A/N: So, I owe you all an explanation b/c I haven't updated anything chaptered forever! I'm not being lazy, there's just been a lot of things going on. I had some health issues going on, docs, etc, plus long hours at work. Quit that job, was on the search for a new one, and finally got one. I've now had more crazy hours, but at least I love what I'm doing now! So I haven't had that much free time, and with the free time that I have had I haven't been able to get into the frame of mind that I have to be in to do these updates. I'm not abandoning any of my stories even though I have felt like it before. I just can't. Just know that my updates on things will most likely take a while, but don't doubt that they will happen. Thanks for those of you who continue to read and review. Much love! Enjoy.

NINE

Jeff had been holed up in his room since the confrontation with Matt earlier that day. Jeff, do you have a fever? Man you're burning up! Matt's words replayed through his slowed mind. The cracks in the ceiling were blurred, as he looked up at them from his back flat on the bed, and gray crept in around the edges of his hazy vision. The discomfort in his lower, swollen, region seemed to have spread to his head, because there seemed to be an unbearable pressure expanding and threatening to explode the plates of his skull. The pain was close to unbearable, and each slow blink of his eyes or inhalation of breath only caused both aches to throb harder. Each time his heavy lids closed over the intelligent, lost, eyes double drips trailed from the corners and made puddles in his ears.

By now, Jeff should have been used to the misery his brother unknowingly caused him but it had been a plague he had never been able to shake, or surrender to. He couldn't act upon his writhing desires, except only to let them run free and vivid through his unique mind. Sometimes he wasn't sure whether doing so made things any better, or just worst. The visions and sordid scenes he was able to conjure were so very close to the real thing, but still he knew they were just fantasies that would be gone when he cleared his mind of them. It was like looking at a reflection in the mirror: the face and the expression on the surface is identical to the one which is looking into the glass. The only difference is, the reflection doesn't feel the wet warmth of the tears running down the pale cheeks, or the anger that churns in the lookers belly, pricking and piercing, like shards of glass.

Behind the darkness of the closed eyes Jeff tried to expel the emotions away: the lust, the rage, the despair at never being able to satisfy the overwhelming need that possessed him. None of it however, would go away. It never really did. Sometimes he wished that he was still a child, unaware of adult urges that twisted him, but then again a physical need for his brother was not the only issue, that part just gave him a new and taboo way in which he needed his brother.

He closed his eyes tighter, and pressed a clammy palm to his forehead. The mind behind his skull, behind those flashing emerald eyes, was like a fishing reel spun too tight and at any moment the thin, fragile, line was going to snap and everything was going to unravel. All of the knotted and stretched taut chord would just fall away into a loose mess of plastic thread and the pain and tension would all be relieved. He knew, however, that it wouldn't happen that way. His mind never really got to the unraveling point, much to his dismay, because surely it would have made every fiber of his body relax and sigh with the release. It never did, it just wound and wound until it sent itself into a forced-shut down and a cold darkness. He could see it coming for him once more, the gray, shadowy fingers creeping in. He could smell the metallic twang of blood in his nose, and taste it dripping down the back of his throat, and before his racing, troubled, mind finally pulled the plug on itself, he could feel the hot trickle slip from one hole of his nose and trail over his lips.

~x~

Matt sat at the end of Chris's bed, his legs crossed and folded up. He spun a midnight-colored curl tightly around his finger, and then let it go and watched it bounce back like a spring. Chris watched too, his cobalt eyes trained on the movement, before they flicked back to Matt's face, which was wearing a clear mask of worry. His dark brows were knitted together and his usually soft brown eyes were darkened with the traces of deep thought. His plump, shapely lips were pressed together so tightly that they almost seemed thin, which was a feat in itself.

"Matty," Chris crawled closer towards Matt, and sat in front of him, mirroring Matt's Indian-style seating arrangement. Their knees touched, and Chris leaned forward to press his forehead to Matt's for a moment, and then in a copy-cat action his lips gently pressed to Matt's. "What's wrong, beautiful?"

Matt shook his head, the loose curls swaying and hopping around his face.

"Just Jeff. That kid worries me." His voice dropped off for a moment, and he raised his bowed head, and his eyes narrowed and the colored parts flicked from one corner to the other, before locking with Chris's. "And the house. I mean, the…strange things that've been goin' on. It's just that Jeff hasn't had these problems for some time now, and if something…is…if the house…maybe whatever's messing with us is messing with Jeff too. But see, my brother's mind is different from most peoples and y'know, what if something really bad is here, and it's messing with Jeff worse than us." Matt bit into his lip, and then shook his head again. "It's not possible though. It…it isn't logical, right?"

Matt's eyes wanted Chris's mouth to speak and reassure him that yes, it wasn't logical, but that would have been a lie. Despite Matt's hope for the comfort of reason, he knew that a mirrored denial of the possibility was just as much a lie as it would have been to say that the sky was red. The place Matt and Chris were beginning to find themselves in was one that defied logic, and reasoning of the human mind. Matt knew that he was going to have to let go of his denial, because you can't deny that you're a man when you look down and see a penis between your legs—it's there, and that's all there is to it. Matt shuddered, his eyes once more darting around the small room as though it had ears to hear all, and creepy, beady little eyes to see it as well.

"Logic and possibility are really different, Matty." Chris finally spoke. "They don't need each other to exist, is what I mean. Something can be possible without it having any rhyme or reason. That's why the impossible is so fucking scary when it's seen, because we want to think that there's nothing out there that we can't look up, or research, or put in a lab and dissect, or wrap our minds around. That's why those things that go bump in the night send ice up and down our spines, because we know we locked the doors, because we know it's impossible for something to be there, but we heard the impossible fingers knocking on the door."

"Chris!" Matt shuddered, and wrapped his arms around himself. "God, you're freaking me the hell out!"

"It's true." Chris said, his voice lowered to a whisper, and the tiny hairs on the back of his neck prickled. Suddenly, he wanted to hold Matt very close, as much for his own comfort as to comfort Matt.

"Do you remember that movie TommyKnockers?" Matt asked, almost hesitantly. "It was a Stephen King thing."

Chris slowly nodded his head, and in an eerie voice repeated a line from the sci-fi classic. In the way that he spoke it, it came out more frightening than the movie had ever actually relayed it. His eyes were wide, his voice shivery and breathy in a barely-whisper as the words trembled from his lips.

"All last night, and the night before…" Chris's eyes slowly moved from Matt's frozen, paled face, to the closed door of the room. "TommyKnockers, TommyKnockers, knockin' at the door."

Suddenly, as if the mantra had been some real invocation, the door flung wide and both men shrieked. Matt nearly plunged off the edge of the bed in a startled panic and flail of limbs, but Chris grabbed onto his wrist and kept him from a fate with the wooden floor.

"Hey guys!" Adam bounded into the room, and flung himself onto the bed with a wide smile, which only slowly melted away when he finally noticed the fear whitely etched on the two faces he'd bounced in on.

"Fuck, Adam!" Chris hollered. He grabbed a pillow from behind him and with an unbridled force whammed it into Adam's head, his face twisted in a scowl as his heart continued to pummel his chest and ears with a rapid thunder. He and Matt let out twin sighs of relief that at least this time their fears were proven to be a joke, which was played on them by an unsuspecting and unfunny jester.

"What!" Adam pushed Chris back into the headboard, making it bump against the wall. "What in the hell is wrong with you two?" Adam flicked his hair away from his face and likewise flitted his eyes between the two men. "What are you chump-stains doing in here, telling ghost stories?" He imitated the warbling howl of a ghost, wiggling his fingers for some sort of affect, and Matt shoved him.

"Don't you believe in knocking?" Matt snapped. "We could have been fucking or something!" He drew a trembling hand through his wild curls.

"Aw, but maybe I wanted to watch." Adam smirked.

"It isn't funny." Chris righted himself and grabbed the pillow again, readying it for another snap against the hollow thing that was Adam's big head. Adam shrugged off the snippy comment and the poised pillow, and went on.

"Guess what?"

"What?" Matt asked reluctantly.

His nerves and muscles were slowly beginning to uncoil from the slow terror that had built up in him, and then suddenly been exploded out of him like a volcano at the barging in of Adam. The fact that the blond seemed oblivious, or just didn't care about the root of their fright was both annoying and relieving. Questioning them about it would have only made both men even more uncomfortable, and would only do to begin stacking the toppled bits of fear up again on top of one another until they were ready to break into another fit of screaming at nothing. Simply plowing on with his own frivolous 'guess what' served to take the two scared minds off of the previous topic of possibilities and impossibilities. 'Guess what' brought them back to something that could make Chris and Matt but for a while, put their unease on the backburners of their thoughts.

"I sucked Glenn."

Matt couldn't help the giggles that came out of him at that. The trembling soprano voices of his emotions had been pitched so painfully high that this just sent him over the opposite edge. It was like some strange kind of temporary hysteria. Adam quirked a brow at him, and then turned to Chris, who had simply groaned in combination of disgust and irritation at the declaration. Still, there was something under both of those too, because despite the disgruntled groan, Chris was smiling.

"Are you serious?" He smacked Adam with the pillow again, only the blow was less forceful, unpowered by the previous outburst of fear-braided anger.

"I'm serious!" Adam pouted. "How is that so hard for you to believe? There isn't a man or woman who would say 'No' to me. I can convince the most doubtful person into letting me have my way with them, I'm just that damn charming." He flashed a smile that had undoubtedly won Glenn, and many previous others, to Adam's cause and his checklist of names in that little book that he kept. He still thought of that tiny ledger of sexual conquest as a secret, even though everyone close to him knew about it and openly joked about its existence.

"Tell us all about it then." Matt said, finally able to reign in the biggest portion of the popcorn-giggles. "Don't leave anything out."

Distract us, please Adam, oh please just distract us so we don't have to go back to that sorry mess we were just moments ago.

Matt re-adjusted his position on the bed, and Chris cuddled the pillow close to his chest, propping his chin on it, in preparation for the telling of the tale. If Adam was anything, he was braggadocios, especially on the matter of his sex life. If the right questions were asked by the other two, they could keep the dramatic story going for a good while, and maybe successfully derail the train of their earlier conversation. At least, they could hope to.

Adam spoke of every detail in a way that was full more of excitement and that fog-covered puppy love, than his usual arrogant tone. The vigor of his words and the blush that easily spread across his checks at the most juicy details painted him as something other than Adam The Undefeated Snake and Kitty Charmer. Instead he was a schoolgirl recounting her first time in the back of a car, with her skirt hiked up to her neck, undiscovered territory bared and slowly recorded by the trembling fingers of an adventurous Columbus, charting a map of The New World. There was less gum snapping and only infrequent head bobbles, and when it was finally done with he seemed to be lost in some warm mist, the smile on his face contented rather than smug.

"I pulled the satiny basketball shorts back up, over those creamy, white thighs…" Adam sighed. "I can still taste him in my mouth, that luscious, full cock—mmm." He purred, his teeth raking over his lower lip.

"Alright, I think that's enough for story time." Matt said, patting Adam's leg.

"Nooo, I don't think so!" Adam grinned, looking back and forth from Matt to Chris. "What about you two? Come on, you guys may not have been together long but the deepness of you two is plain for anyone to see. You guys are meant to be together, mark my words. So, tell me stories."

Chris's face pinkened at the thought of sharing such intimacy with Adam. It wasn't as if he hadn't ever proudly bragged about some bouncing in bed himself, it's just that Matt was different. Matt was much, much more than a romp between the sheets and anything that may happen between them would be far too special to unravel to willing ears like a dirty smut-story, shown to eager, flashing eyes, like a stash of secret porn. Not to mention, even if he would have been one to 'kiss and tell' there wasn't that much to tell. Their first attempt at sex had been horribly interrupted, and now Chris found himself back at square one. The cold fang of fear was back, biting deep through flesh, muscle, bone, and soul. He caught Matt's eyes, and the face that had once more drained of its olive-bronzed tone, and he knew Matt was there too.

"What's wrong? You aren't going to tell me? Don't play like you two haven't done anything yet, 'cause that's just funny." Adam shrugged. "Whatever. Listen, just invite me to the wedding, ok? I get to be your best man, right Matt?" Adam nudged Matt, who blinked over at him as if he'd forgotten he was even there.

"Oh, sure Adam." Matt said dully. Adam play punched his arm.

"I better go and leave you two alone though." The blond turned to Chris and gave him a wink. "It's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding, right? Something like that." He looked a little annoyed when Chris didn't laugh, or snap back at the barb with a spirited 'assclown' comment. Adam rolled off the bed, and shoved his hands into his pockets, his shoulders slumped. Whatever weird, bad mood had ebbed over Hardy and Jericho had been bled onto him and with a frown he left the two seated in a haze of numbness on the bed. As he closed the door behind him and moved down the hallway to his own room, he could help but shiver at the feeling that some invisible, piercing eyes, were watching him.

~xx~

Adam found himself laying in the dark, tangled up in his covers, long after night had fallen. For some reason sleep refused to take him under, and he just stayed their awake and staring at the black ceiling, his ears picking up every tiny, creaking, sound that the house made. Usually Adam fell asleep quickly and slept deeply, so he'd never had a chance to notice just how creepy this old house was at night. The groaning and tapping and sounds like old bones moving decrepitly had put his senses on that high, sensitive, alert that only the trickle of fear can. He knew it was stupid, but this was just what happened late at night when the mind began to trace strange shadows on the walls.

From under his door a thin veil of light peered in, yellow with its watchful eye. He'd never noticed it being on before, and in fact he knew that Christian hated sleeping with any sort of light on. He was surprised that his brother hadn't gotten up yet to turn the hall light off, which everyone else had decided in an unspoken unanimity to leave on lately. Adam closed his eyes, counting in his head from one hundred back, hoping to lull himself to sleep. It had failed to work in all prior attempts, but that didn't keep him from trying again. His eyes were tired from being so wide awake in the dark, and the curtain of his eyelids pulling closed over the dry orbs was painful and scratchy. It seemed like he could feel each spidery vein popping out and rubbing irritably against the crimson backs of his eyelids.

From somewhere, a floorboard creaked, and the long bony sound made its way to Adam's ears causing him to shiver and pull the covers up over his neck and as close to his chin as possible. The next sound he was sure would send the covers up over his head, as childish as it was, and even though he knew it would do him no good. Anyway, do no good against what? What was he afraid of? It wasn't as if there was truly anything there, it was just the arthritic joints of an old house making themselves known. But still, he really didn't want to open his unsleeping eyes again. Suddenly, he felt bad for scaring Matt and Chris earlier. He wondered then if they weren't just playing some joke on him as revenge.

His eyes came open and he squinted into the darkness around his room. Quietness answered him back, and a stillness that seemed almost just as horrible itself as the whining creaks and unexplained tapping sounds had been. He wanted to whisper into the darkness, a breathy sounding 'whose there' but he knew he would feel too foolish opening his mouth to do so. Instead, he clamped his lips tightly together, and the little puffs of air whooshing and drawing in and out of his flaring nostrils came harder and quicker, as did the following thumps of his heart.

A soft rustling sound seemed deafening in the heavy silence, and with a terror that made his eyes wide and a scream tear up his throat, he saw the sheets at the end of his bed rumple and ripple. Like a bullet from a gun he was up and out of the bed, headed straight for the door. His clamoring hands wrapped around the knob but it turned in his hand. He pushed against the door, all of his weight set on tearing out of that room, and maybe even out of the house, and into the inky night. He was beyond the point of thinking of whether or not it was ridiculous or not, he just wanted out. The knob shook and jangled in his sweaty palms. His face screwed up into a look that might have been cartoonish had the circumstance not been so severe, and he slammed his body against the door. It did nothing, and he leaned against it tired, chest heaving. He glanced down at the spray of light yellow light spilling from under the slit bottom of the door, fanning out in a gentle semi-circle. It was then that he noticed, and what he saw there made his skin crawl over the flesh beneath and sent him in a dead run for the closet. He could think of nowhere else to go, and so he dove in among his shoes and jeans and huddled into the corner of the small space, shutting the door and hugging his knees close to his chest.

He closed his eyes tight, willing away the thing he'd seen marring the bright spill of light over the wood slats of floor, but he couldn't. Twin shadows had fallen dark and gray into the light: someone was standing at the other side of the door. Adam's heart pounded and throttled against his chest, the quick beats like the swift footfalls of a sprinter against a track. He tried to squeeze himself back tighter into the small corner of the closet, hoping to wedge himself there and thus protect himself from whatever was watching, waiting, perhaps entering his room to do terrible, unspeakable things to him. He closed his eyes tight, trying to swallow away the pathetic whimper that threatened to whine over his lips and give away his hiding place. He grabbed at the clothing hanging in the darkness, and the metal hangers tinkled lightly against the rod. He felt the thick cloth of jean in his hand and stuff the cuff into his mouth, biting it and praying that it would absorb the sounds he could barely keep back. He screwed his eyes tightly closed.

In the quietness he could hear the clicking of the door to his room, and the squawk of the hinges as the heavy wood swung on them. For a moment, that was all, and he hoped that maybe he'd imagined it. Time seemed to drag by and the silence seemed like a kind of beacon. It was telling him that it was over now. Adam stirred a little, and let the corner of jeans drop from between his wet lips. He moved forwards on his knees, his hands inching in front of him and stopping at the bottom of the closet door. His breathing was loud in his ears, his chest tight with anxiety, and the question tormented his mind as he tilted his head up and beheld the sight of the doorknob seeming to loom over him. Open it, or stay in the closet all night, taking refuge behind sweatpants and band t-shirts. He reached upwards, nearly convinced that all of this had been some strange half-dream. He must have been laying in bed, just drifting in that weird, numb place between sleep and wakefulness, when he had thought that he'd heard someone at the door. The more he thought of it, hand wrapped tightly around the doorknob, the sillier it seemed. Adam breathed a sigh of relief, and a small, amused, grin curled his lips and his teeth flashed in the darkness. He turned the knob, but hadn't the time to open the door. There were footsteps.

With a shriek he couldn't contain, Adam flew back into the corner, sending pants and shirts and hangers colliding and tangling and falling in a mess of cloth and metal. He wanted to bury himself in the fallen garments, dig a hole through the floor, and burrow into that too. Behind him, the corner of wall he was leaning against seemed to shudder, as if the beams inside were bones, the brick flesh, and the paint over it a thin, cold skin. With another strangled cry Adam fell forwards against the door. The catch was undone from his brave turn of the knob just moments ago, and the door did not hold his sudden weight upon it but swung open and tossed his body against the floor with a thud. Adam remained there too afraid to move, frozen against the cool planks of wood. He was convinced that the feet which belonged to those ghostly footsteps were only inches away from him. If he opened his eyes and dared to look up, the empty, skull-like face of some demonic specter would be peering down on him, black, bony fingers outstretching to pull his screaming, crying, wretched soul from his bones and spirit it away to some hellish underworld.

His sweat covered face was wet and sticky against the floor, and the trickles traced slowly and icily down his spine. His legs trembled, and his stomach and bladder twisted themselves into tight, painful knots. He felt like a man on the edge of the world and if he took just one more breath, it would be enough to plummet him over and into the abyss, never ending, always falling, head over heels over head over heels for an eternity. His fingers twitched, his toes curled up, his teeth chewed at his lip until the blood from the sensitive petals mingled with the sweat and smeared over his chin.

The footsteps began again, both soft and heavy, as if they were naked feet rather than shoed or booted ones, but bearing a heavy weight. They were awkward, never falling in any sort of pattern, as if the owners legs were moving him forwards jerkily. The footfalls became louder, closer, the knowledge of their presence further made known by the shuddering of the floor as they came closer. Adam could do nothing but remain frozen and shivering, shredding his lip, closing his eyes so tightly that firework colors exploded against the backs of them.

The sound and vibrations stopped and he knew the thing was in front of him. He could hear breathing that was not his own, and he could feel the strange thing without having his eyes open to see it. Panic paralyzed him, his mind sped, racing, screaming at his immobile body that he must move, must run, must get the fuck away before the thing touched him, because then he really would be dead. He couldn't take the thought of some rotten, death-chilled fingers sliding over his skin. His eyes flew open, coming to focus on feet that poked out from the darkness. The toes were only inches from his nose, covered in the dirty gray of socks, the stitching at the toes the color of blood, in one end was a hole, and Adam just knew that if he stayed there a moment longer a bony, elongated, toe was going to uncurl from the ghastly hole and stab out his eyes. With a sob he scrambled to his feet, suddenly able to move and quickly, and bolted for the door without setting his eyes again on the thing. He wanted to see no more of it, he only wanted to be gone from it, since it seemed as though that's the way it would have to be, because it apparently did not want to be gone away from him.

He yanked the door open and thundered down the lit hallway, skidding outside the bathroom at the end to a near crash into the wall. At the last second he managed to avoid it and tossed himself into the bathroom, slamming the door closed behind him, locking it, and leaning against it in a trembling mess. His legs only held him up against the door for a few moments before giving out and buckling at the knees, sliding him down into a sitting position. After a moment or two of sitting there, resting up against the door, he felt the need to move. The image of some long bones snaking out of that hole—that hole like the black pupil of a crazy eye—in that sock and scratching under the door to poke at his back had him up on his feet again. He looked down at the crack of light under the door, so afraid of seeing anything else there. With a little whimper he reached for the light switch, and the small bathroom was aglow in a comforting light.

He quickly stripped of his clothes, letting them pile onto the worn tiles, and didn't dare to look at his face in the mirror. He was horrified at what he might see reflected there, the image of his own wild eyes and waxy face, or worse, the image of whatever that thing had been in his room. He inched back the shower curtain and peered around it, letting out a trembling sigh of relief when he found nothing there. Adam stepped into the bathtub and turned the shower on cold, and curled up under the raining head, begging it to wash the stench of fear away from him.

~xxx~