They stared at me dumbstruck when I entered the room and took command of the tiny table which had served as an impromptu study alcove for the past several months. The tomes that had spawned much of the madness in our lives watched us with eyeless faces as we confessed our sins to one another.

Despite all of the emotional capital we had invested in keeping our dirty little secrets it didn't take too much to allow the truth to flow like a mountain spring. It felt invigorating to reveal that I was aware of their dark manipulations and plotting. I held back bitter tears when I confessed that I was aware of their seduction of a young girl, an army brat who they confirmed was in fact named Ilythia. They both apologized profusely and didn't bother citing the evil urges which drove them to those terrible deeds. Hanz appeared particularly disturbed, but before long fell silent in the wake of the subject.

Gerald confessed to Hanz's unconscious sin and how he likely was responsible for the librarian's demise. About how Altima sprung fourth from select books like a viper and poisoned anyone who dare share their dark secrets.

I told them of my queer ability to trawl the minds of others. Of my conversations with Altima that took place on common ground. I also told them of my growing frustration and anger, about how I had unwittingly became enamored with the young girl's older brother. They looked at me with sullen eyes when I told them about our dates. So painful was the vice on my heart I lost the nerve to tell them the full truth and admit that I had given him more intimate embraces. So I left them with whatever assumptions they could gather from my half story. They didn't seem to connect the dots and refused to question me as to the details.

Gerald seemed particularly interested in the fact that Aeolus was the one who I had chosen. He told me of how they learned he was heading up an important part of the investigation. The campus was a gossip laden place, so it stood to reason that they would have been following the man's activities through word of mouth and rumor. We wondered if Altima had gently steered me in the direction of Aeolus in some sort of attempt to buy time or corrupt the investigation that may interfere with whatever plans she may have.

It took awhile, but I maneuvered the conversation toward the subject of myself and my original involvement. It was then that Hanz cleared his throat.

"I was lonely," he started. He absently rubbed the back of his neck and refused to meet eyes with either of us.

"The night that we first met. It was just starting and I was so lost and confused. I didn't have anyone to talk to. No one really cared about what was happening to me. When I saw you, she did too. Through me. I don't know what she wanted with you at first, but she used me to do those things to you that night."

He looked down and wore an expression of shame.

"But after that I guess I liked you too. Not in a disgusting kind of way. Not at all.. but I saw that you were used by her too. Just like I was. I guess it felt like we had both been raped. I kind of drew comfort from that because it made me feel like I wasn't alone any longer. But she told me that I'd never see you again because she didn't want me getting any ideas.

"After that the same thing happened to Gerald and she changed. The best we've been able to piece together is she changes whenever she tries to take someone. With me she was so powerful and so terrifying, so much so that I wondered if I was going insane and imagining it all. But after she took Gerald she grew a little more distant. She was still cruel and controlled us like puppets, but it felt like she cared a little more.

"When we took you home that night from the bistro she tried the same thing with you. Up until then she changed you in little ways but never anything concrete. But that night in the library.."

He paused and wiped one of his eyes. He referred to the night the three of us made love in one of the study alcoves. Our bodies hot and sticky against the ancient leathers and crumbling papers. It was the passionate memory that served as the foundation for our relationship.

"She came away hurt. I watched her penetrate you. I felt your pulse through her. But she recoiled and screamed. It was the first time I've ever heard her in pain. It was like you were poison to her. It took weeks after that for her to do anything besides whisper in our ears. We had regained a little control over our lives.

"When her strength returned she tried to get us to get rid of you. But we were so in love with you Wendy. Both of us."

Gerald nodded.

"After that we knew she couldn't make us." He said quietly. His face jumped from Hanz to me, as if looking for approval. "Maybe we got a little cocky. I started thinking that maybe if we forced you on her like she forced herself on you she'd come away damaged. I'm sorry I tried to use you as a weapon. It was my idea. Hanz kept telling me that she'd just get bigger and stronger and turn you into something like us. Or that you'd get hurt.

"But I was so angry, Wendy. I just wanted to be alone in my own head for a change."

I was touched by his honesty and I took hold of their hands.

"It hasn't worked. She's still there when she wants to be. Sometimes she just sits in Gerald and watches me. Or vice versa. Sometimes she's in both of us, like with Ilythia." Hanz said while his face flushed. He squeezed my hand when he said her name.

"And she reads up." Gerald offered. "When she comes back.. from where ever she's gone she'll look back on what happened to us. She's going to know about our talk." He hinted that if I was planning anything to not tell them. He was hoping desperately that I was.

"That's fine." I offered while looking into both pairs of eyes. It wasn't for their benefit. It was for my own and hers. "Let her see that we're together in this." I swallowed while doing my best to marshal some sort of poker face.

"Let her see that you belong to me now."


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