A/N: The chapters keep getting shorter ( ._ .); Any mistakes/errors - I'm sorry, I'm doing my best. Point any out if they annoy you enough.


Chapter Sixteen

Paradise Lost

A battle.

War.

With himself.

Against the world.

The land and sky.

Against people.

And their vices.

Their emotions.

His emotions.

The war.

The battle.

Inside himself.

And he was losing…

Everything was twisted and warped, his morals and sense of reality. Time was no longer a constant measurement, sensations were. They governed his every move, decided for him the future state of his mind. Good days, bad days – they didn't exist. Just good sensations, bad sensations, that's all there was.

And the sensations only Lance could give him. He enjoyed those. Fed on them. The way the blond boy touched him, violated him with that damn sinful mouth; it was rough and quick and so damn full of heat. Burning and passion and love.

There was love.

Within the tangle of sheets, slick with sweat and pheromones, Lance was the first to say it.

"I love you, Mikage."

That was all he wanted.

All he needed.

Nothing more.

Nothing less.

Love.

He had searched for it in his youth.

Lost it in a blaze.

And every time he hoped.

Someone gave him a reason not to.

So he gave up.

Threw in the towel.

This battle was not worth fighting.

There was love, drugs, and sex.

And that became Teito's new view on life.


~Lover'sHeat~


Everything felt wrong. From the way he opened his eyes to the feel of air in his lungs. This body was not his own, someone must have switched it when he wasn't looking…

Pain lurked beneath the surface of his skin, but, for the moment, all Teito could feel was light and strange. Thus the something "wrong". Just laying on the bed was not supposed to grant him any sensations. He was to be numb to the world, mind impossibly blank until his services were called upon.

Then he could feel.

Otherwise there was no need for it. So why was he feeling now?

Green eyes roamed the room, taking note of the childish toys scattered about. Miniscule trains, airplanes, a ball and a bat, a few stuffed animals, and a tower of building blocks. The wallpaper was of tiny dinosaurs, glow-in-the-dark stars littered the ceiling.

In an earlier time, Teito would have scoffed at the inaccuracy of their placement – couldn't they at least make an attempt to place the Big Dipper? – but now, now he had trouble differentiating between one star from the other. They all sort of swirled together, creating one giant mass of dull yellow-green that only caused his head to ache.

Desperately hoping this all to be a nightmare, Teito shut his eyes, drawing his aching, pain-laden body tightly into his arms, and counting down from five – which took him four attempts to accomplish – the teen slowly opened his eyes, expecting a different, more familiar room.

If only his life worked out that way.

Around him, the large pink flowers seemed to shudder, swaying their delicate petals in a stationary breeze. There was nothing Teito could do as thick brown vines snaked around him, embracing him, and stole away his warmth. Even through his clothing and blankets, their tiny thorns found a way to attach themselves, sucking greedily from him until there was hardly anything left.

And he hated it.

Hated the cold and everything it represented.

There was no companionship in such a freezing climate, no tenderness or love. Just hard ice, killing anything it comes in contact with and making it suffer until the very end.

A strangled noise escaped Teito's throat and tears suddenly began bubbling in the corners of his eyes as a fierce sensation wrapped around his chest too tightly. He had forgotten about pain…

"Teito-kun," a voice so soft, so pure, called out to him in concern, the face belonging to that voice soon filling the teen's vision as observant mauve eyes watched him carefully. "Where does it hurt?"

It was a heartbeat later before Teito's lip twitched and pulled into a snarl, green eyes narrowed into a heated glare.

"You," he accused, instantly remembering everything this man had put him through. Both physical and mental assaults – Teito had to endure it all from this man, and he had the audacity to pretend to be concerned for the teen's well being?

Before, back in his years of naiveté, Teito had thought this man to be the embodiment of long-suffering and limitless compassion, but the man had shown his true colors. Now Teito felt like a fool believing it for as long as he did.

"Leave me the fuck alone," he hissed, wishing, not for the first time, he had enough strength to lift up his hand to swipe at that fake look of concern on Labrador's stupid smug little face.

"Teito-kun…" the man breathed, eyes dipping down to the floor.

"Why are you doing this?" he shouted as loud as he could, though his strangled voice barely carried across the small room. "Why?"

"We've had this discussion before– "

"What discussion? That was no discussion! You all but threatened to kill my boyfriend– !"

"He's not your boyfriend, Teito! He never loved you!" Labrador snapped, unadulterated anger coating his tongue and making it snap as sharp as a whip. He flinched at his own tone, and ashamedly turned away. "I'm sorry for raising my –"

"Stop lying! Lance loves me! He told me so himself!"

"He lied, Teito-kun," Labrador pleaded with a tone lower than the angry teen. "He was just telling you what you wanted to hear– "

"You can't take this from me!" Teito cried out, clutching at the sheets on the bed to keep himself grounded. He didn't understand why it hurt, why there was pain. But it did hurt, and there was pain, and he couldn't cope.

He didn't know how to handle so much…emotion.

"Lance loves me! Me!"

Teito choked, a sob catching in his throat that caused him to cough suddenly. At first it was a quick jump of the lungs, then he found he couldn't stop. It stole his air and burned his throat raw, shaking his brittle form until he forcefully curled himself into a tight ball.

Labrador rushed to him, catching his shoulder and attempted to push him onto his back but Teito fought back. Regardless of the violent coughing, with yellowed eyes veined red, he glared and swiped at best he could without fully letting go of himself.

"Teito-kun, please– "

"I need him and he needs me," he shouted around a handful of coughs, pain flaring and spreading. "You can't keep him from me – he loves me, he does. I know he does. He told me. He told me. He told me."

"…are you trying to convince yourself of that fact, Teito-kun?"

In a fit of fury, the teen reached out to claw the man's face, but the air might as well have been made out of molasses. Teito moved to slow, Labrador too quick, and the gardener was well out of reach by the time he fully extended his arm.

"It's all his fault," the teen hissed, arm dropping to the bed where it was immediately wrapped in those dying vines. He coughed a few more times, though these were less extreme, more controlled, and still felt painful in his throat.

"He just couldn't stand the thought of us being together; I'm right, aren't I? He just couldn't let me be happy! Well you can just tell Frau– ," pushing back on his elbows, Teito slowly rose but the heavy blanket and plant life kept him from going to far "He can go fuck his mother in hell– ."

The slap was completely unexpected.

One second Labrador was staring at Teito with some form of pity, the next his hand was raised and striking down with barely controlled rage darkening mauve eyes. It was quick and snapped Teito's head off to one side, the teen staring blankly in front of him with a growing red stain filling his cheek.

Labrador attempted to control his breathing, hand still raised.

Teito just fought to remember how to breath again.

"Never," the gardener hissed, hand clenching into a tight fist that tangled into the front of Teito's shirt, dragging the boy upward so they could lock eyes. "Never will you speak about Frau like that in my presence again. That man scarified so much for you – all for you without expecting an ounce of consideration; don't you dare scorn his concern for your well being. He cares deeply about you– "

"Ha!" Teito barked, slackening into his oversized sleeping shirt to hang there limply. The shock of being hit had finally ebbed away, leaving only mocking anger behind, something that filled him wholly and blissfully.

It helped make the pain go away.

"He cares? He scarified? Did you know, that with one hand, he could crush my windpipe if he wanted to? Want to know how I know?" Teito smirked at the shock clearing away the rage in the bishop's eyes. "First hand experience. So close he was to killing me – just a little bit more pressure and… well, he probably would've just thrown me out into the wilderness, let the animals have a go at me."

"…no."

"And did he sacrifice anything when he walked out and left me in that damn room? He didn't care! I was just a damn mess he had to clean up! And when it got too difficult, he gave up.

"I don't know what kind of fucked up pedestal you've got that fucker up on but he doesn't deserve it! He's a selfish, cruel, heartless sonnavabitch and I was damn well happy when he finally left me alone! I had finally found someone who loves me and Frau j-just– " Teito bit on his lip, refusing the tears to fall. He would not cry. Not in front of this man, and definitely not for Frau.

"He just didn't want me to be happy so of course he kidnapped me– "

"Lance was the one who kidnapped you!" Labrador snapped out of his stupor, resigning himself to take control of the situation by force if he had to. "Lance abused the trust you placed on him – that boy never loved you."

"STOP SAYING THAT!"

"It's the truth! Why can't you allow yourself to see that," Labrador shamelessly pleaded, desperate for the mental image Teito created for Lance to finally crack and shatter. The image was false, Lance nothing more than a pretty mirage, but Teito seemed transfixed on worshipping the damn man like an idol.

All for love.

"Because it's all I have left! It's all…It's all…" Teito sniffed, angrily growling at himself as he swiped his fist beneath his clogging nose. "Frau doesn't love me. You and Castor hate me. I killed Mikage. Kurena was forced to suffer because of me. Father's gone. I don't even remember my own parents! So fuck you. Fuck you and your fucking god. Fuck all of you! I will live my life as I damn see fit – even if that means hanging onto something that doesn't exist!"

Glare turned icy, Teito smacked the gardener's arm away, dropping onto the bed with a slight bounce. His matted hair fell over his face, looking wild but making him appear pathetically helpless as he continued to glare with tears threatening to spill.

"My delusions are better than this shit stain of a reality. And I've never been saner in my life."

"Teito-kun…"

Teito closed his eyes and turned away from that pleading voice, giving a soft sigh that released all his frustrations and fear. From the center of his chest, right where he assumed his heart would be, a kindling warmth bubbled into life.

The warmth, so generous and kind, pushed through his veins and chased away his cold. It tingled his skin, made him shiver with delight. So pleasant, so tender, Teito almost started crying again. He could breath easier now, his head no longer throbbed.

His heart no longer hurt.

Everything was blissful ignorance, and it felt like he was on a fluffy white cloud sailing across an endless blue sky. Serenity. Beauty. He was like a starved child, soaking it all in. He took meals from the sunlight, water from the rain. The air was his friend, and the cloud his security.

"Teito-kun?"

Teito turned, quirked an eyebrow at Labrador, and quietly asked with a voice oddly raw "Huh? Labrador? What are you doing here?"

Teito certainly had not expected to be paid a visit by Labrador of all people. It seemed strange – he wasn't well acquainted with the bishop. And how had they found him anyways? He was sure Frau would have given them some lie as to the teen's sudden "disappearance".

But good riddance, right?

Without Teito, the Seventh District was safe from prosecution from the military and the teen was free to start a new life. Win-win, right?

Right?

But Labrador merely sighed as if his will to live left with that exhale, and staggered back until his back hit the wall, the shock visibly rippling through him and bringing him to his knees on the ground, head titled back onto the wall to helplessly stare up at the ceiling.

"No…" the gardener whimpered, bottom lip trembling as crystalline tears caressing pale skin until they disappeared beneath the collar of his sweater. "No; Lord, please, stop letting this child suffer so… Please, I beg of you. Please."

"Labrador?" Teito's voice, laced with concern, was barely louder than the squeak of a mouse. "What's wrong– ?"

The door to the room swung open, exposing a vindictive Castor in the doorframe. His angry amber eyes passed over Teito, regarded him in less than a second before they settled upon the bishop collapsed to the ground, petite form shaking against sobs. The russet's anger seemed to darken then, sharpen, and thin lips pulled into a small snarl.

"H-How long– ?" Labrador began to ask, working against his body to stop the flow of tears and the tremors. He swiped uselessly at his eyes – Castor already saw them anyway.

"Long enough," the russet clipped. He reached down and dragged the gardener onto his feet none-too-gently. "This is borderline on masochistic. I'm not allowing you to do this any longer."

"B-But Frau– !"

A flare of pain shot through Teito like a bullet before sizzling out into oblivion, in its wake sweet, caring warmth. He wasn't understanding the conversation, but he found that he particularly didn't care.

Teito found he didn't particularly care much about anything.

"Frau has his own form of protection – you have none. You can't help him."

The significant look Castor cast Teito's way went completely over the teen's head.

"Only Frau."

"But– !"

"You've done all you could." Castor's tone softened, as well as his expression. He took both of Labrador's shoulders, gently rubbing his thumbs across the prominent bones there. Briefly, his eyes flickered back to Teito and over the graveyard of withered, dried flowers and vines before falling back onto the lilac-haired priest. "You've done all you could, Labrador. Come with me. Please."

Emerald eyes watched as Castor took Labrador's hand and led the man out the door, closing it behind them without a second glance at the teen. Teito continued to stare at that door, blinking only once his eyelids quivered in anticipation for a blink.

When his gaze flickered unsteadily to the right, he noticed the wallpaper.

Little dinosaurs.

"…where am I?"


o.7.g.h.o.s.t


A few hours later Teito was revisited by Castor.

Only this time, the russet was smiling. Smiling plenty. It unnerved the teen, somewhere in the back of his mind, but that's where it stayed and Teito just watched that smile as if it was the most common thing in the world.

Even if every other word out of that man's mouth was pure gibberish, and the few words Teito did understand made no sense in context, Teito nodded and went along with much of what the man was asking of him.

Mostly.

"You're moving me…where?" Teito asked after Castor helped him to sit up, and was currently brushing away dead flower petals from his person.

"To safety, of course."

"…I don't understand."

Castor pulled off Teito's shirt and replaced it with a thermal long-sleeve. The teen huffed at the struggle his new shirt put up, but managed to push his arms through the sleeves and fix it across his front. His head swam a bit by all the movement, but somehow he kept his wits about him.

"What's going on?"

Beyond his room, there was noise, lots of noise, noise that made Teito wonder what was going on. But he didn't question, his mind kept on the single track of putting on the clothes Castor threw his way. Warm slacks, sweater, socks, and knee-high fur-lined boots.

When clothing stopped flying, and Castor was packing other things into a small duffle bag, Teito remembered his previous question and asked it again.

"Er," Castor stalled a bit by pointlessly pouring more concentration on his task. Once he had the bag zipped – it really was a small thing – he turned to Teito, groaned somewhere in the back of his throat, and turned toward the door. "Lance ran into some trouble. He asked us to get you to safety."

"Lance did?"

The teen asked with such joyous wonderment, filled with unadulterated adoration, Castor had to suppress a flinch. "Y-Yes, of course."

"But where is he? Is he safe?"

"He'll…meet you there, is what he said. Yes, that is what he said. Come," he held the door open for the brunet, small bag hanging off his shoulder. "We need to get going now."

Teito raced out of the room, winded by the time he turned into the living room. He hung onto the doorframe, gazing out to the open front door while his hand trembled on his chest. White flurry rushed past the darkened sky, coating everything in a thick, frosty layer. There was movement outside, which fascinated the teen, and once more he was rushing to the commotion.

Would he find Lance there?

Would Lance take him somewhere far away where they could be together?

Teito hoped so. He so desperately hoped so. He couldn't take any more of this separation. How long since he last saw those beautiful eyes and that charming smile?

Too long, that's how long. His heart yearned for the one he loved, cared for – together again, he just couldn't wait. Teito was sick and tired of Labrador and Castor and the things they represented. Like the past he couldn't atone for, the friend he couldn't save, the people he hurt, killed, the god that cast him aside and left him to rot.

The man that broke his heart.

But that didn't matter now! Because, outside, outside, he would finally be in that warm embrace he craved. Outside was Lan–

"Frau," Teito whispered, trembling hand caught on the doorframe as grassy-green eyes widened in terror.

The man stood tall and imposing as always. Occupying space and demanding more of it. The air felt colder, the world seemed darker. He was a demon, stealing the innocence of the world and plunging it into damnation. With that shock of blond hair, those pale soulless eyes, the handsome face and perfect everything…

Why was he here?

Teito didn't realize the question had left his lips until he felt the shock of cold air tingled his teeth and left them chattering. Behind him, Castor took his shoulder and pulled him back into the house. The teen attempted to glance over his shoulder, fearing the possibilities of keeping his back to Frau, but Castor was forcing him into a coat, and scarf, and gloves, and fuzzy little earmuffs.

"W-why…?" The words wouldn't leave his mouth – the tremors wouldn't leave his body. Teito felt like running but he was frozen in place, too scared to move. If Frau was here, what did it mean?

If Frau was here, did that mean that his dream, about blood and screaming and fire…?

Was that true? Did it happen?

Did Frau really –?

"Frrrraaauuu!"

With surprising strength, Teito shoved away Castor, sending the unsuspecting bishop backward to crash into the ground, skull making audible impact with the hardwood floor. That didn't stop Teito though.

Next to the door was a standing coatrack; Teito took that, swinging it by the time he stepped out the door.

By the swing, the path was clearly visible. It was to make impact around the side of Frau's face, more clearly along the temple and ear, but the man in question reacted to the attack. There was a loud thwack! before things could settle down and be properly analyzed. The blond had raised his arm, stopping the blow, the other hand reaching out to catch the impromptu weapon from striking again.

For a painstakingly long moment, Teito feared he inflicted no damage, but, slowly, the pale hairline began soaking with red, and the teen could barely distinguish the connection between the injury and one of the stained hooks on the coatrack.

And as if to further clarify this to the teen, Frau flinched and tilted his head further away, revealing the mess Teito had created. On the blond's fair skin, a painful red bruise spread from beneath his hairline and out towards his eye, the tip of his ear was bloody beyond recognition, the sticky liquid dribbling down onto his neck.

With a forceful tug, Frau pulled the coatrack from the teen's grasp and flung it out towards the snow-covered lawn where it sunk deep and vanished from sight. Icy blue eyes locked onto Teito's, and now without a weapon, the teen stiffened, hands fisted and preparing for a fight.

Teito couldn't read Frau's expression as the man began advancing towards him, so he did the only thing he could, he began to walk back into the house at the same pace. Inside he could find another weapon. He wasn't an idiot – against Frau, hand to hand, Teito had the disadvantage without his Zaphion, especially in his current condition.

Frau had strength, height and weight.

Teito had flexibility, tactics, and agility.

Those were useless now when a five meter sprint left him winded.

But, in the end, even backtracking into the house had been pointless. Frau reached Teito before the teen had a chance to look around for something easy to pick up and swing. He was caught by the collar of his coat and dragged forward. For a second the thought of kicking Frau in the crotch began forming in the teen's mind, but he watched stupidly as his scarf was tucked into his coat and the zipper pulled all the way up.

Face still impassive, Frau took Teito's hood and flipped it onto the boy's head before walking out the door and into the chilling air. Dumbfounded, Teito followed and hung by the doorway, watching as if he had been a bystander all along.

"F-Frau!" This was Labrador, torn between the bleeding blond and the russet who had not yet moved from his place on the floor.

"I'll look this one over," the brown-haired man, stranger to Teito, informed the flustered gardener, placing a hand on a slender shoulder and directing the bishop back into the house. Hazel eyes watched the petite man go, flickering over to Teito when Labrador squeezed through the occupied doorframe, seemed unconcerned with what he found, and advanced towards the blond strapping a bag onto an unwilling hawkzile.

"How many fingers do you see?" Ashley prompted only to have his hand swatted away.

"I'm fine," Frau growled. He cast a quick glance over his shoulder to the teen before turning away. "It's just a bump."

"That's alotta blood for a bump…" Their tones were neutral, controlled, and nonchalant. "Imma get ya something to clean it up – make sure you still have your ear intact. Ya gonna be – "

"I said I'll be fine," the bishop snapped, eyes narrowed into a glare. He forced the ropes a bit to tightly and the hawkzile screeched in protest. "Just drop it. I don't need anything."

"You don't hear ringing, you don't feel nauseous – "

"I'm getting nauseous by this conversation," he growled. "Go see if Lab needs any help. I'll finish here."

"You at least need to clean it –"

"No!" Frau finally exploded, body tensing and ready to strike. Ashley wisely took a step back. With a deep breath, the blond forced himself to control his anger. Control it. Push it down and shut it tight. Gone. "Honestly, I'm fine. If I wasn't, I would say so, but I'm not so I'm fine."

"Are you forcing this for yourself, or for the boy?"

Another glance in Teito's direction, and there was something there that the teen did not have the appropriate tools to decipher. Then it was back to Ashley, expression controlled again. "Get lost, yeah, mollycoddler?"

"Fine, fine," the older brunet sighed before turning away. He fluffed the hair on his nape, forced to trudge through snow to get to the front of his house. He eased past Teito without a passing him a glance and made himself useful elsewhere, but not where he had been instructed to go. He breezed past Castor and Labrador, the former repeatedly attempting to escape from the latter's over protectiveness, and soon Teito found himself disinterested.

The teen turned back to Frau, watching the man silently work, all the while wondering how the blond received such a frightful blow to the side of his head. It looked painful – there was so much blood, and his skin was starting to stain a deep purple. The blond really needed to see someone to make sure no permanent damage had been done.

"Frau?" He quietly asked, shuffling behind the threshold to timidly hide when Frau stopped whatever he was doing to turn to Teito. At the raised eyebrow the blond sent his way, Teito looked away shyly. "Um, are you okay? That injury looks bad – did someone do that to you?"

The teen missed the pained smile, so beautiful and honest, that stretched Frau's lips, and, instead, when he turned to see the man's expression, received a bored look as if the teen's concern was not wanted and a nuisance.

Instead of responding to Teito's question, he turned back and packed the last few things, along with the bag Teito saw Castor stuffing full of clothing.

"Are you going somewhere?" he asked, some strange part of him wanting to hear Frau's voice.

But at that moment, everyone began pouring out of the room and into the midday flurry. They talked amongst themselves, and Teito could follow not one conversation. Then he was being summoned, and as he struggled through the snow, he came upon two hawkziles strapped with supplies – Frau on one, Labrador in the other.

"You three have a safe trip, yeah?" The oldest member of the group spoke above the rush of wind.

"Labrador," Castor, standing beside Ashley, looked to the gardener with a mixture of concern and anger. "We'll expect you back in four days – if you take longer than that, we'll be forced to go looking for you."

Labrador merely smiled and nodded, slipping a full-helmet over his wavy locks and settling himself properly onto his hawkzile, which he gently encouraged awake.

"Frau, keep to the ground roads – you'll be less likely spotted by any military vehicles that way –"

"I know, Cass." The blond started up his own vehicle as well. "I've done this before."

"Just promise me you'll be careful," the russet wearily responded, rubbing his aching head in the process. "About everything."

"Someone's concerned about me," the blond teased by flashing a grin. Casually, he lifted his arm and brushed his coat against his injured ear and hairline, smearing the blood there and slicking some of his hair back. Then the full-helmet was slipped in place, face guarded from the elements and worried eyes, and Frau winced in peace. "Just make sure you find my hawkzile, yeah? I poured alotta TLC into that one."

After that, Teito was finally acknowledged. Frau held out a gloved hand to the teen, expectantly patient, and Teito stared at it wearily. He hadn't known he was supposed to go as well. His life was here, though – his boyfriend and his work.

Teito didn't even know where they were going. Would they come back? Would they bring him back after a few days? He couldn't be apart from Lance for a few days. His body craved Lance's and all the things he gave Teito.

But Frau was waiting…

Patiently waiting. Even with the stupid visor and helmet hiding his facial features, Teito could feel the weight of those icy blue eyes pleading with him, tempting him, to take his hand. Even after everything that stupid man had put him through, the anger and the pain, Teito always found himself forgiving. Because it was Frau – no other reason than that.

And if he took that hand, Teito knew something was going to change. He may not know where he was, or why he was here, or who that strange person was that seemed to be deciding what to make of Teito.

Or why Labrador and Castor were here. Or why Frau was here on a hawkzile, silently beseeching Teito to run away with him–

Was that what the blond was doing? Asking Teito to decide between Lance and Frau? No– of course Teito would pick–

Who would he pick?

Teito loved his boyfriend, loved Lance. But Lance hardly ever visited because of school and work. And even then, they're time together was short. They never talked anymore either, their bodies did all the talking. And the conversations were crude at best.

And Frau was here. Frau who had once promised him the world in a fleeting beautiful smile. Frau who once held him when he cried. Frau who once teased him when he was feeling down. Frau who once listened to Teito's concerns with unwavering patience. Frau who once kept his secrets. Frau who once gave him secrets to keep. Frau who once played stupid childish games with him when no one else would.

Frau who once…who once…

Teito caught his head in his open palm, face pinching in pain as it throbbed from his temple and spread out like a virus. He didn't understand the pain, but that didn't stop him from searching for what exactly Frau once did that meant the world to Teito. It was there, on the tip of his tongue. It was here, in the air. But he had a better chance at catching sunlight in his hands than this wandering thought.

Frau also wasn't giving him a chance to do so either.

Teito's wrist was caught, and before he could prepare himself, he was thrown across the backseat. The hawkzile screeched impatiently, and gave no warning as it suddenly took off. It sped down the driveway, Frau barely having a chance to wave over his shoulder before he took the handle with one hand and guided the crazed mechanical bird onto the road – his other hand was occupied by fisting tightly into the teen's coat to keep him from flying off. Labrador followed behind them just in case.

It was only after a full day of driving, with the duo assault of cold wind and nausea, that Teito began remembering his harbored hate for Frau.

o.7.G.h.o.s.t

It was turning out to be an uneventful road trip. A day ago, they had left Labrador at the border of the Second and Seventh District. Due to the storm, military surveillance was slack and they passed beneath the border patrol without drawing attention to themselves, but that also meant they had pushed the hawkziles to their breaking points. It was slow and steady going, just to give time for the girl to catch her breath – and Frau hadn't a doubt in his mind that Labrador was doing the same.

The blond worried about what might be happening back in that town, what with how he had left things, but his more pressing concern was here with him. Teito had been oddly quiet throughout the entire thing – Frau thought that perhaps the teen was having another one of his episodes, where he zoned out and lost himself to his mind, but he wasn't certain.

He didn't have the strength to glance back and check. Instead Frau kept forward, eyes on the never ending road still littered with snow. If they kept going at the same pace, it would take another day to reach the Barsburg church. If the hawkzile was allowed to rest for a few minutes, they could get there before nightfall.

Frau was tempted, but with the teen being oddly compliant, he didn't know what to do. He wanted to take advantage of the opportunity, but he also wanted a damn minute to rest. The blasted weather was freezing his fingers and toes – he could only image what it was doing to Teito.

A few more minutes driving, no other land vehicles in sight, Frau caught sight of a deserted gas station just some feet ahead. There really was no one in sight, so the blond figured it was a safe enough stop.

Easing the hawkzile into the lot, Frau cut off the engine and suppressed a smile as the large bird sighed and sagged.

The good-natured feeling was short lived, however.

Not even a second later, Teito was jumping off the motorized bird and running to the treeline surrounding the structure.

"Goddamn, fucking shit," Frau cursed under his breath. In a fluid motion, he removed his helmet, openly winced as it irritated his injuries – the dark bruise on the side of his face, from his eye to his ear, looking rather odd and painful – jumped off the hawkzile and gave chase.

The snow made running difficult, and that's what Frau blamed when he lost sight of the teen. There was enough light to see by, the midday sun struggling to overpower the thick clouds, and the blond advanced by following the teen's footsteps. At every step, he cursed his decision to stop. He should have known better to believe that Teito's compliancy would last. The teen's mind was warped at the moment – the smallest thing could set him off.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid," the blond thought bitterly as he continued to follow the footsteps.

He figured out it was oddly quiet a little too late.

A branch, still healthy with pine-needles, thwacked him in the back of the head. Frau pitched forward, but caught himself against another tree before falling completely. He turned, anger barely controlled, only to see the branch coming for his face this time.

Unlike before, Frau managed to keep this one from landing a hit. The teen, struggling to take back his weapon, looked positively livid. Worse than anything Frau had ever seen, and it momentarily shocked him into a stupor. All he could do was watch, which was about the stupidest thing he could do at the moment.

Teito finally gave up on the stick, dropping it, and took to the air with a shadow of his once feline grace. His foot swung, heel locking onto the corner of Frau's mouth, and the blond was sent down. There was groaning, and white snow splattered with dots of red, but Teito had his mind set on one objective.

Dispose of Frau.

Again he threw himself into the air, the only way he could move with so much snow on the ground, and had a foot ready to crash down on Frau's face, but the blond recovered quickly. Teito's foot was caught, his other landing on Frau's chest, but that one was caught right after as well. Ankles were pulled from under him, and Teito fell, landing on Frau with his legs parted on either side of the blond's waist.

Teito fisted a hand, more than prepared to bury it in Frau's nose, when he was suddenly flipped over. He yelped in surprise and shivered right after when he was encased in a coffin of snow. The blond was above him, between his legs, chest on chest, hips on hips, and taking his hands in an iron grip to pin above the brunet's head.

"Twice," the man snarled. "Twice you've aimed for my face, you fucker!"

"Let me go!" Teito demanded, kicking as best he could with his legs. He managed to dig his heel into the blond's thigh, though that only caused Frau to grab his ankle and pull it up to pin it along the bishop's lower back.

Teito hissed as a jolt of pain and pleasure shivered up his spine, blood suddenly intent on rushing between his legs to pound loudly and obviously. And Frau was so damn close, what if he felt it…?

"Don't. Start," Frau snarled, catching the conflicted sensations swirling beneath expressive emerald eyes. It was so damn beautiful, so damn tempting, Frau lost the battle with his own body the second the damn teen opened his mouth to pant heavily.

It was an unconsciously conscious action, one that Frau would never be able to understand how he could do when he repeatedly told himself not to, but his will was crumbling, almost nonexistent, and he found himself apologizing before he grinded his hips down onto the soft body beneath him.

Teito gasped.

Frau moaned.

Sparks and enticing allure, anger making them hard, lust making them crazy. Frau's head fell forward and buried itself into fabric rather than the sweet, warm skin Frau knew the teen hid there beneath bulky clothing and his growing hair. The woolly material made his nose itch, and he quickly pulled away – up and off, his senses restored by a stupid scarf.

"What is it this time?" His voice croaked, heavy with arousal and pain. Frau growled at himself, hands fisting at his sides as he glared down at the heavy-eyed teen. "What is it this fucking time?"

"Lance –," Teito panted heavily, unable to catch a decent breath of air. "Y-you…why?"

"You're gonna havta be a bit more specific," the blond responded with a false cheery tone, going so far as to wink.

The teen didn't appreciate any of it. He slipped his elbows beneath him, legs trembling far too much for him to attempt standing up. But Teito was accustomed to Frau always looking down on him – what difference did it truly make?

"What did you do to him? Why did you do it! I don't understand– !"

"Course you don't," the blond cooed, voice dripping heavy with sarcasm and cynicism. "'cause living in la-la land is the perfect way to overlook the fact that he raped you," he shouted, resolve snapping like thin, brittle twigs.

"H-he didn't!" Teito argued, fighting to keep his anger for the blond in place. Not the need to get up and shut the man up with a kiss. Or strip off his clothes and finally get to look and feel that damn body so many women covet for and so many men silently resent him for having. "And what does it matter to you what he did to me?"

"Because I–" Frau caught himself from doing something stupid. Just barely, and fear drummed through his veins at the thought that he wouldn't have caught on as quickly as he did. His brain was going a mile per minute, his mouth was running a mile per second. He needed to calm down – control. Look for that control…

Slowly, he began to pull away. His face fell blank, his body unwound. Frau fortified his walls, hid behind them – he was safe now. They both were.

"You're my responsibility." His tone was even, calm. Everything was okay now.

Everything would be okay now.

"That's not –" Teito snapped his mouth shut and turned his head away to look out to the scenery. He couldn't take anything in – everything was blurred and he couldn't distinguish the sky from the ground. He closed his eyes to fight off the pain, but his emotions were in turmoil and weren't making it simple.

Teito was fearing his own thoughts, his traitorous tongue. Just what had he been about to admit? What? Was it true? Did he believe it?

And what would Frau have said if Teito had said it out loud?

That's not what I want to hear

Frau hadn't heard it, however. Nor the inner monologue Teito was having with himself. All Frau could see was a child fighting off the urge to cry, and that only made him feel worse about his indecent actions.

"Are you done? Can we go now?"

"I don't want to go anywhere with you!" The teen quickly snapped, throwing aside old feelings and new hopes and praying they never came back. "I fucking hate you and I always will! And the only way I will ever willingly occupy the same air as you is if I'm high or dead. The latter is preferred," he finished with a snarl, eyes narrowing dangerously, challengingly.

Frau could only smirk, amused. "Join the club then."

After forcefully hauling the teen to his feet, Frau dragged his unwilling victim back the way they came. To pass the time, he passed his tongue over his teeth, pushing at them to asses if he would have to present any new injuries to the dentist back home.

When they entered the clearing, Frau could find nothing else wrong – only his lip had been split open – and breathed a sigh of relief. He just couldn't handle any more disfigurement; it was starting to get ridiculous.

There was a five minute restroom break, and Frau was preparing the hawkzile to leave when the air seemed to shift. Instantly he recognized it at something not lethally dangerous – no kor, warsphiles but…people?

Tainted souls – Frau could feel his quick lunch wanting to revisit him.

"Frau, what's wrong?"

Furious he may be with the proceedings, Tetio was well enough in the head to understand when something was wrong. And if something was wrong and it was troubling the blond bishop, then it was certainly something to concern oneself over.

"Just keep your mouth shut and don't cause a scene," Frau muttered bitterly, kicking off the kickstand just as those tiny dots he watched grow finally take human shape.

Slavers, by the looks of it. It made little sense that they would travel so close to the ground when they were free to fly the skies without needing the consent of the Barsburg military but perhaps they were looking for some fresh meat to sell.

For all of a second the blond thought of Labrador, a lone rider down a stretch of barely used road, but that thought vanished as quickly as it had come. Gentle the gardener may be, but he wasn't weak. His knowledge of plant life, and his ability to control it, was a deadly enough weapon. The thorns of his flowers were soaked with almost as much blood as was Frau's scythe.

There was never a need to be concerned about Labrador against such fragile mortals.

What worried Frau now was Teito.

Just as Frau had earlier assumed, they blocked his exit. Even if he had ridden out earlier, they would have chased him. A hawkzile chase put Teito in more danger than a confrontation. So Frau waited, waited for them to finish their toothless barks and their edging catcalls. Waited for the leader to boisterously approach him and demand something.

And Frau would play along, all the while calculating the best way to avoid a scene. He had little to no money, his accounts having been dried up due to his two weeklong vacation. Because of this, Frau knew they would demand either Teito or the hawkzile. He would give them neither. Worse for wear they were, Castor's lady and Frau's light, but he cherished both. One more than the other, obviously, but neither deserved to be traded to the likes of them.

Besides, Castor would kill him if Frau ever gave up his hawkzile because the blond was too lazy for a little skirmish.

Surprised he was when the leader took his chin and turned it to face him instead.

"Or I could get a pretty coin for you," the leader purred. "'Perfect for both work and play' I'll say. Ever pleasured a man, blondie?"

Frau had a retort on the tip of his tongue, one he had been looking forward to use but living within a church hardly gave him an appropriate opportunity, but this time his surprise came with a hint of tender affection.

Behind him, Teito had taken the man's wrist and wrenched it away with strength he shouldn't have, twisting it until the teen could feel bones sliding awkwardly.

"Don't touch him with your filthy hands, creep," the teen lowly hissed, eyes narrowed dangerously.

Frau couldn't suppress the chuckle that followed. "Creep is the best word you could come up with?"

"I didn't want to curse in front of the damsel in distress," Teito smirked, flickering his eyes towards the blond, catching those icy blues with his own.

"And I'm supposed to be the damsel? That's the joke there, right?" It was real humor pulling Frau's smile, and he shook his head at the stupidity of it all. This was how they bonded? Over slavers trying to prostitute Frau in the literal sense and into manual labor?

Something was wrong with that. Definitely.

"Don't fuck with me!" the leader snarled, tugging his hand away only to injure himself in the process. "Get them, you morons!"

"Now look at what you've done." Frau tsked, silently motivating the hawkzile for a sudden burst of speed as he maneuvered it away from the incoming gang.

Teito nuzzled up behind Frau, legs sliding along longer legs, thin arms snaking around and palms falling flat on a wide chest. "Revenge," the teen breathed, head resting on a broad, strong shoulder.

A bitter sting drove deep into Frau's heart, and all he could do was take the pain and enjoy the superficial exchange between himself and a Teito who most likely wouldn't be there in two minutes. The warmth was so bittersweet, so lovingly cruel.

If only this moment could last.

If only…

Frau placed his helmet back on, taking both handlebars and calculated the escape.

This moment may not be able to last all of eternity, but hell be damned if Frau wouldn't make it happen again. His life depended on it.

Teito's as well.


A/N: Tell me what you guys think? (^ ^); I don't get that many reviews (despite what the visitor's hit list says...) so I don't know if what I'm writing is actually enjoyed... Mel, Lavi-Tan, Waffle Lord, Holic and Tricks seem like kissups, so I can't take them seriously. NO! I'm kidding. I love you guys! Even if I haven't talked to Tricks yet. TEE-HEE. (HOLIC, GET AN ACCOUNT SO I CAN BUG YOU D:)

Anyway. So this update is a week early (for those who follow my twitter, this isn't new news) but I just couldn't help myself. I'm stupid like that.

Well, someone out there must be sending positive vibes my way for my updates to come so regularly. I'll see you when I see you, my precious kitties :3