It hurts. My God, Jazz thinks, it wasn't supposed to hurt. Not like this, not like the knife he has sticking through his heart right now that's pulsing golden Ichor down his shirt. He can't pull it out, either… isn't sure he would want to anyway.

He leans against the wooden frame of the door and puts one hand up to his chest, to the place where the blade would be if anyone else could see it, and fixes his eyes on the man sitting in front of him, oblivious. Frederic is leaned over his piano, a dark head lost between the waves of the ebony and ivory seas, and his fingers are moving over it but making no sound. Jazz doesn't know why. Maybe he's not strong enough to press down the keys.

But… my God, he can still hear the music, echoing through the silent empty room. He can hear what he is sure is echoing through Frederic's head, the strains of song locked inside patient gray eyes and bony white fingers waiting until the rest of the world can understand.

Jazz has no idea how long he stands there, staring. He wishes there were music in the space between his own ears, wishes there were something there besides darkness and chaos and agony. Most of the time he can't even hear himself thinking over the tortured screams in his mind, the groans of wounded soldiers he had to leave behind.

Suddenly there is the call of a Cardinal outside and Frederic's fingers press down on the keys a little more, finally drawing sound. It's a beautiful note, low and rich like the birdsong in the snow, and Jazz holds his breath because he's afraid to ruin it. Frederic moves his hands again and crafts another resonance from the quiet nothingness that surrounds them, and then another and another until he's making music, weaving a spell. It feels like the fabric of the air is being drawn toward the piano, like the universe wants to have part in this creation because it's just that beautiful, and Jazz steps forward, too, because he isn't above the pull of the world.

Where Frederic wields melodies, Jazz has only death—and what he wouldn't give for it to be the other way around, to give the other man this power over blood while he took the music and held it careful-fragile in the palm of his hand. He wants to give himself over to this musician, to become the empty space that Frederic can mold into something gorgeous and meaningful, but he can't and he isn't and it hurts.

He's so sick of being flesh and blood like everyone else.

And that's the problem, isn't it? Frederic doesn't have flesh anymore; he doesn't have blood. He is, as Falsetto likes to say, a dead man walking, and Jazz can see the bones in his fingers as he moves, the knuckles seeming too swollen to play the way they do. Frederic is dying and Jazz has only death, and God, he wants to give it back. He wants to change it. He wants to change everything.

But he can't, and the Ichor keeps flowing from an invisible wound. The heavens gave him only the power to steal life, not to give it away.

He wishes he could see what Frederic sees, or hear what he hears, or believe what he believes. He wishes he was a normal man and not a murderer so that he wouldn't have to feel this pain—or maybe he would anyway, but he wouldn't be sorry. Because he is, he is sorry, and there are a million little lives that he's taken away and they all could have been like this, amazing like this, and the world won't ever know.

Mostly, though, he wishes he could create for once instead of destroy. He knows there is splendor somewhere buried in the shit of the world but he can't see it… let alone find a way to increase it. He thinks it might be because there is no splendor inside of him, no beauty or wisdom or loveliness. All he has is this sort of cold anger that has been fueling his actions for far, far too long.

He wants to trade for what Frederic has—the lonely kind of passion instead of the passionate kind of lonely. He would give his life for that.

And isn't that what Frederic has done?

He realizes too late that the music has ended, and he doesn't know how long he's been there in the middle of the room with the pianist looking at him with those wide, dark eyes. God, Jazz hates those eyes; he feels like there's a whole world inside of them, and all it does is remind him how empty he is.

They sit in silence for a long, long time, Frederic sitting with one leg on either side of the piano bench and Jazz wondering what sort of world Frederic is hiding, and if he could ever reach it. Finally he whispers, "That was beautiful," and the musician smiles.

"I would love to teach you."