Actions

Work Header

The Ghost Mother

Work Text:

The heavy rains of the day slacked off by early evening, replaced by a damp, cool breeze that stirred reflections in the puddles on the street. Tsang Ting Fung switched his groceries from one hand to the other while he retrieved his keys, and glanced up and noted that no lights were on in the flat; A-Chiu was probably out with Danielle. He was nearly to the front door when the air next to him swirled and took the shape of a thin, grey, elderly woman. His heart jumped and he froze for a moment before he fought back the instinctive panic.

"May I help you, auntie?" he addressed the ghost, cautiously polite.

The ghost peered up at him through sad squinting eyes and frowned deeply. She reached out to touch his cheek, but paused in midair. Her fingers shook.

"Are you my son?" she asked in a pitiful voice.

A chill trickled down the back of Tsang Ting Fung's neck. He stared at her warily. She tilted her head and looked him over, made an impatient sound, and evaporated into the evening air. Tsang Ting Fung, rattled, hurried into the building and up to the flat. He'd grown accustomed to the harmless ghosts, but ones like this? The only word for them was spooky. He was never going to get used to the spooky ones.

As evening faded into night and Tsang Ting Fung prepared dinner, he kept thinking about the old lady ghost and coming up with explanations: she'd lost her sight, she hadn't seen her son in years, she'd grown senile. He felt sorry for her, and hoped she found her son or moved on to the next life soon, but he was glad she hadn't stuck around. And he convinced himself that phoning his mother for cooking advice -- despite the fact he'd made this dish many times before -- was simply being a good son, and had nothing whatsoever to do with superstition.

He was chopping bamboo shoots, phone cradled between his ear and shoulder, and was listening to the gossip from his mother's apartment block when A-Chiu came home. Tsang Ting Fung nodded in greeting, and A-Chiu hung up his coat and joined him at the counter to steal slices of vegetables. Tsang Ting Fung elbowed him out of the way and held the phone out of earshot while he asked, "Hungry? Did you already eat?"

"Yes, and no," A-Chiu answered with a smile, getting the dishes out.

Tsang Ting Fung brought the phone to his ear and said purposefully, "A-Chiu's home, Mama. I have to go. Yes, yes, I will. I'm hanging up now, Mama. Take care of yourself. Bye bye."

He avoided A-Chiu's look as he set down the phone. A-Chiu's parents were dead and he never talked about them, and although he'd met Tsang Ting Fung's family and seemed to like them, whenever they were around -- in person or in conversation -- he retreated into himself a little. Tsang Ting Fung could partially understand it: his family could be overwhelming in person, and his mum unfortunately tried to mother A-Chiu whenever she saw him. But there was more to it than that, and Tsang Ting Fung respected A-Chiu's need to keep those reasons to himself.

By the time dinner was ready any distance between them had been closed. A-Chiu told Tsang Ting Fung all about the movie he'd taken Danielle to see, and Tsang Ting Fung described his encounter with the old lady ghost. Disappointingly, A-Chiu didn't find her spooky at all.

"Ghosts can get disoriented, especially if they died recently. You just happened to cross her path," he said between bites.

"I didn't cross her path," Tsang Ting Fung said stubbornly. "She appeared right in front of me."

A-Chiu shrugged. "Same difference. Probably."

"See?" Tsang Ting Fung jabbed at the air with his chopsticks. "It's the 'probably' that worries me. What if it wasn't a coincidence?"

A-Chiu set down his rice bowl. "Did she hurt you? Threaten you?"

"No."

"And you're not her son, so... Wait a minute. That's why you were on the phone to your mother, isn't it?" A-Chiu narrowed his eyes. "Sometimes I think you're more superstitious than Paper Chan."

Tsang Ting Fung poured him another glass of water and said self-righteously, "You could listen to him more, you know. He's right more than he's wrong."

"I've listened to him practically my entire life," A-Chiu muttered, "and most of the time, it doesn't matter if he's right or wrong, the same shit happens anyway."

Tsang Ting Fung dropped the subject. He knew that A-Chiu cared more for his old mentor than he would admit, and unquestionably, Paper Chan had helped them through life-or-death situations. But Paper Chan could be prickly, annoying, and rude, and his predictions were a mixed blessing.

After dinner, Tsang Ting Fung cleared the table and A-Chiu washed the dishes meditatively. Tsang Ting Fung leaned against the counter, picked a plate from the rack and dried it off.

"What's wrong?"

A-Chiu shook his head a little. He handed him a rice bowl and said with a half-smile, "Nothing. Just thinking."

Tsang Ting Fung watched him and knew better than to push. If A-Chiu wanted to tell him more, he would. A-Chiu finished the dishes and swirled his fingers in the water.

Tsang Ting Fung nudged him. "Careful. You'll get dishpan hands." He put the dishes away and took a small pink box from the refrigerator. "This'll cheer you up: dessert."

Tsang Ting Fung selected a mango cream pastry from the box and held it up for A-Chiu. A-Chiu looked it over, stuck a finger in the cream filling and licked it off.

"Too sweet," he pronounced, giving Tsang Ting Fung a long look. Tsang Ting Fung's face flushed warm but he ignored this.

"That's why you have to eat it with the shell," he said, holding it up to A-Chiu's mouth. A-Chiu pursed his lips and backed away. "Like this." Tsang Ting Fung bit into the crisp, tart shell and ate half of the confection. "Oh, it's good. It's not too sweet at all. Here." He offered A-Chiu the other half, but A-Chiu declined, grumbling, "You're spilling crumbs all over the floor." Tsang Ting Fung happily ate the rest, not caring about the crumbs.

"I'm going to bed," A-Chiu said. "Early night tonight, remember? They're tearing down the old Happy Show Cinema tomorrow. We have to be there."

The Happy Show had been built on the site of a horrible construction accident over thirty years ago. It was common wisdom that building a cinema on the site, instead of the office building that had been planned, had kept the ghosts of the construction workers happy and entertained, no matter how shabby the place became or how bad the movies were.

"Right, right," Tsang Ting Fung said, wiping crumbs off his hands. "Just let me sweep this up."

"Wait."

A-Chiu reached over and touched the side of Tsang Ting Fung's mouth with his finger. He ran his fingertip along the outer edge of Tsang Ting Fung's upper lip, then gently pressed it over the lower. Tsang Ting Fung tasted sweet mango cream on A-Chiu's dry skin. He gazed into A-Chiu's eyes, pulse pumping, but A-Chiu quickly withdrew his finger and smiled softly.

"Just a bit of cream," he said, turning away.

In the bathroom, as Tsang Ting Fung got ready for bed, he doused a washcloth in cold water and held it to the back of his neck. He shut his eyes and waited for his blood to slow to a simmer. When he opened his eyes, he patted his face with the cold cloth and looked at his reflection in the mirror, half-expecting to see a mark where A-Chiu's finger had traced his lips. He touched where A-Chiu had touched.

He was happy -- very happy -- with A-Chiu. They were partners, they were friends. They were living together. They even shared A-Chiu's bed -- platonically, like brothers. In all the important ways, they loved each other. And sometimes they kissed. Or more than sometimes: it was Tsang Ting Fung's goal to kiss A-Chiu everyday, and so far, A-Chiu had willingly met his goal.

But more than that? Most of the time, Tsang Ting Fung couldn't imagine it, though if he tried, he found his heart beating fast, and patches of heat would bake his skin, leaving him dizzy, nervous, and restless. The best remedy was cold water, a cup of soothing tea, and to keep A-Chiu out of sight for a while.

Because most of the time, Tsang Ting Fung couldn't imagine it. While at other times -- like on lazy mornings when they would lounge in bed and talk, and A-Chiu's half-awake voice was quiet and raw, and his skin was damp from sleep, and his beard growing in formed dark lines over his lips and along his chin -- other times, he felt it would be so simple, so easy, because he wanted it so much.

When he opened the door, A-Chiu was standing right in front of him, glowering. "What takes you so long?" he muttered. "It better not stink in there. And there better not be toothpaste in the sink." He shut the door behind him.

When he emerged a few minutes later wearing the baggy pajamas and old t-shirt he slept in, Tsang Ting Fung was sitting at the kitchen table waiting for his tea to finish brewing. A-Chiu hovered by the table, picking up the tea box and sniffing it.

"Are you sure this tea is good for you?"

Tsang Ting Fung drummed his fingers on the table, staring intently into his tea glass. "It's supposed to be very calming," he said.

"Huh." A-Chiu shook the box and sniffed it again. He loomed over Tsang Ting Fung's shoulder, invitingly rumpled and emanating warmth. "You need to be calmed?"

Tsang Ting Fung flattened his palms on the table. A slither of warmth coiled up his spine to the back of his neck. He kept his eyes on the tea leaves floating in the glass.

A-Chiu set the tea box down. "You're not still thinking about that ghost, are you? That poor old lady has you shivering?" He shook his head and padded off to the bed.

Tsang Ting Fung was relieved that A-Chiu had made up his own explanation, as annoying as that explanation might be. It saved them from talking about it, and by the time Tsang Ting Fung had finished his tea, he was feeling relaxed and drowsy. He switched off the kitchen lights and slid into bed next to A-Chiu, who was reading one of Tsang Ting Fung's manga.

"'Night," he said, curling up and closing his eyes. Moments later, as he drifted into sleep, he heard A-Chiu turn off the bedside lamp and sigh.

-----

Special Unit 2002 usually kept later hours. They both overslept and hurried through the morning routine. Tsang Ting Fung leaned against the doorjamb of the walk-in closet and passed a hand over his chin. "Maybe I can skip shaving. That'll save some time."

A-Chiu paused in buckling his belt and gave him an odd look. In an instant, without a word, he'd moved to Tsang Ting Fung, had his hands on Tsang Ting Fung's waist, and kissed him. A fast, aggressive kiss tasting of sour coffee that left Tsang Ting Fung wanting more. But A-Chiu stepped away, murmuring, "I think you should shave."

They were late getting to the Happy Show site, and the demolition had already occured. The site inspector ran up to them as they got out of the car.

"There you are! You were supposed to be here half an hour ago! The foreman couldn't wait. He blasted the building."

Tsang Ting Fung and A-Chiu had already spotted the ghosts: a half dozen strong, angry men yelling at the workmen trying to clear the site, demanding to get their cinema back. One ghost hovered menacingly near the foreman, shouting, "We died for this place! Our blood is here!"

Tsang Ting Fung and A-Chiu put on their ghost gloves and ran for him. A-Chiu reached him first, grabbing the ghost's wrist. Tsang Ting Fung tried to get a good hold on the ghost's other arm, but was hoisted into the air by the enraged spirit of another worker whose unleashed anger gave him incredible strength. Tsang Ting Fung reached for a vial of unveiling drops, but the ghost tossed him aside, sending him skidding into dusty rubble. Coughing and squinting, he saw both ghosts going for A-Chiu. He pulled the vial free and hurled it before the angry ghost could reach A-Chiu. The demolition crew who'd been warily watching the scene let out startled cries as the ghost took substance before their eyes.

Tsang Ting Fung barely had time to check that A-Chiu had his opponent under control before the angry ghost was on him again, reaching for his neck to lift him up. But with his power temporarily halved, they were more evenly matched. Tsang Ting Fung blocked his hold and aimed a high kick to propel him backwards. It wasn't far enough, and he had to duck and spin away to avoid the next lunge the spirit made at him.

He hadn't wanted to shoot any of the construction worker ghosts. He sympathized with them for losing the place that kept them content. But this one was beyond his help. All the rage and pain of his violent death, dormant for thirty years, were fresh again. He wouldn't go willingly, and when his full powers returned, he could become a murderous demon spirit. Tsang Ting Fung drew his gun and pressed his finger to the blood needle.

Before he could aim, he had to swerve to miss another blow. He sent a fast kick to the ghost's chest to push him away and raised the gun. "I'm sorry," he said. "You won't be reincarnated."

The air next to the spirit swirled and took shape. A tiny old lady appeared, swatting ineffectually at the angry ghost. It was the same old lady ghost Tsang Ting Fung had met on their doorstep the day before.

"What are you doing to my son?" she screeched. "You big brute! What's the matter with you?"

The ghost paused in confusion. He looked from the old lady to Tsang Ting Fung and snarled. The old lady lifted up from the ground a few centimeters so she could slap his face. "Bully!"

Fury shook the spirit, and Tsang Ting Fung cried out in warning, "Auntie!" But the angry ghost was too confused to lash out, and the old lady, seeing her opening, berated him for brawling and threatening her son. Gun still aimed and ready, Tsang Ting Fung approached them cautiously.

"If you'll let go of your anger and move on, I don't have to kill you," he told the angry ghost. "If I shoot, you're gone forever."

He glanced around, noticing that the ridiculous scene had attracted the attention of the other construction worker ghosts. He quickly scanned past the audience and saw that the first ghost was no match for A-Chiu.

One of the watching ghosts said to Tsang Ting Fung, "Listen, kid, they've taken away the only place we've had all this time. We had some good times here, watching the movies and scaring the kids." The others nodded. "We didn't ask for this, but it's all we've had since the accident."

Another ghost stepped forward. "Little Lee," he said to the angry ghost. "This won't do any good. The Happy Show is gone."

Little Lee seemed to shrink. He backed away from the old lady and balled his hands into fists. "It just hurts so much," he said in a quiet, rough voice. He looked at Tsang Ting Fung. "I was only a temporary worker. This was my first construction job. My wife was pregnant, and with the baby coming, I thought we needed some extra money. Construction always paid pretty well, I was told." He turned around and lifted his ghost shirt, and Tsang Ting Fung could see where a steel beam had crushed his spine.

The old lady ghost had stopped harrassing Little Lee, and drifted to Tsang Ting Fung's side, sending an unpleasant chill through him. A few meters away, A-Chiu held the ghost's arms behind his back and marched him to join the others.

"It'll be better if you all move on," A-Chiu told them. "The men working here now are the same as you. You don't want to hurt them, do you?"

"No," some of the ghosts agreed. One of them asked, "What are they gonna put here, anyway? What's so important they had mow down the Happy Show?"

A-Chiu glanced at Tsang Ting Fung. They hadn't been told. Tsang Ting Fung called for the site inspector, who nervously approached, avoiding looking at anyone.

"It's going to be a grammar school," he said to Tsang Ting Fung, eyes downward. "They've needed a new one in this area for years." Question answered, he hurried away to the edge of the site.

A-Chiu raised an eyebrow, looking at the ghosts. "A grammar school is more important than watching trashy old movies, isn't it?"

But a few of the ghosts weren't paying attention to him; Tsang Ting Fung saw them talking among themselves and gesturing around the site. He heard one of them say, "And that corner over there could be the playground..."

Tsang Ting Fung slid his gun back into its holster. "Hey. If we let you stay and watch the new construction here, would you agree to go on to the next life on your own?"

A-Chiu shot him a warning look, shaking his head, but Tsang Ting Fung came closer, moving among the ghost workers.

"You'd have to behave yourselves and let the men do their jobs. But at the end of it, you could see for yourselves that what replaced the Happy Show was just as important."

Little Lee gave him a grateful look, and Tsang Ting Fung inwardly flinched. Just a few minutes earlier, he'd almost put a blood bullet in him.

"That seems fair," one of the ghosts said.

A-Chiu sidled up to Tsang Ting Fung. "You can tell the site inspector and construction team about this," he murmured near Tsang Ting Fung's ear. He paused in midstride and nodded to Tsang Ting Fung's right. "That's her?"

Tsang Ting Fung had almost forgotten about the old lady. He suddenly felt her gaze on him and shivered. "Yeah. I think she's crazy."

"She's not the only one," A-Chiu said, giving him a pointed look.

Choosing their words carefully, they were able to convince the site inspector and construction crew that the ghosts were moving on and wouldn't be a threat anymore. They simply neglected to mention the part about the ghosts sticking around for the entire build. And despite A-Chiu's initial disapproval, he did just as much of the explaining as Tsang Ting Fung did, and Tsang Ting Fung suspected that A-Chiu was as satisfied with the conclusion as he was.

The old lady ghost, however, was still there when they turned to leave.

"Son?" she said to Tsang Ting Fung, gazing up at him with watery eyes.

Tsang Ting Fung recoiled inside, but simply winced and said, "No."

"He's not your son, auntie," A-Chiu said gently.

She tilted her head and looked at A-Chiu curiously, as if she hadn't noticed him before. "Are you?" she asked, her voice quavering.

A-Chiu paled and stared at her for a moment before rasping out, "No."

The ghost lady whimpered and dissipated into the air.

Tsang Ting Fung glanced at A-Chiu. He'd never seen him react to a ghost like that before. A-Chiu frowned and started walking to the car.

"See? She's spooky," Tsang Ting Fung said. They got into the car, but A-Chiu didn't start the ignition. He stared out of the windscreen, loosely holding the keys in one hand.

Tsang Ting Fung's concern had kicked into worry when A-Chiu said, still staring ahead, "I don't remember what my mother looked like." He blinked and glanced at Tsang Ting Fung. "It's not that I think-- She was a lot younger than that. And she moved on."

Tsang Ting Fung nodded slowly, unsure what to say.

A-Chiu smiled at him sadly. "I guess you were right. She's spooky." He put the key in the ignition and started the car.

After they filed their reports on the Happy Show incident, Tsang Ting Fung had hoped for a quiet evening when he could make a big meal for A-Chiu and they could watch TV together and everything could be comfortable. But a murder-suicide threw them back into the spirit world, and this time with no satisfactory conclusion. Tsang Ting Fung didn't find it satisfying to send the angry ghosts to oblivion, even if it was what he was paid to do.

Still unsettled afterward, he didn't object to A-Chiu's suggestion for take-away Thai noodles, and after a dull, heavy, rainy evening, he crawled into bed and welcomed sleep before A-Chiu joined him.

He woke up twice in the morning, at first without stirring or opening his eyes, but lying there and being aware of A-Chiu asleep next to him, listening to A-Chiu's deep breathing which was not quite a snore. He slid closer until his back touched A-Chiu's and, all the heaviness of the night gone, he fell into a deep sleep. When he woke again, he was in a good mood, and he lay on his side and watched A-Chiu in the morning light until A-Chiu pretending to be asleep was too much temptation.

He touched A-Chiu's eyelashes with his fingertip. A-Chiu's eyelid spasmed but he kept his eyes shut. Tsang Ting Fung touched the tip of his nose and pinched it, and A-Chiu laughed. He opened one eye and Tsang Ting Fung smiled at him. And, lazy and happy, kissed him slowly and softly, deepening the kiss when A-Chiu held his shoulder.

So simple, so easy. A-Chiu kissed him in response, also slow and deep, and tightened his hold on his shoulder almost painfully. Tsang Ting Fung brought his hand to A-Chiu's hip to pull him closer, bring their bodies together.

He knew what he felt as soon as he felt it -- impossible not to -- but for a split second, he tried to think of an alternative explanation before he realized he didn't want an alternative explanation. Then he saw the flush in A-Chiu's cheeks, and if there had ever been any doubt, this dispelled it. A shock of heat hit Tsang Ting Fung and spread through him leisurely. He slid his hand lower and pressed against A-Chiu.

Or tried to. A-Chiu let go of his shoulder and caught his wrist in a pulse-stopping grip. "Don't."

Tsang Ting Fung touched A-Chiu's cheek with his lips. "Why not?" He twisted his arm free and reached again, and A-Chiu grabbed him again and pushed him back. A-Chiu sat up, bunching the duvet into his lap, and sank his fingers into his hair.

"It's... I don't know. Odd."

"I think it's cool," Tsang Ting Fung said. A-Chiu shot him a look that was somewhere between baffled and exasperated. Tsang Ting Fung shrugged a little. "Well, it is."

A-Chiu hunched forward and hugged his knees. "I'm not sure about this," he said, turning away from Tsang Ting Fung.

Tsang Ting Fung reached over and rubbed his back soothingly. "It's okay," he said.

"Is it?" A-Chiu let out a frustrated sigh.

Tsang Ting Fung lay back and picked at his fingernails, chewing the inside of his lip. "Do you wish I were a woman?" he asked, wincing as he said it because it sounded like the stupidest thing he'd ever said. The way A-Chiu looked at him more or less confirmed this.

"It's okay that you're a guy," A-Chiu said, gently serious. A smile crept into his eyes as he added, "The fact that you're a nutcase is more troubling."

Tsang Ting Fung tried to smile, let the joke wash away the doubts. A-Chiu touched his chin. "You're fine the way you are. If you weren't..." He cocked an eyebrow. "If you weren't, we wouldn't be like this now, and having this stupid conversation."

Tsang Ting Fung grinned, grabbed his shoulders and pulled him down to the bed. A-Chiu snagged a pillow and hit him with it. Tsang Ting Fung snatched it away and managed one whack to the side of his head before A-Chiu had him pinned down. Tsang Ting Fung dropped the pillow and A-Chiu kissed him, and though the duvet was between them, Tsang Ting Fung pulled him closer and A-Chiu wasn't pushing away.

"What are you doing?" A thin, shocked, elderly voice in the air beside them. "Who are you?"

A-Chiu reeled away, glaring at the old lady ghost. "Auntie," he gritted out. "Please go away."

"Who is this?" she asked Tsang Ting Fung, pointing to A-Chiu. "And you. For shame. Don't you have a wife?"

Tsang Ting Fung, too startled to speak, stared at her in disbelief. A few seconds ago: all happiness, so simple, so easy. The pulse in his lips still throbbed from A-Chiu's kiss.

"Au... Auntie. Please," he pleaded. "I'm not your son."

A-Chiu muttered something under his breath and got out of bed, throwing the duvet to the floor, and stalked to the bathroom. Tsang Ting Fung watched him, and all the excitement and anticipation left him in one vacuum rush. He wearily looked at the ghost and wished he could hate her instead of feel sorry for her.

Her watery eyes gazed at him blankly. "Where's my son?" she asked in a thin voice.

"I guess that's what we have to find out," Tsang Ting Fung said, sitting up, "if I'm ever going to get any peace."

-----

Tsang Ting Fung's eagerness to find the auntie's son and help her move on to the next life didn't change the fact that he had no information about her and nowhere to start looking. He didn't even know when she'd died, although A-Chiu figured it had happened recently. To make matters worse, the ghost didn't appear for the next few days. Much as Tsang Ting Fung wished that this meant she'd found her son and moved on already, his instincts told him he couldn't be that lucky. Still, he wasn't going to sit by and do nothing, especially since A-Chiu wasn't taking any chances and was keeping their contact limited to chaste goodnight pecks on the forehead.

He started at the hall of records, looking through recent death certificates. After a wearyingly long day he came home, collapsed on the sofa, and groaned to A-Chiu, "Do you have any idea how many people die in Hong Kong in a day?"

A-Chiu had warned him that going through death certificates was a slim hope at best, but he wisely said nothing while Tsang Ting Fung complained, for which he was grateful. "Oh, and don't get me started on the all the different ways I had to check. 'Did she die in Hong Kong?' they asked. 'Or Kowloon? Or the New Territories? Hospital or nursing home or at home?' Who knew it was such work to be dead?"

A-Chiu was busy in the kitchen and didn't immediately answer. Curious, Tsang Ting Fung dragged himself from the sofa to the kitchen. A-Chiu turned around, holding a dish of sautéed chicken and spicy vegetables. It smelled delicious, but Tsang Ting Fung eyed him warily.

"Did you make this?"

A-Chiu's tentative smile disappeared. "No, of course not." He set the dish on the table and spooned some rice into a bowl. "I knew you'd stay there checking records longer than any sane person would, so I went round to your mother and asked her for something I could heat up for you."

Tsang Ting Fung stared at him in surprise. "Wow," he managed to say. "That's-- Thank you."

The tension left A-Chiu's shoulders. He filled the second rice bowl, smiling a little. Tsang Ting Fung picked up a slice of chicken and ate it. Yes, definitely his mother's cooking.

"Wait a minute. You went to see my mother? By yourself?"

A-Chiu nodded, and Tsang Ting Fung grimaced. "Was it awful?"

"No, it was okay," A-Chiu said uncertainly. He paused. "She wasn't as bad... I mean, she acted pretty restrained. For her."

Tsang Ting Fung guessed that the visit had been as awkward as he imagined, which only deepened his appreciation for what A-Chiu had done.

"Thanks," he said again, taking the rice bowls from A-Chiu and setting them on the table. Then he turned and caught A-Chiu's hips and kissed him warmly. After a hesitation, A-Chiu responded and Tsang Ting Fung pressed closer until he had A-Chiu against the counter. A-Chiu pulled back and gave him a cross look.

"The food's getting cold."

"Mm," Tsang Ting Fung agreed. "We can heat it up." He kissed him again, but A-Chiu kept his lips pursed.

"The auntie," he said warningly.

Tsang Ting Fung looked around. "I don't see her. She's not here."

"She could be here," A-Chiu persisted. "At any time."

"I know," Tsang Ting Fung sighed, letting go and stepping back. "I'm doing the best I can."

A-Chiu stroked Tsang Ting Fung's hair. "I know. And listen, I've been thinking. It might not hurt to go see Paper Chan about this." At Tsang Ting Fung's look, he said, "Yes, I'm actually saying it. It's worth a try. A lot of ghosts come to see him. They might know something."

"Or he might know of a way to help the auntie remember her son," Tsang Ting Fung said, brightening. It wasn't a bad idea at all.

"Maybe," A-Chiu said doubtfully. "Now can we eat? It smells even better than your cooking."

Tsang Ting Fung grinned. "It is. Mama's cooking is the best."

The next day after fight practice, A-Chiu offered to check with some nursing homes while Tsang Ting Fung went to see Paper Chan. He found him sitting in front of his paper offerings shop, ignoring a pretty young woman ghost who was begging him for something. Spotting Tsang Ting Fung, she giggled and waved before disappearing.

"What did she want?" he asked.

"Ignore that one," Paper Chan said, gesturing dismissively. "She wants a husband."

Tsang Ting Fung raised an eyebrow and looked around the shop. "You sell those?"

"Not the kind she's looking for," Paper Chan said enigmatically. "Why are you here? I don't suppose you've come to buy anything."

Tsang Ting Fung took another look round the shop, considering. "Do you have anything an old lady would like?" he asked, and he told Paper Chan about the auntie.

"And she hasn't remembered yet that you're not her son?" Paper Chan said, tapping a Chinese candle against his palm. "Hmm, interesting." He gave Tsang Ting Fung a sharp look. "You're not, are you?"

Tsang Ting Fung rolled his eyes and flicked at a paper lantern. "She's eighty if she's a day. And my mother is in perfect health."

"Still, it's interesting that this ghost seems fixated on you," Paper Chan said, pulling over a stool and sitting down. "I didn't think ghosts liked you anymore, not since your resurrection."

Tsang Ting Fung chewed on his lip. He didn't like talking about that or thinking about it. A-Chiu could've died trying to save him from the water ghost. He nearly had.

"Whatever," he said testily. "Do you think you can help with the auntie? I need to know who she is so I can find her son."

Paper Chan's look didn't fill him with confidence, but he said, "If I find out anything, I'll let you know." He leafed through one of his fortune books, saying, "A-Chiu's helping, too, I suppose."

Tsang Ting Fung tugged on the red tassle hanging from a lantern and toyed with it absently. "Yeah." He hesitated. "About A-Chiu... When the old lady asked if he were her son... I've never seen him like that before. Definitely not around a ghost."

Paper Chan set down the fortune book. He had an eerie, far-away look.

"A-Chiu was very young when his mother died. And, of course, he could see her ghost. He didn't know what was happening at first."

Tsang Ting Fung stood very still, both wanting and not wanting to know more. He tried to imagine how it would've been to be a little kid, watching your parents become spirits.

Paper Chan sighed heavily. "She didn't want to leave him, of course. What mother does? He didn't really understand it all: why she couldn't go shopping or cook for him anymore, why she couldn't take him to the park and push him on the swings. He thought it was because she'd been so ill."

He paused, staring off into the past. "Yes, it was hard to do it, but it was necessary. You think there can be nothing bad about a mother's love, nothing wrong with letting her watch over her son, but it can be the worst kind of possession. The spirit lingers solely for him, and he ends up living his life solely for her. Very serious, very dangerous."

Tsang Ting Fung stared at him. "You. You were the one who sent her away."

Paper Chan nodded, and Tsang Ting Fung's stomach twisted. "Did you shoot her with a blood bullet?" he asked, voice dry and harsh.

"No!" Paper Chan glared at him angrily. "It wasn't like that. I'd heard about the little boy who spoke to his dead mother, so I went to investigate. She was a frail, beautiful woman. Very smart, very sensible. When I explained it to her, she understood. She said good-bye, but he didn't know what was happening. It was only later, when she didn't come back, that I had to explain it to him."

Tsang Ting Fung blinked away moisture in his eyes and swallowed, feeling faintly queasy. Paper Chan frowned and said, "Of course, I hadn't noticed the mark on his palm then. It was only afterwards--"

"A-Chiu... You didn't let him think he was responsible for her death, did you?"

Paper Chan's gaze flicked away for a second. "No, I never told him that," he said firmly, and Tsang Ting Fung could interpret what he wasn't saying. Paper Chan might not have told A-Chiu that, but in telling A-Chiu about the "death star" on his palm, and predicting A-Chiu's solitary, death-filled life, he hadn't had to. Paper Chan added hastily, "He knows she died of cancer. He knows he wasn't responsible."

Yes, maybe his mind knew it, Tsang Ting Fung thought, but his heart probably felt otherwise.

After he left Paper Chan's, he felt a bit guilty for knowing more about A-Chiu's past. A-Chiu never talked about it, and Tsang Ting Fung couldn't help thinking he'd been snooping around where he wasn't invited. But he was spared any awkwardness in facing A-Chiu that evening, because a botched robbery called them onto the job, and they battled the angry spirits of both the slain shopkeeper and the drug addict robber who'd been shot by the police. It was a long, grim night that ended with them collapsing in bed and sleeping until late the next morning.

A-Chiu was already up and dressed when Tsang Ting Fung woke. He was making tea and reading the newspaper, and there was a partially eaten egg sandwich sitting on the kitchen counter. Tsang Ting Fung watched him walking about, making facial expressions at the newspaper, taking a bite of sandwich, spilling drops of boiling water on his fingers when he poured the tea. Tsang Ting Fung thought about the little boy talking to his ghost mother, and losing her, and being told that he was cursed and fated to be alone. He got out of bed and walked over to stand behind him and slide his arms around him.

"Tsang Ting Fung," A-Chiu said warningly, thwapping at his hands with the newspaper.

Tsang Ting Fung tightened his embrace. "It's not like that," he said. "I just want to hold you."

"Yeah, I can tell," A-Chiu said, struggling to walk to the counter with Tsang Ting Fung still attached. "I'm trying to have breakfast, okay?" He bit into his sandwich and lifted the newspaper exaggeratedly, as if he didn't have Tsang Ting Fung wrapped around him.

Tsang Ting Fung rested his chin on A-Chiu's shoulder and read the newspaper with him. "Wait, don't turn the page yet."

A-Chiu swiped at his forehead with the newspaper. "Would you please let go?"

Tsang Ting Fung gave him a squeezing hug. "I don't want to, but if you're going to keep hitting me with the newspaper, I guess I'd better." He let go and grinned at A-Chiu's annoyed scowl. "Do I get a kiss now?"

A-Chiu narrowed his eyes, and Tsang Ting Fung stole a kiss from his beautifully scowling lips.

While Tsang Ting Fung was dressing, A-Chiu leaned against the closet door and asked, "What did Paper Chan say yesterday? You never got a chance to tell me last night."

Tsang Ting Fung paused in putting on his shirt. "Oh. Um..." He pulled his shirt down and tucked it into his trousers.

A-Chiu rested his hand on Tsang Ting Fung's shoulder. "He couldn't help? That's okay. It was worth a shot."

Tsang Ting Fung glanced away. "No, it wasn't that... He said he'd let us know if he found out anything." He looked at A-Chiu. "And he... He told me what happened when your mother died."

A-Chiu's hand dropped from his shoulder. He stood very still, his gaze not wavering, but the change in his eyes made Tsang Ting Fung's blood run cold. He braced himself for an outburst, a punch, a threat, anything. A long moment stretched in silence.

Then A-Chiu said, "Oh. I understand now." His smile didn't reach his eyes. Tsang Ting Fung had never seen him look so deadly.

Without another word A-Chiu walked away.

"Wait!" Tsang Ting Fung ran after him and caught him by the arm. A-Chiu stopped but wouldn't face him. Tsang Ting Fung took a deep breath. "It's not his fault. I sort of asked him, I guess. I didn't know what I was asking. I didn't mean to pry."

A-Chiu yanked his arm free and shot him a dark look. "So now you feel sorry for me, have to hug me like a little kid, have to pity me like everyone else Paper Chan tells about my curse." He clenched his jaw. "I didn't expect you to be like everyone else."

It was as if A-Chiu had landed one of his lethal kicks to Tsang Ting Fung's stomach. He struggled to breathe and fought against his rising anger. "I'm not," he said sharply. He added more calmly, "I don't pity you. I just want to understand you." A-Chiu gave him a surprised look, and Tsang Ting Fung risked rubbing his shoulder.

"Am I sorry for what happened to you when you were a little kid? Yes, I am," Tsang Ting Fung said gently. "It makes me sad to think about you being so young, alone, and not knowing what was happening. But I don't feel sorry for you now, because I know how strong you are." He patted A-Chiu's arm and let go, not sure if what he was saying helped or hurt.

A-Chiu folded his arms over his chest and took a few pacing steps. "But why do you need to know about all that, anyway? I was a miserable kid who saw ghosts, so what?"

Tsang Ting Fung caught his waist. A-Chiu resisted, but Tsang Ting Fung held on until he faced him. A-Chiu's expression was closed, uninviting, but Tsang Ting Fung wasn't going to retreat now.

"Because I want to be as close to you as possible," he said, gazing into A-Chiu's eyes. "But I don't need to know anything you don't want me to know. I didn't mean to go too far. I didn't expect that Paper Chan would tell me all of that."

A-Chiu glanced down. "You don't know Paper Chan like I do," he mumbled, relaxing a little.

"Yeah, I know I don't," Tsang Ting Fung responded seriously.

A-Chiu met his eyes. "It's not that I don't want you to know," he said, his brow furrowing. "I don't like talking about it. I don't like thinking about it. I don't like remembering."

Tsang Ting Fung stroked a lock of hair from A-Chiu's forehead. "I understand that now. Tell me: does being around my family make you remember too much? Being around my mum?"

A-Chiu gave him a funny look. "That's what you've been worried about?" he asked with a half-smile. "You're such a goof. I like your family. Mostly." His smile widened.

"But--"

"And when I'm around them," A-Chiu interrupted, putting one finger over Tsang Ting Fung's lips. "I wonder how it was for you growing up. Maybe sometimes I'm jealous. And other times, I'm glad I didn't have all of that family stuff to deal with."

The tension in Tsang Ting Fung's back dissolved. He kissed A-Chiu's finger. "You're not mad at me?"

"No."

"Will you let Paper Chan off the hook for telling me?"

"I'll think about it."

Tsang Ting Fung drew him closer. "Will you give me a kiss?"

"No. We're already late for practice," A-Chiu said, slipping out of his hands.

-----

It was another two days before Tsang Ting Fung got any farther along in his search for the auntie's son. He had only seen the old lady ghost once in that time, briefly in the market when he went to buy vegetables. She hovered by his shoulder and followed him silently, and when he asked her name, she didn't reply, but wailed softly before disappearing. Tsang Ting Fung shuddered from the chill she left in his spine, and resolved to persevere in his search.

That evening he went by the hospital after A-Chiu had taken Danielle to work. Tsang Ting Fung avoided the more wretched ghosts and waited by the doors while A-Chiu lingered with Danielle. One short, squat, grey ghost in particular dogged his steps as Tsang Ting Fung moved about. Finally A-Chiu caught up and they went outside into the pouring rain. The short grey ghost followed them.

A-Chiu glanced back over his shoulder. "Friend of yours?" he asked.

Tsang Ting Fung sighed, stopped, and turned around. "May I help you?"

The ghost looked from Tsang Ting Fung to A-Chiu. "Which one is Tsang Ting Fung?"

Tsang Ting Fung and A-Chiu exchanged a wary look. Tsang Ting Fung replied, "I am."

"Paper Chan told me to see you. I might know who your old lady is."

"How?" A-Chiu asked at the same time Tsang Ting Fung said, "You do?"

The ghost shrugged. "I used to work in the morgue. I still take a friendly interest in the newcomers. There was an old lady about a week back. I remember her because she wandered around the morgue and said she had to find her son. Her name was Lam Yin-hing. She died at home, pneumonia. That's all I know."

Tsang Ting Fung almost reached out to shake his hand, except he wasn't wearing his gloves. "Thanks," he said. "Is there anything we can do for you?"

"Can we burn you something?" A-Chiu offered.

The ghost chuckled. "Paper Chan told me you'd burn me some money if I helped you. $888."

"What?" A-Chiu protested, but Tsang Ting Fung nodded. "Sure. If your Mrs. Lam is my ghost, you'll get your money."

"Fair enough," the ghost said and disappeared behind the rain.

"Paper Chan might as well be a pickpocket," A-Chiu grumbled. "He's nimble enough with our wallets."

Energized by this new information, Tsang Ting Fung wanted to start checking the death records immediately, but A-Chiu reminded him that the records office was closed for the day. Tsang Ting Fung transferred his pent-up energy into making a big meal, and afterwards, while A-Chiu lounged on the sofa and complained that he'd eaten too much, Tsang Ting Fung paced around the flat, thinking of different scenarios for Mrs. Lam's death and life.

During one pass by the sofa, A-Chiu caught his wrist. "Would you calm down? You're making me nervous."

Tsang Ting Fung looked at A-Chiu sprawled on the sofa. "Nervous?" he asked with a smile.

"Inside, I'm practically shivering," A-Chiu said.

Tsang Ting Fung sat down beside him and sprawled with him. "Better now?"

"Much." A-Chiu closed his eyes. Tsang Ting Fung slid his arm across his shoulders, and A-Chiu leaned back to rest against his chest. Tsang Ting Fung teased him by touching his nose, eyelid, hair, earring, and chin, until he smiled. Tsang Ting Fung touched his lips, following the curves of his smile, and A-Chiu opened his eyes and looked up at him.

Urgent ringing on both of their cellphones filled the flat. A-Chiu sat up. Both phones ringing meant work. It was funny, Tsang Ting Fung reflected as he gathered his gear. If it hadn't been for ghosts and Special Unit 2002, he would never have met A-Chiu. But the ghosts and Special Unit 2002 wouldn't leave them alone now that they were together.

-----

Despite their long, busy night, A-Chiu got up when Tsang Ting Fung did and accompanied him to the records office. It was easy enough to find Mrs. Lam's death record now that Tsang Ting Fung had her name. Eager to get started, he skimmed through the file for her address. While he was writing it down, A-Chiu looked at the file.

"Wait," he said. "This Lam Yin-hing didn't have any relatives. See?" He pointed to the space for relatives' names.

Tsang Ting Fung sat back. "But the death information matches what Paper Chan's ghost messenger told us." He stared at the words, No relatives, and hit the desk with his fist. "Damn!"

A-Chiu briefly squeezed his shoulder and leaned against the desk. "Well, let's think about this for a minute. What if Auntie Lam was senile and forgot she had a son? And maybe when she got sick, the son wasn't around, so no one knew."

Tsang Ting Fung sat upright. "Yes, and that's why she has to find him. Maybe the son doesn't know she's dead."

"Yeah, maybe it's something like that," A-Chiu said thoughtfully, looking at the file again. Tsang Ting Fung grabbed his elbow and pulled him along.

Auntie Lam had lived in a squat, crumbling apartment block tucked away in a corner surrounded by newer, higher apartment blocks. A-Chiu parked the car in front of a coin laundry, and they climbed the steep slope to her building, easily passing through the rusty gate whose lock, if it had ever worked at all, was too corroded to catch now. The tiny, overgrown courtyard was strewn with bright plastic kids' toys, but the effect was more eerie than cheerful because the building was quiet in the midday shower. Tsang Ting Fung expected the auntie to appear beside them at any moment.

Her flat was on the ground floor, at one end next to a blank grey concrete wall. Tsang Ting Fung rang the buzzer and wondered how to tell a man that his mother had died. He thought of A-Chiu as a little boy, waiting for his ghost mother to return.

It was not a man who opened the door, however, but a matronly woman in a light green sari. "Oh, you're early," she said with a heavy accent, opening the door wide for them. Tsang Ting Fung exchanged a curious look with A-Chiu, and the woman, mistaking their hesitation, said in English, "I apologize for my bad Cantonese. Is English all right? Come in," she said, gesturing. "The chest of drawers is back here, but if it's just the two of you, I'm afraid you'll have to come back for the wardrobe. Even then..." she said uncertainly, looking them over. "Is your truck close by? It's rather heavy."

They followed her into the dark flat, lit only by the rainy daylight from the curtainless windows and open door. She led them through the sitting room, its sparse furniture augmented by a few large packing boxes, and into a tiny bedroom without a bed, dominated by a large dark wardrobe and chest of drawers made in old-fashioned British style.

"Excuse me," Tsang Ting Fung said, "but we're here because..." He glanced at A-Chiu, who was looking around the room. "We're looking for Mrs. Lam."

The woman started and gasped a little. "Oh! Oh, you poor dears, you haven't heard?" She took Tsang Ting Fung's hand and patted it. "Miss Lam has passed on. It was, oh, over a week ago by now. Did you work with her? Were you apprentices?"

"Apprentices?" A-Chiu asked, running his hand along the chest.

The woman looked at A-Chiu suspiciously, brow furrowed. Tsang Ting Fung took out his identification card and presented it to her.

"Police?" she murmured to herself. "Perhaps you better come into the other room and tell me what this is about," she said briskly, leading them back to the sitting room. "I'm Mrs. Chaudhury. I live upstairs."

"And you're selling off Mrs. Lam's furniture?" A-Chiu asked.

Mrs. Chaudhury shot him a cold look. "I'm only following her wishes. She told me to give the furniture to anyone who would take it away." She folded her arms across her chest and looked them over. "And what do the police have to do with Miss Lam?"

"We're trying to find her son," Tsang Ting Fung explained. "It's important that we..." He trailed off, watching her expression change from wariness to bewilderment. She had been calling the old lady Miss Lam.

"She wasn't married, was she?" he asked with a sinking heart.

"No," Mrs. Chaudhury said. "Not for as long as I knew her, and we've been here twenty-six years. You dears sit down, and I'll make some tea. Then your trip won't be for nothing, will it?"

When they had settled at the tiny kitchen table with Mrs. Chaudhury and mismatched porcelain cups of English tea, she said, "Miss Lam and I were good friends. I think if she had been married, she would have told me." She paused, took a sip of tea, and tilted her head. "But she never wanted to talk about the war -- the Second World War, that is -- so I suppose she may have been married then."

A-Chiu turned his cup around by the handle, but didn't pick it up. "You mentioned her work. Apprentices. What did she do?"

"She was a hairdresser," she replied. "These last few years, with her eyesight, she didn't do the cutting herself, but she trained apprentices."

Tsang Ting Fung took a sip of the pale tea. He couldn't accept that their break in the mystery had been all for nothing. "Could she have had a son and never told you about it?"

"I've been thinking about that," Mrs. Chaudhury said. "It's possible, but if it's true, oh, it's so sad. She never spoke about him at all. No pictures, nothing like that. Makes me think, well." She looked at Tsang Ting Fung sadly. "A dead son, maybe."

Tsang Ting Fung nodded, taking another sip of tea. He had been thinking the same thing. And poor Miss Lam, after death, had hoped to find him. Perhaps her son had died in his twenties, around Tsang Ting Fung's age, and that's why she kept returning to him.

While they were finishing their tea, the men came for the chest of drawers and wardrobe, and Tsang Ting Fung and A-Chiu, with a little prompting from Mrs. Chaudhury, helped them with the wardrobe, which was as heavy as she had warned. They struggled with it through the flat and out the door, across the courtyard, through the rusty gate, and into the men's truck. Tsang Ting Fung watched the men drive off with the furniture and felt that he was watching the last promising clues disappear. How could they ever find out what happened to Miss Lam's son if she hadn't even told her friends about him? And how would he explain it to Miss Lam when she reappeared?

He turned to ask A-Chiu, but A-Chiu had returned to the courtyard and crouched down to pick something up. He came back holding a small scrap of cloth.

"This fell out of the wardrobe," he said, handing it to Tsang Ting Fung. "Probably nothing."

"Yeah." Tsang Ting Fung ran his fingers over the thin, rough cloth, its colors too faded to see clearly. He couldn't explain why, but the cloth seemed important somehow, a link to Miss Lam's past. He tucked it into a pocket.

A-Chiu was watching him. He patted Tsang Ting Fung's shoulder. "I'm sorry we couldn't find out more. I know you wanted to help her."

"What do we do if she doesn't remember, and keeps haunting me? I don't want to shoot her."

A-Chiu gave him a serious look. "I don't know. Try talking to her, I guess."

Tsang Ting Fung bit his thumbnail, nodding absently. He'd never thought one of the harmless ghosts could be more worrying than the hate ghosts.

-----

Miss Lam didn't appear for the next three days, during which Special Unit 2002 was kept busy by the annual firearms safety drill and inspection. A-Chiu thought it was a complete waste of time, and Tsang Ting Fung had to agree it was pretty boring until they had to take the accuracy tests. A-Chiu aced his, but Tsang Ting Fung hadn't had as much experience, and the standard issue sidearm felt odd without the familiar sting of a blood needle. Nevertheless, he shot well enough to earn high marks, and A-Chiu seemed genuinely proud of him.

"You're becoming an old pro," he said, ruffling Tsang Ting Fung's hair as they left the shooting range.

Tsang Ting Fung raised an eyebrow. "Well, that's good, because I am a pro."

A-Chiu grinned. "Yeah, but when I think about how pathetic you were to begin with... You were so bad. I thought it was hopeless."

Tsang Ting Fung couldn't argue with that; he had been hopeless at first. He didn't like to think about it, though, because deep down there was always the fear that he would freeze up again.

"Of course, if I'd had a little more training from the head of 2002 before our first case, maybe I would've been better," he pointed out, nudging A-Chiu with his elbow.

A-Chiu nudged back, leaning into it, and Tsang Ting Fung leaned back, pushing until A-Chiu laughed and ducked away. Tsang Ting Fung went after him, catching him by the coat in the parking lot. He grabbed the keys from A-Chiu's pocket and jumped back triumphantly, dangling the keys.

"I get to drive this time. I decide where we go."

A-Chiu reached for the keys but Tsang Ting Fung effortlessly slid out of his path. "Let's see. Beach? Grocery shopping? Oooo, could I really get the cool ghost hunter A-Chiu near the vegetable stand or fish market? I know, how about tea with my mother?" he teased.

A-Chiu's fingers missed the keys by millimeters as Tsang Ting Fung palmed them and hid them behind his back. "Anywhere but the beach," A-Chiu said. "It's starting to rain."

"So? I don't care."

A-Chiu gave him an odd look. "No. Not the beach, not when it's raining. Don't you know? That's when the ghosts of the people who drowned in the sea come out. Paper Chan used to take me to the beach on rainy days when I was a kid, getting me to talk to them."

He didn't seem bothered as he mentioned this, but Tsang Ting Fung watched him closely, disgusted at Paper Chan.

"They're all water ghosts, then," Tsang Ting Fung said quietly, frowning.

A-Chiu lightly clapped him on the shoulder. "Not like he was. He was a hate ghost. They're not all like him."

Tsang Ting Fung gazed at him for a moment and his tension faded. "Okay. Not the beach."

"Didn't you want to go look at motorcycles?" A-Chiu suggested. "I still say it's an awful lot of money, and if you want to ride one so bad, you could've stayed a traffic cop, but if you have your heart set on one, I guess it's okay."

Tsang Ting Fung grinned. "Just wait until you ride one." He opened the passenger door for A-Chiu, saying, "We can go to the place my uncle told me about. It's a little out of the way, but he said they have good prices and a very auspicious orientation."

A-Chiu rolled his eyes and started to get into the car, stopped and stood up, giving Tsang Ting Fung a pained expression.

"What's wrong?" Tsang Ting Fung asked, glancing into the car, expecting to see Auntie Lam.

"I forgot. I promised Danielle we'd go out today and I'd take her to work later."

Relieved that it wasn't the ghost, Tsang Ting Fung relaxed and handed A-Chiu the car keys. "That's all right. We can look at motorcycles some other day."

A-Chiu glanced down at the keys resting on his palm. "You're sure you don't mind?"

Tsang Ting Fung looked at him. He guessed that the question wasn't just about today. "No. I don't mind," he said truthfully, hoping A-Chiu would know that the answer wasn't just about today, either. He couldn't exactly explain why, but knowing that Danielle was in A-Chiu's life made him happy. He supposed he wanted A-Chiu to get all the love he deserved, all the love he'd wished for during his life and was denied -- but if he said something like that to A-Chiu, he couldn't predict what A-Chiu's reaction would be.

Besides, he liked Danielle. She had a goofy laugh that prompted him for his funniest jokes, and when she'd told him the details about how she and A-Chiu had met on the bus -- while A-Chiu narrowed his eyes and excused himself from their conversation -- his admiration and fondness for her had deepened. And, once, when they had both been waiting for A-Chiu to bring the car round, Danielle had sighed and said that A-Chiu was probably running late because he'd been carefully arranging the locks of his hair to fall in his face. When Tsang Ting Fung laughed, she was mortified at first and looked guilty, but soon she laughed, too, and since then it had been their private joke. May heaven help them if A-Chiu ever found out.

A-Chiu dropped him off at the fish market, and after shopping for dinner, Tsang Ting Fung went round to his mother's for tea and all the latest family gossip. He got home by early evening and was preparing dinner when he felt the air shift. He knew it was Auntie Lam before he turned around and saw her.

"Auntie," he said before she could speak. He had been expecting her, and planning what he would do. He went to his coat and retrieved the scrap of cloth that had fallen from her wardrobe. He held it out so she could see it. She reached for it, her fingers slipping through the cloth and his palm as if they were air. An unpleasant tingling raced up his spine.

"That was the dress I wore. Oh! Oh, my son!" she wailed, but for the first time, she didn't seem to be addressing Tsang Ting Fung.

"Who was your son, Lam Yin-hing?" he asked softly.

At the sound of her name, she looked at him closely and now he could see comprehension in her eyes. She was remembering. And they weren't, he could tell, good memories.

"I was just a girl when my parents died," she said. "I thought I was so smart. I came to the city. I had no idea what was going on. I didn't know what was happening in the world."

She glanced at the cloth again, then gave him a surprisingly youthful, mischievous look. "I was a looker, too, back then. You might not believe it now, little one, but I turned heads back then. And that's how I met..." She faltered and started to fade.

"Auntie, please," Tsang Ting Fung called to her. "It's hard, I know. But you have to remember. You need to put this all to rest."

She took form again, but wouldn't look at him. "He was just a businessman, he told me. He was rich enough, that I could see. And he treated me pretty well. Oh, I wasn't so stupid that I didn't know what he wanted, but I was alone in the city, trying to earn a few coins by sewing and sleeping with three other girls on a moldly mat. What girl wouldn't have been tempted by his money and car and warm hotel room?"

She looked at Tsang Ting Fung now: a frank, direct stare. "I was willing, you know. It could be that he convinced me, and maybe that's rape, but I never had second thoughts, and he didn't hurt me. And after that, well..." She puffed in what might have been a laugh. "I was a silly young girl, and I thought I was in love."

Tsang Ting Fung's gaze flicked to the doorway. A-Chiu had come in quietly and was standing perfectly still in the shadows, listening. His eyes met Tsang Ting Fung's, and Tsang Ting Fung understood: let her remember and tell her tale without interrupting.

Auntie Lam trembled and looked down, and in a weaker voice said, "And then they took Hong Kong, and I wasn't sure anymore if he was just a businessman. Even if he was, it was as bad as if I'd been sleeping with General Isogai himself. But what I could do? He still treated me well, gave me things to wear and things to eat, when other people had nothing.

"I knew the baby was on the way, but I didn't tell him, and of course, once my belly got round, he knew what was happening. He dropped me like that. I didn't exist."

Strength seemed to return to her, and she faced Tsang Ting Fung again. She smiled sadly. "You don't want to hear about all of that. You don't know what it's like to carry a child and be so hungry that you're crawling in gutters for any grain of rice you can find. What I went through was nothing. Thousands of women did the same, endured worse, endured living nightmares. It wasn't the hardship, you see. It was my shame. It was who I slept with. It was knowing that my son, when he finally came and was in my arms, had the blood of the enemy in him.

"He was my son. I loved him the moment I saw him. But he was going to be hated every day of his life if anyone found out about his father, all because of my shame. I moved us from place to place, scraping by. I thought he might die from starvation when I couldn't feed him anymore, but he was strong. So for three years and three months, we got by, until one day..." The ghost flickered again, as if warring with the memories themselves.

"One day, I guess I lost my mind. I was so hungry and wretched, and I convinced myself it would be better for Hok-keung... That someone else could take care of him better than I could. I was sure I would die soon. And I was so crazy and stupid, I had no idea that a few months later, the occupation would be over."

Tsang Ting Fung stared at her silently. He remembered the desperation in her wailing, Are you my son?

"You abandoned your kid," said A-Chiu from the shadows, his voice calm in a way that alarmed Tsang Ting Fung. A-Chiu stepped forward, and Tsang Ting Fung expected to see the ghost gun his hand.

"A-Chiu..." he said, stepping between him and Auntie Lam.

"No, he's right, little one," the ghost said, floating past him and hovering near A-Chiu. She looked him over, unshaken by A-Chiu's disgusted glare. "I abandoned my boy and never knew if he lived or died," she said to Tsang Ting Fung. "I looked for him, oh, for years, I looked for him. But there were so many displaced people, children, immigrants. And I started to think, as the years went by, maybe it was better for him. He would never know about his father."

A-Chiu abruptly stepped away from her, pacing into the kitchen. Tsang Ting Fung had no doubt that the ghost could sense A-Chiu's fury as strongly as he could.

"Auntie," he said gently, but she was looking at A-Chiu, "tell me, why would you think I could be your son?"

She glanced at him, surprised. "You? Why, you're far too young. My mind wanders sometimes. Maybe I've always been crazy," she said seriously. She floated closer and looked him over. "But there is something about you... Something lost."

A chill flowed around Tsang Ting Fung's neck and shoulders and he was almost grateful when A-Chiu spat out, "You're not crazy, old woman, you're selfish and cruel."

"A-Chiu, please--"

Auntie Lam floated to A-Chiu. "I guess you're right about that, too. But listen, little son, your mother wasn't like me. She didn't abandon you. She died and had to leave."

A-Chiu paled and his eyes widened in shock. He stood perfectly still and his lips parted as if trying to speak.

"Auntie," Tsang Ting Fung said, rushing to A-Chiu, trying to figure out what spell she'd put on him.

"It's time for me to leave, too," she said, drifting away from them. "I'll never find him in this life, but maybe in the next one."

A faint yellow glow grew around her and consumed her, and the air stilled in her wake.

Tsang Ting Fung grabbed A-Chiu's shoulders. "A-Chiu! She's gone. What's she done to you?"

A-Chiu blinked at him, color gradually returning to his cheeks. The look he gave Tsang Ting Fung was tragic and boyish. "How did she know?" he asked, and the pain in his voice brought tears to Tsang Ting Fung's eyes.

"I don't know," he whispered hoarsely, and he wrapped A-Chiu in his arms and held him until A-Chiu's arms circled around his waist. He stroked A-Chiu's hair. "She's gone now. It's okay."

A-Chiu tightened his embrace for a moment and said against Tsang Ting Fung's shoulder, "I know." He let go and stepped back, giving Tsang Ting Fung a half-smile. "I'm okay." He glanced around the kitchen. "Looks like you were in the middle of making something. Shall I slice the vegetables?" He took off his coat and rolled up his sleeves.

Tsang Ting Fung watched him for a moment, but couldn't think of anything to say. A-Chiu stopped and gave him a long look. "Really. I'm okay. This, right now, this is what's important."

Tsang Ting Fung breathed out in relief. He smiled. "Yeah."

After dinner, just when the lingering heaviness of Auntie Lam's presence was beginning to lift, they were called out, but it turned out to be a false alarm. A-Chiu muttered about the inconvenience, but he took the long way home, and the driving seemed to soothe him. When they returned to the flat, Tsang Ting Fung was glad that it was back to normal. Auntie Lam was gone, there were dirty dishes in the sink, and A-Chiu's beat-up old sandals were in the middle of the floor.

After they'd gone to bed and A-Chiu fell asleep, Tsang Ting Fung remembered the piece of cloth. He crept out of bed and took it onto the roof and burned it. Wherever it went now, it wasn't needed here any longer.

-----

When Tsang Ting Fung woke up the next morning, A-Chiu was propped on his elbow, watching him. A-Chiu smiled sleepily and ruffled Tsang Ting Fung's hair. Tsang Ting Fung smiled back, stretched and reached over to flick the hair out of A-Chiu's eyes.

"You know, my hair just does that," A-Chiu said. "I don't do anything to make it fall that way, despite what you and Danielle think."

Tsang Ting Fung winced. "You know about that?"

"You two aren't half as sneaky as you think you are." A-Chiu smiled smugly.

"We only tease you because we think you're cute."

"Oh, stop that," A-Chiu groaned.

"Thinking you're cute?" Tsang Ting Fung stretched again, shaking his head. "No, sorry, I can't."

"Well, you can keep it to yourself," A-Chiu said, getting out of bed. He pulled the covers off Tsang Ting Fung. "No lounging today. There's a precinct head coming to observe our fighting practice, remember?"

Tsang Ting Fung had, in fact, forgotten about it entirely. A-Chiu tsked and shuffled off to make coffee.

Fighting practice with the precinct head watching was nerve-racking. Tsang Ting Fung was confident in his fighting skills, but performing for an audience was different from battling angry ghosts. A-Chiu was unconcerned, of course, and put on an impressive display with a hint of showing off. Afterwards, A-Chiu suggested they look at motorcycles, but there was something about the grey day and heavy rain that nagged at Tsang Ting Fung's memory until he remembered unfinished business.

"No, I have to go to Paper Chan's," he sighed, avoiding A-Chiu's gaze.

To his surprise, A-Chiu offered to go with him, but his manner was closed and he hung back in the doorway while Tsang Ting Fung ducked into the shop and called for Paper Chan. Paper Chan emerged from the back, putting on his jacket.

"Oh, it's you two," he said, peering past Tsang Ting Fung's shoulder. "What do you want this time?"

Tsang Ting Fung cast a quick glance back at A-Chiu, then replied in a low voice, "I need to burn some money. $888."

Paper Chan raised his eyebrows. "So that morgue creeper Old Liu was right about your old lady ghost?" He chuckled darkly. "Well, well. This could be the first honest money he ever earned," he said, handing Tsang Ting Fung a money envelope.

The promised payment burned, Tsang Ting Fung was eager to leave. He'd never minded Paper Chan much, but the more he thought about A-Chiu's childhood, the more hostility he felt towards Paper Chan. But unexpectedly, while Tsang Ting Fung waited outside in the rain, A-Chiu went into the shop and spoke quietly with Paper Chan. They didn't seem to be arguing, and at one point, Paper Chan even rested his hand on A-Chiu's arm and looked sad. When A-Chiu came out, Tsang Ting Fung's curiosity was so overwhelming, he was about to ask, even though it would be prying, when their cellphones rang in unison.

"There's trouble at the old Happy Show Cinema," the dispatcher informed them. "Get there quick!"

The rain had weakened to a light mist by the time they reached the Happy Show site. Nothing was left of the old cinema, new foundations had been laid for the school building, and the skeleton of the structure was beginning to take shape. A construction worker came running from the site and in his panic ran into Tsang Ting Fung. Tsang Ting Fung steadied him, and the man babbled, "It's a haunted site, all right. They've come back!" He hurried away.

A-Chiu shared a worried look with Tsang Ting Fung, and they entered the site. A group of workers cowered along the edge. A steel beam flew through the air and landed on the ground in front of them, splashing mud. A-Chiu pointed to the sky. "Look."

Hovering over the structure was another beam, and as they watched, it fell and crashed into bundle of pipes, sending them rolling across the ground.

"Their anger must be stronger than we thought, for them to do this," Tsang Ting Fung said, dismayed. "I really thought we'd reasoned with them.

"Yeah, so did I," A-Chiu said, reaching for a vial of unveiling drops.

They ran to the structure and split up, Tsang Ting Fung taking one end and A-Chiu the other. Tsang Ting Fung jumped to grab the lowest horizontal beam and swung himself up. He noted that A-Chiu had done the same and was already on the next level. Tsang Ting Fung climbed up a vertical beam and reached the next level in time to see a welder's iron fly toward A-Chiu. A-Chiu tossed the unveiling drops at it as he grabbed the nearest vertical beam and swung out of its path.

There were two of the construction worker ghosts attacking. They flinched from the unveiling drops, and when A-Chiu swung forth, pulling on his ghost gloves, they ran away. A-Chiu ran after them, but before Tsang Ting Fung could reach him to help, his arms were grabbed from behind in a powerful invisible grip.

He quickly fumbled for the unveiling drops and threw the vial backwards blindly. The grip slackened and he twisted free, turning and aiming a high kick at his attacker. The ghost fell from the beam and almost reached the ground before he took flight through the maze of beams below. Tsang Ting Fung put on his gloves and watched the ghost fly from one side to the other, and reflected that there had been some very good reasons for Special Unit 2002 to be a man-ghost partnership. Neither of them could fly when they weren't ghosts, or possessed by one.

Tsang Ting Fung left the ghost below and gingerly ran after A-Chiu and his ghosts, reaching them in time to see A-Chiu get a chokehold on one. But his friend was coming for A-Chiu, and Tsang Ting Fung lunged at the second ghost, nearly falling from the beam as he grabbed the ghost's arms and pulled him back.

Instead of turning the attack on Tsang Ting Fung, the ghost's strength ebbed and he didn't struggle while Tsang Ting Fung got a better hold. A-Chiu's ghost had similarly been sapped of his fight.

A-Chiu looked the ghosts over in disgust. "We gave you guys a break, and this is what happens? You want blood bullets now?"

"No," wailed another ghost, and Tsang Ting Fung saw the one he'd let go hovering in the air next to them.

"What's this all about?" he asked. "Why are you attacking the workers here?"

"We're not going after the workers," said the ghost A-Chiu was holding. "It's this crap they're using. It's all substandard trash. I wouldn't use it to build a garden shed, much less a school."

"That's right," the hovering ghost said, nodding.

Tsang Ting Fung's ghost captive added, "You want kids to be in here when the walls or floors could come crashing down?"

"In our day," the first ghost said, "we wouldn't have been caught dead using materials like this."

"Not to mention some of the slackers they have working here," Tsang Ting Fung's captive snorted. "It's just a way to get a few dollars in their pocket. No concern for what they're building or who's gonna be inside these walls."

"Okay, okay," A-Chiu cut in. "We get the picture. But you could've hurt someone with those steel beams."

"And you threw that iron at A-Chiu," Tsang Ting Fung said, yanking on his captive's arms. "We're trying to help you."

"We're sorry," the ghost mumbled. "It's just that we got so angry when we saw what they were doing."

The hovering ghost shook his head. "The others told us we shouldn't try to take matters into our own hands. That's why they're not here. They didn't want any part of this."

A-Chiu gave him a sharp look. "Then they're smarter than you. What are we supposed to do with you now, huh?"

The ghost hung his head.

"Listen," Tsang Ting Fung said, meeting A-Chiu's gaze. "We'll find out about the building materials, call for a safety inspection." A-Chiu nodded his approval. "But A-Chiu's right. I don't see how we can let you guys stay here. You've done this damage, frightened away a lot of good workers, made a real mess."

The first ghost looked at his peers. "We understand. What do you say, brothers? Time to move on? We can trust these two to check things out."

"And the others will keep watch until the school is finished," the hovering ghost added.

"Okay," agreed the third ghost.

Tsang Ting Fung released his hold, and A-Chiu let go of the first ghost. They watched as the three workers slowly faded into the misty rain, their bodies briefly outlined in a soft golden light before they finally disappeared.

A-Chiu took off his gloves. "We'll let them stay, you said. They won't harm anyone, you said." He shook his head.

"Yeah, but if they're right about this building, we should be thankful."

He grabbed onto a vertical beam and started to climb down. He was eye-level with the horizontal beam when he noticed the slick streak of grease and rainwater and saw how A-Chiu's step came down at exactly the wrong angle. He saw it all as if it were slow motion: A-Chiu losing his footing and reaching out for something to hold, but there was no overhead beam, and then A-Chiu's coat flew up as his back hit the open air. Below them on the ground was a stack of steel beams, and as surely as if he had seen it in his nightmares, Tsang Ting Fung pictured A-Chiu hitting that stack.

Without thought, without hesitation, he wrapped his leg around the vertical beam to steady himself and flung out to reach for A-Chiu. He caught an arm and put all of his strength into holding on, wincing as A-Chiu's weight swung back into him and pushed him into the beam.

He had hold of A-Chiu: that was the important thing, the only thing that mattered. And his mind, racing with relief and fear and the physical pain of trying to hold on and not fall, wondered briefly why he and A-Chiu always ended up in danger on top of buildings.

He couldn't hold on much longer. He had A-Chiu's arm locked in his, but the precarious toehold he had on the beam was wavering.

"I'm going to swing for it," A-Chiu said breathlessly, but before Tsang Ting Fung could brace himself, A-Chiu had already propelled himself toward the beam, almost far enough to catch it with his foot.

Tsang Ting Fung's arm felt wrenched from its socket, and his toehold slid a few centimeters down to the next rivet, but he didn't fall. Sweat and rain clouded his vision. "One more time," he called. "You almost had it."

A-Chiu swung again, and his coat whipped at Tsang Ting Fung. As A-Chiu's foot caught around the beam, the shift in his weight unbalanced Tsang Ting Fung. His toehold slid further, but he was not going to let go of A-Chiu, so they slid together, down to the next horizontal beam, where they landed in an unsteady, awkward heap.

A-Chiu sat up, rubbing his arm. Tsang Ting Fung stayed where he was, flat on his back on the beam with his legs dangling in the air.

"You could've fallen, doing that," A-Chiu said. "We both could've."

"I know," Tsang Ting Fung said, looking up at the beams and rainy sky.

"But," A-Chiu continued, taking his hand and helping him up, "we didn't."

He smiled, and Tsang Ting Fung smiled back, and had they not been sitting on a narrow steel beam in front of a construction crew watching them from below, Tsang Ting Fung was quite certain they would have kissed.

-----

It took the rest of the day to file their reports, convince the precinct head that an investigation into the construction site was warranted, and confirm that the investigation was really going to happen. By the time they left police headquarters, it was evening, pouring rain, but as tired as Tsang Ting Fung was, he was happy.

"What's with you?" A-Chiu asked him suspiciously.

Tsang Ting Fung grinned. "I'm not haunted any longer. You didn't fall off that beam and break your back. So far, not a bad day."

A-Chiu gave him a long-suffering look and started to say something, but instead smiled and said, "Yeah, true."

There wasn't much in the flat for dinner, so they walked down to the Thai noodle shop and walked back in the rain, A-Chiu carrying a little box of leftover noodles. A few hundred meters from their building, A-Chiu's steps slowed and he said, "I asked Paper Chan about what she said about my mother. How she could know about my mother. That's what I talked to him about."

Tsang Ting Fung looked at him and asked gently, "What did he say?"

A-Chiu shrugged a little. "He didn't know. Maybe she guessed."

Somehow, this explanation was creepier than that she'd had a ghostly insight. Tsang Ting Fung's skin crawled.

A-Chiu opened the box and pulled out a noodle and ate it.

"Hey, breaking into the leftovers already?"

A-Chiu pulled out another noodle and dangled it in front of Tsang Ting Fung. Rain and peanut sauce dripped from it. Grinning, A-Chiu pulled it back and ate it. Tsang Ting Fung made a play for the box and chased him to the flat, A-Chiu guarding the box tucked under his arm.

Inside the flat, A-Chiu hid the box behind his back and took a defensive stance. Tsang Ting Fung pretended to give up the chase and took off his coat, then made a grab for it, but A-Chiu effortlessly scooted away.

"Okay, wait, wait," A-Chiu said, holding out the box. He pulled out a noodle and held it up. "Open your mouth."

Tsang Ting Fung gave him a skeptical look. A-Chiu raised an eyebrow and wiggled the noodle a little. Tsang Ting Fung opened his mouth.

"Close your eyes."

"Why?"

A-Chiu stepped closer, waving the noodle temptingly. Tsang Ting Fung opened his mouth and closed his eyes, and had time to think how silly he must look -- A-Chiu must be laughing -- damn, he might be taking a picture -- before he felt the noodle touch his tongue. He briefly tasted spice and peanut before it was whisked away, then A-Chiu's lips were on his in a slow, deep, delicious kiss.

Tsang Ting Fung slid his arms around A-Chiu's waist and drew him closer, braced for the inevitable interruption -- ghosts, cell phones ringing, or A-Chiu pulling away -- but no interruption came. A-Chiu rested his arms on Tsang Ting Fung's shoulders and kept kissing him: long, incredible kisses. He'd always thought the English expression about 'going weak at the knees' was just words, but his trembling restless eagerness threatened to unbalance him. If he'd thought A-Chiu would tolerate it -- if he'd thought A-Chiu wouldn't knock the life out of him -- he would've picked him up and carried him to bed. For whatever came next -- he didn't know, didn't care what came next, only that it would be he and A-Chiu together.

A-Chiu stepped back, smiling, and lifted his hand -- still holding the noodle.

"No way," Tsang Ting Fung laughed, and, grinning, A-Chiu tossed it into the kitchen sink. Then he locked his arms around Tsang Ting Fung and kissed him again.

A-Chiu pressed against him and touched his lips to Tsang Ting Fung's neck. Tsang Ting Fung held him close, feeling like he was in a dizzying daydream. A-Chiu's skin was warm, damp from the rain, and the spicy smells from the restaurant lingered on his clothes. He knew very well how strong A-Chiu was, but he had never felt that strength inviting him. The thrill of it sent a searing shock to his pulse.

He knew he was probably courting disaster, but his baffled curiosity was warring with his very real, intense desire. Keeping A-Chiu in his arms, he said against his ear, "I'm not trying to stop anything, but I want to know: what changed?"

A-Chiu pulled back just enough to give him a long, warm gaze. "Nothing's changed," he said, almost smiling.

Tsang Ting Fung swallowed hard, and thought maybe he wasn't understanding because his brain was overloaded with sensations. "But..."

A-Chiu ran one fingertip from his forehead, along his cheekbone and down to his jaw. "What do you think would've happened that time before, if the ghost hadn't interrupted us?"

"Oh. Uh..." Tsang Ting Fung blinked at him. "Really?"

A-Chiu laughed. "Goof."

Tsang Ting Fung grinned and kissed him, and it was so easy, so simple. Even though he feared they were on borrowed time -- could the ghosts leave them alone for one night? -- he didn't want to rush, despite his restlessness. And A-Chiu seemed so calm, so confident, Tsang Ting Fung wondered at it, until they were on the bed and A-Chiu took his shirt off, and Tsang Ting Fung could see the pulse in his neck and the rapid rise and fall of his chest. When Tsang Ting Fung touched him, his shoulder twitched, so Tsang Ting Fung kissed it. A-Chiu breathed out slowly and reached for him, and after that, Tsang Ting Fung kissed and touched wherever A-Chiu seemed to like it, whatever A-Chiu wanted... though it was becoming hard to concentrate because A-Chiu was kissing him and touching him and holding him, and it felt incredible. Before he knew it, they were naked and tangled together in the sheets.

Too tangled, actually, but whenever Tsang Ting Fung fumbled to pull the sheets away, A-Chiu would move some new way and distract him, entice his touches, and tempt his kisses, and the sheets were momentarily forgotten until they were in the way again. Finally A-Chiu had him on his back, and Tsang Ting Fung bent his leg to kick the sheets away, but just then A-Chiu fell and pushed against him, clutching him, shuddering. Tsang Ting Fung lost all awareness of anything but that moment: A-Chiu's strength and sharp, brief release, and the urgent, immediate answer it called from Tsang Ting Fung.

Languid in a drunken spell afterward, Tsang Ting Fung thought several times of moving. A-Chiu was half-on, half-off of him, and it couldn't be that comfortable, though A-Chiu wasn't moving, either. The sheets were hopeless. Probably would be twisted around them for eternity, at this rate. Tsang Ting Fung, right then, didn't mind it at all. A-Chiu said sleepily into the mattress, "If the phone rings right now, throw it across the room, okay?"

"Mm," Tsang Ting Fung agreed, closing his eyes, not at all sure he'd have the energy to lift the phone if it came to that.

-----

For a terrible moment as he was pulled from sleep, Tsang Ting Fung thought it had been a dream, and he woke up bitterly and irrationally angry. But there was A-Chiu in early daylight: naked and lazy and awake. Not moving away when Tsang Ting Fung slid closer. Drawing Tsang Ting Fung into his arms, inviting him to be lazy with him.

This was everything Tsang Ting Fung wanted, and Tsang Ting Fung was aware of a shift in the world, but what it meant was unclear. Happy and sleepy, he yawned and stretched out on the bed, resting his head on A-Chiu's stomach. A-Chiu played with his hair, pushing it down over his forehead, then stroking it back.

"Cold noodles for breakfast," A-Chiu said, voice quiet and raw. Neither of them moved.

A few minutes later Tsang Ting Fung said, "After that let's look at motorcycles."

"Sure."

They didn't move.

Tsang Ting Fung closed his eyes and drifted for a while, peaceful and content. A-Chiu's fingers combed through his hair, and Tsang Ting Fung caught his hand. He looked at the mark on A-Chiu's palm, the so-called "death star," and kissed it softly. Cursed or not, in a strange way, it had brought them together.

"What do you think she meant, that ghost, when she said there was something lost about me?" he asked, caressing the mark with his thumb.

When A-Chiu didn't answer, Tsang Ting Fung looked at him. A-Chiu softly touched his chin.

"Do you feel lost?" he asked, gazing into Tsang Ting Fung's eyes.

Tsang Ting Fung smiled. "No." He shifted and slid into A-Chiu's arms.

"Then forget about her. She was crazy," A-Chiu said. He ran one fingertip along the curves of Tsang Ting Fung's upper lip, stroking at the line of fine hairs, and gave Tsang Ting Fung an intimate, warm smile that sent a rush of heat through Tsang Ting Fung's skin.

He couldn't worry about the future, not when the present was like this, with A-Chiu holding him, wanting him, loving him.

He kissed A-Chiu's fingers and said, "You're right."

He couldn't worry about the future when the present was A-Chiu.

(The End)