Dear Readers,

This is the concluding chapter of Phantom Destiny! It has been a wonderful experience writing this monster. Thank you all for your support and feedback all along the way!

If there's interest, I may write an Epilogue to follow the ending, but this is the conclusion of my crazy story! I hope you enjoy it! As always, I'd love to hear your reactions.

If anyone's wondering about my next project, I'm writing a webcomic! If you like the kind of characters and drama in this story, you're likely to enjoy the comic as well. You can find it at strangecompanythecomic dot com.

Love,

Kat

Part 44 – Phantom Destiny

"Honey, you know what I said. No reading while you're grounded."

The boy raised a long-suffering look to his mother, setting the magazine aside. "It's not even a novel, Mom."

"No reading while you're grounded," she repeated with all the energy of a parent unaccustomed to upholding a punishment. He was usually so good, he never got into trouble.

"It's just a magazine. You took my novels…" Jirou muttered.

His mother sighed and flipped on the TV. The careless banter of a sitcom filled the quiet of the house.

"I wasn't lying."

"Jirou, I'm done arguing with you about this."

"He was real!" He frowned as his mother just focused on the television. "He could be in trouble," the boy lamented quietly. The worry on his face was impossible to fake.

"Not a very good feeling, is it? Being worried?" his mother said seriously. "How do you think it affects me when you just disappear without explaining where you're going? Knowing you're hurt and could be in trouble. You even showed up with that suspicious woman…"

"Shira's a good guy!" Jirou countered. "…I think."

"There are no such things as good guys and bad guys. Or magical spells, or flying men with wings. These things simply aren't real, Jirou." Her look softened with concern. "I know it's been hard for you with your father gone. I know it's been hard to make friends at school, and books can be a wonderful escape. I wish you would tell me how I can help you, instead of making up these stories."

"I'm not!" Jirou insisted in a tone better suited to foot-stamping than the earnest, desperate expression he was wearing.

"In two weeks, you can have the books back. No sooner. And I want you to start meeting with Dr. Schroeder again."

Jirou looked down at his lap, frustration budding tears in his eyes. His mother turned toward the TV, not far from tears herself.

"We must interrupt this broadcast to bring you an important news bulletin," the program on the screen shifted over to black for a few moments, and then picked up on a young female news anchor standing in a deserted street. "Hello, I'm Nina Iwatami, Tokyo News. I'm standing near Azumano park, where a series of unexplainable events at a GorudoCorp press conference just left hundreds fleeing for safety. Minutes ago, GorudoCorp CEO Christopher Gorudo was witnessed literally shifting into the man known as Dark Mousey, on stage before thousands of people. He was then attacked by a second angelic creature with white wings who has not been identified.

Minutes ago, a third angel appeared who, unlike the others, seems focused on attacking the city itself. His powers appear drastically stronger than we've seen from Dark or White Dark. He is currently engaging military units from the air in downtown Azumano. Officials are asking all local residents to remain inside on a low-level floor until more is understood about this attack.

She pressed her finger to her earpiece for a minute while obvious explosions burst up behind her. "Hold on. I'm just getting this. Dark Mousey is currently engaging the super-angel above the city. She glanced up away from the camera and gestured wildly for the cameraman to shift from her to the sky. "This is developing very quickly, folks. Dark is holding his white-winged counterpart in his arms. It is not clear if the two intend to protect the city at this point, or do further harm." The camera jiggled skyward and focused in on the figures in the air. The silver super angel was surrounded by so much magical power that it was difficult to make him out through the glow. Nearby, Dark was hanging back from the melee, focused on the prostrate form in his arms.

"Krad!" Jirou gasped, forgetting his crutches as he leapt toward the TV. His leg went limp and dropped him unceremoniously on the family room carpet. The fall didn't faze him. "He looks hurt. Mom, he's in serious trouble!" the boy gasped as he stared at the white-winged form on the screen.

His mother was standing now, her eyes equally bound to the screen. "Oh my God," she murmured. She broke from the newscast and leaned down, pulling her boy into her arms. Securing him against her shoulder, she rushed to the North side of the house and threw the curtain wide. The sky at the other end of town was stained with dark smoke.

Jirou turned in her arms to stare with her at the swirling gray cloud over Azumano Park.

"My boy. My dear, sweet boy," his mother whispered, holding him tight. Her gaze grew firm as she looked at him. "The good guys are fighting, Jirou. What do you want to do?"

He blinked as he realized she was trusting him. If he said he was needed, she might even take him to Krad's side. The thought brought tears to his eyes. He shook his head slowly. "I'll get in his way. I want to keep you safe," he said, sounding ten years older than he was. "We should get to the basement, now. Wait until he's won."

His mother nodded proudly. "Yes," she murmured. "I hope he'll win."

-oOoOo-

"Krad?" Dark asked of the gold-eyed man in his arms, wondering again if he'd made some mistake with the spell. The hits he'd already taken were making a mess of his head. He'd never wanted so badly to hear his rival's coherent voice. "Krad," he called again, keeping a sharp eye on the terrible beauty of the Black Wings in the distance. The silver angel seemed more concerned with the human world below than on his incomplete halves, at least for the moment. "Can you move?"

The blonde's vacant expression slowly focused. He blinked and turned his head with effort to study his too-close counterpart. "Mousy?" he muttered.

Dark released the breath he'd been holding as Krad pushed away from him irritably and showed the thief a feral scowl. The white angel's personality seemed about intact.

"What is this?" Krad murmured as he took note of their altitude and studied the seemingly vacant wreckage below them. Tanks and other vehicles stood arranged in defensive formations around half-demolished streets. Other equipment had been overturned or mutilated in ways no human operator could survive. He squinted at the empty human city. Weapons were firing up at the sky, as if on their own. Someone had to be firing them. Why couldn't he see anyone?

Right… I'm dead.

Light that was too focused to be daylight filled the blonde's peripheral vision. Too late, he noticed an ethereal silver form glaring at him from several hundred feet away. A blast of magic wrapped him in pain, ripping skin on his face and chest.

"What are you doing? Dodge!" Dark snapped from off to his left, grabbing the blonde's white coat and tugging him sideways before another strike could hit him. The thief set his jaw against the anxiety building in the pit of his stomach. His so-called backup was already bleeding all over the place. "Get in the game, Krad!"

"The Black Wings," Krad was staring at the perfected artform in front of them. A bitter smile crossed his face as he admired the elegant silver wings and marble skin. So that was what perfection looked like. That was the true masterpiece the Hikaris had intended. "Heh. Doesn't look like me at all," he whispered, his grin fading.

"Help me fight him," Dark squeezed the blonde's arm to regain his attention. Something was off about his counterpart.

Too-calm gold eyes assessed him. "We're already dead, Dark."

"We'll manage something. Maybe we could find a way to get our bodies back." Dark didn't like the passive frown on the blonde's face. Something wasn't right. "Krad, there's no time!"

A desperate coldness entered the white angel's expression, chilling Dark's hand on his arm.

The thief jerked his hand back and stared at his inverse. "I don't get it. You've obsessed over that body for centuries, and now it isn't even worth fighting for?"

The blonde's gaze shifted to the ground below. "No." The harsh gold eyes were cool and certain.

Dark was about to prod him again when the emptiness of that cold, solemn gaze sank in. The thief's heart jerked in his chest as he realized what that look meant. "The boy needs you, Krad," he breathed, trying to imagine what it felt like to honestly not expect to be missed. To be so sure of it that it was better to just stay dead. Used to it enough to accept it so calmly.

The worst part was, he wasn't even sure enough to believe his own words. Truthfully, he was pretty certain the world would be a safer place without Krad in it. God.

He shook himself free of the guilty thought, as if spitting out a poison, and tried to remember to be pissed. "We can't see them, but the humans are all down there, and they're getting their butts kicked. This isn't about us, anymore. You hear me, Krad? They're definitely going to lose!" he growled.

He was too distracted with his argument to notice the Black Wings losing patience behind them. If the super-statue hadn't been focusing half his attention on the human plane below, they'd both be torn apart by now.

The attack caught the thief in the head and blew him sideways. Pain threw a blaze of neon across the angel's vision. Completely unbridled power ripped into his bones, as casually as snapping a twig. He was too strong. Ridiculously strong. Dark yelped in shock and threw his wings out wildly, too dizzy with pain to know which way to stabilize. He was falling. Shit. No no no. He couldn't do this alone. He was going to lose, after everything. He'd lose the people he loved. He'd lose himself.

A strong grip closed over the thief's wrist. Dark was too pain-bleary to see straight, but the hand that had grabbed him stopped his momentum by swinging him around and boomeranging him back the way he'd come.

*You want my help, do some of the work,* a golden voice chilled the inside of his mind. Dark's vision scrambled back into focus as he found himself hurtling straight toward the Black Wings. He narrowly flailed out of the way of a magical blast and managed to brace his arm outward, clotheslining the silver-winged statue as they collided. They rolled end over end in the air. Dark felt a fist blow into his stomach, renewing the pounding in his head.

Well, if there was one thing he knew how to do, it was brawl. He grabbed the offending arm before it could get away and threw his knee into the super-angel's chest. The Black Wings jerked back and slugged him in the face.

"You're starting to piss me off, oh great and shiny one," Dark snarled through the fire in his jaw.

"Then lie down and submit," the silver angel offered, his voice so beautifully ethereal that it almost sounded like a generous invitation and not a threat.

Dark drew his fist back to slug his opponent's too-perfect face, but a magical grip took hold of his hand, like he'd been caught in cement. The Black Wings smiled at him, cruelty lining the corners of his pure silver gaze. White lightning crackled to life in his hand. He pressed the spell slowly against Dark's chest, like he was putting a finishing touch on a painting.

Electricity violated every nerve in the thief's body, ripping his senses open. Dark screamed, deep and awful, until even those firing upward from the street below tore their attention from the Black Wings to Dark. The thief wrestled with frantic urgency to get away from the contact, but the Black Wings pursued. The powerful being wrapped an arm around Dark's convulsing form, forcing him still and pressing the sphere of crackling energy deeper against his chest. A new kind of desperation ripped through Dark's raw voice.

A few yards away, Krad studied the superior angel's movements. Dark's screams should have been a welcome sound, but observing the fight was proving more difficult than expected. Krad had never heard the thief sound like that. It turned his stomach.

An orb of golden energy formed instinctively in the blonde's palm. He held it there, while Dark's voice seemed to strangle the atmosphere around him. It took deliberation, but the blonde finally drew his arm back and fired the spell. The globe of power burst into the Black Wings' skull and stunned him sideways. Dark slid limply from the angel's grasp.

*Crowfeathers. Oy!*

Violet eyes squinted open to a blurry sea of white and gold. At first glance, through the sick blaze of pain in his raw nerves, Dark thought Krad was falling with him. His throbbing chest hurt too much to speak, so he stared and collected his bearings. The strong arms supporting his frame in the air slowly filtered in through his jarred senses. He was being lifted.

*Dark,* Krad tried again.

The thief's eyes focused with raptor-sharpness on the blonde holding him. The thief's condition transformed from seemingly prone to flushed and angry in the space of a wingbeat. Dark twisted in Krad's grip and smacked the blonde across the face with a single, loud clap. *Bastard,* the angel snarled, unwanted pain-tears still wet on his cheeks. *How long were you going to watch?*

Krad stilled in the air. The slap had startled him, just as Dark's hurt reaction did. He denied the urge to remember the way Satoshi had hit him earlier, but his nerves remembered anyway. Even though he'd lain dying, the boy had struck him. Why had he even tried to do that with his wing host…what had he been thinking? He tore himself from the memory, hurting, and took it out on his counterpart.

*Until it grew boring, or until it got too amusing to let him have all the fun,* he smiled harshly at the thief.

It was the wrong thing to say. Krad thought he actually saw the lights fade in the thief's eyes. *Get out of my head. Now.* The fury was tangible in the black angel's mental growl. Krad released Dark's limbs and watched as the angel stiffly balanced himself in the air.

"I was watching for a weakness," Krad said out loud, dropping the attitude to avoid a repeat of their mutually assured destruction earlier.

"And?" Dark's bruised voice demanded.

"He's distracted with the human realm. He can't focus on both at once," Krad said as he chased after his bitter counterpart. "While we're laying into him, the human attacks seem to actually have effect. If we forced his attention to us fully enough and long enough, the humans could win."

Dark looked at him. That actually sounded like a reasonable plan. "You'll cooperate?"

"It will take two of us," the angel replied distantly.

-o0o0o-OOO-o0o0o-

"We need to move out of here." Hattori's rational voice cut through the roar of explosions and gunfire outside.

"We're not moving," Risa had to shout to overcome the noise. She leaned out past the roof of the garage they'd taken cover in to get a better idea of what was happening up in the sky.

"Look, this building's coming down any minute now. If they could defeat that thing, they'd have done it already." The vet frowned as Daisuke, Risa, and even Satoshi went on gazing upward as if nothing had happened. "If you want to die, that's your choice, but I'm gonna start running," he grumbled. "If you care about your sister's safety, you'll do the same. She needs to be seen for that head wound."

Risa turned a dark look on the man. "Like I don't know that! Do you really think she's safer being carried out in a hail of gunfire?"

"Something's happening," Satoshi waved them back to attention. Risa and Hattori both returned to his side at the edge of the garage, looking up in hopeful desperation.

"It's like they're working together," Risa murmured, her tone experimental, as though she might yet decide not to believe her own words.

Above, the form of the Black Wings seemed to be struggling in the air. The fire of the police and special forces was ricocheting off a spherical shield that surrounded the super-angel, but the light flickered each time the forcefield was hit. As for what exactly was going on up there, it was almost impossible to see. Even without the growing smoke from the battle below, the winged figures were clashing too rapidly to follow. Daisuke had his phone out, zooming the camera to its max setting, but the winged forms were just quick blips on the screen.

"Come on, Dark," the redhead pleaded. "Please be okay."

"Our attacks are hitting," Satoshi whispered. "They're hitting!"

"You're sure? Why now and not before?" Hattori squinted up into the sky.

"They must be keeping him distracted somehow….probably magic. A lot of it," Satoshi murmured.

"Can they keep it up?" the vet queried, remembering how magic use had affected the angels before.

The bluenette shook his head and squinted through the dirty window at the fabulous display of magic above them. The sky was peppered with flashes of gold and violet, and nearly overwhelmed with great resounding flashbangs of silver. He tried to imagine how much magic it cost to maintain that kind of lightshow. It hurt just to think of the toll that much power would take. The bluenette spun toward the exit and made a dash for the street.

"Whoah!" Daisuke grabbed his friend's arm and hauled against his momentum. "You can't do anything to help the police. You're wanted for murder , remember? We have to let those two handle it!"

Blazing blue eyes met scarlet. "Whatever they're doing up there, they can't do it for long. They'll burn up."

"Do you think I don't know that too?" Daisuke demanded. The grimness in his eyes seemed to age him by ten years.

"I get it Dai, but I'm not going to sit here and hope to be saved by Dark. Any second now, there might be nothing left that can stop that freak. We need to hit him with something big," Satoshi muttered. "Something precise enough to strike an airborne target."

"Well, looks like they got part of the idea right," Hattori murmured, gazing out a small window on the adjacent wall. "Holy shit…"

An instant later, all four of them were crowded around the tiny window. One by one, they picked up on what Hattori had seen. A huge, tank-like vehicle sporting a 20-foot vertical capsule was steamrolling down the center of the street, climbing over cars and rubble like they were soda cans.

"Sato…what is that?" Risa asked in a daze.

The bluenette stared at the huge piece of equipment while it lumbered past, its sheer weight sending the contents of the garage around them into a rattling chorus of metal and cement. The windowpane trembled in its dusty frame. "That's a tactical ballistic missile," he breathed.

"Can that get him?" Daisuke demanded.

"That could 'get' a whole city block if it were launched into the ground." Satoshi's skin had gone pale.

"He won't have a chance," Hattori smirked.

"What about Dark?" Risa's voice was shaking.

Satoshi stared up at the three angels fighting in close proximity in the sky. His throat was dry as he swallowed. He shook his head with glazed-open eyes.

"Whoah, wait. They're going to take down all three of them?"

"It's their only choice," Satoshi said tightly. "I would give exactly the same order if I were at the helm."

A warning siren, devastatingly loud, made them all jump. "All on the ground, take cover!" a megaphoned voice echoed across the abandoned streets. "You in the air, Mousy and white wings, if you are our allies, keep that monster still!"

The group stared up at the smoke-blurred skies. Slowly, a shape began to take form above the city. A huge spiral of golden light cut a bright path through the smoky air, like mystical skywriting, until the contrail took up a third of the horizon. The rings spun inward and inward, coiling to a centerpoint bright enough to see through the smoke. Flashes of gold, silver and violet collided like an electrical storm in the middle.

"What the heck is that?" Hattori blinked at the strangely beautiful display of magic.

Daisuke's expression was grim with fear. "That….I believe…is a target."

"They're going to try to hold him," Satoshi confirmed. His mouth felt dry. "They see the warhead."

A roaring explosion signaled that the launch was firing. Flames spewed from the base of the missile and flooded the street like a barbecue.

"No…No! They'll be destroyed! Stop it!" Risa screamed, breaking for the door.

"Risa, no!" Satoshi grabbed her around the waist and held her with them. She spun and punched at his slender but strong body, trying to break free. "Let go, Satoshi! Let me go!" she sobbed while the bluenette kept his grip without a word.

Daisuke stood trembling and still, watching the missile accelerate skyward. Tears gathered in his eyes and then streamed down his cheeks, blurring his vision until the explosion rendered them all blind.

It was difficult to make anything out at first. Dust filled the barely-standing garage, and the ground was covered in broken glass and tools that had previously hung on the walls. The five of them were all on the ground, covered in dust. The ringing in his ears was all Satoshi could make out from the chaotic noise around him.

"Everyone okay?" Hattori was asking, crawling on his knees through the dust to stay low where the air was freshest.

"Fine over here."

"Here too."

"Us too."

Satoshi took a deep breath as everyone's voices were accounted for. "Everyone crawl for the door. This place could collapse."

It took about 90 seconds for the group to recover enough to escape the garage and make it to the clearer air outside. Risa had carried Riku with her from the smoke. She could be scary strong when she was frightened. One by one, they each turned their gaze back to the smoke-frayed sky above them. There was little to see except the huge black cloud of smoke, gradually dispersing across the skyline. Police and emergency crews were shouting all around them, trying to regain control of the scene. To the small group, it was all white noise. All that mattered was what, if anything, was still twitching above that dark plume.

As if in answer, a silver light burst like a starbeam, shooting out across the sky in every direction. A fierce BOOM cracked through the air, and then the light faded. The activity in the streets went still as the fierce explosion rocked the skies.

Moments passed, and a city waited in wary anticipation. Nothing else moved. The sky blended gradually to an azure blue, the smoke sweeping outward in a ring from that last burst of power.

"There," Risa said sharply. Two thin streaks of light arced down from the center of the ring, fiery orange like falling meteorites. The bright beams struck the center of the neighboring field at the same time, sending up matching clouds of dirt upon impact.

"I'll take Riku. Go. Go go go!" Hattori breathed, though the others needed no urging. Even as the police and military began the same task, Daisuke and Satoshi beat them to it, racing across the street toward the center of the field with Risa just behind them and Hattori carrying Riku's unconscious weight at the rear.

"Dark!" Daisuke shouted as he ran through the haze of debris. He nearly tripped over the still form at his feet. Dropping to his knees, he squinted into the dusty air and reached down to brush the layer of dirt away from the figure in front of him. Once-white fabric that was now clogged with dirt became visible beneath his hands. Daisuke froze, blinking at the perfectly still body.

"Daisuke," Satoshi called to him thinly from ten feet away. The redhead glanced up and spotted the dusty silhouette of his friend, who was kneeling in similar fashion. "He's here."

In an unspoken agreement, the two boys stumbled to their feet and traded places, while the sirens wailed in the distance.

"ATTENTION. CIVILIANS, STEP AWAY FROM THE FIELD."

"He's not breathing. Dai, he's not breathing!" Risa cried, inches away in the smoke.

"We'll do CPR. Now!" Hattori commanded, checking for a pulse. Daisuke obeyed quickly. He placed his palm and fist above the angel's heart and began thrusting. "No good," Hattori commented on the pulse. He tilted Dark's head back and gave him three slow breaths.

"WE REPEAT, ALL NON-MILITARY PERSONNEL ARE TO CLEAR THE AREA."

"Shut up, shut up shut up!" Daisuke began to shake. Risa carefully positioned her hands behind the boy's trembling arms and took over.

Armed soldiers and police slowly filtered in around the strange scene. One by one, they lowered their weapons as they observed the group's frantic efforts to revive the too-still thief.

"Should we take them into custody, sir?" an officer asked his boss.

The man studied the scene soberly. "No," the sergeant muttered, noting the tears streaking down Daisuke and Risa's faces and the stunned look in his former police commander's eyes.

"No. No… Just get them an ambulance."

-oo-oOoOOOoOo-oo-

Love, and an overwhelming sense of loss, were the first things to flood his mind. The feelings were so strong that they stung at his soul, sweeping him up in a sense of hopeless fear. 'What…where am I?' he thought blindly. He sensed nothing of normal feeling or sound around him, nothing of the outside world. There was only this emotion, thick as oil.

As overbearing as it was, he clutched onto it tightly. It meant something. It was important. Why was it important?

The feeling wasn't his. This fear…Why wasn't it his?

Love, unyielding and painful, wrapped around him so tight he could hardly breathe. He stretched out his mind, following that emotion to its source.

He felt it then. A hard surface beneath him, he was sitting. It was a small room, very pale, sunlight filtering across the plain bed. Machines whirred in the corner, hooked up to the figure in the blankets. He'd been there a long time, such a very long time. Waiting. There in the bed, was…..was what? He fought the confusion of the alien sensations in his mind, and worked hard to see what was there in the sheets, but all he had were senses, feelings. Hope was in that bed. Love was in that bed.

Just as he thought he might understand, his chest caught ablaze with pain. Chest. He had a chest. He was no longer in the chair. He was lying down, and he was burning. He swallowed, and his throat felt dry as sand. His muscles churned. He felt them all, now, as if he were rediscovering arms and legs he'd not used in ages.

His amethyst eyes flashed wide. Rapidly dilating pupils took in the window just beside him, the sheets covering his bare torso. He wasn't in a chair at all. He was in a bed. It was him. He'd been watching himself all this time? No, that didn't make sense…

The angel forced himself calm and still until his stumbling mind could piece it together. The relief in his rediscovered muscles left him shivering faintly.

*It's okay, Dark. You're going to be okay. I'm right here.*

The voice pulled him slowly back to focus. Love and happiness blossomed through the mental link he'd just heard. His heart swelled desperately as he noticed the connection. Daisuke…

"Daisuke!" the thief breathed through a dry throat, realizing now who had been in the chair, watching him, warming his mind while he was trapped in the blackness. He shot upright, the sheets spilling off of his torso. "Daisu-" he broke off as he turned to the chair he knew would be beside him.

Gentle brown eyes watched him cautiously, brimming with relief. The brunette crossed her ankles and sat very straight as she watched him from the chair. "I'm sorry, Dark," her soft voice broke the confused silence. She smiled gently and clasped her hands in her lap. A tendril of sadness crept through the mental link. *I'm sorry… I'm not Daisuke.* I thought I'd lost you, she thought desperately. My God, I thought I'd truly lost you this time.

He stared at her, violet eyes glowing. "I don't think I understand," he murmured, his ears roaring as the blood rushed back into them. Then, it finally occurred to him that she hadn't spoken the words out loud. "You're inside me," he demanded, startled.

Risa flinched as she felt his emotions recoil into a tight, impervious knot, blocking her out. Well…of course he would feel that way. Who would want a stranger in their mind? She fought not to feel bitten.

"When the Black Wings split apart…it seems in the chaos, it selected the wing hosts differently. We've known since your vital signs returned, but you've been outcold all this time. You've been in a coma, Dark."

The angel blinked, just staring. "How long?"

"About three weeks," she murmured, her eyes glossy again. The sorrow and relief radiated into Dark's mind from hers.

His brows furrowed. He focused on the connection, and placed it, for sure this time. "It's you. You're my wing host?"

"Yeah," she said with a nervous smile. "I'm sure it's a shock."

Dark worked at a knot in his throat. "Where is he?"

"On a supply run with Hattori. I'm sorry, he wanted to be here when you woke up. He's been worried sick…" She trailed off as she picked up the lost, empty look in Dark's eyes. Of course the angel wanted his soulmate. She could hardly replace the bond they'd had. Or maybe after all these people battling over his mind, he would have preferred privacy, instead of yet another soul bonded to his. "S…Sorry. I'll…give you some space," she smiled kindly, retreating from his mind. She began to rise from the chair.

"Stop!"

She paused and looked back at him.

*I… want you to stay.* The first time she'd ever felt his voice inside her. A sensation that felt just like an embrace slowly uncoiled from the dark angel's locked mind and wrapped around hers, cautious yet desperate for contact. He let the link sit there carefully, like putting an arm around someone for the first time, waiting to see if it was brushed aside.

He wondered if it would be enough for her. There was so much of himself he didn't know how to let people see, not even Daisuke. It was fine as long as others didn't realize how much he was hiding, but she would know. Of all people, she would know most, and it would hurt her. He didn't want to hurt her. For goodness sake, he wasn't prepared to be linked to someone that he….he….

She accepted his careful gesture quietly, a smile rising to her lips. Her hand touched the side of his face, shaping the line of his cheek. The physical contact seemed to focus him. His chaotic thoughts grew quieter as he met her eyes. *It's okay,* she soothed, mind to mind. Her lips brushed his cheek, soft as moonlight, and her arms looped around his back. She drew him forward against her very lightly, afraid he might pull away. *This is enough.*

A drop of hot moisture fell to her shoulder and rolled down her back. She tensed. She could feel him crying, but his body was still. So terribly still. Risa braced herself and held him steady while the angel tried to come to terms with what the rest of them had had weeks to accept. "He was everything to me," his breath trembled just barely. "What is he now?"

His question nearly broke her heart. This reaction was better than she'd expected, and yet so much worse. "You two may need to decide that from scratch, this time," she said softly, hiding her shock at his openness. What to say to comfort an angel? There was so much she didn't know about him. So much she doubted even the Niwas knew about him. "It's okay to be upset about what's happened. People are allowed to be angry, or hurt, or stubborn. I'm sure it will take some time."

He squeezed his eyes shut. *You can really accept this?*

"Yeah," she said with a surprised, nervous smile. "Or rather, I guess you could say I always wanted this. Although I know it sounds terribly selfish to say so."

The words, so firmly spoken, caught him off guard. He could feel in her soul that they were true. He would never be a curse. Not to her. She wanted him. She was willing to be tied to him. At least, she thought so right now.

He put his arms around her delicate shoulders, possessively tight, until she chuckled shyly under his grip. "I could hurt you," he whispered painfully. Being linked to a female…his sacred maiden no less…he had no idea what he was doing. No clue where to start.

She smiled against his chest, into his soul, like the warmth of the sun.

"You're alive, aren't you?" Her smiling voice warmed his soul. "If you hurt me, just make it right again, phantom thief Dark."

-oOo-oOOOo-oOo-

The room was still. Not the peaceful stillness of a slow morning, nor the motionless tension of disaster about to strike. It was simply still – a slow, empty uiet that soaked into the bones and dulled the mind into a frozen haze. The stillness clung to him like a second skin, until the slight stirring of his own breath across his blue bangs seemed like an imposter in the room.

I am Satoshi Hiwatari, of the Hikari bloodline. I've been through some things. I guess you could say they're pretty terrible. Daisuke insists doing this will help.

Rip.

Crumple.

The stillness was broken. Time lurched forward again. The wad of paper bounced off the rim of the wastebasket and joined several others on the living room floor. The boy slowly reassessed the notebook in his lap, like he'd just burnt his hand on the oven and was trying to decide if he really wanted to reach into it again.

My name is Satoshi Hikari. Six weeks ago, I lost my soulmate. Not that I knew him well. Or even liked him, for that matter. It's not as if we were linked by choice. He's finally out of my life, so why am-

Rip. Thin fingers crumpled the half-written paragraph and threw it at the basket. It struck home with a satisfying clunk. Satoshi rolled his eyes and turned back to the only used page that wasn't torn from the front of the journal. His own handwriting from two years ago lashed out angrily, gouged deep enough to tear the parchment:

THIS ISN'T WORKING.

The bluenette studied the harsh text until his stomach interrupted with a tight growl. 'There should be some soup left.' The thought nauseated him. He stood up to get it anyway. The slow creak of the chair made him realize he wasn't sure how much time had passed since he sat down.

He walked by the couch without looking at what lay in it, going straight to his window. Thin fingers parted the curtains. Satoshi squinted out at the bright midday weather. Suburbia bustled comfortably outside. He left the curtains open by an inch or two and turned toward the kitchen. The figure on the couch was impossible to ignore this time as he passed, since he had to step around the huge white wing that was hanging over onto the floor.

Because there was no avoiding it, Satoshi sighed and took a good look at Krad's body to get it over with. The stillness was unnerving. Satoshi thought about repositioning the wing, just to get it off the floor, but the last time he'd tried, it had felt so alien and stiff in his hands that he'd just dropped it where it lay. He knew what those feathers had felt like when they'd had life beneath them. He still remembered what it was like to sleep under a blanket of living heat.

Satoshi let the dead thing rest where it lay and walked into the kitchen, dropping the notebook into the wastebasket like it was an empty soda can. He dug into a cupboard and reached toward the back to draw out a soup can for lunch, or dinner, or whatever it was.

The doorbell broke the silence of the dull ritual. Satoshi ignored it and pulled out a can opener. "Not now," he barked at the door.

"Knock knock," Daisuke's voice called in from the front. The redhead peered around the door frame and spotted Satoshi. "You're not keeping your door locked?" he asked as he stepped over a pile of unopened mail that was blocking the entrance.

"Apparently I should," Satoshi muttered.

"Sorry… we were just getting worried. Hattori says you're not picking up your phone."

The bluenette returned to opening his soup. "I already reimbursed him for the work he missed while helping us."

Daisuke kept his attention on the kitchen and Satoshi, carefully avoiding the living room. "I don't think that's why he's calling you, Satoshi."

"He's already said he can't help. What's done is done."

Daisuke took a seat at the counter, which was almost completely covered with neat rows of empty soup cans. He frowned at them. "Have you been using the journal?"

"Yes. It helped a lot." The boy gave his friend a calm stare. "I'm doing fine. I already told you."

"Of course," the redhead murmured. He cleared some space on the counter to rest his arms. "Listen, the police keep calling me, since they made me your contact. They…want to know when you're coming back to the force."

"Soon."

Daisuke wilted under his friend's indifference. "You said that last week, Satoshi. Can you be any more specific?"

"Wednesday," the bluenette said flatly as he threw a bowl into the microwave.

Daisuke blinked. "Really? That's great."

"Yup," Satoshi muttered. "I'm sure they have questions."

"Yeah," Daisuke murmured. He wished he knew how to read his friend's cool expression. "Satoshi, they're probably going to ask about… I mean… don't you think it's time to do something about the…you know." His carefully averted eyes crept just barely over toward the pale form lying across Satoshi's sofa. He shivered as unnoticeably as possible as the stillness seemed to seep from that white form and into his soul.

"Not yet."

"Satoshi," Daisuke braced himself, a chill running down his back. "It's been six weeks. I don't think… you can't just keep it here. It could become a public health issue, for one."

"Do you smell anything?" Satoshi asked as he pulled the hot soup from the microwave. "It's not as if it's going to rot."

"That's not the issue! You can't just live with a dead body. And the police will want to-"

"The body is Hikari property. They're not studying it."

"What are you going to do with it, Sato? Put it in storage? You aren't living like this. When was the last time you ate something other than soup? When was the last time you left this apartment?"

"I said I go back Wednesday. Daisuke, seriously, you're thinking too far into this. I just wanted some time to digest. It doesn't mean anything. And, of course, I'm having the body cremated. I'll want my couch back."

Daisuke stiffened at the relaxed tone in his friend's voice. "I… I just…"

"I'm sure it's confusing for you. You're much closer to your half of the Black Wings, and there's an emotional bond. But with Krad and I, it was just a curse. Just genetics. There was nothing close about us, even if we did manage a truce at the end." Sensing the empty sadness in his friend's gaze, Satoshi changed gears. "More importantly, how are you and Dark?" he inquired.

Daisuke clenched his fingers into the legs of his jeans. "How can you be worried about that?" he asked with a weak smile. "I feel like a spoiled brat, getting worried over by you when your angel is gone, and mine's still alive."

"I told you, you and Dark are a different situation," Satoshi rolled his eyes. "Have you spoken?"

"Almost every day since he woke up two weeks ago."

"And?"

The boy looked at his knees. "He's kind, as always. It's not the same though. I can tell he's wary of me now. I probably deserve-"

"Keep trying," Satoshi stopped him. "You and Dark have something important, and it's not gone."

"It is gone!" Daisuke's gaze darkened. "He knows, Satoshi. The reason I'm not joined with him anymore. The reason Risa was able to bond to him. The Black Wings is only drawn to those with a fierce resolve to obtain it. There's only one explanation, isn't there? I didn't want him enough." The boy's voice started to crack, but he bore down against the emotion and kept himself under control.

"As much as I hated losing him, I wasn't fully ready to embrace him again. I didn't want him, and he knows, Satoshi. I'm sure he knows. If Risa hadn't been there, what if he'd ended up empty, just like…" his eyes went to the doll-like stillness of the figure on the couch. "God, I'm sorry. I shouldn't be saying these things to you," the boy stammered.

"I said I'm fine, Daisuke. I swear. Now, you should get back to them." The redhead cast him a defiant look, and Satoshi returned it with a stern gaze. "If you pull away from him right now, I'm sure you'll regret it later."

"But I came to take care of-"

"Yes, yes. You've rescued me," Satoshi hauled the boy gently from his seat.

"But….Krad…Soup…"

"There, there, you crazy dolt," Satoshi soothed the boy as he walked him back to the door. Daisuke blubbered worried protests until he was out in the hallway, looking at Satoshi's half-amused and half-annoyed face. "Daisuke, thanks. Now go home," he reiterated before closing the door in the younger boy's face.

The apartment was quiet again. Satoshi turned and leaned against the door. His gaze went to the corpse on his sofa. Alright, so it was creepy, he admitted to himself. It was far past the point of "waiting to be sure". Dark's vitals had reappeared almost immediately out in that field, while Krad's had not. The paramedics had pronounced him dead at the scene. Satoshi had stepped in as the angel's legal guardian, just to keep the body out of a lab, but now it really was time to reclaim his apartment, and his life.

Ignoring the soup he'd just made, he went to the phone book and began leafing through. Cosmetics, Craft Supplies, Credit Unions, Cremation Services. The boy stole looks at the body on the couch as he researched. What use did he have for a body? Of course, he had to dispose of it. A body didn't have much meaning, anyway.

He uncapped a pen and began to circle an affordable-looking entry. "Saying goodbye with peace and dignity." His pen made it three quarters of the way around the phone number and stopped. His productive mood melted down into cool fury. What exactly did any of this have to do with "peace" or "dignity"? Someone was gone. The remains needed to be destroyed. Why wax poetic about the destruction of a corpse?

He lowered his shaking pen to the next entry, which read, "Send your loved one to God in Grace". He closed the book and threw it at the wastebasket, bowling it over and sending crumpled journal pages all over the floor.

"Shut up," the boy growled at no one. The apartment was silent again. Satoshi capped his pen and set it on the counter. With a deep breath, he collected his nerves and went to his bedroom to prepare for some sleep. That idea lasted about three seconds before he ended up sitting at his desk and reading the news on his laptop.

Sleep really hadn't been one of his strong points lately, and it seemed a waste of time to keep trying when he could be getting things done.

It was well past four in the morning when he finally lost his place in the article he was reading and his body shut itself down of its own accord. His head dropped to the keyboard, and he was lost to the world.

An hour passed before a sense of panic pulled him awake. The boy shot upright, upsetting a glass on his desk and nearly falling backward in his chair. He gripped the edge of the desk for dear life, and tried to get his thoughts straight. 'I'm dead. I'm sure I'm dead. None of this is real.' The thoughts drizzled through his mind like acid, and for the life of him, he couldn't justify why he was so afraid. Of course he wasn't dead. He thought the words slowly and deliberately, like an order. "Get a hold of yourself. You're alive, damn it."

The fear suddenly went dead, shut off like a tight lid over a candle flame. A tense voice formed a single word in his thoughts.

*Satoshi…?*

The boy jumped up, the chair crashing backwards behind him. All his mental forcefields locked around him as if in prep for a nuclear attack. He staggered a step sideways, dizziness clashing with adrenaline, and fumbled into the dark living room. He tripped on something soft as he ran for the switch, and realized in the same moment that it had to be Krad's wing. He slammed the lights on and winced into the sudden brightness, his hands balled into tight fists.

The room focused gradually.

Nothing had changed. The angel lay still as death. The mail was piled on the floor. The cans were on the counter, the crumpled pages were all over the room. Satoshi took slow, deep breaths. He clenched his teeth and finally let it occur to him that he could be losing his mind. This wasn't what a sane person's apartment looked like. He'd said everything was working out, that he was ready for work, but maybe pretending wasn't enough. Nothing was helping. Weren't most people fine by now? Maybe nothing would help. He couldn't sleep, couldn't stand eating, could barely get through using the damned phone book, and now he was hallucinating about death, and Krad's voice inside his head.

He stepped on Krad's wing again and cursed as he scrambled for the bedroom, the only sane room in the flat. His cell phone was charging on the nightstand, untouched for weeks. He seized the device in shaky hands and hammered out Daisuke's number. "Pick up pick up," he muttered, pressing himself into the wall like monsters were after him.

A groggy voice finally greeted him from the other end of the line. "Dark?" Daisuke mumbled. "It's six in the morning."

"No, it's me." Satoshi didn't have the spare brainpower to register the boy's complaint. "I can't do this. Nothing's working. I need you to come," he demanded, openly frantic. "Right now."

"Satoshi? Is that you? What's happening?"

The boy stared at the open door to his living room, breathing silently into the phone.

"Satoshi! Do you need me to come over?"

Satoshi sat with the phone to his ear and stared at the open door to the living room. His sapphire eyes were wide with adrenaline, too spooked to focus. A few breathless seconds later, the bluenette swallowed hard. This wasn't like him. He had to keep himself under control. Even if Daisuke came, there was nothing anyone could do. "Sorry, Daisuke. It was my imagination. Forget I called," he muttered.

"Wait! Are you sure you're-"

The bluenette ended the call before Daisuke could finish worrying at him. He gripped his phone, blushing furiously. What good could it possibly do to let Daisuke see him like this?"

A bolt of shock and confusion broke into his thoughts. Something landed with a thud in the next room. Satoshi went still and pressed his palms to his temples. He was losing his mind.

-oOoOo-

He woke with a start, throbbing from head to toe. It was cold. He'd never been this cold. Wrenching upward, he felt the world spin. The next thing he was aware of was being face down on hard wood. The throbbing was slowly settling into a dull, fuzzy ache. It was so cold. He raised himself up on numb arms and took in his surroundings. It looked like he was in Satoshi's apartment. This was quite different from the other visions. He couldn't remember how long he'd been swept up in the darkness, reliving memories that were half real and half imagined countless times. He'd even had brief stretches where he'd hallucinated Satoshi's mind connected to his. This, however, was drastically ordinary by comparison. The angel's hand slowly traced the wooden floor of Satoshi's apartment. He shivered. Anything was better than going back to the endless dreamscape dominated by some of his worst moments. If he could stay here a little longer, he didn't care how cold it was.

He knew he was dead. It wasn't clear if this was some sort of afterlife, or if his existence would just extinguish eventually. The room around him and the ache in his limbs felt so real, but then again, all of it had. He managed to push himself to a sitting position. His palm came down on a crumpled piece of paper as he did so. Krad glanced down and lifted it slowly from the floor. He hadn't been able to touch things, before. He opened the paper in a daze, strangely desperate to connect to whatever was here until the void pulled him in again.

He recognized the stationary, and Satoshi's neat hand in the script. His heart beat faster. It was just a few lines. He read it through, then read it again, word by word.

-oOoOo-

Satoshi waited about a minute, focusing on reality and the sound of his own heartbeat in his ears. He didn't hear or feel anything else unusual. The sound of his cell phone when it abruptly began to ring was enough to bring him fully back to his senses. He looked down at the display on the device. It was Daisuke. Of course he would be worried, after a slip like that. But Satoshi wasn't ready to talk, about any of it. Not even close.

"Water," he muttered to himself. He gathered his wits and stood up to go to the kitchen. He reached the doorway at the same time that a tall form blocked his path. Satoshi froze and looked straight up into hard golden eyes. His phone clattered to the ground.

"You're not real," Satoshi murmured, fighting off panic.

"Neither are you," Krad breathed. The tremor in his voice stopped Satoshi in his tracks.

Satoshi stared blankly. After several seconds of disbelief, the boy squeezed around the angel in the doorframe, like he was evading a ghost, and ran into the next room.

The couch was empty. A few long feathers were scattered on the floor. His cell phone was still ringing in the bedroom like an abandoned child. Satoshi spun back to the blonde. "You're alive," he murmured. His voice was a mixture of shock and fear.

The angel didn't miss the negative reaction. He straightened up, clutching something in his hand. Satoshi squinted at it for several seconds before realizing it was a page from his journal. He narrowed his eyes on it and finally located some much-needed anger. In a quick movement, he snatched the paper out of Krad's hand. "What did I tell you about reading my things?"

Krad didn't bat an eye. "It was on the ground. And if it's about me, it is my business, is it not?" They'd had this same argument before, but Krad's gaze was empty this time, dull as stone.

"It's not up for debate, you ass," Satoshi snapped back, flipping over the page to see which one it was.

Two weeks, and he's still not up. I'm so sick of thinking about it. I'm sick of everyone's pity. I'm sick of this damned apartment. I've thought it over, and this might be the best possible outcome. Krad will always be Krad, and the world's safest if he never opens his eyes again.

Satoshi slowly raised his eyes back to the white angel in front of him. Meeting the blonde's gaze was every bit as awful as he'd feared.

"Is this how you feel?" the angel asked.

Satoshi looked away. He'd written so many things, in so many moods. So many useless feelings, all crumpled and tossed away. Why did Krad have to pick out that one? "I meant what I wrote," he said cautiously.

"Show me."

"What?" the boy squeaked as the angel took a step toward him.

Krad's expression was cold and stern. "I don't believe you. Show me." *Show me how glad you were that I was gone.* The angel took another step toward him, until Satoshi's angry expression pushed him back.

"Going to force me open again?" the boy demanded icily. "Don't think I'll forgive you."

Krad halted and studied him for a long, slow moment. His expression numbed into a blank, even canvas. "Do you expect to keep me here?"

Satoshi rolled his eyes and gestured toward the window, his movements fierce. "I already told you I'm not interested in keeping you prisoner. So get lost. Do what you want, it's not my problem."

"You really want to unleash my terror on the world?" Krad snarled.

"Better than being stuck with you here!"

There was a long silence. Krad turned his face away and muttered something.

"If you have something to say, Krad, say it to my face," the boy bristled.

Krad didn't look back at him. He raised his face to the ceiling, his jaw clenched in a firm line. It was only then that Satoshi noticed the glossiness in the angel's eyes. "I said," Krad spoke thinly, "Can I not stay here?"

The words, and the softness with which they were spoken, took something inside Satoshi's chest and crumpled it like toilet paper. "What?" he whispered. "I thought you wanted revenge."

"And then what?" Krad laughed painfully, still looking at the ceiling like he'd lost track of the sky. "What will it take?" He lowered his chin to stare straight at Satoshi, his eyes threatening to spill down his pale cheeks. "What will it take to let me be at your side?"

Satoshi staggered back. This Krad was even more terrifying than the normal one. "Don't mess with my head, Krad," he demanded.

The angel pressed his eyes shut. What could he say? What did he hope to achieve? Maybe this was another horrible vision, after all. He was still dead, and this train wreck would never stop.

Voices and memories formed a relentless chorus in his mind.

"If you keep saying things like that to him, he'll believe you," Jirou's warning echoed.

"All you know how to do is hurt people!" Dark screamed, unspeakable rage and pain in his eyes.

"I have no use for humans. I am something greater. You should understand that much, right, Krad Hikari? After all, we are the same in this regard." Gorudo.

"The world's safest if he never opens his eyes again."

Krad shuddered. His body felt like ice. He couldn't stand it. The shields around his mind splintered with cracks that threatened to tear him open. He was losing control. He grunted, his thoughts racing so hard that they physically hurt.

Satoshi sucked in a breath as Krad's sudden link hit him like a wall. The torrent of emotions was so dense that he could barely make sense of it. There were so many memories rampaging through the blonde's head at once. Foremost among them were the angel's death, and pressing his lips to Satoshi's, and the crackling sting across his face, louder than the agony in his punctured chest. How could he have gotten it all so, so wrong, that the only thing he dared to care about hated him enough to strike him for it? Being dead had been terrifying and miserable, but how would living be any different? He couldn't stand it.

Satoshi felt it the moment Krad realized he was projecting his escalating emotions. The angel flushed with horror and began to slowly retreat from the boy. His mind wasn't obeying him, as much as he wanted to stop. He'd opened too far, shown too much. The boy would hate him for these feelings. He needed to get out fast. Better to be in the void, than to endure his disgust. Better to-

"Krad. Krad!" Satoshi was nearly screaming.

The angel opened his bleary eyes, saw arms coming at him, and braced himself to be hit by his wing host.

Satoshi stalled at the angel's defensive posture and proceeded more carefully. He reached out very slowly and took hold of the blonde's shoulders. In a cautious movement, he drew up closer to him. The angel looked at him with frantic eyes and tugged back, but Satoshi's grip held him fast. Krad's thoughts continued like an avalanche, hopeless and self-destructive and losing more control by the second.

"Krad," the boy called again. Satoshi eased forward and locked his too-thin arms around the frantic angel with all the strength he could summon. "Stop. You're alright. Stop."

Satoshi's worried plea somehow reached its target. Krad scrambled to scoop his mind back into his own head. The link stiffened and then locked between them, fencing Satoshi out of the angel's thoughts. The blonde tried again to back away, but the bluenette was holding him too tightly.

"Everything's going to be fine. Take deeper breaths, you're hyperventilating."

Krad noticed the boy was right, a little too late. His legs gave out from under him. Satoshi caught his weight and slid to his knees along with the angel.

"Good. More deep breaths," the boy whispered. His grip around Krad's back was firm.

Krad knelt in Satoshi's arms, failing miserably at following the boy's gentle advice. "I was wrong. Everything I did to you, I was wrong," he growled through a closed throat. "I don't know why I'm so wrong. I don't know why I can't just-" he choked off, unable to continue.

There was a terrible, long silence.

"And you think dying again would be easier?" Satoshi asked softly.

The angel didn't answer.

"You think you can just disappear again, and I won't feel anything? You think I can lose you a third time?" the boy's voice fell apart. Krad's eyes jerked up to find Satoshi's face wet with tears. "Damn you! I thought I was going insane. I thought, any moment now, there would be nothing left of me! Don't throw me this 'back to the void' bullshit!"

Krad's stunned gaze was the only response he could muster. "I don't understand. You wrote-"

"Don't say it. Don't even say it out loud," Satoshi murmured. "You're not the only one who's allowed to say things you don't mean." He looked up at Krad's eyes and sat up on his knees until he was at face level. He eased toward him, holding eye contact the whole way like he was trying to pet a wolf. "Let me try this," he ordered. His lips brushed Krad's, ever so soft, like a first kiss. Krad went still as a frozen lake. As quickly as the testing contact was there, it was gone. The boy pulled back, blushing head to toe.

Krad's heart throbbed madly in his chest. The boy had kissed him by his own choice. The blonde didn't understand why and didn't dare to guess. Staring into Satoshi's bright blue eyes, he was devastated that he couldn't think of a single thing to say. He couldn't understand why he wanted this so badly, and he was terrified of admitting just how much he needed it. Even when he'd despised physical contact from anyone else, with Satoshi, he wanted it. The desire for it pulled at his bones.

"How was I?" he asked the boy, his voice almost a purr.

Satoshi broke eye contact, blushing harder. "I don't understand. You're not even female. So why are you so-"

A warm mouth covered the boy's before he could go any further. Krad's lips melded to his like poetry. The blonde closed his eyes and waited to be pushed back, but Satoshi returned the contact instead. Soft lips pressed back against Krad's. The boy's mind opened just enough to include the angel. He was confused and uncertain, but above that there was need, pure and honest. He needed Krad with a kind of fantastic shock.

Krad's thoughts shuddered carefully back into sync with the boy's. Nervous exhilaration buzzed through him. He deepened the kiss, his tongue tracing Satoshi's lips. The boy's soft tongue slid testingly to brush against his.

He was kissing him. Satoshi was kissing him in earnest. It was too much to handle. The angel made a low sound in the back of his throat. His body responded to Satoshi's interest with a sharp heat that threatened to boil him alive. What was even more unbearable was the answering heat it seemed to provoke from his wing host. Krad held stiffly still, arms at his sides, while the boy embraced him and kissed him of his own accord. It didn't seem real. His breath came harder and thicker, and all the while he couldn't muster the confidence to touch the boy in return. He couldn't risk ending what was happening between them. What if it never happened again? He could feel his instincts protesting the loss of control while his body stretched out and yearned for more.

Satoshi shivered as he pressed his lips to Krad's. He ran his fingers along the angel's bare ribs, almost not daring to touch him so blatantly. But he needed contact. He wanted intimacy, and could never in a million years have imagined Krad in this way until now.

No, that wasn't true. There had been plenty of times, if he let himself admit it. He'd been humiliated by these feelings, knowing the angel could only return them with cruelty. But he wasn't being cruel right now. The blonde was real, and damaged, and full of need and passion, just like him. Five minutes ago, he'd been dead. It felt like the angel was a dream that could disappear if he opened his eyes too suddenly.

Krad sucked firmly on the boy's lower lip and brushed it with his teeth. His mouth melded soft and smooth against him, like he could drink in the boy's body all day and still not be sated. Satoshi's head spun with each needful contact. Had kissing always felt like this? He'd kissed Risa so many times, but it had never completely consumed him this way. This was like being drawn into an undertow until he didn't care if he breathed. He wanted to be touched. He wanted to be whole. Krad's desperate pleasure between their open minds told him exactly where to touch and how to move. The boy found himself a bit drunk on the knowledge of just how effective his fingertips were against the blonde. He felt a new need slowly rising in the angel, and his own thoughts unavoidably spread to the same thing. He slid forward, his whole torso flush against Krad's, and moved his hand slowly to the downy base of his wing.

Krad's heart jumped as he sensed Satoshi's eagerness to answer the unmistakable request his body was making. Slender fingers brushed lightly across his feathers.

Krad flinched, and hated himself for it. Thoughts of Midnight's servant invading him and abusing this most intimate part of his body set his muscles cold. He remembered being trapped, drugged, and pinned. Strange fingers prodding and invading… *Stop,* he hissed in frustration. He pulled back, trembling.

Satoshi stopped immediately. He broke from the devastating spell they'd been weaving and tried to make sense of the angel's unsteady thoughts. "I'm sorry," the boy gasped, blushing. "I thought you wanted-"

Krad leaned forward and drew his wing host against his chest. His wings arched around the boy and completed the embrace. A warmth that was more than just physical passion crept very carefully from his mind to Satoshi's. "Yes. With you, yes," he whispered.

*As soon as I can handle it… I want it to be with you.*