Disclaimer: Not mine, etc.

Author's note: I don't know that the format of the story will be Ghoul's POV, then Melanie's, in a pattern. It'll probably be mostly his, he's easier for me to write. For astrology buffs out there, I play him to be an Aquarius and her to be a Libra.

Sure, he'd known she was going to ask "Do you want to come inside?" or something similar. It had been plainly obvious. She'd just pulled out her keys and everything. It sounded a little like he was pressuring her to finish the question for her, so asking what she'd said gave her a chance to organize her thoughts. Ghoul had a fairly good grasp of people, he understood this much. And when asking her questions—finishing them with Melanie showed her he saw her as a person, not some girl. Not a toy.

Of course, he did have to wonder what an invitation inside her apartment meant. Obviously refuge from the rain. The circumstances of the refuge, who knew?

As he stepped into the apartment after her, he heard the door shut behind him and then he felt a hand on his arm, and so looked down.

Her mascara was smudged slightly. It made it look like she was wearing a little more eyeshadow than most girls did, at least at that diner. Not as much as he wore, but enough.

"D'you wanna take off your jacket? You could hang it up over the heater. Maybe it'll dry by the time the rain's let up."

Another grin twisted his features. "Probably not, but you're right; I don't want to be wearing it much longer." He reached to begin unbuttoning it, and Melanie walked a few feet away, turning to point to a space behind him, a few feet from the door.

"That's the heater. Just hang up on the wall there with the other coat."

"'Kay." She turned then, disappearing into the next room. He finished unbuttoning. Once again, the rain made a wonderful excuse. Other than that, was there any necessary reason for him to take off his trenchcoat?

Aside from it being somewhat formal to wear a coat in someone's house. Did that seem too formal? Too informal? Too standoffish, most likely. Wearing an outercoat in someone's house prevented any sort of intimacy, in conversation…or otherwise. Ghoul decided not to risk anything by asking her, and besides, it was fairly drenched. He slid it off his shoulders and turned around, hanging it up on a coatrack, which stood over a heating vent in the floor. Then he turned around and surveyed her apartment.

It was pretty big, and pretty nice—his own was about two rooms, a small bathroom with a shower, and a combination of everything else. Nothing in it suggested the modern age he lived in, aside from the fact that the refrigerator was, miraculously, still working. Nothing, except, perhaps, the hi-tech toys and wonderful computer he had propped up on a countertop. Other than that, there was very little to be proud of, though the place didn't smell (he bathed, he did laundry, he cleaned up once a week, it wasn't bad for a 19 year old), didn't have rats, didn't have cockroaches, and didn't need to be condemned. Melanie's place was different. There was the living room, with a small bathroom, probably like his own, off on the side; then the room Melanie'd gone into, which had no door separating it from the living room; just a doorway. Ghoul walked over towards it, glancing in. It was the kitchen; a refrigerator, an oven, a countertop, some cupboards. It wasn't much. There was a room off to the side, a door separating it. Ghoul paused then and raised one nonexistent eyebrow. It must have been the bedroom.

Well, of course—she wanted to change her wet clothes. He figured. Ghoul put an arm up, above his head, and leaned heavily against the doorway, glancing down at nonexistent dirt in his fingernails on the other hand. Wet strands of hair fell down onto his shoulders, soaking an already slightly-wet black long-sleeved shirt, which had several strips of artistically torn black cotton sewn across the chest, from the hem—which hit mid-stomach—to the collar, which was low enough to expose his collarbone.

The door opened. Ghoul's turned up towards her. She wore a long-sleeved sheer black shirt over a fitted light blue tank, and a knee-length black knit skirt. Her boots were the same as before. She was smoothing the skirt down when she emerged, then looked up and saw him. "Did you hang your jacket up?"

He nodded once, then, as she moved across the kitchen to the opposite side, turned so that his back was flush against the wall, legs crossed, right arm hanging down, other arm propped up against his waist. It all came naturally to him; no pose he took was ever actually planned out. They had been, once; but that had been years ago. He had his role memorized now; it no longer seemed like an act. And he did it better.

"What sort of tea've you got?" he asked her, as she was opening the cupboards and peering into them.

"Ugh—green tea, which is Sarah's, some chai, some peppermint, and some Earl Grey, also Sarah's," she said, taking out an exotically-decorated box with the word "caffeinated" blaring on it. Ghoul mentally noted the mention of this 'Sarah' figure as she put a teabag into one of two large china cups. Obviously a room-mate, who helped pay for the rent, explaining why a waitress lived in rather nice surroundings, though far from ideal—possibly Sarah was a sister? Melanie glanced back at him, pushing wet tendrils off of her face.

"You like any of those?"

"Let me check." Languidly he crossed the room, with a sort of walk one usually saw on a model—light, wide steps, hand still on his hip, shoulders seeming to sway slightly as he walked. The box in Melanie's hand had the word "chai" on it in bold letters. "What's chai?" he asked her, pointing to it. She handed it to him.

"It's a traditional Indian tea," she said, in a rather listless tone of voice, but by no means impolite. "It's made with milk, and I use brown sugar."

Ghoul opened the box. The scent was not unpleasant. "Chai, then." She reached for the box and he handed it to her, then moved over, leaning with his back against the countertop, elbows both resting on it, torso stretched out. She put another teabag in the other cup, then took out a bowl of what was probably brown sugar and filled the teapot up with tap water, which she set on the stovetop. He watched the dainty position of her hand as she turned the stovetop on, bent back at the wrist slightly like an elegant young girl from another age. He supposed her littlest finger would be bent out when she drank from a traditional teacup. But he liked it—it didn't seem like an innocent gesture on her. It seemed a little like an asp ready to strike—poised, hand quivering just slightly. Then she glanced up at him and smiled, and he smiled back. The smile came easy. It was as slippery as honey—almost something to beware of. She approached him, then leaned against the countertop herself—the high tabletop resting against her spin, mid-back. She sighed softly to herself, and pulled her fingers through her hair. Her shoulders looked tense. Stress? What did a waitress have to be stressed about?

"Maybe three minutes, then the water boils—then we let the hot water sit for about four, then it's done, though still a little hot. Usually the milk cools it down."

Ghoul nodded, then, before he really realized he was doing it, though completely unsurprised by his own actions, he took her shoulders and lightly pulled her towards him, as though he was going to hold her back to his chest. She tensed suddenly, then as he stopped and began to massage her shoulders, she relaxed. And then relaxed further, tilting her head to the side with a soft sigh and lifting a handle to pull her now-damp hair off of her neck. Ghoul had never been sure (or interested) about where he'd learned this; he supposed he'd always been good at it. He liked doing it, though—and it only worked if you did it well. That was probably part of why he was good at it. It was like therapy, but without words; it was a way to achieve intimacy without making a girl think she was being used, as it was usually a welcome gesture. Some women didn't like being touched; Melanie didn't seem to be one of them. After a while of rubbing her shoulders, her muscles relaxed, and he moved on to her lower back, and then, with a pause before he did so, the small of her back, gently; his hands on her stomach, mostly, his thumbs making slow, deliberate circles in her skin. This last one he had to be careful with; it could be misinterpreted as an attempt to arouse, and as Ghoul saw it, relaxation and arousal were two different things. He would have used a different tactic if he wished to elicit sexual provocation. As it was, Melanie did not seem to confuse his gesture, or if she did, she would have ended up seducing him, not the other way around, for it would have to have been very subtle, and she seemed extremely relaxed when the teapot began to whistle unexpectedly.

Melanie started, then moved quickly over to the stove and turned the heat off, picking up a heavy towel and lifting the kettle with it, pouring an amount of water into each up, and setting the pot down again. She crossed the room again, this time heading towards the refrigerator, where she set a magnetic timer and then turned around, leaning back against the refrigerator, both hands against its door palms down. Each just watched the other across the room, each in some pose or other. Ghoul hadn't thought about it before then, but Melanie Walker posed just as often as he did, and looked extremely attractive doing so. Her head was bent slightly, an almost demure manner; her full lips were unsmiling, but not pouting or frowning. She looked extremely serious. Ghoul leaned back further, crossing his legs at the ankles, one elbow resting against the countertop, other with his thumb through a belt loop on his black jeans. Melanie was looking at him, and then her gaze dropped, looking him over once again. It was only the second time that night it had happened, but Ghoul felt as though he had now gotten used to it, and felt now as though he were posing specially for it. Enjoying it, in fact. Then she crossed across the kitchen to him, the timer now saying 2:34. Ghoul didn't have the time to speak before she put out her hand, hesitantly at first, then decidedly placing it on his bare waist. His muscles tensed at the unexpected and very deliberate physical contact; not a single finger stroking him or a flirty brush of her knuckles, but her palm, and she slid her hand up his shirt midway and stopped, suddenly.

"What's this?" she asked, frowning slightly. Ghoul stared at her face, but she wasn't looking at him. He glanced down, and it suddenly struck him that there had been no intended flirtation in the gesture; she was asking about the false stitches.

"That. I'm inked." He reached down and lifted the shirt slightly; it didn't go around completely evenly, making jagged, steep diagonal jumps in several places. She traced the black marks with her fingertip, a curious sensation on his stomach, almost in awe, and then pulled her hand back. He let go of his shirt, then put his right hand out to her. Around the back from near his wrist, then looping around between thumb and forefinger was another one. Her eyes widened slightly and she looked vaguely interested, and so with his left hand he pushed the sleeve up further to reveal, beneath his elbow, another.

"There's one on each leg," he added, once she'd been done looking.

"Schway ink job," Melanie said, looking up at him. She seemed almost…impressed by this new piece of information. He supposed she hadn't looked at his hand closely before then. "I'd like to get one, but my parents never would have let me, and I don't have the money right now."

She gazed off in the direction of the bedroom door, not really looking at it, not taking any information in, and he wondered briefly what she was thinking, then looking in the direction of the door. "Sarah and you share a bedroom?"

"Yeah. Two small beds. She's not here now, though—she's visiting family," Melanie said, twisting a strand of hair around and around her finger. "She usually works at the restaurant." Glancing up at him, she added, "She's 18."

"17, right, you said you were?"

"18 shortly," she said, turning back to the refrigerator and walking towards it. He occupied his eyes with the swinging of her skirt as she did. "My birthday is later this month."

"How late?"

"Mid, I suppose."

He thought for a moment, turning so that he faced the cupboards and propping his elbows up against the countertop, pretending that he didn't feel her eyes on his exposed waistline. "Libra?"

"That's right," she said, just as the timer went off; she opened the refrigerator door and took out a milk carton. The light from the fridge was fairly bright in the dimly lit space, and for a moment Ghoul had to turn his eyes away. His was the same way; the computer screen was too. Melanie turned back, taking a pair of spoons off the counter. With one she removed the teabags and with the other she spooned sugar into each, then poured milk until the cup was more nearly full. She stirred one of them, then lifted it with both hands and held it out to him.

He stepped closer towards her and took it, taking a drink. It didn't taste like he expected tea to taste, but he liked it fairly well at any rate. He looked back at her, and watched her as she stirred the other cup, then dropped both spoons into the sink with a loud sound before she lifted the milk carton and shook it. It was empty. She left it and lifted her own tea.

"We've just spent nearly seven minutes out here," she said, after taking a drink. She closed her eyes when she drank. He liked that for some reason—it seemed so unusual at first, but sort of comfortable. "And I don't think anything we've said has been an interest."

He took a drink, but found he couldn't bring himself to do more than blink. He watched her the entire time the cup was at his lips. "You've discovered my body art and I've learned we're astrologically compatible. I'm interested."

Her eyes met his this time as she drank, at first, anyway; she shut them after a moment. "What are you?"


She nodded her head solemnly, then took another drink, and turned to walk out of the room. He figured this was an opportunity to follow.

The back of the loveseat faced them, and she headed to what was the left side, so he moved towards the right, getting there more quickly, just in time to watch her drag one end of the coffee table towards where she intended to sit so that the table was now diagonal to the loveseat, then place her cup down on it. Then, very carefully, she sat on one end, before lifting her legs and spinning so the she was seated entirely on the couch. She brought up her legs and hugged them, and Ghoul climbed lightly onto the other side, sitting across from her, his legs more spread, left arm resting on the back of the couch, other holding his teacup. She seemed very silent. The only sound he could hear was the heavy raindrops.

Melanie heard them also, for she looked up and stared at a black window, streaked with rain. "What do you intend to do," she said slowly, "if the rain doesn't let up?"

He shrugged. "Get my trench coat wet again."

She looked at him seriously. "I told you Sarah wasn't coming back. You could use her bed."

"I could walk home."

"…or the couch, if you wanted." She stretched her legs out a little. They brushed against his, but lightly.

"Wouldn't want to intrude."

"You're not. I invited you in, remember?"

Ghoul took another drink, watching her as he did so. She leaned over and lifted her own cup, taking a drink of it. She probably didn't know he had finished taking a drink before looking up, still holding the cup.

"I hope it lets up. If it rains all night, I know I'll never sleep."

Ghoul was silent for a moment. If it rained all night, she'd most likely pressure him to stay, which wouldn't be hard—he wouldn't mind staying. It was the awkward nature of not knowing her intentions—if she even had any—that bothered him. It was almost as if their roles had been switched, and he was the young girl speaking to a stranger. So when she said that if it rained all night, she wouldn't sleep, did she mean that if it rained all night, he'd stay over, and--? No, of course not, he thought to himself hastily. "The sound?"

"Keeps me up every time. I hate the monotony of it. I always end up putting on music, with headphones at the very least, and then I never sleep."

She didn't sound like she was making it up. "I usually don't sleep at night."

"Why not?"

"Stay up all night, clubbing and whatnot. Don't get up until a few hours past noon."

"Don't you have a job?"

That silenced him for a moment. It wouldn't do to tell a waitress he hacked. "It's an online job," he said after struggling with words. "Took me a while to decide how to put it."

"Web page designer?"

"Something like that."

Melanie nodded her head again, watching him, and he could tell she was no expert on the subject. Then she looked away and took another drink, so he took another himself. Chai tea. He'd have to buy some. And some brown sugar…He didn't own any.

"I used to do a lot of work with electronics," she said quietly after a moment. Then she shook her head as though to clear it and took another, long drink. She must have drained it because she put it back on the coffee table and pushed the cup away, then reached out and slid the table away with the toe of her boot.

Ghoul finished his own off and set it down on the coffee table, too.

"I still do. It's the only thing I think I understand."

"Besides Screaming Crows lyrics?"

"Besides those." Now he was grinning, and he moved a bit until he was seated normally, legs crossed. "I think the rain is lessening."

There was a pause as Melanie listened. "I think so too," she said, "but you still shouldn't go out just now."

He stretched his arms above his head, then put both hands on the back of his head comfortably. "What should I do just now?"

Melanie scooted towards him, bringing her legs back up onto the couch and hugging them. She stopped just shy of him, but he could nonetheless feel the heat her body gave off. "What do you want to do?"

He felt distinctly that they were testing each other, trying to see what the other was after. A witty response came to him effortlessly. "Whatever you want me to."

"I want you to stay until it stops raining."

"And until then?"

"Until then…" She trailed off and paused. "Let's play a game. I ask you a question, and you tell me three answers, two of them lies. I try and guess if it's true or not. If I guess which one is true, I get to ask another question. If not, you do, and no yes or no questions."

"Did you make it up?"

"Sarah did, but the yes or no rule is mine. Yes, no, and maybe are boring to choose from." Melanie leaned back, propping herself up, adjusting her position, and he leaned back himself, without uncrossing his legs. "Let's see…" she said thoughtfully. "What sort of girls are your type?"

Ghoul grinned. Melanie Walker was fun to talk with. "Waitresses wearing button-ups, older women, or porcelain dolls."

She wrinkled her nose and laughed. "Porcelain dolls."

He swept his arm out in a mock-bow. She went on.

"What's your real name?"

He wrinkled his nose, though for real. He detested his name. "Frederick Jennings, Stewart Carter Winthorp III, or Laurence Tess."

"You look more like a Laurence."

"Sorry, Mel. Why'd you stop talking to your parents?"

Melanie seemed taken aback by this, but answered without hesitating. "They died, I ran away, or they're in prison."

"You ran away."

"You guessed it."

"Why'd you run away?"

"They abused me, they were assassins, or I didn't like their lifestyle."

"You didn't like their lifestyle?" Ghoul watched her, lucky that he hadn't had eyebrows to knit into a frown. He couldn't understand running away for that reason. But she made a gesture of assent. He decided not to ask what their lifestyle was.

"What's your kind of guy?"

She smiled. "Men in drag, jocks, or men who have inked stitches."

"Men in drag."
She laughed. It was a delightful sound. "Hardly. And you, what's your kind of guy?"

He grinned widely. "Men in drag, rich boys, or Jokerz." He hadn't meant to say Jokerz, actually; it had just come out.

"Men in drag." He laughed and decided the answer was Jokerz, surprisingly enough.

"No. What makes me sexy?"

Melanie's face flushed a bit briefly, then she glanced down at his body and turned her face away, chewing her lip. He worried for a flash that it hadn't been great to say, then she said, "Your makeup, your stitches, or your half-shirts."

He was thrown. "None of those can be lies."

"You're better at guessing truths than I am," and she flashed a smile briefly.

"Why did you come and take my order tonight?"

Melanie paused and thought first before she answered that.

"I'm a waitress and that's what I'm paid for, I wanted to take you home, or I was hoping you'd want to take me home."

Ghoul laughed again. "You're a waitress."

Melanie's lips curved up into a smug smile. "You're wrong," she said slowly. "Now here's my question: what do you think about me if that was the wrong answer?"

"You're a total and complete slut and I wish I weren't here" is what he said, but he began laughing while he said it, and so did she, and she must have known he was joking. "All of your answers were lies, and you're really an assasin's assistant, which is why you're keeping me here, or you're more like the porcelain doll than I originally thought."

The laughter all ceased and Melanie stared at him, truly looking like a porcelain doll with beautiful blue eyes the colour of the wings on certain butterflies wide open, lips parted. Then, after a moment, she said in a choked voice, "You've discovered my secret. Now I must keep you here by force."

Before Ghoul had the chance to say anything, Melanie Walker had leaped on him, and—somehow, it happened all too quickly, pinned him painfully beneath her to the floor, the wet curly tendrils of her hair slipping onto his face.

Breathing ragged, he found moving completely useless and watched her. She was incredibly lovely, but incredibly strange, also. What was this story of her parents, why did she know how to tackle someone with a skill that would have impressed even Dee Dee?

"You're quite the waitress, Melanie," he said, and she let him go, stumbling back on the floor and falling to a sitting position as he stood and straightened his shirt. Glancing outside, he said, "The rain is barely a drizzle. I think I'll head out now."

"I'll see you sometime, Ghoul?"

He paused in leaving, aware of her position on the floor. It was, he realized, the first time she'd called him Ghoul. "Yeah, sure you'll see me," he said, somewhat encouragingly.

"I love that accent" was what she surprised him with. "It sounds so unclassy and so very above being sleazy."

He turned back to look at her with a wide smile on his pale lips. She was getting to her feet. "You have a phone, Melanie?"

"Yes, it's in my bag," she said, smoothing her hair back and looking at him.

"Write down your number for me, and I'll call you when I wake up tomorrow. Even if you're at work, I'll leave a message."

Melanie walked over towards the coat rack, lifting up her bag's flap and producing a piece of note paper and a pencil, and she hurriedly scribbled something, then proffered it to him. He took it and put it into a pocket on his jeans, then pulled on his trenchcoat, not buckling it just then. Ghoul saw her reflection in the window, standing not far from him, as he turned and opened the door. He stepped out onto the doorstep, about to let the door swing shut and then rebuckle his coat, when the door's movement was halted. He turned back, slightly taken aback. Melanie stood in the doorway, then stepped down and closed the door behind her.

Wordlessly, she put her hands on his neck, slipping them around and behind it, and pulled him towards her. He more tripped than was actually pulled, but at any rate, her closeness silenced him and their lips touched. The moment that happened, he felt her arms go all the way about his neck and she pressed her body closely to his. He felt his arms go about her waist and his mouth, now slightly parted, settle into a rhythm with her own. It was languid, like their walk had been, and then slowly began to pick up speed. One of her hands slid down his shoulder onto his chest and then around his waist, stroking his lower back, reaching up the back of his shirt, his trench coat still unbuttoned, concealing her embrace from the night surrounding them. His hands pressed the small of her back, and her hips met against his, inducing a pleasurable physical response from him he hadn't planned on. Her lips drew back for a moment with a sigh-like gasp, seeming surprised at the reaction she'd aroused; then, other on her hip, one of his hands took her face and pulled it back. Their tongues touched. With a moan, Melanie entangled a hand in his hair, one of her knees making a sudden involuntary movement, as though it would buckle soon, or as though to wrap her legs around his waist. His hand at her hip stroked her, and both of her arms wrapped themselves around his neck. Wordlessly he dropped both hands to her hips and lifted her up. They stumbled for a second, frozen in time, mouths fixed together, before her knees against his waist got high enough for her skirt to fall back and she wrapped her legs around his waist, still beneath the long coat. They fell together against the door, the sudden crash forcing her hips up and even closer to him. Ghoul hadn't done this for a while, he realized, as her hips rocked slightly, and he felt a suddenly need to pull her much closer, grinding into her very urgently, his body literally shaking with the effort he exerted to not buck his hips against her. He traced her lower lip with his tongue, then slowly pressed his mouth to hers, their lips parting together, her head tilting very slightly, her hands working a steady rhythm against his shoulders, her legs wrapped around him moving deliberately to the same tempo…and then suddenly she fell back, almost jumping to the ground, opening the door and dashing inside before shutting it. Ghoul stumbled back slightly, almost losing his balance.

"I'll phone you tomorrow," he called, hoping she heard, wanting to let her know he had intended to call no matter what she'd done to part with him.

There was a pause, then he heard, muffled behind the door, her voice answer, "I'll be waiting."

He smiled to himself, and smoothed his hair back, before turning and leaving. He wouldn't keep her waiting long.