Illya felt the warm gust of air first then an insistent whisper that brought him out of the depths of sleep.
"Please ... please ... please ... wake up ... wake . . . up."
He opened his eyes to almost total darkness. He was looking at Napoleon's dark head on the pillow beside him. Turning his head towards the room, he saw a night-light shining from the bathroom. Then without turning his head further, from the corner of his eye, he saw a faint luminescence that moved towards the bed then back to the door again.
Biting his lip, he thought about how safe and warm he felt. If he rolled back over, he could go right back to sleep and never have to deal with a ghost on a four hundred-year-old mission. Putting his rational mind back to sleep, he stealthily slid from the bed so deftly that not even a smidgen of cold air got to Napoleon. Creeping to the bathroom, he found the jogging suit hung on the back of the door.
Getting dressed, he peeked back into the other room and spied his slippers under the chair by the dying fire. Tiptoeing across the room, he put them on then slipped out through their door to the corridor. Closing his eyes, he felt the tug towards the old mirror at the end of the hall. The walls around him seemed to be moving in and out but he made it to the last door on the left only to find it slowly opening for him.
The door revealed old stone steps and the luminescence moved up them like a light for his feet. He sighed and followed it up and up for at least two stories before the door at the top of the stairs loomed in front of him. There was a padlock on a hasp but with a click, the ghost opened it for him. He could hear the wind howling outside as if a hurricane awaited him but when he stepped out, it died away completely.
He stood on the old stone parapet where once sentries would have walked their rounds. Perhaps they might have fought off an attack with the crossbows the Swiss were so famous for. The warm air caressed him then moved off down the narrow flagstones. Illya came after it, intent on solving this mystery once and for all.
"Here ... here ... here"
"Is this where you fell from?" Illya asked gently at the top of another set of steps.
"Accident ... accident ..."
"Was the Baron with you when you fell?"
"Before ... before"
"He was with you then he left and ... you ran after him and slipped?"
"Yes ... no ... yes ... no"
"How can it be both?" Illya pondered a moment. "He was with you then he left."
"Yes ... yes"
"Was someone else here?"
"Did they push you down the stairs?"
"Accident ... accident"
"Did you fall down the stairs because of something they did?"
Silence. Illya sighed and ran both hands through his hair. If only they could communicate better. The warm wind wrapped itself around him for an instant and Illya caught a mental picture of two men hugging. "If we are mind to mind, will you be able to show me what happened?"
"Yes ... yes ... yes"
He took a deep breath and opened his arms for the ghost's embrace. Warmth enveloped him both inside and out. Closing his eyes, he shared the memories of 400 years before. Two men walked the parapet, side by side. The young man was Willim and he/Illya was talking about his impending return home to his father's castle for his betrothal ceremony.
He/Illya didn't want to go. He would miss Maria and Ran and his nephew Lorenzo. The older man stopped and leaned both hands on the parapet, looking out over his lands. //We will miss you too, Will. It has been ... a joy to have you visit.//
//Your friendship means so much to me, Ran.//
//Friendship. Yes, we have become friends, haven't we?//
//What's wrong, Ran? You have grown so pale. Are you
//I have been unwell for quite some time, Will.//
Willim/Illya reached out to touch his arm. //Is it a sickness the healers can cure?//
//No. There is no cure but it won't kill me, dearest Will. How soon must you leave?//
//Tomorrow. Father is sending a troop to make sure I get home safely and don't take any detours.// Crystalline laughter sounded inside Illya's head. //He knows what I think of this betrothal.//
//You are young and Lady Giselle is reputed to be beautiful.//
//Hah! She has the soul of a fishwife and a tongue to match. Why do you think she's still unmarried at eighteen?//
//After you are married, if it gets to be too much, you know you can always come visit us for a safe haven.//
//I wish it were so. But our lands will be three day's travel from Father's in the opposite direction. Something tells me that I will not see you again for a long time.//
Illya heard something suspiciously like a sob come from the forlorn young man and then felt him/them wrapped in strong arms. //I fear the same. How can I bear to let you go, young Will? You take my heart with you when you go.//
//Ran?// In his innocence, he wondered what the older man meant so the kiss that followed seared his heart and soul with a flame he couldn't begin to understand. It was fire and ice and so very wonderful that he never wanted it to end. This was his beloved Ran who had cared for him for months, as gently as he'd always wished his father would care.
But this was not a fatherly kiss.
This had all the passion that he had hoped might come from the woman he was to marry. Then it hit him. This was his sister's husband. He belonged to Maria and what they were doing was so wrong. He/they pushed against the arms that held him so tightly and they fell away instantly.
//Forgive me, Willim.// And Ran left him, running quickly down the steps as if all the demons of hell were after him.
Willim/Illya stood there bewildered. Then a hint of perfume came to him and he turned to see his sister standing like an Avenging Fury.
//You are the reason he has shunned my bed. He never loved me. He must have married me thinking I was a substitute for you. I hate you both.//
He tried to dodge the slap that followed but it overbalanced him and he fell backward down the steps, his sister's horrified face the last thing he saw.
Illya found himself weeping for the waste of it. He/Willim leaned against the parapet wall and looked out into the dark night, tears on his/their cheeks.
He/they turned and there was Napoleon but not Napoleon. It was tricky but Illya saw his partner while Willim saw Randolpho.
"Ran, can you truly see me?"
"Yes." But he looked unsure as if he couldn't tell. "But you are dead. I killed you."
"No, you didn't, Ran." Willim/Illya stepped forward and placed his hands on the robe-clad shoulders.
"The kiss disgusted you." Ran/Napoleon sighed and Willim/Illya felt the cold intensify.
"It startled me, Ran. I didn't know that men could kiss ... like that. I liked it." He/they smiled. "I don't know what might have happened but Maria saw us."
"Maria?" Ran/Napoleon frowned.
"She must have followed us. She said that you had never loved her and when she slapped me, I overbalanced and fell. It was not your fault." He/they shook the broad shoulders to make his/their point.
"Maria. That's why she accused me. She got her revenge on both of us with that one action." Ran/Napoleon raised a hand and stroked Willim/Illya's cheek. "I'm so sorry, dearest Will. You should have had a long and happy life."
"Don't be sorry, Ran." Willim/Illya moved just far enough to nuzzle into the palm that cradled his/their cheek. "I love you and it wouldn't have been such a happy life without you."
"You were always so bright, my love. From the first moment I saw you, I wanted you. But you were only sixteen and I knew there could be no hope of a life together. So, I married Maria, perhaps hoping that she would be a feminine version of you. But she was not. There is no one to compare with you." His/their other hand came up to stroke Willim/Illya's other cheek.
"And there is no one like you, Ran. We have been here long enough. Come home with me now. Please?"
A ball of light began to grow beside them. The glow spilled over the old stone and embraced them with warmth.
"Home is where ever you are, Will."
"Then let go of your sorrow and the false guilt that's kept you here. My death was not your fault."
"It's so bright."
"Come with me, Ran. The light is calling. Can you hear it?" Willim/Illya smiled up at him.
The look of joy that crossed Randolpho/Napoleon's face erased years of sorrow. "I hear it, Will. Where ever you go, I will follow."
"Oh, love. Come."
Willim/Illya leaned up and kissed Ran/Napoleon for the first time in four hundred years. For a moment they were four then there were only two.
//Thank you.// The whisper was the last thing Illya heard before the bright light faded away.
Napoleon's lips were warm and inviting but Illya made himself move back. "Napoleon?"
"Illya." He shook his head. "What just happened?"
"Let's go back to the room, Napoleon. I'm getting cold."
"What are you doing out here without a coat?" He looked around. "What the hell am I doing out here?"
"Think of it as a mission, Napoleon. We just helped right a wrong and put two people together that had been kept apart because of a lie." Illya led the way off the stone parapet and back down the stairs.
Napoleon followed him silently and Illya wondered how he could
explain why he'd ended up kissing his partner after being possessed by
Opening their door, he turned on the light and hurried over to the fire embers. Removing the screen, he reached for a stick of wood only to find Napoleon's hand there first. "Let me, Illya. I'll make up the fire if you'll pour us both a drink from the sideboard."
Illya nodded and stood too quickly, feeling the room waver around him. But only for a moment because Napoleon had hold of him and he was safe held in his strong embrace. "Thank you, Pasha. I'm all right. Just a little dizzy."
"Running around at all hours of the night will do that to you." His tone of voice was dry but Illya heard the note of hurt.
"I didn't mean to worry you, Pasha." Illya rested his head on the convenient shoulder. "It all got mixed up in my mind. I was the only one who seemed to be able to hear him. And he loved Randolpho so very much."
The hand that rose to stroke the back of his neck trembled just a little. "And Randolpho loved him more than life itself."
They stood there for a long moment before Napoleon sighed and let Illya go. "I need a drink, Illya. Then you can explain what you think happened."
Illya nodded and moved to the sideboard to check out the selection. He knew that Napoleon preferred scotch so he picked up the amber bottle and poured him a generous measure. There was a decanter of sherry at one end and he poured a glass for himself. At the moment, vodka still reminded him of being drugged. Taking a sip, he found it rather sweet but decided that for now it would do.
Coming back to the fire, he found Napoleon sitting on the hearth, his gaze unfocused on the room around him. Illya wanted no distance between them so he curled up beside him, holding both drinks until Napoleon came back to him. Gazing at the beloved face, he relived for just a moment the kiss. It might be the only one he'd ever get from his partner and he wished with all his heart that it had been longer ... deeper ... real.
He sighed and brought his legs up a little closer to his chest. He couldn't even blame it on the drug because he had a suspicion that the fever had burned it out of him.
"Is that mine?" Napoleon smiled faintly and he nodded, handing him the scotch and meeting his eyes. "Thank you."
"You are welcome. Are you very angry with me, Napoleon?"
Startled eyes met his. "I'm not angry with you, Illya."
"I thought you might be since I left you to go investigate by
"You're a grown man, Illya. More than capable of working on your own."
Oh dear, that sounded suspiciously like a hint that he didn't want to be partners anymore. "Yes, I am. But I have found that working with a partner can be very ... rewarding."
"We do work well together, don't we. Then why did you go off without me?"
Was that a note of hurt? "I wasn't sure if you believed in ghosts, Napoleon."
"Well, before tonight, I would have said I didn't. But part of me seems to have embraced the idea whole-heartedly." He took a hasty gulp of scotch.
"Randolpho was a very strong minded man, like yourself, Napoleon. For four hundred years he'd been trapped in guilt and despair. Unable to let go his fear that he was to blame for killing the young man he was trying to protect from himself. I don't think he was quite sane the last years of his life. And his regret prevented him from seeing the Light that would have taken him home."
"Home was where Willim was." Napoleon spoke slowly as if hearing what his own voice had said a short time before. "God! The self hatred he carried was so heavy, it almost crushed him. But he's all right now."
"They're both all right now. The Light was just as I remembered from my dream. I wonder who greeted them on the other side." Illya wrapped his arms around his knees after setting down his glass.
"And now that they're taken care of, we need to talk about us." Napoleon said solemnly.
End of part 5