She touched him where he touched her, just as she began to drop her inhibitions. She kissed his mouth with equal fire, knowing fully well that her furyoku was not anymore her intention for continuing this far.

She let out a moan of protest when his mouth left hers, but she was quickly appeased when she felt it claim one of her peaks. She arched her body and her hands found their way to the back of his head, pushing him harder to her.

And he moaned as well, as he tasted and teasingly played with the outermost edge of her breasts. She shut her eyes, writhing in pleasure she had never known had existed before.

 His other hand was busy with her other peak, and just when she thought she had felt the highest of all pleasures, his other hand traveled down to her navel, and lower. His lips followed, and her eyes flapped open when she realized what he was intending to do.

"N-No…" Her words vanished into thin air and were replaced by a series of moans. His mouth was worshipping the most sacred part of her body. She shut her eyes, unable to comprehend anymore the situation, the time, the circumstances. She felt like she was floating in the air, a helpless receiver of these sensual pleasures she once thought were forbidden and evil.

"Jeanne, here," he heard him murmur, placing the ball of his palm on top of her lips. "If it hurts, bite it. It will hurt at first, but I'll do my best not to do it so much," he said, eyes tender.

She nodded dumbly, and slowly, she felt him enter her body, just as thunder crashed outside the window. Pain singed her tender body, and she automatically bit his hand. But after a few moments, the pain gradually disappeared. It was being replaced by the exhilarating feeling of something within her finding the missing piece, just like a jigsaw puzzle that took so long to complete.

"Hao…" she cried. His lips found hers, and soon, she could feel herself dancing along the ancient rhythm of love. She tried to match his pace, and she nearly cried when she did. Together, they reached the peak, and she felt herself burst into tears of joy.

So this is life…and how life is made. It's a miracle.

She felt Hao fall on top of her, making small licks on her sweaty face. "I hope I didn't hurt you…" he murmured. "You… are so precious, Jeanne."

"Hao…" Her vision blurred, and was soon overtaken by overwhelming darkness, blinding her. But she was at peace, feeling his breath fan her face.

Outside, the rain had slowly lost its power.

Hao watched as Jeanne smiled contentedly and drifted off to her eternal slumber. He leaned over and kissed her forehead. "Sleep tight, angel."

end