Note: I am not lying when I say this is my most ambitious fic yet. It will, undoubtedly, be the longest I have ever dared to undertake, and the most complex. I'm going to have to do some more research as it goes on as well. And, to add to its differences, it's not only in third person, but it is a cross-over of sorts. If you read this fic and review it, I will love you forever, because it's absolutely consuming me, and I'm using NaNoWriMo on it to keep me going. The funny thing is, I think it'll break fifty thousand words. o.O

Also: While there is no requirement that you have Magical Melody, I strongly suggest you have played a game involving Forget-me-Not (perferably DS Cute) to keep up.

Disclaimer: Harvest Moon is not mine. Still.

Ghosts That Fade

Chapter One: Spirited Away

"Fair maiden, I shall steal your heart this very night."

He always warned his victims; it never seemed fair to steal away their possessions without giving them a chance to react. After all, he had the advantage: cat-like reflexes, experience, an all-consuming desire that refused to let him back down. At the very least, Skye owed them a chance.

Even a slim one.

He darted between the trees—a snake, a sliver of movement betrayed only by the shining of his silver hair in the moonlight. He couldn't speak even if he wished, for his heart beat so desperately in his throat, it was all he could do to breathe. He wanted this. He needed this. The lust for larceny pounded in his very blood.

Even after all this time, after all these robberies, no one in Forget-Me-Not bothered to lock their doors. She never did, of that he's certain. Always the fool, she never believed he could overtake her when she was armed with her hoe, her sickle, her fists. She'd been a challenge, and he'd savored each and every encounter with her flashing blue eyes.

"Do what you want, Skye; you can't take me."

Oh, but she'd been hypnotized, hadn't she? Hypnotized just as anyone else under his stare. The first time he'd taken a necklace from about her bare throat, she'd seethed at him, eyes smoldering with alarm and fury. She couldn't move to strike him, though Goddess knew she'd wanted to rip him apart. It had never been fear that motivated her, and maybe that's why he'd kept at her, centering in on this young woman above all others.

"Fair maiden, if not I, then who will?"

He had made many stops at the dingy farm that year—a place where any thief would have turned up his nose, scoffed that anything there could possibly be of value. Yet Skye looked deeper. The curry he stole, the produce he pilfered, the trinkets he swiped: they were not his true prizes. It had been the time of this indignant woman he'd stolen—time that she'd never get back from him.

"And what makes you think I'd want someone like you? A thief?"

Goddess, she was lovely; she always had been. She had not the physical attraction of Muffy, nor the naiveté of Celia, nor the cold stare of Nami's eyes; Lumina was too sophisticated to glance his way, and Flora too dedicated in her work. Oh, but this girl—this Claire—pulled the strings of his heart so taut they might snap. There was something so terribly entrancing about her persistence, her smirk, her constant will to try stopping him even when she knew she could not. She never cried for help, never called him out—wasn't that strange enough to merit his attention?

"Decide, then, my cherished one."

His fingers had laced themselves between her golden locks of hair, and her sapphire eyes widened as he stole the protest from her ruby red lips. Her soft skin was smooth pearl to the touch; his hands roamed, and though he knew she could have stopped him, she did not. He, too, had not missed the other signs those past months: the blush that crept onto her proud features, the awkward smile that she always fought to keep down when he won—once again—in their game of cat-and-mouse. Skye had known what he'd been stealing all along, and that night, he would have sworn that he finally held his prize in his arms.

"You…you…I should slap you, Skye. I really should. But for some stupid reason, I…damn you, I can't."

'Because I love you,' he could almost hear her finish as she returned the favor and pressed her mouth harder against his.

Oh, but that had been a year ago, hadn't it? A whole year that was naught but a string of memories now.

Yet still, still, her door would be open.

Faster, faster. Skye leapt over the field swiftly, deftly, and landed by the window, his eyes narrowed in on his reflection. He looked past his cold blue eyes to the figure sleeping within, her back to him and her hair sprawled on her pillow in slumber. Then he caught sight of the lump beside her, that dark figure whose arm hung about her waist in possession. Something burned in his throat, and he swallowed the jealousy as best as he could as he crouched down once more.

"A blue feather? You would give your heart to someone besides me?"

He knelt at the door, and he turned the knob so slowly, oh, so slowly that the door wouldn't dare squeak. Like a shadow he slid through its crack, and the moonlight followed him relentlessly through the doorway. Half of his body laid coated with its milky light: two-faced, black and white. Her body turned in the bed slightly, and Skye froze, his breath locked as he waited for her to remain motionless once more.

Strange, wasn't it, that once he'd prayed that she'd awaken at his arrival and meet his gaze?

"It meant nothing, Skye. I can't be with someone like you. You know that. I need…dependency, responsibility, honesty. You're not the marrying type. I could never marry you."

Once again she let slumber overtake her, and Skye turned himself just enough to see the container of his jewel, his treasure forbidden above all others. Don't you dare, he could already hear her scream, you monster, you monster, you heartless devil! But if he were heartless, he wouldn't be doing this. If he hadn't possessed a heart to be broken, he wouldn't dare to sin so mortally that he could already see hell's fires waiting to swallow him whole.

"You'll see, Claire. I've already stolen your heart. I'll steal it once more, to prove it, if I have to. If I can't have you, who deserves that right?"

"Don't wake up," he mouthed as he crept forward, "don't wake up, don't wake up." He couldn't afford to use his voice; he couldn't dare to be caught, not this time. This time, he wouldn't relish their cries, their futile attempts at stopping him, their efforts at arrest. He'd been harmless, then.

Tonight, all that would change.

"The doctor loves me. He loves me, and he doesn't steal; he doesn't cheat; he doesn't lie. Being hurt isn't the same thing as being loved, Skye. So steal the feather if you want to, fine, but I'll marry him just the same. I owe you nothing."

Nothing, she'd said. She'd thought Skye the Phantom Thief could abandon a burglary simply because of her proud words. She'd assumed, stupidly, that she had a power over him, when he was the one who paralyzed others. She'd made her choice, one year ago.

Now he'd come to collect her consequences.

The first sight that met his eyes was a startling shade of blue, the very shade of a feather's plumes. In them he could see his own reflection: terrified, delirious, unable to control his emotions as well as he could his poise. "Don't speak," he willed once more. "Don't open your mouth. Don't stop me."

And Claire's baby girl nodded at him, thinking this was all a dream as the phantom flew through the woods, spiriting away the child he knew should have been his all along.