I am sorry… that I could not protect you… James…

James slowly awoke to a dull pain in the side of his head, René's haunting voice still lingering in his mind, mingling with a similarly haunting chorale. It pained him, but for the moment he couldn't remember why. He felt that he was lying in a bed…but which bed? Surely he had left France by now. Where…

Despite the warm, cozy numbness of deep, dreamless sleep, the sight of René's bloody, tear-stained face and the sound of the angelic pipe organ would not leave him, and he was forced to open his eyes. He found himself staring at the ceiling of a small, cramped room, containing only a bed, a desk, and a lone chair. Light filtered in through a window set high in the wall against his bed. Sitting up and looking around more clearly, he saw that someone had placed his bag on top of a trunk in the corner.

Seeing the bag must have jostled his memory, because he started to remember where he was. He remembered coming back to England with Adrien, coming back to his father's church, seeing his father alive…with Mme Devereaux… And the music… There was another twinge of pain in his head; he could feel a small lump forming when he placed a hand to it. He must have hit his head on something when he fainted. He groaned softly, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. His entire body felt stiff, and he had no desire to speak any further with his father.

What should I do now?

James sat in silence for a few moments, then sighed heavily. If he was going to do anything, he might as well take it one step at a time. He got up, ignoring the creaking ache in his legs, and walked over to the trunk where his bag lay. He hadn't brought anything with him from the Devereaux Manor, but Adrien, ever the fashionable one, had insisted on buying him some new clothes before they reached the port to London. James, still distraught over everything that had just happened with René, was in no mood at the time to refuse him.

Or, possibly, Adrien was just trying to cheer him up…

He sifted through the bag, vaguely aware that he should be putting his things away. He was wondering what to do next when he noticed a small scrap of paper flutter out from between the folds of his clothes. Strange. He supposed it might be an old receipt, or something of the sort. Curious, he picked it up and turned it over to find handwriting. It was small and crammed together, but elegant, and James recognized it at once. First there was an address, which he knew to be an upscale hotel nearby, and then a single line written in French:

If you lose your way, come to me.

James thought. Adrien… Suddenly everything seemed so clear. He could go see Adrien—surely Adrien would help him. Why else would he tell James where he was staying?

Relieved, he felt as though a heavy weight had been lifted from his heart. It may not have been the same as seeing René again, but it was much better than being completely alone.

Not wanting to waste any time, James quickly grabbed his coat and walked out the door. Then he realized he didn't know his way around the church; he and his father rarely came here when they were still living in England, and even then James never had the opportunity to explore. He had entered a narrow hallway, facing another door. He couldn't tell if there was a stairwell at the end of the hall or not… Which way was he supposed to go? If he ran into his father, he would surely ask where he was going…and, consequently, forbid him from ever seeing Adrien. How was he going to get around this?

Then he heard it—the chorale. The angelic organ, drifting softly from the distance.

He stopped, suddenly fearful that all of this was a mere dream. The music sounded just the same as it did the day before, when it had carried him into unconsciousness. He waited for his sight to cloud once more, but nothing happened; another moment passed, and he realized that he was indeed awake, and the music had no effect. He found himself walking toward the direction of the music, which led down the hall.

James gradually heard more and more of the music, starting to recognize it—the final piece of a German cantata, Jesu bleibet meine Freunde. Madame Devereaux used to play it often when she was still living at the Manor. It was beautiful, but always melancholy… Yet the version he was listening to at this moment was far different. It was light, but not frivolous—the higher tones seemed to float, giving off an air of bright, pure innocence, while the lower tones provided a solid anchor, forming the most perfect harmony he had ever heard in his life.

Innocence… What irony.

Before he knew it, James had ended up in the main area of the church, the organ's presence more prominent than ever. He glanced over at the door, recognizing the area where he had entered just the day before… But the organ, just behind the pulpit, continued to draw more of his attention. Who could be playing such beautiful music? James strained to see, but the organ was enveloped with light, cast on all sides from a large window set near the ceiling of the church—an almost ethereal glow…

…An angel?

Before this thought occurred to him, the music gradually began to grow more and more dissonant; the hopeful, happy tones had suddenly turned dark and foreboding. James shivered, wondering at the strange coincidence. Perhaps it meant he was to wait no longer before setting off to find Adrien; deciding on this course of action, he left the newly ominous melody for the streets of the city.

"My, my, James—I never expected you to show up so soon."

James hesitated before answering. It had taken him quite some time to actually locate the hotel at which Adrien was staying, but he hadn't taken that time to think of a proper greeting. "…Somehow, I doubt that."

"You shouldn't." There was a warm, friendly tone in Adrien's voice. "I thought it would take you much longer to drop by… Or, perhaps, that you may never wish to see me again." He paused. "…But, considering the rather short interval between now and the last time we saw each other, I should probably assume that this is a serious matter."

"I… I just need to talk."

"I thought you would. Please, come in." Adrien stepped out of the doorway, allowing James to pass through.

James took a few steps into the room, glancing around and taking in his surroundings. The room itself was very plush, and had a rich, elegant air about it; the carpets and draperies looked to be of very fine, exquisite materials, and he could also see other rooms adjoining the one he had just entered. It left him to wonder just how Adrien could afford such a place… Then, as Adrien closed the door behind him, he returned his gaze to his feet. Why am I so anxious to look at him? he wondered. Perhaps if he looked upon Adrien's face, he would only see René's, instead. But, then…

Why did I even come here? …Should I just leave?

"What's the problem?"

Adrien had moved in front of him, leaning against a table. James turned his head, as if trying to avoid him. "I… I'm not sure, really…"

"Is it your father? Perhaps he considers you to be a sinner, for having live at our Devereaux Manor for so long?"

"No… I mean—he might, but that isn't the case."

"Even if he does, he can't exactly blame you; it was not your decision for him to abandon you there. But, no… It's something else, you say?"

James hesitated once more. "I…thought I could just leave it behind, but… It came back to haunt me… I—"

He suddenly found a hand being placed under his chin, lifting his head and leveling his eyes with Adrien's. There was a warm glow in his soft brown eyes—so similar to René, and yet… "It's René, isn't it?"

James froze, then quickly pulled his gaze away. "…Everything… René… Monsieur Jean-Guy… Everything that happened… I can't…" He bit his lip. "…I can't seem to keep my mind off it."

"Just as I expected. Here—sit down, won't you?" Adrien motioned his hand towards a previously unnoticed chair. James, seeing no further reason to stand, slumped down into the seat. Thoughts of his former life—of René—swirled and churned away within him. He thought that he'd managed to bury them deep—he still had the rest of his life to live, after all—but Adrien had effortlessly brought them back, now stronger than ever. Was it deliberate? Did he know the effect he was having on James? Undoubtedly… But what would he—?

"James. Are you even listening to me?"

"Wha—? Oh—I apologize. I didn't mean—"

Adrien laughed. "You'll be an old man before you know it, James. It'd be a terrible way to go out, thinking yourself to death."

"…I suppose…"

"Then what are you waiting for? All those thoughts will well up inside you and break you down into a husk of a man, unless you let them out and confide in someone… And at the moment, it seems I'm the only one to whom you may confide. So, let's begin." There was a long silence. "…Well, if I have to start you odd… What's troubling you?"

"You know damn well what's troubling me," James said quietly. "…What more is there to say? No matter what I do, I…can't leave him behind…"

"…Say, I'm feeling a bit peckish. How about you?"

James slowly shook his head, more thoughts clouding his mind as Adrien went to another room. Adrien, on the whole, had such strange dispositions that he was rather difficult to read. As children, Adrien was the serious, level-headed counter-part to René's violent, active temperament; then, when René grew more solemn and somber, Adrien seemed to "adapt," becoming more cheerful and blithe. He had a personality like a chameleon, always changing sides when a new situation presented itself; this made it difficult to tell whether he was truly being sincere or whether he was merely trying to gain favor. How could James know he was being sincere now? Did he really mean to comfort James, or…?

"Here. This will get your spirits up."

James glanced up to see Adrien holding out a glass of dark red wine. "…If my situation were to be improved by that, it certainly wouldn't be by much."

Adrien laughed. "See? There's some of your old sarcasm back. Come, now, have a drink. It'll relax you."

"I already told you I don't want any."

"But surely you will. This is very fine wine, very expensive—aged to perfection… The year, let me see…" Adrien turned the bottle, inspecting it. "…Nearly twenty years, imagine that—1780…"

He suddenly faltered, and James noticed a curious expression coming over his face—the easygoing disposition he had worn so skillfully mere seconds ago now faded. Adrien's face remained blank, but James could see the surprise in his softened eyes, and how vainly he tried to hide it. He was unsettled now, and clearly disconcerted, but he didn't appear to want James to notice; something had jarred him so deeply that he had dropped his façade, and didn't seem able to recover.

James winced, knowing how deeply Adrien's pride would be hurt by such an incident. He slightly resented how Adrien never showed his real self, but—if only for this moment, when his façade had vanished—James felt like he understood. More than that, he had a pretty good idea of just what had startled Adrien so greatly…and as such, he felt obligated to help him recover, just as Adrien himself had attempted to help James. "…Fine. In that case, I think I will have a drink."

"What? …Oh, yes, of course. I beg your pardon; I lost myself for a moment…" James's statement had done the trick, for Adrien's disposition quickly donned its disguise once more as he handed him the glass of wine. "I knew you'd come around."

"Well, you certainly have a way of winning people over."

"Yes, I suppose that's true… This isn't the first time I've heard that said about me." Adrien sat across from James. "Now, let's get back to…business, shall me say?"

James hesitantly took a mouthful of his win; it was much stronger than anything he was used to, but he managed to swallow it. "Er… Yes, business… I just…" He sighed. "I don't know what to do anymore."

"Well, what are you doing now?"


"Come off it. You're living at your father's church, aren't you? Perhaps you could—"

"But I can't stay there for much longer," James interjected, pleadingly. "When I'm there, I feel sick… It's too bright, too pure—too holy. Face it, Adrien—I'm a sinner. I haven't even got the courage to admit it… And I don't regret it, either. I don't think I ever will. But… If I stay there… If I keep pretending… I'll just go mad." As he spoke, the floating, angelic organ drifted across his memory, making him nervous; he hurriedly drank more wine, attempting to put it out of his mind.

Meanwhile, Adrien seemed to be giving his words some deep thought. He remained silent for quite a while before replying. "…If that's really the case, you'd be well inclined to leave."

"And where would I go?"

"Nobody is forcing you to stay there, you know."

"But I don't have anywhere else to go!" James snapped. It took him a moment longer to remember Adrien's previous offer from the day before—but by then, it was too late to retract his statement.

"…That wasn't the answer I was hoping for."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean—"

"Then what did you mean?"

James looked down at his knees, his mind floundering and struggling for an answer. "…I…"

"If you're so damn bound and determined to suffer, you ought not to complain about it," he said coldly. Was he really that offended? "But… Why suffer in the first place? Do you truly feel obligated to pay penance for whatever sins for which you think you are responsible, that you're willing to put yourself through so much pain?"

Now it was James's turn to be offended. He had never seen Adrien like this, and to some extent, it startled him… "'For which I think I'm responsible'?! What is that supposed to mean? I know what I did. I… If it wasn't for me, then… René—"

"René loved you. He loved you just as much as you loved him—possibly even more, judging by the way you've been acting lately—and you have no reason to apologize for that.

James returned his gaze to his feet. "…I suppose…"

"No. You know it as well as I do. Don't try to feign ignorance with me. No other action you could have taken would have changed that fact…nor would it have changed the resulting events." Adrien paused, as if waiting for James to respond, but received only silence. "…I know it wasn't a fair decision. But the fact of the matter is that there was no other way. If we continued to live together, just like always, we most likely would have been dead by now. Father had many friends, you see… And the state of France in the first place was entirely too dangerous, especially without peré's protection. René sent us to England for your protection… You understand, don't you?"

Of course James understood. He had always understood. But that didn't mean he had to accept it… Did he?

"I know what you're thinking," Adrien said quietly. "You don't care what manner of reasoning was behind René's logic—you would be much happier to die by his side than to live forever without him. And now you see no further reason to live, as you'll never be able to see each other again. Am I right?" He frowned at James's continued silence, rising from his seat and turning to face the window. "How tragically poetic. One could make a fortune selling that line of thought. But the thing that makes me so fed up with those poets is that they never once think about how goddamn selfish they are. For what most of them don't realize is that the act of killing oneself is an unfathomably selfish thing to do, placing one's own desires far above those of his loved ones. Most importantly, for you to kill yourself would be no better than spitting right in René's face." There was a slight pause as Adrien lowered his voice. "…Or mine."

James thought on his words; the thought of committing suicide had only ever fleetingly occurred to him, but Adrien's speech had effectively put it out of his mind. Even so, he still wasn't put at ease. "…Fine. Then I won't dwell on it, for fear of killing myself. But what else can I do? Am I to simply forget, rather than think of the past?"

Adrien didn't turn to face him. "…You can't go back, so you might as well move on."

He felt his eyes starting to sting as he realized the truth in what Adrien had said. "…Yes, but… I… I can wait…for just a while longer… Can't I?"

"…If you wait for too long, you'll be lost forever."

James buried his head in his hands. "…God… What am I going to do?"

Adrien was silent for a moment. "…You can't wait for much longer… But, for the sake of preserving your happiness… I suppose it wouldn't hurt to go slowly."

James's tone remained dismal as he looked up at Adrien. "Slowly… I don't understand how that would preserve anyth—"

Suddenly Adrien, catching him completely by surprise, pulled James into a deep, passionate kiss.

Even after Adrien pulled away, looking at him through half-lidded eyes, James was still in shock. "…A…Adrien… Wh… What are you…?"

"I look like my brother… I know I do," Adrien whispered, moving his lips further down his neck. "Or… At the very least… I'm the closest you'll ever get…"

The warm breath against his skin was driving James mad, and he quickly found that he was powerless against Adrien's advances; at any other time he would have objected to this, but now he could feel the wine from earlier muddling his senses and wearing away his inhibitions. He squirmed uncomfortably, trying and failing to escape Adrien's embrace—he was completely pinned to the chair. "Adrien… Ah… St-stop this…"

But Adrien was already starting to undo James's shirt, brushing his lips against his soft, pale chest. "…You can pretend, if you want; I understand… I won't mind if you call me René."

James hesitated. "…No… No, Adrien, I… I just can't…"

"Didn't I just say earlier…you'll think yourself to death?" Still leaning his head against his chest, Adrien took James's hands in his own. "Don't think, James… Not now, or else you'll never find your way out of despair… And besides… James…"

Adrien looked up at him, meeting his gaze. For the first time since he had come to see him, James saw a flicker of honesty in his eyes.

"I will do anything to make you happy."

With those words, James felt tears gather in his eyes—losing his entire will to resist, he ran his fingers through Adrien's hair, pulling his head closer to him.

"Oh, God… René…"

The final chords of a haunting melody floated through the empty church, drifting along the aisle and echoing throughout the rafters as the organ slowly fell silent.

Adam sighed, partially from satisfaction and partially from sheer exhaustion, fondly running a hand over the keys and smiling faintly. The strange melody had persisted at him all day; it had even interfered with his concentration during the day's services, giving his other chorales an exceedingly dark tone. (Thankfully, Father Harris seemed not to notice.) This was the only time of day—late into the evening, when all services were long concluded and the pastor and Mme Devereaux were fast asleep—that he had enough solitude and tranquility to attempt playing the melody, and now that the music had left him he felt inexplicably drained.

Lately he had grown accustomed to playing previously composed works, specifically hymns and chorales, for the various services, but ever so occasionally such a tune would flicker to life in the back of his mind. However, he could remember no such melody that ever left him so exhausted…nor any that ever sounded so dark. It filled him with some sort of dread, a deep apprehension and foreboding that was beginning to well up in the pit of his stomach… There weren't many things in this world that frightened him, but now, as he felt a cold, massive shadow lingering over him, he couldn't help but tremble with fear.

The remnants of the final notes died away, leaving him in a complete, utter silence that pervade even the small, flickering sphere of light provided by a lone candle. As he sat there, trying to calm his nerves, he became aware of another noise—rain, just like the night before, pounding against the ceiling. A loud clap of thunder soon followed. Adam, his thoughts having long abandoned the shadow, frowned at the sound of the thunder.

…That's my fault, isn't it?

A chill suddenly came upon him, giving Adam a bit of a nasty jolt, but he quickly realized that it was nothing more than a cold wind. He turned back, looking for its source…and to his horror, discovered that the front door was wide open.

Alarmed, he quickly ran to shut it. Someone must have come in while he was playing—damn how he could get so lost in his music!—and Adam could only hope it wasn't a burglar. Shielding the candle from the rain, he took a single glance out the door, and, seeing no one there, closed it. He looked around the church, his eyes having adjusted to the dark, but didn't see any suspicious figures looming about. Adam sighed and crossed himself with relief; perhaps he merely forgot to lock the door, and the wind from the storm blew it open. With luck, Father Harris wouldn't find out…which wasn't to say that Adam ever got in trouble, but he never kept the possibility out of his mind.

As he walked back down the aisle, however, he suddenly noticed the candlelight straying across a huddled form lying in one of the pews. His heart nearly leaped into his throat—this must've been what had opened the door!—but he steadily reminded himself that it wasn't uncommon for beggars to find their way into churches. This person was probably harmless…probably.

Adam slowly approached, holding out the candle at arm's length to get a better view of the person: a young man, it seemed, no older than himself, with dark, dark brown, almost black hair… Oh! This was the pastor's son, the one who had just arrived yesterday. But where had he been all day, and why was he in such a state now? "M…Master Harris?

The man remained silent, barely moving save the rise and fall of his chest with each breath. He slowly turned his head, looking up at Adam with cobalt blue eyes. "…Are you…an angel…?"

Of all the things he could have said at that moment, nothing else would have surprised Adam more. His eyes widened, and a small blush rose in his cheeks. "A…An angel? No, no, you're mistaken… My name is Adam. I apologize for not having introduced myself earlier. And you are…James, right? …Er, Master Harris?"

"…Please… Forgive me…"

"…Excuse me…?" Confused, Adam sat next to him; the man was still motionless. "…For what?"

"…Everything…" At that, Adam heard soft, muffled sobs rise in his throat. "I… I've sinned…so much… I just… I want to be…forgiven…"

Adam sat there, feeling pity for the young man and wondering what could possibly cause him to be like this. Then, hearing his sobs grow stronger, he lifted his head and leaned it against his shoulder, softly stroking his hair as the man clutched his sleeve and cried even harder. Lightning briefly illuminated the room and thunder crashed outside the walls of the church, echoing throughout the building as the organ music before it.

"Then I forgive you…for whatever sins you may have committed."