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The Altar of Shinigami

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The last day of my mortal life turned out to be unseasonably cold. The air was crisp, and chillier than it ought to be--autumn had arrived a few weeks earlier, far ahead of schedule; and my breath frosted before me as I hurried up the temple steps. Dry leaves scattered off the stone before my footsteps, stirred by some unseen wind, clearing the path as though they knew what I would become and made their obeisance now. I was shivering as I passed under the arch and through the big wooden double doors; but it was only partly due to the cold.

I was admittedly excited, and filled at the same time with a sort of nervous anticipation. For tonight, I became one with my god.

Trowa, High Priest of the Order of Shinigami, caught me in an embrace as I entered the temple.

"Greetings, Wufei," he said, his voice the same soft lilt it had always been. "Are you ready for tonight?"

"I do not know that one can ever be 'ready' for such a thing," I offered respectfully. "But I have prepared for many years; and now the day is upon me at last."

Trowa held me at arms' length by the shoulders, his green eyes smiling down at me from beneath his foreshock of auburn hair. "Your words are wise," he said. "You have always spoken great wisdom for one so young; you have always been the brightest light among us. It is no surprise in retrospect that Master Death should have chosen you."

I inclined my head in acknowledgement of his complimentary words.

It *had* been a surprise to me, at fifteen years of age, when I was informed of my destiny. I was the youngest of the Order, after all, and hardly thought myself a fit offering to our god. But I was neither impudent nor foolhardy enough to dispute his choice. He wanted me, for one reason or another; and after my initial trepidation, I was honored to fulfill his wishes.

"Everything is ready for you, Wufei," Trowa said softly; and I smiled.

"Then let us begin," I returned.

Trowa led me to the Cleansing Room, where indeed the fragrant bath had already been drawn. He left me alone then, closing the doors to the chamber as he withdrew.

I stood for a moment gazing down into the large rectangular basin in the floor; then knelt at the raised ledge that surrounded it, letting the smoke from the incense that burned at each corner of the bath waft about me comfortably, watching the steam rise from the surface of the pool. At last I divested myself of my clothing and slid carefully into the heated water, ducking my head under and swimming the admittedly short distance to the far side. I surfaced face first, hair sheeting behind me, and crossed my arms on the edge of the pool, allowing myself to float just below the water's surface. After a moment I turned, arms stretched out along the ledge and head laid back against it. The ceiling of the ritual bath chamber was glass, allowing the sunlight to pour down on me as I lay there contemplating the history that had brought me to this point.

~~~***~~~

It began one thousand years ago, when a handful of the followers of the God of Death entreated their deity to grant them immortality. Shinigami, in his infinite wisdom, had offered them a trial. He taught them an incantation that would allow those who so desired to live for one thousand years. He promised to return at the end of that time and grant true immortality to any who still wished it. In return, he would claim one of their number to dwell with him in the dark underworld as his mate.

Trowa had been High Priest at the time; it was he who had entreated our god on behalf of his people and he who had learned the incantation to grant what they sought. Sally, their chief healer and the woman who would eventually become my mother, had been there as well; and perhaps fifty others. The Order had lived in this temple for centuries, practicing their healing arts, their numbers slowly dwindling as some of the faithful grew weary of their immortality--as Master Death surely knew they would-- and entreated Trowa to release them from its spell. Trowa obliged them, every one, and they were allowed to grow old and die in the usual fashion.

My father, Heero, joined the Order perhaps a century after they first ceased to age. He was a devout follower of the goddess of Life, and had come seeking the Order on an errand of vengeance for perceived wrongs done him. He was imprisoned within the depths of the temple; Trowa managed to bring him around to the service of Shinigami and granted him temporary immortality as well. They had been lovers for awhile; Trowa had ended that aspect of their relationship after two centuries without giving a full, satisfactory explanation. They remained close friends nonetheless; and Heero eventually fell in love with my mother.

Then, perhaps twenty-five years ago, a child had been born; and his parents had worried that their son would not share in their gift. Shinigami had assured his faithful chosen that children born under their pact would be granted immortality as well. Heero & Sally had long desired to become parents but feared that their deal with Death disallowed them. This new revelation had them overjoyed; by the time another five years had passed, I was born.

I had every happiness in my childhood, surrounded by this odd family of those who would never grow old; Quatre, the other child born to the Order, became my closest friend. We were, after all, the only ones remotely close to one another's age.

Trowa took us both under his tutelage, seeing it his duty as our leader to pass on the knowledge of our beginnings. We both listened, wide-eyed and full of wonder as he recounted the lore of how Shinigami had let us all live so long and the promise of Master Death's return to claim his mate.

I could not know, when I first heard that tale, that I was to become a part of it.

I had just turned fifteen when that revelation came.

It was a late spring afternoon when Trowa summoned me to his private chambers. He had an air about of him of agitation and great importance; I was curious to know what had so affected him.

"I have spoken with Shinigami this morning," he informed me at last, pacing back and forth in his dark robes as I stood waiting, respectfully silent. He paced a moment more, then turned to face me, green eyes keen with some enormous portent.

"As you know, our thousand years are nearly finished."

I nodded; the entire Order was well aware of this.

"And you also know the price named for our continued immortality." His soft voice was filled with an undercurrent of tension.

"One among us must return with him to the underworld as his mate," I confirmed, as he seemed to be waiting for my answer.

"Yes." Trowa took a deep breath and placed a hand gently on my shoulder. "Master Death has chosen his bride," he said softly, and paused. His eyes bored into mine; and suddenly I knew what would be said next.

"He has chosen you."

I blinked, the implications of this revelation cascading over me in waves of surprise and disbelief.

Shinigami had chosen me.

I was to become the consort of Death.

I was no one of importance; I was the youngest of them all. Surely there was someone more fitting for this role than I?

I was not prepared to give up the life that I had thought would last an eternity.

"...When?" I finally said, my voice sounding outwardly calm even as I was reeling from the shock.

"The night of the Equinox in your twenty-first autumn," Trowa replied softly, his firm hand on my shoulder my best anchor to reality.

Six years. Six and a half years longer of mortal life; then I would be consigned to eternal darkness.

"Sit down, Wufei," Trowa commanded gently, his voice strangely compelling as I realized that indeed my legs were trembling beneath me. I lowered myself carefully to a cushioned bench and accepted the tea he then offered. That liquid warmth was strengthening, comforting; I clung to that comfort as the world slowly righted itself around me.

"He spoke of you as his light in the darkness," Trowa said quietly at last, sounding oddly sad. "He has been watching you a long time, Wufei; I believe he is quite enamored of you."

I shook my head in disbelief, unsettled by the conviction in Trowa's eyes, conviction that seemed to mask other emotions I could only guess at. Surely the God of Death was not infatuated with *me*...

I was to learn that I was quite correct, though not in the way I had imagined.

I felt his touch as I left Trowa's chamber that afternoon. It was little more than an out-of-place breeze in the corridor of the temple; but it sent warm shivers down my spine as it wafted my hair back from my shoulders and sighed into nothingness. I stopped dead, unnerved; there was no possible means for such distinct ventilation this deep in the temple. Again that warm shiver poured gently down the back of my neck, dying as it touched my toes; and I knew.

Shinigami was with me.

I learned his presence quickly in the days that followed; he was never far as I struggled to accept the destiny thrust upon me. Strangely enough, he became a comfort despite the fact that it was he who had so upset my expectations. The warm, other-worldly sense of him always managed to calm me, to soothe my troubled mind; I soon began to look to his strange, silent visits with some degree of anticipation.

And then he spoke to me.

It was as I was lying in bed one night, sleep eluding me yet again, that I first heard his voice. It came as a soft whisper inside my head as the warmth of his presence rushed through me.

~Little Dragon...~

It was a nickname given me by Trowa & Quatre early in our schooling days; they had laughed that my appetite for knowledge was rapacious as a dragon's...

I sat bolt upright in bed, trembling. "M-Master?" I whispered to the empty room; and I had a sudden sense of his unseen smile.

~Sleep, Child,~ his voice came again, sighing gently through my mind; and I found myself sliding back beneath my blankets, suddenly unable to remain awake a moment longer. My eyes closed; and I sensed more than felt the touch of an invisible hand smoothing hair from my forehead. ~My Wufei...~ And sleep overtook me.

He spoke to me often, always when I was alone. I said little at first, awed that Master Death should speak directly to me--Trowa was the only one ever afforded such honor in all the long history of the Order. It soon became commonplace, however; and I grew quite comfortable conversing with the empty air alone in my chamber. He was becoming real to me, more than just the legend; I found him quite likeable. I had begun to think that perhaps spending eternity by his side would not be such a terrible thing, after all.

"Trowa seems quite moody of late," I remarked to him one day as I gazed out the window of my chamber at our beloved leader, who stood simply staring into the garden pond, his dark robes gathered around him and his staff of office held tightly in his hands.

~There is much on his mind, Child,~ came Shinigami's answer. ~I have upset the destiny he expected to follow...~

"How is that, Master Death?" I inquired, curiosity aroused.

~He has lived for centuries with the expectation that he would be the one I chose to fulfill the pact,~ Shinigami replied. ~It was the reason he ended his relationship with your father so long ago...he did not wish such painful ties when he left this world.~ I could sense his frown. ~But Trowa's place is here, among my people, leading them, guiding them, throughout the eternity they desire. He was never my intended mate, though I once thought otherwise. He is my voice on the mortal plane...~

"So now that he truly faces immortality, he must determine what he wishes to do with it?"

~Yes, Little Dragon,~ Shinigami said fondly. ~While he is filled with much joy at the prospect, he is also rather lost.~

"Lost," I repeated, feeling a pang of sadness for our leader.

~Do not fear for him, my Chosen one. He will find his direction soon enough...~

I shook my head. "Why *did* you choose me?" I asked, bold enough at last to voice the question that had haunted me from the moment I was first told of this.

~Can you not guess?~ His response was hesitant.

"Forgive me, Master; but I cannot," I replied, hushed.

I had a sense of invisible fingers tracing over the curve of my cheek, stroking over my hair; I shivered pleasantly.

~Death is, by necessity, a god of dark things,~ he said at last. ~I have longed for someone to light that darkness; your spirit burns bright enough to do so, my Little One. You give my existence a greater meaning...~

I shook my head, not meaning any disrespect, but unable to fathom how I could be such to a god.

The warmth of his presence surged, and I could very nearly feel him embracing me from behind.

~Wufei,~ his voice sighed; and I shivered again. ~My light in the darkness...have you not realized yet that I love you?~

The genuine love of a god...it was something no mortal dared dream of; and here it was offered so freely to me.

I had begun to quake with the magnitude of his confession; I moved unsteadily to sit on my bed, the ethereal warmth of his phantom embrace moving with me.

"Love," I said numbly, trying to come to terms with the idea.

~Love,~ he repeated softly; and I realized with a sense of irony that my initial reaction to Trowa's announcement had been right.

The God of Death was *not* infatuated with me.

He was truly in love.

The weight of my unworthiness was slowly crushing down upon me, making me foolish, foolhardy; I dared to question him.

"I am far from worthy, Master," I began. "How can you love one such as I? I am but a mere infant in your eyes; what could I possibly have to offer you?"

~Should not the determination of your worthiness be up to me?~ The sound of amusement was in his voice. ~Love is an unpredictable emotion, Child,~ he continued. ~It takes us where it will; and it has taken me to you. I love you as no other ever could; your spirit, your beauty...they shine brightly in my dark night...I want you beside me, my companion always, eternally my lover...~

I seized upon that last word. "You lust for me, then?" I asked, surprised at my own boldness.

His response was rather enigmatic. ~I desire you, Dragon, in ways you could not begin to imagine...~

"Would you kiss me, then?" My tone was deliberately saucy. "Would you know the taste of my mouth?"

~Had I corporeal form, Child, yes,~ he answered, his silent voice tainted by a hint of sadness, of longing.

I continued on, heedless. "Would you touch me here...?" I placed two fingertips against my lips, pursing them slightly. "Or here...?" I trailed them down my neck, tilting my head back and closing my eyes, astonished by my impudence but unable to stop, knowing somehow that this would torment him terribly. "Here?" I whispered, pausing where the life pulsed strongest in my throat. "Or here...?" I began to unfasten my garments, laying myself out on the bed as I did so. "Here, Master," I breathed, opening my robes and ghosting my fingertips over my chest. "I would have you touch me, here..." I slid one hand over the tautness of my belly, the other to the front of my trousers, unlacing them, pulling them open as well. I could feel the tension in his presence; my hand slid lower, pushing down the cloth that covered me until I was stroking myself before his unseen eyes. "Master," I whispered, my voice as sultry as I in my inexperience could make it. "I would have you touch me, here...here...*here*..." I moaned softly, not realizing I had become so aroused.

~Wicked child,~ he breathed, making me still. ~Wicked, tempting child...~ I could sense anger in his tone, though it did not seem entirely directed at me. ~You shall have what you seek come your twenty-first autumn.~

"Why not here, right now, this night?" I flexed my hips, caressing myself again, displaying my manhood to him proudly, well aware that I was being completely insolent by this point but still unable to stop.

~Wufei, my Wufei...~ There was a sadness now, an emptiness to his tone, that struck me as terribly lonely. ~I do not take human form again until the night we wed, Dragon Child. You will have to be patient...~

I could sense there was more, there was a greater reason behind his sadness and anger; but my boldness had drained away as suddenly as it had come upon me. Slowly, I pulled my clothing back into place until I was covered again. "As you command, Master," I said softly; but his presence had already faded.

I was haunted for days by the loneliness in his tone, by the sadness I had felt in him. I asked him about it at last, begging his forgiveness for my cruel-intentioned teasing and humbly asking if I could do anything to cheer him.

~Once you are mine, Child, then all will be right,~ was his answer, given with a soft chuckle.

And it was then I began to realize that I loved him as well.

And yet still I harbored an understandable degree of apprehension about the entire arrangement--his company aside, the idea of eternal darkness and an underworld was quite disheartening. But I did not wish to tell him this, not wanting to sound afraid or unwilling.

I should have known better than to hide my misgivings from my god.

He confronted me as I was reading before the fire one early autumn night.

~Something troubles you, my child.~ His voice and his presence swept into the room, settling around me with a warm sigh.

"Nothing of consequence, Master." I brushed off his concern.

~Wufei...~ His voice was very much the stern parent. ~Tell me what is on your mind.~

"I..." I did not wish to complain, nor to make him feel as though our future union was something I did not desire.

~My precious child...~ His voice softened, warming me further, soothing my troubled mind. ~Tell me, Dragon,~ he requested gently. ~You need never fear to tell me anything...~

"Master," I began, and paused. "I do not mean to be ungrateful; and I am honored that you should choose me as your mate--I look forward to our union with great anticipation. But..." I trailed off into another pause, still hesitant.

~Go on, Child,~ he urged softly; I drew in a deep breath.

"When...when the tale is told of the gift you gave and the price you ask, always it is said that you wish a mate to join you 'in the dark underworld'; when one speaks of the realms of death, one is generally referring to darkness. And you yourself, Master--you speak of me as your light in the darkness...must it be so? Must I give up light and cheer to be yours?" I voiced the question timidly.

He burst into laughter, the sound heard only inside my head but surrounding me nonetheless with a pleasant sense of amusement and well-being.

~That is all that troubles you?~ he asked at last as his laughter subsided. ~My dear, sweet, innocent child--my principal realm of existence is *not* perpetually dark; nor is it dreary, nor is it 'under' anything. These...these are terms put into use by mortals at the beginning of time, to explain and define that which they could not know, that which frightened them.~ I could almost feel him shrug. ~I never concerned myself with correcting their perceptions...it did not seem important. Besides which I found them amusing.~ He chuckled again. ~No, Wufei, you needn't give up light and cheer to be mine. We shall inhabit many realms, many planes of reality...my child, you cannot *begin* to imagine the wonders that shall be yours...~

He told me fantastical tales of the godly realms the rest of that evening; until at last, on the verge of sleep, I asked him one more question.

"Why, then, do you call me the light in your darkness, Master?"

He paused a moment, then answered softly. ~My life, Little Dragon, is dark simply for want of love, of companionship; my darkness is my loneliness. You...you alleviate such dreariness; and the night we join, I shall finally live as I never have...~ I drifted off then, snug in the warmth of his imagined embrace, barely hearing his last words:

~Precious Child...you shall be my soul...~

Some small subconscious part of me grasped the full aspect of his statement and thrilled with the awesome nature of the very idea; but my conscious mind simply took his words at metaphorical value and fell comfortably into sleep.

The years passed swiftly, and pleasantly. I grew closer and closer to Master Shinigami; it soon came to a point where I could not imagine my life without him in it. He was always there, always willing to listen, always able to grant me comfort when needed, or share wisdom, or bring a smile to my face. He had a very quick wit, which I had never expected from the God of Death, and delighted in making me laugh. He would grow teasing and mischievous from time to time as well, and I soon came to realize how much more there was to him than the kind, somber solemnity with which we mortals viewed him. My admiration and respect and simple awe of him grew, swelling and deepening with each conversation, each ethereal visit. It was not long before I accepted the fact that I had fallen hopelessly in love with him; and while it felt highly unusual to make such a claim upon my god, it could not be denied.

Nor could the fact that I nursed a silent desire for him.

Somewhere in the passage of the months, his presence had begun to warm me in an entirely different manner at times. My developing body, my young hormones, my ever-growing love for him...these things conspired to stir lust in my belly whenever I felt him near. The silent sound of his voice sent little thrills of excitement to shiver through me; I often imagined what it might someday be like to know the feel of his skin against my own, to taste the heat of his mouth and the undoubtedly sweet brush of his lips. He had steadfastly refused to show himself to me in any form; I was left to envision him as I saw fit. I imagined him a handsome man, regal, charismatic, sensual, alluring; I could not fathom that he should be any other way. I dreamed of seeing his face, of knowing his smile; I dreamed of finding myself at his mercy, disrobed in his bed, held gently beneath him as he ravished me over and over...

I guiltily prayed that he was incapable of knowing my thoughts.

My fantasies grew to the point where I would awaken abruptly in the night, tangled damply in my sheets, on the verge of screaming his name while my body throbbed, burned, with unfulfilled need. When I did not feel his presence in the room with me, I would hastily finish off, biting my tongue to keep from crying out when completion took me. I never summoned the audacity to repeat nor expand upon my performance of the afternoon he first confessed his love; but always I imagined him watching me, pleased by me, perhaps even touching me...

And shame would haunt me in the wake of my self-induced passion; for who was I to harbor such lascivious thoughts about my god? Had I no respect, no reverence for him whatsoever?

Yet always I was calmed by the knowledge that he loved me, that he had chosen me; and no one need ever know what transpired while I lay alone in my bed.

I savored those dreams, kept them close to my heart, eager for the time when they might be brought to pass. I had no interest in pursuing such relationships among my peers; I felt no pressure to 'experience life' before my time among my fellow mortals ended. I saved my touches, my kisses, my body for the pleasures of my god alone, certain that he would be delighted with such a gift. He had chosen me. He had confessed his love for me. I would do all in my power to ensure that I was worthy of such an honor.

As the years before me grew shorter and shorter, the waiting began to wear at me. I would miss my friends, my family, yes; but I would have my god, my love. I longed for the day when I could finally be with him, could touch him, feel him, know him, simply *see* him; I longed to be his, truly and completely.

That day was upon me at last.

~~~***~~~
I blinked as I lay in the bathing pool, coming back to myself to note that the water had begun to cool somewhat. I sighed and slid down beneath the surface, basking in the feeling of weightlessness, coming back up when I ran out of breath. I swam back to the steps, taking up the soaps and sponges there, bathing myself as had been intended when I entered this room, all the while running the same sentence over and over through my mind:

Tonight I would be his. Tonight, I would be *his* at last...

The doors creaked as they were opened; and I looked up, startled from my thoughts. Quatre slipped quietly into the chamber, smiling as he met my eyes, shutting the doors behind him. "How goes it, Wufei?" he asked, a light note of teasing in his voice. "Are you clean enough yet to make a decent offering to the Master?"

"Hmph." I crossed my arms and flashed him a mock-scowl, turning away. "If you would be kind enough to wash my back, then yes, I will be."

"I would be honored." He crouched at the edge of the bath and took the sponge I handed to him, drawing it softly across my shoulders as I held my hair up out of his way. He scrubbed gently in soothing circles for a moment in silence.

"We will all miss you, Wufei," he said at last, dropping the sponge to the stone tile beside him, finished. "*I* will miss you...you've been a good friend..."

I turned, looking up into his somber face. "I am *still* a good friend," I said gently. "I may be leaving this plane of existence; but I am not prohibited from visiting when I feel the need." I flashed him a mischievous smile. "I fully intend to be present at your wedding, Quatre; and perhaps even on your wedding night..." My smile grew broader as he flushed and sputtered.

"You wouldn't...you couldn't...could you?" He looked at me nervously.

"If I am capable of watching over you without being seen myself...well...you will never know, then, will you..." I ducked the sponge he lobbed at me.

"Wufei, if you even *dare*, I will know it; and I swear, I'll *make* Trowa figure out a way we can both come pay you back..."

I laughed at the look of panic on his face. "Be assured, Quatre--I would never intrude upon such a thing. I am pleased beyond measure that you and Trowa have found yourselves in each other...he needs you. You give him a purpose beyond leading the order, beyond being the Voice of Shinigami on the mortal plane. You give him *life*."

Quatre was blushing faintly, now; I continued nonetheless. "It was for you he overcame his disappointment and confusion at not being Chosen," I said softly. "You have become his soul...I leave this world a happy man knowing that the two of you have each other."

"Thank you, Wufei," he said, just as softly, the color in his cheeks heightening marginally. "He...he means more to me than anything, now...tell Master Death that I will take good care of him."

"Then Master Death will be pleased," I replied. "Trowa is...very dear to him." I gazed beyond my friend, remembering in a rush all the times Shinigami had spoken to me of his most faithful servant, of the palpable affection that accompanied those tales. "Very dear," I repeated softly.

Quatre lifted one eyebrow, his expression taking a mischievous turn. "Oughtn't that to make you jealous, then?"

I blinked. "Jealous?"

"Yes." Quatre smirked. "My mate could have the power to steal yours away..." He winked.

I shook my head, grinning at such a ludicrous thought; then, faster than he could react, I reached up and pulled Quatre forward, using his higher perch and precarious balance to heave him over my shoulder and into the pool.

His startled cry was cut off abruptly as he plunged head-first into the cooling water; he resurfaced an instant later, sputtering indignantly, coughing and wiping plastered blond locks from his eyes. "Wufei!"

I stared at him calmly, meeting his pouty frown with a bland expression as the waves caused by his dive settled once more. "You stood in need of a bath."

He waded to me, sodden robes floating leisurely in his wake. "How so?"

I reached up and tapped one fingertip against his forehead, smiling as he went cross-eyed attempting to follow my motion. "To cleanse this dirty mind of yours, Quatre."

He folded his arms with a 'hmph', his eyes betraying his amusement.

The sound of the doors opening again drew both our attention; it was Trowa who entered this time. He took in the sight before him--myself, naked in the water where I belonged; and Quatre, still fully dressed and in the pool as well--and burst into laughter.

"Boys, boys, boys," he said amusedly at last. "The time for play is done." He crossed to the pool and extended a hand, helping the soggy Quatre out of the water. "Come, my Lovely One--let us leave Wufei to dress in peace and get you into something dry..."

As soon as they had gone, I climbed out of the pool, dried off, and dressed in fresh clothing, leaving the bathing chamber behind for the Meditation room.

The rest of the day was spent in meditative preparation, both alone and with Trowa, harmonizing mind and body for the ceremony to come. When the sun set at last, we emerged. I donned my ceremonial raiment--a robe of white gauze linen interwoven with golden threads, through which the lines of my body were frankly visible--kissed my mother and my father goodbye, hugged Quatre for a long moment, then turned to Trowa.

"I follow where you lead, revered Priest," I said formally, offering the proper bow of deference.

He was also dressed for the ritual, in a white linen kilt and sandals that laced up his calves, a silver collar set with dark gems laid over his shoulders. Matching bracers adorned his forearms; a circlet of silver was coiled 'round his right bicep. He carried his staff of office and wore nothing else. He smiled down at me and led the way to the ceremonial grounds at the rear of the temple.

These grounds were bounded by large pillars of stone, grouped in threes--two upright and one crosswise atop them. These crude arches formed a large semicircle; at their center stood the Altar of Shinigami. It was not, as one might think, an altar of sacrifice and dark worship; no. Rather, it was a place of power, where Trowa could bring those in direst need of healing to call upon the mercy of Shinigami on their behalf. It was also used on occasion for other ceremonies of high importance, such as this night.

It was a sacred place, holy ground to Master Death.

The altar itself stood slightly more than a meter tall, wide and long enough for an average man to lay spread-eagle upon it. It was hewn from rough stone and draped with the fur of wolves, with a slim obelisk at each corner set with niches to hold large pillar candles and a bench to the side, also of stone, to hold any paraphernalia needed for the ceremony to be performed. Tonight it held a small earthen bowl half-filled with rosewater, a large silver basin full of a dark crimson liquid, a slim silver dagger, a silver goblet, and an ornate silver jar.

Trowa led me to the steps at the foot of the altar and motioned me to ascend. "Lie down, Wufei," he instructed softly.

I did as he bade me, shivering in the cold night air, grateful for the fur beneath me as I lay on my back. Trowa set his staff aside and gently guided my arms above my head, securing them in the manacles intended to hold those so ill that they seized and raved; I allowed him to chain me without question, sure that he followed Shinigami's wishes. He moved to the foot of the altar when he finished, binding my ankles in similar fashion to either corner.

He then took up the earthen bowl and dipped his fingertips into the rosewater, moving next to touch my forehead, cheeks, and chin with the fragrant liquid, combing some through my hair and sprinkling the rest over my body until I shivered from the damp as well as the cold. I voiced no complaint, trusting that Master Death would warm me sufficiently upon his arrival.

Finished with the preparation, Trowa set the bowl aside and took up his staff once more. He dropped to one knee at the foot of the altar, facing away from me, head bowed, waiting.

A moment passed, during which the thin clouds overhead melted from the face of the full moon, leaving the clearing below bathed in soft white light.

Abruptly, a warm wind swept over us, and my pulse quickened. Here; he was here--my love, my god, my Master.

And then I saw him.

He had appeared suddenly, without a sound, with no announcement but that wind, and now stood before Trowa. He wore a dark robe, hooded, its edges embellished with silver runes. His hands were tucked into the sleeves in front of him; nothing of his face was visible within the hood.

Another moment passed in this fashion; then, slowly, Master Death reached down and laid one pale hand to Trowa's shoulder.

"Rise, faithful servant." His voice was familiar, yet new at the same time; it was lent an entirely different dimension in being heard by my ears and not simply my mind.

Trowa stood, head still bowed, hands clasped firmly about his staff. "Great and Merciful Master," he said softly, a tiny tremor in his voice. "Your offering awaits..."

 

The hood turned in my direction, and I thought I caught a glimmer of violet light in its depths.

My heart began to beat faster.

He came over to the side of the altar with unhurried steps, the moonlight revealing more and more of his visage to me the closer he came. When he stood directly over me, the bottom half of his face was plainly lit while the top half remained in shadow, twin spots of purple light glimmering where his eyes should be.

"Master," I whispered; and his solemn expression melted into a smile that stole my breath away.

"At last we meet in person, Little Dragon."

His voice sent warm shivers of anticipation down my spine; his fingertips reached out to trace over my face, the gesture so familiar and yet again still new. I had felt his phantom touch this way many times over the last six years; feeling it now from his physical self only made it all the sweeter.

His hand lingered for a moment, gently cupping my cheek; he then lifted both hands to his hood and drew it back so it settled over his shoulders.

I caught my first full look at his face, and my heart very nearly stopped.

He was absolutely breathtaking.

His physical form was that of a youth no older than myself, and only his eyes showed his true age. They no longer glowed, but they were indeed violet, shining large and beautiful in his lovely face, full of emotion as he looked upon me. His hair was beautiful as well, scattered over his forehead and gathered into a loose plait that he pulled free of his robes and laid over one shoulder, the moonlight catching glints of red and gold shimmering among the richness of the brown as it fell past his waist. And his smile...it still took my breath away.

I felt utterly unworthy all over again.

"My Wufei," he said softly, and leaned down to kiss me.

My eyes fluttered shut and my heart surged as he touched his lips to my mouth. They were cool, as his fingertips had been; and oh-so-tender as they moved against mine. It was the first real kiss I had ever been given; I felt I could die in that moment simply from sheer happiness.

Strangely, however, I sensed no such response from him. It felt as though...as though kissing me was an empty gesture, one from which he derived no pleasure at all. There was tender affection, yes; but no...no passion. No lust.

I began to doubt, even as he kissed me still. Had I been wrong to assume his desire for me would be the same as mine for him? Was I perhaps not good enough, after all?

He ended the kiss slowly, his mouth lingering over mine, pulling gently at my bottom lip as he drew away at last. I let my eyes drift open, only to find myself lost in the warm lilac depths of my Master's. I could *see* the love he held for me plainly in those eyes; and yet still he felt...empty.

My newly-surfaced confusion and insecurity must have shown on my face; for he smiled that softly dazzling smile and traced his fingertips over my forehead again, tucking a wisp of hair behind my ear.

"Do not fret, my child," he said gently. "You will understand shortly..." He kissed me again, briefly, and withdrew, walking around the altar and addressing Trowa.

"My most faithful servant..." He took hold of Trowa's shoulders, and the rich affection in his voice was nearly tangible. "You have served me well these centuries past...it is time to fulfill my promise." He released Trowa and moved to the stone bench, staring down into the crimson liquid in the silver basin and pushing one of his sleeves back to the elbow.

"The ritual blade, my Priest," he said softly, holding out his hand; Trowa laid the silver dagger in his upturned palm. "Now light the candles..." He sighed. "There is much to be done, and never enough night to do it in..."

Trowa moved to obey as Shinigami began murmuring some incantation over the silver bowl. He spoke in a language I could not understand; his words were soft and sibilant, their cadence hypnotically soothing. He fell silent as Trowa finished with the candles; when the High Priest was standing before him again, he laid the edge of the dagger's blade against the wrist of his own bared arm.

"The blood of the One Who Does Not Bleed is a powerful thing, to be bestowed only upon those who have proven themselves deserving," he said solemnly. "This I give to fulfill the promise made so long ago." He sliced the blade sharply down across his wrist, drawing but a single drop that lingered at the dagger's tip as the wound closed swiftly behind it. He turned the dagger, holding it so that it pointed down into the bowl, and let the tiny bead of blood fall from its tip.

The crimson liquid steamed as his blood splashed into it, the color pulsing with incandescent light, darkening in soft surges until it was pitch black. Shinigami set the dagger aside and waved away the lingering steam from over the bowl. He then dipped two fingers into its shimmering contents and motioned Trowa forward with his other hand; Trowa stepped closer obediently.

"Trowa, most beloved of all my faithful acolytes..." Shinigami spoke warmly, holding up his two fingers; the potion clung thickly to them, mercurial and nearly alive, glistening with a metallic black sheen under the full moon. "Do you truly desire the gift of immortality, and all responsibilities and consequences that accompany it?"

"Yes, Master," Trowa answered, voice soft, eyes fixed steadily on the face of our god.

Shinigami touched his fingers to Trowa's bottom lip; the potion flowed from one to the other seemingly of its own accord. "Then accept, my Priest," he commanded gently. "Accept this gift; and with it, the power to share..."

And then, to my utter surprise, he took Trowa's face softly between his hands and kissed him tenderly on the mouth.

I could scarcely identify the emotions that surged through me at the sight. There was jealousy, shock, a sense of betrayal, yes; but overlaying those baser instincts was a higher understanding, a warm acknowledgement of the beauty and innocence of the act, and a quiet thrill of awe at its power.

The negative reactions could not be justified, and swiftly perished.

My master drew back from his high priest after a long moment and gave him that gentle smile. "In this fashion do you share my gift," he said softly. "Your kiss now holds the power to catalyze the potion." He indicated the bowl with a wave of his hand. "Without the touch of your lips, this brew will be quite useless; any glory-seeker who should steal it for himself will be sorely disappointed, and shall taste my wrath as well." He moved to lift the silver basin. "The jar, my Priest," he instructed; and Trowa brought the ornate vessel to him and removed its cover.

Shinigami poured the unearthly black liquid carefully into its intended container as Trowa held it steady. When the last drop had rolled cleanly from the bowl, my master placed it aside and twisted the cap onto the filled jar, then took it from Trowa and set it on the stone bench.

"Guard this blessing well, most faithful of my servants; for neither does your kiss alone hold the power. Only in combination with my blood will it cause the desired change to be wrought. And as a matter of safety, never let it be known that your kiss is the key."

"Yes, Master," Trowa answered, his tone reverent. "You are most wise, and generous as well..."

"You have earned such blessings, Trowa," Shinigami replied, again gracing his priest with that smile. "I have need of you but a little longer this night; then you may rejoice with your people." He turned to pick up the dagger, moving gracefully to where the silver goblet stood as Trowa followed. He took firm hold of Trowa's arm with his free hand.

"Be still, my servant," he murmured; and made a swift cut down across the inner surface of his priest's forearm.

Trowa's eyes widened and he hissed softly in pain; but he remained motionless as instructed, allowing our god to do as he pleased. His blood flowed freely into the goblet as Shinigami held his arm; when it was nearly full, Master Death released him and laid the dagger at my side.

"Thank you," he said quietly to Trowa, and shrugged out of his robe.

I could tell by the sudden soft heat in my face that my cheeks had colored; I had not realized he was unclothed beneath that black garment. He was beautiful, perfect, in every respect...my eyes flitted of their own accord to the flesh between his thighs and the heat in my face flared warmer. My own body was responding to the sight; and the raiment I currently wore would do nothing to hide that fact should he choose to look at me.

But it could not be helped. Despite my new fears that he did not desire me, I wanted him badly still; the sultry dreams I had so guiltily treasured these last years fell woefully short of his true magnificence.

He wrapped his robe about Trowa's bleeding arm, murmuring something in that sibilant language to heal the wound. He then leaned forward to place a soft kiss to Trowa's forehead.

"Go now, my servant," he said gently. "Take my gift and tend to your flock..."

Trowa bowed slightly, gathered his staff and the jar and returned to the temple, the arm that had been cut not appearing to bother him in the least.

 

Shinigami turned back to me, his strange, beautiful violet eyes full of promise.

"Now, precious child, my Dragon beloved...now, it is time for us."

My pulse quickened slightly; and my manhood, already stirred by the sight of his disrobed body, rose fully to life in anticipation.

His eyes took careful, lingering note of that fact, prompting the return of my faint blush; his smile grew wider.

"I would not have taken you for such a shy virgin, Wufei," he said, his tone teasingly conversational.

"No one has ever looked at me as you do now, Master," I answered, my flush deepening. "And though there is no desire in your gaze, still, it...arouses me." I hesitated. "*You* arouse me," I admitted, feeling the heat in my face deepen. "I only...I am ashamed that I do not the same for you..." I bit my lower lip and averted my gaze, sure I had overstepped my bounds, said too much. Whatever his want of me entailed, it was not my place to ask.

He touched my face lightly, the soft brush of his fingertips sending tiny, helpless shivers down my spine. "Look at me, Wufei," he commanded gently; and I obeyed. "Do you truly believe that I have no desire for you, beautiful dragon?" His eyes fixed on me, his age and power weighing behind them; I was compelled to answer despite my discomfort.

"Your...your body, Master," I managed, my voice little more than a whisper. "It...belies your words..." I faltered, lost in the power of his lilac gaze; and suddenly apologies were tumbling from my lips in a rush.

"Forgive me--love and desire need not be mutually inclusive, I know this; and it is presumptuous of me to assume you should want me in that fashion...for I am but a mortal child, plain, unremarkable, unworthy--whatever need you have of me is my honor to fulfill--"

His fingers pressed gently to my lips, stilling my words as he frowned. "Never think yourself so lowly, Wufei; for you are mine, and I do not choose carelessly." His eyes held my own an instant more; then, in a warm swirl of wind, he was abruptly kneeling above me, straddling my hips, smiling gently again. "All will be clear shortly," he said; and I felt his flesh touching me, still disappointingly soft against my own hardness, and I realized that my clothing was gone.

Soft or not, the touch of his body to mine sent a pulse of sweet sensation singing through me; I shivered ever so slightly as he leaned forward to take up the goblet filled with Trowa's blood.

"The blood of my most faithful, to guide my power, to open the bond between us," he intoned softly, raising the cup. He lifted the end of his braid with his other hand and smiled down at me. "Lie still, my child, and I shall make you truly mine before the sun rises..."

I did as he bade me, curiosity fascinated by his actions. He soaked the tip of his braid with Trowa's blood, then began painting strange symbols upon my chest.

"Death has forever been the Keeper of Mortal Souls," he said softly, brushing warm blood over my skin as he spoke. "Yet Death has no soul of his own, and thus exists beneath a pall of solitary darkness..." His mesmerizing eyes lifted from his work and caught mine. "I have long grown weary of my lonely vigil," he whispered; and my heart nearly broke at the ache I could hear in his voice.

He lowered his gaze then, taking his braid and painting himself with a mirrored image of the symbols with which he had marked me, continuing his speech.

"The gods mate not among their own kind; for such is not the way of things. We would become too distant from our followers, growing cold, heartless, uncaring. In bonding with a mortal companion, we maintain the necessary closeness to our people, the better to watch over and guide them."

Finished with his work, he set the goblet aside and dropped his lovely braid behind him again. Leaning forward, he once more caught my gaze.

"I am the youngest of the gods, and the last among my kind to take a mate, Wufei," he said, his voice soft yet intense. "I have waited centuries, millennia, for the right soul to be born..." His eyes held mine, brimming with eons of love; and I began to grasp the import of what he was saying.

"*My* soul," I murmured in understanding, a shiver washing through me.

"Your soul," he confirmed, a brief smile wisping over his face before solemnity returned. "Do you willingly share it with me, Child? Do you give me everything that you are, forever?"

His words had the sound of a wedding vow; I trembled as I answered him. "Everything, Master Death. All that I am, all that I would be--yours, for eternity..."

His smile reappeared; he touched my face again, fingers trailing down through my hair. "So beautiful you are," he murmured, leaning closer. "So perfect..." He stopped with his upper body hovering just above mine. "There will be pain, my child," he said solemnly, my gaze locked to his. "But bear with me, my brave one, and I shall give you all the pleasures you so desire..." And with those words, he lowered himself fully atop me, the blood markings on our chests aligning perfectly as he began speaking once more in that soft, unknown language.

So lost was I in his hypnotic lilac eyes that I scarcely took note when the blood began to burn. My attention was quickly turned, however; it soon felt as though those symbols had been poured over my skin in molten metal that was slowly burning down to my very bones. The pain mounted steadily 'til I could bear it no longer and I cried out, my voice drowning his as he chanted his spell.

The painted blood continued to boil heedlessly against my skin; I writhed futilely beneath him, held fast in my bonds and pinned by his strength.

"Master, it burns!" I sobbed, unable to help myself. All thought of my desire for him had fled my mind; I wished only for this torment to end.

"Be brave but a little longer, Child," came his voice in my ear. "I swear it will be finished soon..." He gently kissed the corner of my jaw and softly resumed his chant.

To my amazement, through the haze of my pain, I found that I could now understand him. //Let the bond come forth,// he was saying. //Flesh to flesh, come blood to blood...as the Lady Moon presides, I invoke the Sealing...// He lifted his head and met my desperate gaze; tears leaked from the corners of my eyes and spilled down the sides of my face as the heat of his magic broiled through me all the worse. But I did not cry out again; for him, I would be strong. I would endure any torture if it would seal me to the god I loved.

"I claim you as mine, forever my Light in the Darkness," he intoned softly; and there was a sudden flare of brilliant white light. It flooded from between our bodies and exploded around us; the searing pain increased tenfold and I screamed, helpless, lost, determined to bear it but not certain that I could.

The brightness bled slowly from the air about us; the pain faded with it at an agonizingly casual rate. My scream gave out at last and I gasped, able to breathe again, choking on the sobs that rose unbidden in my throat. Dimly I was aware of his voice by my ear, murmuring soft words to soothe, to comfort.

"Shh," he whispered, his lips trailing over the dampness of tears on my face. "Hush, my little one; the worst is over..."

I wanted nothing more than to curl up and die, to crawl into his arms and simply disappear; I could do naught but lie there chained beneath him and pray that whatever else lay in store for me at his hand would prove far less excruciating than the bond he had just opened.

He raised his head; and from the corner of my eye I saw him take up the forgotten dagger. He brought it gently to my throat and I stiffened, eyes widening in disbelief.

He missed nothing; his free hand moved to stroke my face lightly in reassurance. "Fear not, my Dragon," he said softly. "This will be as nothing compared to the first step..."

I drew in a deep breath that shuddered only a little and nodded, the movement small. Scared I was; but I trusted him still.

I scarcely felt the wound he opened. It was low on my throat and off to one side; I could tell that it was short and deep, yet it pained me hardly at all. Perhaps it was because the memory of the agony I had just endured still burned so freshly in my mind; perhaps it was because the link he had opened between us lent me a measure of his strength. But whatever the reason, I felt very little until he put his mouth to the wound.

What happened then is rather difficult to put into words. It felt...it felt as though my soul were being siphoned from my body and poured into his. He was drinking my blood, I knew; but I could feel my very essence, my very *self*, flowing into him with each draught. I felt life and vitality streaming through him, racing to the tips of his fingers, the soles of his feet, seeping into his muscles, his bones; the sensation was extraordinary. It was as though I became him, and he became me, and we became one being of heat and life and flesh and blood. His consciousness brushed against mine; I focused on that touch and suddenly his mind was open to me.

I reeled from the flood of sheer knowledge and existence that inundated me then; I was washed away on the tide of his emotions. And I understood.

I understood everything.

Whatever entity or force had brought the gods into existence had done so with great wisdom. They were meant to take mortals as their mates; therefore, as gods, they were absolutely incapable of partaking in physical pleasures until bonded to their chosen mortal. Thus no half-breed bastard demi-god children would be born to unbalance creation with their misbegotten powers; thusly also was it ensured that no passions of the flesh would lead to foolish, rash decisions among the gods. Mates would be chosen carefully, with much consideration, so that the most worthy and deserving of souls would find their true place.

Mine, apparently, was one of those souls.

I had been mistaken to conclude that my Master had no physical want of me when his body did not behave as mine did.

Shinigami harbored a passion for me to equal his love, both vastly deeper than I had ever dared to dream; until my soul was shared between our two bodies, he was incapable of expressing that desire to me. It slumbered within him, powerful, unforgettable, but able to be overlooked in consideration of things more important, building and waiting until the time came for it to awaken. And now, unleashed at last by the magic of the Sealing, it flared within him, undeniable and exhilarating, held in check only by a great effort from him.

I knew this in the blink of an eye; I found myself trembling at the intensity of it, overwhelmed and overjoyed at what I felt in him. On top of everything else, the continued suckling of his mouth at my throat was somehow erotic; a shiver ran through me and life began to swell my manhood against him once more.

He raised his head with a soft groan, sitting back and meeting my eyes as his own glowed violet with power. A smear of blood adorned his lower lip; it glistened in the moonlight as he reached down and touched his fingers to the wound that still bled at my neck. //Skin knit skin; blood within--heal,// he murmured; and I was pleased to find that I could still understand him, could still *feel* him. I realized as well that he could feel *me*. He felt my desire, felt also the physical evidence of it; it pleased him, excited him.

That knowledge merely served to increase my arousal.

My wound had closed; Master Death removed his fingers and leaned closer. The blood that had marked his chest was gone; the patterns that had been painted showed faintly, a mere shade paler than his skin. I knew somehow that I would see the same thing should I look at my own chest; we were now bonded. Bound by magic, bound by blood, bound most strongly by love, there remained little else to complete the Sealing.

He carefully wiped my blood from his lip as the glow faded from his eyes. "Wufei," he murmured; and the tone of his voice was laced with dark, delightful promise. His fingers played through my hair again; he leaned closer still, his body laying warmly over my own. He nipped softly at my chin. "Beautiful boy," he whispered, his words trailing down my jaw. "My precious Dragon Child..." He lifted his head and met my eyes, lilac fire burning in the depths of his gaze; then, with no further warning, he crushed my mouth beneath his own.

The coolness of his lips was in stark contrast to the heat of his kiss; my whole body flared in response. I felt that flare echoed in him; a shiver ran through him and he groaned, softly, the sound swallowed up in the joining of our mouths. His organ pulsed to life against me, swelling to a wonderful hardness as he shifted over me.

This kiss was everything that I had found lacking before; he tasted me, feasted on me, made as though he would devour me with his passion. His hand wove through my hair, slipped beneath my head to tilt it back as he sweetly plundered my mouth; I whimpered my desire, arching against him, straining at my bonds, desperate to touch him and helpless to act on that need.

He lifted from me at last, eyes blazing darkly as he abandoned my swollen lips. "Wufei," he groaned, his head dipping to taste my throat. "I have waited a thousand lifetimes to feel this, to feel you..." He shuddered, and his mouth grazed over my healed wound, over the pulse that throbbed wildly there.

I shuddered in kind, experiencing echoes of his pleasure through our bond, emboldened by his words. "Then feel, Master Death," I spoke. "Feel what you do to me, the pleasure you give..." His hips flexed into mine, and I let out a moan. "Feel how I want you--my blood burns within me for need of you--"

He raised his head; his magnificent eyes closed and he drew in a shivering breath. "I feel it, my child," he breathed. "You scatter my senses and test my control...I want you, my precious, I want to feel all of you..." He twisted above me, his hardness pushing into my thigh as he bent to kiss my chest. "Wufei...my Wufei..." he murmured, over and over, his lips feathering sweetly over my skin between words. He lapped softly at the peak of one nipple, and I moaned at the damp brush of his tongue. He returned again, teeth pulling gently at my flesh this time, bringing a gasp from my lips as little shocks of pleasure sang through me.

The sounds I made and the things I felt caused a shiver to run the length of his spine; I could feel his desire building steadily. He shifted, sliding further down, his movements slow and deliberate, the hard contours of his stomach and his chest dragging over my erect manhood while his hands caressed my body and his mouth drew a moist, hot path down to my navel. I squirmed beneath that mouth, half from arousal, half from the ticklish sensations, wanting more, aching to touch him in return, threads of guilt twisting through me that I should be so wanton while giving nothing to him in return.

"Wu*fei*," he breathed, raising his head; and the sound of my name on that breath caused my organ to twitch. The movement drew his eye; he gazed at it admiringly for a long instant. "So beautiful," he murmured at last, smiling softly as a modest blush washed over my face; then, before I could think to react, he had seized my hips and his mouth took me whole.

I threw my head back, gasping, breath caught in my throat--I had never dared hope that he might do such a thing; and the hot thrills of ecstasy coursing through me were nearly unbearable. I jerked uselessly at the chains that bound me, crazy with some primal need I could hardly name, my voice escaping me as something between a sob and a groan. The sweet, throbbing tension in my loins wound inexorably tighter, and my hips arced mindlessly against the restraint of his hands, seeking more even as I found myself torn. I did not wish him to stop, not ever; at the same time I felt I could not allow him to continue. It was not right--*I* should be the one to worship *him* in this fashion; for it was he who was truly the god, he who was Master. I tried to find the words to speak, to protest, but my voice would not obey me--I seemed capable only of the helpless sounds of pleasure that spilled from my throat as his mouth moved insistently over me, my head spinning at the artful caress of his tongue underneath.

"Master, *please*!" I managed at last, dismayed that my words could just as easily be taken as a cry for more as a plea to stop. But the link between us and the sharing of my soul allowed him to discern my distress and he drew back; I felt a strange rush of relief even as my body screamed its bereavement at the loss of his mouth.

"Let go of this needless guilt, Wufei," he said softly. "Let me worship you, child--I have waited so long--"

"But it is I who should be pleasing you," I insisted, raising my head the better to see his face.

He caught my gaze, holding it while he kissed his way warmly up the inside of my thigh. "Every pleasure you feel is reflected in me, Wufei, just as mine is reflected in you..." He drew the whole of his tongue slowly up the underside of my shaft; a sharp flare of erotic sensation washed over me and I saw the shiver that raced through him in response. He smiled, still holding my eyes. "You see, Child, that you please me simply by feeling pleasure yourself..." His mouth moved to the soft, heavy sac of my testicles, gently drawing in first one and then the other before returning to the head of my organ. He descended slowly upon me once more; and I broke from his gaze at last, my head falling back as the ecstasy took me again and my misgivings vanished, forgotten.

He was unhurried and deliberate in his admittedly pleasant torment of me; it was not long before I was squirming beneath his skill again, mad with desire and pulling at my bonds in vain, breathless mewls of pleasure escaping me over and over. He brought me to the edge only to hold me there and let me fall back time and again; I was nearly sobbing in my frenzied, helpless desperation when he finally ceased.

He moved up swiftly over my body, his manhood delightfully stiff and commanding as it pressed against my own. He kissed me, fiercely, his hips making shallow thrusting motions, his mouth swallowing every delirious sound I made. I whimpered, suckling at his tongue, arching into him, aching for more.

"Master Death," I breathed, breaking away at last only to feel his mouth trailing down to suck at the lobe of one ear. I moaned, coming undone; that particular sensation was far more intense than I had ever imagined it could be, and my hips rose against him more urgently in response.

"My sweet little Wufei," he sighed, lifting his head and pinning me with the fire that glowed in his eyes. "How I want you, Child..."

His words completely melted me, melted any reserve I had left, and I fell to begging shamelessly.

"Master, I implore you--take me now, claim my body as you have claimed my soul--I exist for no purpose but to please you; for I am yours, yours completely, as you are mine...forgive my boldness; but I *want* you--I need you--"

"There is nothing to forgive; for I *am* yours, Child, as much as you are mine--" He fell to kissing me again, bathing my face, my neck with the affectionate touches before lifting away once more. "I *adore* your boldness, my beautiful dragon, and I want nothing more than to love you for the rest of eternity..."

I saw myself then through his eyes--his long-awaited dream, chained to his altar, my hair tousled beneath me, a faint blush of shy passion dusting my cheeks--a beautiful child, too entrenched in my imagined unworthiness to simply accept the gift he wholeheartedly offered...

I drew in a deep breath, the realization sinking in that yes, he was my god; but my complete and utter obeisance was *not* what he wanted. He wanted *me*, as I was, as I had always been, and all of the impertinence and impetuosity and individuality that came with it.

I smiled slowly up at him. "Then love me, Master," I offered, my confidence rising at the earnest devotion in his face. "And take in return my love; take my soul, my body, my life, take *me*--I give you all that I am and more..." I arched my hips against his, holding his gaze willfully. "I want you, Master...I want you inside me..."

His eyes flared, and he rocked gently against me. "And I shall grant your desires, Wufei, as I promised you those years ago..." He descended upon my mouth again, somewhat less forcefully this time, tenderly crushing my lips beneath his own; I responded in kind, certain that I could never possibly grow weary of the taste of his kiss.

It was long moments later before he withdrew; by then my need of him was so acute that I could hardly bear it. "Master, *please*," I breathed, drunk on his pleasure as well as my own. "I *need* you...what you do to me, I never dreamed..." I shivered, giving myself over to him completely. "Do with me what you will, Master Death--I am yours for the taking..."

"Soon, Child," he murmured, the heat in his voice irresistible as he reached aside and took up the goblet that held what remained of Trowa's blood. "I would not cause you pain..."

I shifted beneath him, gratified by the shudder I earned in response. "I would have you in me now, pain or no," I returned, surging into him again, unable to hold back a soft moan.

His eyes closed briefly, but he reached down and laid two fingers to my lips. "Hush, Child," he instructed gently. "There has been pain enough this night--I will show you only pleasure..."

I could not help myself; the fingers at my mouth were too tempting and I carefully drew them inside, holding them there, suckling, laving them gently with my tongue.

"Ah, Wufei," he breathed; and to my amazement, I discovered he was trembling. His pleasure washed through me, echoing back to him again; I increased my attentions to his momentarily captive fingers, wanting to bring him more.

He drew in a shuddering breath, his eyes closing; and I felt his focus as he concentrated all his power on the goblet in his hand despite my distractions. A brief moment later, the sweet scent of lilies drifted on the night air, emanating from that cup.

"Beautiful boy," he whispered, withdrawing his fingers at last from my mouth to dip them into the goblet. They rose again drenched with a clear, fragrant liquid; I realized that he had turned the blood to oil, and the thought of what he intended to do with that oil set my heart to pounding.

He sat back on his heels, his oiled fingers trailing sensually down my body, briefly caressing my manhood before returning to the goblet. He slid them next down the cleft of my bottom, carefully seeking out that most intimate part of me, finding it with ease and gently delving inside.

My breath caught at that soft intrusion; I heard a tiny gasp from him as well. I pressed back against his hand, intrigued by the sensation of his fingers within me, still fascinated that he could feel what I felt just as I could feel him. He set the goblet aside within easy reach and touched me with his free hand, fingertips caressing my stomach, my hips before ghosting over my upright shaft.

I sucked in a sharp breath; the combined attention of his two hands had sent a glimmering flash of pleasure across both our senses. He returned, his touch firmer this time, tracing the shape of my organ before closing his hand about it and stroking smoothly.

My breath escaped me in a whimpering moan; whatever self-control I had thought to possess was fast unraveling. He pleasured me slowly, building the fire, stoking it, driving me to the brink of madness.

"*Please*, Master!" I cried when I could stand it no longer, arching into his two-edged torment, wild with need.

"Shh, Child. Soon, soon..." He released my taut organ and bent to kiss my stomach, still stroking me within, shivering with delight as my pleasure assailed his senses.

"More," I begged, writhing beneath him, helpless to do anything but feel all that he did to me. "Master, please, more..."

His tongue dipped into my navel while his touch twisted deep within me; and I cried out as rapture surged powerfully through my captive body. My head lolled from one side to the other and I bucked against his hand, shameless, wanton, desperate to have the firm length of his hardness where his fingers now teased.

And still he drew the pleasure out, his mouth working up my stomach, over my chest as he shifted to lay alongside me. He paused at my throat, nipping, suckling at my pulse, his manhood pressing almost painfully against my hip, his fingers still thrusting tightly within me. I could feel his desire, as undeniable as my own; it throbbed against my senses, drowning me in his need.

"Master, *please*," I managed, my voice trembling. "End this torment; take me now..."

His head barely lifted; he spoke in a soft, breathless murmur. "Keep speaking, Child...tell me how you desire me..." It was less command than plea; his voice quavered under the heavy deluge of my pleasure that flooded into him through our bond.

I shivered as he kissed my throat again. "Shinigami...you thrill me..." It was the first time I had dared to address him by name. "I am more alive than I have ever been..." My body clenched and I cried out, writhing as his fingers continued to work inside me. "I *want* you, Master! There are not words enough to describe what you *do* to me--" His need crashed over me, battered against my consciousness, and I could scarcely breathe for the power of it. "Take me, now, I beg of you, Master, please--"

He silenced me with a kiss, his mouth assaulting mine with bruising force, his hand withdrawing from me at last as he surged over atop me. I could have cried for that loss had it not been offset by the weight of him pinning me to the fur on which I lay; his stiff organ slid along the oiled cleft of my buttocks, so tantalizingly close to what I so desperately wanted that I whimpered with need. He swallowed the sounds I made eagerly, both his hands tangling in my hair, tilting my head back as he ravished my mouth without mercy, his hips thrusting shallowly against me.

He tore from me at last with a soft moan and sat back, kneeling between my spread legs and taking up the forgotten goblet of oil. He poured it over his ready manhood with hands that trembled, heedless of the excess that spilled onto the fur beneath us. He flung the goblet aside; it clattered against the stone on which the altar stood and rolled away into the night. He stroked both hands in turn over his organ, smoothing the fragrant oil along its entirety; I watched, mesmerized, aching to touch him in such a fashion but still held fast in my bonds. I strained against them, barely aware that I was doing so, my own manhood quivering with need and anticipation.

His eyes flared violet, and one hand flicked out toward my bound ankles; the chains fell away with a soft clanking rattle and he drew up my knees before moving his hands to my hips. The solid heat of his erection nudged between the curves of my bottom.

"Wufei, my love," he whispered; and then his hands lifted me and he pressed forward, impaling me gently, filling me, completing me.

My head fell back and I groaned, sweet rapture singing through me at the feel of his flesh sheathed in mine. His desire and my own surged forth and flooded over, until I could hardly tell one from the other. I felt my body's pleasure at having him within; I felt his body's pleasure at being inside me at the same time. And as he carefully drew back and pressed forward again, it ceased utterly to matter who was feeling what. We soared together on the same wings of fire, drowning as one in the same sea of passion.

"Master Death," I moaned, my hips rising toward him of their own accord, heat and pleasure and all manner of un-nameable emotions surging through me in waves as he moved tenderly in and out of me. "Shinigami...ah--more, Master, please, more..." If I could have him this way forever, for eternity, it would never be enough.

His eyes fell closed at my words, at the power of our combined pleasure crushing down upon him, and he thrust into me harder, a cry escaping his lips as that pleasure flared brilliantly. "Nnnahh--Wufei!"

The sound of my name on that cry was sweeter than anything; I wrapped one leg around his thigh, wanting him closer, deeper. He gave a soft moan and pulled my hips flush against his, leaning down so that his head rested over the furious throb of my beating heart as his organ speared deep within me over and over.

I cried out, arching against him, my grasp on reality giving way under the onslaught of ecstasy as he sank himself into me again and again. My head lashed from side to side; I tugged vainly at my bonds, lost in our shared delirium, words spilling from me in a futile attempt to convey the magnitude of what I felt. "Take me! Take me, *feel* me--" I shuddered, all sense of time and place lost as we moved together. "I am yours, Master Death, yours forever..."

"My Wufei, my love, my destiny fulfilled..." His eyes opened to slits, glowing purple beneath his lids. He lifted his head, catching my gaze, slowing the rhythm of his thrusts until he was buried deep, his hips grinding into me with a deliciously slow, sensual circular roll.

I held that unearthly violet gaze, breathing raggedly, my hips pulsing into his languid thrusts, alive with desire. "You are beautiful, Master...so beautiful...these things you make me feel...it is heaven just to be near you, to feel your touch..."

The corners of his mouth lifted in a lovely smile that was truly breathtaking when tempered by his passion this way. "No, my dragon; it is *you* who feel like heaven...a heaven I feared I would never find..." His gaze turned suddenly to the chains at my wrists; in a cool swirl of fire, they disappeared. Swifter than thought, he pulled me upright and settled me in his lap, his chest pressed to mine, my manhood crushed against his belly as he captured my lips in a tender caress. His hands slid over my back in a softly soothing, possessive gesture; his hips barely moved as he continued to kiss me. I wrapped my arms around his neck, glorying in the feel of touching him at last, of being so close, of being cherished, *worshipped* this way; I pulled free of the kiss and tucked my face down against his shoulder, arms tightening about him, overcome by his love and my own. I could not fathom what I had ever done to draw his attention; but I was grateful that I had, for I could scarcely imagine existing without him now.

He continued to hold me, pressing light kisses to the top of my head, his hands still smoothing over my back as his love, his emotions, his essence wound their way about my heart. We were one, now, more surely than we had ever been; I was humbled by the depth of feeling that he possessed for me. I pressed closer to him, overwhelmed, beginning to move gently in his lap before the tears of wonder that threatened to spill from my eyes could flow.

"Ah, Child--" He gasped softly, his arms tightening briefly about me. He pressed another kiss to my hair, then to my temple; his hands moved to my hips as I rocked shyly back down onto him. He gripped me gently, lifting, helping me to rise and fall upon his length as he began thrusting softly in counterpoint to my inexperienced attempts.

Pleasure erupted within me; my head fell back, my mouth open as our joint movement sent tendrils of ecstasy searing through my veins. My arms tightened further around his neck and I cried out, sinking myself faster, lost in the feel of him, of his hands on my hips, of his pleasure linked to mine and compounded by the soul shared between us; I shuddered, still overwhelmed, desperately needing to speak, to tell him what it was he did to me. "Master...I...I can feel you, can feel how you feel me..." Words were so woefully inadequate.

His bottom lip was caught between his teeth, to keep from crying out, I knew--I could feel what the grasp of my body did to him. But soft, breathless moans escaped him nonetheless; his hands tightened on me, his immortal strength taking over to lift me and slam me back down, faster and faster, his shaft reaching deeper and deeper inside.

I bucked with him violently, caught up in our passion, my cries escalating toward sobs as the pleasure built with every passing second, unbearably intense. He caught my mouth again, kissing me ardently, laying me back and pressing me into the fur, wrapping my legs about his hips and increasing the pace of his thrusts. He drove into me relentlessly, and my voice poured from my throat in sobbing moans with hardly a breath drawn between. My body was wracked with merciless ecstasy as his hips surged into me in a mad rhythm; I arched into every thrust, my legs tightening about him, clinging to him, begging for all he could give me, feasting on the succulence of his mouth as it devoured mine.

He tore from me at last, rising up to give me his all; dimly I noted that his eyes had gone purely black, gleaming with a faint purple sheen, so great was his passion and pleasure. His chest heaved as he thrust into me, deeper, harder, his rhythm growing erratic as I cried his name in response. I was lost, utterly lost, drowning in his ecstasy, drowning in my own, swept helplessly along on the tide of our shared passion as it bore us toward its crest as one. I could feel him losing control, could feel his sanity and my own trembling on the very knife's edge of fulfillment, completion building with every thrust and every sound I made in response. His voice was a harsh gasp when it escaped him at last.

"Ah--Wufei...*Wufei*...nnnnhhhh--"

The sound of my name on that breathless moan was too much; it tipped me over the brink and I screamed, my head lashing back, my throat arched as fulfillment crashed over me, my fingers clawing mindlessly at his shoulders as passion wrung me dry. A mere instant later he followed; and I felt it with him as he knew mortal paradise for the first time.

He moaned low in his throat, the sound primal as my orgasm surged into his senses, seizing him and dragging him over the edge. He tumbled down with me into bliss, a bliss never felt by Death before, a bliss so pure it wrought tears from his purple-black eyes, tears that turned to dark gems as they slid down his pale, smooth cheeks. He shuddered, clinging to me; and I trembled as his pleasure washed back to him again through the bond that sealed us. We were as mirrors placed face to face, endlessly reflecting our mutual climax to the other in gradually lessening intensity until at last he slumped against me, tired and dazed, and the stormy waves of our passion quieted to a still sea once more.

He buried his face in my neck, his lips pressed to the very spot from which he had earlier drank my blood, riding out the last languid aftershocks of pleasure, dizzy from the intensity of emotions that yet swirled and eddied between us on the ocean our shared essence had become. I had barely the strength left to hold him to me, cherishing the warmth of him atop me and the weight of him in my arms as we drifted into blackness.

It could have been days or mere moments later that I stirred to consciousness again; I would not have known the difference. All I knew for certain was that I was still atop the altar and Master Death was gathering me in his arms, cradling me to his chest as though I were an infant; and indeed, I felt as weak as one. He knelt on the furs and rocked with me gently, plying my mouth with soft kisses until I came around and blinked up at him, strength slowly returning to my limbs.

Upon opening my eyes, I was met with the expression of total and unconscious adoration that graced his countenance; I could not help the smile that curved my lips in response. "Master," I breathed, still drunk on the lingering afterglow, a vast multitude of emotions pressed into that one little word, and reached up to touch his face.

"Wufei," he sighed, leaning his cheek into my caress.

My hand trailed down to explore the faint markings on his chest while utter contentment curled about me. "I am yours now, Master; truly yours, for all eternity..." The thought was pure happiness.

His lips pressed to my forehead, warm and tender. "Mine you have always been, Child, though you are not yet immortal. There remains but one thing more to complete our union..." He stretched one hand out beside him; the air stirred darkly and something shimmered into existence in his grasp.

It was his scythe.

He lifted it and brought it close, this fabled instrument of his mercy and power; I stared, awestruck, honored somehow that I should see such a thing.

"The only blade capable of drawing my blood," he murmured, raising it solemnly. He tilted his head back, then, and carefully drew the very tip of that blade lightly across the pulse in his throat. Blood welled up in its wake, dark and mesmerizing, trickling slowly from the short cut he had made. He dropped his scythe aside with a soft clatter of wood and metal to stone and curved his hand around the back of my head, urging me to him.

"Drink, Wufei," he whispered, eyes closing. "Drink from me, and live forever..." (1)

I obeyed without hesitation, licking from his skin that which had spilled before latching onto the fount he had opened for me.

The taste of his blood was exquisite and indescribable, exhilarating as it coursed into me and instantly addictive. I curled one hand about the back of his neck and pressed closer to him, drawing hard on the life that he fed me. It flooded through my body, warm, rich with his power; it was as nothing I had ever known before. I marveled at the changes it so swiftly wrought; I could almost imagine I felt the frailties of mortality falling from me like garments shed.

At long last he pulled gently away and I opened my eyes again, vaguely disappointed by the realization that the rite was now finished and I could have no more of his blood. I gazed up at him, lost once more in the lilac of his eyes for a long suspended moment, trying simply to feel the difference in me. It was nothing I could isolate or describe in exacting detail; but I felt...more alive, somehow, more resilient and completely free of mortal limitations.

I felt reborn.

I smiled, reaching up and feathering my fingertips through the hair that fell into his face; then raised myself to shyly steal a languid kiss, letting him taste his own blood on my lips. When I pulled back at last, he sighed gently and shifted us both 'til I was settled between his thighs with my back leaning against his chest and our legs dangling carelessly over the side of the altar. His arms wound their way loosely about my abdomen; his chin settled on my shoulder as together we watched the moon sinking lower across the sky. It was a warm moment, quiet, broken at last by the soft sound of his voice.

"Now you are truly mine for all eternity, my dragon," he murmured, and I closed my eyes.

"I am pleased beyond measure, Master," I answered, interlacing the fingers of one hand with his.

"I would not complain should you wish to call me 'Master' always, but I do have a name," he said gently, that faintly teasing tone to his voice that I had noticed from time to time throughout the years. He turned his head slightly, lips pressing delicately to the juncture of my neck and shoulder.

"Shinigami, then," I returned, my eyes still closed, tilting my head to one side in silent encouragement that he should favor me with another such kiss.

"Among mortals, yes, that is one of my names," he replied, complying with my unspoken request. "I have many more, and many guises as well--there are mortals who envision me female, even." He chuckled. "But those are simply established, invented roles that I fill. The name my father gave me is Duo."

"Duo," I repeated, trying out the sound of it for comfort.

"Yes. Given the fact that I am overseer of the dead and collector of souls while my mortal followers are healers dedicated to prolonging life as far as possible, it was deemed a fitting name."

"Indeed." I could see the aptness in his explanation.

"You, too, will be known by many titles and names among mortals," he offered conversationally. "For you are a god now, as surely as the rest of us; and in time, your followers will find you..."

"And what am I to preside over, Master...Duo?" It would likely take me some time to entirely drop the 'Master'; but addressing him thusly felt right for now. The words fit my tongue with ease.

He chuckled again, a low pleasant sound warm at my back. "Whatever you wish, Child. There are many areas and ideals that currently have no dedicated deity; we all share responsibility for those as we are able. And mortals have invented roles accordingly that you might easily assume..."

I made no response, turning the matter over in my mind as he resumed kissing softly along my neck, my shoulder. Our joined hands rested low on my belly; his free arm wrapped more snugly about me as a soft night breeze picked up and I shivered. I was to be a god now, the god of whatever I chose...

"You need not decide until you have given the matter as much consideration as you like," he said softly, his chin once again pillowed on my shoulder. "It is thought that by taking the time to choose with care and according to one's own desires that we will all be better gods for it..."

"Such wisdom and benevolence," I sighed. "How did all this come to be?"

"My father and mother never speak of their origins," he answered softly. "I sometimes wonder if they themselves know at all..."

I shrugged marginally, somewhat comforted and somewhat equally disturbed that the gods were as much of a mystery to themselves as they were to mortals.

We stayed in silence awhile longer, content simply to be in one another's presence as the moon began to set and the eastern horizon brightened marginally while the candles guttered and burned out one by one. At last, with a sigh, he straightened up behind me.

"Our night is done, Wufei," he said softly. I felt a gentle surge of power from with him; with hardly more than a thought we were clothed again. He wore a dark robe exactly as before; I was dressed much the same though worked in white and gold rather than black and silver.

I continued to lean back against him, clasping his hand, utterly comfortable. "Will I one day develop such powers as you display?" I wondered aloud.

"In time, yes; and likely more quickly than you would imagine. Age has made my blood potent; you are bound to become very strong..." He kissed my earlobe and withdrew his arms from about me. "Are you ready, love, to meet the others?"

I slid from the altar and stood, turning to face him. "Yes," I answered solemnly; then paused. "And...I think that I should like to be the God of Justice."

He lifted an inquiring eyebrow in the most endearing manner. "Justice?"

"Yes...it feels right, given my family history; and who better to serve as your companion? For in death, do we not all find our ultimate justice?" (2)

He smiled and leapt down from the altar himself. "You are remarkably insightful, my little one. Justice you shall be, then." He swept me into his arms and kissed me soundly, leaving my head dizzy and my knees weak.

"Master Death," I breathed when he let up at last. His lilac eyes smiled down at me, and I again tried the name he had given me. "Duo...my life, my mind, my body, my heart--they are all devoted to you, for eternity..." The moment seemed right for such a declaration; I held his gaze unwaveringly and reached up to caress his face. "I love you..."

I could have died for such a smile as he gave me then. "I love you, as well..." He kissed me again, long and lingering. "My precious Wufei," he whispered, his lips barely brushing mine as he spoke. "You *are* my heart, my soul...my mortal love reborn my immortal companion..."

"And the loneliness which has dogged you through the ages shall never again be yours," I vowed quietly.

"Never," he agreed; then, as his mouth captured mine once more, we faded silently from the mortal plane...