To the Silver Night Sky

After one possible end to canon, Frau discovers that Ghosts tend to get stuck in Tenkai for a while. On the bright side, this means Gido is still around. Adorableness ensues. Also a good deal of sex. Drama, Fluff, Angst, Porn, I-4

Character(s): Frau, Gido
Pairing(s): Gido/Frau

In Frau’s considered opinion, Heaven sucked.

He’d been here for most of a day, as near as he could tell, stalking around endless gardens. It was like someone had turned Labrador loose and told him to knock himself out.

He was trying not to think about Labrador, or Castor, or anyone else, but the flowers made it kind of hard to avoid Labrador-thoughts.

And there were people here. Other souls, he guessed. But none of them had approached him, he didn’t recognize anyone, and he really wasn’t in the mood to chat up distracted looking strangers. The melodious birdsong was getting on his nerves, too. His hands felt too light, without his scythe.

But Zehel was gone, now, and the scythe with him. He could feel that much, that stunning weight lifted from the center of his soul. It should probably feel like freedom, but right at the moment it felt more like failure.

He finally slumped down onto the lip of a fountain, hands dangling between his knees. He was dead. Teito wasn’t. He was pretty sure Castor and Labrador weren’t. That was good.

What the fuck did he do now though?

“Here you are. Been looking all over for you, brat.”

Frau jerked like he’d just touched a live wire; that was kind of what it felt like. He knew that voice, or he had a long time ago. Slowly he looked up, hands closing tight on his knees.

There was a man standing in the entrance to this garden, elbow propped up on the ornamental gate. Tall and lean and powerful with black hair and a wry smile with a cigarette dangling from one corner of it. Frau had to swallow twice before he could speak.


“Large as life,” the man said easily. “Figured I should come find you. Give you a chance to get the yelling over with early.”

“Yelling?” Frau echoed, husky. Slowly he stood up, almost stumbling as he stepped forward.

Gido lifted his brows. “I was figuring, yeah. For having died. For dropping Zehel in your lap.” He blew out a stream of smoke, looking thoughtful. “Damned if I know who’s going to take it up now; I don’t even know who else is alive, from our House. So, yeah. You can go ahead and yell.” Frau just stared at him, completely at a loss, brain spinning with memories he’d tried to put away to keep old pain from eating him hollow. “Or maybe not,” Gido finally said quietly. He dropped his cigarette and stepped on it, and held out a hand. “C’mere, kid.”

He dragged Frau close, and oh god he was warm, warm, and solid when Frau wrapped his arms around him. Frau was shaking, throat tight, and something alarmingly close to a sob ripped out of him when Gido’s hand settled on his head and ruffled his hair like he used to. Frau buried his head in Gido’s shoulder, level with his own now, just to make it all even stranger. “You fucking idiot,” he gasped, raggedly, swept up in old pain that swamped the new. “You should have run! Why the hell didn’t you run when they came?!”

“Ah, there’s the yelling.” Gido sounded amused, a little indulgent, so familiar it nearly broke Frau. Gido sighed, settling a hand on the back of Frau’s neck. “If I’d run, I wouldn’t have been me,” he said simply. And then he shook Frau gently. “And don’t try to tell me you’d have done any differently if it had been you in charge of the ship. You never ran when you were shepherding Tiashe around the Empire with the entire military on your trail.”

Frau lifted his head and glared. “That was different! That was to keep Verloren from awakening, and he was Pandora’s Box and I was Zehel for fuck’s sake! There was no way out of it.”

Gido gave him that faint smile with the steel edge that meant he wasn’t going to let Frau bullshit on this one. “And you wouldn’t have run even if there had been a way.”

Frau’s eyes fell under that piercing look. Gido snorted softly. “We can’t watch all the time, but I’ve kept an eye on you when I could, Frau.” He chuckled. “Might even have said a few prayers for Bastien, after he picked you up.”

Frau flinched.

“Frau.” Gido’s hand tightened on his shoulder. “Don’t let the end of that make you forget everything that came before. He loved you. And you saved him.” Quietly he added, “I’m grateful to him for looking after the last of my crew.” And then he pulled Frau’s head down to his shoulder again, which was good, because more tears were forcing their way out. Frau had forgotten how easily Gido could undo him, how clearly this man had always seen him.

They ended up sitting in one of the mossy nooks by the fountain, boots and coats getting a little tangled up because Frau couldn’t quite bring himself to let go. Gido just smiled and settled Frau against his shoulder. Eventually Frau cleared his throat. “So. You stayed up here?”

“Mm.” Gido ruffled his fingers absently through Frau’s hair. “Yeah, about that. Most souls can turn right around, if that’s what they want, but those who have been Ghosts… well, it takes a while to wash that out for most of us. Asyl, the Zehel before me, she’s almost ready to go back down I think.”

Frau shot upright and stared at him. “I’m stuck here?!”

Gido’s smile tilted ruefully. “Figured that was the next bit you’d yell about, yeah.”

“But… but… Teito!”

“He’s got Mikhail plus the master of Raphael to help him, doesn’t he?” The smile spread into a grin. “She reminds me of Magdalena, a little. Only scarier.”


“And every last one of the God Houses owes him, and knows it,” Gido added. “Last I saw, it looked like the Oaks, in particular, were on his side.”


Gido gave Frau a level look. “Frau. You protected him. You kept him alive. You were why he remembered a lot about love. But your part down there is done for now. And,” he added practically, “it would be anyway, even if you could turn right around. You really want to wait to grow up again, all antsy and not remembering why?”

Frau let himself fall back against Gido’s shoulder with a deliberate thud. “You don’t have to have an answer for everything right away, you know,” he grumbled.

Gido laughed, wrapping an arm more firmly around him. “What else was I supposed to spend my own time here doing, besides thinking? Well,” he allowed, softening, “that and missing you.”

Frau ducked his head a little, feeling very young again and a little flustered to hear that from his mentor and leader.

Gido’s hand slipped down his neck, thumb running over his choker. “So you kept this, huh?”

And that reminded Frau sharply that he really wasn’t all that young any more, because the brush of Gido’s fingers over his throat sent a shot of heat right down his spine. Gido’s brows rose at the faint sound Frau couldn’t quite keep back. His fingers traced over the line of the choker again, slower this time and more deliberate. Frau’s chin lifted helplessly as another husky sound caught in his throat.

Gido’s mouth quirked up at one corner and Frau swallowed a little nervously. Gido was a good man, a kind one, and Frau’s personal model for honor and compassion. But there was no denying he also had a wicked sense of humor. “Gido…”

“Well, that’s certainly one way to get you settled down, here.” Gido bent his head and dragged his tongue up the line of Frau’s throat. The slow, wet warmth made Frau gasp, hand fisting tight in Gido’s coat. His head was tipped back again, and he couldn’t remember doing that but he wasn’t going to complain when Gido was tracking open-mouthed kisses back down his throat and over his chest… and when the hell had Gido gotten Frau’s coat undone?

“Gido…” he tried again, though it came out husky and breathless as Gido eased him down against the sun-warmed moss and settled his weight over him.

“Yeah?” Gido asked, leaning on his elbows while he carded his fingers through Frau’s hair.

Frau wet his lips, looking up at him. He couldn’t deny that he’d had a few dreams that went kind of like this, and when he finally spoke what he said was, “Lose the coat?”

Gido laughed. “That’s my Frau.”

Frau closed his eyes. “Always,” he admitted, softly. At that, Gido’s hands closed around his face and Gido kissed him, slow and gentle.

One benefit of dressing the way they both did was that it took less time to get out of. The boots took the longest, because by that time Gido had gone back to nipping and sucking on Frau’s throat which made fireworks run right down his spine to his cock and distracted him thoroughly from the buckles. When they were finally both bare, Frau pressed close, winding himself around Gido and drinking in his slow kisses as Gido’s hands stroked soothingly down his back. They were so familiar, those hands, that touch, just… not quite this way around. It stunned Frau to realize he’d even shaped his behavior in bed after his captain, his hero, and done it without Gido ever touching him like this before. He had to bury his head against Gido’s shoulder and laugh for a while over that. “Always,” he whispered again, and Gido’s arms tightened around him hard and strong.

“I’m proud of you,” he said quietly against Frau’s hair. When Frau pressed closer with a soft sound, he set his fingers under Frau’s chin and lifted it, kissing him slow and deep. “So proud of you.” He ran a hand slowly down Frau’s body. “You never left us behind. You kept the laws of your people in your heart all your life.” He wrapped a hand around Frau’s cock and stroked him, strong and sure. “Don’t ever believe you failed us Frau. You never did.”

Frau was shaking in the curve of Gido’s arm, wide eyed and shocked by the warmth of Gido’s words twining around the hot pleasure of his touch. “Gido…!” He was clinging to Gido’s shoulders, overwhelmed like he never had been with any other lover. Gido smiled down at him, that very same smile he’d given Frau when Gido had first accepted him on board, and Frau arched up against him, moaning as he came completely undone. Heat tore through him, and Frau shuddered with it, trusting himself blindly to the hands that held him and worked him through it.

When he finally stilled, panting against Gido’s shoulder, Gido stroked his hair back and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “I’ve wanted to tell you that for a long time,” he murmured.

Frau stirred and smiled up at him. He’d wanted to hear that for a long time; he hadn’t realized quite how much. “Thank you.”

Gido gathered him a little closer, and held him quietly as Frau lay against him in the boneless warmth of the garden. Eventually the faint sound of Gido’s heartbeat eased Frau into a doze.

When Frau woke up again, for a second he didn’t remember where he was.

And then he did. Teito, Castor, Labrador, no…

Arms tightened around him when he flinched, and a strong hand slid up his back to knead his neck. “Easy, Frau. Easy.”

“Gido.” At least that part was real too.

“Right here.” There was a grin in Gido’s voice as he added, “Done with your beauty nap?”

Frau growled and gave him a shove, which just made Gido laugh.

“Well, in that case, maybe you want to get cleaned up?” Gido sat up and brushed at the flower petals stuck to his chest. “The flowers do kind of get everywhere,” he muttered.

“Is there actually such a thing as a shower around here?” Frau wanted to know, rather skeptical. “I haven’t seen a damn thing but gardens, fountains, and more gardens since I got here.”

Gido’s smile curled up in a way that made Frau instantly wary. “I’m sure we can find something that will work.”

When he led Frau, through a few more gardens, to what apparently passed for a bath in Heaven, Frau had to just stare for a while. “This place is fucking nuts,” he finally stated.

“It’s Heaven, it goes a little overboard sometimes,” Gido said easily, tossing his boots under one of the benches.

“A little?!”

They were standing at the edge of an insane cross between a fountain, a hot spring, and a reception hall. There were pools and pillars, steam and miniature waterfalls, basins of soap and towels and jars and bottles and (of course) flowers scattered all over.

“Quit being such a wuss and come scrub off,” Gido ordered, wading into a pool with water spilling down from a spout shaped like a fucking dragon’s mouth, and that was just disturbing. Frau glared, but followed after him.

“Who thought all this up?” he grumbled, ducking under the spout for a moment. He picked up a sponge a little dubiously, but that, at least, seemed to just be a normal sponge.

“You get used to it.”

Frau paused, staring at the falling water for a moment, because Gido’s voice seemed softer than it needed to be. “Gido—”

Arms wrapped around him from behind, pulling him back against Gido’s chest. “You’ll never get clean at this rate,” Gido murmured in his ear. “Want some help?” A soapy cloth, rough and nubbly under the suds, ran down his chest.

“Gido,” Frau muttered, face a little hot. “For fuck’s sake, I’m not a little kid.”

“Mm, you know, I noticed that.” Gido’s hand, covered by the cloth, slid between Frau’s legs, over his cock, to cup his balls gently.

“Fuck.” Frau leaned back against Gido, breath suddenly short again. Gido just laughed, softly.

“Turn around, I’ll get your back.”

Frau thought that was backward, but he turned around anyway, and understood when Gido pulled Frau up tight against him. The cloth did scrub over his back, though, and Frau gave in and bent his head, laughing against Gido’s shoulder. Slowly he ran his hands, and the sponge, over Gido’s back in turn, tracing long, lean muscle and bone. They really were built a lot alike. Not surprising, he supposed, for two of the same House, no matter how wild and scattered that House was. He wondered who would be Zehel now, and whether they would get along with Castor and Labrador. Whether Zehel would protect Teito and that little firebrand Ouka, and their personal Oak, Hakuren.

“You’re thinking too much,” Gido said against his ear, and Frau gasped as the cloth slid down to rub slow and hard between his cheeks.

Frau leaned against him, hands splayed against Gido’s back, and moaned as a finger pressed into him, wrapped in the wet roughness of the cloth. The sensation, the soft-and-rough texture pushing inside him, turned his legs shaky, and he was glad when Gido eased them both down to their knees in the heat of the water. “Stop worrying about the world,” Gido murmured to him. “You’re done with that responsibility for now.”

“But everyone,” Frau started, only to gasp as Gido gathered him closer and worked his fingers deeper into him.

“You love them,” Gido whispered against his ear. “You saved them. You served them well, and now it’s time to trust them, Frau.”

Frau wrapped his arms around Gido’s chest, panting against his shoulder. “I do,” he insisted, ragged as Gido worked the cloth slowly in his ass.

“Then miss them,” Gido told him gently. “But don’t fear for them.” He drew his hand and the cloth back, and Frau slumped against him, breathless.

“Will it really be all right?” he asked, low, and Gido took his face in both hands, dripping warm water as he lifted Frau’s head to meet his eyes.

“It will be all right,” he answered with such absolute certainty that Frau couldn’t help but believe him. Frau nodded a little, accepting his leader’s judgement, and Gido kissed him warm and easy. “Come on.”

Frau was still just a little shaky around the knees, which Gido, predictably, took as an opportunity to draw him close again as they dried off. “Notice you kept this too,” Gido murmured, leaning in to close his teeth lightly on the ear cuff Frau had inherited and tug gently.

Frau leaned against him with a soft moan, eyes half closed. “Fuck, Gido…”

“Well of course; you didn’t think we were done yet, did you?” There was a definite gleam in Gido’s eyes, and Frau thought about the way Gido had just cleaned him and had to swallow.

“Why?” he finally asked, quietly. Gido didn’t pretend not to understand, just smiled and ruffled his fingers through Frau’s drying hair.

“Because you need the distraction.” His teeth flashed in a grin. “And because you’ve grown up very nicely.” His hands slid down Frau’s back to grip his ass and pull him in tighter, and Frau went because, really, he was pretty damn willing to be distracted now and figure out what he was being distracted from later. Teito had put his finger right on the truth, that one night; Gido had been like a god to Frau. Frau had loved Bastien, but it was Gido he’d dreamed about. Being bent over on his knees under Gido, in a muddle of velvety grass and wet towels, had him light-headed and panting even before long, strong fingers spread his ass.

When Gido’s tongue dragged slowly over his entrance, response tightened so hard through Frau that he thought he might come from this alone. Gido was taking his time, tongue circling lazily, wet and hot and soft, until Frau was gasping against the towels and pushing back against Gido’s hands. When he finally pushed his tongue into Frau, opening him up, Frau could only clutch at the grass and moan. It was good, soft and strong and hot, but it also made him hungry for more.

“Gido,” he gasped, pushing back against him and shivering when Gido’s hands tightened to hold him still.

“Mm.” Slow thumbs worked circles over his ass. “More already?” Gido purred, teasing.

“Fuck yes, please.” Frau made a low, wanting sound in his throat as Gido’s cock pushed into him, hard and slow and slick with something. Probably from one of the goddamn bottles and jars around here, and oh god, ten years from now would Frau know what was in all of them too? He didn’t want to think about that.

Fortunately, there were better things to concentrate on.

“Gido, fuck me,” he half begged and half ordered, rocking back into the slow slide of Gido’s cock. Gido laughed.

“Demanding, aren’t you?” But his grip on Frau’s hips shifted and he thrust into Frau so hard Frau saw stars.

“Yes,” he moaned as Gido took him at his word and fucked him hard and sure. Gido was not a small man, and the burn of being stretched and filled by him ran down Frau’s nerves sweet and hot. It was here and now and perfect, even if here was a bunch of fucking impossible gardens and he’d thought now was too late. It was hope, ground into his skin with every thrust, every stroke of Gido’s hands down his ribs, that he’d come back to this, to this man, and maybe that meant the rest of his life and love wasn’t gone forever either.

“It’s all right, Frau.” Gido’s voice was husky and breathless, now. “It’s all right. Let go.” His hand wrapped around Frau’s cock, strong and sure, and he drove into Frau’s ass hard enough to lift him up off his knees. “Let go. You know I’ll catch you.”

The words raced through him like lightning, bright and wild, an explosion when they hit the building fire of body-pleasure. Frau cried out with the shock of it as sweetness scythed through him, so sharp it almost cut. It wrung his body out like a rag until he could barely breathe, only shudder with the force of it, of his response to Gido’s care. Gido’s low, vibrant moan answered him, deep as a kiss, and Frau gasped as Gido thrust hard into him and stilled.

“Fuck,” Gido sighed, finally, and Frau could only make a wordless noise of agreement. He collapsed on the towels as Gido drew back and let him down, ass throbbing very pleasantly. The brush of Gido’s lips over the back of his neck made him bend his head, shivering softly. Gido’s hand stroked down his back, gentle.

“Too bad you weren’t that quick to follow my orders back on the Aegis,” he teased lightly.

Frau stirred and turned his head to look up at him, mouth quirking. “I always obeyed you.”

Gido snorted and reached over to fish two cigarettes out of his coat pocket, offering one to Frau. “Bullshit.”

Frau stole his lighter and sucked in a slow breath of smoke. “It’s true,” he insisted as Gido snatched the lighter back and cuffed him lightly. “I yelled at you and argued with you and called you every name I ever learned, when you were being stupid. But I never disobeyed you, once you actually gave an order.”

Gido looked down at him for a long moment. “Yeah,” he finally said softly, fingers sliding through Frau’s hair. “I know.” When he pulled Frau close again, Frau went willingly, content for a while to just soak up the warmth of being here, of being with Gido once again.

He figured they’d probably get around to the yelling again in time, but for now this was much better.

Eventually, after another couple cigarettes and another dunk in the crazed baths, they finally got around to getting dressed again. Frau thought about that for a while, leaning against Gido’s knees. Gido was sprawled back on the marble edge of a fountain, which made a handy bench Frau supposed, but Frau had settled on the much softer grass at his feet. It had been a while since he’d been fucked that hard, after all. Besides, this meant Gido was combing his fingers slowly through Frau’s hair, and Frau kind of wanted that comfort while he thought.

He thought he might know what Gido had been doing for the last few hours, and his guess warmed him and, at the same time, scared him that Gido had thought it was necessary. What had gone on right after he died, that Gido thought he needed to be braced or cushioned against it? Only one way to find out.

“So,” he said quietly. “Am I calm enough, now? For you to let me see whatever it is that lets us watch the mortal world? To see what’s happened to them?”

Gido’s hand in his hair paused for a moment. “You always were sharp,” Gido murmured. “Look at me.”

Frau raised his head from Gido’s knee and looked up to meet his eyes, dark and steady and serious. “Do you think you’re ready?” Gido asked. “To see the people you love, ones you probably won’t see in person for a long time?”

Frau remembered Gido asking him, in exactly that voice, if he was coming along, when he agreed to let Frau fly with him. He remembered that had been the last time he’d seen Magdalena. And then he had to close his eyes for a second and swallow hard.

“This was the first thing you taught me,” he finally said, husky. “To gain something, you usually have to give something else up.” And then he laughed, a little unsteady but true, remembering something else. “Well, maybe the second thing.” He opened his eyes again and looked up at Gido with a tilted smile. “The first was If no one else will reach out their hand, I will. If it’s important enough… you do it anyway.”

The light of Gido’s slow smile, the open pride in it, in him, made Frau glance aside, face a little hot. It was a small calm in his heart, though—a little place to stand and rest. He had done what needed to be done, what he knew was right, and he’d found one of his homes again on the other side of that choice.

“If you want to see it, I’ll show you,” Gido said, softly. Frau nodded silently and Gido stood, tugging Frau up with him.

As they walked through yet more of the endless gardens, Gido explained quietly. “There’s a lake. We’re pretty sure it’s what the Lord of Heaven uses to keep an eye on the mortal world, but other souls can influence it around the edges, too. If the ones you want to see are present enough in your heart and mind, the lake will show them to you.” His mouth twisted, eyes fixed ahead of them. “It’s a mixed blessing, if it’s a blessing at all. It nearly destroyed Kreuz. The last Vertrag,” he added, glancing over at Frau. “Tiashe’s guardian. What happened to the kid was… well. It was pretty bitter, even for those of us who’d only met the kid once. Kreuz was Tiashe’s second dad; he nearly tore his soul apart, watching what those Barsburg bastards did to him and not being able to do a thing about it.” He sighed and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “In the end, Gala grew some mary-flower and made him sleep. These gardens listen a little to the blood of Profe, even when they’re not Ghosts any more. Good thing, too. He’s doing better these days, at least.” Gido smiled over at him. “Helped when you and the kid met up.”

Frau could understand, now, exactly why Gido had wanted to make sure Frau was settled down before showing him this lake, even if he was tempted to call the man an overprotective old hen. But then the bits of information rearranged themselves in his head and his feet froze to the ground.

“Frau?” Gido looked back over his shoulder, brows raised.

“So, um. Kreuz. Has been watching again, huh?” Frau swallowed. “Just how much has ‘Teito’s second dad’ been watching?”

Gido blinked once or twice before it seemed to click for him too and he threw his head back and laughed, open and rich. “Oh, don’t worry.” That would have been more reassuring if Gido hadn’t been snickering. “He thinks the two of you are cute. Got downright doting about it whenever Tiashe started bossing you around in bed.”

“He did not…” Frau glared as Gido broke up laughing again. Gido just slung an arm around his shoulders.

“Yeah, kid, he really did. It was cute.”

Frau let himself be towed along, growling under his breath.

The lake, he had to admit, was a little unnerving, when they got there. There were other people gathered here and there around the edge, and the looks on their faces made Frau’s nerves tighten. The first thing he thought, seeing them, was Kor. All too many of them wore the expression of someone listening to a Kor. “Gido,” he said, tight and quiet.

“A mixed blessing,” Gido answered, low, not looking at him. “Ghosts aren’t the only souls that can get stuck, here.”

That tone, that not-look, were a warning Frau recognized from the Aegis. There was, perhaps, someone listening that they shouldn’t speak too freely in front of. Some things were constants, whether in the celestial world or the mortal one. Considering they’d all figured it had been a celestial messenger that had really convinced the Pope to make Teito Pandora’s Box, it wasn’t all that surprising. Frau nodded, disarmingly casual, and knelt at the edge of the water.

The lapping wavelets stilled, smooth as glass, and Frau’s breath caught to see Teito reflected there. He’d thought he would have to do more. But no, there was Teito, sitting with Hakuren and Ouka around a small round table stacked with paper and cluttered with carafes and glasses, as Kururu chased Mikage from chair back to chair back. Frau didn’t realize how tight his fingers had closed on the grass of the shore until Gido’s hands settled on his shoulders and squeezed.

He watched the three of them trade lists and portfolios around, listened to Ouka’s opinion of this noble and Hakuren’s thoughts on that priest and Teito’s quiet remarks on some general, soft and clear as if they were in the next room. It hurt, like a fist closed around his heart, to see them, so clear and so distant. And it soothed too, to watch them, safe and alive and obviously planning to take over the world though none of them would probably put it that way.

And then Hakuren said, without looking up from his file, “A message came from Castor-sama today. They’re safe back at the cathedral.”

Teito flinched.

“Teito,” Ouka said softly, reaching across to catch one of his hands.

“I’m all right,” he said hastily. “It’s fine.”

Hakuren threw his folder on the table and glared at him. “You are not. When are you going to take your own advice and let yourself mourn for him?”

“We don’t have time.” Teito didn’t sound very sure, though, and he was clinging to Ouka’s hand.

“The world isn’t falling apart this instant,” Hakuren said firmly. “We have time.” He pushed his chair back and came to kneel beside Teito’s, hand on his shoulder. More gently, he added, “I miss Frau-sama too.”

As if the name had been all it needed to unlock Teito’s resistance, he slumped back in his chair with a stifled sound of grief, curling in on himself. Hakuren promptly pulled him out of the chair and into his arms, and Ouka came around the table to wind her arms around both of them.

“You loved him,” she said softly, stroking Teito’s hair as he shuddered. “And he was a good man. It’s all right.”

“So dark without him,” Teito whispered roughly against Hakuren’s shoulder, and Hakuren’s arms tightened hard.

“Open your eyes,” Hakuren ordered, rather husky himself. “Some of the light he showed you was your own, Teito, don’t ever doubt that. Don’t you dare.”

Some muttering answered that, out of which Frau could only hear bossy. “Miss him,” Teito added, a little more audibly. Ouka rested her cheek against his hair.

“You should miss him,” she said softly. “When someone leaves, of course we miss them. It hurts less, with time, but we always miss them.” She took a deep breath. “But that’s just the proof that your heart and your light are alive. And that means you can keep on loving people, and they can help you when it hurts.”

Teito broke down for real, then, shaking in their arms, and Frau watched them, eyes burning, as Hakuren and Ouka sat on the floor and held him through it. Mikage joined them to burrow against Teito’s cheek and make anxious chirps at him, and when Teito finally lifted his head it was Mikage who got a damp smile. “Thanks,” Teito said quietly, scrubbing a sleeve over his face. Hakuren tsked at him and pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, and Teito rolled his eyes, and Ouka giggled, and they all relaxed a little.

Teito straightened and stretched slowly, and accepted a glass of water Hakuren poured him. “So." He glanced up reluctantly at the table full of paper. "Who should we be supporting for Field Marshal?”

“I think it will have to be Myers,” Ouka said practically, tucking her skirts in around her knees and staying beside him. “He’s the only one willing to even think about releasing the Raggs Kingdom slaves, even now we’re betrothed.”

Frau drew back from the water, softly as if they could hear him in turn, and their image faded, still arguing. The last thing he saw was Hakuren’s hand brushing Teito’s hair protectively. “Idiot,” he whispered, husky. “The light was all your own.”

“Who’s the idiot, again?” Gido’s voice startled him, and he squawked a bit when Gido pulled him in close and Frau more or less collapsed against him. He was shaking, he realized, tremors like a bone-deep chill. Gido’s hand closed on the nape of his neck, strong and warm, kneading a little of the shaking out. “I swear, each of you brats is just as bad as each other.”

“What… what do you mean?” Frau asked, pressing his forehead against Gido’s shoulder and trying to catch his breath.

“I mean,” Gido told him dryly, “that both of you have souls that burn so pure it’s amazing you don’t blind innocent onlookers; and neither of you seem to believe it.”

The words brought back the brilliance of Teito’s soul, the taste of it on his tongue, the warmth of it that promised to call Frau back from any darkness, and loss clawed at Frau all over again. Gido held him close and quiet as Frau’s hands twisted tight in his coat, and Frau’s breath caught and heaved with the pain.

“Listen to the girl’s wisdom, Frau,” Gido murmured to him. “And know that you’ll see Tiashe again.”

“But he won’t stay, and I can’t leave.” That thought hurt almost as badly as losing Teito already had—it was going to happen again, and there was nothing he could do…

Gido sighed. “Idiot.” He rapped Frau briskly over the head. “What did I just say about your soul?”

“But…” Frau pushed upright against him, staring. “You said the Ghosts…”

“Are stuck here for a while. But unless he dies unimaginably young for a master of the Eye of Mikhail, you’ll be ready to go back with him.” He smiled and ruffled Frau’s hair. “Do try to remember why you’re the only one of us who could handle that damn scythe. I’m not the foreseer among us, but I’ll tell you this much of your future: Zehel’s mark will be burned from your soul in plenty of time.”

Frau leaned back into the shelter of Gido’s assurance, shaken worse than ever by the thought that he might find Teito again, as he’d found Gido. “Thank you,” he whispered. He didn’t like to think about what might have happened to him at this lake if he hadn’t had Gido to ground him and guide him through it.

“None needed,” Gido told him gently. “Come on, then.” He stood, urging Frau up with him. “Let’s find you a place to stay.”

“Is it going to be as insane as the baths?” Frau asked, casting a suspicious eye around at the unrelentingly out-doorsy landscape. Gido snorted.

“Not that bad. Most people aren’t here long enough to need anything, and a lot of the ones who stay aren’t in any shape to notice,” he didn’t look back at the captive souls by the lake, but Frau shivered anyway, “so there are only a few of us who use it. We’re back in a corner by the woods.”

It took a while to get anywhere near the woods, but eventually they came into sight of some very tall walls and spires. Walls which, as they got closer, formed a building very like the sector seven Cathedral—arched walkways here, open courtyards there, pillared halls leading inward. Gido chuckled as Frau craned his head back, taking in the complexity of it. “There’s no record of which came first, this or the Cathedral, but we think it was probably this.”

He led Frau inward. There were none of the distracted souls Frau had seen in the rest of the gardens, here. Instead they passed a handful of people who felt just a little familiar. A light haired man with Castor’s nose looked up from a book and smiled as they passed his rooms. A slight, beautiful woman with Labrador’s eyes waved to them from an enclosed courtyard and fountain. A man with the gold hair of the Oaks winked at them over the shoulder of a tall man with Teito’s faint accent strong in his vowels, who was contemplating a chess board set between them.

“Welcome home,” Gido said quietly, setting a hand on Frau’s shoulder to guide him through another arch and into a wide room with a few heavy chairs, a table and shelves, a deep bed. It was so much like the bedrooms in the cathedral that Frau’s breath caught.

“I was going to say this will take some getting used to,” he said, looking around at the smooth, pale stone walls. “But maybe less than I was thinking.”

“Usually,” Gido agreed, leaning in the arch of Frau’s new doorway. “You’re not alone here, Frau. We’re all in this together.”

Frau rested a hand on the wall by his bed nook. It had half a dozen pillows, and a stack of silky, folded blankets at the foot. That silent welcome and the knowing eyes of the ex-Ghosts they’d passed settled around him, warm and steady, and he took a long, slow breath. For the first time since he’d arrived in Heaven, he felt like he had a stable place to stand.

Maybe he’d make it until his other loved ones came back to him after all.

Which reminded him of the one he’d found here, all unexpected, and he cocked his head at Gido thoughtfully. “So, hey.”

Gido’s brows rose as Frau strolled back over to him. “Hm?”

“You said you wanted to get me settled, here, when you found me earlier.” Frau reached out to rest a hand on Gido’s chest, smiling to feel the beating heart under his hand. “Think you might help me get used to the new place?” He tilted his head at the bed.

Gido laughed and reached out without moving from his casual lean against the door to pull Frau up against him. “I really did miss you, brat,” he said, resting his forehead against Frau’s, eyes warm. “It’ll be my pleasure.”

“Well, then.” Frau relaxed against him with a soft sigh, finding the words easy at last.

“I’m home.”