Matthew stared blindly at the rain slowly making its way down the window. Each subtle rivulet ran down the icy pain like tears. The heavens were crying. But why were they crying? Matthew found he couldn't really spare the thought to care. He was sprawled out on his worn sofa. The man was cozy and had to resist the urge to complete a visual image he was seeing of himself by purring like a cat. He was a large, skinny cat that wanted a nap. He liked naps a lot.

The couch was so worn that it was patched in several places and bore a few holes that hadn't yet been patched. They were battle scars won as the piece of furniture battled time. It aged slowly, every year continuing to struggle in its losing battle.

Matthew counted down the seconds in his mind, the rain rhythmically sounding along in time, until his thoughts began to blur together till he could no longer tell them apart. He was floating on the edge of sleep. In that warm and happy, drowsy zone where nothing matters and there is no pain. He was lost in that state until there was a soft knock on his door. A soft knock to bring him back to earth. The cold earth, where it was raining outside. Where it had been raining for weeks. He decided, with a wrinkle of his nose, that he was beginning to hate rain. If he hadn't hated it before. He couldn't remember, had he hated it before? His thoughts were fuzzy and he gave up trying to solve that small mystery.

The man groaned in protest, but he still managed to force his protesting body up. He felt heavy, as gravity pulled on him mercilessly. He forced his legs to work, though they felt a bit unstable under his lanky figure. He had been lying on his couch for nearly a half hour. In that time he had managed to become both comfortable and lazy in his sprawled pose. His footsteps were slow and slightly uneasy, his drowsiness acting to further weigh him down, as he made his way across the room. He cursed as he tripped over the carpet, falling to his knees. Standing up was harder than usual in his lethargic state, and did little to improve his mood. The steady knock sounded once more, with a patient "I-know-you're-going-to-get-the-door-if-I-just-stand-here-long-enough" resonance.

Matthew managed to make it to the door in, more or less, one piece, something he considered quite a feat. He didn't care that it had taken him twice as long as it usually would. All that mattered was that he had made it. At this point he was very irritated and ready to snap at whoever had disturbed him. He wasn't at all pleased to have his nap interrupted.

Despite his foul mood, despite his sleep-driven resolve to kill whoever stood outside the door with a single glare, he wasn't quite ready for those sad eyes. Deep sepia eyes that bore into his soul, leaving him breathless. Seth had always had that effect on him, though Matthew had never quite been able to justify why. He blinked, managing to force his gaze elsewhere and effectively break Seth's spell over him. He quietly moved aside with more grace than he'd demonstrated en route to the door, the shock of seeing his friend serving to wake him up better than a bucket of ice-cold water even would have. Seth was a rare visitor indeed. Matt allowed the taller man to enter, noting, as he passed, that Seth was soaking wet. Not that he counted that an amazing accomplishment, Matt mused, glancing out at the pouring rain before tightly closing the door.

He turned to face his unexpected guest, not quite sure what he should say or do. Perhaps he should offer Seth some tea, nice warm tea? Or perhaps a warm change of clothes? One glance at his soaked friend and he concluded the latter seemed to be the better option. Yes, it would be a good idea to get Seth out of those soaking wet, body-clinging clothes. He tried to ignore the body-clinging observation, quickly turning his head to tear his eyes away and to conceal the blush that had stealthily crept over his cheeks. He was killing two birds with one stone.

"Um," he slowly articulated, pausing as he tried to gather his thoughts and direct them towards a single purpose, "I think I have some stuff that might fit you, if you'd like to get into something dry."

Seth only shook his head, a ghost of a smile emerging for a second, only to disappear into oblivion moments later, "It's okay. I'll dry out naturally."

Matthew's eyes narrowed, "But . . . aren't you cold? You should dry off. You wouldn't want to catch something." I wouldn't want you to catch anything, the unspoken words echoed in the man's head. He would never find the courage to give voice to them, though. Not in front of Seth.

Seth chuckled, "I'll be okay, Matt. You don't need to worry."

Matthew frowned, not quite trusting his friend's words, "If you're sure . . . ." He inwardly sighed, Seth had always been a stubborn individual in all the time he'd known him. The shorter man brushed strands of his stringy, blonde hair out of his face, "Can I get you anything to drink? Tea perhaps?"

"Matthew, I'm fine," Seth used the sharply edged tone that Matthew had learned meant "I'm getting irritated, press the issue and die." So the blonde man wisely dropped the issue. His silence seemed to be an unknown cue for Seth to speak, "I came here to see you, you know. To . . . talk, or something."

Matthew looked at Seth in shocked disbelief, his eyes wide and unguarded. Since when had Seth been so concerned about small talk? He raised an eyebrow, he never had been, not in all the time he'd known him. Seth hated small talk. He refused to believe that Seth had no ulterior motive, "To talk, eh? I think I can manage that."

Matthew moved back to the couch, seating himself so that he sprawled carelessly, his arms resting atop the faded fabric. He glanced at Seth, waiting for the taller man to follow him. Growing impatient, he finally hinted, "Come on, have a seat. It won't matter if the couch gets a little wet."

Seth only looked at him, his hands folded casually into the pockets of his black jeans. They were tight black jeans. Matthew swallowed, but didn't stop his train of thoughts. He studied his friend's soaked body in silence, his eyes tracing the taller and bulkier form. From Seth's shoulder length brown hair; which was soaked to an almost black, barky hue; to his brown eyes; to his white shirt, which clung invitingly to his body, semi-transparent in it's soaked condition. He swallowed again before jerking his thoughts away from an unwanted course and sighing in irritation. He impatiently stood up and crossed the room, reaching for his friend's arm to drag him over to the couch.

Matthew's eyes widened in surprise at the contact, skin against skin, when his fingers brushed Seth's arm, "You're ice cold! That's it! We're getting you a change of clothes!"

"No, I'm quite all right," Seth protested, roughly pulling his arm free from the blonde's grasp. "I'll be fine since I'm out of the rain now."

Matthew frowned, but relented, retreating again to his perch on the couch. This time Seth followed, settling himself on the opposite side. He crossed his legs and glanced over at Matthew. The two friends sat in silence for a few minutes, seemingly lost in their own reveries. Each secretly waited for the other to break the stale calm.

It was Matthew who finally broke the silence, "Well . . . you said you wanted to talk, so talk."

Seth nodded considering that as good an invite as any. He remarked rather lamely, "How have you been? It's been over a week since we last spoke. And that was over the phone."

Matthew glared at his wet friend, "That's not my fault."

"No, it's not," Seth smiled, "I never said it was."

Silence reigned over the room once more as the two men gazed at the floor, each listening to the pouring rain. Matthew began to absently trace a random pattern into the arm of the couch, not noticing that it suspiciously resembled a heart. It was a nervous habit of the blonde's, Seth remembered, as he noted his friend's actions. Seth tucked one rain soaked lock of hair behind his ear, closing his eyes and relaxing to the sound of the rain. Neither seemed to be able to think of something to break the oppressing silence with. Either that or they had no desire to. In the end, it didn't really matter which case was truth. The hanging silence was of a tense sort that dared one to speak up, the kind of silence most cringed from. The kind of silence it took courage to break.

Matthew gave Seth an odd look, finally daring to defy the quiet atmosphere, "All right, what the fuck have you done with my friend? Seth doesn't act like this. Seth is cold, aloof, uncaring, and never apologizes or is polite, or acts with any decency. He's a jerk who seems to like being an inconvenience. You . . . you are someone-something-else . And he's certainly not the type to sit around staring at nothing when he's got something to say. He's blunt and to the point."

Something else, ey? If I recall right, that falls under my list of normal traits," the brunette finally remarked cockily. He smirked as he continued, emphasizing his phrases with calculated sweeps of his hand, "There's nothing wrong with me, Matt. I just never took the time to appreciate things . . . until now. Like the bird's song, your friendship, the sun, even the unbroken rhythm of the falling rain. I let it all pass me by. I was too caught up in myself to give a passing glance, to actually notice, to care. But it's all different now."

The blonde looked at Seth as if he'd grown another ear, or another head or, well, something abnormal like that. Who really knew quite what Matt pictured? "Just what are you on, Seth? You are most certainly not yourself right now."

"I'm not on anything, Matt," the man glared, proof of his growing irritation at the blonde's accusations, his look softened with his timbre, "I've just . . . finally had my eyes opened. I can see the truth now." He smiled sadly as his gaze shifted to the floor, refusing to meet Matthew's eyes, "It's all come at a high price, though. A very high price."

Matthew raised an wary eyebrow in distrust, dropping the subject of his friend's complete change of personality, "Just how high?"

Seth shook his head regretfully, "I can't tell you."

Matthew grit his teeth, holding back the irritation which had been slowly growing into mild anger. He wasn't getting any answers. He wanted answers. To get his answers he knew he'd have to stay calm. If Seth was playing a game it was by his own rules, it was always by Seth's rule's, and there was nothing Matt could do except play along.

His words were strained with his effort to keep his volume low and tone calm. Each word was stressed separately, "Why the hell not?"

Seth looked out the window, "I can't tell you, Matt. I'm sorry. But I think you'll know soon, anyhow."

"You better not have sold something of mine off," Matthew remarked, thinking for a moment that perhaps Seth's pleasant behavior was just a front for some stunt the brunette had pulled. His earlier words echoed in his head, "he never apologizes." This wasn't his friend. Sure, it looked like Seth, but none of his friend's trademark coldness, none of his vulgar confidence remained. It was like the man was reborn. But no one changes so completely, nor that quickly for that matter.

Seth looked Matt in the eye attempting to feign innocence, "Whatever makes you think I'd do that?"

Matthew glared, not at all amused, "Oh, I don't know. The fact that you've done it several times before?"

The brunette looked at the floor letting a sigh escape, "Matt . . . . I'm really sorry for the trouble I've put you through all these years." He was apologizing again. He could never say he was sorry enough-never. One small word could never cover all the years.

Matthew scrutinized him, "Look, I know something's up. You aren't acting yourself at all. I already said it-apologizing is the last thing you'd do. And you've certainly been doing enough of it in the past few minutes. Something is up."

Seth looked at the ceiling, the floor, the wall, the rain coming down outside the window, really anywhere but at Matthew. The man was obviously uncomfortable with Matthew's accusation, "You're . . . correct. But-but everything has changed now. You'll understand one day, Matt. It might not today, it might not be years from now, but then again it just might be, you never know. Maybe it will tomorrow, maybe not. But one day you will understand. It's not something that can be explained by words alone. I'm not the same person I was, Matt."

"Then who are you?" Matthew asked.

"I'm Seth Copas," Seth replied simply, "It's not my identity that has changed, Matt. It's something far more primitive, far more fundamental than that. But I can't tell you just what that change is."

"Then what can you tell me?" Matthew's tone was frustrated, he had always hated playing mind games with his friend and he was growing tired of Seth denying him information. He wanted some damn answers, and he wanted them now. Matthew smirked to himself. Maybe Seth hadn't changed all that much. He still seemed to like dangling a string in front of him, waiting for his pretty kitty to jump at it, only to cruelly pull it away. And then he would dangle it again . . . . Like an idiot, he always jumped for it, he always took the bait. Why? Why did he fall for it?

"I can tell you that I'm grateful for your friendship, and that it means a lot to me," Seth responded. He continued when he saw that Matthew would not be satisfied with that answer alone, "And I suppose I can tell you what I really came to say before I disappear again."

Matthew's eyes softened, he didn't really want Seth to go. Sure the man drove him crazy at times, but he didn't want Seth to leave. Had he driven him away with his questions? "You're going away again so soon?"

Seth nodded, "I have to, I don't have a choice. I'm sorry."

He was apologizing yet again.

Seth shifted, his clothing and hair still soaking wet, even after all the time he'd been in Matthew's small apartment. Or maybe the passing time was all an illusion. Maybe he'd only been there seconds, short moments, rather than the minutes and hours that it seemed. The tall man stood to his feet, shifting his weight back and forth and slowly swaying as he seemed to contemplate something. Finally, he bowed his head, reaching some silent conclusion. He glanced at Matthew and then beckoned the smaller blonde over. Matt raised a curious brow, but obeyed, standing and advancing slowly towards his friend. When the blonde stopped Seth beckoned him even closer. The blonde inched closer cautiously, as if he didn't want to hit some sort of barrier that he was afraid surrounded Seth, but at the same time as if he couldn't resist the tempting call. The graceful motion of Seth's hand was like the call of a siren's song-luring, irresistible, and completely feral. The taller man grew impatient with Matt's hesitation and stepped forward, pulling his friend into an embrace.

Matthew shivered in Seth's arms, his eyes slowly closing, "Seth . . . . You're so cold, so very cold. Cold like death . . . ."

"It's okay, everything is fine," Seth commented, his voice breaking slightly. He took a deep breath, hoping his momentary weakness had escaped the blonde's notice. He hated being weak. He closed his eyes and pulled the blonde closer to whisper in one soft, pale ear, "You know, Matthew . . . ." He trailed off, leaving his thought unfinished, knowing his friend would crave the answer, would beg that he complete it.

"Y-yes?" Matthew stammered, a blush painting his face at the intimacy of their embrace.

"You know, I never told you how I really feel, how I've always really felt," Seth smiled, a smile that didn't quite reach his saddened eyes as he stroked Matt's hair. He didn't leave his friend hanging this time, plowing onward, his choice of words somewhat less than eloquent, "You were always . . . more than just a friend or partner to me. More than someone I fucked when no one else was available."

Matthew was confused, and his eyes opened in surprise, "J-just what are you trying to say?"

"Maybe the best way to say this is without words. Words mess everything up. Words are such limitations," Seth's eyes opened as his whispering breath ghosted across Matthew's forehead. He tilted the blonde's face up, pressing his frozen lips against Matthew's warm ones. It was a somewhat chaste kiss and neither pressed it further. The soft touch chilled Matthew to the bone. It only lasted a few seconds, a few seconds in the infinity of time, so short that Matthew could have believed he'd imagined it if he'd not seen the look in Seth's eyes. Then Seth pulled away, turning to head out of the apartment, out the door, and out of Matthew's life. Forever, the word echoed in the silent air. It was forever.

He turned one final time to face Matthew. "I . . . I love you, Matt. It's hard to admit that, even now . . . ," he paused, "I have to go now, have a good life, Matt." Seth choked a bit on his words, tears starting in his eyes. Matthew had never seen his friend cry in all his life and discovered he didn't like the sight at all. Tears were alien on the strong visage of the brunette. Tears did not suit his Seth, the cold-hearted man that he'd met so long ago. The man he'd shared a partnership with. The man who had saved him countless times, who he'd spent so many nights with, only to wake up lonely the next day. Tears had no place in his untrusting, topaz eyes, though they crowned him with an unnatural ethereal beauty. But it was a twisted beauty that was just simply out of place. A sight Matthew would never forget.

Seth turned, opening the door to head back out into the pouring rain. He softly closed it behind him, causing his last view of the blonde to fade away. His last view of the blonde forever. Forever was a long time, but he could wait. Seth had always been a patient person. Forever . . . . It was a whisper as the wind picked up, rain blowing all about as Seth faded from view. He glanced one last time behind him, at what he'd left behind.

He'd left Matthew standing alone to brood over the kiss and what it implied. It only took a few seconds, just a few short seconds, for the blonde to sort everything out, his eyes widening with his new revelation. He rushed to the door, flinging it open, hoping to catch Seth's retreating form.

"Wait!" rain stung at his eyes as he searched for Seth's form. But he was too late. Too late to save what had been dying embers. "I love you too . . . ."

His whisper was laced with defeat as he slowly closed the door, leaning against it as he closed his eyes to think. He thought about what he'd almost had. What he had lost. Would Seth ever know that he was loved in return? Had Seth already known? Had he known the whole time, and still left? Matthew didn't have the answers. He didn't have the answers to any of his questions, no matter how much he wished he did. He barely noticed when the hot tears began making their way down his cheeks.

Dying embers, that thought, that single image, refused to leave him be. It burned it's way into his mind so that he saw it whether his eyes were opened or closed. Was that all that was between them? Had Seth snuffed the life out of them when he left? He shook his head, refusing to believe it. He wouldn't let it die. As long as he lived they would remain alive. They would remain undying. He would make sure of it.

His angst-ridden reverie was broken by the shrill ringing of his phone. It rang once, then twice. A few more times and he knew the answering machine would pick up. Let it pick up, he sulked, he didn't have the energy to care now.

"Hello, this is Matt. I'm not in right now, leave a message at the sound of the beep and I'll get back to you." He hadn't sounded very enthusiastic. He'd sounded very dull and bored when he had recorded that.

"Matt?" a female voice, a familiar female voice, filled the room, "Matt, if you're there pick up. It's urgent! Trust me, I wouldn't bother you if it wasn't." The female growled in irritation, "Damn you, pick up the phone! I'll just call back if you don't! And keep calling until you-" The answering machine cut off.

Matt chuckled to himself as the phone rang again, he'd known it would. The woman calling wasn't making an idle threat. Such weird friends he had. But they were still his friends and they seemed to genuinely care. He wasn't alone. This time he answered on the third ring, "Brats anonymous, how may we help you?"

"Ha ha, that's not funny," the woman responded in a dryly sarcastic manner, something strange in her tone. It lacked most of it's usual fire, "Listen, dumbass, this is about Seth."

"What about Seth?" Matthew asked casually, "He just left my house."

"What?" the girl asked, her surprise causing the beginnings of a sinking feeling in the pit of the blonde's stomach, "Matthew, that's impossible."

"Wha-why?" the blonde asked in confusion, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.

"Because, Matt, he's dead," the girl spoke. "It's been raining a lot lately, I'm sure you've noticed. There have been flash floods along a lot of the countryside." She sighed, "You know Seth, he liked to take off and go on walks without warning to god-knows-where. He was always inconsiderate like that. Matt, he-he was washed away in one of floods and drowned. They found his body about a few minutes ago and contacted the boss. I called as soon as I could. They think he'd been dead for at least an hour, maybe longer."

"Wh-what . . . ? No, that can't be true," Matthew denied. He let the phone fall from his hand, shock slowly paralyzing his body. He couldn't move, he couldn't breathe. He couldn't believe.



"Matt, answer me! You better not try something stupid!"

"Look, I'm coming over right now, wait for me!"

Matthew sunk to his knees, not hearing the click as the woman on the other end hung up. His eyes were wide and unseeing. His breaths deep.

"You bastard!" he screamed, falling to the floor and letting the tears fall, creating a darker puddle on the carpet. Seth was still the same old bastard after all. He hadn't changed. Not completely, not entirely, only slightly. What scared him the most is that fact made it all the more believable that it really was Seth.

"You bastard," he sobbed, "You knew all along. And you still led me on . . . you knew. You wouldn't tell me."

A soft whisper seemed to tickle at his ear, "Don't worry, I'll wait for you . . . ." Matthew didn't believe it. He was hallucinating. His breaths were deep as he thought over what had happened.

There was only one thing he was sure of. Seth was definitely a bastard. An uncaring bastard. A bastard who would wait for him . . . forever. Seth would wait forever.

"You better wait for me," he muttered, standing to his feet and heading to the bathroom.