A/N, 5/19/08- wrote this for a contest

A/N, 5/19/08- wrote this for a contest. Ended up about 15 pages longer than I expected it to be. Anyway, enjoy. It's got my usual sadness, melancholy, and of course, lots of rain. :)

It was raining the day he'd met William.

That was all Thomas could think about during the car trip. Sam was silent; she was no great source of conversation, being a rather laconic, mysterious figure in his life, despite the fact that he had just spent the past three years with her. But William, William was on Tom's mind, William whom he hadn't seen in three years, three agonizing years that had begun with tragedy.

They'd met through Sam, for Sam seemed to know many rich and influential people, because of her status herself. William was old money; his father had invested in a few companies that had done exceptionally well, and William lived on the family estate, just west of the city. Sam always hosted lavish parties wherever she went, and her stay in New York proved no different. At this time, Thomas was her young protégé, her monster-in-training, learning the ropes from an old master. William was just one of New York's royalty, a handsome, suave man in his mid-twenties, about the same age as Tom.

He'd been standing with Sam as they talked to some gunrunner, just another one of Sam's associates, when Tom had caught sight of William, standing there, being entertained by a young, silly girl, whom he had no interest in, a fact obvious to everyone but the girl herself. As the gunrunner left to mingle with another group, Tom had pulled Sam aside, gesturing at William. "Who's that?" he'd asked.

"William Cassa. He's just a socialite. Why?"

"No reason," Tom had answered, but his eyes had remained fixated on William for the next half hour. Finally, he slipped free of Sam's grasp, and headed out to the balcony, away from the party, his drink in his hands and a man on his mind.

He'd never been really attracted to men before, and he admitted that he liked women a great deal, but there had been something about William, something in his eyes, that had captivated Tom. And as he stood there, leaning on the balcony, in the drizzle, and watching the city twinkle in the dark, he didn't even hear the footsteps behind him.

It wasn't until William was at his side that he noticed him. They stood there, in silence, each trying to think of a way to broach the conversation, when Tom suddenly blurted out, "My name's Tom," the words rapid, unabashed, and the instant he said it, he regretted it.

Will laughed softly, smiling. "I'm William."

Tom flushed, grateful for the dark. "How do you know Sam?" he asked.

"She helped me with my estate," he answered. "You?"

"I work for her," he admitted. "More like, with her."

"So you're that Tom?" Will said, vaguely interested. "I'd heard about you. Apparently you're rather up and coming in the underworld."

Tom shook his head. "It's a lot of talk."

William leaned on the balcony sideways, bracing himself with his elbow. "Really?" he said, catlike. "Because from what I've heard, you've got to be pretty damn good just to associate with her, much less live with her." Tom stared out at the city, down toward the harbor, watching as a boat slowly drifted inwards. With nimble fingers, William suddenly reached forward and brushed a lock of hair from Tom's face, trailing his fingers on his cheek, a gesture that struck Tom as oddly sexual and made him feel mildly uncomfortable. He looked at Will, slightly confused.

"You've had your eyes on me all night," was all William said as he leaned in for a kiss. And in that instant, Tom knew it was right. When William started to pull away, he kissed him again, putting his hand in William's hair. There was something about it that felt right, that felt different, that made him feel alive again.

He stared into Will's eyes as they broke. William trailed his finger under Tom's lower lip, tracing it, admiring his face. "I'd like to see you sometime."

Tom kissed him again, softly. "Absolutely."

After that night, they began seeing each other in secret, sneaking off from Sam's parties, or meeting at hotels and restaurants downtown. And each day, Tom fell more and more for William, until all he could think about was lying in Will's arms. They were so in love with each other that it was almost heartbreaking.

Sam knew about the relationship. She didn't condone it; her relationship with Tom was strictly professional, almost an apprenticeship of sorts. He had learned enough from her to survive as a fledgling now, to fight tooth and nail in her world of Mafioso and criminals and drug rings. It wasn't pretty, but it was the life he'd chosen, with Sam as his guide.

In the late summer she told him she would be going to Berlin that fall, in November. It was an offer; he could come with her, continue learning and scraping out a name for himself, but she also told him that he could stay. If he stayed, however, he knew he'd have a hard time without her. It was, in essence, a polite way of firing him.

He didn't want to leave William, and William didn't want to leave New York. He'd tried to tell William that his career was at stake, but William accused him of loving the mob more than he loved him. And so, Tom decided to stay. But it was too late; the damage was done. Three weeks after telling William that he would stay in New York, Tom discovered William was cheating on him.

They'd broken up after that, Tom getting on the plane to Berlin, William still on his mind. And for the next three years, he had doubted the choice, the doubt growing worse as he learned of William's life in New York. He'd married the boy he was cheating on Tom with, someone named Raoul Fache, and they still lived at Will's estate.

Life in Berlin broke Tom's spirit. He was restless, and Sam sensed that. And one day, just more than three years after they'd left, she'd decided to come back to New York. Arrangements had been made, and they'd returned in March.

Tom had flown under the radar for three months since. He'd heard nothing about all of his old friends, and he didn't want to. He didn't want to think about his proximity to William, the only person he'd ever really loved. But apparently, Sam did.

She'd showed up on his doorstep an hour ago, dragging him into the hall and downstairs. "Come on," she'd said. "We're going to dinner."

"Where?"

"William's."

He'd balked. "No, I don't want to go."

She'd narrowed her eyes, and he'd suddenly become mildly afraid. "He invited us. We're going."

And they'd driven, in the rain, out to Will's estate, drawing up to the mansion, the driver stopping at the top of the drive. Sam got out, taking her umbrella, but Tom didn't stand underneath it. He let the rain soak him, a sick feeling in his body, as he marched up the drive. Carefully, he climbed the marble steps to the door, where Sam was, waiting for him to catch up.

He stood next to Sam, admiring her posture, spine straight, shoulders back, her head held with a certain sense of regality to it. She wasn't wearing her sunglasses, so he could see her eyes, focused and yet distant, as though she were thinking about something that was gravely important, a matter of life or death. But things in Sam's life tended to be that way; her world was dog-eat-dog, kill or be killed.

The butler answered the door, leading them inside, taking Sam's umbrella but having enough sense not to take her jacket. Sam rarely took it off outside her home. Thomas' khaki jacket, however, was promptly pulled from his shoulders and whisked away. Sam made her way to the dining room with the utmost of ease, her strides brisk, her shoes tapping on the wood floor.

Tom hung back a little. He knew William was in there, just through the doorframe, and he wasn't quite sure he had the strength to face him. It had been three years, three long, heartbreaking years since they had last been together. What was William like now, he wondered. Was he still the tall, broad-shouldered man Tom remembered him as? Dark eyes, brown curls, skin like coffee, a warm, tanned color, utterly comforting.

He felt hideous himself. He was sure whoever Raoul was, Thomas himself would pale in comparison. He hung his head, watching the auburn waves fall into his face. Pale skin, bony joints, ever too skinny- he looked sickly, he knew it. Lips too full, eyes too wide, face too narrow; those all made him look too womanly to be accepted.

His stomach turned over, and slowly, he entered the dining room. All eyes would be on him now, especially William's, who sat at the head of the table. Tom took a few steps into the room, and stopped, his eyes focused on the ground. Slowly, he looked up, locking eyes with William, staring deep into the brown irises that had betrayed him years before. Regret was written blatantly on William's face, from the look in his eyes to the way his mouth fell slightly agape.

"Tom," he said, barely whispering, "it's good to see you."

"The same, William."

He took his place, at Sam's side, sitting across from William's husband, Raoul. He took a moment to survey the man who had stolen his old lover's heart, the man who had caused him so much pain without gracing him with his presence. Raoul had a narrow, long face, with blonde curls and bright blue eyes, displaying a beautifully Aryan composure. A bored, pained expression was written on his features, but he managed to grin, slightly maliciously, at Thomas.

"Tom, this is Raoul," Will began, gently grasping his husband's hand on the table. "Raoul, Tom."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Tom spat, trying to filter the acid from his voice.

"The pleasure's all mine." He ran his finger flirtatiously around the lip of his wineglass.

They ate in silence, Samantha hardly touching anything, the same with Tom. William seemed to have lost his appetite as well, and Raoul had stuck to strictly drinking. The tension was ever present in the air, between William and Thomas respectively, with Sam forced to play moderator. Eventually, Raoul stood up, kissed Will on the forehead, and announced,

"Will, I'm going to go for a little drive."

"What car are you taking?" Will asked as Raoul started to leave the room.

"The Porsche." After a moment, he added, "I'll be back in a few hours. Don't wait up."

William suddenly looked down at the table. The silence was unbearable, and Sam sensed his pain. "How do you like the Porsche?" she asked.

He looked up at her, grateful for the distraction. "It handles well. Not as well as the Lambo, but it's more acceptable on the streets. I'm still not comfortable with taking the Lamborghini out to, you know, just anywhere." He fiddled with his napkin for a while. "What kind of car do you drive, Tom?"

"A Benz."

"Really? How do you like it? They're not that expensive, though. I thought you had high taste in cars."

Tom's gaze was dead, dull, glassy. "I don't really drive that much, William. It doesn't matter to me." The sarcasm, the bitterness, was present in his voice. Samantha sighed, deeply, and then abruptly stood up, moving in one fluid motion.

"I'm going to get going," she said, glancing at Tom.

"I'll get my driver," Will said, motioning for a butler. Sam left, following him, leaving William and Tom in the dining room. "He'll be around in a few minutes if you want to go with her."

"I guess I will." He stood up, awkwardly, staring at William with silent fury, and yet, begging him for something, for anything. Another servant appeared, this one with Tom's coat, and led him out to the walk, where Sam stood outside a nondescript black BMW, waiting for him.

He started down the walk, the rain pelting him, his shoulders, scarcely looking up, but catching sight of Sam hopping back into the car. He was halfway to the BMW when he heard his name being called. Shocked, he turned around.

William stood there, shivering, his sleeves rolled to the elbow, sorrow on his face. "Tom, wait," he repeated. With three long, gangly steps he crossed the length of the gravel path between them, standing just a few feet away from Tom. "I had to do this," Will said, placing his hands on either side of Tom's face.

And then he kissed him. He pressed their lips together, for just a second, and then pulled away, his forehead against Tom's, staring into his eyes. "I'm sorry, Tom. But this is my life now. I can't keep thinking about what could've been."

"I know, William," Tom answered weakly. He was ready to vomit. William dropped his hands, placing them at his sides. Tom turned away, getting into the Benz, his legs shaky.

Sam had her head against the window. "What happened?" she asked.

"I forgot my phone," he lied. "Will ran out to give it to me."

"Oh," was all she said.

And he was naïve enough to think that she had believed his lie.

The next week passed uneventfully.

Sam met with clients, she worked, Tom still her fledgling, refusing to step from beneath her wing. He lived in his own apartment now, further downtown than hers, for he had started to run with a different crowd than she did. Sam was the old world, the world of structured mobs, of classy suits and martinis, of hit men and gunrunners. He wanted the new life, drugs, sex, smuggling, prostitution- that was his crowd.

Each week he held parties for the New York royalty, for the up and coming crowd of socialites. They were wild, more akin to raves than to Sam's rather tame gatherings. But he loved them anyway, because they embodied the world he'd sunk into- a world of Ecstasy and cocaine, of whores and Johnny-boys, of whatever he could get whenever he could get it.

Sam didn't outwardly disapprove, but he'd noticed a change in her behavior. She and her crowd were still much more powerful than his little cohorts, and they would remain that way. Her posse was smarter, wiser, than his little gang. And so, she never attended. No, Sam was much more akin to the parties at the casinos she owned, with lots of liquor and gambling.

But Tom craved attention, and that was all he got when he was the host. Seemingly everyone wanted to hang about with the dark-eyed man in the black suit, the one who rarely talked, but was rumored to run with the city's top dogs. Tonight's little doting hussy was a skinny boy with black hair parted above his left eye, wearing tight jeans and a black tee-shirt, his eyes traced in thick eyeliner. He was androgynously good looking, in the manner that Tom himself was, which was partly the reason why Tom had picked him in the first place.

They sat in the armchairs in his living room, a throng of people around them, flirting a bit and exchanging kisses, Tom taking sips of the vodka he had in his hand. He hadn't bothered with a glass; lately it seemed like it was taking more and more to knock him out. After one particularly passionate kiss, the boy (James, his name was, as it turned out) got up from his chair and climbed into Tom's lap, one leg on either side of him.

They kissed again, nuzzling, the loud music blaring around them, this boy high as a kite and not giving a damn, Tom still holding his vodka. He set it down as they embraced again, running both his hands up and down James' skinny torso.

"Hello, Tom."

He stopped, mid-kiss, peering around James to see who was there. William stood, his arms behind his back, a few feet away. Tom grinned, almost maliciously. "Why hello, William."

William looked absolutely defeated. "I can see you're, um…"

"Preoccupied?" Tom said, violently Frenching James, sliding his hand underneath the boy's tee-shirt and halfway up his torso. As they broke, he nibbled lightly on James' lower lip, tugging ever so gently on his lip ring.

"Yes," William said, flushing, clearly uncomfortable.

"Well, then, I guess I'll just see you another time then, won't I?" Tom continued, kissing James' neck slowly, running his hands down James' spine, squeezing his ass at the very end. James let out a soft gasp.

"I suppose so," William murmured, backing away, the rejection evident in his posture. He'd obviously come here tonight trying to repair something, something which Tom had been determined to show him wasn't broken in the first place.

Who does the defeated man turn to?

William hadn't been able to shake the sense of defeat for a week. He knew Tom was only making a show out of his little boy to make William jealous, to make him regret, to punish him for what he had done three years prior. William knew he was responsible for the breakup; once he had heard from Tom himself about the possibility of Berlin, William had lost it. He felt that Tom would betray him, would leave him in New York, waiting, when he knew it wasn't true. And then he had started seeing Raoul on the side.

When Tom had discovered the affair, he'd been heartbroken. And Sam had been there, Sam the Dark Avenger, the woman with a past that none truly knew nor wanted to. She had taken him to Berlin, even though William knew he truly did not want to go, but she had figured it would give Tom a distraction and keep him out of trouble.

William knew little of what Tom had been up to in Berlin. It was Sam's business, business one was aware of but never inquired into. Her world was a vicious, dangerous place, one that William did not want to get involved in.

But he moped around the house, in and out, a strange pain in his chest, aching, a constant reminder of the heartbreak he had caused the red-haired young man. Raoul ceased to enchant William; he now detested his presence, and was vaguely disgusted when Raoul had pressured him for sex one night. He was beginning to realize just how out-of-love they had become, sickened by Raoul's affairs and promiscuity, and the blatant lies to William's face.

And then, one day, he picked up the phone. He dialed Tom, on a whim, wondering if his number still worked, or if Tom had gotten a new number upon his return from Germany.

But the number worked, apparently, since it rang, once, twice, then three times. By now William doubted that anyone would answer. But after the fourth ring, someone picked up.

"Hello?" Tom asked, in his melancholy, bored voice.

"Tom?" Will chirped.

"William?" Tom asked in disbelief.

"Yeah, it's me."

There was a pause. "Why'd you call?"

Why had William called? Just to hear his voice? Or was there some other secret reason buried in the back of his mind. "Well, I…I actually wanted to see if you wanted to come over for dinner."

"Tonight?"

"Yeah…that a problem?"

Another pause. "No. What time?"

"Seven sound okay?"

"Seven's fine. See you then, William," Tom said, and then the line went dead, Tom having hung up, which was, to William, a polite way of going, "Fuck you."

But still, he had gotten his foot in the door. And by God, he would pry it open, inch by inch.

William had been impatient all afternoon.

It was raining in the evening when Tom arrived. Raoul was out; he'd said he was "working late," which to William meant he had his editor between his legs and wouldn't be home all night. Not like William minded or anything, since it gave him the whole evening free without even having to worry about his husband. Tom arrived unceremoniously, in his black Mercedes-Benz, no driver, parking the car in the drive and walking up to the house.

William answered the door himself, a departure from the ordinary. He took Tom's coat, and led him through the foyer, past the kitchen, toward the study. "Do you want anything to drink?" he asked, pushing open the door. "Dinner won't be ready for another twenty minutes; I apologize."

"Wine's fine. What we were having last time if you've got any," Tom said, sitting on the large leather couch in the dark room. The walls were painted a deep maroon, with mahogany paneling along the bottom, the dark wood matching William's desk and bookshelves.

He returned with two glasses and the opened bottle, handing one to Tom before he sat down across from him. "What's wrong?" he asked.

Thomas bit his lower lip. "Why did you invite me over here, William?" he asked, clearly not going to beat around the bush.

William swirled the glass in his hand, the red liquid swishing around, a beautiful red, red like Tom's hair, red like his blood was, all over poor Sam's shirt, red like the blood that flowed through Will's heart. "Because…"

"Don't fuck with me, William."

"Because, Tom," Will said, looking him in the eye, "I made a fucking mistake. I made a mistake when I married Raoul. I don't think I was ever really in love with him. But what was I going to do, hm? You left me to go to Berlin with Sam. You were working. I wasn't…I wasn't ready for that kind of a jump, unlike you. But I see now that I was wrong. Maybe I didn't have to go to Berlin. But I shouldn't have married Raoul."

Tom's mouth lay slightly agape, his lower lip quivering slightly. "William, I…"

"You had to go to Berlin. I understand."

Tom stood up, facing the adjacent wall, holding his glass in his right hand. With a sudden yell, he threw the glass with surprising force against the wall, watching it shatter, leaving a dark stain. He hung his head, facing away from William for a moment, before turning back to him. Tom looked up at him, tears running down his face. "William, I love you so fucking much…"

William stood up, setting his glass on the coffee table, standing in front of Tom. "It's okay, don't cry. Why are you crying?" He tried to wipe away Tom's tears with his sleeve, but Tom was sobbing too hard for it to do any good.

"I'm so sorry, William. I'm so sorry I went to Berlin after you and Raoul got together. It was so fucking stupid of me…" he said, choking back another bout of sobs. Will placed his hands on either side of Tom's face, staring into his hazel eyes.

"Tom, what happened is what happened. You went to Berlin. It's over. You're back. Don't let your regrets keep you from what you really want."

"What I want is you, William."

Gently, William pressed his lips to Tom's, in a hungry, desperate, voracious kiss, one that was electric and everything he'd hoped for. They kissed for a long time, William's arms around Tom, pulling him close, promising to never let him go again. And when they broke, Tom kissed him again, hard, a promise never to leave again.

"Shit," Tom whispered as William let him go. "Shit. Jesus fucking Christ."

"What?"

"William, you're married. You…You and I…We can't-"

William ran a hand through his hair. "What, Raoul? He's cheating on me. Do you think I honestly care about him any more? Besides, Raoul's not here tonight. And when he comes back I'm asking for a divorce."

Tom nodded, shaky, unsure, still not able to believe any of this. He kissed William again, his tongue in Will's mouth, savoring every second. And then Will shoved him against the wall, kissing his neck, his collarbone, undoing the buttons on his shirt, Tom's hands in Will's hair. He moaned softly as William ran his hands down the backs of his thighs, crying out sharply when William touched him.

"Haven't done this in a while, have you?" Will asked. Tom shook his head no. "Hopefully you still remember how to do things."

"Of course I do." He gasped as William lightly bit his neck.

William stopped abruptly, his hands on Tom's waist, touching his bare skin, which was hot to the touch, almost feverish. Tom was breathing hard, still wound up, his eyes wild. "Let's take a walk," William said.

Minutes later they found themselves walking down one of the gravel paths through the huge garden on William's estate, heading toward the back, where the little creek cut through, near the old willow tree. They walked side by side, William's arm around Tom's hips, until Tom wriggled away. William was mildly shocked, and more than a little offended, but then he felt Tom slip his hand into his, squeezing it tight, his narrow fingers interlaced with William's.

Crickets chirped, and a frog bellowed somewhere unseen, hidden, croaking out a dilapidated song from its location. The sun had set a short while ago, emerging from the clouds as the seemingly endless rain broke for a few hours. The night was still warm, the air a bit muggy, and the fireflies and various bugs were coming out.

They walked down the path, hand in hand, marveling at the nighttime milieu around them, the fireflies dancing around the couple, twinkling just like the stars overhead.

"What was it like in Berlin?" William asked as they rounded a bend, the creek in sight now.

Tom smiled, something flashing into his eyes. "It was weird. I didn't understand a lot of what they said to me, even after I'd been there for three years. Sam did almost all of the talking." He paused, laughing briefly. "Of course, we weren't in Berlin the whole time. We went to Moscow for a while, and then London. I liked London the best. I could actually talk to someone other than Sam there."

He paused, staring at the creek, swollen and turgid from the rain, risen up to its banks and threatening to flood them. "I never really realized how smart she was, though. I mean, until you saw her carrying on conversations in three different languages…" A soft sigh followed. "But the cities were beautiful. All the old architecture, the statues, everything- it's all old-world beautiful." He didn't breathe a word about work; that wasn't a topic up for discussion tonight.

Off in the distance, the thunder rumbled again, and as if on cue, the rain began to fall, first lightly, and then the sky tearing open, pouring down upon them, thick, fat drops. They ducked under the old willow, sitting down against the tree, feeling the damp, rough bark, and watching the long tendrils of leaves sway in the winds.

Tom snuggled into William's shoulder, his head lying across Will's collarbone, just the way they had done when they were together.

"I missed you, William. Every day, no matter where I was, I missed you."

William planted a kiss on Tom's forehead. "Me, too."

They skipped dinner entirely.

It wasn't sorely missed, however, as they spent their entire evening out in the garden, wandering aimlessly, hand in hand, always together, like they'd never been apart. But eventually the evening dragged on, and Tom knew he had to go home; he had an early meeting with a few rather unpleasant people in the morning.

Together they walked back up to the house, Will's arm around Tom's waist, the breeze blowing steadily, the rain having died off a while ago. They climbed up the marble staircase, to the patio at the top, both halting at the end of the stairwell. Tom turned to face William, his arms crossed in front of his chest, his face illuminated by the porch lights, a low, orange glow that caught the red in his hair and intensified it.

"Goodnight, William," he said, leaning up to kiss Will one last time on the mouth. "I had a good time tonight."

"I'll see you tomorrow, all right?" Will said, nuzzling him, kissing him once again on the lips.

"Sounds good, Will," he said. Smiling, he departed from the porch, disappearing into the blackness, toward the drive and his black Mercedes Benz. William remained on the porch for a few moments, his thoughts cloudy, but his heart lucid.

Eventually, he meandered indoors, heading towards his study, or possibly the library, either of which would do. He passed through the front hall, toward the living room, when he heard his name being called.

"William! Will, where on earth were you?"

Cautiously, he peered over his right shoulder, spotting Raoul, who got up from one of the leather armchairs in the living room, extending one lanky leg after another, rushing to William's side.

"I was in the garden," Will admitted.

"Oh," Raoul commented, sauntering up to William. "I just…I missed you, William." He stared up at Will, his wide blue eyes seeming more childlike and innocent than they were, or would ever be, for any matter. He seemed nervous, wiry, more delicate than he was, not the manipulative, lying boy William knew him to be. And when Raoul slowly kissed him on the mouth, William didn't stop him.

At first, he wanted it. Deep down, he supposed a part of him wanted this life with Raoul. But the more logical, more pragmatic part of him told William to tell Raoul off, to call him on his lies, right here and now. And yet that voice was strangely silenced, and William found himself putting his hands in Raoul's hair, kissing him harder, deeper.

Something moved in his peripheral vision, and a shadow blocked out the light coming from the foyer. William, however, didn't find it important enough to break his kiss with Raoul.

They stopped, abruptly, Raoul pulling away, shocked, turning to his right, staring at the figure casting a shadow from the doorway. Tom stood there, his face flushed, eyes downcast, his car keys held absentmindedly in his right hand.

"Forgot my keys," he mumbled, laughing, clearly embarrassed, betrayal written across his face. "Guess I'll just be going then. Goodnight, William." He shot a glance at Will's husband. "Raoul," he said, not respectfully, but in a manner of weakness, showing his defeat at Raoul's hands.

Raoul glowered at him, fury seething from the fibers of his body. William wanted to say something, anything, to apologize, to say it was a misunderstanding, but he felt Raoul dig his nails into his wrist, and he remained silent, his heart turning upon itself, and the large, black, cruel beast that lurked inside him devour it whole.

He watched him go, until Tom was out of sight, and they heard the door close and they both knew he was gone. Raoul turned to him, an angry, twisted expression on his face. "You were cheating on me," he spat, slapping William across the face. For a moment, Will was stunned, but he quickly regained composure and grabbed Raoul's wrist before he backhanded him.

"You've been having an affair for two years, Raoul," snarled William. "And if you're still naïve enough to think that I didn't know, this is going to come as an awful shocker. I knew, Raoul. I knew the whole fucking time."

"I don't give a shit if you knew," Raoul hissed. "You won't leave me. You're a coward, William, and you've always been one."

William released Raoul's wrist. "I want a divorce," he said, coolly, calmly, watching the fear spread like poison, until it was plainly visible in Raoul's clear blue eyes. "And I want you to get out of my house. Now." He watched in mild disgust as Raoul stormed off, his steps loud, that of a child in a tantrum.

He heard the door close for a second time, then the sounds of a car starting up, followed by it heading down the drive. And William retreated to his study, having lost the only two men he had ever cared about in under five minutes, feeling, rather appropriately, completely and utterly alone.

William got the call the next day.

Robert brought him the phone, an apathetic expression on his face, for Robert wasn't much for Sam. But nonetheless, she had called, requesting to speak to William, and it was Robert's duty to give him the phone.

"William?" she'd blurted out as soon as he'd answered.

"Where's the fire?"

"Don't fuck around." Her voice was stern, the kind of voice that took command when it was needed. "Have you seen Tom?"

"No," he answered. "Why?"

"He's not answering his phone. And he's not at home."

William fell silent. His heart suddenly seemed to have stopped, to have run out of energy and decided not to beat anymore. "Shit," he breathed.

"What happened, William?" Sam's powers of intuition extended even to verbal conversations.

He rubbed at his temple with his free hand. "I…We had a fight last night. He…He wanted to get back together. And then Raoul was there, and he kissed me, and it…"

He heard a click, and then silence, at the other end of the line.

Tom wasn't sure how long he'd been out in the rain.

He'd driven for a while, with no destination in mind, until he'd arrived at the marina, on the bay, the yacht club for Long Island. Wandering down the pier in the pouring rain wasn't helping him, but he knew he could easily snag an anchor off one of the boats and use it to visit the sea floor himself. He'd sat on the wharf all night, watching the sun come up through the clouds and the storm, his skin and clothes soaked, his bones chilled and frozen, his heart an icy orb at his center.

He sat out there all afternoon as well, not sure of whether or not he was crying, because he felt the rainwater running down his face also, but knowing that he was getting sick from being out here. He didn't want to go inside, however, not just yet. He would rather sit in the storm and suffer, suffer for being such an idiot, for thinking that William truly loved him.

Sam was looking for him, he knew that. And she'd find him. It was only a matter of time. Sam had eyes and ears in every block of the city; she just needed to talk to the right ones to get to him.

Almost in the midst of a trance, he heard a car door slam shut, and then soft footsteps on the wood planks of the pier, slow, even steps, knowing it was Sam. She didn't really walk, she more or less glided from place to place, a ghost in a suit, a poltergeist in a pair of Armani sunglasses. And suddenly she was sitting next to him, at the edge of the wharf, her legs dangling off the end of the pier, not bothered by the rain in the slightest. He sneezed, still staring at the bay, watching the gray churning waters, the waves rough and reckless.

The wind blew, cold, angling the rain briefly, pushing Tom's stringy wet hair into his face. He hunched over, shivering, his lips pale, purplish, his skin drawn, pale, white marble with a bright blue cerulean vein showing through it.

Sam was silent, sighing once, watching the big boats come in and out. He knew she had a story about them, she always had a story; her life was a mélange of various experiences, shaping Sam into the eclectic woman she was now. There wasn't anything Sam hadn't tried, hadn't done; there wasn't any place she hadn't lived, or hadn't visited.

She held out her hand, slightly, strangely naked, missing its glove, which she held in her other hand. He gently grasped it, interlacing his long, nimble fingers into her short ones, his hand cold but still not as icy as hers was. And they both sat there, on the wharf, Sam swinging her legs, lost in her thoughts, while Tom clung fervently to the one person who could save him from drowning in his own despair.

She might have been an angel of vengeance, one he would have been forced to paint with black wings, and a sullen, demonic look in her eyes, but she was also the person who had been there for him when he had need it, both now and in the past. And he supposed he wouldn't trade her for anyone else, as far as faithful, at your side companions went.

"I heard about what happened," she said, softly, watching the horizon. "And I'm sorry." He found it ironic, that Sam, Sam the master manipulator, had pity for him.

He nodded, on the verge of tears again. She squeezed his hand a bit tighter. "How did you know I was here?"

"I know everything."

The statement wasn't far from the truth.

Samantha was his guardian.

She took him back to her apartment, showing him the shower, finding a set of clothes for him to wear. He stood in the shower for the longest time, his head pressed against the tiles, sobbing softly, the cold wall numbing him, the hot water burning his skin. He wanted William back, he wanted him so badly, and now he had realized that William would never be his. He cried so hard he ended up throwing up, despite the fact that his stomach had nothing left in it.

Finally the water stopped, and he dried off, opening the door back to her bedroom, one of her white towels wrapped around his waist. She was facing away from him, her shirt off, a new one in her hand. Casually, she glanced over at him.

"Sorry," he mumbled, slipping into the room to grab the clothes she'd laid out for him. She tilted her head and snickered softly, and he looked at her. Broad, muscular shoulders, clearly Germanic, her body thick but not fat, just solid. Adorning her torso were strikingly patterned scars, some red, others a faded purple, but all of them interlaced like some brilliant design.

She caught him staring, but she didn't mind. As long as he didn't start to feel sorry for her she wouldn't mind at all.

"How did you get them?" he asked, twisting his grip on the towel in his right hand.

"Different ways," she said, pulling her new blouse over her shoulder. "Why?"

"I've just…never…" He fell silent, sitting down on the edge of her bed. She finished buttoning her shirt and looked at him, standing arms akimbo. "Sam, I have a question for you."

She straightened up slightly.

"Do you think I'm…that I'm cut out to do what you do?" She was about to answer, but he decided to clarify the question. "Did you take me to Berlin because you thought I had talent, or was there some other reason?"

Her eyes faltered for a moment; he saw weakness in them for just a split second, and it would be the only time he would ever see it in her eyes. But within that second she ceased to be the immortal and became Sam, real flesh and blood, a woman and not a goddess, a human and no longer a statue. He had also seen some thing there, something he had denied for a long, long time, something he supposed he had known was there the entire while and simply denied the existence of.

He saw for the first time, truly, how she viewed him. He was her beautiful Raphael angel, with the red curls and the ivory skin, and she was the beast, her skin marred and flawed.

She half-smiled again, trying to conceal a deep-seated somnolence and despair in her eyes, gazing at him with untested patience. "C'mon, kid. Let's go for a drive."

He'd secretly loved her Benz.

She'd bought it because it was German; Sam had a secret penchant for all things Deutsch. It had a black leather interior, a wood dash, and the exterior was a sleek black as well. It was a beautiful car, he had to admit, and Sam loved it even more because it was street-acceptable, unlike her Ferrari. The Lamborghini she could squeak by with sometimes, but the Ferrari, almost never.

They'd taken the road north, out of the city, heading along the coast. Fifteen minutes in he was already bored, returning to his thoughts, trying not to dwell on William but finding that impossible. And so, he turned to Sam.

"Bist du mir boese?" he asked, auf Deutsch. Are you mad at me? She nodded her head no, the blonde hair scattering everywhere.

"Nein, ach wo." She bit her lip momentarily.

He fell silent, leaning his head against the window, shutting his eyes, feeling the cold glass against his head, the raindrops falling on its opposite side. There was a dull ache in his wrists, where the scars lay, thick, raised, purple lines almost two inches long. He fought back tears, thinking of William, of the hospital, walking at William's estate at midnight, hand in hand.

Like they were meant to be.

"Was ist los?" Sam asked him, still in German. What's wrong? He knew she probably wasn't aware of it; once she slipped into a language it was easy for her to forget that he only really spoke English.

He remained silent, quickly wiping away a tear as it escaped from his diligent guard. Sam sensed his problem, and left it there, leaving the silence between them. He didn't want to talk; she could tell. And so she simply drove, guiding the car through the rain and the storm, mile after mile.

Tom fell asleep after about an hour, a light, nervous sleep, fitful, but by the time that he woke, they were out of New York, still on the coast, the rain coming down harder now, in the late afternoon. "It's not much farther," Sam said, in English, Tom still expecting an accent of some sort and finding none.

She laughed, snorting really, and turned the car around a bend, allowing Tom to catch a glimpse of the beach and the rough, gray waters beyond it. "You were only asleep about an hour, anyway."

That meant they had been driving for an hour and a half. Not long at all. After fifteen more minutes, Sam stopped the car, at the side of the road on a bend, near the beach itself. They were nestled into the side of a hill, at the top of which lay a small, white cottage, surrounded by the thick, yellowing tall grasses.

Sam turned the engine off, the wipers stopping, the rain much more evident without them. She twirled the keys in her hand, still wearing the black gloves. "C'mon, kid," she said at last. "Let's take a walk."

He was about to say, "But it's raining," but the words faltered, fell short, and he found himself unable to utter them, dazed, jerking back to life as Sam shut the car door behind her. Reluctantly, he followed suit, the pain dashing into his wrists once again.

The downpour was awful, but it didn't seem to bother Sam in the slightest. She was impervious to it, a goddess in her own realm, an immortal who was not bothered by such trivial matters as the weather. Brash and unhindered, she walked down to the waterfront, through the sand and the grasses, heading down toward a craggy cliff that ran with a few rocks into the water.

He caught up with her at one of the rocks, which Sam had climbed on top of, to her present position, staring out at the ocean and the clouds. The wind whipped her hair, blowing it out of her face, revealing the scars across her cheek and eyebrow, scars of long past. She looked proud, and yet sentimental, pensive and yet authoritative.

"You know, kid," she began, pointing at a large, fat, purple raincloud, "we used to always pray for rain like this in South Africa. But we rarely got it." She chuckled, placing her arms behind her back. "When we did, there was this dry creek bed behind my house. Boy, it would fill up, and run for days."

"You're from South Africa?" he asked, his voice sounding foreign to his own ears.

She nodded. "When it rained like this, everything grew. The cattle were fat, there was food, no one went thirsty. But when there was a drought, the soil baked, the plants died, and there was nothing to drink. And we all prayed for the rain."

They both watched the waves crash against the rocks for a time, each one enveloped in their thoughts. At last, he spoke.

"Sam, why did you bring me up here?"

She sighed, glancing downward. "To clear your head, kiddo."

A confused expression wrought itself upon his face.

She looked up at him, pain in her eyes. "William loves you an awful lot, Tom. And I know you feel the same about him. And you shouldn't let one incident destroy what you had with him, or what you could have. We've all made mistakes, kid. But the longer you dwell on them, the longer you keep the drought going. You've got to accept them and let the rain fall. It's the only way to move on."

She turned around, hopping down off the rock, and heading back toward the car. He didn't look back at her; instead he kept his eyes fixed on the ocean, on the horizon. The rain pelted him, his hair, soaking him to the skin, but it didn't matter.

She'd told him what he had to do.

Time was of the essence.

He took a cab to William's estate, paying the driver, and then running up the drive in the cold rain, his body numb and frozen. He pounded on the door and hollered until the butler answered, viewing Tom as a disgrace, hesitant to let him in, but Tom pushed past, wandering through the halls, dripping onto the wood floor, until he found William in the library, sitting on the couch, a book in his lap.

He threw open the door, standing there, a sopping wet mess, eyes locked with William's, the firelight playing with the shadows on Tom's face and making him look melancholy, sickly, and malicious. He strode across the room in several powerful steps, letting the door shut behind him, his lankly legs covering the ground easily. William stood up from the couch, placing the book on the end table, standing a few feet away from Tom.

They looked like wolves, about to circle each other, but the look in Tom's eyes said otherwise. And then, suddenly, he reached out, putting his hand on the back of William's head, and drew him in close for a kiss.

It was beautiful.

As they broke apart, Tom pressed his forehead to William's, his hands on William's face, William's hands on top of them, finding them deathly cold and bony. "I realized I love you too much to let something like this come between us, William."

Tom felt a tear run down William's cheek. William never cried, not unless something was deathly serious. For a moment, a pang of fear struck his heart, and he thought William would turn back to Raoul.

No. No. Please no.

"I love you, Tom." He searched for the right words, biting his lip in the meantime. "I'm sorry for what I did."

"It doesn't matter, William. What's done is done."

William held him, close, Tom nestling into Will's left shoulder, feeling how warm William was, compared to his chilled skeleton, oozing rainwater all over the library floor. William held him for a long, long time, crying softly into his hair, never happier in his life. It was bittersweet, he knew, but all that mattered was that he had Tom back in his arms again.

Dawn broke over the city.

William was the first up, since he was naturally an early riser, slowly drifting into consciousness, Tom sleeping soundly beside him. He was curled half onto his side, facing William, his arm drawn close to his face. He was sleeping like the dead, still catching up from the previous two nights.

William loved how the sheets clung to his form, showing his thighs and the curve of his lower back. He had a beautiful figure, one almost like that of a statue, and William traced his hand lightly down Tom's shoulder, before reaching up and brushing a lock of hair from Tom's face, his fingers lightly twirling it between them.

Tom's eyes fluttered open, and he yawned, stretching, his back stiff and his shoulders sore, due to old wounds, ones that had healed a long time ago, but still ached from time to time. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, William's hand still in his hair, and gently reached up to grasp William's forearm. "Morning," he said, drowsy. William smirked. "Were you watching me sleep?"

"Yeah," Will admitted.

"That's creepy," Tom chided, smiling. Slowly, he sat up, kissing William on the mouth. "Where're my pants?" he asked as they broke, scanning the room for them.

All of his clothes were strewn about the room, reminders of last night's carousel. His shirt was dropped by the door, his pants near the wardrobe, his boxers God-knows-where. Each article brought back a snippet of what had taken place the previous night, brining a shy grin to Tom's face, turning his cheeks bright red.

Carefully, he slid out from between the sheets, striding across the room, still jumpy in his skin, slightly embarrassed to be naked in front of William, who was looking him over, finding every detail of Tom's body to be perfect. He crouched down, feeling in his pockets for his cell, pulling it out and turning it on while he searched the bathroom for his boxers.

When he returned to the bedroom, he had them on, and was checking his phone for any new voicemails. Strangely, there were none, but it didn't alarm him; Sam was known to get caught up in business and forget just about everything else.

"Any word from Sam?" Will asked, twisting the sheets.

Tom shook his head no. "I'm going to call her real quick. Just to make sure she knows where I'm at in case something happens." That something could be a wide variety of incidents, Tom knew, ranging from the simple to the grotesque. He'd once gotten a call from her at two in the morning, saying she needed someone to drive her to the hospital. That trip had ended with Sam in surgery, getting three slights pulled from her and five hundred stitches put in.

He dialed her number, her voicemail picking up immediately, which meant her phone was off. He left her a blurb, saying something about where he was, and told her to call him. "Her phone was off, Will," he murmured as he hung up. "She never turns her phone off."

William shrugged. "You never know."

Tom nodded. He decided not to let it bother him. It's probably nothing, he told himself. Maybe her phone died and it's still charging. A million things could have happened. But there was something deep down that told him he was wrong.

He silenced the voice that was trying to put a damper on his day, and instead focused all of his attention on William. The butler brought them breakfast shortly after, and he suddenly became preoccupied with flirting and fooling around with William, and Sam's odd behavior was the furthest thing on his mind. They spent the morning in bed, cuddled together, reminiscing about the days before Berlin, before Raoul, each wondering what tomorrow would bring, hoping that the past would not repeat itself.

After lunch they walked in the gardens again, the sun out, drying out the earth, the air a bit muggy still, but clearing. By afternoon it was a beautiful day, and they spent it outside, laying underneath the willow tree, listening to the various sounds of nature and simply enjoying each other's company. The sun was rarely dissuaded by a cloud, the sky perfectly clear, and they knew that the rain would be gone, at least for the next few days.

Tom sat on a knob of one of the exposed roots of the willow, twisting a fallen leaf in his hand, while William leaned with his back against the trunk of the tree. "What time is it, Will?" he asked, tossing the leaf, watching it slowly float back to the earth.

William checked his watch. "Four," he answered. "Why?"

A dark serpent reared its head in Tom's subconscious, the one he'd been avoiding all day. "Sam still hasn't called."

William sat on the ground beside him. "You're really worried, aren't you?"

Tom looked over at him, and William saw the fear present in his eyes. "I have reason to be," he said, staring back over at the creek. "The last time…The last time she was out of contact I found her sitting next to Brody's corpse in her apartment. She'd been shot three or four times, and God, William, there was just so much blood everywhere. And I'm…I'm kind of scared…"

"She's Sam. She's a tough old bird." William put his arm around Tom's shoulders. Tom nodded. "But if you want, we can take the Caddy and head over to her apartment." He ruffled Tom's hair lightly, trying to ease the young man's mind.

They didn't take the driver; instead, Tom drove, his fingers in a white-knuckle grip on the wheel, his legs shaky and his stomach a bit upset. He swallowed his fear to the best of his ability, trying not to drive too irrationally as they headed into the city, back into the gray, dull city that some considered to be a paradise.

The doorman let them in, recognizing both of them, as they were frequent visitors to Sam's lair, and they took the elevator up, to the fourth floor, wandering down to her apartment. "You've got a key?" Will asked as they stood outside the door.

Tom procured one from his pocket, sliding it in the lock, finding it open. "The door's unlocked," he whispered, his heart thudding in his ears. Even William knew that it was a bad sign.

Slowly, he pushed in the door, watching it swing on its hinges.

The apartment was empty, bare, desolate, stripped of its occupants and the sophisticated feel it had once possessed. It felt strange, being there, remembering the things Sam had kept on the shelves, where she had hung her collection of various paintings and prints, the little trinkets adorning her coffee table. And now they were all gone, simply vanished, missing.

Just like Sam.

She was gone from his life, most likely forever, disappearing like a strange poltergeist, there one moment and invisible the next. She had left no address, no number, nothing for him to find her with, which meant one thing- she did not want to be found.

It was beautifully and typically Sam; no goodbye, no farewell, nothing. Just gone, a gaping hole in his life, years spent with a woman who had vanished in a heartbeat. He wanted to call her a coward, but she wasn't one, he knew that. She had seen that he was not happy, and it was her will and testament to make him so. Upon seeing her duty fulfilled, she had removed herself from his life, in a way that she thought would be painless.

But it wasn't.

"This is all I've found, Tom," Will said, returning to the living room. He held a note, along with a set of keys. "They were on the kitchen table."

Tom took them from him, nodding curtly. "Thank you." He twisted the keys in his left hand, unfolding the note in his right.

Nur der Regen weint am Boden.

He sniffled, loudly, staring up at the ceiling, determined not to cry, not now, not bloody now. William stood there, ready to comfort him, but he didn't want it now; at least, not yet. The silence pervaded the air for a few minutes, and then William spoke.

"What does it mean?" he asked.

"'Only the rain falls on the ground.'" He gazed at William, reading his perplexed expression. "Don't worry about it."

"Oh." He fell silent again. "Where do you think she went?"

"Honestly?" Tom said, smiling slightly and sniffling again. "I think she went back."

"To where?"

"Only God knows."

"William, wait."

Tom shut his car door, his face gravely serious. He was biting his lower lip, a nervous habit that only reared its head when the situation was dire. Will looked at him, his hand resting on the steering wheel.

"Take me to the airport."

"Why?"

"Please?" Tom pleaded, his voice desperate, pushed to its breaking point. William did, reluctantly, the two driving along the highway in complete silence, Tom fearing that he had just lost the only woman who had looked out for him, who had protected him, and William scared that her loss would devastate the man he loved.

But they pulled into the entrance for the private hangers, and Tom recognized her jet on the tarmac, being fueled up. "Wait here," he told Will, hopping out of the car.

He ran across the tarmac, the cement slippery, the rain not letting up just yet. Sam was climbing the stairs into the fuselage of the plane, her black attaché case in one hand, a matching umbrella in the other. "Sam!" he called, over the din of the storm. "Sam, wait!"

She heard him; he could read it in her posture, the way she hesitated, before fully turning around. He stopped, at the bottom of the stairwell, out of breath. "What the hell are you doing here?" she asked, curiously.

"I should ask you that," he panted, pacing. "What are you…Where…" he tried to begin, the words faltering. "So this was supposed to be it?" he said at last, accusingly. "No goodbye, no number, no address, nothing. You were just going to up and fucking leave."

She stared at him with dead eyes. "I thought you wanted it that way."

He snorted in exasperation. "What?"

Her expression softened. "You have William now. You don't need me anymore."

"What do you mean I don't…I don't need you anymore?" He laughed again. "You're crazy. Of course I…" He fell silent as the realization dawned on him.

She leaned onto the railing. "I'm going to Moscow," she said. "You and William are staying here."

He titled his head in disbelief. "So what does that mean?"

"It means that you weren't cut out for something like this. You never were, kid. I thought you'd change or something, but it didn't happen. It's not your fault; it's just who you are. So I guess this is the polite way of saying 'You're fired.'"

Tom hung his head, staring at a puddle by one of the cracks in the cement. "So that means you were in…"

"I still am."

He looked up at her, confused, hurt, completely blindsided by what she had said. He'd never guessed it; she'd been impossible to read from day one. But now the truth had come forward, and he understood why she had stuck with him all those years, why she had taken him under her wing and shown him the ropes.

She jogged down the stairs, to where he stood. "You okay?" she asked. He glanced at her from the side.

"Are you ever going to come back to New York?" he asked, his voice withdrawn.

She half-grinned, more sadness than mischief this time. "No, I doubt it."

He turned to her, putting his hands on her shoulders. "I'll miss you."

"You won't, kid."

"Don't say that." He leaned forward, nudging her, about to kiss her, when she pressed her index finger to his lips.

"Don't do something you'll regret, kid," she said, her eyes locking with his.

"Aright, then, I won't," he said, kissing her lightly, on the mouth, knowing that this would probably be the last time he would ever see her. He pulled away, staring at her with regret in his eyes, wondering what life would have been like with Sam, traveling the world. "I'm sorry."

She shrugged, but he could see the despair in her eyes; he knew how hard this was for her. "Auf Weidersehen," she said.

"Bye," he murmured, watching her trudge back up the stairs and onto the plane. He'd miss her, perhaps, for a while, but then he was aware that her memory would fade, just like a scar, smoothing out, blending in, until he could no longer see it.

And she left him there, on the tarmac, standing in the rain, William calling him from the car, and he knew that with her went a little piece of him, just a fragment, a piece of him just for her.

One Year Later

It was just like he'd remembered it.

The little house, on the hill, whitewashed, the path leading from it down to the beach, the grasses, tall and golden, waving in the wind, the clouds gathering, a storm blowing in from the west. William parked the car on the road, just like Sam had done, and they walked up to the house together, William still unsold on the idea, Tom could tell.

But as Tom unlocked the doors to the house, with the keys Sam had left in her apartment, and slowly pushed in the door, William watching in silence, he began to see that it was, in fact, theirs. Tom led him inside, turning in a little circle inside the front hall, examining the room.

"I think they did a good job," Tom said, referring to the renovators they'd hired to fix the place up.

"Yeah," Will murmured. "They did a great job." He wrapped his arms around Tom's waist, holding him from behind, burying his face into his neck.

They spent their first night listening to the rain, rain that pounded the roof like a drum, a violent, turbulent storm, the kind that always made Tom a little nervous. But tonight he had slept soundly in William's arms, and he hadn't woken when William had quietly slipped out, a little bit after dawn. No, he hadn't even heard it as William started up the Porsche and drove into town, away from their little cottage on the hill.

He'd slept through it all, not hearing William's return, only waking when William crept back into bed, lightly brushing his lips along Tom's bare shoulder, Tom's hazel eyes fluttering to life. "Morning," he whispered, dreamy, kissing William, their noses rubbing together.

William lay next to him, nestling Tom's body into his, wrapping his arm around Tom's shoulders, finding his hand, and slipping a small blue velvet jewelry box into it.

"What's this?" Tom asked, still drowsy.

"Open it," was all William said.

He did, finding a solid gold band inside. William carefully pulled the band out, gently grasping Tom's hand. "I've been thinking over this past year," he confessed. "And…I want you…I want you to be mine. And if you accept, I can promise you that I'll be yours only for as long as I live." He fought back a few stray tears that threatened to kill his composure in cold blood.

Tom sniffled, clearly about ready to cry himself. "Of course I do," he said, rushed, as Will slipped the band onto his left ring finger. And then William snuggled into Tom's neck, his arm around him, pulling him close, and together they watched the rain falling outside.

She moved like a shadow.

Strangely graceful, with reserved power hidden in her limbs, she almost didn't seem to walk at all; rather, she just appeared by osmosis, there one moment, gone the next. She wasn't the type to be tied down; often she just up and left, be it a room, a house, a country, a continent. But she'd stayed in Berlin for a whole year now, not quite settling down, but just almost too tired to keep moving. She had no motivation now, she was rich enough to retire, but she wondered what she would do with her free time if she did so.

The shadow woman opened the door of her Benz, extending one long leg after another, the black umbrella in her hand, her thin, dark Armani sunglasses on her face, despite the rain and the storm. She shut the door, and heard the car pull away from the curb, her driver taking it to be parked. Sighing, her attaché case in one hand, she moved down the sidewalk to the building's entrance. It wasn't anything more than an office building, nondescript and gray, but Sam had an office number and an offer from a man inside.

She reached the revolving doors, taking down her umbrella, facing the street for a minute. The rain was pouring, coming down in waves, a storm that had presented itself rather rapidly, giving no warning whatsoever. She shook off her umbrella absentmindedly, folding it, wrapping the little strap around it, completely fixated on the storm.

Suddenly she wondered where her boy was. What was he doing? Had he simply retired now, or was he still trying to make a name for himself? And where was William? All of these questions, she knew, would go unanswered; she had told herself she could not contact him ever again, mostly for his sake, not for hers.

She held the umbrella lightly, in one black-gloved hand, staring out at the street and far beyond it, and wondering only one thing.

Was it raining in New York?