Dance with the Demons

Duo/Wufei, Duo/Trowa, Quatre/Trowa, Quatre/Wufei, Heero/Duo. ~105, 000 words. NC-17. AU. Supernatural. Gore. Polyamory. Violence.
Duo Maxwell stands on one side of the line, against the demons of his world. But he finds that line quickly blurring as events drag him deeper into the darker side of his life.

Dance with Death

Duo sighed into his drink. It had not been a good day. For that matter, when did he ever have a good day? The call had come in at twelve a.m., right after he had settled down for the night. Renegade beasties terrorizing a nice quiet suburb. It had been about one a.m. before Duo had made it to the outskirts and dealt with the ‘situation’. Duo snorted. A situation, they called it. Two families dead, and it was a situation. He’d hate to see what they would call anything worse.

He tiredly set his drink on the little coaster and looked around the bar. His seat in the corner was close to the stage, offering him a clear view of the entrance. Duo was always watching for ways to make an exit lately. It went with his job description. Whatever that was. He probably didn’t even have a job description, it really wasn’t even a job. It was more like some sick little twist of Fate. What business did he have fighting devils and demons at ungodly hours in the morning? What business indeed. Duo couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t fighting for his life, a time when there were no monsters. Kids didn’t complain about monsters under their beds or in their closets anymore. The monsters were real, and they didn’t waste time frightening little children. They had more important things to do. And Duo had the distinct impression that Fate was laughing at everyone.

The longhaired man glanced again at the empty stage. What in the name of hell was he doing here at three in the morning? You wouldn’t be able to tell it was that late by the energetic crowd. The dance floor was full of people, dancing with whomever happened to be pressed against them at the time. Every table was taken and the line-up at the door was getting longer. Didn’t these people have anything better to do? Evidently not.

Duo’s thoughts wandered back to why he was there. He had barley opened the door to his apartment when the phone rang. Duo had debated answering it, but in the end he found himself picking up the receiver and saying hello before his mind caught up with his body. Turned out to be Quatre on the other end. First question: Why the hell was Quatre calling at two thirty in the morning? Answer: The Erus Animis wanted to have words with him. Second question: What the hell is an Erus Animis and why does it want to ‘have words’ with him? Answer: Just come to Devil’s Bliss and I’ll meet you there. Third question: What!? Answer: You heard me. See you in fifteen.

So here he was, sipping on a drink waiting for the blonde to make an appearance. Duo had only heard wild rumours about Devil’s Bliss; he didn’t really frequent bars. Not because he was young; age meant nothing in society now, but he just didn’t see the point. He felt very out-of-place. Everyone was dressed in leather and fishnet, silk and satin, revealing outfits in velvet and vinyl. Some of the outfits didn’t even seem like clothing, just small straps of material held up by even smaller straps of something else, material or chains. Duo’s simple black pants and shirt made him stand out; he was the only one who wasn’t showing off at least ninety percent of his body.

Duo glanced at his watch. Quarter after three. Fifteen minutes my ass, where the fuck was Quatre? He set the empty glass down and watched the dance floor slowly empty. The lights ceased their flickering and pointed at the vacant stage, dimming to a soft glow. What the bloody hell was going on now?

“Would you like another drink, handsome?”

Duo jumped and looked up at the woman who had addressed him. She was the same one who had shown him to his table earlier. The woman wore the same outfit of the other waiters: a skin-tight leather one-piece with a silver chain looped around her waist. The neck was cut in a low ‘v’ between her breasts, ending just below her bellybutton. The legs were slit wide on the sides with thin strips of leather horizontally across the bare skin. The arms of the suit were the same. Black boots came to her knees to finish the look.

He grinned up at her, shaking his head no. “Thanks, but no. Hey, you haven’t seen a blonde guy come in, say, in the last half and hour?”

The woman smiled. “Love, there’s lots of blonde guys in here,” she gestured at one of the male waiters. He was a slender, tall, blonde, and he was dressed the same as she was. “Maybe you’d like to talk to Zechs, he’s had his eye on you all night, handsome, if you’d like some company,” she said, winking at him.

Duo glanced over at the man she named. He was laughing with a small brunette woman that he was serving. He caught Duo and the woman looking at him, and he smiled in their direction.

“Ah…no, thanks all the same.” Duo gave himself a mental shake; he’d have to get Quatre back for setting up the meeting in a place like this. “This one is small, shorthaired blonde, blue-eyed…looks like an innocent devil, maybe?” He grinned.

The woman laughed delightedly. “Oh, you want Quatre, do you honey? Why didn’t you just say so?”

Duo quirked an eyebrow. “You know him?”

“Of course. Most of us know Quatre in here. He’s a favourite.”

Duo’s eyes widened a little and his other eyebrow shot up.

The woman laughed again. “Oh, no. He just dances, love,” she sighed. “We all try to get him to loosen up, but he just won’t go with it. Zechs’ been trying to get in his pants since he started working here.”

Duo sat there gaping at the woman. Quatre was a stripper? At Devil’s Bliss? Holy fuck.

The woman patted him affectionately on the shoulder. “I’ll get you another drink, on the house, love. When Quatre gets in, I’ll send him over,” she paused, eyeing him. “I’m Hilde. Let me know if you need anything else, okay, handsome? Anything at all.” Hilde raised her eyebrow and smiled suggestively.

“Uh…sure thing, Hilde. Thanks. I’m Duo.” She was a nice girl, why not be nice to her? It wasn’t like he’d ever be back again.

Hilde’s smile broadened. “Duo, eh, handsome? I work most nights, but I can make time for you. Enjoy the show.” She picked up the empty glass and weaved her way through the crowd.

Duo leaned back in his chair. Yep, Quatre would be paying for this later. Definitely paying. He looked around the bar again. Everyone was sitting down, watching the stage expectantly. Duo shifted and let his gaze rove over the crowd. It was almost quiet, except for the music. Everyone seemed held in a breathless moment. Duo glanced at the stage. It was still empty.

Hilde came back and set the drink down in front of him. “You’re in for a treat tonight, handsome.”

Duo glanced away from the stage to thank her for the drink, but she was already gone. He shrugged and looked back at the stage. It wasn’t empty anymore.

A figure had appeared in the second that Duo had turned away. The music changed to a slow, heavy beat. Duo squinted at the figure through the dim lighting. It looked like a guy, around his age, facing away from the crowd. Duo shook his head, making his braid snake around the chair. At least it wasn’t Quatre.

Men and women alike seemed to lean forward in their seats toward the stage. The young man had begun to move his hips slowly from side to side. He wrapped his hands around himself and ran them lightly down his sides and thighs then back up. The music picked up, and he moved faster. The shadowed figure whipped around as the music picked up its tempo even more. He swayed to the beat, moving closer to the edge of the stage. His face was hidden in shadow, but it seemed his hair was cropped close to his head. He was dressed in all white, a simple outfit, the lights making the material glow. He wore an unbuttoned shirt over a tight tank top that showed the well-defined planes of his slender chest. The pants were loose and billowed about his legs as he moved. Surprisingly, his feet were bare. Duo watched as he stalked across the stage, turning around and bending slightly at the waist to glare at the crowd over his shoulder as he ran his hands over his ass.

It seemed the song was made for the dance, as opposed to the dance made for the song. And both matched the dancer perfectly. He slowly straightened and whirled around; suddenly the unbuttoned shirt fluttered to the floor. The dancer thrust his hips, and the lights brightened slightly. He caressed his chest and slid his hands lightly over his groin. There was a sharp intake of breath from the crowd. The dancer responded to the gasps with moving into the brighter light and running his hands under the tank top. Duo half expected him to rip the shirt off, but the dancer grasped the ends of the shirt and slid it up over his head as he swayed. The lights changed as he raised the shirt, illuminating the stripper from the front. As the shirt joined the first, Duo glanced up at the dancer’s face. His eyes widened.

Flowing chin-length black hair had been freed from its confines and framed the dancer’s olive-toned face. His eyes were heavy lidded and had a slight uplift at the corners that marked him as Chinese; his lips were parted slightly as he danced. The dancer moved his hips in a grinding motion as he moved back to the centre of the stage. The lights highlighted the bronze tone of his skin. The Chinese man reached centre stage, pausing for a second as the music stopped. He stalked forward as the music started slow, then he ran to the edge and jumped off the stage, flipping over in the air as the music pounded back to life. He moved rapidly on the dance floor, weaving through the tables, pressing against one man and lightly kissing a woman at the same table.

Duo watched as the Chinese dancer worked his way over to his table. The black-haired man swayed in front Duo, running his hands over himself. He reached the waistband of his pants and he untied the drawstring as he moved. All his actions were smooth, sensuous. He moved with a predator’s grace. The dancer slid onto Duo’s lap, grinding himself against the stunned man. The dancer had fathomless black eyes, clouded with lust and a fine sheen of sweat covered his bare skin. He moved his head close to Duo’s, brushing his lips against Duo’s, then moving to trace his jaw line. He ended at Duo’s ear, nibbling at it gently.

“Quatre is waiting for you downstairs. Door on the left of the stage. Go now,” the Chinese dancer breathed into Duo’s ear. Then he was gone, leaping back up onto the platform. He crawled back to centre stage, stood and slowly bared one slim hip.

Duo wrenched his eyes away from the stage. He glanced at the rest of the crowd. They were glued to the dancer. He rose and shakily downed the rest of his drink. The night just kept getting weirder. Duo was more affected by the black-haired dancer than he would like to admit. They way he moved screamed sex, the man’s entire being seemed to radiate it. Duo wondered who he was. He stopped that thought right there; he wasn’t about to start jumping other men in the middle of a club, especially men he didn’t know.

He walked to the indicated door, glancing behind him. The door opened easily, and he slipped inside. The stairway was dark, and the pounding music was silenced as soon as the door shut behind him. Duo drew in a shaky breath, and started down the stairs with his hand on the wall to steady himself.

Reaching the bottom, he found the way blocked by a door. Duo raised his hand to knock, but the door swung open before his hand made contact. Quatre smiled at the surprised expression on his friend’s face.

“I heard you coming, Duo. Come in, sit down, the Erus will be ready in a moment.” Quatre opened the door wider, letting Duo inside.

“Hey, Q, since when were you a stripper?” Duo flopped down on the nearest couch, letting his eyes rove over the room. There wasn’t much to see; it was simply decorated in black and red with dim swivel lights illuminating the room from the ceiling. Duo looked at the black walls. He blended in with the décor. What are the chances?

Quatre sat down easily across from the longhaired man. “Oh, about six or seven months now. Didn’t I tell you I had a new job?” The blonde was wearing one of the black leather suits that the waiters wore. It was a little different, with more slashes than the others. All in all, it looked Quatre bared more than three times the skin than the waiters.

“Yeah, you told me Q. You just didn’t say what the job was.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. I wouldn’t forget that.” Duo nodded towards the stairwell.

Quatre smiled. “Now you know.” He wriggled his eyebrows. “So, you want a job? You’ve got a nice ass, Duo.”

Duo blinked, then he grinned. “I don’t think Zechs would like to hear you say that, Q. He might get a bit jealous that you’d want my ass and not his.” He shifted to bring his legs up on the couch, stretching one leg out and bending the other at the knee.

Quatre’s smile got bigger. “Zechs!?” He burst out laughing. “He’s cute, but that’s where it ends. He’s about as interesting as a rock.” He laughed again.

Duo waited for Quatre to get a hold of himself, then he said quietly, “So, you only fuck the interesting?”

Quatre swallowed the rest of his laughter. He bent his head a little to the side, smiling at Duo. Not the same smile as before, but an invitation. “Oh, yes. The interesting.” He stood. “Do you think you’re interesting?”

Duo started at the blonde. This was a different Quatre. Before he could say anything, Quatre’s face changed and the expression was gone. The blue-eyed man turned around and opened the door that Duo had entered through. In walked the sweaty figure of the Chinese stripper, smiling at Quatre. Then he noticed Duo reclining on the couch and sauntered over to stand above him.

“Hello again.” He was wearing the white pants from the show, and his hair was still loose with a few wisps curled around his flushed face. “I’m Wufei. Are you the new dancer?” The black-eyed man’s eyes travelled over Duo’s body. He knelt in front of Duo, running a hand over the braided man’s chest. “Look at that hair…” Wufei gazed up into Duo’s violet eyes. “Maybe we could dance together…?” The Chinese dancer slid up to lie down on top of Duo. “You could wrap your hair around me, wrap yourself around me, under the lights of the stage?” He ran his fingers over Duo’s open lips.

Duo sat frozen. He looked helplessly at Quatre. The blonde shrugged. “Wufei is a dancer, but he likes to be more…involved with his work,” he paused, then, “he’s not the new dancer, Wufei. He is here for the Erus.”

Wufei abruptly stilled, his hand hovering over Duo’s mouth. His eyes filled with fear. He swiftly crawled off of Duo, making little whimpering sounds deep in his throat. He nuzzled Duo’s hand. “Forgive me?”

Duo looked confused. “Uh, sure, Wufei.” He resisted the urge to snap his hand back. “Forget about it. My fault, I should have said something.”

Wufei’s eyes widened. He looked at Quatre. “He would take the blame? He would protect me?” His expression was one of amazement.

Quatre shrugged. “Apparently. Ask him yourself.”

The black-haired man looked back up at Duo from his place on the floor. “Do you mean that? You would say it was your fault?”

Duo sat up. There was something going on that he didn’t understand at all. But Wufei looked at him like a lost puppy. He sighed and reached out to tuck a strand of black hair behind his ear. “Sure, Wufei. No big.”

Wufei stared wide-eyed at Duo. He whimpered and turned his head, licking Duo’s wrist with the tip of his tongue. This time Duo did snap his hand back, glancing at Quatre. The blonde, however, was watching Wufei.

The Chinese dancer slunk across the floor towards Quatre. The blonde watched him impassively. Sitting back on his haunches, Wufei looked up into the blonde’s eyes. “Am I in trouble, Quatre? Will he be mad at me?” He reached up to grasp Quatre’s hand. “Will he hurt me again?”

Quatre’s face remained blank. Below him Wufei began to tremble. Duo watched, unsure of what he was witnessing. Suddenly, he regretted agreeing to meet Quatre tonight. The blonde seemed so different here. For that matter, how well did he know Quatre? He had met him years ago at a house party; the two had instantly hit it off. They weren’t great friends, but they talked every now and then; kept in contact.

The man on the floor trembled violently. Then Quatre smiled. “No, the Erus won’t hurt you, Wufei…unless you want him too,” he gestured at Duo, “…or maybe Duo would like to play?”

Wufei cocked his head to the side. “What?”

The blonde crouched down next to Wufei in one smooth motion, balancing on the balls of his feet. “If you think he’d like to play with you later, you could ask him. The Erus might even let you, pet.”

Wufei brightened immediately. He leaned forward and gently brushed his lips over the blue-eyed man’s. Quatre leaned into him, bringing his hand up to press Wufei’s head harder against his lips. He moaned and opened his mouth to Quatre. The blonde dipped his tongue deep into the other’s mouth, tasting him, exploring the inside of Wufei’s mouth, running his tongue along his teeth and stroking the Chinese man’s tongue with his own. Quatre pulled back, biting lightly on Wufei’s bottom lip, making him whimper again.

Quatre laughed softly. “Ah, Wufei. You are a pet,” he said, speaking with his lips still pressed against the other’s. His tongue came out to brush over Wufei’s bottom lip, and the black-haired man dipped his head slightly, opening his mouth and brushing Quatre’s tongue with his own. Rocking backwards, Wufei pulled Quatre on top of him, arching up into the blonde and groaning loudly.

“Ah…guys?” Duo spoke up, feeling just a tad awkward. The two on the floor continued their open-mouthed kisses, grinding against each other. “Guys? Quatre!? Hello…?” Duo tried again, speaking louder.

Wufei’s eyes flickered open. “Duo! I’m so sorry,” he said, pushing Quatre up a little, and Quatre glanced over at Duo sitting uncomfortably on the couch. He grinned up at the braided man, breathing heavy. “You want a threesome?”

Duo gaped at him. Quatre snickered from where he propped himself above Wufei. Duo felt his face grow hot. “Uh…ah…no, not right now, erm…I don’t think.” He watched as the Chinese dancer’s face fell. “The Erus! I have to see him. Is he ready yet, Q?” Duo still didn’t know what the hell an Erus was, but meeting him had to be better than staying where he was.

Wufei looked up at the blonde above him. “Has our Erus summoned him yet, Quatre?”

Quatre stopped snickering long enough to answer. “No, but remember what I said, pet. You have to ask first.”

Smiling sheepishly at Quatre, the black-haired dancer shrugged his shoulders. “I forgot. But look at him, Quatre. You can’t say that you wouldn’t want him…imagine it. His hair loose around you, falling soft on your naked skin as he pounded into you…” Wufei’s voice trailed off and a little shudder ran through his body.

Quatre laughed out loud again as he gently rose to his feet. Wufei stayed spread on the floor. “Later, later. Get a hold of yourself, pet.”

Duo stood and started pacing the room. He’d be damned if he was going to have sex with anyone here, let alone Wufei. Pushing what happened upstairs out of his mind, he focused on finding out what the hell he was doing here. He still didn’t know what an Erus was, seemed like it was a man at least. Maybe he was the manager of Devil’s Bliss. And why the hell was everyone here so damn horny!? That was three offers for casual sex in the last half an hour. As he paced, he glanced at Quatre, who was now reclining comfortably in a plush leather chair. Wufei was still on the floor with his hands behind his head as a pillow. The violet-eyed man knew that Quatre was gay, he just didn’t expect to be on the receiving end of his, erm, advances. But Quatre hadn’t really asked Duo to join them, Wufei had. Duo felt a twinge of disappointment.

He stopped pacing. What the fuck!? Upset that Quatre hadn’t offered to jump him? Jesus. Duo must’ve had more to drink than he thought. All he wanted to do was get out of there now; just meet the Erus and leave. Why the hell did he have to meet the Erus anyway? What the fuck was a goddamn Erus!?

“Duo.”

Duo jumped and whipped around to face Quatre. The blonde was on his feet. “The Erus Animis Meus wants to meet you now. Follow me,” Quatre said as he walked toward a door at the other end of the room. Duo shrugged. He could’ve sworn that door wasn’t there before. Of course, he wasn’t really with it. At least, he didn’t think he was.

As Duo moved to follow the retreating blonde, Wufei rolled over onto his stomach, waving his feet in the air. He would be patient, Erus wouldn’t keep Duo long. Then he could see if Duo was interested in a friendly romp. Satisfied, he rolled back over and stretched.

*

Duo glanced around the hallway. It was a little cold compared to the room they had just left. Doors lined the walls, but Quatre moved purposefully to the end of the hall. He paused before the door, perhaps waiting for something. Then he nodded to Duo, and pushed the door open. Duo watched Quatre’s face for a minute, then moved through the open door.

Duo blinked, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. Quatre came in behind him and closed the door, leaning on it. Duo looked over his shoulder at him. Quatre shrugged. The violet-eyed man looked the room over. It was quite similar to the other, but decorated in black and white. A large oak desk stood against one wall, with two leather chairs in front of it. Directly in front of the door, leather chairs and couches surrounded a large fire pit, the flame hood nearly hidden in the blackness. The room reeked of comfort and money. Does everything have to be leather? Someone has a leather fetish, that was for sure.

Duo turned his head. Sweet Jesus. There was a gigantic bed in the other part of the room. Gauzy curtains separated it from the rest of the room. Silk black curtains surrounded the bed with its blood red sheets, and the plush carpet was white. In one corner of the ‘bedroom’, there was a large marble bath on a raised stone dais. Duo couldn’t believe it. Where the hell was he? And someone had more than a leather fetish, someone was a damned sex addict.

“Are you going to stand and gawk at the bedroom all night, Duo?”

Duo didn’t jump this time, he was getting used to people popping out of the woodwork. He looked in the direction of the voice, and saw a figure sitting comfortably in one of the chairs around the fire pit. “Nearly done”, he said, and he felt Quatre reach out and give him a little push.

“Please sit.” Quatre walked past Duo and sat gracefully in one of the chairs. Duo followed him, choosing a chair closest to the door.

The unnamed man in the chair laughed lightly. Duo shivered. “That anxious to leave? Well then, we’ll take care of our business and let you get on your way. But, move closer than that. I don’t want to have to shout.”

Duo hesitated for a second, then rose to sit on the couch to the left of the speaker. If anything was going to happen, it would probably be another invitation to fuck someone. He took a closer look at the man in the chair. The man was dressed much like everyone else, but he wore a long leather trench coat over it. His hair was dark, unruly but not quite messy; it was long enough to shadow his eyes. He was lean, well muscled in a slender way. The man sat with his legs crossed and one hand idly draped over the arm of a chair. Duo’s eyes followed the line of his arm, and saw that the unnamed speaker was casually scratching the ears of a very large black panther. The feline blended into the chair so well Duo hadn’t noticed it. The cat turned its head, focusing strange green eyes on Duo and baring its teeth in a low growl.

Duo sucked in his breath. “Holy shit! That’s a damned panther! That’s gotta be illegal.”

The man laughed his quiet laugh again and leaned forward. “He won’t hurt you. He’s quite gentle…tortuously gentle.” Duo looked closer at the man’s face. He opened his mouth in surprise. It was a young man, probably no older than Duo. Cobalt blue eyes peered at him from under the shadows of his hair. He stared at the icy cast that hovered at the edges of those deep blue eyes. Duo was fixated, unable to look away. Every shade of blue flowed through them, colours undulating and blending together. He felt his body grow hot; he swallowed heavily and wrenched his eyes away.

The man smiled, and Duo felt his eyes wandering back to gaze at deep cobalt blue eyes. He jumped to his feet and started pacing the room to avoid them. “So, if you’re the ‘Erus’, what the hell do you want, hauling my ass down here at….” He glanced at his watch. “Fuck! Quarter to four in the goddamn morning?”

“Fine, we’ll get to the point. You kill monsters.” The man stated simply.

“Yeah, so what? You want me to kill one for you? Hey, you didn’t answer my question. Are you Erus?” Duo’s pacing increased.

“No, I am the Erus. I am Heero Yuy, Erus to Quatre and several others, including Wufei. But, being Erus to you would be a nice bonus, wouldn’t it?” The dark-haired man inclined his head toward the pacing Duo.

“The hell? You people are all obsessed. So you like sex, good enough. Erus means something along the lines of ‘lover’ then, does it?” Duo said.

The Erus paused, considering. “If you like. What do you think, Quatre?”

The blonde smiled invitingly. “I like the concept. I’m sure Wufei would too.”

The cobalt-eyed man laughed. “Yes, he would, wouldn’t he?” He turned to Duo. “Wufei is quite taken with you, and since you offered to keep him, he’s yours now.”

Duo sputtered for a moment. “Now wait a second here. I don’t want him. You just can’t go handing out people. Who the hell do you think you are, anyway, buddy?”

“I am his Erus Animis. He is mine to do with as I want.” The man’s voice had taken a cold edge to it.

“Fine, fine, whatever!! Look, I don’t care what little operation you have on the go here, but forget it. I’m not ‘taking’ anyone. Now, what do you want, so I can get the hell outta here and go home!? You want me to kill something for you or what?” Duo raged at the seated men.

“No, I don’t want you to kill a monster, I want you to stop killing them.” The Erus said evenly.

Duo stopped his angry pacing. “What?” He walked over to the cobalt-eyed man. “Listen here, Heero,” he spat, “I don’t take orders from anyone, let alone you. I kill monsters. They hurt people, I kill them. Simple. Got that?”

“Duo….” Quatre began, in a warning tone of voice.

“Shut up, Q. Go play with Wufei or something.” The longhaired man turned back to the Erus, his braid swinging. “If that’s it, I’m leaving now.”

“No.”

“Whaddya mean, ‘no’!? I said I’m leaving.” Duo stalked towards the door. Suddenly the black panther bounded across the floor to lie passively in front of the door. As Duo approached, it bared its teeth in warning. Duo backed off, and the panther relaxed and closed its startling eyes. “Call off your pet,” he said to Heero.

“No, I will not. And you won’t leave until I say so. Sit, Maxwell.”

“Fuck.” Duo looked at the panther blocking his way, then back at the Erus. He gave up and flopped back down on the couch. “Okay, yak at me.”

“I already told you what I wanted. Agree and you can go.” Heero’s composure was rapidly deteriorating. “Stop killing them and I won’t kill you,” he said coldly.

“Christ, man, I already told you. I kill. I always have, and I always will. It’s not a hard concept to grasp.”

The Erus rose quickly, moving to lean over Duo menacingly. He placed his hands on the couch on either side of the braided man’s head. Moving his face inches from Duo’s, he spoke slowly, angrily. “You will stop, baka. The ‘monsters’ are mine, and I don’t like you messing with what is mine.”

Duo glared at the man, noticing for the first time that he was of Japanese descent. “Don’t call me an idiot, you bastard freak.” He pushed against him, attempting to stand.

The man didn’t budge. Duo pushed harder, grunting with the effort. Suddenly, Heero wasn’t there anymore, he was sitting back in his chair, fists clenched in anger. Duo blinked, disbelieving. He moved pretty damn fast.

“I gave you fair warning, Duo Maxwell. If you kill them, I will kill you,” he snarled, “it’s not a hard concept to grasp.”

“I’d watch who you were threatening there, buddy.” Duo regretted coming unarmed, his fingers ached for his gun, even a knife to hold would be better than nothing. “Dance with Death, and you might lose your life.” He stood and walked carefully to the door. Instantly, the panther’s eyes opened. It yawned lazily, stretched and padded over to lick at Quatre’s hand. Duo had forgotten Quatre was there, he was so quiet and still. Unnaturally still, even as the panther laid its head on the blonde’s chest, growling softly.

The Erus laughed, causing Duo to shiver again. “Dance with the Devil, and you might lose your soul.” He laughed again, the sound echoing in Duo’s ears as he closed the door firmly behind him.

*

Duo walked quickly down the hall, wrenching opening the door to the room they were in earlier and slamming it behind him. Wufei jumped up to his knees as Duo sagged against the door.

“Duo, done so soon? What did my Erus want? Can you stay with me?” His eyes glittered in the light with what look suspiciously like hope.

Duo didn’t seem like he heard the black-haired man. He started pacing in front of the door, his braid trailing in his wake. “Stupid moron, who the fuck does he think he is? Telling me to stop killing monsters!! Giving Wufei to me like he’s a damned toy. Jesus…!”

“Really!?” Wufei jumped to his feet, rushing over to plant himself firmly in front of a startled Duo. “He said you’re my owner now?”

Duo groaned. Shit. “No, well, yes, but…fuck.”

Wufei’s face crumbled. “You don’t want me, do you, Duo? Why? What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing Wufei, nothing. Look, where do you live, I’ll take you home, okay?”

The Chinese man looked confused. “I live where my owner does.”

Duo groaned inwardly again. “Where do you live now, Wu?”

“Here, with Quatre. But if the Erus gave me to you, then I go where you do.”

“Jesus. What is wrong with you people?” Duo wrestled with the notion for a moment. “What if I leave you here?”

Black eyes widened in fear. “You wouldn’t do that, would you? Quatre wouldn’t be able to keep me from the others then.”

“What? What’s that mean?”

Wufei paused, then said, “Anybody could do what they wanted with me then.”

“Oh, fuck, you’d be free meat, wouldn’t you?”

Wufei nodded, eyes downcast.

Duo felt a twinge from his conscience. “Get your damn stuff, Wufei, we’re leaving.”

The Chinese man smiled again, instantly relaxing. He leaned in to kiss Duo before the other could move. Wufei pressed his lips against Duo’s lightly, then ran his tongue lightly over the startled man’s lips. He pulled back, then went to gather his things.

Duo would have to put a stop to that, Wufei was far to free with his kisses. “Wait a second,” he gathered up his scattered wits and held out a hand to halt Wufei. “What’s Erus Animis Meus mean, anyway?”

Wufei smiled. “It means master of my soul. Why?”

The chestnut-haired man shook his head. “Never mind, go get your things.”

After Wufei had left, Duo stood in the middle of the room, trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and what he had gotten himself into.

“Holy fuck,” Duo muttered under his breath.

*

Dance with the Devil

Sunlight filtered through the flimsy curtains covering the open window. A slight breeze blew the fabric, causing the curtains to waver and send dapples of light dancing across Duo’s face. Long lashes fluttered as he gradually woke up, sighing happily in the warmth of his bed. Duo stretched and rolled over, digging his head deep into the pillow. He sighed again, opening his eyes slowly to check the bedside clock. But instead of seeing the cluttered night table, he was treated to the sight of two heavy-lidded eyes staring out at him from a mass of back hair, stirring lightly in the breeze. Duo blinked for a minute, trying to get his sleep-fogged brain to work. The owner of the eyes smiled, “Morning, Duo. Sleep well?”

“Jesus!” Duo sat bolt upright in bed as last night came back to him in a rush. “Wufei! What are you doing in my bed? Check that, what am I doing in my bed?” He paused, taking a deep breath as the Chinese man stretched and flipped the covers off himself. “Wu…where the fuck are your clothes?” Reaching out, he tugged the sheets back over the other man.

Wufei grinned, pointing at the floor. A trail of clothing led from the bed out into the living room. “It’s not very comfortable to sleep in dirty clothing, Duo.”

“No shit, Wu. But what are you doing sleeping with me without your pants on?” Duo stopped as the implications of that statement formed in his brain. “No. Oh no.” He raised the blankets and glanced down. “Fuck, Wu. Where the hell are my boxers!?” Duo clenched the blanket tightly around his hips.

Wufei chuckled. “Wherever you dropped them, I think. I lost track.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me. I didn’t…and you, we didn’t…?” The blood drained from Duo’s face. “Did we?”

Wufei looked convincingly baffled. “Did what? What are you talking about?”

“Christ, Wu, we didn’t fuck, did we? I can’t remember a goddamn thing!”

Wufei blinked, then smiled evilly. “What do you think?” Duo’s face paled even more and his eyes grew wide as saucers. “No, no, we didn’t, alright? Not like I didn’t offer,” he grumbled, oblivious to the sigh of relief that exploded from the man beside him. “If we did, I’d be insulted you forgot.”

Duo was still rejoicing silently in his head. “What? Oh.” He relaxed his death grip on the sheets. The early morning was coming back to him in quick flashes. “Hey, I thought I left you on the couch?”

Wufei managed to look sheepish. “You did. But you’re my top now, so I’m supposed to sleep with you. Even if you won’t fuck me.” He was actually pouting.

Duo rubbed his fingers over his temples, feeling the beginnings of a headache. “Wufei,” he began, “I don’t understand half of the crap that comes out of your mouth, but, I am not, I repeat, am not your ‘top’, whatever that is.”

Wufei pursed his lips. “You really don’t know, do you?”

Duo had the decency to not punch him. “No, I don’t.”

“How can you be with Quatre for years on end and not know? Don’t you ever talk?”

The braided man shook his head. “Hey, we’re casual acquaintances. Casual. I didn’t even know he was a stripper.”

Wufei blinked. “Really? So you and him weren’t lovers or anything?”

Duo shot him an exasperated look.

The black haired man held his hands up in mock defence. “Alright, alright, I get it. You weren’t.”

“Damn straight.”

Wufei rolled over, settling his leg in between Duo’s, and resting his head on the other man’s chest. “So, what do you know about Quatre?”

Duo narrowed his eyes, shifting his leg out from under Wufei’s. “Would you quit that already?” He sighed and closed his eyes; it was going to be one of THOSE days. “Look, go get a shower and get dressed, for Christ’s sake. Then I’ll go make something for you to eat, and then you fill me in on the whole thing, okay?”

The Chinese dancer seemed to weigh this in his head, then rose languidly from the bed. “Okay. Are you coming with me?” He gazed down at Duo.

“Just go, Wufei. Just go,” he grated out in response.

Sighing, Wufei wandered into the adjacent bathroom. What was his owner thinking? If they kept this up, nether one of them would have any fun.

*

Duo gathered up any clothing that he could get his hands on and hurriedly dressed. Events and facts turned over in his mind as he tried again in vain to sort it out. What did Heero mean when he had said the monsters were ‘his’? And why was he so concerned about Duo eliminating the ones who posed a threat to human life? He busied himself with finding something edible for breakfast, finally settling on some coffee, saving the half stale bagel for Wufei.

He was sipping on his coffee when Wufei wandered out into the living room with a towel hitched dangerously low on his hips.

“Put on some clothes, Wu,” Duo said, sighing again.

“I am, I am. My things are out here.” Rummaging through a bag, Wufei dragged out black linen pants and a matching shirt. Dropping the towel, he hauled on the pants, tying them loosely. He shrugged on the shirt, leaving it unbuttoned. Then the dancer searched through the bag again, this time emerging with a small hair tie. Walking over to sit with Duo, he gathered together his hair back and deftly wrapped the tie around it. Duo watched him silently over the rim of his mug.

“So, what are you doing today, Duo?”

Setting his coffee down, Duo rose and retrieved the bagel for Wufei. The black-haired man looked at the bagel, then at Duo. “Aren’t you having anything?”

“Eat it, Wuffie, and be happy I’ve even got that. My fridge is empty.”

“Shopping then.”

“What?”

“If you have no food, then we have to go shopping.”

Duo leaned back in his chair, “Yeah, I suppose we do. But before I go anywhere, I’m getting a shower. Watch some t.v. or something.”

Taking a bite out of the bagel, Wufei nodded.

Duo downed the rest of his coffee, severely wishing it was something with more of a punch. Pushing back his chair, he walked into his bedroom, pausing at the door to glance back at Wufei. Then he firmly closed the door behind him.

*

About ten minutes later, a naked, slightly damp Duo was frantically searching for some clean clothing. His wardrobe seemed to be diminishing rapidly lately, suffering from fates far worse than simply wearing out.

Over the last thirty years, monster activity had increased, mostly in suburban areas. It seemed like the monsters disliked highly populated, busy places. Easier pickings outside the pulse of the continuous life in the cities. Of course, there was a time when trolls and werewolves, ghosts and goblins, were myths, but that was decades ago. Steadily, the creatures moved from myth to reality, then from distant threat to terrorizing rural areas. All in all, it was good for Duo; his relatively new business was booming. Yet with the increase came problems. Like what to do when you encountered an unfamiliar species. Last month, Duo had come head to head with a lamia. The encounter left Duo with one less outfit, several new scars and a desire to delve into some serious research.

Settling on a pair of new, dark blue jeans and a white tank, Duo flung the clothes over his head so they landed on the bed. He quickly shook out his hair and went back to the bathroom in search of a brush. Raking it through his long hair, he deftly separated the mass into three sections, then twined them together in his usual braid. Duo came out of the bathroom, intending on getting dressed. Wufei was reclining comfortably on the bed, propped up by several pillows, facing the bathroom expectantly.

“Dammit, Wu!” Duo lunged back into the bathroom, grabbing the nearest towel and wrapping it around himself. “What are you doing!?”

“Waiting for you, you said we were going shopping.”

“Why didn’t you stay in the living room like I told you?”

“You didn’t say to stay in the living room, you said to watch some television. There was nothing on, so I came in to watch you instead.” Wufei shrugged his shoulders.

“And just how long have you been there?” Duo demanded, wondering why he hadn’t heard him come in.

“You almost hit me in the head with your pants.”

Unable to help himself, Duo grinned at Wufei’s statement.

“Quatre was right, you know,” the Chinese dancer said, mirroring Duo’s grin.

“Huh?”

“You do have a nice ass.”

Duo threw up his hands in frustration. “You’ve got a one track mind, you know that, don’t you?”

Wufei nodded happily.

“Oh, screw it,” Duo mumbled, turning his back on Wufei and hauling on his clothes.

“I’d much rather you screw me….” he caught Wufei muttering under his breath, but Duo chose to ignore it.

*

After much arguing, Wufei had agreed to wait in the apartment while Duo went out. He needed time to sort things out, not to mention he had work to do today. A Mrs. McNally had called while Wufei was in the shower, stating she had a problem with her son. Despite what Duo had said, the woman had insisted that he was best suited for dealing with it.

On arriving at the McNally residence, Duo had at once seen the problem. The woman’s son and his dog were playing fetch in the front yard while Mrs. McNally stood on the front steps, wringing her hands. The problem was, the dog was dead. Oh, it was jumping around and barking happily after the tossed ball, but it was definitely dead. In fact, it looked like it was at least two months dead. But the young boy didn’t seem to care, and neither did the dog, for that matter.

Mrs. McNally rushed up to him as soon as he climbed out of his old car. Near swooning in the street, she told him how her little Luke was so upset that his dog had died, they tired to make him feel better by getting him a new one. Apparently, that didn’t go over so well, and Luke was still unhappy. Then, about a week ago, she woke up to Luke laughing happily outside. Rushing out, she saw her boy romping in the grass with the dead dog. Flustered, she didn’t know what to do, hoping that maybe the zombie dog would cheer Luke up, but now she was worried. It wasn’t healthy to keep a decomposing dog around the house, was it? And Luke didn’t want to lose the dog again. Oh, and the dog’s name was Buddy. Terribly original, if you asked Duo.

Of course, she wasn’t asking. The dog had to go, but Luke wouldn’t listen to her. Maybe he would listen to Duo? Duo was well known for his dealings with monsters, he should go talk to them.

Sighing, Duo had looked over the two playing happily in the front yard. He really didn’t see a problem, the dog would be good for another few weeks. Zombies didn’t really actively decompose, they usually paused at the stage they were in when they rose. But, work was work, so he sat Luke and Buddy down, explaining the situation. Luke’s eyes swam, but he bravely said goodbye to Buddy, telling him to be a good dog. The dog whined once, then wagged its tail when Luke patted him on the head. Satisfied, Duo told Luke he was doing the best, by letting Buddy go, and watched as the dog obediently followed Luke into the back yard where he had been buried. Minutes later, Luke had bounded back around the house, saying Buddy was asleep. Duo went back, checked on the dog, and then filled the grave back in. Sprinkling a little salt on the grave for good measure, he told Mrs. McNally to sprinkle a little on the grave each day for the next three days, just to be sure the dog didn’t dig its way back out again.

Thanking him the whole way, Mrs. McNally had walked Duo to his car. It was such a small thing, Duo had at first refused payment. The woman was adamant, however, and Duo accepted a small fee. Curious, he asked what happened to the other dog. Mrs. McNally’s face clouded over, then, wringing her hands, she said it seemed Buddy hadn’t really been all that fond of the other dog.

Buddy had eaten him.

*

Duo had thought the entire situation infinitely hilarious, but he managed to get through it without even once laughing. Once he was in the car, he succumbed, tears running down his face. Then he went on with the rest of his errands.

*

Much later that day, as dusk was falling, Duo returned to the apartment. He juggled his packages, searching for his keys. Triumphant, he unlocked the door and dragged the bundles inside. Glancing around, he spotted the dancer asleep on the couch. Duo brought so many of the packages to his bedroom, dumping them on the bed, which was, he noted, made. Wufei must’ve done it. Duo shook his head; he still hadn’t figured out what was going on, and Wufei hadn’t had a chance to fill him in on it yet. He’d let him sleep for a little longer while he put the groceries away and fixed something for dinner.

Duo putted around the kitchen, cursing on the oven and his own inability to cook. Finally, satisfied with his efforts, Duo went back into the living room to wake Wufei. Naturally, Wufei was already awake, watching Duo move about the small apartment.

“Oh, you’re up. Hey, sorry I was gone all day. I had work.”

Wufei just smiled. “It’s okay. I don’t mind waiting.”

“Ah…yeah,” Duo said, scratching his head. “So, umm, do you work tonight?”

“No, tonight’s my night off. I’m yours for the evening,” Wufei replied, leaving the invitation hanging.

“Right. Anyway, you hungry? Dinner’s ready, and it even might be edible.”

“I’m starving. You have absolutely nothing that even resembles food.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Why didn’t you go grab something somewhere?”

“You told me to stay in the apartment.”

“Shit, Wuffie, you could’ve gotten something to eat. I wouldn’t have killed you or anything.”

Wufei didn’t reply, he just stood and walked into the kitchen, getting plates out of the cupboard. “Sit down, Duo, I’ll get it.”

Flopping down into a chair, Duo mentally shrugged. Fair enough, he had cooked, hadn’t he? Or at least he had tried to.

Coming back with two plates of what looked suspiciously like mush, Wufei gave one to Duo and put the other on the table for himself. He went back, emerged with two glasses of something to drink, and set himself down on the floor at Duo’s feet.

“Any calls come in while I was out?” Duo asked.

“Quatre called, asking how we were getting along, but that’s it.”

“And how are we getting along?”

Wufei paused, chewing. “I don’t know, I don’t understand you.”

“Christ, that makes two of us. I don’t have a bloody clue what you people are about. You, Quatre, Heero. You don’t make any sense. None of it does.”

“Tell me what you did today, Duo,” Wufei said, changing the subject.

Resigned, Duo told him about his day, saving the McNally incident for last. Wufei listened attentively as Duo rambled on, adding his own comments every now and then. The braided man began to enjoy himself, telling Wufei of other stories, weirder ones that had happened in the last few years.

“And the husband just kept the statue that was his wife on his lawn? He didn’t try to cure the basilisk’s stare?” Wufei asked, incredulous.

“Nope, kept her right there, said she was much easier to get along with as a lawn ornament.”

For the first time since Duo had met him, Wufei laughed. He laughed so hard, tears started pouring down his cheeks. Soon, Duo joined him, laughing at Wufei as the dancer struggled to catch his breath.

*

Dinner was long done, and Duo relaxed, Wufei still curled at his feet with his head resting on the cushioned seat of Duo’s chair.

“Duo, what do you do?”

“What?”

“Your job, what is it? In all your stories, it seems like you solve minor monster problems, like garden gnomes and zombie dogs.”

“Oh. I wish it was all like that, but no, that’s not what I do. Those are just odd things that have happened to me. Mostly, I kill monsters.”

Wufei’s body tensed, but his voice was calm when he spoke. “Monsters? Like trolls? Man-eating zombies and ghouls, those kinds of monsters?”

“Yep, I’m your friendly neighbourhood Ghoulie Killer.”

“Do you go after them? Kill them just because they’re monsters?” Wufei’s voice was quiet.

“No. I’m not a bounty hunter or anything. I don’t want to eradicate them, I just eliminate the ones who prey on humans.”

“Vampires?”

Duo paused, thinking. “No, I haven’t encountered any vamps. Oh, sure, I’ve seen vamp bites, but never a fresh dead body with them. Honestly, I don’t think vampires kill, for some reason. All the old myths say they do, but that’s mostly revenants. They’re more like zombies than vamps. But I’ve never met a vamp. Not sure what I would do if I did. They prey on humans, but they don’t kill, so if the victim is willing….” he left it hanging in the air.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do you kill monsters? Why not let someone else do it?”

“I dunno. It’s like I told your dear Erus, I always have.”

“What about shape-shifters?”

“Huh? Shape-shifters? As in werewolves?”

“Werewolves, wererats, weres in general.”

“Some. All violent, preying on people, leaving people and animals half eaten and killing for no reason. Same as when an animal goes nuts, I suppose. Animals only kill for food, and weres don’t need to kill. When they do, there’s a problem. As a last resort, I kill the were. One life to save others.”

Wufei seemed to think everything over in his head, and Duo was silent for a long time. Finally, the violet-eyed man asked, “Are you gonna explain this whole ‘top’ concept to me now?”

When Wufei didn’t answer, Duo said, “Wuffie?”

Slowly, the Chinese dancer moved his head, resting it against Duo’s thigh. “I like it when you call me that.”

“What, call you ‘Wuffie’?”

“Yes.”

“Like it enough to tell me what the hell you’re doing here?”

Wufei sighed. “It’s odd, you not knowing. I was anybody’s meat until Quatre claimed me, and now I’m with you, and you don’t know the game.”

“Game?”

“It’s the way it is, Duo. I’m submissive, and nearly everyone else is dominant to me. Without a master, I’m anyone’s meat.”

“I thought you said Erus meant ‘master’.”

“It does, but its not the same. Don’t you know anything about sadomasochism…dominance and submission?”

“Jesus, no, am I supposed to?” Duo stared down at him, disbelieving.

“Aren’t you Catholic, Duo? Good Catholics aren’t supposed to swear.”

Duo laughed. “Don’t change the subject, Wuffie,” he waited a beat before adding, “and I’m not a good Catholic.”

Wufei grinned before continuing. “Anyway. When Quatre came to Devil’s Bliss, he made me his pet. Do you know what that means?”

Duo had the nagging suspicion he did, but he asked anyway. “Means he owned you, right? He used you for sex.”

“He didn’t USE me. I was quite happy, Quatre’s an excellent lover. Even when he hurt me, it was good. Quatre knows pain, knows where and how to hurt that would make the pleasure so much better.”

“Er, yeah, anyway…?”

Wufei smiled at Duo’s apparent discomfort. “Now you take Quatre’s place as my owner, but you won’t fuck me. I think the Erus knew, that’s why he gave me to you.”

“Why didn’t Quatre object?”

“Quatre is submissive to the Erus. Everyone is.”

“What’s with all this submissive and dominant crap?”

“Submissive is bottom, dominant is top. You’re a top, I’m a bottom.”

“Oh. Why are you submissive?”

“I just am. I dislike fighting pointlessly. Trowa could defeat me easily.”

Puzzled, Duo said, “Trowa?”

“Quatre’s pet.”

“You can have more than one?”

“Well, Quatre can. He’s second under the Erus.”

“Now I’m confused. You fight for your positions? I thought sadomasochism was about all about pain? You know, if you get off on receiving it or giving it, right?”

“It is. But everyone has a place under the Erus, depending on how strong they are.”

“What have you people been smoking?” Duo asked, shaking his head.

Wufei didn’t answer for a long time, he just sat there, looking up into Duo’s eyes. Finally, he said, “We’re not people, really, Duo.” His eyes were sad.

“Come again? You said what?”

Indecision flickered in Wufei’s face. “We’re not people, not really. Not human, anyway,” he dropped his eyes, staring hard at the hand he had rested against Duo’s thigh.

Duo’s eyes grew hard. “What the fuck are you talking about, Wufei? Who’s ‘we’?” His own voice had grown harsh, his body tensed a little.

Startled at the change in Duo’s demeanour, Wufei scooted backwards, away from him. It wasn’t a clumsy movement, every move Wufei made seemed sinuous, his body unnaturally fluid.

“Quatre, Trowa, the Erus, and I. Others too, mostly those who work at Devil’s Bliss. Some are at the Demon’s Den,” he said, speaking softly.

“If you’re not human, then what the bloody hell are you?” His gut wrenched, and he felt his body grow cold, anticipating Wufei’s answer.

“Please don’t kill me, Duo. As my owner, you could. No one would say anything.” His voice held no fear, just acceptance of his fate, and whatever Duo chose to do with him.

“I’m not gonna fucking kill you, Wu,” Duo grated out from between clenched teeth. “Just tell me what you’re talking about.”

Taking a deep breath and sitting on his haunches, Wufei said, “I’m a shape-shifter, Duo. A were, a monster.”

Duo didn’t move, letting the information settle on his brain. “All of you?”

“No, just Trowa and I.”

“And Quatre?”

Wufei paused, unsure. “I’m not allowed to tell you.”

“What!?”

“I can’t, I can’t. The Erus forbade anyone telling you.” His eyes held fear now. “If you want to know, you have to ask him yourself.”

Duo jumped up from the chair, cursing. Wufei stayed where he was, watching him stalk across the room and back again. “Alright, lemmie get this straight. You’re all monsters of some kind, you and this Trowa are weres. Mr. Heero Yuy, as Erus, has control of you all, with my dear friend Quatre as his sort of second-in-command. Every last fucking one of you is obsessed with sex, and you’ve even got the pecking order figured out, complete with S&M and B&D tendencies. Am I right so far?”

“Essentially, yes.”

“Good. Now, Yuy, since he’s the big master, can do what he wants with all of you, no questions asked. Not only you and the others, but any beastie who happens to work in those places you mentioned.”

Wufei nodded the affirmative.

“Also, that explains why he wants me to stop killing. He’s territorial, and he does actually own you. Honest to fucking ownership.”

Another nod.

Duo stopped his pacing. “And you’re a were. I have a were in my apartment,” he said, flopping back down into his abandoned chair. “I had a were in my bed.”

Wufei was quiet, waiting to see what would happen.

“Come here, Wufei,” he said softly, pointing down to where Wufei had sat only moments before.

Instantly, Wufei was back at Duo’s feet, looking up at him expectantly.

“An owner can pretty much tell you what to do, right? And you have to do it?”

“Basically. I don’t mind. Being a pet is better than being meat.”

“Why didn’t you fight them?”

Again, the dancer paused. “I was ordered not to.”

“By who?” Before Wufei could reply, Duo had the answer. “The Erus. Heero told you not to fight; he wanted you submissive.”

“Yes.”

“And no one outranks him, so no one could give you an order that held more power than his.”

A small, weak smile this time.

“You’re broken. He fucking broke you!” Duo slammed his fist down on the arm of the chair. His breathing had become rapid, so he took a moment to calm himself. “Why didn’t I have to do what the Erus told me? He said to stop killing the monsters, but I flat out refused.”

Wufei’s eyes widened a little. “Did you kill today? I didn’t smell any blood.”

Duo watched Wufei’s face silently before answering. “Yeah, I killed. Some punk ass kid summoned a lesser demon in the middle of a trailer park.”

Stunned, the Chinese man gaped at Duo. “A demon? You killed a demon? Demons are different to creatures that answer to the Erus, though. It probably wasn’t directly going against his order. But a demon, Duo,” he closed his eyes, thinking. “If you could kill a demon, you might not be submissive to the Erus. Since you haven’t fought him, I don’t know for sure, but, a demon!”

“Yes, Wu, a demon. Get a hold of yourself.”

“If you fought the Erus and survived, maybe he’d be forced to declare you an equal. Even Quatre’s not that strong,” Wufei said, reopening his eyes.

“Jesus, Wu, if I survived!? That’s a little chancy, don’t you think?”

“Maybe, maybe not. It seems odd though….”

“What seems odd?”

“That the Erus met with you, just to tell you not to kill. Usually, he’d just destroy anyone who ticked him off, no warnings, no questions.”

“Perfect. Now I’m special.”

“Seems so.” Wufei pursed his lips, mind working fast. “And why did he give me to you? You’re not one of us, you didn’t even know about Quatre.”

“Nope, not a clue. What are you getting at, Wuffie?”

“I think you should go back. Back to Devil’s Bliss and meet with the Erus again.”

“God, no. I’m not going back. Forget that shit.”

“Seriously. He could tell you more than I could. I can’t even tell you what he is. If you went back, maybe you could learn more.”

“Like why he sends monsters out to kill people?”

Wufei met Duo’s eyes again, placing his head back on the braided man’s thigh. “He doesn’t send monsters out to kill people. I think he’s trying to put a stop to that.”

“Then who’s doing it, Wu? You just said that Heero is dominant to everyone.”

That sad smile found its way back onto Wufei’s face. “Dominant, yes, but there are more than just us out there. Maybe not many across the country, but here? In this city? It’s crawling.”

“Great, that’s great to know. So there could be someone out there just as or maybe even more powerful than your Erus?”

“It would make sense.”

“You know what, Wu? You’re a bundle of good news. I should just send you back to Quat and forget I even met any of you.”

“Is that an order?” Wufei stood, giving Duo a harsh look.

“No, Christ, sit down, Wuffie.”

Wufei sank back down on the carpet right where he stood.

“Why do you do that? Do everything I say, as soon as I say it?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I do what you say.”

“Humph. Only when it’s convenient for you. I had to argue with you to get you to stay here today, and you never seem to listen to me when I tell you to stay somewhere, especially when NOT listening to me will give you a chance to catch me naked.”

“Well….” Wufei managed to look guilty even as a grin formed on his lips. “Since we haven’t fought, I don’t know if you’re dominant to me.”

“You mean, if I beat the crap out of you, you’ll do what I say, no objections?”

“That’s the way it is.”

Duo considered this. “Did everyone beat up on you to assert their dominance? If you weren’t allowed to fight back, it had to be hell to take.”

“Actually, no one fought me.”

“I thought…wait, hold on a sec here. You mean there’s another way? Maybe if you just acknowledge the fact that they are dominant to you?”

“Sort of.”

“Knock it off with the evasive answers, Wu. Explain. How did you acknowledge their dominance?”

“I let them fuck me.”

Duo gaped, then mumbled under his breath, “I should have seen that one coming.”

Wufei’s eyes lit up, and he shifted around so that he sat between Duo’s now spread legs. “If you fuck me, I have to admit your dominance.” He rose on his knees, bringing his face dangerously close to Duo’s groin.

“Wufei, watch it….” Duo growled, reaching down to push him out of the way.

“I can smell it, Duo. You want it. Your whole body vibrates with it.” He moved up, pressing himself against the longhaired man and burying his face in Duo’s neck. “At Devil’s Bliss, I smelled your lust. When I was dancing, I saw how you looked at me. When I was with you, the intensity of it drove me mad. I almost went down on you then and there, with all those people watching.”

Great, just great. Not only was Wufei a Chinese strip dancing were, he was an exhibitionist too. That thought jerked Duo back to reality. Wufei wasn’t human. It didn’t matter that he was male, Duo couldn’t argue the fact that he felt the blood rush through his veins and his jeans grow tight as Wufei pressed against him. He could feel Wufei through his clothing, the black-haired man was rock hard, hot against him, and Duo’s mouth ran dry, thinking about his hands on that bronzed body, yielding to his touch.

“I can taste it, Duo. You want me as much as I want you. Can’t you taste it, taste me?” Wufei shifted again, rubbing his leg against the bulge in Duo’s pants. Duo’s breath hissed out from between clenched teeth. The black-haired man dipped his head, caught Duo’s lips in a light kiss. When Duo didn’t pull away, Wufei deepened this kiss, using his tongue to moisten the other’s lips. He pressed harder, pushing against Duo, demanding entrance to his mouth. At the same time, he let his hand drop down to cup Duo’s crotch, rubbing his erection through the cloth. Duo groaned at the contact, parting his lips. Seizing the chance, Wufei pressed harder with his hand, making Duo open his mouth, letting the Chinese man in. Gleefully, Wufei’s tongue explored Duo’s mouth, stroking the longhaired man’s tongue with his own. He felt a searing flash of pleasure run straight to his own erection as Duo began to kiss him back, using his own tongue to stroke Wufei’s. Deftly, Wufei released the button and unzipped Duo’s jeans, grasping the other man’s throbbing cock through the thin material of his boxers. Their tongues battled, twining around each other frantically until they broke apart gasping.

Duo couldn’t think, he just felt. Wufei’s hand on was him, stroking him, driving him wild. His mouth was wide as he fought for breath, but Wufei’s mouth closed over his again, stealing what little air he could get. He felt the Chinese man’s tongue plunge into his mouth again, grazing his teeth, running along his lips. Wufei bit down on Duo’s bottom lip, drawing blood, but Duo barely noticed. He didn’t stop moving his hand, alternating the pressure and stroke to keep Duo poised on the brink of release.

A loud groan wrenched itself from Duo’s throat as Wufei dipped his hand past the waistband of his boxers, wrapping his hand fully around Duo’s pulsing erection. Wufei ran his hand up and down its length, rubbing his thumb over the tiny slit at its tip, spreading the precome that had escaped. Duo’s eyes were clenched shut, a fine sheen of sweat covering him. The Chinese dancer stroked him faster, watching Duo’s face contort into a grimace of pleasure so intense it was akin to pain. He kissed him again, licking at the bit of blood on Duo’s lip, delving his tongue into the other man’s mouth before pulling away. Wufei felt Duo’s cock twitch in his hand, knew that his owner wasn’t far off from release. He pressed himself hard against him, panting as his erection ground into Duo’s body.

Wufei moved his head close to Duo’s ear, whispering. “Let me make you come, Duo. Come for me, Duo…let me….”

The Chinese man watched as Duo’s mouth fell open in a silent scream of pleasure, tightening his hand around the braided man’s erection as Duo’s orgasm ripped through him. He arched up into Wufei’s hand, fingers clenching the arms of the chair as Wufei ground against him, crying out his own release as his owner shook from pleasure coursing through him..

Duo lay panting for several minutes with Wufei collapsed boneless against him, his hand still wrapped around Duo’s cock.

“Christ, Wuffie, what the fuck was that?” he panted, wrenching his eyes open.

“That, Duo,” he said between gasps, “is why I’m such a good pet.”

Duo couldn’t help but grin, ignoring the stickiness inside his pants. He looked at Wufei’s flushed face, then his eyes travelled down to see the stain in Wufei’s own pants. “Fuck, Wu, you get off on that?” His eyes twinkled with laughter.

Wufei mirrored Duo’s grin. “Oh yes,” he drew the last syllable out, turning it into a hiss. “You look so good when you come,” he wriggled his eyebrows, “let’s do it again.” He began to move his hand, using Duo’s release as lubrication and smiling evilly when the other man started to grow hard in his hand again.

“Christ, no. I’ll pass out,” he said, extracting Wufei’s hand and telling himself to get a grip. A grip that was nowhere near his reawakening cock.

Wufei looked disappointed. “And your point is?”

“Didn’t you say I should go meet with Mr. Yuy again? That was your idea, remember? Clear my card, I have a dance with the devil!”

The Chinese dancer sputtered for a moment. “But not now.”

“Not when you’ve finally gotten in my pants, eh, Wuffie?”

“Exactly. Besides, the Erus isn’t at Devil’s Bliss tonight, and it would be better to meet him there.”

“Oh yeah? Where is he?”

“I’m not sure, but I remember Quatre saying something about a meeting with someone, in another city.”

“Really? You could just be telling me that to keep me here, couldn’t you?”

“I could,” he agreed. “But, there’s one way to know for sure.”

“And what’s that?” Duo asked, knowing precisely what Wufei’s answer would be.

“Claim me, and I will deny you nothing,” Wufei said, his face turning serious.

“Make you mine?”

“Make me yours.”

*

Look Without Your Eyes

“That’s heavy, Wuffie. Real heavy,” Duo said, looking at Wufei’s serious face.

Wufei said nothing, weighing his options silently in his head.

“I can see the wheels turning in your head, Wu. Whatever it is you’re plotting, it won’t work.”

“Why the fuck not?”

Duo blinked. That was blunt. “Dammit, Wu, you’re starting to act like me.”

Wufei shrugged his shoulders. “It’s a shame you’re not starting to act like me. We’d be fucking like rabbits right now.”

The violet-eyed man erupted into laughter. Wufei took advantage of his laughing fit to slide his hand back into Duo’s boxers, disappointed that the other’s erection had softened. He wrapped his hand around Duo’s cock, teasing it back to fullness. Duo’s laughter died as he felt Wufei’s hand touch him, turning into a low groan.

“Stop it, Wufei. You could jerk me off all night, but I still won’t fuck you,” Duo grated out, fighting off the sensations that Wufei’s hand caused.

“Then I’ll watch you come, over and over again, all night,” he paused, watching Duo’s face cloud with pleasure. “What if I went down on you, Duo? What if I showed you what it would be like to be inside me, surrounded by tight heat? Could you stop yourself from pounding into me then?”

Duo’s mind swam, his erection aching. Wufei’s words ignited a fire in his brain, one that swiftly travelled down to his groin. He drew in a shuddering breath. “No. I can’t. I can’t, Wu.”

“Why, Duo? You can’t hurt me, not like that.”

“I’m not worried about hurting you, not really. According to, you’re big on pain, remember?” A weak grin spread across his face.

“So, why not?”

Duo struggled, trying to explain something he didn’t really understand. “I don’t know you. I mean, look at the whole situation. What am I doing with a ‘pet’ that some idiot guy gave me? You’re a were, Wufei, and you do what he tells you. I just don’t….”

“It’s because I’m a were that you won’t, isn’t it?”

Duo’s breath hitched, then he exhaled slowly. “Yeah, I guess it is, maybe a little. I don’t even know what kind of were you are.”

“I see.” Wufei slowly stood, backing away from Duo.

“Jesus, Wu, I didn’t mean…oh, fuck.”

“No, no. You made your point. I’m not human, Duo. Not like you. You call yourself Death, you kill, but you’re not a monster. I am.”

“You’re not a goddamn monster. You’re a shape-shifter. That’s all you do, change your shape. You’re still you, right?”

Wufei smiled sadly. “I’m still me. But I think it’s me you have the problem with.” He sank to the floor, bending his legs and wrapping his arms around them, resting his cheek on his knees.

Duo wrestled with his own reluctance. Wufei was right, on all accounts. Duo wanted him, and wanted him badly. Wanted him so bad he actually could taste it. He watched Wufei, trying to remember all he knew about shifters.

“Change for me.”

Startled, Wufei blinked at him, uncomprehending. “What?”

“Change into whatever animal it is you are. Don’t tell me, show me. I want to see it.”

Wufei regarded the braided man curiously. “Are you sure?”

“If you change now, how soon can you change back?”

“Right after. I may be a bit tired, though,” he paused, considering. “You’re not into bestiality, are you?”

“Uh, not quite. I want to see you change, that’s all. Will you?”

Wufei shifted, kneeling on the floor and sitting back on his feet. He seemed uncertain, but nodded. “Alright. You’re sure about this?”

Duo nodded, trying to slow his heart rate. The only time he’d ever been around a were in animal form was when he was trying to kill it. He kept reminding himself that this was Wufei, not a renegade looking for a late night snack.

Wufei watched Duo for a moment longer. Once he was sure Duo was certain, he began to change. To Duo, it looked as if there was a heat wave radiating from Wufei, blurring his vision. The air around him shimmered as if it were heated, but the heat in the room was being drawn into the glow, not being giving off by it. Power prickled at the edges of Duo’s mind. Wufei’s form was outlined in a stark white, then it began to change, shortening here and elongating there. Abruptly, the white glow shifted to a deep black, and a gush of warm air exploded along Duo’s skin. He blinked, trying to clear tears from his eyes. As he focused on the black shadow, it shifted and then stilled.

Wufei was gone, the only evidence of him being there was the discarded black clothing that lay next to the animal. Duo focused on what he assumed was Wufei, staring hard at the large black panther that sat in his place. He was slightly smaller then the one he had seen at Heero’s, and his eyes were lost in the deep black fur. Looking closer at the cat’s eyes, Duo realized that they were completely black. They were Wufei’s eyes.

Finding his throat dry, Duo swallowed. “Wufei?”

The panther nodded.

“Christ, that’s weird. You can’t talk like that, can you?”

The big cat actually managed to give Duo a withering look.

“Okay, okay, dumb question. Can I come over?” Not expecting an answer, and not getting one, Duo stood on somewhat shaky legs and walked slowly over to kneel down next to Wufei. The cat was larger up close, perhaps four feet tall sitting on its haunches, maybe a little bigger. Definitely larger than normal, Duo decided, but still smaller than the other. “Hey, great idea, just growl at me a little if I piss you off; don’t bite me. I’d like to keep my arms.”

Wufei nodded again, raising a large paw and setting it on Duo’s lap.

A little nervous, Duo brought his hand up and scratched Wufei’s ear. His eyes narrowing to little slits, Wufei let out a little purring sound.

Duo laughed. “I really didn’t think of panthers as the purring type….I keep thinking of hisses and growls.”

Wufei turned his head and flicked his pink tongue out, licking Duo’s wrist. Duo’s eyes widened slightly.

“You did that before, back at Devil’s Bliss.” Growing more confident, Duo moved his hand down to scratch under Wufei’s chin, tentatively at first, waiting to see if it was alright.

Looking at Wufei’s eyes, Duo decided it was safe. He brought both hands up and ran one lightly over Wufei’s head, pleased when the panther nuzzled his hand.

“You’re so soft. Warm, too.” Duo continued running his hands over the cat, amazed at the soft texture of his fur. He ran his hand down Wufei’s front leg, resting it over the paw. “You’re beautiful, Wu.” Satisfied, Duo grew impatient. “Change back now, please?”

The panther gazed at Duo silently, then pressed his head against Duo’s. This time there was a quick inrush of air, the same blinding light, then the gush of warm air, much faster then when he had changed first. Duo blinked; the touch of Wufei’s power was so much more potent this close, it left Duo panting, his body tingling with something like pleasure.

When his vision cleared, he saw Wufei, naked, and with his hand where Duo had held the panther’s paw. He looked nervous, as if he expected Duo to get up and run screaming out of the apartment.

“Jesus, Wu. I think I almost came in my pants when you changed back. Is it always like that?”

“I don’t know, I don’t think many of us have changed in front of a human before.”

“Shit. You slowed it down when you first changed, didn’t you? It only took you a few seconds to change back.”

Wufei nodded. “I didn’t want to scare you.”

“Well, I don’t scare that easy, but thanks for the sentiment.”

“Did you, ah, see what you wanted?”

“I’m getting an eye full now, aren’t I?” He gestured at Wufei’s nakedness.

Unconcerned with his state of undress, Wufei tried to take his hand back, but Duo wouldn’t let go. “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I know. I saw your eyes.” Slowly, Duo raised Wufei’s hand to his face, then carefully licked the inside of other man’s wrist.

Wufei gaped at him, paralysed.

“It was you. They were your eyes. I was right, you just change shape, and you’re still the same person. Not a monster.”

Wufei released the breath he didn’t know he was holding.

“You said you can smell lust, right? I assume the same goes for fear, and anger?”

“The stronger the emotion, the easier it is.”

“And what do you smell now?”

Wufei glanced meaningfully at the noticeable bulge in Duo’s unbuttoned pants. “I think you want me.”

“I think you’re right. Maybe we should….” Duo started to say, glancing towards the bathroom, but Wufei cut him off.

“No, no showers. I like the way you smell right now.”

Duo made a wry face. “I don’t know if that was a compliment or not.”

“Trust me, it’s a good thing. You smell like man – musky. Like Duo. Your own scent. It’s…arousing.” Wufei grinned, sliding his hand back inside Duo’s pants.

Duo growled low in his throat, arcing into Wufei’s hand. The Chinese man became instantly hard, amazed at how Duo responded to his touch.

“Wu…Wufei. Hold up….” Duo managed to ground out through the haze that had fogged his brain. “I’m the dominant one here.”

“Oh, have we already established that?”

“We’re about too,” Duo said, removing Wufei’s hand. He reached out and pushed Wufei back onto the carpet, spreading the other man’s legs. A small tremor of anticipation ran through Wufei’s body as he watched Duo move between his legs. Quickly, Duo yanked his shirt off, then slipped out of his pants and boxers. His mind was fuzzy, all he could think of was pounding into Wufei until the black-haired man screamed and writhed beneath him.

Duo fought to control himself, eyes locked on the body spread before him. Wufei’s golden skin was flushed, his own eyes heavy-lidded as he waited for Duo to move. Not really sure of himself, Duo leaned over Wufei, running his hand up his thigh, then dipping his head to capture Wufei’s mouth in a savage kiss. Wufei pressed hard against Duo, bruising both their lips with the force.

The braided man pulled back, bringing his fingers up to Wufei’s mouth. Wufei took them deep, running his tongue over them, then biting on the tips as Duo drew them out. Slowly, he pushed one finger past the tight ring of muscle of Wufei’s ass, stretching him. He dipped his head, closing his mouth over Wufei’s nipple, nipping at it, then running his tongue around it. Duo heard Wufei whimper, the sound trailing off into a mewling that was so much like a cat. It didn’t bother Duo, if anything, it fuelled his desire. He wanted to make Wufei do much more than just whimper.

“Duo…what are you doing, Duo?” Wufei gasped. “Stop teasing, just do me!”

Duo slid two more fingers inside the panting man, leaving the tortured buds alone. “I don’t want to hurt you, not the first time.”

“You can’t hurt me. I’m a shifter, remember?”

He stopped moving his fingers, still uncertain.

“Dammit, Duo. I’ve been taken before, rougher than you could ever be. Most times with nothing to make it easy.” Wufei glanced down at Duo’s engorged member. “You’re still wet from when I jerked you off, so screw the damn prep.” He looked back to Duo’s face, then spoke in a low voice. “Just fuck me, you can experiment later. I want you in me now.”

Duo wrestled with the idea a little more, then gave in. He withdrew his fingers and positioned himself at Wufei’s entrance. “You sure?”

“I said fuck me, Duo. Now.”

“Gladly,” he grunted, pushing in slowly, drawing out the pleasure for both of them. He slid in past the ring of muscle, feeling Wufei’s tight heat swallow him. Duo fought for control; Wufei was so tight around him, lack of prep making him clutch at Duo as his body trembled.

“Christ.” Duo’s breathing was heavy, laboured, as he was fully seated inside Wufei’s body.

“Move, Duo. Or do I get to ride you?” Wufei’s smile was impish. He flexed his muscles, alternately clenching and unclenching them around Duo’s cock. He was rewarded with a long groan from the other man.

“Fuck, do that again.” Duo panted. “How the hell can you do that?”

Wufei just grinned at him, and repeated what he had done.

Duo’s eyes glazed, then, with a grunt, he pulled back, nearly withdrawing completely. The friction was mind-numbing; waves of pleasure coursed through him. He plunged back in, wrenching a moan from Wufei. Duo drove himself harder into his writhing body, and Wufei locked his legs around him, raising his hips to meet Duo’s thrusts. The change in angle made Duo hit the small bundle of nerves inside Wufei, causing the black-haired man to tense, throwing his head back as he cried out. Amazed, Duo pulled back, and tried to hit the spot again, watching Wufei’s face.

“Duo…there. Gods, yes…!” Wufei’s mouth opened wide, gasping for air as Duo struck his prostate again. “Harder, Duo. Fuck me harder!”

Duo’s mind burned. He pounded harder into Wufei’s giving body, making him cry out in random, unintelligible sounds. Moving faster, Duo held back his own release, focused on driving Wufei over the edge. The black-haired man’s hands clenched at the carpet, white-knuckled. The mewling sounds Wufei was making trailed off into a keening wail, his entire body quivering from the shocking pleasure burning through him.

Through his lust, Duo heard Wufei screaming at him: fuck me harder, faster. It felt so good, being buried to the hilt in Wufei’s warm body, pounding into him, hearing him scream his pleasure. Determined to drive Wufei over the edge, Duo grasped the black-haired man’s pulsing cock in his hand, stroking him in time with his thrusts, driving as deep as Wufei’s body would let him.

“Gods, Duo…!” Wufei cried out, arching into Duo’s hand. His eyes clenched shut, his body wracked with tremors as he came violently, spreading his release over himself and Duo. A hot rush of air exploded around Duo, accompanied by the body-numbing flash of power as Wufei came. The power wrapped itself around Duo, searing his mind and burning through him, leaving hot trails in its wake. At the same time, Duo felt Wufei’s muscles clamp down on him; he managed one last deep thrust until his own orgasm ripped through him, his seed pouring into Wufei. Spent, he collapsed on top of the dancer, still buried inside him as the power waned.

A few minutes later, after the last tendrils of pleasure abated, Duo got enough of his breath back to speak. “Goddamn it, Wuffie. What the hell did you do?”

“I should think that would be obvious, Duo. I just fucked you.”

Duo stifled his laugh, propping himself up on his hands above Wufei. “Don’t be cute. I felt your power.”

Wufei gazed up at Duo, looking for all the world like a sated cat. “It was good, wasn’t it?”

Duo grinned down at him. “Sweet fuck, yes. But why?”

Unsure, he shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. Maybe because I just changed. I’ve never been done by a human before.”

“You’ve GOT to be kidding.”

“No, only others like me. But when you were inside me, I just….” Wufei grinned at him. “You fuck good, Duo.”

“Cute.”

Wufei let his eyes droop, lowering his voice. “Really, Duo. Better than a were. Better than anything. I want you again.” His voice grew husky. “Fuck me again, Duo. I want you moving in me again, pounding into me.” He felt Duo’s cock twitch inside him, growing harder. Wufei moaned softly. “I know you want to. You’re hard.”

Duo’s body grew warm again, felt his cock swell to fullness, still inside Wufei.

Wufei ran his hands over Duo’s chest, pinching one of his nipples between his fingers, earning a hiss from Duo. “We’re already in a mess. Why waste the opportunity?”

Duo pulled back, then lightly thrust into him again, his cock throbbing. His come made Wufei slick, and when he plunged deep, some of it was forced out, sliding over Wufei’s ass. Duo groaned, catching it with his fingers.

Watching with heavy-lidded eyes, Wufei felt blood rush to his groin. He caught the predatory grin on Duo’s face right before the longhaired man wrapped his hand around Wufei’s engorged member.

“Unnhh…Duo,” Wufei panted, “please….”

Ignoring him, Duo lazily stroked Wufei, pleased with the tiny sounds he was making as he thrust up into his hand.

“What? Please what, Wu?”

Desperate, Wufei pulled away from Duo, then pushed himself back onto his hard cock; having Duo buried inside him but not moving was enough to drive Wufei mad. Duo’s hand wavered as he felt Wufei slide over him, and his breath caught in his throat.

“Do me…again. Fuck me again, Duo,” Wufei panted.

Pleased, Duo took control, plunging deep into him. “This? You want this?” He thrust again, harder this time.

“Yes…gods, yes. Hard…and fast, Duo.” Wufei’s legs locked around Duo again with surprising strength. “More!”

Duo forgot control, forgot everything but driving himself deep into Wufei, pounding into him as hard as he could. Adrenaline flowed though his veins, lending him the energy. He rammed against Wufei’s sweet spot, thrusting deeper when he heard Wufei cry out in pleasure.

Orgasm hit them both quickly, ripping through them. Accompanying it was that same rush of power, blinding in its intensity. It washed over Duo, increasing the sensations coursing through him, stealing his breath. Duo buried his face in Wufei’s neck as they rode out the waves of pleasure.

His body still quaking, Duo pulled back a little, violet eyes staring down at Wufei. “That…holy shit. The power…it’s so intense.”

Wufei ran his hands through his sweat dampened hair, brushing wisps of it out of his face. “I didn’t do it on purpose. When I came, it just….” he trailed off, shrugging his shoulders.

“If you do that every time, I might never stop screwing you.”

His eyes lit up. “Really now…isn’t that interesting,” Wufei said, grinning.

“Whoa, there, down man,” Duo said, returning Wufei’s grin. “You’ll kill me, and then what good would I be to you?”

“Point noted.”

Duo snickered, levering himself up. He dipped his head, closing his eyes, catching Wufei’s mouth in a deep kiss, finding the other’s mouth open and waiting. He plunged his tongue inside, tangling his tongue with Wufei’s. Wufei drew Duo’s tongue deep, biting on it. Duo’s eyes flew open, and he made a little sound of surprise.

Wufei pulled back, the impish smile back on his face.

“What’s this? Sadistic tendencies in my little masochistic pet?”

“Damn right.”

Duo just shook his head, grinning. He felt, well, wonderful. Tingles still ran almost absently through his body from the rush of Wufei’s power, and his muscles were relaxed, languid.

“Do you feel as good as I do right now?” Duo asked lightly.

“All tingly and relaxed at the same time? Yeah. I’ve never felt that before, never at the same time. Ever.”

“So I guess I’m really good.”

Wufei nodded.

“I think I’ve worn you out,” Duo said, enjoying himself immensely.

“Maybe just a little, but I’ll recover quickly. I’ve got an advantage, remember.”

“Ah. Momentary lapse. My brain is still fogged.”

“Perhaps,” Wufei agreed.

Duo looked Wufei over, then himself. “I’d say we’re due for a shower. Coming with me?”

Wufei nodded his agreement. “Conserve water, shower together. And to think, this morning, you were flustered that I was in the same bed with you.”

“Imagine that.” Duo picked himself up slowly.

Wufei purred as he felt Duo’s cock slide gradually out of him. He stretched languorously, sighing in contentment.

“Excuse me, but did you just purr?”

Wufei had the decency to look embarrassed as he rose to his feet after Duo. He walked passed the longhaired man, who gazed lustily at the slender figure. Duo’s eyes dropped, looking at the come trailing down the inside of Wufei’s thigh. A stirring started in his stomach, running swiftly to his groin. With a growl, Duo started after his lover.

The phone rang as Duo crossed the living room. He ignored it, entering the bedroom as his answering machine clicked on.

“Duo. Pick up the phone.” Quatre’s voice flowed through the telephone line. “Stop fucking Wufei and pick up the phone, damn it.”

Duo back-pedalled, poking his head around the corner curiously.

“Forget it, no time. We have a situation. Meet me at Devil’s Bliss, same place you met with the Erus. Knock on the left hand door, same as before. Now, Duo.” The machine clicked off.

Swearing, Duo stalked into the bathroom.

“Hurry up, Wufei. We’ve got to go.”

“Quatre wants us at Devil’s Bliss,” Wufei said from the shower.

“How’d you know?” Duo asked, crawling in with him, quickly scrubbing down.

Wufei rolled his eyes. “I’ve got extremely good hearing.” He took the washcloth from Duo and washed his owner’s back.

“Right. Erm, what are you doing?”

“Washing your back.”

“Yeah, I noticed. Why?”

“I’m stealing the chance to cop a feel.”

“Uh huh.” Duo hunched his shoulders as Wufei started working on his ass. “We haven’t got time to romp in the shower, Wuffie.”

“I know, but how can I miss the chance to touch my master?”

“Master?”

“You claimed me, Duo. I’m yours now.”

Duo snorted, taking the cloth from Wufei and swiftly returned the favour. “Even if Heero says you’re not?”

“Mmmmmm…what?” Wufei’s eyelashes fluttered. “Well, that really remains to be seen. I still think you might be able to face him and live.”

“Great vote of confidence, Wu.” Duo rinsed the last bit of suds from his body and shut off the water. “Come on, find some clothes.”

*

Ten minutes later, Duo and Wufei were walking down the dark staircase to the room where they had waited for the Erus’ summons. Duo was dressed in his usual black pants and shirt, selecting sturdy black boots for footwear. He’d slipped on a shoulder holster with his Glock .45 in it, hauling on a jacket to conceal it.

Wufei had looked pointedly at the gun when he slipped it in the holster. “What’s that for?” He was sitting on the bed at the time in a loose pair of black linen pants and a black, form fitting fishnet shirt. He’d brushed his hair back into a small ponytail and added a silver chain that dangled half way down his chest. Soft leather boots topped off his outfit. Duo had no idea what he was getting dressed up for.

“Just in case,” Duo had replied, winking as he slid the gun home. He slipped a switchblade into his boot, in the special hidden pocket he had requested. Two knives went into spring-loaded sheaths on each of his arms. The springs were for time, no need to draw the knife, just a quick flick of his wrist would send them hilt-first into his hand. Wufei had wondered why Duo was arming himself to the teeth.

Hilde had met them at the door near the stage. She was wearing the same outfit she had last night, apparently it was the bar’s uniform. Her hair was a deep shade of purple and it hung loose around her face.

They passed through the entrance room, it was empty. The hallway was still as cold as Duo remembered; he shivered and goosebumps rose on his arms. Wufei walked close beside him, one step behind. Hilde stopped in front of the door at the end of the hallway, motioning for Duo to go ahead. He looked back at Wufei, who just shrugged his shoulders.

Duo swung the door wide, pushing it back far enough so it banged against the wall. Everyone in the room stopped and stared at the newcomers as they walked into the room. Duo and Wufei stood close to the door, but Hilde walked passed them and settled into a vacant chair.

The room was dim, a fire roaring in the pit as the only light besides the low overhead swivel lights. Glancing around, Duo noticed Heero sitting in the same chair as before, this time flanked by two people, a tall, dark blonde man on the left and a smaller woman on the right, her waist-length hair shining a strange golden brown in the wavering light. Quatre sat on the long couch to the Erus’ right, a tall brown haired man curled on his chest. The blonde had one arm wrapped protectively around him. The brunette’s hair fell forward over his face, hiding one side almost completely from view, the man’s single visible eye glinted a startlingly bright green in the firelight.

Across from Quatre and the unidentified brunette, Zechs sat on the other crescent shaped couch comfortably between two women that Duo hadn’t seen before, one with long blonde hair and the other a brunette with her hair tied back into a neat bun. Zechs smiled at the newcomers, nodding his head in greeting. The women merely flicked their eyes over them briefly.

“Wonderful. You’re having a party and didn’t let us know. I’m underdressed.” Duo said, taking in the crowd.

The woman who stood next to Heero raised an eyebrow. “What is this one doing here?”

“Is it your habit to question the Erus’ choice, Relena?” Quatre spoke quietly.

The woman identified as Relena barely disguised a sneer. “No, of course not. But he isn’t one of us.”

The blonde seated next to Zechs turned to Duo. “Relena is just being cautious, Duo. Please, close the door and we’ll begin.”

Wufei closed the door quietly, shutting out what light the hall offered.

“Uh huh. Could we start by explaining why you decided to invite me to your little get together?” Duo asked, trying to keep his annoyance out of his voice.

“You’re just peeved that we disturbed your games with Wufei,” Hilde snickered from her chair.

“Now, just a goddamn minute….” Duo began.

“Enough,” Heero said, and the conversation ceased abruptly. “Sit, Duo.” He gestured to the last vacant chair next to Hilde’s.

Duo bristled at being given orders, but he sank into the plush black chair. Wufei followed him and curled comfortably at his feet, lying his cheek against Duo’s thigh. Duo opened his mouth to say something, then decided against it. Let them know Wufei was his.

Relena’s eyes narrowed, but she said nothing. The rest of the gathered people sat waiting for the Erus to begin. Instead, the dark blonde on his left spoke.

“Well, that appears to be everyone, thank you for coming Duo,” he said companionably. “To begin, let me introduce you. You already know Quatre, and the man trying to crawl into his skin is Trowa.” He nodded in Quatre’s direction. The blonde smiled and Trowa inclined his head slightly. “Relena is standing to the Erus’ right, followed by Dorothy, Zechs and Une.” Each nodded as they were named. “And, of course, the lovely Hilde. I am called Treize.” He smiled brightly.

“Delighted, I’m sure,” Duo said sourly.

Treize was unruffled, his smile simply grew brighter.

“If you’re done, Treize…?” Heero asked softly.

“Of course, Erus,” he said, bowing.

Heero’s eyes flickered over the assembly. “Duo Maxwell is here by my invitation, so he is to be left unmolested. The same applies to his pet.”

“To Wufei,” Duo corrected, wondering exactly what he meant by ‘molested’.

A smile tugged at the corners of Heero’s mouth. “To Wufei,” he conceded.

“Now,” Duo said, getting straight to the point, “what’s this ‘situation’ you have?”

Next to Heero, Relena bristled. “Listen, human, I have no idea what the Erus is thinking, bringing you here….”

“Relena,” Quatre said, smiling, “hush.”

She looked ready to chew nails, but she hushed.

“Be nice to Death….” Quatre whispered.

Heero looked unconcerned. “The situation is this: I have requested that you cease murdering creatures -”

“We’ve been over this already,” Duo cut him off.

The Erus held up his hand. “But. New information has come to my attention. In light of recent developments, I have a different request.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?”

A slow smile actually spread over Heero’s almost expressionless face. “I wish to enlist your aid.”

The rest of the gathering seemed surprised by this, and Relena sucked in her breath with a hiss. Only Quatre seemed unconcerned.

“You can’t be serious, Erus,” Dorothy said. “What can this human do?”

Une echoed her opinion. “This man can be of no use to us. Send him away, or kill him.”

Duo cocked an eyebrow. “Seems like your underlings are pissed, Heero.”

“Then it should do them well to remember that they are underlings.” His voice was cold, dispassionate.

Dorothy and Une lowered their heads by way of apology.

“So, what is it exactly you want me to do?” Duo asked.

“That is unimportant right now. I simply want to know if you will help.”

“Right. Well, I can’t really offer help if I don’t know what I’m getting in to, now can I?”

Heero considered this, then his rose silently. “As you are well aware, monster activity has increased tremendously in the last few decades. More importantly, in the last few years, human deaths by supernatural means have been on a steady increase, especially in the last fifteen years and more noticeably in the last five.” He spoke quickly, confidently as he circled the fire. “This has special interest for myself, and many others. It jeopardizes our existence. If humans were to rise in force against us, we would be hard pressed for survival.” He turned steely-blue eyes on Duo. “In order to protect ourselves, we must put a stop to these deaths.”

Duo processed the information. “You think someone is deliberately killing humans in the hope of inciting a full fledged war against monsters with the goal of annihilating them.”

“Exactly.” Heero was pleased with Duo’s quick mind.

“But all causes of death are pegged as genuine monster killings. I’ve eliminated some of the killers myself. Which means, the thing behind the killings has the ability to control the little beasties.”

Again, Heero nodded.

“And why do you need me?”

Treize spoke up this time. “Your particular talents would be very useful. That, and the fact that you have many contacts in the human world. Also, you are free to move about as most of us are not.”

“Oh, that reminds me. According to Wufei here, he and Trowa are shape-shifters. As for the rest of you, I didn’t ask. But you,” Duo looked at Heero, “and Quatre, well, I did ask. Guess what he said?” He paused for a second. “That I had to ask you directly. And now, I’m asking.”

Heero sat back in his chair, still making no sound. “Everyone, out. Quatre, you stay. Trowa may also. The rest of you, leave.”

Relena looked angry, but she filed out with everyone else. When Wufei made a move to leave, Duo put a restraining hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t move, Wu. You’re staying with me.”

Heero’s eyes flashed angry, even as his face and voice remained calm. “I said, everyone out.”

“Too bad. Wufei’s mine, so he stays. I’m his master now, not you.”

“Master? Who said you were his master, Duo?” Quatre asked, his blue eyes narrowing.

“He did.” Duo nodded down at Wufei, who started to look nervous. Duo tightened his grip on his shoulder in an effort to calm him.

“Is that true, Wufei? Did you acknowledge him as your master? A human master…?” Heero’s voice sent chills down Duo’s spine.

Wufei shook under Duo’s hand. “Yes. He took me. But not before he watched me change. He greeted me as a master would…he…my wrist….”

“Did he?” Heero was as still as a statue in his chair, only his moving mouth betraying the illusion. “And how did he know to do that?”

Duo felt again how severely out of place he was. “I didn’t know. I just did it. And now he belongs to me.”

“Dammit, Duo,” Quatre said ruefully, “you always know just what to do to cause trouble don’t you?”

“It’s a talent,” he replied. “From what I gather, this is a direct challenge to your authority.” Duo addressed Heero this time.

“Yes, it is.”

“Good enough then. Before we attempt to kill each other over this little matter, mind answering one question?”

“Which is?”

“What the hell are you?”

*

Live Without the Sunlight

Heero glared, and Duo felt like his skin was trying to crawl off his body.

“What the hell am I?” Heero repeated. “You challenge me, and you don’t even know what I am.”

Duo grinned, trying not to panic under Heero’s intense gaze. “I sure know how to pick ‘em, don’t I?” He felt his pulse quicken when he looked at Heero’s face; the blue of his eyes had frosted over. So cold, it burned.

The Erus rose so quickly to his feet that Duo blinked, not even sure he had seen him move. Calmly, almost negligently, he flicked his wrist, and Duo felt a small backlash of something he could only explain as power. It was different than Wufei’s; it was tainted with anger, not passion.

He heard Wufei make a small sound as surprise, his hand flying to his face. Duo looked down, saw three bloody marks on Wufei’s cheek. Heero flicked his wrist again, and three more streaks appeared on the other side of his face, the droplets of blood flying in small arcs.

Duo jumped to his feet in front of Wufei. “What the fuck did you just do?! Wu, you okay?” His hand almost went for the .45 in the holster.

“I’m fine, it’s fine. It’s shallow,” came Wufei’s answer.

Duo glanced down quickly, surprised to see the wounds closed over where Wufei had wiped the blood away.

Heero was standing still again, his eyes still burning with their cold fire. “You asked what I was.”

“Yeah, so what kind of answer is that, using Wufei as a scratching post?”

“He’s healed.”

“That’s not the point, buddy. You’re messing with my Wufei now, not Quatre’s.”

Heero looked vaguely amused even as his eyes burned a hole through Duo’s mind. Duo looked away from Heero’s eyes, finding it too hard to focus his thoughts.

“Don’t you know?” Heero asked, his voice low and deadly. “Can’t you tell? Killing all those monsters, and you don’t know what I am?” He raised his hand like he was going to strike again.

Duo acted before he thought. He flicked his hand, palming the knife hilt. With a quick twist, he threw it across the room, hearing a satisfying ‘thunk’ as it buried to the hilt in Heero’s stomach.

Heero looked down at the blade in his body, annoyed. He grasped it and pulled it free, tossing the bloody knife into the flames. “Unimpressive. This is what you would fight me with?”

Duo swallowed, hard. Okay, so he could haul six inch knives out of his stomach and not even sweat. No biggie. He bled. That was something, right?

“Live without the sunlight, Duo. Guess what I am.” Heero’s voice was quiet.

“I don’t do riddles.”

“Live without the sunlight, breathe without a heartbeat. Live without living. What am I?” Heero pressed, keeping his voice monotone as he stared hard at Duo.

“Christ, Heero, I don’t have time…for…” his voice trailed off, “…games. Jesus Christ …you’re a goddamn vampire! Fuck me, a vampire.” Duo’s eyes went wide.

Heero smiled. “Very good. Maybe I’ll take you up on that offer later, but first, I think we have to kill each other.”

“Holy fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck!” Duo twitched his wrist, palming the other knife, his mind franticly working, trying to remember everything he knew about vampires.

“You keep saying that. I think you have something different on your mind other than fighting me, Duo.”

“Yeah, I’ll do you as soon as we deal with this little matter,” Duo said acidly.

“Promise?”

Duo ignored Heero’s last comment, instead concentrating on looking at Heero while avoiding his eyes. “Alright, so you’re a vamp. What about you, Q?”

The blonde looked up from where he was speaking quietly to Trowa. “You tell me.”

“I’d say vamp. Just struck me that I’ve never seen you in the day. Hey, hold up. Vamps have fangs, you don’t.”

Quatre smiled broadly. “I don’t? Couldn’t it be that you just never saw them before?” As he spoke, Duo realized that the blonde did indeed have fangs; his canines were actually slightly longer than normal and tapered off in a sharp point.

“Shit, how could I not notice them before?” Duo stared hard at the teeth, wondering how sharp they really were.

Quatre chuckled quietly.

Duo shook his head. “Mind tricks, right? All the stories have vampires with the power to manipulate minds. I just overlooked them, with a little bit of help from you.”

“Again, very good Duo.” Heero smiled, his own fangs glinting in the firelight. “Another reason why I want your help.”

“I thought we had to try to kill each other first over ownership of Wufei. I don’t want him in your hands.”

“Oh? And why is that?”

“Simple. You forbade him from defending himself, turned him into meat for your cronies.”

“And you want to die over that?”

Duo snorted. “I have no intention of dying.”

“Then you won’t fight me.” Heero’s voice was emotionless once more. “Wufei still answers to me.”

“I didn’t say that. I said I have no intention of dying, not fighting.”

Heero looked the human over carefully. He couldn’t afford to let the insult slide, but he had no desire to kill Duo. Own him, break him, definitely have him, but not kill him. He leapt over the fire, picking Wufei up and tossing him into the wall like a rag doll. Wufei’s head snapped back against the wall, but he didn’t cry out. He slumped against the floor, then he lurched to his feet, dazed.

Duo didn’t have time to be worried about Wufei. He saw him fly through the air, then felt his own feet leave the floor. Heero threw him towards the fire. Duo twisted his body in the air landing lightly on his feet, and he heard Quatre let out a low whistle of appreciation. Instantly, Heero was back in front of him, snarling. Duo twisted his hand, bringing the knife slashing over the vampire’s throat. Blood spurted over Duo, blinding him in one eye. He clawed at his face, trying to clear his vision as Heero jumped back, his hand flying to his injured throat.

From the couch, Quatre clapped his hands. “He got you that time, Heero. Faster than you thought.”

Heero growled at the blonde. Duo watched, amazed, as the wound slowly closed over. “He did. It won’t happen again.”

He came at Duo again, faster this time. He slammed Duo’s arm into the wall, making him drop the knife. Duo let the knife go, elbowing Heero in the face. Heero took the blow without blinking, then went for Duo’s face. Duo ducked the punch, coming up with his own. Heero deflected it with his forearm, slamming his knee into Duo’s stomach. Duo doubled over, dropped to the floor, rolled away and jumped to his feet. Heero turned, too fast to see. The longhaired man whipped out with his foot, missing.

He heard Heero laugh softly as he felt a fist connect solidly with his side. His breath whooshed out, and he fell back to the floor, gasping. Heero laughed again, kicking Duo hard enough to knock him back against the wall. Duo stayed down this time, and Heero came over, crouching down on the balls of his feet. He buried his hand in Duo’s hair, wrenching his head up to look into his dazed violet eyes.

Duo blinked, focusing on the searing cobalt blue eyes staring at him. “Why fight, Duo?” Heero’s voice washed over him, hot and cold at the same time, like his power. Duo’s vision narrowed until all he saw were the vampire’s eyes. “Why fight when giving in is so easy? I would take you, Duo, take you for my own. Think of it.”

Duo only vaguely heard Heero’s voice, but he understood. The pain washed away, replaced by desire, longing. To be his, to belong to him. He reveled in the thought, reached out to Heero’s mind.

“Yes. Only you, Duo. Give yourself to me, Duo. Do as I say, and I will be yours. And you will be mine. Mine alone.” His voice was calming, soothing.

Duo felt himself drowning in Heero’s eyes, felt himself falling into the blue fire. He wanted it, wanted to belong to Heero, wanted to be taken by him.

The vampire saw Duo’s mind shudder, open to embrace him. He dipped his head down to Duo’s bared neck, licked at the skin softly. “Ask me to take you, Duo. Ask me, and I will make you mine.”

Duo’s mind balked. His body shook with tremors. No. He wouldn’t belong, didn’t belong to anybody. He didn’t need or want a master. He felt a tiny prick at his neck, and his mind broke free of Heero’s hold. He gasped as the pain came rushing back. Duo’s vision cleared, and he jerked his head back, his fingers scrabbling for the switchblade in his boot. He couldn’t get to his gun, not with Heero leaning against him. He jerked the blade free and jammed it into Heero’s side, ripping it up as hard as he could.

The vampire screamed, the sound nearly shattering Duo’s ears. Heero lurched back, and Duo pressed his back to the wall, gun in hand; the bloody blade forgotten on the floor. He held the gun pointed squarely at the vampire’s head. Blood dripped from a long slash in Duo’s arm onto the floor.

Heero glanced down at his side; the wound was deep and ragged. He pressed his coat against it, stemming the blood flow. Then he saw Duo pointing the gun at him, and sneered.

“You think you can kill me with that?”

Duo fought to keep his voice steady; his entire left side throbbed with pain, he hoped he didn’t have any broken ribs. “Maybe, maybe not. Depends on how good my aim is and how quick I can fire. I know you can heal fast, but can you pull your head back together if it’s splattered all over you nice furniture?”

The blood had stopped seeping from the wound in Heero’s side, so he let the coat drop. “I underestimated you, Duo. I shouldn’t have held back.”

The braided man grunted, kept the gun steady. If that was holding back, Duo would think twice before tangling with the vamp hand-to-hand again; he’d stick to guns, flamethrowers…tanks, maybe.

“Too late now.”

Heero instantly relaxed. “Yes, it is. It is a stalemate.”

“How you figure that?”

“If I move, you could kill me with that toy of yours, or you could miss and I could kill you. I have no desire to kill you, Duo. Not when there are better things to do.”

“Forget it, buddy. No more mind tricks.”

Heero nodded, then turned to Quatre. “Quatre?”

The blonde watched from the couch, Trowa was almost indifferent to the proceedings. “Stalemate. No dominant, no submissive.”

“Translation please?” Duo asked.

Heero looked back at Duo. “Wufei is yours, for now, since I called the fight. And you stay without a master.”

Wary, Duo lowered the gun. “I don’t need a master, Yuy. I belong to myself.”

The vampire’s eyebrows quirked. “So you said.”

Duo let that slide, he didn’t recall actually saying it before. “What happens now?”

Heero walked back to his chair and sat as if nothing happened. He curled his legs under him in one smooth motion, then gestured at the vacant couch next to him. Duo kept his back to the wall, got to his feet and sat on the offered couch, sliding the gun back into the holster. Gingerly, he touched his ribs. Bruised, not broken. He’d be sore, but that was it. It was a wonder, the way Heero had slammed Wufei into the wall. Thinking of Wufei, Duo searched the room for him. The shape-shifter was already moving toward them, heading for Duo. He sat next to the violet-eyed man, lightly touching his face. Duo thought of brushing the hand away, but didn’t.

“Now?” Heero’s voice was quiet again. “Now you answer my question. Will you help in finding out what is happening? Why the monsters are unnecessarily killing humans and who is controlling them?”

“Humph. If I say no, do I get the crap beat out of me again?”

Heero didn’t answer, just smiled slightly.

“Fine. I’m in. Tell me what you need me to do and I’m on it.”

Quatre beamed. “I knew it. I knew you’d help us.”

“Uh, yeah,” Duo said, rubbing his sore side. “What do you need me for? Heero almost made dog meat out of me.”

“You are human, Duo. You are free to move about as most of us are not. As vampires, the day is banned to us. The shifters are not restricted to the night, but they need direction. Your involvement with the monster slayings is also useful,” Quatre supplied. “Information on attacks, the type of monster, where and when. You have access to this information, we don’t.”

“And what will you do while I play detective?”

Heero spoke this time. “We will handle this side of it. Creatures that humans have never seen still exist. Perhaps we will be able to find out something there. There are others like us in the city. Information could also be found there.”

“Seems straightforward enough. I’ll check with my data. Is it okay if I pull in a few other people?”

Heero’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Like?”

Noting the look, Duo shook his head quickly and instantly regretted it. Blinding pain flashed through his head, and it took him a second longer to answer. “Nothing big. There’s a voodoo priestess who lives a little ways away from me, and a Wiccan in my building. I’ve used them before to get information.”

The Erus nodded. “That should be fine. Tell them as little as possible. Make up some story about research for future cases. That’s close enough to the truth.”

“That should stick. Besides, that’s essentially what we’re doing.” Duo absently scrubbed at his bloody face. “Is that it?”

“For now. I’ll be in contact. Either Quatre, Trowa or myself will communicate with you, the others have their own responsibilities.”

Duo turned that over in his head. “You think one of the others is in on it. That’s why you kept Q and Trowa here.”

Heero smiled, but it was tinted with anger. “Another reason why I requested your aid. The others are petty, always scrabbling for power. I don’t trust any of them.”

“So why keep them around?”

“Why not? It makes life interesting.”

Duo just shook his head. “You people, I don’t know what you are on, but you’re definitely not boring.” He winced as he shifted on the couch.

Trowa looked up at Quatre, then rose to his feet and approached Duo. He knelt in front of the longhaired man. He moved like a cat, all muscle and no bones, like he was made out of water. He tipped his head to the side, and his hair fell away from his face. Trowa’s green eyes glinted, and he ran his hands lightly over Duo’s bruised side.

“You’re injured.” His voice was a rich baritone, lilting with an accent Duo couldn’t place. It was the first time he had spoken all night. Then he reached up and touched the blood on Duo’s face. “Some of this is yours. You need to be taken care of.”

“Yeah, well, blame that on your Erus. He’s the one who used me as a punching bag.”

Trowa smiled, his eyes reflecting the dim light. Duo felt his breath hitch.

“You’re the panther that was here yesterday.” Duo smiled ruefully. “Got a kick out of keeping me away from the door, didn’t you?”

Trowa’s smile turned impish. “I’ll get Zechs to come in and look at you.” He started to rise to his feet.

“No, I have to speak with the others. I’ll send him in when I’m finished with them.” Heero said, rising.

Trowa inclined his head. “Thank you, Heero.”

Heero left the room, pausing at the door and looking back at the four mans who remained. Then he shut the door silently.

Duo watched Heero leave. “Zechs? What can he do?”

“He’s a healer, Duo,” Quatre said, stretching out on the couch.

“A healer. A witch?”

“No, he’s one of the fey,” Wufei said, curling closer to Duo.

“Fey. Hummm….” Duo’s eyes widened. “He’s a fairy? You’re joking, right?”

Quatre grinned. “Nope. He’s a fairy all right.”

Duo looked stunned. “And you don’t find that interesting at all?” He asked, grinning.

“Not half as interesting as you, Duo.”

“Uh, right. You just like my ass.” Duo coughed, shifting and grunting as pain shot up his side.

Trowa looked at Duo’s torn shirt. “We have to take that off. Help me clean your master up, Wufei.”

Duo let Wufei help him shrug out of his jacket and shirt, hissing when Trowa prodded his side. “Hey, watch it, that smarts.”

“Sorry,” Trowa mumbled, running his hands over Duo’s stomach. He unbuttoned Duo’s pants, sliding his hand in and touching Duo’s hip.

“What’s this?” Duo asked, quirking his eyebrow. “I think Trowa’s trying to strip me, Quatre.”

Quatre was watching quietly, propped up on an elbow. “Let him.”

Duo’s other eyebrow shot up.

“Trowa’s free for you to take anytime you want. Invite Wufei to join you, the two of them are stunning together.”

“And you’d just sit there and watch.”

“Of course.”

Duo shook his head even as he arched off the couch enough to push his bloodstained pants down a little further on one side so Trowa could examine his hip. “Is this offer open to everyone, or am I special?”

Quatre’s blue eyes twinkled. “You’re my friend Duo. And you’re special.”

“Thanks whole bunches, Q.”

“Duo,” Trowa rich voice interrupted, “we need to get this blood off you before Zechs comes back. He can heal you faster then.”

“Sure, Tro, go right ahead. I’m not above being babied.” Duo leaned his head back and closed his eyes, silently telling his head to stop throbbing.

And his eyes shot wide open again when he felt a hot, wet tongue slide over his chest. Looking down, he saw Trowa lapping at his chest, his pink tongue darting out from between his lips. Wufei had one hand pressed on one side of Duo’s neck while he slowly licked the blood away from the other side.

“What the hell are you two doing?” Duo demanded as he felt the heat rise in his unbuttoned pants.

“Cleaning the blood off, Duo,” Quatre said. “You told them to.”

“Hey, whoa, back up. I didn’t know they were going to lick it off! Would you two quit that!?” Duo nearly shouted when he felt Trowa’s tongue graze his nipple.

“Why, Duo? You like it, I can smell your lust from here. They can too,” the blonde vampire said, grinning.

“And you’re getting off on the show, Q. Jesus, can everyone smell it when you get a hard on around here!?” Duo said, only half joking.

Quatre nodded. “Pretty much. Let them do it their way, Duo. Enjoy it.”

“Enjoy it, my ass. I’d rather a shower, thank you very much,” Duo mumbled.

Wufei’s eyes lit up. “Is there blood on your ass, Duo? We didn’t check there, Trowa.”

“Hmmm, you’re right. But maybe a bath would be a better idea.” Trowa glanced suggestively at the huge marble bath behind the gauzy curtains.

“A wonderful excuse to get him all wet and soapy. Not to mention naked,” Wufei added.

Duo groaned, rolling his eyes. “Do you guys ever stop?”

Quatre was busy entertaining notions of Duo and the two shifters in the bathtub. “No, they don’t. Just go with it, Duo.”

Trowa and Wufei were back to cleaning the blood of Duo. The longhaired man was having a hard time breathing with two shifters crawling over him when the door opened and Zechs walked in.

“My, my. Look what we have here,” the tall blonde said happily. “Perhaps I should come back later?”

“No, I don’t think,” Quatre said, somewhat disappointed. “Duo doesn’t seem to be in a frisky mood. Trowa and Wufei were merely getting rid of some of the mess.”

“Ah.” Zechs didn’t look convinced. “They can finish after I look at the injuries.”

“Right, whatever.” Duo sounded just a bit grumpy.

Wufei scooted back, and Trowa moved to lean on the black-haired man’s legs. Zechs mirrored Trowa’s earlier gestures, running his hands over Duo’s skin lightly. Duo saw a small glitter in the tall blonde’s eye, and wondered if fairies could also detect certain, ah, emotions and conditions.

“Nothing too serious, bruising and slight lacerations. This will only take a second,” Zechs said, pressing his hands over Duo’s ribs.

Duo felt the throb of pain as Zechs pressed harder, but he stayed quiet. He caught the faint scent of a forest, pine and flowers. The tang of decaying leaves underlay the fresher smells, and Duo felt his head grow light. Zechs ran his hands over Duo’s body, murmuring softly to himself. Then he stepped back, and Duo swore he heard the tiny tinkle of bells.

“There, how’s that?” Zechs asked.

Stretching, Duo tested his ribs, then checked the rest of his body, ending with his face. “Nothing, it’s all healed. Even my busted lip.” And, Duo noticed happily, his erection had disappeared.

Zechs smiled. “Excellent. I’ll help you anytime you need me. Most of the time I’m here, but if not, ask one of the others. They’ll tell you where my house is.”

“Hey, thanks a lot. Wait, you do house calls?”

Zechs just laughed, smiling as he exited the room.

“Well,” Duo said, prodding his healed ribs, “that’s that. Let’s go home… what the…?!”

Trowa had moved back, pressing himself between Duo’s legs. Wufei was lapping eagerly at Duo’s chest, forgetting about the pretence of cleaning off the blood and sucking deeply on Duo’s nipple.

Duo’s breath hissed out from between clenched teeth when he felt Trowa’s hand close over his groin, touching him lightly through the thin cloth of his boxers.

“Whoa, hey! WHOA!! What are you two doing?” Duo felt blood rush through his veins, and he grew hard under Trowa’s hand. He hastily extracted himself from under the two shifters, fixing his clothing and hauling on his ruined jacket.

“I think they’re trying to seduce you, Duo.” Quatre was lying on his side, a black cushion under his head. “Why not wait and see what they had in mind?”

“Like hell….” Duo said under his breath, forgetting that the shifters could probably hear a pin drop in the next room. “No offence, Tro, but I’m beat, and I really don’t want to get my ass kicked again tonight. Zechs might start to think I’m taking advantage of him.” He moved for the door, not missing the disappointed look on the green-eyed shifter’s face. “C’mon Wufei, let’s go. Later, Q, Tro.”

Wufei shot an apologetic look at Trowa, then hurried out the door after his master.

The brunette crawled along the floor, then settled down with Quatre. The blonde vampire caressed the other’s side, shifting so his face lay buried in the crook of Trowa’s neck.

“Don’t be sad, pet. Duo wanted you, I could smell his lust, and so could you. You’ll get another chance.” Quatre licked at the soft skin of Trowa’s neck, then reached down to cup the shifter’s ass, pressing his lover down on his hardening erection. “In the meantime, how about that bath you wanted so much?” He nibbled on Trowa’s neck, hard enough to hurt but not break the skin.

In the dim light, Trowa’s eyes sparkled. “It wasn’t the bath I was looking forward too, Quatre.”

Quatre answered with a soft, promising laugh.

*

Duo shivered when the night air touched his bare skin, wishing he had remembered his shirt, even if it was torn. He gathered the jacket around him, stuffing the hastily grabbed holster inside.

They reached Duo’s car, climbing in. Duo sat in the driver’s seat, resting his head on the steering wheel and closing his eyes. Wufei looked over, a puzzled expression on his face.

“Duo, are you alright? I thought Zechs healed you.”

Duo kept his eyes shut. “I don’t know if I can handle this, Wufei.”

“Handle what? Working with the Erus?”

“No,” Duo said with a huff. “All this sex, it’s distracting.”

Wufei gaped at the braided man, then laughed. “And I thought it was something serious.”

Duo started the car, straightening up in his seat. “It is serious.” He pulled out into the road. “It’s bad enough all I was thinking about was getting you home quick enough to fuck you, but I was honestly considering inviting Trowa along.” He sighed. “I wanted him too, Wufei. Both of you.”

Wufei’s face turned mischievous. He leaned across the seat, casually caressing Duo’s chest. He traced little circles around Duo’s nipple, then pinched it between his thumb and forefinger.

“Why wait to get home Duo?” His hand dipped lower, fiddling with the buttons on Duo’s pants. “I could please you now….” Wufei bent his head, nipping at Duo’s nipple. He swirled his tongue around it, then sucked it deep in his mouth. Hot flashes of pleasure shot through Duo’s stomach, straight to his quickly rising cock. He felt his pants come undone, felt Wufei’s hand graze teasingly past his erection to cup his balls.

“I’m driving, Wufei….” Duo ground out. “This is not the best time.”

“Then drive faster,” Wufei said, leaving the small buds alone to trace a wet path down Duo’s stomach. He dipped his tongue in Duo’s navel, and was rewarded with a low groan of surprise from him.

“Stop it, Wufei. I mean it.” Deciding that Wufei wasn’t going to listen, Duo stamped down on the accelerator, shooting through the streets, and narrowly missed taking out a fire hydrant in his haste to get home.

Wufei obediently pulled away from Duo, but he didn’t remove his hand. He wrapped his hand around Duo’s dripping erection, running his thumb over the tip.

Duo fought the urge to arc into Wufei’s talented hand, bracing both hands on the wheel and pushing himself back into his seat.

“You’re going to get us both killed.”

“Concentrate, Duo,” Wufei said, pumping Duo slowly.

“I can’t concentrate when you’re jerking me off!” Duo rounded the corner at breakneck speed, pulling into the parking lot of his building with a screech. He slammed the car into park, breathing heavy.

Wufei crawled into Duo’s lap, straddling him and sliding his other hand into Duo’s pants. He bent his head, ruthlessly kissing Duo and plunging his tongue into the other man’s mouth. Duo pawed at Wufei’s clothing, pushing his hands under the fishnet shirt and raking them down over the bronzed chest. Wufei pressed harder against Duo’s lips, and Duo deepened the kiss, sliding his own tongue along Wufei’s. Wufei pulled back a little, gasping for breath as he squeezed Duo’s cock, moving his hand faster over him. Duo growled low in his throat, lunging for Wufei’s mouth. He seized the Chinese man’s lips again; then bit savagely down on his bottom lip. Wufei whimpered, and Duo’s brain caught on fire at the sound.

“That’s it,” he growled, wrenching the door open. The chilly night air of early spring swirled around them as they stumbled out of the car. Duo grabbed Wufei’s wrist and slammed the car door closed, ramming Wufei up against it. He ground himself against Wufei, pinning the black-haired man’s wrists above his head.

“I’ll fuck you right here, Wufei. I’ll bend you over the car and take your ass right now, I swear to God I will….” Duo released Wufei’s wrists, grabbing for the ties on the black linen pants.

Wufei’s breathing was laboured. “Duo…Duo! Neighbours…your neighbours!”

“Fuck the neighbours!” Duo’s fingers found the knot in the ties and fumbled with it.

The Chinese man arched an eyebrow. “I thought…you were…trying to fuck ME?” He paused between words, gulping air.

Duo finally untied the knot, his eyes cloudy with lust. He dipped his head, biting at the soft skin of Wufei’s neck. He bit down hard, and tasted the tang of fresh blood in his mouth.

Wufei whimpered again, surprised at Duo’s viciousness, and loving it. He arched up into Duo.

“They’re watching us, Duo, your neighbours are watching,” Wufei panted.

Duo paused, then grabbed Wufei’s arm. “C’mon. Now, hurry up!” Duo dragged the grinning Wufei across the parking lot, fumbling in his pocket for the keys to the apartment. They stumbled up the stairs; then Duo slipped a hand down the back of Wufei’s pants, running his fingers along the cleft of Wufei’s ass as he struggled with the lock. Wufei was having the time of his life.

The door crashed open, and Duo slammed it behind him. “Bedroom, now!” He ripped Wufei’s shirt over his head, then went after the pants. He noticed with a smile that Wufei didn’t bother with underwear. Duo shrugged out of his jacket, flinging it to the floor with the gun and holster while Wufei was pushing the bloodstained jeans down. They tumbled onto the bed, hands and mouths everywhere on each other.

Duo pushed Wufei’s legs up, baring the Chinese man’s tight entrance. “I have to be in you now, Wu. I can’t wait, not anymore. I’ve wanted you all night.”

Wufei spread his legs wide, hooking one leg over Duo’s shoulder. “Then don’t wait. I’m yours, Duo.” His eyes flared. “Mark me again.”

Duo pushed past Wufei’s entrance, felt Wufei’s muscles unconsciously clutch at him, protesting. As soon as he felt Wufei relax them, he drove himself to the hilt in one deep stroke with a harsh groan. Wufei screamed, thrashing his head on the bed. Duo tried to gain control, managed to stop himself from pounding into Wufei right away. The shape-shifter’s cries excited Duo, made him want to hear more.

Wufei’s head swam. Duo filled him completely, thick and heavy and hot. His insides burned with pain so sweet it was pleasure. He felt Duo brush his sweet spot, and he craved more. Wufei reached up and dug his fingers into Duo’s back.

“Move, Duo. Don’t wait, move. Hurt me, fuck me!” He lifted his hips, shuddering at the sharp friction it caused.

Duo grit his teeth, pulling back slowly. He felt Wufei’s tight heat surround him, then the delicious pressure as Wufei clamped his muscles down around him. He thrust back in, a low groan wrenched from his throat. Duo lost it then, drove himself ruthlessly into Wufei’s giving heat. A fine sheen of sweat covered his body, glistening in the moonlight. Duo bent low over the Chinese man, covering his chest with tiny bites, marking him.

Wufei writhed on the bed, dazed with pleasure as Duo pounded into him, striking his prostate. He cried out Duo’s name, arching off the bed to meet Duo’s every plunge. The Chinese man’s hands fell away from Duo, tearing at the sheets. He felt his body burn, and he shuddered with the force of the pleasure coursing through him. His words dissolved into whimpers when Duo’s hand closed around his pulsing shaft and pumped in time with his frantic thrusts.

Wufei held back, delaying his climax. “Come in me, Duo,” his said, his breath coming in short gasps. “I want you slick inside me….”

Duo reached for Wufei’s hands, pinning them above his head and lacing their fingers together. He viciously drove into Wufei even as his orgasm ripped through him, and a harsh groan tore itself from his throat.

Hot seed pulsed into Wufei, striking the small bundle of nerves inside him in a burning flood. His cry blended with Duo’s as he climaxed over himself and his lover, his power crashing over them at the same time. His hands convulsed in Duo’s grip, then he fell back onto the bed, spent for the moment.

Duo rolled over, missing the expression of pleasure on the gasping man’s face as he slid out of him. He gathered the shifter in his arms, rapidly mumbling apologies for hurting him.

Wufei pulled away, shaking his head. “Are you deaf, Duo? I told you, you can’t hurt me. You can give me brief pain, but that’s it. I heal, remember?” He raked his nails hard down his arm, and blood welled to the surface. Then he wiped the blood away, and the scratches were already closing over. “Besides,” Wufei said, touching his neck where Duo had bitten him, “I like the pain.”

“I’ll never get used to this,” Duo complained. He reached down and swiped at the sticky come on his stomach. “C’mon, I need a shower. You can wash my back again.” Duo got up, untying his braid with one hand. His chestnut hair flowed free, falling well below his ass. Wufei’s eyes glowed again with that same light, and he eagerly slid off the bed.

Showering was the last thing on his mind.

*

Genuine Lies

Duo came awake slowly, then his eyes flashed open when he couldn’t move his left side. Remembering his injuries from last night, he assumed the worst. He turned his head and saw Wufei curled comfortably beside him, his leg thrown over Duo and using his chest as a pillow.

Smiling, Duo brushed a stray strand of hair back from Wufei’s face. He was still confused about the entire situation, but he wasn’t really complaining. What was there to complain about? Oh, yes…Heero. Duo’s smile faded, replaced by a slightly troubled expression. A vampire. A vampire that wanted his help. Supposedly, his help in stopping whatever was killing off people. Duo sighed. His life had gotten much more complicated in the past two days.

Then there was the lingering feeling of Heero’s power, his touch on Duo’s mind. He could still feel the icy blue fire of the vampire’s gaze on his skin. A small shiver ran over him; he remembered what it felt like when Heero had spoken to him. He had said that Duo would be his, would belong to him. And that he would belong to Duo as well.

Closing his eyes, Duo burrowed under the blankets, unwilling to let his thoughts follow that path. He inhaled deeply, catching the clean scent of Wufei’s skin. He breathed in again, wrapping his arms around the sleeping shifter. His life certainly had gotten complicated.

Wufei shifted, drawing Duo closer. He rubbed his cheek against Duo’s chest, letting his eyes open lazily.

“Morning, Wufei….” Duo said, brushing his hand through Wufei’s black hair again. He trailed off, forgetting what he was going to say. He ran his hand through the black locks, amazed at the soft, warm texture. Then, it struck him. Wufei’s hair was like his fur, slightly silky to the touch. It was nothing like any hair or fur that Duo had ever felt before.

Wufei was watching him, a small smile playing on his lips. “Whatever happened to ‘Jesus, Wufei, what are you doing in my bed’?”

“Jesus, Wufei, what are you doing in my bed?” Duo said, carefully keeping his face blank.

Wufei grinned. “At the moment, nothing…but if you give me a second, maybe I can do something about that.”

Duo chuckled softly, then quickly bit back a yelp of surprise when Wufei quickly grasped his arms and rolled them over so Duo was on top of him. Duo’s eyes were wide, he hadn’t thought of Wufei’s strength before. He knew that shifters were inhumanly strong, but Wufei’s submissiveness did a good job of making Duo overlook that one simple fact.

Wufei was smiling evilly. He knew he had surprised his master. He wrapped his arms around the braided man, bringing him close. Parting his lips slightly, he snaked his tongue out to lick at Duo’s lips.

“See?” Wufei said playfully. “Now I’m doing something in your bed.”

Duo arched an eyebrow. “And what is it exactly that you are doing?”

“Playing.”

Duo rolled his eyes. “Cats….” he mumbled.

Wufei pulled away a little, looking into Duo’s eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“Huh?” Duo said intelligently.

“You seem…troubled,” Wufei said softly, unconsciously grasping Duo’s braid in his hand.

“Nope, not me. Just trying to figure out what to do about Heero.”

“Well, before we tackle the day, might I suggest a shower, and some breakfast?”

“Demanding little pet, aren’t you? And who said anything about ‘we’? I don’t remember inviting you along for the ride….”

Wufei was smirking. “I invited myself.”

Duo let out a deep sigh, his face assuming a long-suffering expression. “My pet seems to be developing some rather noticeable un-submissive like qualities,” he complained to himself.

“Must be your bad influence. Now, about that shower…perhaps I can bully you into a bath instead. Baths have so many virtues that make them much more fun compared to showers.”

Hoping to prod Duo’s thoughts along the same lines as his, Wufei pulled Duo down for a deep kiss, opening his mouth to Duo when he felt his master’s tongue run purposefully over his lips. Rocking slowly against Duo’s body, Wufei dipped his own tongue into the braided man’s mouth, revelling in the touch.

Losing himself in Wufei’s kiss, Duo forgot about Heero and his words, at least for the time being.

*

Wufei was feeling a little grumpy. Even though Duo had taken him to the bathroom, he hadn’t tried his idea of sex in the bath. In fact, they hadn’t done anything along those lines for the rest of the day. Duo had dragged him around town all day, taking care of minor business, which to Wufei was as boring as hell. Except for the one stop at the Atkin residence. They had a problem with ghosts.

The man of the house, one Sean Atkin, insisted that Duo banish the ghost immediately. Duo refused, reminding the man that unlawful extermination of ghosts was strictly prohibited. Unless the ghost was making a severe nuisance of himself or causing any damage to the premises or the people who lived there, the ghost was to be left alone. While Duo argued with the man, Wufei had a quiet chat with the ghost, whom he learned was a very young girl named Karen.

“So, do you talk to them? Or just hang around?” Wufei asked the hovering shade curiously.

As soon as Karen had found out Wufei was a shape-shifter, she was happy to talk. “Oh, no. The only thing I’d have to say to those two would be that the poor woman married a butt-head.”

Wufei laughed. He liked Karen.

“Hey, who’s the cute guy with the long hair?” Karen was sizing Duo up, noticing the nice curve of his ass.

“That’s Duo, my master. Keep your spectral hands off,” Wufei said, noticing the slight gleam in her grey eyes.

“Sorry, sorry. But there’s something about him….” She trailed off, floating close to the unaware Duo, fading out of sight. She reached out, not touching Duo, but held her hand hovering only inches from his face. She snapped her hand back, appearing next to the flustered Wufei.

“Where’d you go?” he demanded.

“I…I….” she stammered, glancing nervously at Duo as he rolled his eyes behind Sean’s back. “I was just curious, that’s all! I didn’t mean anything!! I don’t want to go, don’t want to go….”

Wufei gaped as Karen started crying. He lifted his hand to touch her, then remembered she was a ghost. “Karen, what’s wrong? It’s okay, it’s okay…shush, stop crying.”

The girl hiccupped, then said between sobs, “He’s, he’s not human! He’s not like butt-head or you! He’s not a ghost or a zombie or a shifter or anything!”

“What are you talking about, Karen? Calm down and tell me.”

The ghost swiped at her eyes. “I tried to touch his face, and I couldn’t. Nothing, no life or power or anything! It was like he wasn’t even there, like he doesn’t exist!” She glanced nervously back at Duo, who was now talking to Mrs. Atkin. “He wasn’t there,” she repeated, “it was like nothing was there.”

*

“Well, that was a waste of time,” Duo said sourly as he and Wufei left the house of Senora Lucrezia, local voodoo priestess and private lawyer. The Senora had taken one look at Duo and flat out refused to help him. Duo tried to convince her to help, using all his tricks to lower her guard. She decided to sic her zombie butler on them.

Wufei blew a stray strand of hair out of his face. “What now, master?”

Duo stopped short, and Wufei almost banged into him. “Would you please stop calling me that?” He whipped around, throwing his hands up in the air.

“You don’t seem to mind when we’re having sex.”

Duo glanced down at a little man who was watching them with wide eyes. He grabbed Wufei’s arm and continued stalking down the street to his apartment complex.

“That’s different,” he mumbled.

“Oh. My mistake.” Wufei wrenched his arm out of Duo’s grasp. “It’s not like I’m trying to get in your pants in public or anything…oh, wait, that’s what you do.”

Duo slowed his pace. “I’m sorry, Wu. It just makes me feel weird, hearing you say it.”

“I don’t feel strange when you call me ‘pet’.”

“I know, I know.” Duo raked his hands through his bangs. “Maybe I’m just pissed off that we haven’t been able to track down any information. And Lucrezia’s never refused me point blank before, usually she at least LISTENS to me before she kicks me out. I didn’t even know she HAD a zombie for a butler.”

Wufei chuckled, remembering the look on Duo’s face when the six foot zombie had shambled into the room. Of course, he would’ve liked to see the expression on his own face. The undead man had cut quite an impressive figure. Like the classic Frankenstein monster, only worse. He was real.

“Maybe Mary-Anne will help. She’s Wiccan, I’ve never seen one of them turn down an offer to help anyone,” Duo said, trying to convince himself as much as he was trying to convince Wufei.

Duo was still turning over in his head the small bit of information they had been able to turn up. The majority of premature human deaths were due to monsters, the second was attributed to suicide. Most natural causes of early death had been controlled or eliminated in the last fifty years or so. Of those deaths caused by monsters, most victims didn’t have enough left of them to pinpoint the exact beast that killed them. Oh, you could tell if they were claw marks or teeth marks, or if the victim had been ripped apart, but the exact monster or exact cause of death? Not a chance. Usually the police said the victim was either munched or squished and just left it at that.

Duo sighed in frustration. They had spent the whole day searching without turning up anything remotely useful. He hoped Mary-Anne would have better luck, if she agreed to help.

They climbed the stairs to the second floor, and Duo knocked lightly on the witch’s door. He waited, then knocked again. Wufei touched his arm.

“I smell blood, Duo. Fresh,” he said, nodding when Duo pointed towards the door.

Duo tried the knob. It turned in his hand. Mary-Anne didn’t usually lock her door, but Duo felt uneasy. He opened the door slowly, and the fresh copper smell of blood assaulted his nose. He resisted the urge to call out to his friend, instead letting his eyes focus in the dim light offered by the few candles in the room. He saw the slumped figure of a woman in the centre of the living room.

“Jesus, Mary-Anne!” Duo cried, rushing to the fallen woman’s side. He touched her arm, and she felt warm. Hope bloomed in Duo’s chest. “Mary-Anne?” he said, rolling her over.

“Christ!” Duo shouted, jumping away. The woman’s throat was torn out, blood and bone shone wet in the light. Duo looked down, felt bile rise in his throat. Her entire chest and stomach were gone, her ribs gleaming in the candlelight.

Duo backed away, shaking his head. “Mary-Anne, oh, God….” His eyes burned with unshed tears. Angrily, he glanced around the apartment.

“Wufei, we have to….” he looked again, but Wufei was gone. Then he heard a crash in the dim hallway of Mary-Anne’s apartment. He felt the rush of Wufei’s power, laced with anger and fear. Duo took off towards the hall, reaching blindly for his gun.

The hall was quiet. Shards of a mirror littered the floor, dancing in the reflection of candle flames. Candles burned everywhere. Mary-Anne must have been busy, worshipping or casting a spell before she died. Duo’s mind jerked him back to the present. Mary-Anne was dead, and now the thing that did it was toying with Wufei.

Foregoing stealth, whoever was here already knew of their presence, Duo raced down the hall listening for struggle. Why hadn’t Wufei called out? Where was he, why was it so quiet? Duo ran past a door, ducking to peer around the corner. No light, no sound. Empty.

He rose, turning when he heard a pained roar further away. He spun on his heel, running to the end of the hall. He burst into the room, almost tripping over the prone form of Wufei. Or what he thought was Wufei, transformed into a panther. Duo knelt, scanning the room. The panther was slick with blood, most of which looked like his own. Its chest was crushed, rising pitifully with each ragged breath. Duo couldn’t see any evidence of it healing. Fear crashed over him in a wave. Could they heal something this bad? What if his heart was crushed? Duo didn’t think a shape-shifter could survive if it didn’t have a heart. Only the truly undead could do that. Like zombies.

Duo heard the attacker too late, turned his head too slow. Pain washed over him as he was flung into a wall. He slid to the floor, blinking madly and clutching his head. Duo pushed himself up to his feet, attempting to scan the room even as light flashed in front of his eyes. He heard a soft laugh as something picked him up and slammed him repeatedly into the wall. Then the world went black.

*

He smelled forest and blood. Animal and death. Light speared into Duo’s brain when he opened his eyes. He saw a tall figure and a woman standing next to him, arguing. Then he drifted back into his dreams.

*

He dreamed of a man and of death. They were the same, but they were different. He saw ghosts, hundreds of them, whispering. He saw Wufei in human form, torn, bloodied and broken. Mary-Anne was talking quietly to him as he dreamed, unmindful of the fact that her throat and most of her body were missing. He saw vampires, dragons, zombies…gnomes and demons, imps and tiny sprites. He felt the touch of their power, saw themselves reflected in it. He saw a mirror in front of him, but he had no reflection. He reached out and the mirror wavered like a reflection on a pond. He could see it, knew it was there, but it warped and bended, just out of his reach. Then there was nothing.

*

Duo woke again to the low murmur of a voice. He felt a warm body pressed close to his.

“Wu….” he breathed out before he succumbed to the darkness again.

*

Someone was talking to him, hushed and comforting. He felt warmth flow over his body, tinged with a consciousness, like it was alive. Then it was cool, brushing over his fevered skin, the way a summer breeze hits you, just for a moment. He saw twin flames burning fitfully. He remembered Mary-Anne’s apartment, the stench of violent death. But the memory was whisked away on the breeze, and the flames changed colour. They shifted to a light violet, the colour of Duo’s eyes. The colour deepened until they were a deep blue, then the flames stopped dancing, frozen in time. Light reflected off the now shiny surfaces of the frozen flames, and the blue ice began to melt, dropping tears of fire and ice into the darkness.

*

The third time Duo woke, he opened his eyes long enough to take in his surroundings. He was in a bed, warm and comfortable under black satiny sheets. He blinked, clearing the fuzziness from his eyes. Turning his head, he saw the gauzy curtains dividing the large room in two. Duo blinked again, his mind fumbling. Heero’s room, he was in Heero’s room. How did he get here?

A warm hand touched his face, and he turned toward it. “Wuffie…you…” his voice cracked when he saw the face of Heero staring down at him, his blue eyes filled with sorrow.

“Where’s Wufei?” Duo croaked, sounding much less threatening than he had intended.

“He’s safe, healing. You should worry more about yourself.” Heero withdrew his hand when Duo jerked his head away.

“How did we…you…Mary-Anne’s….” Duo felt his stomach churn and his mind started reeling. He passed out again, and Heero settled down to watch over him.

*

Duo felt something wet against his neck. Absently, he brushed at it. Then it was back, more urgent this time. Groggily, Duo clawed his way back to full consciousness. He opened one eye a crack, saw the worried face of Wufei lying next to him. But it wasn’t Wufei who was licking at his neck. Then Duo became aware of a weight lying partly on top of him, of legs tangled with his own. Duo opened his mouth and when no words came out, snapped it shut. Trowa was lying half on top of him, naked body pressed against his as he lapped at Duo’s neck.

Wufei smiled. “You’re awake, finally! Heero told us you should be awake soon, he let us come watch over you.” He nuzzled affectionately at Duo’s chest.

Duo opened his mouth, trying again. “That’s great, Wu.” His voice was still weak, but it was stronger than before. “Now, why is Trowa licking me?”

Trowa had stopped when Wufei had spoken. He moved to lie alongside Duo, still keeping himself pressed against the longhaired man. “I was trying to get you to wake up. Looks like it worked.” He looked over at Wufei. “You’re right, his neck is sensitive.” Wufei cuddled close to Duo as Trowa spoke, and Duo decided that it was definitely getting crowded. And warm.

“Huh.” Duo rolled his eyes. “Speaking of Heero, where is the happy bloodsucker?”

“Quatre drove him off after he found out he hadn’t left your side since we found you. Told him to take a break,” Wufei said.

“Weren’t you here when I woke up once, Wu? I could’ve sworn you were lying next to me.”

Trowa and Wufei exchanged glances, then Trowa said, “No, it couldn’t have been Wufei, Heero was the only one who was with you after Zechs and Dorothy got into a fight over you.”

Duo turned this over in his head. “Are you sure? I didn’t think I was dreaming, felt real enough.”

“Maybe Heero was lying with you. You were a mess….” Wufei’s voice was hushed.

“Yeah, right. Mr. Coldness himself was worried about me. Come to think of it,” Duo said, smoothly switching his train of thought, “what happened? All I’ve got is a big jumble.”

Wufei was toying with a piece of Duo’s loose hair, and Duo noticed for the first time that it was unbraided. “I didn’t get all of it, Quatre and Trowa were looking after me while you were out. But I know what basically happened from what they told me. I came to the bar several days ago, barely alive. I collapsed by the entrance, where Hilde found me. Apparently, I was in bad shape, worst of all my chest.” Wufei shook his head at the fuzzy memory. “Nothing should be able to do that to a shifter, we’re too strong. They said it was crushed. Literally crushed. Quatre said my heart was barely beating. Zechs pulled me back, and I was mumbling something about you and the Wiccan, Mary-Anne.”

Duo looked over at Wufei questioningly. “I don’t remember much, only snatches here and there,” the Chinese man said, shrugging his shoulders.

“Anyway,” Wufei continued, lying his cheek on Duo’s chest. “Heero caught wind of it. He was furious. He sent out searches and started looking for information on where you were. He went to your apartment, saw the scene at the Wiccan girl’s. Heero became worse then. It wasn’t simple anger, it went far beyond that. He found you a few hours after that, in a graveyard.” He stopped, waiting for a sign to continue.

Duo found himself absently trailing his fingers over Trowa’s back as Wufei spoke, dangerously close to his ass. He took his hand away and motioned for Wufei to continue.

Trowa looked disappointed for a moment, then Wufei went on. “You should have been dead, Duo. When he brought you back, you were a bloody mess. I think I lost it then. There wasn’t a spot on you that hadn’t been slashed open. He found you in a graveyard,” Wufei repeated, “naked and tied to a tree. Up in a tree.” His eyes flashed in anger.

Duo lay quietly, listening. “When was this?”

“About a day after I showed up.”

“Which was how many days ago?”

“Four,” Trowa said softly.

“I’ve been out for four days!?”

“Approximately. We don’t know how long you were unconscious before he found you.” Wufei over the narration again. “In any case, Heero brought you in four days ago, and you should have been dead. Zechs was pouring everything he had into you, but it wasn’t helping. That’s what he and Dorothy were arguing about. She said he was just going to kill himself, to try something else. He wouldn’t even consider it. He kept trying to bring you around, then Heero called a stop to it. Dorothy suggested turning you.”

“What?” Duo asked at the unfamiliar phrase.

“She wanted to change you into a vampire or a shape-shifter so you could heal yourself,” Wufei explained.

“Jesus. There’s a way to wake up, good morning, you’re undead.” He paused. “I’m not, am I?” Duo’s voice rose an octave.

“No, you’re still human.” Trowa was lightly stroking the inside of Duo’s thigh.

“Good. Let’s keep it that way.” He hadn’t really thought he was, but a man should know if he’ll turn furry or has joined the hallowed ranks of the walking dead. “So, how come I’m back to normal? I don’t even have any twinges.”

Wufei had burrowed his way under Duo’s arm. “Heero kicked everyone out of the room. Then he closed the door, saying that anyone who opened it forfeited their life. No one went near it. He was in here for three days. We don’t know what he did, but when he came out, it was to tell me you were alright.”

“Three days in a room alone with Heero?” Duo shook his head dubiously. “I highly doubt Heero was cradling me in his arms. I really must have been out for the count. Come to think of it, I had a few weird dreams.”

“Like?” Trowa asked in his rich voice. His hand was slowly inching its way up Duo’s thigh and over his hip, gently caressing.

Duo felt himself growing hard. It was no use trying to hide it, he was as naked as the other two. He’d have to have a word with the esteemed Heero about that. Then there was the pesky problem of shifters being able to smell lust.

He sighed. “You’re deliberately trying to get me horny, aren’t you?” he demanded of the two shifters.

Wufei had the decency to look guilty, but Trowa merely smiled in his small way. “And if we were?”

“That’s a poor way to treat a man who was almost dead for a week,” Duo said, willing his erection to go away. He wasn’t having any luck.

Wufei ran his hand over Duo’s chest, stopping just above his now throbbing member. “I think it’s a wonderful way to treat him.”

“You’re just saying that because I haven’t been around to do you raw, Wuffie,” Duo said, careful to keep his breathing steady. Oh, the two shifters knew he was ready, aching with desire, but he’d be damned if he was going to give them the satisfaction of being easy about it.

“Who said anything about me?” Wufei’s hand had joined Trowa’s in tracing little patterns on his hips and down the inside of his thighs. The feel of two different hands on him had Duo’s blood boiling, and he started entertaining nasty ideas.

“Really, Duo, I’m not greedy,” Wufei continued. “Besides, Quatre has been gone for the last few hours, and I think it’s starting to affect Trowa.”

Duo struggled to keep his eyes open, torn between jumping up from the bed or demanding that they stop teasing and just jerk him off already. He processed Wufei’s last words slowly.

“Trowa?” Duo looked down at the green-eyed shifter. “You want me too…?” Trowa nodded his head slightly. “And you don’t have a problem with this…?” Duo asked Wufei, half hopeful that his pet would say yes and give him an easy exit. It’s hard to worm your way out of something when you don’t really want to get out of it.

Their hands fell away, and Duo nearly groaned out loud in protest. Wufei crawled out from under the sheets, over Duo and settled down beside Trowa. He touched the taller man lightly on the shoulder, and Trowa rolled away from Duo, spreading his legs under the sheets so Wufei could kneel between them. Duo scooted back a little, grateful that the pressure was off him for the moment. Stubbornly, he ignored the little voice that was telling him to stop being such an idiot. And he adamantly refused to admit he was feeling left out now.

Wufei dragged the blanket away from Trowa, exposing him. Duo noticed with a little jolt that the quiet shifter was amazing. Sleek muscled lines of his body glistened with a slight sheen of sweat as he watched Wufei silently. Duo glanced down and saw that both men were hard, aching for release.

The Chinese shifter took two of his fingers in his mouth, firming his lips around them and coating them with saliva. Duo let a small groan escape him, remembering the wet heat of Wufei’s mouth on him.

Taking his fingers out, Wufei smiled evilly at Duo. He knew what the longhaired man was thinking. Trowa watched with a slight gleam in his eyes as Wufei moved towards him; he ran his fingers lightly over his chest, pinching his nipples, teasing himself. His breathing became rapid.

Wufei leaned over Trowa, propping himself up on one arm. He slid a finger inside the brown-haired shifter, past his puckered entrance to touch his sweet spot. Trowa’s eyes slid shut, his hands drifting down to lightly brush over himself.

Duo watched, eyes wide. He didn’t hear the door open or the silent footsteps of the vampire. He felt his own need spiral upwards at the soft panting noises Trowa was making.

Wufei slipped another finger inside, urging Trowa to higher pleasure. Duo surrendered to his lust, his mind clouded. He crawled over the sheets to Trowa, dipped his head and ran his tongue over a nipple.

Trowa’s green eyes opened to narrow slits, hissing when Duo drew one ripe bud deep into his mouth. Duo used his hand to tease the other one, pinching it sharply when Trowa let out a loud groan. Duo’s hair fell softly around Trowa, and the green-eyed man buried his hands in it. He rocked back on Wufei’s fingers when he added another wet digit, moaning.

Duo worked lower, nipping at the taut muscles of Trowa’s stomach and dipping his tongue into his bellybutton. He ran his hands down the moaning shifter’s sides, feeling the ripple of muscle under the tanned skin.

Wufei withdrew his fingers, moving to the side of the bed. Duo automatically moved in between Trowa’s legs, nipping his way back up to Trowa’s neck. He propped himself up on his hands, looking down at Trowa’s parted lips. With a growl, he bent and captured the shifter’s lips in a rough kiss, dipping his tongue forcefully past his teeth. Trowa rocked up against him, moaning into his mouth. Duo broke the kiss, panting. He ground himself against the man beneath him, low moans escaping his bruised lips.

Wufei leaned close to Duo’s ear, running his hand over his master’s ass. “Take him, Duo,” he said softly, “he wants you…now.”

Duo turned lust-cloudy eyes on Wufei. “What about you…?”

Then Quatre appeared behind Wufei, wrapping his arms around the black-haired shifter. Wufei tipped his head to the side, letting Quatre graze his teeth lightly over his neck. His black eyes fixed on Duo, asking.

Duo felt a moment of indecision. Wufei was his. But Quatre had had him before Wufei had even met Duo, had been with both him and Trowa. Wufei was still his, nothing would change that.

“Alright, Wufei, if that’s what you want.”

Wufei looked at his master a moment longer, searching his eyes. Then he smiled, seeing not only permission there, but trust and acceptance. He was Duo’s, and Duo knew it.

Duo’s gaze flickered over Quatre. The blonde was watching the exchange between master and pet, knowing when Duo fully understood. Then he pressed Wufei back onto the bed, seizing his mouth in a vicious kiss. Wufei whimpered, arching his body into the vampire. Duo knew the sounds Wufei made, felt his body respond to them. He gazed down at Trowa, suddenly overcome with an uncontrollable urge to see what sounds the usually silent man would make.

Trowa pressed against Duo, seeking contact. Duo shifted, placing the head of his dripping cock at the brown-haired shifter’s entrance. He leaned down, closing his mouth over Trowa’s as he pushed past the tight muscles.

Trowa’s hands clenched in Duo’s hair. He opened his mouth against Duo’s, groaning. He ran his hands through the chestnut waves spilling around him, spreading them out in a curtain.

Duo let the sensations wash over him, fully sheathed in Trowa’s heat. He was tight around him, slick from Wufei’s fingers. Duo glanced over at his pet. Quatre was sucking on his neck, pumping his hips slowly. Wufei gripped the blonde’s sides with his hands, spreading his legs as wide as he could. He rocked with him, his moans growing louder with each thrust. Wufei looked over at Duo then, through eyes hazy with pleasure. He let his eyes rove over the two, and his pink tongue darted out to swipe over his lips before disappearing again.

Duo rolled over, bringing Trowa up to straddle him. He lifted the green-eyed shifter, bucking his hips and driving deep into him. Trowa’s eyes glazed when he felt Duo strike his prostate hard. He leaned forward a little, changing the angle. Duo thrust up again, and was rewarded with a long moan. He continued thrusting, and Trowa’s breath came in short, hissing gasps.

Trowa braced his arms, supporting himself. Duo let go of his hips, using one hand to stroke Trowa’s cock in time with his rhythmic thrusts. Wufei’s panting reached Duo’s ears, and he heard it change into a scream as Quatre ruthlessly pounded into him. Quatre’s low groan of release melded with Trowa’s groans, and Duo lost all semblance of control as he rammed deep into the brown-haired man.

Trowa opened his mouth in a long cry. He shuddered, then spilled his release over Duo’s stomach. Duo felt Trowa’s power crash into him as his inner muscles clamped around his cock buried deep inside the green-eyed shifter. It flowed along his limbs with electric intensity, searing his mind with pleasure. He drove into Trowa one more time before he emptied his seed into the shifter. Trowa’s muscles continued to clench as his orgasm faded, milking every drop from Duo’s pulsing cock.

When Duo’s eyes cleared, Trowa was curled on his chest, a low rumbling vibrating through him.

“Sweet Jesus, he does it too….” Duo mumbled under his breath.

Wufei was lying on his side, close to Duo with Quatre spooning him. The blonde’s eyes were wide with surprise, an expression Duo had never seen on his friend’s face.

“I felt Trowa’s power, Duo,” the blonde said quietly. “Wufei said the same thing happens when you take him.”

Duo lay still, thinking. “Yeah, it does. I figured it was because I was human. I’m not used to all this supernatural energy flying around.” He frowned. “But that wouldn’t explain why you felt it.”

“I felt nothing when Quatre took me, well, besides the usual from Duo,” Wufei added and Quatre playfully slapped him.

“I’ve never experienced it before,” Quatre mused. The he smiled devilishly. “Maybe we should get together, Duo, and see if it’s the same for vampires and shifters.”

Duo hastily shook his head. “No thank you. I’ll stick to the living.”

Quatre gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling. “The living…? Oh, I see.” His eyes gained a mischievous twinkle. “Heero will be returning soon, Duo. He’d like to see you when he gets back.”

“Yeah, I’d like to have a little chat with him myself,” Duo said, wondering about his odd dreams and if Heero had anything to do with them.

*

True Illusions

Duo paced the lush room impatiently. He’d showered and borrowed some of Trowa’s clothes. The shirt was comfortable, if a little over the top for Duo. It was made of silk, a deep black colour. The collar met in a low ‘V’ just above the centre of his chest, and exposing his collarbone. Below that, the shirt hung open, not made to close in the middle, leaving a trail of Duo’s pale skin bare. Duo thought it was just as well to go shirtless, but even the small bit of material made him feel better. He didn’t really want to meet Heero half-naked.

The black pants were another matter entirely. Duo found leather a pain in the ass to wear; it creaked when he walked. And the pants were much too long in the legs. And way too tight. It should be considered punishment for clothing to be made this tight. When Duo had complained, Trowa merely smiled, saying that he looked quite good in them. Duo thought Trowa was biased.

So, Duo creaked his way around the room, waiting for the esteemed Erus to show up. Questions filled Duo’s head, and he wanted answers. Remembering his last little chat with Heero, he was wishing he had a gun. He kept poking around in the vain hope that he would find one, or maybe a knife, anything to use as a weapon. Duo knew he wouldn’t, why would a vampire need a weapon? But he still looked. He might get lucky.

Duo stopped in front of a large picture that hung behind Heero’s desk. It was of a glorious sunrise, just before the sun emerged on the horizon. Rays of light emanated from between the mountains, setting the valley below on fire. The sky was perfectly clear, highlighted in the brightness of the rising sun. Duo stared at the picture, absorbed in the play of the sun’s rays on the rough texture of the mountains and the sweeping roll of the valley.

“From my home….” a voice stated softly beside him.

Duo jumped at the sound of Heero’s voice. He turned his head to the side, not taking his eyes off the picture.

“Japan?” he asked, quietly.

When Heero didn’t answer, Duo looked over at him. He was dressed in a dark forest green dress shirt, unbuttoned at the collar and left untucked, with a pair of formfitting slacks. All in all, he looked rather casual. Duo felt much too overdressed, and he had Trowa to thank for that.

Heero was looking at the picture. His eyes were dark, reflecting the sorrow that Duo had seen in them when he had first woken up from his semi-comatose state yesterday. Behind it was a deep longing, for times past and futures lost.

Heero felt Duo watching him. He turned to the braided man, closing off his thoughts, making his eyes bleed back to their harsh cobalt.

Duo blinked, amazed at how fast Heero’s eyes had changed. Then he realized he was staring. Quickly looking away, he backed up to lean on the edge of the desk, folding his arms in front of him.

“Quatre said you wanted to see me,” Duo said, gathering his thoughts.

“Yes.”

Duo waited for the vampire to continue. When he didn’t, Duo sighed. “Well, what did you want?”

“Did you discover anything about the killings?” Heero’s voice had dropped back to its usual chilling tone along with his eyes.

“Not really. The police are useless, and Lucrezia flat out refused to help me. And, well, you know what happened to Mary-Anne….” Duo’s voice trailed off.

Heero nodded slightly. “I have also found nothing. I’m beginning to believe that this is more complex than I first thought.”

“Who cares about how complex it is! I’m more interested in finding out what did that to Wufei and Mary-Anne, and why.” Realization dawned slowly on Duo. “You think it’s the same thing, don’t you?

“I think that happened to Mary-Anne because you involved her.”

Duo gaped at the dark-haired vampire. “BECAUSE of me!? You’re the one who asked me to help you, that’s the only reason I went to her!”

“And would she have helped?”

“Probably…of course she’d have helped. She’d do anything to put a stop to needless death,” Duo said carefully, wondering what Heero was getting at.

“And Lucrezia? Why didn’t she help?”

Duo shrugged. “Who knows? She’s always been a little weird. Most times she’d only help if there was something in it for her.”

Heero took a step closer to Duo. “Maybe there was something in it for her. Just not to be gotten by helping you.”

Taken aback, Duo stared hard at Heero, searching his face. He saw nothing there but truth. Looking away, Duo said, “That sounds like her. But I don’t think she’d stoop to killing anyone.”

“Even if she didn’t cause the death directly? Merely helped it along by delaying you?”

Duo mulled that over, then he let his breath out in a big sigh. “Yeah, she’d be capable of doing that.” Abruptly, Duo slammed his fist into the oak desk. “Bloody fucking hell!” He launched himself away from the desk, pacing the floor.

“So, you think Lucrezia’s got something to do with it. Maybe not much, but something. Just because I think she’s capable of that doesn’t mean she’d actually do it. It could be a coincidence,” Duo said, not really believing it.

“It would be best to analyse all possible avenues.” Heero held up his hand. “Despite your feelings.”

Duo glared, but didn’t contradict the vampire’s words. “So,” Duo said, his curiosity finally getting the better of him, “how did you find me?”

Heero’s face showed momentary surprise before it returned to its usual unreadable expression. “Wufei and Trowa have already informed you as to what occurred.”

“So they did. I wanted to hear it from you.”

“Why?”

Duo stopped pacing and flopped down on one of the curved couches. The fire pit was unlit, the only illumination in the room coming from the dim overhead swivel lights. He shrugged. “Because.”

Heero walked over to stand above Duo, watching him with cold eyes. “Because? That isn’t much of an answer.”

Duo grinned up at the vampire. “Neither is ‘why’.”

Raising an eyebrow, Heero opened his mouth to say something, but Duo cut him off.

“Don’t try to change the subject. I want to know how you found me…and I have a few other questions too.”

“Other questions?”

“What is it with you and answering questions with questions?”

“Why?”

Duo looked sharply at Heero. Was that a joke? Duo took a chance and looked at the vampire’s eyes again. He didn’t feel the now familiar brush of power or burning cold. They were just eyes. “Is that a joke?”

“Now who’s answering questions with questions?”

Duo grinned again. THAT was a joke. “You still are.”

Heero nodded his head, still no expression on his face.

The braided man narrowed his eyes, annoyed. “So fess up, Heero. How did you find me? And why the hell were you locked in a room with me for three days? Alone?”

Heero regarded the frustrated Duo coolly. “You were meant to be found. Whoever killed the witch was expecting you, waiting for you. And they wanted me to find you in the graveyard, dead.”

“Yeah, I’m feeling pretty spry for a dead man. And just why is it that I’m NOT dead?”

“It wasn’t for lack of them trying. I believe they thought you dead when they placed you in the tree. You were a message to me. Perhaps it was also a way to eliminate the threat you posed to their cause.”

Duo looked startled. “A threat, huh? Yeah, I could see that. Knock off the Erus’ little human helper before he starts causing any trouble.”

“Exactly.”

“And why is it that I’m not dead?”

“I don’t know; you were dead.”

“WHAT!?” Duo bolted up from the couch, his movements hampered by the tight clothing.

“When I found you, I first thought you were dead,” Heero clarified.

“You had better start explaining yourself, buddy, or we’re going to have a problem. Wu told me one of your little cronies tried to change me.”

Much to Duo’s surprise, Heero’s eyes actually grew colder. The light offered by the spotlights seemed much too little for the large room. A shiver ran down Duo’s back.

“Dorothy has been dealt with for her ignorance.” His voice was like ice. “You have not become one of us, or a shifter. You’re still what you were before.”

“Keep going.”

“Sit down, Duo.”

Before he thought about it, Duo was sitting stiffly on the arm of the couch. Heero still stood in front of him, eyes distant as he spoke.

“There was a message for me, in the witch’s apartment.”

“I thought you had to be invited into a person’s home?”

“The girl is dead, it is no longer her home.”

Duo blinked. Well, at least that much about vampires was true. As long as Duo was at home, he would be safe from vampires. Somehow, he didn’t think vampires were the only things he had to worry about. Unless, of course, the fact that a place was or wasn’t someone’s home didn’t matter. Heero hadn’t actually admitted that vamps had to be invited in, he just hadn’t denied it by stating that it was no longer Mary-Anne’s home. Maybe Duo was becoming paranoid.

Heero watched Duo’s face. He could almost see him consider and store the information. Duo’s light and simple attitude served only to mask the true character of the man. For all his jokes and outbursts, Duo was a force to be wary of. Heero wondered how many people were aware of that fact.

“So, what did the message say?”

Heero halted his musings and continued the narrative. “Among other things, it said that Death had returned home.”

“And this led you to the graveyard?”

Another nod.

“Death and its association with a graveyard I can understand. But how did you know which graveyard? It would take you several nights to check each one in and near the city alone.”

“I knew exactly which graveyard to check.”

“How? They couldn’t have told you that, it would make it too easy. And they couldn’t be sure of how soon you would get there.”

The Erus merely looked at Duo for a moment. Then he reached into the pocket of his pants, taking out a gold chain that dangled from his fingers as he held it up for Duo to see. A small, gold cross glinted in the light.

Duo’s eyes widened, and he stopped breathing for a second. He stared hard at the cross, not believing what his eyes were telling him. He tentatively reached out to touch the cross, and Heero let it fall into the braided man’s hands.

He stared at his hand and the cross he held in it. Duo let the implications of this run through his mind, and Heero said nothing, letting him come to his own conclusions.

“The church…three years ago, the church fire in the suburbs.” He looked up at the silent Heero. “Where did you get this?” Duo demanded.

“At the girl’s apartment. It was how I found you, at the graveyard where the victims of the fire were buried.”

Duo looked again at the fragment of his past. He remembered the fire, remembered the heat on his face, the smell of burning flesh. The smoke and light. It was hell inside the church. People had screamed and had died. People he knew. Duo had been friends with the priest. He had come across one of the local children one night, while he was tracking a shifter. Duo still remembered the look of gratitude on the priest’s face when Duo had brought the child to the church; the little man couldn’t remember where he lived.

Duo visited the church once in a while after that, not very many times, perhaps only once or twice. But, the priest had still been his friend. And he had died. The small gold cross that Duo held in his hand had been a gift from the priest, on that first night they had met. Then, Duo lost the cross in the fire, trying to reach the old man that had been so kind and grateful.

“…they were there, then. The ones who are killing now. They were responsible for the fire, for the death.” Duo said softly.

“It would seem so,” was all Heero said.

“We find them, and we destroy them. No talking, no bargaining, no mercy. They die.” Duo’s eyes had gone cold. “They wanted you to know. Maybe they thought I wasn’t dead, and they wanted me to know too,” he paused. “Or they knew that you could revive me.”

Heero shook his head. “You were not dead, it only seemed so. Your body was torn and broken. Zechs could heal that. But you did not wake up.”

“Coma, maybe? But that can’t be right, I remember waking. Once to two people arguing, once to someone else talking, and the last when you were next to me.”

“No, nothing as simple as that. You were trapped within yourself.” Heero’s eyes flickered down to the cross still pooled in Duo’s hand. “It was a spell of some kind.”

“Oh, great. A spell.” Duo glanced down at the cross, debating what to do with it. Finally, he settled on slipping it around his neck, the black shirt framing it where it rested against his pale skin. “And you broke the spell, then.” Duo glanced down at the cross, then back up at Heero.

“No.”

Duo looked surprised. “You didn’t? Then how…?”

“You broke the spell, with very little of my assistance.”

“But…the dreams….”

Now it was Heero’s turn to look sharply at Duo. “Dreams? What dreams?”

Duo looked lost in his thoughts. “An ice fire that melted in the dark…a mirror that warped and reflected nothing…and the cool warmth that washed my memories away….”

Heero took a quick step forward, grasping Duo’s face between his hands. He looked into Duo’s eyes, searching for his reflection in them. He saw nothing.

“Why can’t I see myself in your eyes, Duo?”

Duo focused his eyes on Heero’s, a bemused expression on his face. “You’re a vampire, you don’t have a reflection.”

“Nonsense. Of course I have a reflection. Look over at the wall.”

Duo turned his head sluggishly to face the wall. Looking into the mirror there, he saw the room reflected back at him, his own face and Heero standing above him.

“You see?”

Duo nodded slowly.

“It is a myth, the same as the idea that vampires can change into bats or mist, or that we cannot enter churches or even that a blessed cross will burn us. Or that we are dead,” he paused, thinking.

“And yet…” Heero continued, “I can’t see myself in your eyes.”

“I can see into yours.”

Heero blinked. “Into…my eyes?”

An odd smile spread over Duo’s face. “Uh huh. I can see them burn, then freeze. The ice fire from my dream. Then, I see your sadness, your sorrow, and the fire melts into tears of ice and flame that vanish in the darkness….” As he spoke, Duo’s eyes unfocused, like he was staring directly through Heero at something only he could see.

“Duo!” Heero grabbed his shoulders and gently shook him. “What are you doing?”

“I could drown in your eyes….”

“Stop it, Duo. Wake up.” Heero shook Duo harder, causing him to close his eyes. When they opened again, the braided man’s eyes were still glassy.

“The fire melts into the mirror, the mirror freezes the fire; everything drowning in the darkness.” Duo’s voice was distant now, like his eyes.

Heero looked hard into Duo’s eyes. “Come back, Duo.” He saw no response in Duo’s face. “Duo! Duo…Death!”

Duo’s expression darkened.

Letting his power free to wash over Duo, Heero repeated his name. He felt his consciousness flow into the room, searching for the touch of Duo’s mind. He felt nothing. Desperate, he kept searching for the familiar touch, remembering what it was like when he had done the same only days before as Duo slept, trapped within the spell and his own mind

There, buried deep in the void surrounding Duo’s mind, was a flicker of something. Heero reached for it, strained to catch and hold on to that bit of Duo. Then he felt himself being drawn into nothing, felt his power drain away and be absorbed by the void inside Duo. Heero’s vision clouded, and his body grew weak.

“The Devil calls Death….” Duo whispered. “But will the Devil answer, if Death calls to him…?” His eyes cleared, focused on the cobalt fire burning in Heero’s eyes, and he screamed.

*

Hours later, Duo woke up in the circle of Heero’s arms. Heero lay beside him on the couch, letting Duo’s head rest on his chest. Wufei sat on the floor next to Duo, holding the end of his braid like a lifeline. Quatre sat beside Wufei with Trowa’s head in his lap. They watched Duo intently, waiting for him to speak.

Duo moved his head, looking up at Heero. He blinked, then rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. He looked at the three men seated on the floor, then, letting his head fall back onto Heero’s chest, he closed his eyes.

“What the bloody hell just happened?”

Instantly, Wufei smiled. “If he’s back to swearing at us, then he’s fine.”

Quatre grinned at the Chinese shifter, nodding his head. “The day Duo stops swearing is the day the world will finally come to its end.”

“I guess that means I fucking better well keep swearing then, hey, Q?” Duo said.

Quatre continued to grin, absently stroking the crook of Trowa’s neck. The green-eyed shifter smiled at Duo’s response.

“Okay…” Duo said, his mind finally processing the fact that he was basically snuggling Heero, “…not that this isn’t comfortable or anything, but I think I should get up.” He moved to stand, but Heero’s arms tightened around him like a vice.

“Hey, lemmie up, blood breath,” he said, trying to rise again.

Wufei was glaring at Duo. “You will stay exactly where you are, Duo, until we decide if you are alright or not.”

Duo blinked at Wufei, holding up his hands in mock defence. “Whoa, since when did you start ordering me around, pet?”

“Since I discovered you haven’t got sense enough to take care of yourself,” Wufei replied, defiant.

“What happened to ‘yes, master’?” Duo mumbled under his breath. He didn’t try to get up again, and Heero relaxed his grip.

Heero was regarding Duo mildly. “…blood breath…?”

Duo grinned.

Quatre was trying unsuccessfully not to laugh. His shoulders started to shake, and Trowa’s smile grew wider. Soon, he was laughing quietly along with Quatre.

A smile ghosted Heero’s lips; the coldness of his eyes melting slightly as he watched the vampire and shifter fight a losing battle with their laughter. Duo saw the look, noting the small change in the Erus.

Quatre waved his hand in the air. “Sorry, sorry,” he said, finally getting control over his laughter, “…ahem, where were we?”

“We were about to tell Duo what the hell happened,” Duo said, pointing at himself.

“Ah….” Quatre said, nodding. “Well then, I nominate Heero, since he was the only one here.”

Duo snorted. “That seems to be happening a lot lately, doesn’t it?” he said to no one in particular.

Heero was looking at the blond vampire. “Be quiet, Quatre.”

Quatre was smiling. “Yes, Heero.” He sounded very much like he was teasing Heero.

“I’m not sure what happened, Duo,” Heero said softly. “You were talking about the dreams you had while you were falling in and out of consciousness, and then you withdrew into yourself. I tried to reach you, your mind, and it was shrouded in…nothing.”

“In nothing? That makes no sense, Heero, even coming from you,” Duo said sourly.

“Whether it makes sense or not is unimportant, it is what I felt.”

“The ghost said the same thing….” Wufei said, more to himself than anyone else.

“What?” Heero and Duo said, practically in unison.

“The ghost, Karen. The day we went to the voodoo woman’s house,” Wufei said. “She thought you were hot, so she went over next to you, to get a better look, I think.” His face clouded at the memory. “She said you weren’t there. Oh, she could see you, but it was like you didn’t exist.”

Duo was gaping at the black-haired shifter. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“No….” Wufei’s voice was low.

“So what the fuck does that mean?” Duo said irritably.

Quatre was looking oddly at Duo. “I have no idea what that means. Heero?”

Heero’s face was blank, but his eyes flickered with colour. “I don’t know.”

“Well, that’s just peachy. I don’t exist, and we have no idea what is going on,” Duo sounded more than a bit pissed.

“Being angry isn’t going to help,” Trowa spoke up for the first time.

“Fuck, don’t talk sense to me now, Tro, I’m not in the mood.” Duo crossed his arms over his chest.

“Do you remember what you said, Duo? Before you passed out?” Heero asked.

“When I was talking to you tonight?”

Heero nodded.

“No, I don’t. I remember what we talked about, and your idea concerning Lucrezia. The last thing I remember is looking into your eyes,” Duo said, wondering if maybe Heero had done something to him through his eyes, like he had done when they were fighting.

“I did nothing to you, Duo,” Heero said, anticipating where Duo’s thoughts would lead him. “When you began to slip away, I reached for your mind, and you almost dragged me down with you.”

A shiver ran down Duo’s back. He remembered that part. Not what he said or did, but he remembered the cold touch of Heero’s power, and the small spark of life behind it. He remembered the feeling of draining that power away, into himself, and the surge of pure joy that accompanied it.

“What are you, Duo…?” Heero whispered to himself.

They sat in silence for a moment, each one turning the odd chain of events over in their mind. Then the two shifters tensed. Heero and Quatre looked at the door seconds before it swung open and a petite woman strolled into the room, flanked by two of the biggest wolves Duo had ever seen. An embarrassed looking Zechs trailed after the woman.

“Erus, my apologies, she simply wouldn’t listen….” Zechs clamped his mouth shut when both Heero and Quatre shot the man a dark look.

The small woman was looking at the five men with an amused expression on her face. “Trowa, dear, you really should try to keep in contact.”

The addressed man merely regarded the woman coolly.

Unconcerned by Trowa’s response, or lack thereof, the woman turned to Heero. She inclined her head slightly in greeting.

“Catherine,” Heero said, not moving.

A smile flittered across her face. “You requested to speak with me, Erus?”

“I did. I did not, however, invite you here.”

Catherine waved a hand vaguely in the air. “I am a very busy woman. My pets,” she gestured at the two wolves seated by her feet, “monopolize my time.”

Heero didn’t look impressed. Duo was trying very hard not to, but it was difficult when faced with two wolves sitting beside the slight woman’s feet. They were BIG.

“Go away, Catherine, I have no time to deal with you now,” Heero turned back to Quatre, effectively dismissing her.

Anger flashed across Catherine’s face. “You can’t treat me as one of your lackeys. I am a Tamer, I too control the beasts!”

Heero touched Duo lightly on the shoulder, and the braided man moved out of the way. Heero rose, facing Catherine. Quatre also stood, moving a step behind and to the side of Heero. Trowa and Wufei moved to flank the two vampires.

“You, Tamer,” Heero nearly spat the word, “are nothing more than a hindrance, a slight thorn in a shifter’s side. The beasts, as you call them, are not yours to control.” A dark smile emerged on Heero’s face. “What will you do, Tamer, when they break free of you?”

Catherine’s body shook with barely controlled rage. “They are mine!” she nearly screamed. “Mine to command, mine to control!”

Duo stood, moving to stand on the opposite side of Heero, across from Quatre. Wufei took a step back and out, leaving the five of them in a rough wedge formation. Duo glanced at the others out of the corner of his eye, thinking it looked too much like a battle stance.

“I think you had best leave,” Duo said slowly.

Heero’s eyes flicked over to look at Duo in surprise, then he looked back at Catherine.

The woman laughed delightedly, forgetting her anger. “Do you use humans to protect yourself now, O great Erus?”

The two wolves rose to their feet, shaking out their fur and baring their teeth. Trowa and Wufei glared at them, and Duo felt the small rush of the beginnings of their power.

Heero was regarding Catherine coldly. “Leave. I will not tell you again.” His own power began to stir in the room, making Duo’s skin tingle.

Catherine’s mood changed again, as quickly as before. Her face took on a nervous cast while she debated what to do.

“As you wish, Erus,” she said abruptly. Then she turned and walked out the door as fast as she could without running. The two wolves lazily followed her, but before they exited the room, they glanced back at the five men, tongues lolling out in wolfish grins.

Heero’s eyes shifted from the door to look at Zechs. “You disappoint me, Zechs. Catherine and her wolves should not have gotten this far.”

Zechs winced, bowing low. “My apologies, Erus…she surprised us….”

“Silence.” Quatre’s voice rang out sharply. “The Erus does not want your excuses. See that it does not happen again.”

“Yes, of course.” Zechs looked a little less scared now, but his expression was still strained and his skin still overly pale. He bowed to Quatre, then Heero. “Erus.”

Heero nodded once, dismissing him.

Zechs bowed again, then also left the room, closing the door firmly behind him.

“Now,” Duo said conversationally, “what was THAT all about?”

Instantly, the tension of the room drained away. The rapid change in the atmosphere left Duo startled. He hadn’t noticed how different the little group was when others were present, until now.

Quatre looked pointedly at Trowa. “You realize your sister is crazy, don’t you?”

Trowa smiled. “Very crazy.”

Heero moved back to his position on the couch, crossing his legs at the ankles. “Foolish woman, what was she thinking, coming here like that?”

Duo took a step towards an empty chair, but Wufei pushed him along to sit on the edge of the couch next to Heero. The vampire shifted back, making room for Duo to lie down. When he hesitated, Wufei gave him another not-so-gentle push.

The braided man glared at his pet for a moment, then sighed resignedly as the other three made themselves comfortable on the floor in front of the couch.

Quatre’s last words finally registered on Duo’s brain, and he looked at Trowa questioningly. “THAT’S your sister?”

Trowa looked disgusted. “Unfortunately.”

“Whoo hoo, lots of love in the family, I see,” Duo said, trying not to lie to closely to Heero. “Hold on, what’s a Tamer?”

Wufei spoke up this time. “Someone who can control shifters. But that doesn’t really explain it well.” He leaned back, gathering his thoughts. “A Tamer is someone who can compel shifters to obey them, not really control them, but something like it. It’s very rare, usually the shifters get annoyed with the Tamer and kill him. Tamers have a tendency to be puffed up with their own importance.”

Duo whistled. “Dangerous line of work.”

Wufei nodded. “There have only been one or two Tamers that didn’t become lunch. They were obeyed not because of the Tamer’s power, but because the shifters respected them; treated them fairly.”

“Then I take it that Catherine’s wolves aren’t too fond of her, since she seems to like to rant and rave about controlling them,” Duo stated.

“I’ve always wondered why they put up with her,” Quatre mused.

A thought occurred to Duo. “Hey, Tro…if you’re a shifter, and your sister is a Tamer, why aren’t you trailing after her like a good little beastie?”

Trowa laughed softly. “I’m much stronger than she is, she couldn’t compel me to tie my shoes. And I belong to them.” He gestured vaguely at the other three. “And you, now.”

Duo looked like he wanted to say something, but he just shook his head.

Wufei smiled, patting Duo’s arm. “There, there.”

Duo shot Wufei a sour look, which only made the shifter’s smile widen into a grin. He sighed, leaning back, only to come in contact with Heero. Duo jumped; he had forgotten Heero was behind him. The vampire wrapped an arm around Duo’s waist, holding him against his body.

“Is there any chance that Catherine is the one who’s sending monsters out to do her dirty work?” Duo asked doubtfully.

“No. She is much too weak. Those two wolves with her are the only shifters she has,” Trowa replied.

“Even they didn’t look too impressed with her. Maybe they just stick around because she amuses them?” Duo’s body was tense in Heero’s arms. The longhaired man thought about the mystery that was the Erus. He still had no idea why Heero had requested his help, why he was interested in him, or why he was keeping him here. In short, Duo still knew nothing. No, he knew one thing. Duo knew that Heero had found him and kept him alive. WHY he had done that was another matter entirely.

“Duo?” Quatre repeated

“Huh? What, Q? Sorry about that, I was thinking.”

“About?” Wufei inquired.

“Nothing important…hey, why did the insane chick suddenly leave like that? One second she was all high and mighty, the next, she was tripping over herself trying to get out the door.”

“He just called your sister insane, Trowa,” Quatre said, looking down at his emerald-eyed pet.

Trowa rolled his eyes. “Duo is amazingly perceptive, she IS insane.”

Duo looked over at Trowa, grinning. “Thank you.”

Trowa inclined his head slightly, the corners of his mouth turned up in a small smile.

“Well,” Quatre began, “I don’t think we should consider Catherine’s behaviour odd….”

Duo stared at the blond vampire incredulously .

“…odder than it usually is, at any rate,” Quatre amended.

Wufei snorted. “That’s better, Quatre. For a moment I thought you were losing whatever was left of your mind.”

Quatre shot Wufei a half-hearted scowl. “As I was saying….”

The Chinese shifter grinned, then motioned for Quatre to continue.

“Thank you….” the blond said sarcastically.

“Think nothing of it.” Wufei’s face was deadly serious.

“If you two are QUITE finished…?” Heero interrupted.

Quatre glanced over at Wufei, who shrugged his shoulders.

“Right, anyway….” Quatre paused, trying to pick up the lost thread of this thoughts. “Oh, yes. Her behaviour wasn’t odd, considering who she is. So I think we can put her near the end of our list.”

“We have a list?” Duo asked.

Wufei held up his thumb and forefinger, holding them a fraction of an inch apart. “A very small list.”

Quatre ignored the exchange. “That leaves us back to where we started. Which means,” he looked pointedly at Duo, “you have to pay another visit to your dear friend the voodoo lawyer.”

“You will take Trowa and Wufei with you,” Heero said with a note of finality.

Naturally, Duo didn’t pay any attention to said note. “No, I’ll have to go in the day, and that will leave you and Q vulnerable.”

“Not really, Duo. We have ways of defending ourselves in the day,” Quatre said quickly, noting the clouded expression on Heero’s face.

Duo opened his mouth to argue, but Heero’s hand clamped over his lips before he could say anything. He still tried, and a garbled ‘mphff’ came out.

“Why can’t you just do what we tell you for once?” Heero asked exasperatedly.

“Cuff mime mephff?” Duo said, his eyes twinkling.

Trowa and Quatre gave him blank looks.

“What?” Trowa asked.

“He said, ‘cuz I’m me,’ ” Wufei supplied.

Heero looked at Wufei incredulously. “You understood that?”

The shifter shrugged. “I know, I’m amazing.”

No one looked convinced.

“Bah, fine. You get used to how Duo talks when you’re around him as much as I am,” he admitted.

“He talks with something over his mouth often?” Quatre asked playfully.

Wufei grinned, and Duo pointedly ignored both of them.

“What time is it anyway?” Duo asked.

“About three hours till dawn,” Trowa said.

Duo hadn’t noticed any clocks, and there were no windows, so he was left wondering just how Trowa knew what time it was. Resisting the urge to ask, he instead said, “I guess we had better get some rest before we go.” He looked at the two shifters. They didn’t seem tired, but Duo felt as if he hadn’t slept for days. Which was odd, considering how he spent most of the last week. “Only one thing….”

“Which is?” Trowa quirked and eyebrow.

Where do I sleep?”

*

Rules of Play

Duo was rummaging around in Quatre’s closet, flinging clothes back over his head as he appraised and then dismissed each article. The heap in the middle of the room was growing quite large.

“Don’t you have anything that doesn’t try to bond itself with your skin?” Another article of clothing sailed across the room.

Quatre winced. “Duo…you could just borrow something of Wufei’s…” he said in an attempt to rescue his wardrobe from Duo’s attentions.

Duo turned around, looking critically at a pair of snakeskin pants. “Is this lamia skin? Tell me this is NOT lamia skin.”

The blonde casually shrugged. “It was a gift, ask Heero.” He narrowed his eyes. “Actually,” he said, gazing at Duo’s lean form, “those would look quite good on you.”

Snorting, Duo moved to stuff the pants back into the closet, then thought better of it and added them with a negligent toss to his pile of rejects. “I don’t see what Heero is all uptight about. All I need is a few things from my apartment, ten minutes there, tops.” He went back to destroying Quatre’s closet.

The vampire sighed. It was going to be one of those days. It was nearing dawn, perhaps only two hours before. By Quatre’s logic, Duo should have been asleep at least thirty minutes ago; he was returning to Lucrezia’s later that day. Duo had, however, stated that he wanted to return to his apartment with Wufei. THAT particular idea hadn’t gone over well with anyone. In the end, Duo had reluctantly agreed to remain at Devil’s Bliss. Or, more precisely, he had been bullied into it. Quatre snickered softly to himself at the memory. Now, however, Quatre’s closet was paying the price as Duo tried to find what he deemed ‘sensible’ clothing.

“Shouldn’t you be asleep, Duo?” Quatre finally asked, dodging a particularly badly – or well, depending on how you looked at it – aimed shirt.

“No, I shouldn’t. I should be back at my apartment with Wufei, engaging in mindlessly lustful acts of sexual perversion.”

“And just why can’t you do that here?”

Duo’s shoulders shook with barely contained mirth. “Because, Q,” he drawled, “things have a tendency to get ‘crowded’ around here.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

Stepping away from the now decimated closet, Duo let out an explosive breath. “Well, looks like I’ve exhausted all possibilities here.” He looked at the rather large lump of clothes that decorated the middle of Quatre’s room. Then, looking around eagerly, he said, “Next?”

*

The sun shone brightly in the mid-afternoon sky as Duo walked across the long, green expanse of an urban park. After being cooped up in the basement of Devil’s Bliss, he was thoroughly enjoying the feel of the warm sun on his skin. Wufei and Trowa walked on either side of him, and Duo felt like they were hovering like overprotective mother hens. He didn’t tell them that, though.

Trowa watched Duo pluck uncomfortably at the billowing black cotton pants Wufei had finally convinced him to wear. “These make me look ridiculous!” he said indignantly.

“You don’t look ridiculous, Duo. You look…” Trowa glanced helplessly at Wufei.

“Like a cast off from a desert harem with a crappy tailor,” Duo finished. At least the black shirt he wore over one of Wufei’s white tank tops was loose enough to hide the Glock. Heero had given it to Duo before he had disappeared for the day, saying that he retrieved it from Mary-Anne’s apartment.

Wufei grinned in spite of himself. “I thought they looked rather good.”

“You’re biased,” Duo accused.

Trowa chuckled softly. “You keep saying that.”

“Well, he is biased.”

“And your point is?”

“Do you even have a point, Duo?” Wufei asked, not even bothering to look at the braided man. Instead he was watching a kite soaring in the sky not far from them.

Duo sputtered to himself, mumbling something about the side effects of being a were and its effect on one’s sense of decency.

“I don’t think you’re in a position to accuse anyone of being indecent, Duo,” Trowa pointed out mildly.

“You’re not helping, Tro.”

Trowa’s eyes widened in mock surprise. “I’m sorry, was I supposed to be helping?”

Duo’s face assumed the long-suffering expression he had become so fond of lately, and he gazed questioningly at the as-of-yet unresponsive sky. “Why me?”

Wufei looked at him innocently. “Why not?”

“Have you been reading philosophy books again, Wu?” asked Duo sourly.

The innocent expression didn’t change. “What a silly idea, wherever did you come up with THAT notion?”

“Okay, okay, we’re almost there. Let’s try to look somewhat serious.” Trowa interceded.

Duo’s eyes widened in horror. “Trowa! What a thing to suggest!”

“This is your fault, Wufei. Yours and Quatre’s.” Trowa gestured at the grinning Duo. “See what you’ve done?”

“I don’t see how it’s MY fault,” Wufei replied.

Duo was still grinning as he slipped an arm around each of their waists. “Let’s go visit the lovely Senora, yes?” With that, the three continued on their way, with Duo quietly humming ‘We’re off to See the Wizard’ softly to himself.

*

“Why the fuck isn’t she answering!?” Duo exclaimed loudly as he pounded on the door again, long ago abandoning the doorbell in favour of a more direct approach.

Wufei winced, watching the hinges on the door shudder under the force of Duo’s fist. Duo’s good mood had swiftly evaporated after ten minutes of waiting on the Senora’s front porch.

“Maybe she went out for a little while?” Trowa ventured, eyeing Duo somewhat nervously.

“Out!?” Duo yelled, “Out!?!?” He turned on his heel, staring straight at Wufei. “Wufei!” he snapped.

“Yes, master?” The Chinese shifter unconsciously slipped back into his old habits when faced with Duo’s rage.

“What day is this?”

Wufei thought for a moment. “Saturday,” he said finally.

“Then she should be here,” Duo said, raising his fist to strike the door again.

Trowa reached out and caught Duo’s hand before it made contact. Duo’s eyes flared dangerously, the knuckles of his clenched fist white with pressure.

“Duo…” Trowa said softly, “we’ll try the back, she could be busy with something. Didn’t you say Saturday she devoted to her practice?” He wasn’t referring to Lucrezia’s career as a lawyer.

Wufei hesitatingly laid a hand on Duo’s shoulder in mute agreement with Trowa’s words. Duo’s eyes narrowed dangerously, and he looked like he would strike one of them. Then the tension seeped out of his body, and he let his arm relax in Trowa’s grip.

“Right. You’re right. Sorry, I guess I’m just so…frustrated!” Duo smiled, his features easily returning to the familiar expression. He stepped down off the porch, heading towards the gate in the high fence that led to the back garden. “The door’s back here,” he called over his shoulder.

Wufei and Trowa exchanged a worried glance. The barely checked rage Duo had just displayed seemed very out of place for his character. Even when he and Heero had been fighting, Duo hadn’t shown the sheer amount of rage as he did in that one moment on the priestess’ porch. Perhaps it was because Duo had been inactive for the past week, or maybe Heero’s suspicions about Lucrezia bothered the self-made killer more than he let on.

For all Wufei’s banter, Duo still had power over him, power that Wufei had freely given up. And Trowa had done the same. They were both shifters, submissive to him by choice and not force, and that meant everything that went with it. And Duo…Duo was a man that killed. A man that killed shifters.

With that sobering thought in mind, Trowa and Wufei followed Duo through the gate and up to the basement door. Heero had invited Duo to play the game, but had anyone bothered to set out what was at stake? Or even make the rules?

*

Wufei peered into the dark hallway. The light from the open door barley pierced the darkness. He listened intently, but no sound reached his sensitive ears. He shot a questioning look at Trowa, who shook his head in the negative. He didn’t hear anything either.

“Well…” Duo whispered, “we can sneak in, or saunter in like old friends.” His voice was all but inaudible, but the two weres heard him clearly.

Wufei mouthed the word ‘friends’, and Trowa nodded his agreement. If anything was there, it probably already knew of their presence. Sneaking about at this point in time was merely foolishness.

“Knock, knock, Senora! You have visitors.” Duo raised his voice, fumbling for the light switch as Wufei stepped into the hall. The werepanther felt something give slightly under his foot with a squishy slurping sound.

Duo chose that particular moment to find the light switch, and the basement hall flooded with light. “Ewww…” he said, looking down at Wufei’s feet.

“Well, isn’t that just wonderful,” Wufei said, lifting his foot and shaking it, trying to dislodge the piece of whatever that was clinging to it.

“That looks like…” Duo said thoughtfully and sniffing the air, “and smells like intestines. Ewww.”

“Yes, yes,” Wufei said, “you said ewww already, now get this thing off my foot!” He gave his leg a last violent shake, sending the trailing intestines smacking into a wall with a sick sounding slap.

“That was mildly disgusting,” Trowa said conversationally. “Does Lucrezia usually have various innards lying around her house?”

Duo followed Wufei further into the house. “No, not that I’m aware of. Of course, I could be wrong,” he paused. “I wonder who owns those?” he asked, nodding his head in the direction of the ropey organ.

“Whoever owns them doesn’t need them now,” Wufei said, glancing into a doorway. He flicked on the light. “Laundry room…no visible vital organs lying around in here.”

“At least her laundry room is clean,” Duo said, walking past Wufei as he flicked off the light. “Senora, are you home? Darling Lucrezia?”

“…darling?” Wufei asked.

Duo shrugged, then he cursed when he turned the corner to look up the stairs. “I think I found the owner of our welcoming present.”

Wufei sighed inwardly. Only since he met Duo had he developed the habit of walking in on slaughtered humans. He hoped it wasn’t catching.

Trowa had walked past Wufei to stand beside Duo. “You know him?”

The Chinese shifter’s disposition brightened. Well, at least the person was recognizable. He turned the corner and peered between the other two. Okay, yes, the person was recognizable, but it wasn’t the whole person. In fact, it wasn’t even a person anymore. It was the head of Lucrezia’s zombie butler.

Duo made a ‘tsk tsk’ sound with his tongue. “And good slightly decomposed serving men are so hard to find these days,” he said as he leaned down to take a closer look at the head.

The decapitated zombie opened its eyes, staring straight at Duo, who promptly shouted several choice curses and jumped back, landing in Trowa’s arms. “Is it supposed to do that?” Trowa asked, looking down at Duo.

“No, the damn thing shouldn’t be able to do anything,” Duo said, irritated. He hated being caught off guard.

The zombie was still looking at Duo, seemingly oblivious to the others. “Hello, Duo,” it said pleasantly.

“Alright,” Trowa said, “I know it’s not supposed to be able to do that, it doesn’t even have a throat anymore.”

The zombie head was unconcerned with Trowa’s statement. “I hope you’re feeling better now, Duo, I heard you had a nasty encounter a while back,” it continued in that same pleasant tone.

Duo weighed his options. One: he could run screaming from the house, and forget he ever met the Senora. Two: he could have a conversation with a decapitated talking zombie head.

“Ahh, yeah…. Well, I’m feeling much better now,” he said, opting for the latter of the two choices. “I’d ask how you are, but…” he trailed off.

“Oh, don’t concern yourself with that. Now, to business. I’m sure you’re wondering where the Senora is.”

“You could say I’m slightly curious, yes,” Duo replied.

“Senora Lucrezia has decided that her interests would be best served elsewhere, so, much to her regret, the Senora is unable to see you again,” the zombie head said.

“This is a permanent arrangement then?”

“Oh, yes, of course it is. I thought I had mentioned that. The Senora sends her utmost apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.”

“I’m sure she does,” Wufei muttered under his breath. From what he remembered of Lucrezia, the woman was unconcerned with ‘inconveniencing’ others.

Again, the zombie took no notice of anyone but Duo. “Now, if you’ll be so kind as to excuse me, I’ve delivered my message, and I do believe it’s time for me to go.” With that, the decapitated zombie closed his eyes, and stopped moving completely.

“Just a DAMN minute here, I’m not finished yet, I want to ask you a few things,” Duo raged at the now silent head.

“I don’t think he’s listening to you anymore, Duo,” Wufei said.

“What do we do now?” Trowa asked. “Look around?”

“I guess so,” Duo said, throwing a sour look at the head in the middle of the stairway and then back at Trowa. “I just hope that thing doesn’t bite our ankles as we walk past.”

“Uhh…I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” the black-haired shifter said, pointing at the zombie’s head.

Its message delivered, the head began to decompose, the magic used to animate it spent. The decomposition started slowly, then rapidly gained speed, until the head was a half-dusty, half-gooey puddle on the stairs.

“Eww,” Wufei said, mimicking Duo’s earlier expression.

Duo started up the stairs, giving the puddle a wide berth. “Let’s get this over with, I’m sure Heero is just gnawing on his leather in frustration, waiting for us to get back.”

*

“That house is deceptively small on the outside,” Trowa observed.

The sun had long since set and the world outside buzzed with the drone of city night-life. The three breathed deeply of the somewhat cleaner air outside, relieved to be out of the voodoo priestess’ home. Searching the house had been a somewhat harrying experience for them all. Blood and gore was one thing, various animated body parts and organs casually strewn about were another. Duo had just witnessed a multitude of disturbing things, and he didn’t think he’d want to see anything even mildly gross for months. In fact, he was pretty sure he didn’t even want to be alone after seeing what Lucrezia had lying about in her house.

Wufei looked back at the quiet building. “Wasn’t that nice?” he quipped.

Trowa followed the other shifter’s gaze, then said, “And just what are you using as a basis of comparison?”

“Enough!” Duo cried exasperatedly. “Let’s just get the fuck out of here, okay? That is one sick woman, and I’ll be delighted if Mr. Happy Head was right and Lucrezia is gone poof for good.”

The two shifters looked at each other, then at Duo. “Good idea, Duo,” Wufei said softly, “getting out of here sounds very good.”

They left the back garden, shutting the gate securely behind them. The further they walked away from Lucrezia’s, the better Duo felt. By the time they were crossing through the park, he was almost feeling good again.

Beside him, Trowa tensed. Duo opened his mouth to ask what was wrong when Trowa whispered, “Quatre….”

The named vampire laughed softly, emerging from the shadows of a grove of trees. “You always could tell when it was me, pet,” Quatre said softly. The blonde stepped fully into the light, and Duo let his eyes run over the vampire briefly. He was wearing black tonight, and it contrasted sharply with his pale colouring. A soft-looking shirt moved in the evening’s breeze, making no sound as Quatre walked closer. His pants were of the same deep black, moulding tight to his hips and falling looser as they passed his thighs. The night bled all colour from his eyes, making then appear grey. Quatre felt Duo looking at him, and a small, knowing smile ghosted his lips.

“Come to collect us, have you?” Duo asked.

Quatre laughed, the sound cascading over Duo’s skin like the quiet brush of the wind. He stopped in front of Trowa, capturing the shifter’s lips in a deep kiss, then pulling back, watching the shifter’s eyes. Trowa’s eyes fluttered open, and he made a small sound of disappointment. The vampire traced the line of Trowa’s cheek with his thumb, then ran it over his lips before kissing him again, open-mouthed.

Duo watched with morbid fascination, wondering how you could get that much tongue involved without cutting yourself on the vampire’s fangs. He heard a sharp intake of breath beside him, and glanced over at Wufei. The werepanther was staring fixedly at the other two, his eyes glazed as he watched their tongues plunge into the other’s mouth. Duo was just about to say something when Quatre stepped away from Trowa. Smiling, the vampire turned his eyes to Wufei, who immediately went to him.

Trowa was breathing heavily, both from Quatre’s greeting and from watching that same greeting being offered to Wufei. Duo’s sarcastic inner monologue was silenced as he felt himself become aroused. Quatre broke the kiss with one last nip on Wufei’s lip and turned to face Duo.

The full force of the blonde vampire’s gaze struck Duo and left his mind reeling. Quatre’s eyes burned into him, searing though him in waves. He took a hesitant step towards the vampire before he realized what he was doing. Then Quatre was close, and the heat coming from his body blended with the heat of his eyes. Duo let out an involuntary moan. Pleased, Quatre pressed his body to Duo’s and tilted his head. His tongue darted out to lick his already moist lips. Duo’s sluggish mind dully registered the fact that Quatre was about to kiss him.

“What did you find at the mambo’s home?” Quatre asked softly, his lips only centimetres from Duo’s.

“…what?” came the dazed reply.

“The Vodoun priestess, what did she tell you?”

Duo blinked, trying to get his mind to focus on something besides the feel of Quatre’s lithe body against his own, or the tempting softness of his lips, so close to his…so easy to move just a little more, and taste them….

Then Quatre was gone, standing beside Trowa with an expectant look on his face, awaiting Duo’s answer. Duo cursed softly under his breath, though no doubt everyone was able to hear him with their heightened senses. Then Quatre’s question finally clicked in his brain.

“Did you say ‘Vodoun’?” he asked, still a little unbalanced. Then, “What’s a mambo?”

Wufei spoke up, moving to slide his arm behind Duo’s waist. “Mambo is the Dahomean word for a female Vodoun priest, and Vodoun is the true name for what you commonly call voodoo.”

“Oh…” Duo said, feeling more than a little stupid. So much for being the intelligent monster hunter. “Lucrezia’s skipped town, and her message man decomposed a few hours ago. You missed him.”

Quatre’s brow creased in annoyance. “That’s inconvenient.”

“Yeah, she sends her apologies for that, too. Not that I’d believe her,” Duo said as they started walking again.

Trowa walked close to the blonde vampire, and although he was slightly taller, by looking at them you would know Quatre was the one in charge. Trowa’s body language was submissive, and he didn’t even seem aware of it. Curious, Duo glanced to his left where Wufei walked close by. He was doing the same thing. What ‘it’ was, Duo couldn’t quite put his finger on, but there was, no mistake. Wufei and Trowa just FELT submissive. Duo was so lost in his thoughts that he didn’t even notice when the air grew noisier and the press of people going about their lives surrounded them.

The heat and noise of Devil’s Bliss struck him full in the face when the bouncer opened the door. Looking up, Duo saw Dorothy smiling at him. A grin formed on Duo’s lips. He had hardly expected to see the woman act as a bouncer. Then again, he had no clue what Dorothy was, she could have been a vamp for all he knew. Duo made a mental note to ask someone about that later.

Dorothy nodded once to Trowa and Wufei, then lowered her eyes when Quatre walked by. The blonde vampire gave her a hard look and then turned away, dismissing her. Duo’s smile faltered. He’d have to ask about that, too. Heero had said that Dorothy had been dealt with, but that did nothing to comfort him. If anything, it made him feel worse. Duo glanced back towards the main entrance before opening the door that lead to the basement quarters. His list of things to confront Heero about seemed to be getting longer everyday.

*

Duo wearily trudged down the hallway, wondering why it was always so cold. He opened the door at the end of the hall without thinking and walked into Heero’s rooms. Duo had decided that ‘room’ didn’t describe the chamber accurately, so he opted for rooms instead. Heero had merely raised an eyebrow as Duo had discussed it with Wufei.

The door closed behind him, and it was only then that Duo realized he had lost the others somewhere along the way. A quick glance around revealed no sign of Heero.

“Heero? You in here?” Duo called, walking past the fire pit and through the gap in the transparent drapes to the bedroom area. “Odd….” Where the hell was Heero? Duo thought he would be anxious to find out if his theory about Lucrezia was right or not.

Stopping beside the marble dais, Duo blew a puff of air in irritation. Now what was he supposed to do? His eyes wandered to the bed…maybe…no. He was tired, perhaps even exhausted, but sleeping in Heero’s bed was not an option. Duo prudently ignored the fact that he had been sleeping there for the past week or more. Then Duo thought of the couches. A quick nap, then maybe see if he could find Heero. Quatre probably knew where he was.

Decision made, Duo turned around and caught sight of the huge marble bath on the raised dais. Instantly he thought of where he had been. A bath sounded perfect. Heero wasn’t around to complain, and he probably wouldn’t object anyway. Duo eyed the bath; it was certainly large enough for two, more than two, actually.

Duo caught himself before that thought went any further. What the hell was he thinking? Why should he care if two people could fit into the bathtub? He snorted, disgusted with himself. Things were starting to get to him.

He shook his head as if to clear those thoughts from his mind, and glanced towards the door. Duo was certain no one would enter uninvited, never mind that he had just sauntered in. Well, Wufei, Trowa or Quatre would. And of course Heero. But they had seen him naked before anyway. The first three had seen something a little more than just nudity. Besides, Duo wanted to clean himself of the dirt from Lucrezia’s house. He looked around again, searching for towels or a robe. Seeing what looked like a partially hidden cupboard on one end of the dais, he climbed the three steps leading to the bath itself.

When he reached the final step, he knelt to open the cupboard. As he did he noticed the bottom of the bath was carved in an intricate pattern of vines, complete with leaves and thorns. Curious, he reached in to touch it. That had to be hard on the ass to sit on. Then again, maybe Heero was into that kind of thing….

Duo felt a jolt of surprise when his hand encountered a smooth surface. Knitting his brows in confusion, he ran his hand over the entire length of the bottom. Nothing! It was completely smooth to the touch, no bumps or ridges anywhere. Now where in the name of Jesus did Heero find a bathtub like this?

Absently grabbing a towel from the cabinet, he stood and began to undress, flinging his clothes down the few stairs onto the floor. Halfway done, he bent again to start the water running. After a moments deliberation on how exactly to do that, he had a steady stream of hot water filling up the bath.

Duo started humming happily to himself in anticipation. He ran his hand through the water, and then straightened up, tugging off his boots and socks. Left only in the black pants, he unwound his braid, and sat down on the bath’s rim, laying the tie next to him. As he waited for the tub to fill, he looked over the various bottles and containers scattered around.

He was still humming several minutes later when he crawled into the steaming water. Sinking to his neck in the heat, Duo’s little tune changed into a small sigh of pleasure. He felt ten times better already. He lay back against the slanted wall for a few minutes, closing his eyes and just letting the water soak into him and loosen his muscles. Eventually he realized he had intended to wash, not parboil himself. Opening his eyes, however, was a challenge at this point. He chose instead to just reach blindly for the soap and the washcloth he had laid out.

When blind groping didn’t work, he opened his eyes in frustration. Mumbling a few choice words under his breath, he grabbed the soap and, working up a good lather, started washing his neck.

Now that felt good. The dirt and grime rinsed away by the soap was heaven enough, but his tired muscles screamed in pleasure from the small massage. Duo leaned back again, continuing to wash as his thoughts began to wander errantly once more.

Strangely, at least to him, the first thing he thought about was Heero. Where was he, anyway? Duo wasn’t really surprised though. Heero had a tendency to do as he pleased. And that brought Duo’s mind back to Heero’s odd behaviour. It was clear what the vampire wanted. His voice and the words he spoke still echoed in Duo’s mind. Give yourself to me, he had said. When they had fought, Duo was honestly trying to kill him. But was Heero? Did Heero really try to kill him? No doubt he could have, easily. He hadn’t tried to kill him then. Heero had tried to own him.

A shiver ran though Duo’s body at the thought, and it wasn’t entirely out of fear or hatred. Heero had tried to own him. He wanted Duo to give in to him, and let Heero possess him. Anger quickly welled up inside Duo. No. No fucking way was he going to give in to a vampire. But hadn’t he already given in to the shifters?

No, that was different. They were his, not the other way around. Wasn’t that the way it was? They belonged to him, but he was still his own, no one owned him but himself. Duo closed his eyes again, this time in frustration. He was lying to himself. The shifters did own him, at least a part of him He had already given himself away.

Without warning, Duo thought of Quatre. No, not just Quatre, but the way he had looked at him. The memory was very fresh, and so were the feelings that accompanied it. The blonde vampire wanted him. And at the moment, Duo had wanted to give him what he wanted. Duo realized with a start that if Quatre had asked, he would have agreed without a thought. Had Quatre known that? Is that why he had pulled away?

This was a bad line of thought to follow. Duo switched gears quickly, deciding to try and figure out what to do next. With both Mary-Anne and Lucrezia out of the picture, Duo was stumped. He supposed that they could try to track down the priestess, but he severely doubted he’d have any luck with that. If Lucrezia wanted to disappear, no one would find her.

Duo’s hand went to the glittering cross that rested against his chest. He had forgotten to remove it. Was there any connection between the fire and the killings? And why was the cross at Mary-Anne’s? Duo stopped. How did he know that the cross had been there? Only because Heero had told him it was. What reason did he have to trust the vampire? A realization dawned on Duo then, and he didn’t like the implications of it. Didn’t like them one bit.

A small whisper ghosted through Duo’s mind, so small it was almost lost in Duo’s thoughts. He wasn’t even sure why he did notice it, but there was no mistaking what it was. The touch was so familiar, comforting almost. Without opening his eyes, Duo smiled.

“Hello, Heero,” he said quietly, his hand still wrapped loosely around the gold cross at his neck.

*

Imitations of Immortality

“Duo….” Heero’s voice was quiet, soft. Seductive. It rolled over Duo’s skin hotly, bringing with it promises. Promises of something dark, something decadent.

Duo shivered in the bath, the water suddenly cold against his fevered skin. His grip tightened around the cross, and the points dug into his hand. Opening his eyes, he saw Heero standing at the base of the dais. Caught between amusement and lust, Duo saw that Heero, true to his apparent obsession , wore only a pair of black leather pants. Even his feet were bare on the white carpet. Light from the wall candles danced across his bare chest, highlighting the sharp lines. Heero’s skin reflected the golden flames, making it seem as if his skin was causing the glow.

“Duo,” Heero repeated.

Immediately Duo’s eyes snapped up when he realized he was staring. Damn. Not supposed to stare. He focused instead on Heero’s face, and realized too late his mistake. Heero’s eyes were on fire. It washed over Duo in even stronger waves, stealing his breath. Then, Heero was standing on the top stair, holding him with his eyes. Duo thought belatedly that he really screwed up on that one, but he found he didn’t really care. The cross fell, forgotten, from his hand.

Taking a deep breath, Duo finally found his voice. “Welcome back, Erus.” Now why had he said that? He had never used Heero’s title before. Duo shook his head a little, trying to clear his mind.

Heero laughed, and Duo’s efforts were in vain. His laugh, like his voice, invaded his mind and body. It was like something tangible. Duo felt it play along his skin, touching him in a way that was almost intimate. His breath hitched in his throat as his eyes were inexorably drawn back to Heero’s.

Heero stood painfully still, watching Duo with eyes of blue fire. Then he sat on the rim of the bath, all grace and no bones. Fluid, like water. He dipped his hand into bath, cupping the soapy water and lifting it to let it slide slowly over Duo’s exposed skin. A low moan escaped from Duo’s parted lips.

“Is this…” Heero said, dripping more water over Duo’s chest, “…my welcome home present?”

Duo’s eyes slid almost shut, unable to close that last little bit which would hide Heero’s eyes from his gaze. Taking a deep breath, Duo drew in the scent of Heero’s skin. Warm and inviting, yet somehow dark and rich at the same time. He breathed deeply again, letting it wrap around him both inside and out. It was merely another layer of Heero’s power that Duo felt cover him.

Feeling a hand on his cheek, Duo opened his eyes a little wider. Heero was impossibly close, leaning over him. Duo let his eyes drop, focusing now on the lips that were so close to his. He parted his lips, drawing in another breath. The whisper in his mind changed to a surge. He felt himself move, getting slowly to his knees. The water lapped against his hips, unnoticed. All Duo could see and feel was Heero. He tilted his head to the side a little. Heero moved forward, his breath mingling with Duo’s as he brought his hand behind Duo’s head, weaving his fingers through the damp hair.

“Animi motus meus…” Heero whispered, and Duo heard the word with both his ears and inside his mind.

A loud bang accompanied several shouts, and Hilde rushed into the room, shouting for the Erus. Duo blinked a few times, then gasped when he felt Heero’s lips brush his for a split second before the Erus pulled back. His eyes burned with a different fire now. Heero stood faster than Duo’s eyes could follow, lips curled back into a savage snarl and fangs glinting in the firelight.

What?” Heero growled, snarling at the intruder. His rage filled the room, forcing itself down Duo’s throat until he could hardly breathe.

Hilde dropped to her knees, spine bowed and head lowered. “Forgive me, Erus,” her voice dripped with fear, if it was from angering Heero or her urgent news, Duo couldn’t tell. “Sally and her clan, along with Catherine, are demanding to know what you have done with Lucrezia.” She bent lower to the floor when Heero let lose another vicious growl. “They stormed the main floor and killed several humans, and still toy with a few. Dorothy, Treize and Une are down. Relena and Zechs hold the stage door, Quatre, Trowa and Wufei are on the offence. Your presence is required, Master.”

“Fools!” Heero shouted, making Hilde cringe and Duo wince as he grabbed for a towel. The Erus leapt from the stone dais, roughly hauling Hilde to her feet. “Come with me, now!” he roared, storming through the room and out the door. The room still pulsed with his rage.

Duo dried himself hastily before hauling on a pair of faded jeans. Grabbing the Glock from his pile of dirty clothes, he rushed after Heero and Hilde. Be damned if he was just going to sit in the bath and prune.

*

The sounds of fighting assaulted Duo in a rush when he burst through the door by the stage. A quick look around showed several bodies, torn and bloodied, scattered like discarded toys. Only toys weren’t usually covered in their own blood. Relena was chasing another woman across the second floor, her face twisted in an expression of pure hate. Note: never piss off Relena. Zechs was bent low over Une, and Duo could feel the heady rush that accompanied his healing. Dorothy and Treize were out of sight. Everyone else appeared to be involved in the bloody fight near the centre of the room. Logical. More room there to kill someone. Or get yourself killed.

A few seconds more and Duo could make out Heero standing with his hand wrapped around a woman’s throat; it wasn’t Catherine or anyone Duo recognized. Wufei and Trowa had shifted, and were attacking a group of wolves, probably Catherine’s. Quatre was unaccounted for until a ragged scream reached Duo’s ears. A quick glance to the left revealed the blonde beating relentlessly on a man twice his size. Being larger didn’t seem to be helping the man much; his face was just so much blood.

Indecision blossomed in Duo’s mind. What was he supposed to do? Wade into the fray and become mush? That prospect didn’t really thrill him. One of the wolves had broken away from the panthers and was running straight at Heero, bloody jaws snapping at the air. Duo drew himself up and aimed, pulling the trigger without a second thought. Probably wouldn’t kill the wolf, but would slow him down a hell of a lot.

Heero whirled around and caught sight of the wolf as it was knocked off its feet by the force of the shot. He glanced toward Duo for a moment before throwing the woman at the downed wolf. She hit it just as it was struggling to get its legs under it, and they both fell in a heap. The woman was back up in a flash, and Duo sighted the Glock on her. The wolf stayed down. Even shape-shifters couldn’t heal scatter rounds that quickly.

Duo fired again, hitting the woman square in the right leg. She stumbled with a startled scream, turning to face Duo. He features were distorted by a snarl of rage and what Duo hoped was pain. Her fangs and lips were stained with blood. Another vampire.

“What the fuck is going on here!?” Duo shouted, keeping the gun trained on the woman. She looked to be blonde, but there was so much blood coating her hair and one part of her face he wasn’t sure.

Quatre gave his unfortunate enemy a last, savage kick, sending him flying into a wall. He hit with a sick crunch and slid to the floor, dazed. Duo had an unpleasant flash of the intestines from earlier that day.

Just then Catherine came crashing to the floor, followed by a gleefully laughing Relena. “Yes, dear Cathy!” she cried, smashing the woman’s body to the floor again. “What is going on here?”

Enough” Heero shouted, his voice echoing off the walls. He walked almost calmly up to the woman Duo had shot and picked her up by the throat again, setting her down on her feet. “What is the meaning of this?” he asked, his voice gone deadly quiet. Duo preferred the shouting. It was less disturbing.

All movement in the bar ceased, save for the quiet murmurings of Zechs as he healed Une. Duo’s arm was starting to cramp, but like hell he was putting the gun down.

“Where is Lucrezia!?” the woman shouted, ignoring Heero’s question.

Bad move. The vampire’s eyes went cold and flat. He wrapped his hand almost casually around her throat again, and flexed his fingers. Duo could see them dig into the skin, and the woman’s next words gurgled in her throat.

“Insolent bitch!” Whoa, that was a new one on Duo. He’d never heard Heero resort to language so…well, to resort to language. Never mind that Duo did it as a habit. “Answer my question!”

“She can’t talk if you rip her throat out, Heero,” Duo said, resisting the urge to roll his eyes.

Heero didn’t look like he had heard him, but his fingers loosened their grip just enough to allow the woman to speak.

“If you have harmed her in any…!” her sentence was cut short as Heero grimly tightened his grip again.

“You are in no position to make threats, Sally,” Quatre said quietly. Duo shivered from the ice in his tone.

Ah, so that was Sally. Sally looked a trifle uncomfortable at the moment, not that Duo could blame her. This time, he did roll his eyes. He’d never find out anything if Heero kept crushing her voice box. Sighing, he finally lowered the gun and nodded to the panthers. He was surprised when the one he had thought was Wufei obediently trotted to his side. Maybe Duo was getting the hang of recognizing him in panther form.

Walking over to stand by Heero, Duo motioned for him to loosen his grip. Heero flicked his eyes at Duo for a moment before looking back to Sally and letting his fingers loosen. Duo resisted the urge to say ‘good man’.

“Now,” Duo began, “what the hell is this all about? And don’t say ‘where is Lucrezia’ again, because that tells me fuck all and I’m getting sick of hearing it.”

Sally’s eyes widened. “A human,” she spat the word, “dares to order me about?”

Heero growled again. Frankly, Duo was getting sick of being picked on because he didn’t have fangs or turn furry. He reached out and tapped the tip of the gun against her head twice. “Answer the fucking question, bitch, or I’ll blow a neat little hole in your head, regardless of what you are.”

She snorted. “You are growing weak, Heero, to let the human speak for you.”

In reply to that, Heero smiled. It chilled Duo to the bone. “I believe you are the one who is growing weak, Sally. Do you not recognize Death when it comes calling?”

Amazingly enough, it looked like Sally’s eyes had gotten even wider. She stared at Duo. “YOU!?” she shrieked.

Hearing his nickname spoken by Heero gave Duo a little jolt of surprise. On Heero’s lips, it seemed more than merely a name. But Duo’s next thought was cut off by a another scream of rage, this time from the prone Catherine.

Heero ignored it, and Relena hit her square in the face, effectively silencing her from further outbursts. It’s hard to talk when your jaw is crushed.

Duo tapped Sally’s head with the gun again, just to make sure he had her attention. “You were about to say?” he prodded.

“Lucrezia is gone missing, and you,” she looked at Wufei, who sat quietly at Duo’s feet, “were the last to be seen at her home. You have done something to her, and revenge must be taken.”

“You idiot!” Duo exploded. “All this, over THAT? If you had an ounce of intelligence in that pulp that’s filling up your head, don’t you think it might have been slightly more prudent to ASK?”

Sally stared at Duo blankly.

“This is not like you, Sally,” Heero said, his voice still flat and emotionless. “You would not go so far over a missing priestess.”

“What’s she mean to you, anyway?” Duo put in, curiosity finally overcoming him. “Why would you go so far to either rescue her, or take revenge for her?”

“I…” Sally drifted off, puzzled. “We have to…” she stopped again. A look of pure rage crossed her face, followed swiftly by something that looked suspiciously like embarrassment. “It does not matter to you!”

What!?” Duo shouted, once again severely tempted to just shoot her. “What,” he paused, then continued again in a calmer voice, “kind of an answer is that?”

“Out,” Heero said, releasing her completely. “Get out, Sally. Now. You are the one who has grown weak.”

“You’re just going to let them go!?” Duo asked, incredulous. What the fuck was Heero thinking? Check that, was Heero even thinking at all?

Heero ignored him. He was getting quite good at ignoring people. Sally gathered herself up, favouring her injured leg only slightly now. A quick glance said that it had already started to heal. Duo had the sneaking suspicion that it didn’t hurt the woman at all. It merely wouldn’t support her full weight. He really had to figure out what half these people were, although spotting vampires was becoming easier. Absently, he reached down and scratched Wufei’s ears, more to comfort himself than the panther. Startled, he looked down at Wufei. Had he just said ‘Duo’? Wufei looked back at him with silent eyes. It had to have been Duo’s imagination. Wufei was unable to talk in panther form. A cat’s mouth just wasn’t suited to pronounce human speech.

The others were gathering themselves together too. Duo watched as Relena reluctantly let Catherine get to her feet. The Tamer looked at the wolves, who shot one last look at Trowa and then went to their master. The rest resentfully followed Sally to the exit, picking up various people along the way. The big man that Quatre had taken out was picked up by Sally as she walked past. Duo’s eyes widened. Definitely a vampire. Had to be an old one too, to be able to take a scatter shot in the thigh and still carry a man that big over her shoulders.

“Quatre,” Heero said shortly.

“Erus?” Quatre dropped to his knees in front of him.

“Take Relena, Hilde and Trowa, and get rid of this.” He gestured at the carnage.

Quatre simply nodded, and the others named immediately joined him.

“Zechs, Wufei,” Heero paused, looking at Une. She was now standing, looking none the worse for the fight. “Une. Retrieve Treize and Dorothy. See what you can do for them for now. A days rest should be enough to completely heal them.”

Wufei looked up at Duo before he moved from his side. Duo nodded once, and the panther picked its way across the bloodstained floor, shimmering slightly as it went. Suddenly, the panther was gone and Wufei continued to walk towards the others. Duo let out an explosive breath when the backlash of Wufei’s power hit him. It was quickly followed by another wave as Trowa shifted. Duo was left gasping from the rush. Fuck. Out of breath and half aroused. He seriously considered grabbing Wufei and saying the hell with clean up. Heero, however, had other ideas.

“Duo.”

Duo looked at the vampire, and immediately regretted it. Heero’s eyes were no longer cold, but burning once more. ‘Give yourself to me’ echoed in Duo’s mind, and he felt the kiss of Heero’s power sweep through him. This was getting to be a habit. Duo still held the Glock loosely in his hand, but its usually comforting weight didn’t help him. How were you supposed to fight something if you didn’t recognize the danger until you just didn’t care anymore?

“Come with me, Duo,” Heero said, briefly touching Duo’s face before heading towards the side door, not looking to see if Duo was following.

The double meaning of that command didn’t escape Duo’s notice. Had Heero intended it? A corner of Duo’s mind resented the fact that Heero assumed he would follow like a good little pet. It was still resenting it as Duo made his way across the room, following the same path Heero had just taken.

*

Duo scowled. “What do you want?” he asked Heero, biting off his words.

“What happened to Lucrezia?”

Shit. Heero didn’t know. Well, that explained why he had been so surprised by Sally’s actions. “Lucrezia skipped town, at least that’s what her decapitated butler said.”

Heero’s brows knitted. Was it just Duo or was Heero becoming more expressive? That had to be the third different expression Duo had seen on his face.

“Haven’t you been talking to Quatre?” Duo asked when Heero still had said nothing.

“No. I returned here,” – ‘here’ meaning Heero’s rooms, in which he and Duo were now seated – “and found you as soon as I got back.”

“Ahh….” Duo really didn’t want to think about that just now. Damn. His bath had been cut short. And now his exhaustion was setting back in. Nothing like an adrenaline crash to remind you just how tired you really were.

“Duo.”

Well, Jesus, Heero had to stop using his name. Duo was already partly hard and more than a little antsy because of the shifters energy. And every time Heero said his name, it sounded more and more like ‘fuck me’.

“Yeah?” Duo asked, struggling to control his rebellious body.

“Run the bath again.” Heero stood and walked, no, more like flowed, towards the bed chamber.

What the…!? Run the bath? Duo snorted. Like hell. If Heero wanted a bath, let him run it himself. Duo looked up to tell Heero just that when he caught sight of the mess that was Heero’s back.

“Holy fuck, Heero, what happened to you?” Duo hissed, standing.

“Shifter wounds,” he replied simply. “Harder to heal.”

“Christ….” Duo stood, running his fingers through his still damp hair. Heero could still run his own fucking bath…but…. Sighing, Duo followed Heero once again, this time through the curtains. He did use it before without asking, what harm was it to run a bit of water for the vampire?

Duo laid the gun on the currently deep red sheets of Heero’s bed – he seemed to alternate between black and red, then climbed the few steps up to the bath. Draining the now cold water from his bath, Duo ran fresh water to replace it. He even got a clean towel out of the cabinet for Heero before he sat on the tub’s rim.

“Hey, Heero,” Duo said, idly running his hand through the water. “Why’d you let her go? You should have killed the bitch.”

Heero laughed, sending little ripples along Duo’s skin. “What point would there be to that? Her death would give me nothing, her life…perhaps we’ll discover why a human priestess is so important to her.”

“It seemed like she didn’t even know that herself.”

“Then maybe we will find out who Lucrezia is important to. Important enough to deceive or spell a vampire into attacking a room full of humans and another vampire’s home.”

Duo’s brain must have been operating on empty. He hadn’t even considered that possibility.

“You are tired.”

Duo looked sharply at Heero. The other’s back was turned to him. Heero was laying the Glock on a table near one side of the bed. Then he pulled back the silken sheets in one smooth movement. He didn’t expect Duo to SLEEP with him, did he? Forget the fact that he had spent three days or more in the room with him, Duo was damn well conscious now, and he could speak for himself.

“Is there enough water?” Heero’s voice cut through Duo’s inner rant.

Jogged out of his thoughts, Duo glanced down at the bath. More than enough water. He reached out and shut off the tap, standing up in the process.

“Sit, Duo,” Heero commanded.

And Duo was back on his ass on the rim before another thought crossed his mind. That was annoying. “Listen, Heero, I don’t what the hell you’ve got set up here, but would you fuck off giving me orders? And get the hell out of my head. Your little whispers are getting more annoying than your voice.” Well, that last part was a little bit of a lie. Heero’s voice was annoying, but only because it made Duo want to jump him. Duo refused to believe that it was HIS mind coming up with those particular ideas. Heero was the one who kept talking about taking him.

Laughing again, Heero turned and moved towards Duo. “You, Duo, are the one who is in my mind.”

Duo’s brow creased in confusion. What the hell was the vampire talking about now?

“I hear your ‘whispers’ every time you think of me.” A smile crossed Heero’s face then. “I hear your whispers often.”

Yeah, yeah. Heero-speak for ‘you think of me a lot‘. Duo was about to refute that claim when he stopped himself. He did think of Heero quite a bit. But that was only because of Heero’s mind tricks, wasn’t it?

“No trick of mine, Duo, your tricks.”

“What the fuck!? What the hell do you mean, my tricks? You’re the supernatural one here, you’re fucking with my mind,” Duo said, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at the vampire.

“No,” Heero’s eyes were burning into Duo again. “You are fucking with my head, and you have been ever since I met you. I know what I am. I am a vampire, whatever you want that word to mean. But you, Duo,” he paused, closing his eyes slowly and then opening them again, as if to steady himself, “do you know what you are?”

Damn skippy Duo knew what he was. Confused, angry and fucking horny. Duo had to get away from this. Killing renegade monsters was one thing, getting cosy in their lives was another. Wanting to be cosy with them…Duo didn’t know what that was. But it was confusing as hell.

Duo reached down and grabbed the towel, flinging it half-heartedly at Heero. “Get your goddamn bath, fang-face. And get the fuck out of my head.” He stood, intent on finding Wufei and getting the hell out of there. He was halfway to the door when that last thought caught up with him. Wufei. Duo stopped short. What was he supposed to do about Wufei? He wanted to take him home, the thought of leaving him behind drove Duo crazy. Could he just pluck Wufei away from everyone like him and expect it to be alright?

“Animi motus…do not leave.”

Duo turned around. “What?”

Heero had already shed his bloodied leather pants and stood on the marble dais with the crimson towel wrapped low on his hips. His face was unreadable.

“What did you say?” Duo tried again.

“I asked you not to leave.”

That wasn’t what Duo was referring to, and Heero knew it. Duo decided to let it drop for now. “No, you told me not to leave.”

Heero inclined his head in acknowledgement of that statement. “Now I’m asking you.”

Talk about a rock and a hard place. Duo barely held back from laughing at the implications of that thought. Rock and a hard place, indeed. Maybe Duo could turn this to his advantage.

“Why do you let the others call you by your name, but to the rest you are only the Erus? When you’re alone, anyway.”

The question seemed to have startled Heero. Good. One point for Duo. Surprising vampires was always a hard thing to do. Live long enough and eventually, you’ll see it all. It was the living part that was tricky.

“If I answer that question, will you stay?”

Duo mulled that over. Stay, yes. In the same bed, possibly. Fuck with Heero, no. “I’ll stay here, but that’s all I’ll do.”

That seemed to be enough for Heero. He turned around and dropped the towel in one fluid motion, then stepped lightly into the bath. Duo caught a glimpse of dark skin and a well formed thigh before Heero sank into the water. Was the Erus FLASHING him? Duo shook his head in disbelief and pointedly ignored the protests from his aching groin. Answers first, comfort later. Although willpower didn’t seem to be helping Duo much at the moment.

“I trust them,” Heero was saying. “Quatre I have known since before I can remember. Trowa arrived soon after that, I can’t remember when, exactly. They bonded.”

Duo was about to ask if ‘bonded’ had any special meaning, but he had a suspicion that it didn’t. He knew what Heero was talking about. Duo had done the same with Wufei, he just hadn’t known what to call it.

“Wufei was last.” As Heero spoke, Duo climbed the stairs again, kneeling on the top step. He took a cloth and began bathing Heero’s back, clearing away the dried blood. The wounds already had healed partly, but Duo could see it was taking much longer than normal. Heero had healed the knife wounds in less than half this time.

“We formed something. No, asking ‘what’ is no use. Even we have no idea what it is,” Heero continued after a moment.

“Why are you the Erus?” Duo interrupted, trying not to hurt Heero. The vampire didn’t seem to be bothered by the foot long gouges in his back, but Duo was careful anyway. “Why not Quatre?”

“It is the way it is. There have always been those dominant, and those submissive. Trowa and Wufei are submissive by nature, you have seen that. You have tasted it.”

Duo was silent. No use arguing with the truth.

“Quatre is slightly different. Where Trowa and Wufei are submissive to all, Quatre is submissive only to some.”

“By some, you mean one, don’t you?”

Heero nodded.

“So that’s why you’re the Erus. And why it’s always different when the four of you are alone together.” Duo mulled it over, thinking about what Wufei had told him only days before about the Erus forbidding Wufei to fight for dominance. The shifter was very submissive, despite his considerable power. And that meant that everyone else was that much stronger. That’s why Heero had forbidden Wufei to fight. He simply wasn’t strong enough. “Is Wufei growing any stronger?” Duo asked suddenly.

If Heero was surprised by the abruptness of the question, it didn’t show. “Wufei has the physical strength to fight, but not the will. If the others – excluding Quatre and Trowa – knew of this, Wufei would be unable to survive in our world. And there is nowhere else for him to go; humans would not accept him. I forbade him from fighting for that one reason; to hide his compassion from those who would exploit it. He will fight to protect others, but that is all.”

Duo chewed on that for a while, turning it over in his head and trying to find a fault in it. There was none. Not that he could see, anyway. “When Wu said he was anybody’s meat before Quatre came, I thought he was referring to Quatre joining you here. He didn’t, did he?”

“No.”

Duo waited, hoping Heero would continue. At least some things were becoming clearer.

“He was talking about when Quatre first found him. A very long time ago.”

“Shifters have extended lifespans?”

“Somewhat. Lamias are close to immortal; they will die only when they want to or they are killed. It seems being with vampires will lengthen the lifespan of other shifters, mammals mostly. Trowa has been with Quatre and I for longer than I can remember.”

The conversation had definitely taken a sober tone. He wondered what Heero meant by ‘being with vampires’, but another question loomed larger in his mind. Duo rested his hand on Heero’s shoulder, feeling the threads of sorrow in the vampire’s voice. “How old are you, Heero?”

“I don’t know. I stopped counting the years long ago.”

Duo felt something in his chest wrench at the sheer exhaustion in Heero’s voice. When humans dream of immortality, they seldom think of the consequences. Life that doesn’t end is just that. Endless. How many empires had Heero seen rise and fall? How many times had Heero wished for the dance to simply end? Duo understood why the four were so close now. They were the only constant in an endless world that was forever changing. At that moment of understanding, Heero seemed less and less the monster he was considered to be. Heero was forced into a dance choreographed by Fate, and he was simply tired. As was Duo.

Duo was silent, searching for the right words. For once, he understood.

Heero sighed, and Duo felt it brush through him, jolting him out of his sombre musings. That was a neat trick Heero had. The damn vampire even fucking SIGHED in a sexy way. Duo didn’t stop to think of exactly what point in time Heero had become sexy. Some questions just didn’t have answers. And some questions….

“What is a vampire?” Duo asked suddenly. Now why had he asked that?

“Evil devil-spawn corpses that feed off the life and blood of poor, innocent human beings.”

Duo flicked some water at Heero. Naturally, the vampire would take this moment to develop a sense of humour. At least, Duo was pretty sure Heero was joking.

“Seriously,” Duo said.

Heero turned his head, shifting his upper body so Duo could see his face, but he avoided eye contact. “I am neither dead nor immortal, Duo. You can’t kill something that’s already dead or that is immortal. I can be killed. I am a type of life that imitates immortality. This either makes humans afraid or jealous. Humans seek to destroy that which they fear and, if they cannot have it, that which they covet.”

Duo looked at Heero in shock. He had not expected an answer quite like that. But Heero was plugging right along.

“I am more like you than you think, Duo. But if one of us is to fear the other, it would serve me well to be terrified of you.”

Duo opened his mouth, then shut it again. Heero should fear him? Maybe Heero got hit on the head during the fight. Duo had just heard more from Heero in ten minutes than he had in the entire time since he had first gotten involved in this sorry affair. A thousand more questions swirled through Duo’s mind, but he was much too tired to ask them tonight. He got to his feet slowly, handing Heero the towel.

“Dry off, Heero. I’m tired, and you just gave me a hell of a lot more to think about than I wanted.”

Heero wordlessly took the towel as he stood, and Duo stepped down from the dais, moving back to the bed to retrieve his gun before heading over to the couches to get some sleep. Wufei and the others would probably trickle in before long; Duo didn’t think anyone wanted to be alone this night. And truth be told, Heero’s words had shaken Duo more than he wanted to admit. It was pretty bad when the demons were more afraid of you than you were of them.

*

Glass Souls

Duo sat cross-legged amid blood red sheets and silken curtains black enough to rival the darkest night. Wufei sat behind him, slowly drawing a brush through Duo’s unbound hair. The shifter wore only crimson pants made of silk, and every time he moved Duo heard the soft sigh of silk on silk. Trowa lay on his back, resting his head in Quatre’s lap. All of them had changed into something that wasn’t spattered with blood. The blonde sat not far from Duo, talking in hushed tones with Heero. There was no need to whisper; the only reason Duo could come up with was that they were discussing something that Duo didn’t need to know about, at least in their opinion. He was of mixed feelings about that. As far as Duo could tell, it was still early, perhaps only quarter past ten. But he felt exhausted.

The currently unbraided man had been right; the other three had trickled in shortly after Heero had bathed. Wufei had arrived first, walking quietly across the white carpet. He had gathered up the discarded clothing and towels, dumping it somewhere outside Heero’s chambers. When he returned he held a large brush in his hand, looking questioningly at Duo. Duo had managed a small smile, and Wufei had settled behind him, running the brush through Duo’s damp, tangled hair.

Trowa and Quatre had entered at the same time, shortly after Wufei. They had immediately went for the bed; Quatre leaning against the black cushions and Trowa curling up beside him. When Heero had sat on the bed Trowa had moved, making room for him to recline beside him. Duo faced them, closer to the foot of the bed.

Lost in his own thoughts, Duo was only partly aware of the others. Logic be damned; his mind was a storm of unanswered questions and suspicions, but right now, all he wanted to do was sleep.

Behind him, Wufei made a small sound. Duo roused himself from his thoughts and looked over his shoulder.

“Do you want it braided, Duo?” The shifter just caught himself short of saying ‘master’.

Duo smiled. “Thanks, Wu.”

Wufei returned the smile, deftly braiding Duo’s long chestnut hair. Then he crawled up beside Duo, curving his body around him. He rested his cheek on folded hands, looking expectantly at the others.

Duo followed his gaze. “Is everyone alright and accounted for?” he asked, absently running his hand through Wufei’s soft hair. Duo wasn’t sure why he asked, possibly just to talk. He wasn’t even really sure if he cared one bit about Heero’s cronies.

Quatre nodded. “Zechs healed them as much as he could manage. They’re recovering quickly and will be perfectly fine in a few hours, although I doubt they will wake up for quite some time.”

“And Devil’s Bliss?”

When Duo didn’t elaborate further, Quatre simply said, “All consequences of Sally’s actions have been dealt with.”

Duo didn’t prod any more, partly because he didn’t want to know. The deaths of several people certainly had to have legal repercussions. Not to mention complications. It wasn’t any of Duo’s business really anyway. They were the ones who had to deal with the consequences. Duo was merely passing through. The only interest Duo had right now was in Sally. She was a vamp, and she had killed people. That was enough for Duo; if an opportunity presented itself in the near future, he’d kill her. If not, he’d make an opportunity.

Heero’s voice cut through the silence following Quatre’s statement. “We’ll discuss this later, there’s nothing we can do right now. I suggest you three sleep while you can.”

Heero’s words startled Duo slightly. His last sentence had a distinctly ominous ring to it. “What about you and Q?” he asked, fighting the urge to yawn.

The blonde looked slightly amused. “Sleep is not something we find necessary, Duo. It’s more of a convenience than anything.”

“You’re just going to sit there and watch us sleep?” Duo wasn’t sure he liked that. He didn’t like a lot of things lately.

Quatre nodded, rousing Trowa from his semi-sleep on his lap. Trowa blinked several times, then moved to sit next to Duo as the two vampires slid off the bed. Wufei and Trowa crawled into the vacated area, looking back at Duo.

Duo stared, mouth open. Then, shrugging his shoulders, he flopped down between them. Instantly, Trowa wrapped his legs around Duo’s, flinging an arm across his chest. Duo was grateful at that moment that he had hauled on the pyjama top that went with the pants he had borrowed from Trowa. The last thing he needed was bare skin touching his. Wufei burrowed under Duo’s arm, using his chest as a pillow. For once, the sexual overtones were muted. But not by much.

Quatre appeared next to Trowa, brushing the shifter’s hair away from his face even as his green eyes closed in sleep. Heero mirrored the blonde, reclining next to Wufei. Duo looked up and met his eyes; saw the blue depths swim with unnamed emotion. Then Heero blinked, and it was gone. Duo sighed to himself. He would have laughed at the absurdity of it all, had he thought about it.

“Go to sleep, Duo,” Heero said softly.

A calm overtook Duo then, and he felt the edges of sleep nipping at his mind. He briefly thought about fighting it. Then he realized he just didn’t care.

*

Three o’clock that morning found Duo up and wandering around the mostly deserted building, his mind once again troubled by the sharp turn his life had taken in so short a time. Even more so than that, he was having a hard time coming to terms with the way his mind was working lately. Agreeing to help stop whatever it was that was killing recklessly was one thing. Living with the various creatures was another. Wanting to stay with them was even worse. He came to a conclusion then; he had to get out of Devil’s Bliss, away from Heero, and back to his apartment. Duo needed space to think.

He stopped and looked around. In his aimless wandering, he had found his way to the main floor of the bar. No trace of the short and dirty fight was left. Heero had one damn fine cleanup crew. Duo’s eyes fell on the dark stage. Was it really only a little more than a week ago when he had been sitting in that corner, waiting for Quatre to show up? It seemed so much longer than that.

Duo picked his way around the tables and empty dance floor. Reaching the stage, he hopped up and sat on the edge for a moment before falling backwards to lie on the stage floor, staring up at the ceiling. What in the name of Jesus had possessed him to take a bath in Heero’s room? Naked, unarmed, in Heero’s own bathtub for fucks sake! Groaning, Duo threw an arm over his eyes. He had to concentrate, having his thoughts run around in his head biting each other in the ass was getting him nowhere.

Okay, first things first. Heero wanted to meet him with a specific purpose in mind: stop killing monsters. Duo had come away from that little encounter with a new pet. That much he had come to terms with. Wufei is the pet, the pet is submissive, and thus, Wufei is submissive. Easy. Wufei wanted a master, and Duo had perhaps a bit unwittingly become that master. No problem, he could deal with that. Maybe.

Moving on. Heero invites him to another little get together, this time to ask him for his help. Duo had a little bit more trouble swallowing that one. It reeked of suspicion. But try as he might, Duo couldn’t put his finger on what exactly it was that he didn’t trust about it. Besides Heero, that is. He didn’t trust Heero to tie his shoes. Maybe that was it. Something else nagged at the back of Duo’s mind, slipping just out of his reach when he tried to pinpoint it. Sighing in frustration, he let it go and thought on.

Next: you agree to the request for help, find out that according to a ghost you don’t exist – what a comforting thought – Lucrezia the voodoo lawyer refuses to help, Mary-Anne gets killed, you get strung up in a graveyard like Christmas lights, Heero gets cosy, crazy relations of Trowa’s show up and then disappear just as quickly; the aforementioned voodoo lady skips town, you have an uncontrollable urge to bathe in Heero’s room, more crazy people show up and wreak havoc. That just about summed up the last week of Duo’s life. And not one bit of it made any sense.

Duo sighed again. This would be easier if he had someone to talk to. Normally, he’d talk to Mary-Anne…but that wasn’t happening. Not unless Duo wanted to have a Mary-Anne zombie, and that thought really didn’t thrill him. What about Wufei…? He could talk to him. The shifter was nowhere to been seen though. When Duo crawled out of the bed, Trowa had been the only one there. Where was Wufei, anyway? Duo toyed briefly with the idea of going to look for him, but dismissed it just as quickly.

His thoughts turned in upon themselves, coming back to Heero. Heero Heero Heero. Everything led back to him. There had to be something Duo was missing, some point that he just couldn’t see. Where was Wufei when you needed him?

In answer to his unspoken question, Duo heard the soft click of nails on the stage floor. Glancing in the direction of the noise, Duo saw the black shadow of a panther walk towards him. Looking at the large cat’s face confirmed what Duo suspected; it was Wufei.

A smile touched Duo’s lips despite his unsettling thoughts. He lifted an arm lazily and patted his side, motioning for the panther to settle down beside him. Wufei walked with unhurried grace, then, lying down next to Duo, folded his paws underneath himself and rested his head on Duo’s chest. Duo reached up and scratched Wufei’s ears, chuckling a little when his eyes closed to little slits.

“Hey, Wu, where you been?” Duo asked, smoothing down the silky fur upset by his scratching. “I was just thinking about you. Thinking about a lot of things, really.”

Wufei cocked his head to the side, letting his dark eyes settle on Duo’s face.

“What are you doing all dressed up in your fur, anyway?”

The panther’s tongue flicked out, licking his whiskers before disappearing back inside his mouth. Then he yawned, jaws wide and teeth flashing. The air wavered around the cat, drinking the heat from the room, and the now familiar white glow shimmered then consolidated with a warm rush of air. Duo blinked, caught by surprise by Wufei’s sudden shifting. His skin prickled with power; it felt like Duo would burst from the force of it. He released a breath he didn’t know he was holding, and the power drained away, leaving only a faint tingle in its wake. Duo’s eyes slid closed. He lay on the cool floor of the stage, basking in the afterglow of Wufei’s power.

“Duo?” Wufei’s voice came tentatively.

“Yeah, Wu?” Duo said, not bothering to open his eyes. A warm, languid feeling in his body lingered even as the tingling sensation drifted away. He felt sated, maybe even a little happy. A small corner of his mind was shouting at him, telling him that it really wasn’t a good idea to become so attached to the rush of power that accompanied shape-changing. Too bad it wasn’t shouting loud enough.

A small chuckle reached Duo’s ears. “Are you going to fall asleep, Duo? You look like you just had the best sex of your life,” Wufei said.

Duo grinned, his eyes still closed. “Now there’s something I haven’t had.”

“The best sex of your life?” Wufei snorted. “I think I was just insulted.”

Finally, Duo’s eyes eased open. He briefly considered explaining what he had meant, but tossed the idea aside. He was having too much fun watching Wufei look indignant. Maybe he’d explain it later.

Wufei was quiet then, the only sound a single, contented sigh in the muted light of the room. Curiosity eventually overcame him, and he lifted his head to look at Duo. “Are you going to tell me what you were thinking about?”

“Are you going to tell me why you were all furry?”

Wufei smiled. Trust Duo to turn a question around. “No reason. I simply wanted to.”

It was Duo’s turn to snort now. “Just because you wanted to. Yeah, that sounds like you,” Duo said. “Who is Sally, anyway?” he asked suddenly.

Wufei looked surprised for a moment before his eyes narrowed. “Sally? Why?”

“Don’t sound so suspicious, Wu, think about it. She comes in here, all high and mighty, making a damn mess over Lucrezia, and you ask me why?”

The shifter’s eyes still held a glimmer of suspicion, but he let it slide. “Sally Po, a vampire.”

“That’s not really helpful. The bitch took a scatter shot in the leg and lugged that bear of a man out of here like he was a baby. Not to mention the fangs. I think I figured out she was a vamp,” Duo said after Wufei didn’t elaborate.

Wufei was looking away from Duo, his eyes focusing on something that only he could see. “Sally is powerful, ambitious. She wants to be Erus.”

Duo whistled. That little goal must annoy Heero.

“She is only slightly weaker than Quatre, but that may not be true. Older vampires can hide their powers from each other,” he continued, laying his head back down on Duo’s stomach. “If she IS weaker than him, than I don’t see how she can think it possible to become Erus. The Master could destroy her, if he wanted.”

Duo mulled that over for a brief second before a puzzled look crossed his features. “If she has plans to kick Heero out, then why the fuck did he let her leave?”

“Because he could. Treating her as something less than a threat would annoy her; show how little respect Heero holds for her.”

“Vampire politics…Jesus. It’s worse than human politics. Vamps have more time to fuck around,” Duo said, rolling his eyes.

“Sally’s wanted to be master for a long time. At least thirty years openly, maybe longer than that.”

Duo sucked in a sharp breath. Thirty fucking years! Duo had only been alive for a little more than half that length of time. “Can she do it if she gets the right support?”

“What kind of support, Duo?”

“The kind that stands around until you tell them to go rip someone’s throat out. Looks like she’d never be able to get Heero head on, but what if she’s got numbers on her side?” Duo said, sitting up a little. “How about more than numbers? Magic? Or better yet, a small army that kept fighting long after it was ripped to pieces?”

Wufei sat up quickly, eyes alight. “If you’re talking about what I think you are, we have to tell Heero.”

“Don’t you think this has already occurred to him, Wu? He’s the Erus, he’s only stupid eighty percent of the time,” Duo said with a grin. “Question is, why would Lucrezia be interested in helping Sally seize control? Why would be in it for her?”

“Power, maybe? Everyone always wants to be stronger. But how does Mary-Anne fit into all this?”

Duo felt a sharp stab of sorrow. Mary-Anne. Someone had to pay for Mary-Anne’s death. Had to pay in spades. Anger quickly replaced Duo’s sadness. Anger was much better. Duo didn’t have many he would call friend; he was not that free with his trust. But Mary-Anne…she was innocent.

When Duo spoke, his rage clouded his voice. “With Mary-Anne gone, I would never been able to question her about the killings, and anything incriminating would never surface. She was probably killed on the off chance that she’d come across something someone didn’t want us to know.”

“So Lucrezia’s helping Sally to eliminate Heero, Mary-Anne was killed to slow us down, and Cathy was probably the one to kill her.” Wufei looked to Duo, who nodded, confirming the shifter’s suspicions. Mary-Anne had been killed by a shifter, Duo could tell that much by his own experience. The throat and stomach were the first places a shifter would strike. “What about the graveyard sacrifice?”

“The what?

“You in the graveyard. Zechs said it looked a lot like a sacrifice of some kind,” Wufei replied.

Duo grunted. “I still don’t see why Lucrezia’s taking orders from Sally. What’s in it for the voodoo lady?”

“Don’t ask me, Duo.” Wufei paused, thinking. Finally, he said, “Can’t you just find someone to raise Mary-Anne as a zombie? You could ask her then.”

“It doesn’t work that way, Wu. She answered my questions through some kind of magic or ritual before. Zombies aren’t that good at magic, especially Wicca. Dead people don’t work well with life magic.”

Wufei sighed, then rolled over so that he lay alongside Duo. “Where did you pick up everything you know?”

“About the supernatural?”

“Yes.”

Raising himself to a sitting position, Duo scratched his head before answering. “I’ve hunted for years, Wu. You pick up things along the way.” He smiled ruefully. “Most times when whatever I’m researching has just mopped the floor with my ass.”

The shifter couldn’t help but grin. “Sally was with us until about twenty years ago. She challenged Heero for leadership, but it fell through.”

“She lost, huh?”

“No, it didn’t even get that far. No one would support her. Heero is the best master I’ve ever seen…he’s never unnecessarily cruel. I think Sally would have to be, she’s not strong enough to control the others through power alone, she’d have to use fear and cruelty.”

Never ‘unnecessarily’ cruel. Depends on what your definition of necessary was. Duo had a strong suspicion that his definition and Heero’s would differ just a little.

“You saying that Heero’s not feared? Be serious. I saw the way the others look at him. They fear him,” Duo said, his disbelief evident in his voice.

“I didn’t say he wasn’t feared. He’s just feared for different reasons than you’d fear Sally.”

Duo stared at Wufei, letting his eyes show his doubt. Fear was fear as far as he was concerned.

The shifter sighed, then got to his feet slowly. The movement was fluid and smooth. Duo used to think he moved well, years of practice and fighting had given him a warrior’s grace; but compared to Wufei, Duo stumbled around like a drunk. And then it finally registered on Duo’s mind that Wufei was decidedly naked. No, nude. Naked implies embarrassment, and the shifter was definitely not embarrassed. If anything, Wufei seemed more comfortable out of his clothing than in it.

“Cross Heero, and he will kill you. Cross Sally, and she’ll torture you until you beg to die. But she won’t kill you.” Wufei looked down at Duo, his black hair sliding forward to shadow his face. “Forever is a long time to suffer, Duo, and Sally is very patient. She shared the position of second to Heero with Quatre while she was with us.”

The weight in Wufei’s gaze told Duo all he wanted to know. Wufei spoke from experience. “If you’re more afraid of Sally than Heero, why isn’t she the master?”

“Being Erus is more than being in control. I’d fight to protect Heero, everyone would. But I wouldn’t fight nearly as hard for Sally as I would for Heero. She doesn’t have the power or the support to be master.”

Duo stood, shaking his head slowly. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but I think I understand. For the most part, anyway. Seems like the easiest thing to do would be to just kill Sally. End of Sally, end of problem.” Duo made a sharp horizontal cutting motion with one hand.

The look Wufei gave Duo then was half incredulous, half delighted. “If only Heero saw if that way.”

“Yeah? How does the esteemed fanged one see it?”

Wufei jumped off the stage, turning slightly to look at Duo over one shoulder. “He sees Sally as something to toy with to pass the time. Life would be boring without some small inconveniences.”

Duo watched as Wufei walked away, heading for the door leading downstairs. He hopped down from the stage, trailing after the werepanther. “Everyone needs a hobby,” he muttered, shaking his head again.

*

“I still say this is a bad idea.”

“You’ve been saying that for the past hour or so, Wu,” Duo said, flinging back the sheets of his bed. After their little chat, Duo had decided that it was time to go home, period. Wufei had gathered up a few more things and they had gotten a taxi back to Duo’s apartment. The shifter had stated that Heero would be somewhat less than pleased, but Duo really didn’t care. Duo needed to get away from the vampire.

“And you’ve been ignoring me for just as long.”

“Yep,” Duo agreed, crawling into the bed with a sigh. “Are you going to stand there and protest for the rest of the morning, or are you coming to bed? You could always sleep on the couch.”

A flicker of alarm passed behind Wufei’s eyes, and he quickly slid into the bed beside Duo. “Sorry, Duo.”

Duo smiled, spooning Wufei’s body against his own and wrapping his arm around him. “Let me worry about Heero, Wu. You’re mine now, remember? Leave fang-face to me.”

Wufei made a noncommittal noise, and burrowed deeper under the blankets, getting as close to Duo as possible. A few silent minutes passed, then Wufei said, “Can I ask a question?”

“Don’t be silly, Wu, ‘course you can,” Duo mumbled into the pillow.

“Why did you leave the keys to your apartment hidden in the car? With the car unlocked?”

The visible side of Duo’s mouth curved up into half of a smile. “I’ve gotten into the nasty habit of dropping things when I’m in the middle of a hunt. Check that, when I’m trying to kill what I’m hunting.” He lifted his head up from the pillow, leaning over Wufei and looking down at him. “Can you imagine the number of keys I’ve lost because my clothes have been ripped to shreds?”

The shifter laughed quietly. “That explains it then.”

“Naturally. Night, Wu.”

“Goodnight, Duo,” Wufei replied. Eventually, the shifter’s breathing evened out and his body relaxed, signalling that he had fallen asleep. Duo buried his head in Wufei’s hair, wrapping the scent of it around him. Sleep, however, escaped him. His thoughts were back to chasing their tails again.

Talking with Wufei had answered his questions, but given him a hundred more. Away from Heero, Duo began to think again of what the vampire had said. Did Duo really believe it? The closeness that the four of them, vampires and shifters, shared? Not really. In a way he did, and in a way he didn’t. All he had to go on was Heero’s word. The vamp had said he was protecting Wufei, and Duo had believed him, at the time. Now he wasn’t so sure. To Duo, protection didn’t mean turning someone over to a sadistic bitch to be tortured. Odd definition of ‘protection’.

Duo wanted more information. Heero and Wufei were one source, but it was only one side. Time to pay a visit to the other side. Only problem now was how to get Sally to talk him. More specifically, how to get Sally to talk to him and not kill him at the same time.

*

“This is an even worse idea,” Wufei said irritably.

“Did I ask if you thought it was a good idea?” Duo shot back, angrily stirring his second cup of coffee of the morning.

The black haired man stared into his plate, speaking quickly. “I don’t think it’s a bad idea, I know it’s a bad idea. Getting in to see Sally isn’t the hard part, its the getting back out again that’ll be impossible!”

Duo sat back down at the table, watching Wufei with steady eyes as the shifter rushed on.

“Even if you only took Quatre with you, at least it would be another vampire. The two of us alone don’t stand a chance!” Wufei lifted his eyes as he said the last, willing Duo to understand.

Sighing, Duo said, “Its not just the two of us, Wu.”

Wufei’s brow furrowed. “Who else?”

“Friends,” Duo said with a smirk.

“Human?”

This time Duo snorted. “Close enough,” he said.

“How many?”

Duo held up two fingers.

Wufei’s chair clattered to the floor as the shifter stood up angrily. “You think that three humans and a shifter stand any chance of survival in Sally’s own home? You’re crazy!”

Duo looked up, eyes flashing. “Sit down, Wufei.”

“I will not sit down! You’re going to get yourself killed! Sally – ”

“God damn it, Wufei, sit the fuck down and shut up! Now!” Duo shouted.

Wufei snapped his mouth shut and was kneeling on the floor in an instant. Duo stood slowly and walked around the table, standing over the shifter. Deadly quiet, he said, “Wufei, we are going to see Sally, and we’re going tonight at sundown. I’m taking two people with me, and you’re going to take us right to her. You WILL NOT tell Heero, or Quatre, or anyone, and I do mean ANYONE, what we’re doing. Got that?”

A small whimper reached Duo’s ears, and when Wufei looked up at him, all the anger had faded from the were’s face. “Why do you have to see Sally?”

Duo’s eyes softened. He leaned down, balancing on the balls of his feet. “I have questions…things I need to find out.” He tucked a strand of hair behind Wufei’s ear. “And I can’t have Heero or Quatre around when I get my answers.”

Wufei still looked wary, but he nodded. “Alright…I shouldn’t have argued with you.”

Standing, Duo waved that away. “It doesn’t matter now, anyway.” Suddenly, he grinned. “By the way, Wu, when I said sit, I meant on a chair.”

Wufei shrugged.

A knock came on Duo’s door then. “And there they are now,” Duo said, heading over to the door and checking the peephole. Surprise showed on Duo’s face as he stepped back and opened the door to his visitors.

A woman, tall and slender, entered first. Her chin length auburn hair was left loose, framing a triangle shaped face. Her eyes were dark, almost black. And oddly empty. She wore blue jeans and a red tank; a cross shoulder holster over that. Duo looked at the gun and whistled. A Ruger, .45 calibre. The magazine carried eight bullets, but if someone was still standing after the first three, you were in trouble. An awful lot of power for a simple visit. The fireworks shouldn’t start until AFTER they get to Sally’s.

“Expecting trouble, Iria?” Duo asked, nodding at the gun.

“No. But that doesn’t mean I won’t get any,” she replied in a voice that matched her body, but not the gun. She smiled, but her eyes betrayed the emotion. Iria’s eyes said that she had seen more than she cared to talk about, and none of it was good.

“Riiiight,” Duo said, waving her in. “Have a seat anywhere you like.”

Iria’s eyes glanced around the room, and she moved in to sit easily on the couch. Her gaze paused briefly on Wufei, then she looked back to the door. An older man in an outrageous Hawaiian shirt and shorts followed her so far into the room, and Trowa was the last to enter. Duo looked at him then back to Trowa, frowning slightly, before the man flopped easily onto the couch next to the woman.

“How ya been, Duo?” the man asked loudly. “Up to your ass in shit again, huh?” He had stark grey hair, sticking off at the sides, and was balding on top. A grey moustache and sharply pointed beard adorned his angular face. He carried himself like a man much too young for grey hair. He was not large, and slender was too kind a word and suggested a sort of flowing quality. This man was made of sharp lines and angles. Reflective sunglasses obscured his eyes.

Duo locked the door and looked back to his guests, ignoring Trowa. “Up to my fucking neck this time, Howard. What else would have me calling in you and Iria?”

Howard guffawed loudly, and Duo winced. Howard wasn’t always this loud, was he?

“Howard, would you shut up and let Duo tell us what is going on that he’s got a shifter sitting in his kitchen instead of buried in his backyard?” Iria said, levelling a glare at him.

“Duo doesn’t have a backyard, girl!” Howard laughed.

Iria looked at the man silently, then back to Duo. “Well?” she said shortly.

“Hold up a sec, Iria.” Duo turned to Trowa. “What are you doing here?”

Trowa bowed his head, refusing to meet Duo’s eyes. “You left.”

“No shit,” Duo said, crossing his arms.

“The Erus sent me to guard you when you go to Sally’s.”

“What?” Duo blinked, unable to hide the shock on his face. How the fuck had Heero come to that conclusion?

Trowa said nothing.

Duo walked slowly over to Trowa, body tense with rage. He stopped a hairsbreadth away from him. “What in Jesus’ name are you talking about?”

Wufei spoke up. “The Erus probably assumed what you would do, Duo. Trowa’s here to help.”

“Yeah. Right. Help who, exactly? Us or your wonderful Erus?” Duo said, not looking away from Trowa.

The green-eyed shifter sighed. “I’m just doing what I was told to.”

“I’m dominant to you, Tro. Or had you forgotten? What if I sent your ass packing back to him?” Duo asked.

Howard and Iria sat on the couch, watching the exchange silently. Iria finally spoke up. “Are you talking about the vampire Erus?”

Duo had almost forgotten about them. “Yeah,” he answered. “How’d you know about him?”

“Word’s been floatin’ around, Duo.” Howard said easily. “If you’d kept your ears open, and you’d have heard about it.” He waited a beat, then said, “You in the middle of some kinda vampire power struggle, or did I hear ya wrong when you said Erus and Sally in the same breath?”

“Fuck,” Duo said, pacing the floor. “Fucking Jesus!” He stormed over to the chair in the living room and flopped into it, legs straightened out in front of him. “Trowa, Wufei, here, now,” he said, pointing at the floor beside the chair.

Trowa sat down immediately, still looking at the floor. Wufei crawled across the floor like an animal that expected to be hit.

Howard mumbled something under his breath, while Iria merely raised an eyebrow.

“Shut up and listen, Howard,” Duo grumbled, then told them an edited version of the past week or so, telling them of Heero’s request for Duo’s help and why. He left out as many names as he could, giving only facts. When he was done, both of Iria’s eyebrows were up, and Howard was shaking his head slowly.

“You’ve been busy, Duo,” Iria said finally.

“I was wrong, Duo. You’re not up to your ass, or your neck, you’re in over your damn fool head…and then some.” Howard said, stretching the kinks out of his leg. “So, you gonna tell us exactly why you have to see this Sally chick, or do we get to find out later?”

“Later,” replied Duo. “I’m going to ride this out, see how it goes. I don’t know how this is going to work.”

“And you need us because the last time you saw Sally, you shot her?” Iria asked.

Duo nodded. “She’ll probably hold a grudge for that, and I’m a bit rusty at politics. I need your to help there, Howard. Iria’s my firecracker for the night.”

Howard grinned. “You want someone dead, Iria’s your girl. Even better, you want someone scared shitless, Iria’s still your girl.”

“Fucking right,” Duo said, mirroring Howard’s grin. Hell, Iria scared Duo shitless half the time. So did Howard for that matter. Howard’s easy attitude concealed more than a sharp mind. Both of them seemed to be behaving in front of the extra company. That reminded Duo of the werepanthers at his feet. They had been completely still and silent since they had sat down.

“Here’s the deal, Trowa. I won’t send you back to the Erus,” he said. No one had mentioned Heero’s name, so for now, he was just the Erus. “In fact, we could use the extra help. But,” Duo paused for emphasis, “don’t you fucking DARE interrupt anything I say or I ask Sally, got that?”

Trowa nodded, still not speaking.

Duo frowned. “What the fuck is his problem?” he asked Wufei.

“You’re angry at him. And me,” came the quiet response.

“Yeah, so how come you’re not keeping quiet?”

“It’d just piss you off more.”

Duo realized that it was true; silence would make him angrier. It was surprising how well Wufei knew him after such a short time. Duo sighed. “It’s alright, Tro, I’m not angry at you.” That much was true, Duo was pissed at Heero, not Trowa. “Or Wufei,” Duo added. “Okay?”

Trowa looked up, his eyes vibrantly green. He raised his hand as if to touch Duo, then stopped, hand hovering near Duo’s leg. “I’m forgiven?”

“There’s nothing to forgive – “, Duo started. He stopped, sighing. “Yes, Tro, you’re forgiven. You and Wufei both.”

Trowa’s characteristic smile, which really wasn’t much of a smile, more of a slight impish upturning of his lips, returned. He closed the distance between him and Duo, resting the top half of his body against Duo’s legs. Wufei mirrored the action on the opposite side. Duo reached down, laying one hand on Wufei’s shoulder and the other behind Trowa’s head. Everything felt alright between them again.

Duo looked up to see twin expressions on Howard’s and Iria’s faces. A mixture of incredulity and confusion. Duo sighed again. That was exactly how he felt about the entire mess.

Duo stood. Wufei and Trowa followed him in perfect unison, flanking him on both sides. “So,” he said to the two on the couch, “you with me or not?”

Howard nodded right away. “You bet, little man! No way I’m letting you go in there with only two shifters for backup.”

Duo nodded, then looked to Iria. The woman stood, flicking her hair away from her face. “I’m in. From the look of things, it seems like something will need killing before the night is over.”

Duo grinned. “Great.” Glancing out the window, Duo said, “We’ve got about two hours until sunset. And even though Iria’s got that snazzy new toy,” he looked pointedly at the Ruger resting in her holster, “we’ll need more.” Duo’s gaze transferred from the gun to Iria’s face. “What new toys do you have that we can play with?” he asked, smiling.

Iria smiled back, and Duo felt a chill travel down his spine. Her eyes stayed dark, the smile only reaching as far as her lips. “Nothing half as interesting as your new toys.”

Duo felt the warm presence of the shifters at his back. Oddly enough, he agreed with her.

*

Shattered Minds

Duo sat in the back of Howard’s van with Trowa, Wufei and Iria. Howard drove, following the directions the shifters had given him.

“Do you want the Beretta or the Derringer?” Iria asked Duo from where she knelt on the van’s floor.

Looking from the shotgun to the small, one inch wide gun, Duo shook his head, laughing to himself. “Big difference, don’t you think?”

The Beretta shotgun was a semi-auto, 89mm, somewhat shorter than the standard shotgun. And loaded with Iria’s preferred ammunition, which meant that whatever was in its line of fire was most likely to loose an appendage or two. The Derringer, on the other hand, was a small, double action Simmerling. Total capacity of five bullets, with one carried in the chamber. In Howard’s words, the Derringer was loaded with ‘only’ .410 Buckshot. Only, he says. Where in the name of Jesus did Howard manufacture his ammo? Legally manufacture it, that is.

“Besides, I’ve got the Glock and the Browning. You really think I need another gun?” Duo continued. The Glock was in its usual place, secure in the shoulder holster under Duo’s arm, hidden by a coat. The 9mm Browning was tucked in the small of his back in a specially made holster. Both were loaded with Luger scatter rounds, thirteen in the Glock and ten in the Browning. Twenty three bullets, plus the two spring-sheathed knives Duo always carried at his wrists. If that wasn’t enough, it was just as well to forget it.

“Damn, Duo,” Howard said from the front seat, “You’re walking straight into a vamp’s home. You should have an Uzi in each hand and a flamethrower for backup.”

Duo wisely neglected to mention that he had agreed to meet Heero armed with only three knives and the Glock.

“I think you should take the Derringer, and replace one of those knives, or maybe both, with the serrated blades I showed you,” Iria said, looking completely serious.

“What’s five more bullets gonna do, Iria?” Duo asked.

“What are five less?” she countered.

Duo sighed. “Fine, fine. Gimmie the Derringer, but forget the knives. Last thing I want to happen is to get a blade stuck in someone and not be able to get it out.” Helpless because your knife was stuck in someone’s ribs. Not a good idea.

Pleased, Iria handed him the little gun. “Tuck it in that empty sheath you have in your boot. At least you’ll have two well concealed weapons, since that jacket doesn’t hide the Glock much.”

“Four,” Duo said, settling the Derringer into his boot and moving it around until it was set for a somewhat easy draw. It dug into his leg, but what was life without a little discomfort?

“I’d hardly count those little stickpins on your wrists as weapons,” she said depreciatingly.

Duo flicked his wrist, palmed the knife hilt and threw it in one swift movement. The blade flew past Iria’s head, severing several stands of glossy hair before it thunked into the van’s carpeted floor. It stood there, quivering in mute testimony.

Iria let out a low whistle. “You’ve been practicing.” Her eyes had gone a little wider.

Duo grinned to himself. About time he surprised Iria. “If nothing else, it’ll be a painful distraction. Give me enough time to draw one of the guns if I need it.”

“Hmmm….” Iria jerked the knife out of the floor and handed it back to Duo. “If someone’s stupid enough to laugh it off like I just did, you’d probably be able to take out an eye.”

Resheathing the knife, Duo nodded. “Those shark tooth blades of yours aren’t balanced right for throwing. These might not be true throwing knives, but they’re damn close to it.”

Wufei was watching Iria curiously, glancing occasionally at Howard in the front.

Iria noticed the look, and asked, “Yes?”

Wufei looked startled, then turned to Duo. “Who are these people, anyway?”

Duo laughed. “We never got around to introductions, did we? Now’s a good a time as any.” He shifted around in his seat, settling back against the van’s wall. “Your driver for this evening, and the owner of your current transportation, is Howard. A mechanic, arms expert and supplier, part time manufacturer, and general, all ’round tinker,” Duo said with a mock flourish.

Howard raised his hand in a little wave, wiggling his fingers.

Duo chuckled and rolled his eyes. “And this vision of loveliness is also a munitions expert. Though that, I think, was an accident. Her true calling seems to be the opposite. Wufei, Trowa, meet Dr. Iria, one of the best doctors I’ve ever met in an emergency room. And I’ve seen an awful lot of emergency rooms.”

“Odd combination,” Trowa pointed out, the first words he had spoken in the past hour or so.

Iria shot Trowa a bright smile. “We live in an odd world, Trowa.” Her smile faded at the corners. “The number of deaths caused by preternatural creatures is astronomical. I learned a long time ago that humans have little defence against some things.” She shook her head, as if she were trying to rid herself of an unwanted thought. “Most days, I’ve learned, it is better to kill a creature before I try to patch its victims back together.” Iria’s smile vanished completely, and her eyes once more managed to look world-weary and cold.

“Hey, little man,” Howard called back, interrupting. “You want me to just drive right up to the front door or what?”

Duo looked over at Wufei. “Well?”

“Doesn’t matter. She knows you’re coming anyway,” the shifter answered.

“Fair enough,” Duo said, not even bothering to ask exactly how Sally would know that. He had a feeling he wouldn’t like the answer. Big surprise there. Then, to Howard he said, “Pull up right by the front door, Howard, we might as well play nice. For now.”

Iria nodded, giving Duo a look of approval. “For now,” she echoed.

Howard himself appeared unarmed, but Duo knew better than that. In fact, Howard looked like a misplaced tourist.

At both shifters’ insistence, Duo had changed into low, tight black pants, made out of some material Duo couldn’t even name. He flat out refused to wear the fishnet shirt Wufei held out for him, and settled instead on a matching black shirt that laced up the front. It was cut open at the waist, baring Duo’s stomach. The sleeves, hidden under his leather coat, also laced up, and were tied tightly to his arms. Duo’s main reason for accepting the shirt was that it was loose enough in the shoulders to give him a good measure of room to move. The leather coat hit him mid thigh. Duo buttoned only the centre button of the coat, leaving the laces of the shirt and his stomach exposed.

Wufei and Trowa had, according to them, dressed as Duo’s pets. Both wore form fitting pants, in a colour Duo called dark chocolate. The pants were made of the same material as Duo’s, but neither shifter wore any other clothing. They were even barefoot. Blood red chokers circled their necks, with matching cuffs at each wrist. Wufei left his hair loose, while Trowa’s fell softly over his face. When Duo inquired about the odd colour; dark brown hardly seemed like a colour Wufei would chose, the black haired shifter had said, quite matter-of-factly, that brown hid dried blood better. Duo had joked with them, calling them prelude-to-bondage bookends. Truthfully, Duo thought they looked perfect. And distracting. He found himself entertaining various indecent thoughts during the ride to Sally’s.

Duo stood looking up at the warehouse. The huge doors were locked, but the smaller entrance door cut into them looked unbarred. Iria had a hand wrapped around the shotgun, tapping the barrel with her nail. Howard had his hands shoved into the pockets of his shorts, whistling a happy little tune.

Turning to Wufei, Duo suddenly asked, “By the way, Wu, what the hell is an animi motus?”

The shifter looked surprised for a moment. “Animi motus…? Are you sure you’ve got that right? That can mean either – ”

“Passion or soul’s passion,” Trowa interrupted smoothly.

Duo raised an eyebrow. “Really, now? Isn’t that interesting….” Overhead, a hoarse cry echoed. “What the hell is that?” Duo demanded, looking up as his hand twitched in the direction of the Glock.

“Raven,” Trowa said, nodding his head towards a sputtering lamppost. The black bird let out another sharp series of squawks.

“Huh,” Duo said, “dumb bird.” Duo shook his head and flicked a stray hair out of his face. “Well, lets get this over with.” He walked up to the door, Iria and Howard a few steps ahead of him with Wufei and Trowa flanking him on either side. Duo cast one last, surly look at the bird as it fluttered its wings. “Poetic,” he mumbled, before stepping inside the door.

*

The inside of the warehouse was dimly lit and cold compared to the outside air. A musty smell assaulted Duo’s nose as he looked around, waiting for his eyes to adjust.

“Welcome,” came a deep voice from the shadows. The tall, bulky man that Quatre had beaten to a pulp at Devil’s Bliss stepped closer as he spoke. “We have been waiting for you. Trowa, Wufei,” he greeted, nodding at the two shifters. Then he turned to Duo. “Duo, and your two friends.” He had the oddest hair Duo had ever seen. Stuck off on the top sides like little horns. He would’ve looked really cute with a tail and a pitchfork.

“Rashid,” Wufei said, acknowledging the greeting. Trowa remained silent.

“Delighted, I’m sure. Now, if you don’t mind, Rashid, you can stop right where you are,” Duo said, shifting his weight forward. “We’ve only just met, you see. Wouldn’t want to get too close and cosy, huh?”

Rashid frowned, but he stopped moving forward. “Mistress Sally is waiting in the back,” he said, turning on his heel. “Follow me if you wish to see her.” He moved away from the small group, winding his way through the boxes and crates scattered around the warehouse.

“Do we wish to see her?” Howard asked, leaning negligently on a crate three times his height.

“Yeah,” Duo answered, “we do. C’mon.”

Duo trailed after Rashid, glancing back and forth in front of him, trying to penetrate the deep shadows between the crates. His skin was crawling, and for some reason the area between his shoulder blades started to itch. This probably wasn’t going to be pleasant. Maybe he should have invited Sally out for coffee instead. In the park. At noon.

They reached what looked to be the back of the warehouse. Rashid ran his hand down the wall, searching for something. Duo heard a soft ‘click’ and a portion of the wall was pulled aside, disappearing into the side of the warehouse. The light was brighter here, and Duo could see that Rashid was wearing casual dress slacks and a light coffee toned shirt. The big man stepped aside, waving Duo ahead.

“No, that’s okay. You go right on ahead,” Duo said, peering into the opening.

Rashid’s frown deepened, but he went inside first. Duo followed with Trowa and Wufei at his heels. Iria and Howard came last.

The back of the warehouse went far beyond what could be seen from the outside, and Duo realized that it was carved into the face of a mountain. Suddenly, the millions of tons of rock above him pressed down, and Duo felt a twinge of unease. A feeling of oppression. He quickly pushed it aside and surveyed the spacious room.

Cushioned couches were arranged in the middle of the room, around a table laden with a selection of cut fruits and wine. Sally lounged on one of the couches, a glass of dark red liquid in her hand. Hopefully wine. She was dressed in a green pantsuit; the jacket cut low enough in front that you could tell she wasn’t wearing a shirt under it. And look at that, she was a blonde. Catherine sat in a chair beside her, with two men at her feet. Probably her wolves. One was an older man, with odd, short curling dark hair and sharply chiselled features. It gave him a rough, angular appearance. The other was a young man, his face smooth and light brown hair cropped close to his head. He looked to be a few years older than Duo. Catherine wore some odd concoction of clothing that Duo tidily labelled an insane woman’s idea of a ball gown. The riot of colours clashed painfully with each other. The men at her feet were dressed much like Wufei and Trowa, only their pants were coloured a burnt orange with black collars and wrist bands. They didn’t look too impressed with the colour scheme either.

Rashid kept moving into the room, settling in a chair to the left of Sally. Duo stayed by the door, quirking an eyebrow when Sally shook her head disapprovingly.

“Duo, you come into my home and don’t even take a seat? After all the trouble I went to, preparing for your visit,” she said. “Sit. Drink with me. And we’ll talk.”

“If its all the same to you – ” Duo began.

“No. Its not. Sit, or you can consider this meeting over,” she snapped, her eyes hardening.

Well. Couldn’t argue with that logic. Duo made his way over to the couch with its back to one of the walls. He was well aware that the door was the only obvious way out, but he was pretty sure nothing was going to come through the mountain and kill him. The door was chancy. Wufei and Trowa followed him, settling at this feet. Iria also followed, but she leaned on the wall behind Duo’s couch. Howard stayed right where he was, hands still shoved deep in his pockets.

“I meant for all of you to sit,” Sally said, looking first at Howard, then Iria.

“Haemorrhoids,” Howard said with a perfectly straight face, shrugging his shoulders. “They’re a pain in the ass.”

Duo was quite proud of himself at that moment. He managed to not break out laughing in a fit. He didn’t even chuckle once. The younger man at Catherine’s feet smiled broadly, his eyes sparkling. No one else seemed to find it one bit funny. Pity, that.

“I see,” Sally said, not the least bit amused. Howard didn’t look like he cared. She turned to Iria. “And you?”

Iria smiled, that unfriendly little twist of her lips that she was so fond of. “I just don’t like to sit.”

“Humans,” Sally nearly spat, saying the word like a curse. Nice to know she was oh so fond of her primary food source. Then again, she could be snacking on Catherine’s wolves for all Duo knew.

“I’d take it as a personal favour if you left Iria alone and let her hold up the wall,” Duo said to Sally, knitting his fingers together over his stomach and getting comfy on the oversized couch.

Sally looked just a little incredulous at that. Just a little. Her eyes didn’t bug out nearly as far as they had when Duo had called her a bitch. Whoops, forgot about that. Sally probably wasn’t too happy about that little incident.

Duo shrugged. “I’m the one who’s going to have to listen to her moan and complain later if you make her sit now.”

A slow smile crept across Sally’s face, and she let out a peal of laughter. Duo could feel Iria’s icy gaze boring into the back of his head. Catherine looked from the laughing Sally, to Rashid, to Duo, and then back to Sally. She hesitantly grinned, then joined in Sally’s laughter. Great. Even the crazy woman was afraid of Sally. Or…she didn’t have a very good sense of humour.

Sally eventually calmed down, resting her chin in her palm. “Cute, Duo, very cute. Fine. Your little girlfriend can stand behind you and look menacing, since it means so much to her.”

“Thank you,” Duo said, pretty sure that he wasn’t that grateful at all.

“Now, to business,” Sally continued, nodding her head at Duo’s thanks. “Rashid, would you please get our guest a drink?”

Rashid got to his feet smoothly, despite his considerable bulk. He poured a glass half full of the same red drink Sally had, setting the decanter back onto the table and handing the glass to Duo. Duo looked down at the glass, uncertain. It had better be wine. Rashid sat back down, looking like he didn’t really enjoy being asked to be the serving man.

“Chianti,” Catherine said, her eyes still dancing with laughter.

Sally’s head whipped around, levelling a deadly glare at her. Oops again. Looks like the lackeys weren’t supposed to speak until spoken to. To Catherine’s credit, she didn’t spontaneously combust under that heated gaze. She just tried to make herself seem two inches tall. In the back of his mind, Duo seemed to recall hearing something about Chianti and liver…eating someone’s liver with a nice, red Chianti. That wasn’t a very helpful thought to have right about now. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if the drink hadn’t been wine after all.

Sally was looking at Duo again, Catherine forgotten. “What do you want from me?” she asked shortly. Well, thank you very much Catherine. The crazy woman’s interruption evaporated that good humour Duo had worked in.

“Information,” Duo said simply, tipping the glass to his mouth. He let the liquid touch his lips and made a swallowing movement. He didn’t really want to drink anything Sally gave him. Here’s to hoping she didn’t see through his little deception.

Sally looked curious. That could be a good sign. “Information,” she repeated. “About what?”

“The meaning of life?” Duo said, making it a question.

Sally narrowed her eyes, then she realized that Duo was joking again. “I’m beginning to see why Heero keeps you around,” she said, smiling at him with a hint of fang showing.

“Really? Why’s that?” he asked lightly.

“If nothing else, you’re amusing. Then again, Heero always did have a peculiar sense of humour.”

Duo almost choked. Heero had a sense of humour? Well, Duo thought, remembering last night. He might: deadpan sarcasm. “Hmm…thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment,” Duo said, tipping his glass at her.

“What is it you really want information about, Duo?” Sally had leaned back into the couch, resting her head on a pillow.

“Quite a few things, actually,” Duo answered. “First of all, Heero.”

Sally’s eyebrows shot up. “I don’t think I’m the right one to be asking about him.”

“No,” Duo disagreed, “I think you are. Everyone else available to me seems to be a bit…biased.” He felt Trowa tense at his feet, but Wufei’s demeanour didn’t change. Reaching down, Duo brushed his fingers through the soft hair at the nape of Trowa’s neck, trying to calm him without words. Duo was dealing with Sally now, and he had to appeal to her character. Duo wasn’t sure if Trowa understood that, but he did relax, leaning back against Duo’s legs and keeping their bodies in contact.

Sally seemed unconcerned with Trowa’s reaction, but Catherine was looking at Duo with startlingly sane and calculating eyes. It passed quickly, and once again her purplish-blue eyes were shining with insanity. Filing away that little bit of information for later, Duo shifted in his chair, curling one of his legs underneath him.

“Hmm,” Sally said, tracing little circles on the couch’s arm with her fingernail. “Alright, what did you want to know?”

“How old is he?” Duo asked.

“I don’t know.”

Fair enough. “Okay, how old would you say he is?” Duo rephrased his question.

Sally smiled again. “That’s a better question. But I still don’t know.” She dipped the tip her finger in her glass, then brought the finger to her lips and licked the wine away. Duo repressed a little shudder. “I could guess. Three, maybe four.”

“Hundred?” Duo said, thinking. That would give Heero more than enough time to have picked up a few tricks.

Rashid snorted. Sally glanced over at him. She seemed to echo his sentiments. “No, human, not three or four hundred. Three or four thousand.”

Duo let out a low whistle. Well then. That put him way before the Roman Empire. If Sally was right. Curiously, Duo looked at Sally. Right now, the next thing he wanted to ask her was how old she was, but he didn’t think she’d take that well. Mustn’t upset the hostess with the violent tendencies.

“How long has he been Erus?” Duo asked next. And here’s to hoping that didn’t get her all riled up.

“Only the last thousand years or so,” she replied, not looking particularly vengeful.

“Okay…does he have power over ALL the monsters? Besides you and yours, of course.”

Sally still looked composed. “No, not all.”

Duo waited, hoping she would go on.

“Only those who chose to accept him as Erus, for whatever reason, are his. There are several factions that don’t acknowledge his leadership,” she continued.

“Are we talking state, nation or worldwide?”

Sally took another sip of her drink. “I don’t think I want to answer that.”

“Who was Erus before Heero?” Duo said quickly to cover his confusion. Why wouldn’t Sally want to answer that question?

“You’re a very inquisitive little human, Duo,” Sally said after a moments hesitation, going very still.

Duo shrugged. “It’s a character flaw. So, who was it?”

“Heero didn’t displace me, if that’s the direction your thoughts are going,” Sally said, her lips thinning to a fine line.

Uh oh. Delicate line of questioning. That could mean one of several things. Duo dropped it, and moved on to a different area. “You have no interest in Wiccan magic, or any type of magic, do you?”

Sally didn’t appear to be breathing; she was completely motionless. Come to think of it, did vampires even need to breathe? Iria and Howard look for all the world like they were uninterested in the conversation. They were very interested, though. Or else they wouldn’t be there.

“Are you asking for your own interest or Heero’s?” Sally asked, her voice cold.

“Mine. I owe Heero nothing.” As soon as he said it, Duo thought it to be a lie. Didn’t he owe Heero his life? No. He didn’t. Somehow, getting involved with Heero had cost Mary-Anne hers. He owed Heero nothing.

Sally nodded, apparently believing him. “And them? What of your pets, Duo? Where do their loyalties lie?”

“They’re mine,” Duo said without thinking. Below him, both Wufei and Trowa seemed to melt, all the tension seeping out of their bodies. Something clicked in Duo’s head, and he felt a warmth brush through his mind. Startled, Duo fought to keep his expression the same.

“Yes, so they are,” Sally said, mostly to herself. She turned to Catherine. “You should be paying attention. He could own your wolves just as quickly and easily.”

Catherine looked like she was about to start frothing at the mouth. That’s never a good sign. Thank you very much, Mistress Sally. Another crazy with it in for Duo.

“I doubt I could control her wolves,” Duo said, trying to head off any potential bloodshed. Especially his. Amazingly, this seemed to placate the Tamer. Her ruffled feathers settled back into place and Duo turned back to Sally.

“I don’t need magic,” Sally stated.

Duo nodded. “I didn’t think you would.” Duo briefly toyed with the notion of asking her about Lucrezia. “You want to be Erus,” he said instead, not bothering to state it as a question.

The vampire nodded. “Are you going to try to talk me out of it?”

“No.” Duo was tapping his finger against his leg. “Should I?”

Sally looked confused. From what Duo knew of vampires, she let her thoughts show easily on her face. Trying to come up with a viable reason for that did nothing to comfort Duo. Either it was a ploy, or Sally really didn’t care what Duo knew. Not caring what he knew was the one Duo was worried about. Probably meant she intended to kill him.

“I don’t belong to Heero, Sally,” Duo said, using her name for the first time that night. “He means nothing to me.”

“Then why, human, would you help him for nothing?”

“Human life does mean something to me. If helping Heero means less loss of life, then I’ll help him.”

“Ah,” Sally said, her eyes half closing. “That’s it then, is it. What if helping him will mean more loss?”

That would be an unpleasant result. “I’ve got a feeling NOT helping him will end up in a very big loss, from my point of view.”

“And what’s that?”

“I’m attached to living, Sally. Its kinda hard to live when someone’s already killed you,” Duo said, mentally cursing himself again for even becoming involved with the vampire Erus in the first place.

“You think he’ll kill you?” she asked.

“Without a fucking doubt.” But Duo wasn’t as sure of that as he sounded. Push Heero hard enough, and he might kill Duo. It wasn’t Heero killing him that had Duo so worried, and he wasn’t about to inform Sally of that little fact. No, it was Heero owning him that scared Duo shitless. Mind, body and soul. He’d much prefer dying.

“Heero should have killed you when he had the chance.”

Duo’s head snapped up.

Sally laughed, the sound stabbing into Duo’s brain. “Don’t look so worried, Duo. I’m only saying that he’s had the chance to kill you already. A better chance than he’s going to ever get again, in my opinion. The little Erus is going to find it hard to kill you now.”

“That’s the idea,” Duo mumbled. Let’s hear it for self-preservation and a lack of post-mortem status. At least for the next sixty years or so.

“And what if I wanted to kill you?” Sally was tapping her fingernails against the wine glass, filling the room with a tiny chiming rhythm.

Duo felt his skin start to crawl. This was rapidly going downhill. “Do you want to kill me, Sally?” he asked, his voice neutral.

“Oh, yes. I want to rip your annoying little heart out of your chest and feed it to you.”

Well, there’s a wonderful idea. “But,” Duo asked, not sure if he really wanted the answer, “are you going to kill me?”

Sally watched Duo with icy blue eyes. Duo felt the shifters at his feet tense, and the first stirrings of their power pushed up against him.

“Call off your pets, Duo. I’m not going to kill you,” Sally said, an amused glint in her eyes.

That didn’t really seem like a good idea to Duo. Sally had only said that she wasn’t going to kill him. That probably didn’t include her lackeys. Despite his misgivings, Duo looked down and said, “Well, you heard the lovely lady. She’s not going to kill me.” Whatever the reason, Trowa seemed the more jumpy of the two.

“Have you learned everything you needed to know, Duo?” Sally asked, sitting up on the couch and crossing her legs smoothly.

Not by far. Duo was piecing together what he had learned so far, and it left him with quite a few more questions. Not very many he would risk asking though.

“One last thing, Sally, and then I won’t bother you again,” Duo said, twirling the glass in his hand and sending the wine to swirling.

“No, you won’t,” the vampire woman agreed.

Riiight. Duo let that one go. “You probably aren’t too concerned with something like this, but do you remember a fire that happened a few years ago? In the suburbs…a small church went up in flames. No one survived.”

Sally nodded. “I remember it. Vaguely.”

Duo tipped his head back, looking up into the dark rafters of the warehouse, gauging Sally’s words and reactions. “Out of curiosity, there are many myths about vampires floating around, and there’s one little myth that doesn’t seem based on any fact, even a small, unsupported one.” Duo dug the gold cross out of his shirt, holding it up so it dangled from his fingers and sparkled in the light. “This means absolutely nothing to you, does it?”

“No,” Sally replied, looking neutrally at the cross. “That’s a superstition.”

Duo waited a beat, then said, “Thank you, Sally. For your time, and your answers,” and let the cross drop back down. He had what he wanted now. Sally had shown no reaction at all to the cross as far as Duo could tell, but he hadn’t been looking at her when he revealed the little piece of gold jewellery. Duo had been watching first Rashid, and then Catherine and her wolves. Rashid had looked hard at the cross, while Catherine glanced at it and then quickly averted her eyes. The young man’s eyes however, had widened in either shock or disbelief.

“Eternal life is monotonous, Duo,” Sally said, setting her glass down on the table and reclining back on the couch. “You provide a small distraction. A very small, amusing one.”

Duo rose from his seat, the two shifters rising with him. Iria pushed herself away from the wall, looking a little disappointed. In a way, so was Duo. He wanted a chance to kill Sally, but buried halfway into a mountain with only one little exit didn’t seem like the smartest way to go about it. There are other, better chances. Usually.

Nodding once at Rashid, then Catherine and the two unnamed men at her feet, Duo headed towards the door. He still had questions, but now didn’t seem like the best time to remind Sally of Lucrezia. Duo had already gotten most of the information he wanted.

“Duo,” Sally called, waiting for him to turn back around before she continued. “If you’re so interested in that church fire, ask Heero about it. He knows who set the fire. Maybe not who actually did it, but who ordered it done.”

Duo stared at her, stunned. Why hadn’t Heero said that? Had the vampire taken him so literally that he assumed Duo wanted revenge on the ones who set the blaze only? Duo wanted them all. Heero knew who had ordered the church to be destroyed. He might know why. He knew. Heero knew. And he said nothing. Not a fucking thing! The ones who where responsible for the fire…they were the same ones who had stuck him in that godforsaken graveyard. Put him at Heero’s mercy for days. They were the ones who were killing people off like flies. Maybe they were the ones that did it. Maybe; maybe they were the ones. Duo tried to think through the cloud of rage that was brewing in his mind. The cross had been in Heero’s possession. Duo didn’t really know for sure if it had been planted in the apartment or not. Did Duo really know anything for sure? All he had to go on was Heero’s word; even Wufei wasn’t aware of everything that had happened. No one was. Except Heero, and the ones who killed Mary-Ann.
And now, Duo had Sally’s words to consider.

“Do you,” Duo grated out from between clenched teeth, placing emphasis on the word ‘you’, “know who set the fire, Sally?” Duo wasn’t even sure if he cared who it was right at this second. He wanted someone to kill. Anyone. Anything. Something had to die.

“I might,” Sally answered, looking smug.

“Tell me.”

“Why should I? I’ve answered all your questions. Given you the information you wanted. Why should I help you?”

The world slowed down then. Duo’s mind was raging, screaming at him. Heero knew. Sally knew. They knew. But Duo didn’t know. And it mattered to him. The vampires could care less about the lives of humans. Could care less about Duo. Duo felt a macabre smile on his lips, and the world sped back up. He flicked open his coat, drawing the Glock with his left hand and the Browning with the other. He trained the Glock on Sally, keeping the other pointed at the ceiling. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Iria sight the Beretta shotgun on Rashid. Wufei and Trowa were still beside Duo, their eyes fixed on Catherine and her crew. Howard was peering out the door almost nonchalantly.

“Simple,” Duo said, his voice empty and cold. “If you do know, and you don’t tell me, you won’t have to worry about finding something to break the monotony of eternity anymore. I’ll break it for you right now. Permanently.”

Sally had gone very still, her eyes hard as stone. “You can’t hurt me with that.”

“No? You know that for sure, do you? We could always find out. How fast can you move, Sally? How quickly can you dodge bullets?” Duo said to her, his voice calm and indifferent.

The vampire’s eyes showed a hint of fear. “You can’t kill me with that!” she half-shouted, insisting.

“Yes, I can. And I will. Tell me what I want to know.”

“You think you will leave here alive after this!?” Sally was screaming now, and Catherine was on her feet, speaking rapidly to the werewolves.

Duo heard nothing but Sally’s voice, his attention was focused firmly on her. “We’ll see. Do you know how many monsters I’ve killed, Sally? How many shifters I’ve had fall dead at my feet?” Duo’s finger tightened on the trigger; it made a tiny ‘click’ as it slid past the first notch. “I am Death, Sally. Your death, if you refuse to give me what I want.” Duo viewed the world with vision tinted black. His mind was still screaming at him, he heard it though the heat of his anger. He saw everything in excruciating detail, the tiny hairs that had worked loose from Sally’s twisted hair wavering from the minute shaking of her body; he heard the shallow beating of a heart, and knew it was Sally’s.

Duo realized then that he could feel Sally’s life pulse through her. He believed Heero now; vampires are not dead things. Sally wasn’t dead. Her blood moved through her veins to a different rhythm than a human’s. So slow. Sluggish. Imperceptible, it was so slow. But Duo saw it now. And he saw how easily he could end it. Two thousand years, he knew, Sally had walked the earth. Two thousand years of life. And Duo could end it with a thought. Not with metal, not with fire. A mere thought. Her life, and her death, was his to choose.

Almost lazily, Duo reached out with his mind. His vision doubled, and he saw the room where he stood now overlapping another room, one miles and miles away. One that Duo had never seen in his life. Seated at a small table, drinking coffee and laughing together, were Lucrezia and Mary-Anne. Mary-Anne was different, though. Her eyes were blue, not green. Her lustrous black hair was now a shimmering red. Duo looked at her, and knew that it was Mary-Anne. But Mary-Anne was not her real name. Lucrezia turned her head slowly, looking straight at Duo. Mary-Anne followed her gaze, her now blue eyes looking at Duo. “Mariemeia, Duo,” she said. “My name…is Mariemeia.”

Then the room was gone, and Duo saw Heero’s room in Devil’s Bliss. He saw Heero, leaning against the doorframe, talking with Quatre. Curiously, Duo brushed Quatre’s mind, watching as the blonde vampire’s eyes widened. Duo pushed harder, and Quatre fell to his knees with a choked cry. Turning to Heero, Duo touched the vampire’s mind, feeling the weight of four thousand years pressing down on him. Sorrow. Guilt. Joy. Contentment. Anger. Hate. Fear. Heero’s eyes were drowning blue, twin cobalt flames that pushed Duo back. Almost gently, Heero shook his head, and the double vision disappeared.

Duo blinked, bringing the warehouse back into focus. It was still tainted, still veiled in black. He straightened, letting his arms drop back to his sides. “Who?” he asked, his voice echoing in the vaults of his mind. He reached out and touched Sally’s mind, felt her try to push him back, fling him away. Duo snarled, forcing his way past her defences. There. She knew. Sally had done it. Sally had burned the church to the ground. Catherine. Catherine had tried to kill Mary-Anne…no, tried to kill the woman Duo knew as Mary-Anne. Mariemeia. She had failed. Mariemeia lived. Lucrezia had her. Had her? Or was with her? Where did Lucrezia’s loyalties lie? Friend or enemy…?

Duo heard someone screaming. Sally was screaming, clutching her head with her hands. Rashid watched impassively, his human body overlapped with the great, hulking outline of a bear. Catherine’s eyes were no longer insane. She was watching Duo with interest, studying him. Iria and Howard were shadows at the edge of his vision. The air around Iria shimmered, while Howard stood on an island of calm; completely neutral. Trowa and Wufei crouched at Duo’s feet, still in human form, a low growling coming from their throats. Both pulsed with life, but there, under their life, was his mark. Duo’s mark. They were his.

Duo turned his attention back to Sally. Tears streaked her face, a thin trail of blood at the corner of her mouth where her fangs had pierced her own skin. Her pulse faltered as Duo drew her power from her, sucking away her life. He felt it build in him, the same feeling as when the shifters changed near him; a hot, heady rush of power that left him gasping. He took that power, made it his own, and pushed it out, away from him. It touched Wufei, then Trowa, forcing them to instantly shift, the tatters of their clothing scattering in the wind caused by the change. Wufei reared up, snarling and clawing at the air. Trowa bared his teeth, roaring.

Further away, in the middle of the city, the stolen power reached Heero and Quatre. The blonde took the power, letting it wash over him in a warm gust. The Erus let the power fill him, revelling in the feeling. It swirled around him, tousling his hair.

“Animi motus meus …” Heero whispered, lifting his hand as if to touch Duo. “Or animi mortus…or are you both, Duo?”

Breaking off the flow of power from Sally abruptly, with Heero’s whispered words echoing in his mind, Duo turned burning eyes to the shadows behind her, searching. She looked up at him from where she crouched on the floor, blood and tears mixing. She looked drawn and sallow, her skin yellowed and dark circles standing out in stark contrast under her eyes.

“You…” Duo hissed, levelling his gaze on the shaking woman. “You, I will let live. Every fucking beat of your heart, every step you take, is because I let you live. Your life – your death, is mine!” Duo growled.

Turning and walking back into the entrance of the warehouse, Duo was riding out the last waves of whatever power was stirring through him. Wufei trotted beside him, rolling his eyes up to look into Duo’s face.

“We’re going to see Heero. I want to know what the fuck is going on. And I want to know now,” Duo said to him, reaching the door and stepping back out into the night.

*

To Find the End

“Alright, I’ll bite. What the hell just happened in there?” Duo heard Howard say, his voice gruff. He was once again driving the van, this time heading back into the city.

Iria sat in the passenger seat, arms crossed and expression pensive. “Why ask me?”

“Because Duo’s too busy ranting,” Howard said, grinning as a particularly foul stream of curses came from the back, demonstrating his point. He blinked, cocking his head to the side and listening. “Can ya do that to a person?”

“It seems as if Duo intends to find out.”

“I think I want to be there when he tries that….” Howard looked over at Iria, winked, and then turned back to the road.

“And people are afraid of me,” she muttered under her breath. Iria shifted in her seat, looking back into the van. “Duo, are you done exercising your extensive vocabulary yet? As interesting as Howard seems to find it, we need to know where we are going.”

Duo poked his head between the seats, making Iria jump back. “Devil’s Bliss. You know it?”

“Yeah, I know it,” Howard answered. “That where we’re going?”

“Yep,” Duo turned away, moving to settle into the back. Iria reached out, touching his arm. He halted, quirking an eyebrow at her. Was that actually concern showing on her face?

“I would ask why you’re going there, but I think I already know. You want us to drop you off,” she made the statement accusatory.

Duo scratched an itch on his cheek. “Yeah. You can save the warnings, though. That’s about the one place where I’ll actually be safe.” Physically, at least. His mental health – already in a questionable state – was another issue all together. At least since he had gotten tangled up with Heero. And thinking of the annoying neck-nibbler, Duo had quite a few things he wanted straightened out. Like this annoying light-headed feeling that just wouldn’t quit.

“I gotta say, Duo,” Howard was speaking, jolting Duo out of his thoughts. That was a bad sign. Howard using his name never came with good news. “That was some weird shit back there. I don’t think I even want to know what is going on. You got messed up in some serious stuff here, little man.”

Duo found himself agreeing wholeheartedly. That went beyond weird shit. Duo couldn’t even begin to imagine what the hell was going on. He knew one thing; he didn’t like it. No, hang on. He knew two things. The day was looking up. Maybe. Heero had more than an idea of what was going on. Duo was pretty sure Heero could tell him everything he wanted to know. The question was, would the vampire tell him.

“But,” Howard continued, “if you find yourself needing friends – of the human variety,” he added after a short pause, “me and Iria are going to be around for a while. Call us up again. Besides, Iria’s a little pissed that she didn’t get to slaughter anything.”

Iria gave Howard a half-hearted glare. Duo wasn’t sure if that was either because Iria was used to Howard’s teasing, or because Howard was right. It was one of those questions Duo really didn’t want an answer to.

“No worries, Howard. If I need you, I’ll call.” Duo reached out and took the hastily scribbled number Iria handed him.

“Sure ya will, Duo. But it won’t do you any good if you don’t realize you need us until its too late.” Howard’s voice was low.

Duo patted Howard on the shoulder and threw him a grin. “Like I said, no worries.” With that, he turned away, rejoining Wufei and Trowa in the back.

Both shifters were still in panther form, stretched out on the van’s floor. Since neither one had extra clothing, Duo had suggested they wait to shift back. Sneaking two naked men through the streets would be close to impossible. As panthers, they could slip through the shadows. Getting through the bar was a different story. Oh, well. Burn that bridge when they got to it. Settling on the floor between them, Duo blew out an explosive breath, ruffling his bangs. Wufei immediately rested his head in Duo’s lap. Duo smiled wearily, scratching his ears.

“I wish you two had some idea of what the hell is going on….” Duo said, mostly to himself.

Trowa sat up, resting a paw on Duo’s leg. He bumped his forehead against Duo’s in a strangely comforting gesture. A soft growl came from deep in his throat.

Duo’s smile brightened a little. “You want me to scratch your ears too, Tro?” He reached up with his other hand, rubbing the top of Trowa’s head. Almost too quiet to hear, Duo heard a rumbling coming from Trowa. The panther was purring.

Wufei made a snorting sound. He rolled over, halfway on his back in a quick movement, keeping his head in Duo’s lap. His front paws were in the air, toes flexing. Wufei let out a tiny growl that was more like a cat’s mewl than a sound that a panther would make.

Duo laughed out loud. “I am not rubbing your tummy, Wu.”

Wufei managed to look disappointed.

Duo laughed again, and he felt a little of the fuzziness in his mind subside. They were comforting, actually. It surprised Duo how close he had grown to both of them in the short time they had known each other. Duo almost broke out into fits at that thought. He had had sex with both of them, that was pretty damn close, at least in Duo’s way of thinking. It was more than that though. Like this, here and now; just having them around was soothing. Enjoyable.

“Oh, what the hell….” Duo said, giving in under the visual assault of the panther’s pout. He scratched under Wufei’s chin, then gave his tummy a quick rub.

“Hey, little man,” Howard called out from the front. “We’re here.” He looked back at Duo. “You sure you’re good from here?”

“Nope, but since when did that stop me?” Never. Somehow, Duo always did what he set out to do. Eventually, anyway. “Thanks. Keep in touch,” Duo said lightly, hopping out the back door.

The panthers followed quickly after him, slinking into the shadows between the buildings and disappearing. Duo could feel them there, even though he couldn’t see them. That was disturbing in itself. Glancing around, he caught the glint of Trowa’s green eyes. Shutting the door, Duo stuffed his hands into the pockets of his coat. And watched Howard and Iria drive away.

With a start, Duo turned back to the panthers. They were moving though the darkness, heading for the club. Duo shrugged and followed. He could have sworn he heard Wufei say for him to hurry up. The imagination acts up at the worst times.

*

A few minutes later, Duo entered Devil’s Bliss through the main door. The panthers trotted ahead of him, slipping unnoticed though the crowd. Duo blinked. That wasn’t right. Two huge cats wandering around in the middle of a city club should have attracted at least some measure of attention. Duo glanced around, trying to locate one of Heero’s crew. If the vampires could make people overlook their fangs, then maybe concealing the panthers wasn’t that hard to do either.

Duo saw Hilde, Zechs and Dorothy moving among the tables, but neither one seemed to acknowledge the panthers or Duo’s presence. Odd. A little anti-social, too. Oh, well. Duo weaved though the press of bodies, heading for the side door.

Quatre leaned against the wall beside it, dressed in black jeans and a black dress shirt. The shirt was open, showing the pale skin of his chest. A black choker circled his throat and he was barefoot. The contrast was amazing. The vampire stood there, in the fitful lighting of Devil’s Bliss, and looked like someone out of a wet dream. A very dark, very dangerous, very wicked someone. Very.

Duo quirked an eyebrow at him. “Giving everyone a free show, Q?”

The vampire smirked, fang glinting. Duo felt the heat of the room press in around him. That was interesting. Getting answers to his questions suddenly didn’t seem very important. Seeing Quatre without those annoying little bits of cloth in the way seemed much more important. Duo shook his head. Where the hell did that come from?

Quatre lifted his arm, crooking a finger at Duo. And Duo found himself beside the vampire before another thought crossed his mind. Seemed like Quatre was picking up Heero’s bad habits.

“Wha…?” Duo said, slightly disoriented.

The door in front of him was opened and Quatre gave him a little shove inside. Then the blonde slammed the door shut, pushing Duo up against it with one hand on his shoulder and the other on his hip. He pressed his body against Duo, one thigh pushing its way between his legs. Duo’s eyes widened as he tried to focus on Quatre’s face. He was so close, his breath hot against Duo’s face. Quatre said nothing, merely stared at him with those piercing blue eyes.

Duo swallowed. This wasn’t in the plan anywhere. Duo shifted through his fuzzy mind. Nope. Not in any plan. He opened his mouth to speak, but Quatre’s fingers were over his lips, silencing him before any sound escaped. Speak? What the hell was he doing trying to speak!? He should be trying to shoot him!

Quatre moved his hand away from Duo’s lips, burying it in the hair at the back of his neck and tilting Duo’s head to the side. Duo felt his heart rate speed up. Come to think of it, why would he want to shoot Quatre? The blonde was not…threatening him. Not really. Duo thought he should be at least be protesting, but he couldn’t find the motivation to speak anymore, let alone draw a weapon.

“Shush, Duo,” Quatre said, his lips trailing softly down Duo’s exposed neck. “You surprised me, stealing Sally’s energy like that.” He nuzzled Duo’s neck, then closed his mouth over the tender skin, giving it a tiny lick. “Oh, but Duo…the rush that your power gave me, so soon after you hurt me….” The blonde shuddered.

This was not right. Incredibly far away from being even remotely right. Duo’s mind fumbled, trying to remember exactly what Quatre was talking about. He remembered lashing out at Sally. Seeing Mariemeia and Lucrezia together. Heero and…oh. Duo saw Quatre fall to his knees in his mind’s eye. That was what was going on. Although, if Quatre was pissed, this was a peculiar way of expressing it.

Duo swallowed again. “Quatre…I didn’t mean…I don’t -”

“I said hush, Duo. I’m not angry with you.” Quatre smirked. “Does this seem to be something I would be doing if I was angry with you?”

Duo felt like ripping out his hair. What the fuck was wrong with him!? Pinned up against a door by Quatre! Forget that the little fuck was a vampire, Duo never put up with this kind of shit. From anyone, human or not. Slowly, ever so painfully slow, it dawned on Duo. No, this wasn’t something you do when you’re pissed at someone. This was something you do when you want to fuck someone. The little haze that had been in Duo’s head ever since he had flipped out at Sally’s evaporated in a puff.

“Alright, Q,” Duo grated out. “Get off me, now.”

“Why?” Quatre lifted his head up, brushing his lips across Duo’s lightly. He stayed there, waiting for his answer with his mouth barely touching Duo’s.

“Because,” the braided man said, making his lips move over Quatre’s, “if you don’t let me go, I’m going to shoot you in the nuts.”

Quatre jerked his head back. “Back to yourself, I see,” he said, laughing. He moved back away from Duo, tucking his hands back into his pockets. “And here I thought you’d give me a kiss to go along with your little gift of power.”

Duo shot the vampire a hard look. Quatre pouted back. In spite of himself, Duo found that he wasn’t even a little miffed. “You’re as bad as Wufei is.”

Quatre seemed to consider that. “I don’t know if I’d go quite that far, Duo.”

“I would.”

Chucking to himself, Quatre started walking down the stairs. Before opening the door, he turned and faced Duo again.

“Before you go in there threatening to shoot Heero in the groin, I should tell you something,” Quatre said.

Duo looked at him suspiciously. “Yeah, what?”

“He’s not really sure what’s going on either.”

Oh, perfect. This was going to be productive. “He told you that, Q?”

“Actually, he did. We’re keeping it between the five of us for now. Heero thinks it more…prudent.”

Duo laughed, shaking his head. “Prudent. That’s a good word for the Almighty Erus.”

Quatre shrugged. “I have always been good with words,” a pause, then, “among other things.” His eyes were glinting in the dimmed hallway.

“You’re always a flirt, huh, Q?” Duo found himself looking over the vampire again, this time he was struck by how beautiful the blonde really was. Duo had Wufei, and in a way, Trowa too. Yet he found himself craving just a little taste of the darkness that Quatre promised. With not another thought beyond that, Duo closed the small distance between them, cupping Quatre’s head in his hands.

Quatre looked surprised; he hadn’t seen Duo move until his hands had touched him. Then his eyes slid closed as Duo crushed their lips together. Quatre’s hands grasped Duo’s waist, drawing him closer.

Duo groaned when the vampire leaned into him, opening his mouth for Duo to explore. Quatre tasted sweet, just a hint of something tangy and even a little spicy. His tongue stroked the blonde’s. He pulled away, drawing one soft lip into his mouth, then he pushed back inside, trying to take everything Quatre offered. Duo’s breath came in short gasps and he could feel his heart racing. Then he felt something scrape his tongue, a tiny flash of pain followed by the sharp copper taste of blood. His own blood. Fuck. He had sliced himself open on one of Quatre’s fangs.

Quatre’s grip on Duo’s hips convulsed, then his arms came up and tightened around him. A strangled groan reached his ears as Quatre drew Duo’s tongue deep inside his mouth. The heated bulge against Duo’s thigh let him know the vampire was more than just a little pleased at the new development.

Duo drew his mouth away from the vampire’s, hearing a loud whimper. Quatre tried to follow, but Duo shook his head. The blonde sighed, melting into Duo’s arms. Resting his head in the crook of Duo’s neck, he said, “You taste fucking amazing, Duo.”

Blinking, Duo waited for that to sink in. Sounded more like something he would say than something Quatre would. Forget that, what in the name of Jesus was he doing trying to crawl inside Quatre’s skin, starting at his mouth!? And letting him taste his blood! Duo mentally kicked himself. Repeatedly.

Giving Quatre a little nudge, Duo said, “C’mon, Quatre. Stand up.”

Quatre grinned. He nuzzled Duo’s neck with his nose. “Can I have another taste?” His voice was muffled, but Duo could clearly hear the tone. Husky. Very much a bedroom voice.

“Fuck no! Quatre, get off of me.”

Lazily, Quatre righted himself and moved away from Duo. His blue eyes widened slightly. Before Duo could react, he darted in and licked the corner of Duo’s mouth, making an appreciative moan. Pulling back, he licked his lips. Duo saw the tiny droplet of red before Quatre’s tongue swiped it into his mouth.

Well, damn it all to hell. That’s where it was headed anyway. In a nice, comfy handbasket. Quatre was looking at him like he was the most delicious thing in the world and now that he had had a little taste, he wanted the entire buffet. Definitely as unnerving as hell. It was bad enough that Wufei and Trowa looked at him like they wanted to eat him, now Quatre was at it too. Duo glanced at Quatre’s eyes. Wait, hang on. Duo rethought his last statement. Quatre looked like he was debating if he should eat him, fuck him or both. And Duo had the horrible suspicion that Quatre was going to go with Option C.

“Inside, Q, now.” Duo reached around him a pulled open the door, motioning Quatre though. The vampire complied, gliding past one very shaken, very confused Duo. Damn, he was using the word ‘very’ too much.

Treize was sitting comfortably on one of the red couches, conversing with Relena and Une. He looked up at the newcomers, smiling.

“Duo,” he said pleasantly, “how very nice to see you again.”

There was that word again. Extremely overused. Duo decided to get a new word.

“Treize,” Duo replied, plastering on a smile even though he was considering how many ways to kill him. All Duo wanted to do now was sit down, not chat with the resident gentleman. Or the other two either, Duo added to his inner rant even as he said, “Relena, Une. Nice to see you’re none the worse for wear, Une.”

Relena smiled at him. “Welcome back, Duo.” Well, that was unexpected. Duo almost felt guilty for his abruptness with her. Almost.

Une merely nodded her head. “The Erus and the panthers are waiting for you,” she said, indicating the hallway that lead to Heero’s quarters.

Treize reached for a cup of something that was sitting on a small table near his elbow. “When you are finished meeting with the Erus, Duo, let me know. I will see if we can find something for you to eat. You appear a trifle…wan.”

“That sounds like a nice way to tell a guy he looks like shit.” Duo scrubbed a hand over his face. And, damn it, his tongue was still stinging!

Treize laughed. A disgustingly mild, pleasant sound. Duo found himself disliking the man – vamp – whatever the fuck he was – because of a nice laugh. He had to get some sleep. Or some serious alcohol.

Duo waved a hand as he turned towards the door leading to Heero’s room. Maybe he might take Treize up on that offer. Food was starting to sound good right about now. Sleep. Food. Alcohol. Sleep. Food. Alcohol. Choices, choices.

And Quatre…Duo shot a dirty look at the smirking vampire. The little shit was practically sashaying down the hallway. Yes, sashaying. Alright, that may be an exaggeration. But he looked like the cat that had gotten the cream. No, Duo corrected himself; the vampire that had gotten the blood. His blood, God damn it.

The blonde reached Heero’s door first, opening it; Duo close on his heels. Heero was seated in the big centre chair that he had sat in that first night, his legs tucked under him. The dark haired vampire was wearing a tight, sleeveless red tee and dark blue jeans. It was the least complicated outfit Duo had ever seen the Erus in. Wufei, now in human form, was stretched out on a couch, clad only in a pair of his black linen pants. Trowa sat, also back in human form, beside Heero, sitting crossed-legged on the other couch. He wore a pair of those tight pants he seemed so fond of, and a t-shirt that stretched across his chest and moulded itself to his body, showing the sharp planes of his chest perfectly.

“Trowa….” Quatre whispered as they entered the room.

The named shifter’s head snapped up. His green eyes sparkled when he caught sight of Quatre. Rising to his feet with inhuman grace, he met the vampire in the centre of the room. Falling to his knees in front of Quatre, he wrapped his arms around the slight man’s waist and leaned his head against Quatre’s stomach.

Duo regarded the two curiously. There was more to that greeting than either friendship or lust. While Duo was watching them, he missed Wufei leave the couch and, for all intents and purposes, stalk towards him. That is, until he was confronted with black, smouldering eyes.

Duo blinked, surprised by the sheer amount of desire he saw burning in Wufei’s eyes. “Wufei…” he began, then saw the shifter’s eyes fix on his mouth. His words died away when Wufei melded himself against Duo’s body, pressing their lips together.

Duo’s arms came up almost automatically to hold Wufei close to him even as he deepened the kiss. He pushed past Wufei’s lips, dipping deep into the other’s mouth and revelling in the taste. Duo decided then that it had been long enough since he had tasted Wufei. Maybe a few hours in bed with his pet would brighten his disposition…it was already off to such a good start.

Wufei pulled away first, turning around in the circle of Duo’s arms and leaning back into him. Duo groaned softly at the delectable sensation of Wufei’s body, and, more precisely, his well-formed posterior, pressing against him. Oh, yes. Much, much too long.

Tipping his head back to rest on Duo’s shoulder, Wufei whispered, “You taste like blood, Duo. Blood…and Quatre.”

Dammit, busted.

Quatre had sunk down beside Trowa, balancing on the balls of his feet. The vampire released the shifter’s lips, a slightly fuzzy look on his face. Trowa was smiling at Duo from where he knelt, palms flat against the floor to support his weight. That impish little smile again. As sexy as Trowa made it look, Duo was beginning to grow wary of that smile.

“Quatre tastes of blood and Duo,” he said simply.

Quatre actually giggled.

Trowa raised an eyebrow. “He seems a bit…happy, doesn’t he?”

“Duo tastes like blood, sex and power,” Quatre said, rising to his feet and dragging Trowa up with him. Duo was getting just a little sick of hearing the word ‘taste’. Quatre sauntered over to the couch Trowa had recently vacated and lay down on it, pulling the green-eyed shifter down, half on top of him. He sighed contentedly, glancing over at Heero. “I highly recommend you taste him.”

Now, that was just a little insulting. “I’m not some fucking new drink for you to pass around, Q!” Duo said, storming over to the couch opposite the blonde and flopping down. Wufei followed, sitting down and leaning on him slightly.

“Ooooh, but you taste so good, Duo…” Quatre replied, running his tongue over the tip of his fangs.

Duo gave up. He was just too tired. “Just shut up, Quatre. See if I ever kiss you again,” he grumbled.

“You kissed him?” Heero’s slightly accented voice interrupted, sounding sceptical.

Duo almost jumped out of his skin. Shit, he had forgotten about Heero. How the hell he managed to do that was beyond him.

“That’s what I said, Heero. Or were you too busy wondering about how I’d taste to listen?” Ah, fuck. Duo hadn’t meant to say that. Yes, that’s a brilliant idea. Taunt the vampire that can rip out your spinal cord.

“What makes you think I don’t already know how you taste, Duo?” Heero was smirking slightly, the corners of his mouth turned up.

So, that’s what the urge to shit your pants feels like. Duo felt his eyes widen. He was joking. He had to be joking. He had better be fucking joking!

“Lay off on the mind games until later, Heero. I’m tired, really confused, and really, really fucking cranky.” There. That was his new word. Really. Duo smiled to himself. Christ, he felt like a simpleton.

Heero nodded, his face once again blank. Sweet Jesus, how Duo hated that. Heero was a hell of a lot easier to deal with when he wasn’t doing his best impression of a wall. Or playing mind games. The hell with it; Heero was never easy to deal with.

Settling back into the couch, Duo said, “So, what do you wanna do first? Hear what I found out, see if we can figure out what the fuck is going on, or drill me and Quatre on our little make out session?”

Heero quirked an eyebrow. That was a little better. At least it was an expression.

“Tell me what you know first,” Heero said, resting his elbows on the arms of his chair and lacing his fingers together in his lap.

Duo saw that one coming. He held up a hand, ticking items off on his fingers. “Kay, first off, Mary-Anne isn’t dead, she’s with Lucrezia. Where, I don’t have a fucking clue.”

“Alive? That’s a surprise,” Quatre said, sobering up a little.

“Oh, and her name isn’t Mary-Anne, its Mariemeia,” Duo added.

“Are you certain?” Heero asked, his eyes narrowing.

“Yes, I’m sure. Jesus, Heero, do you even pay attention to what I’m saying? Her name is Mariemeia.” Duo looked from Heero to Quatre and back again. “That mean something to you?”

“Possibly,” Heero said. Yep, Quatre was right. Prudent was exactly what Heero was. “Go on,” the Erus said.

“Catherine isn’t crazy. At least, not as crazy as she makes herself out to be,” Duo continued. “She had a few sane moments.”

Trowa moved his head, shifting his gaze from Quatre to Heero. “I agree. She was entirely too lucid at times.”

“In summary, Mary-Anne, who is still alive, is in actuality Mariemeia, and Catherine is not a raving lunatic,” Heero stated.

“Well, yeah.” It really didn’t seem like much when Heero stated it like that. Oh, there was Duo’s new word again. Duo revised his earlier debate between sleep and food to sleep, food, sex or drugs. Maybe all four…oh, wait! He was forgetting alcohol. Can’t forget the alcohol. Let’s see; sleep, food, sex, drugs, alcohol…sleep -

“Duo.”

There it was again. That subtle little ‘fuck me’ that Heero always hid behind Duo’s name.

“Yes, Heero?” Duo said, slurring slightly.

“Are you going to be alright?” Heero asked, something that sounded suspiciously like genuine concern in his voice.

“Fuck no, I’m never going to be alright again,” Duo said, his eyes bright. “Think about it, blood breath. I don’t have a fucking clue what the hell is going on anymore. No, forget that. I didn’t have a clue what was going on in the first place. Then, there’s that nasty little problem I have with the uncontrollable urge to shove my tongue down Quatre’s throat; and every time you say my name, Heero, it sounds more and more like ‘fuck me’, so pretty soon I’m just going to say the hell with it and do just that! Oh! Let’s not forget that for some great,” Duo held up his hands, his voice going up and octave or two, “unknowable reason, I suddenly decided to leech a vampire’s energy, or power, or whatever the fuck it was, out of her, and send it along to you guys, like some preternatural United Postal Service!” Duo stopped, catching his breath.

All four of the others were staring at Duo.

What!?” Duo exploded.

“…’fuck me’?” Heero said, his expression mild.

“Yes!” Duo shouted.

Duo clamped his mouth shut, blinking. Wait, that wasn’t right. “No!” he said quickly, trying to head off the wrong idea. Duo covered his face with his hands. This was getting him nowhere. Right then, he didn’t know if he’d prefer to get some answers or just shoot himself. Maybe he should just shoot everyone else. What he wouldn’t give just to find the end of this mess.

Quatre glanced up at Trowa, shock evident on his face. “‘Fuck me’?” he mouthed, the corners of his mouth curving into a smile.

Trowa’s impish smile was back.

Wufei tucked a piece of Duo’s hair behind his ear, smoothing it back with his hand. “One problem at a time, Duo,” he said quietly, resting his other hand on Duo’s thigh.

“Wufei is right. Attempting anything more than that would be foolish,” Heero said.

Duo took a deep breath, then looked up to meet Heero’s gaze. “Right,” he said, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees. He plopped his chin down on his hands. “So which problem do we tackle first?”

“If I suggest you sleep first, you will ignore me, won’t you?” Heero asked.

“Yep,” Duo agreed.

“And something to eat?”

“Well,” Duo drawled, a pang in his stomach reminding him that he really was a little hungry, “I could really use something to eat.” There. He was putting his new word to good use.

*

“I can’t explain what happened, Duo” Heero was saying as he watched the recently fed and now calm Duo pace across the floor. They had been discussing the entire series of events for the last two hours or so.

“You don’t seem all that surprised or upset by it either, you know.” Duo turned on his heel, making his way back to the other side of the room. Pacing wasn’t very productive, as Heero had pointed out earlier, but it helped Duo think.

Quatre and Trowa were still on the couch, although they were now sitting up and watching Duo. Wufei had just returned from the upstairs kitchen. The shifter had removed the remnants of Duo’s impromptu meal. He settled down on the floor in front of Heero, also watching Duo pace.

“There were hints that you could do something like this before, Duo,” Heero said.

“Yeah, yeah.” Duo was remembering what had happened during one of his and Heero’s little talks. Apparently, he had tried to absorb some of Heero’s energy then. And, of course, he was going on Heero’s word. Again. What Duo wouldn’t give for real proof.

“So,” Duo pressed on, “how come you didn’t mention this to me before?”

“It wouldn’t have made a difference, we weren’t even sure,” Quatre spoke up. “Would you have been able to stop it, or even believed us, if we had brought it to your attention?”

Probably not, Duo thought, but still. “That’s not the point, Q. I could have killed her -”

“You regret not killing her?” Heero sounded amused.

“Would you let me finish?” Duo demanded. “I could have killed her, but I didn’t. And I wanted to. But that…that…sucking the life out of her, that was….” he trailed off.

“What, Duo?” Heero quietly prompted.

Duo whipped around and landed a solid kick on the wall. He flung himself around, leaning back on the wall and slamming it with his fist. “Inhuman,” he said almost inaudibly, sinking to the floor and drawing his knees up. He rested his forehead on his knees, closing his eyes.

“Duo,” Heero said, his voice coming from directly above the frustrated man.

Looking up, Duo saw that Heero was standing above him. The vampire crouched down slowly. “You can’t take back what happened.”

Duo snorted. “Is that supposed to make me feel better?”

“No, but it is true nonetheless.” Heero reached out and tipped Duo’s chin up. “Now that it is done, we have to find out how you can control it.”

We? Where’d he get the ‘we’ concept? “I don’t have time for fucking around with that shit, Heero! I’m not one bit closer to finding out WHY there are so many killings. I’ve got to track Catherine down again. I should have killed her when I had the chance.”

“Yes, you should have,” Heero agreed.

Duo narrowed his eyes at the vampire.

“But,” Heero continued, “it is just as well that you didn’t. We may need her again.”

There was that ‘we’ thing again. “She killed – tried to kill – Mary-Anne! Mariemeia.” Duo snorted in frustration. “I don’t even know who she is anymore.”

Quatre spoke up next. “You should forget about her for now. We don’t even know where she is.”

Huh, even Quatre was hung up on the ‘we’ concept.

“Quatre’s right,” Wufei said. “You should concentrate on figuring out what happened and if it had anything to do with the attempted sacrifice.”

Duo had almost forgotten about that. Maybe that was tied to what happened. Duo hadn’t asked Sally about that. After he brought up the church fire, Duo had lost it and….

“Sally was the one who destroyed the church in the suburbs,” Duo said suddenly.

“What?” Heero looked sharply at Duo.

“The fire, you remember.” Duo lifted the gold cross in his palm. He hadn’t tucked it back into his shirt in all the commotion, then he had forgotten about it. “I found out Sally was the one who set fire to the church.”

“Did she tell you this?” Quatre asked.

“No,” Duo laughed bitterly. “She didn’t. But I know it’s true. But one thing I don’t know, Heero,” Duo said, looking straight at the vampire, “is why you didn’t tell me. ‘Cuz you already knew.”

Heero opened his mouth to speak, but Duo held up a hand. “Ah ah ah, Heero. Forget your excuses. Make it up to me by telling me who ordered the church destroyed. And don’t tell me you don’t know.”

There was a sharp rapping on the door to Heero’s room. Quatre rose from the couch and answered it, talking briefly with someone. Surprise registered on his face, quickly replaced by anger. Scowling, he nodded once curtly, then shut the door.

“Heero,” the blonde said, “Lucrezia and the one called Mariemeia are here. They want to meet with Duo.”

“Not now, Quatre,” Heero started to say.

Fuck that. Duo surged to his feet, causing Heero to rise and take a quick step back. “I’ll see them, and I’ll see them now. Alone.”

Heero’s expression shifted instantly to one of anger. “Duo, if you want to meet them now, fine. But not alone.”

“Why the hell not alone, Heero? Huh? It’s my choice. I’m in the middle of your club, underground, surrounded by God only knows how many vamps, shifters and whatever the hell you’ve got lying around. What in the name of Jesus could happen?”

“Did you forget it was at this Mariemeia’s apartment that you were taken from the first time, Duo?” Heero said in a calm tone, despite the anger evident on his face. “You will not meet them alone. I don’t trust either one of them.”

“Too bad, Heero, ‘cuz I don’t trust you.” Duo jabbed a finger in Heero’s chest. “Now you either let me talk to them here, by myself, or I’m going to cart my ass right back to my apartment and serve them coffee there. Your choice.”

Heero looked pissed. Extremely pissed. To his credit, he didn’t rip Duo to shreds on the spot. A fact that Duo was quite grateful for. Instead, he just looked at Duo.

“You are certain of this?” the vampire asked.

“Yeah.” Duo crossed his arms. “I am.”

“Heero, the Wiccan, maybe, but surely not Lucrezia. Her evident relationship with Sally….” Quatre said, shaking his head.

“Be quiet, Quatre. If Duo wants to meet them alone, he will. But he will meet them here.” Heero closed the distance between himself and Duo so quickly that Duo didn’t even see him move.

Duo broke out into a cold sweat. At that moment, faced with Heero and his anger, Duo felt afraid. Real, heart stopping fear. Even the firm metal of the gun at his back did nothing to dispel it.

“It would be a good idea, Duo, to remember that however little you trust me, you should trust her less,” Heero’s voice was cold, but his eyes burned straight into Duo’s brain.

At that moment, Duo wasn’t sure if Heero was referring to Lucrezia or Mariemeia. Something in Heero’s eyes, though, made Duo believe that the vampire was talking about Mariemeia. And that did nothing to quell the tight knot of fear that had rooted itself deep in Duo’s belly.

*

To Know the Beginning

Duo was back to pacing, turning things over in his head. Two pairs of eyes tracked his progress across the dark wine coloured carpet.

Duo, Lucrezia and Mariemeia were currently occupying a small room located just to the right of Heero’s. Several overstuffed chairs were arranged in a semi-circle in the centre of the room, facing a fireplace. The walls were painted in a rich dark blue; a startling change from Heero’s normal décor. Although, it did give the room an overall feeling of darkness. That stayed true enough to the Erus’ preferences.

Duo sat back down again, facing the two women. Lucrezia was dressed comfortably, wearing a loose, long sleeved shirt and light blue jeans. She looked nothing like a lawyer or a voodoo priestess. She didn’t look at all that remarkable or threatening. An image she had probably hoped to encourage.

Beside her in another chair, legs crossed loosely, sat Mariemeia. The slight young woman wore a soft blue dress, skirts brushing the floor. Her short red hair was down, framing her face. She seemed in fairly good health for someone who’d had most of their upper body torn apart.

“So, what you’re saying is,” Duo paused, collecting his thoughts, “that you expected me to do something like this?”

“Yes,” Mariemeia answered. “Your ability to track and destroy the monsters is uncanny. Both Lucrezia and I sensed your growth separately. Once we brought it to each other’s attention, we agreed that you merited closer inspection.”

Duo snorted. “You make me sound like some new specimen to be dissected and studied.” There was a nasty thought. Maybe Duo should start keeping a tally of the unpleasant thoughts he was having. The number had certainly increased in the past few weeks.

Still, Duo found himself astonishingly detached from the entire business. He knew he should have felt betrayed, maybe even a little indignant over their treatment of him. But he wasn’t. Duo had never thought of Lucrezia as a friend. And Mariemeia…well, she wasn’t who he thought she was. For Duo, Mary-Anne was indeed dead. The sorrow Duo had once felt because of this had evaporated into thin air. This new woman, seated before him, was Mariemeia.

And Duo found himself a little annoyed by her superior air.

“You just sat back and watched me, huh?” Duo said. “What were you waiting for me to do? Sprout wings and little horns?”

Duo’s attempt at humour went unnoticed. Or ignored.

“Perhaps,” Mariemeia said, looking for all the world like she was serious.

“We weren’t sure what we were waiting for, Duo,” Lucrezia interjected. “But I’d say that this,” she waved her hand in the air, as if searching for the correct phrasing, “draining and transferring of power you are able to do was something we’d look out for.”

“Being able to draw, amplify and transfer another being’s life is extremely interesting, Duo. And dangerous,” Mariemeia added.

“Yeah, dangerous to who?” Duo asked with a sigh.

“Everyone but you, it seems,” Lucrezia answered.

That wasn’t an answer Duo had been expecting. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but that definitely wasn’t it. “Okay, so the two of you sat around, making sure you had contact with me, and waited to see if I’d become a threat?” Even as he spoke the words, Duo had a hard time accepting it.

Lucrezia shrugged. “That’s about it.”

Duo couldn’t believe it. This was insane. Duo destroyed the monsters who threatened human life, he wasn’t a threat to the very thing he sought to protect! He felt the stirrings of anger in his blood. This was good, anger was easier to deal with than cold detachment. Letting the twinges of fury simmer just below the surface, Duo pressed on.

“So you only found out tonight that I was capable of…whatever the hell I did,” Duo said.

“Catalysing, Duo,” Mariemeia said. “You act as a catalyst.”

Great. Now he had a nice, tidy little term for it.

Lucrezia shifted in her chair, absently plucking at the buttons on the arm of her seat. “No, we found out a little more than a week ago.”

Duo furrowed his brow. More than a week ago? The incident with Heero happened only a few days ago. The only thing that had come even remotely close to what Duo had done to Sally before this was…”Wufei,” Duo said, barely a whisper.

Lucrezia seemed to hear him, or she had guessed what Duo was thinking. She nodded, saying, “When the panther shifted in your apartment, there was a small hint of your ability. Shortly afterward -”

“We had sex,” Duo interrupted shortly.

The priestess coughed delicately, smiling slightly. “Ahh, yes. That would explain it. Something involving high emotion triggered it.”

“Wufei didn’t end up like Sally did,” Duo pointed out. “It wasn’t the same. Yeah, the power rush was there, but that was it.”

Mariemeia tilted her head to the side. “Its possible that you can directly control what you do. You wanted to kill Sally, or at the very least hurt her. Wufei was an entirely different matter. Of course, I am assuming that you were indeed trying to give the shifter pleasure, and not kill him.”

Duo grunted. That made a disgusting amount of sense. “Are you saying I could make it either one? Pleasure or pain?” Duo was pretty sure the idea of killing someone with pleasure was a disturbing thing.

Lucrezia answered this time. “Maybe, maybe not. It doesn’t seem likely, though. If you’re going to kill something that way, Duo, its probably going to be exactly the same as what happened to Sally.”

This was giving Duo a headache. He wanted facts, dammit! Not these stupid speculations. All of this couldn’t be right.

“I’ve had sex before, why didn’t THAT trigger this catalyst thing?” Duo said, hoping he’d found an opening for dispute.

“With a shifter? Or some other preternatural creature?” Mariemeia asked.

Damn. Duo had overlooked that in his haste to argue with their conclusions.

“Okay, okay.” Duo held up his hands, signalling his defeat. “Let’s say you two are right, and I AM a catalyst. What I really want to know, is why you,” he pointed at the redhead, “aren’t dead.”

A flicker of unease showed on Mariemeia’s face. Ah ha.

“Someone,” Lucrezia said, “or something, found out what we were up to. They had plans of their own, and decided that we were in their way.”

“So what was it I found in the middle of your apartment?” Duo asked Mariemeia.

Lucrezia was the one that answered. “A zombie. A very fresh zombie.”

Duo glanced at the priestess, then back to Mariemeia. “And you did something to make it look just like you.”

She nodded.

“Jesus,” Duo said, shaking his head. He quirked an eyebrow. “And whatever came to kill you,” Catherine, Duo reminded himself, “couldn’t tell the difference?”

“I am very good at what I do,” Mariemeia said.

Duo stood back up, walking over to the fireplace and staring down into the dancing flames. “Alright…once you had found out what I could do,” he turned his head slightly, looking back to the two seated women, “what were you intending to do about it?”

“Contain you,” the redhead said simply.

Lucrezia sent a warning glance to her, willing her to speak carefully here.

“Contain me?” Duo echoed, making it a question. He was starting to get just a little bit more pissed now.

“If you became a threat,” Lucrezia amended quickly.

“And am I threat?” Duo asked, a hard edge in his voice.

“To us, personally?” Mariemeia said. “No. To others, like Sally and your Erus? Yes, you are a threat, a very large one.”

“He’s not my Erus, dammit,” Duo said under his breath. Why would Duo be a threat to Heero, and not to them? Sally, he could understand. Duo grinned viciously. He was a threat to Sally, with or without this newfound ability.

Duo turned completely around, wiping the grin from his face. Leaning back against the mantel, he crossed his arms. “And just how would you contain me?” Duo highly doubted the two would try anything here, but they were swiftly moving closer and closer to Duo’s bad side. As if two more on that side would make a difference.

Mariemeia appeared unconcerned with Duo’s rising ire. “A simple ritual that would prevent your power from surfacing.”

Lucrezia looked more and more uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was headed. Duo had several ideas as to why that was.

“A simple ritual, huh?” Duo narrowed his eyes. “How would you define simple, Mariemeia? Say…oh, I don’t know,” Duo rubbed his finger over his cheek, “a graveyard – holy ground works well, I hear – a cosy little fire, a knife, a circle of power, a tree, and an unwilling subject? Oh, and blood. There’s always blood.”

Lucrezia looked even more uncomfortable now, her eyes gone wider. She looked at the slender Wiccan in disbelief.

“So you remember,” Mariemeia said, smiling.

“What did you do?” Lucrezia hissed.

“I did what was necessary, Lucrezia,” Mariemeia snapped. She quickly regained her composure and said to Duo, “I was wondering what had gone wrong. Your Erus is a meddlesome creature, isn’t he?”

Duo felt the urge to state, yet again, that Heero was not HIS Erus. Feeling the futility of it, he opted instead to agree. “Yeah, he is a pain in the ass. I take it that his finding me screwed up your plans?”

“Oh, no,” Mariemeia said, “moving you should have not upset anything.” She tented her fingers, tapping them against her chin. “Whatever he did once he removed you from the graveyard destroyed my efforts.”

Heero had said that Duo was the one who destroyed the spell that was cast on him. Maybe he was stronger than Mariemeia had estimated. Or Heero was keeping secrets again. If he was, Duo wouldn’t be one bit surprised.

“Uh huh,” Duo said, choosing to keep his thoughts to himself. “You do everything by yourself?”

“Do you honestly think I will answer that?”

“No.” It was worth a shot, though. “What are you going to do now?”

The question appeared to startle her. “Excuse me?”

“Well,” Duo said, “your spell failed. I know what you tried to do now. Why tell me all this?” Again, Duo thought he already knew the answer. Either she didn’t consider him a threat – which was what she had said – or Duo wasn’t going to live long enough for it to make a difference.

Lucrezia, who had fallen silent during the exchange, spoke up again. “You went too far, Mariemeia. You could have killed him.”

“That outcome would have been acceptable,” the smaller woman said.

“You’re not who I thought you were,” the priestess replied sadly, shaking her head. Duo agreed wholeheartedly with that statement. “You’re lying if you call yourself Wiccan. No true Wicca practioner would do what you did.”

“I think you’re screwed, Mariemeia,” Duo said, pushing himself away from the fireplace and once again pacing the room. His movements were slow and calculated now. He kept one eye on the red haired woman as he circled the room.

Mariemeia looked at him expectantly.

“I should kill you, ya know. For what you did to me,” Duo said calmly.

“You can’t kill me in cold blood, Duo. And the idea of using your abilities to drain my life away repulses you.” She seemed quite pleased with the fact.

Duo, however, was furious. Fuck it, she was right, and she knew it. The idea of getting Wufei and Trowa to kill her crossed his mind, but he quickly pushed it aside. In the end, it would still be him who ordered her dead. And he refused to use the panthers as mere weapons.

“I hate to tell ya, Mariemeia, but my blood is anything but cold right now. I should turn you over to the Erus, and let him decide what to do with you. He was very angry when he found me. In fact,” he added, an unholy gleam in his eyes, “I think he’s still angry.”

A flicker of fear showed in her eyes again. “I have watched you for years, Duo, and that is one thing I know you will not do.”

“You keep telling yourself that.” Duo turned to Lucrezia. “And you? What about you?”

Lucrezia sighed, sinking back into her chair. “I’ve been misled, Duo. That’s not really much of an excuse though, is it?” She smiled sadly. “The Erus has no reason to offer me sanctuary from those who would kill me, and I’m afraid on my own, it’s only a matter of time.”

Duo nodded. His evaluation of Lucrezia changed in the time they had been talking; just as his thoughts concerning Mariemeia had. He still didn’t trust her, but that was to be expected.

Mariemeia stood. “If you’ll excuse me, I think it is time I left.”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Duo said, turning his attention back to her. “You think this is it?”

She smiled again, and her eyes actually sparkled. “Not by far, Duo. But this is neither the time nor the place. Blame me if you want, but your power is new and uncontrolled. I did what I deemed necessary.” Mariemeia calmly walked to the door, opening it and stepping outside. She turned back, nodding once to Lucrezia and Duo. Then she simply walked away.

Duo stared. “God damn it!” he yelled. What the hell was that!? He let her walk away! Just like that! Oh, he had wanted to stop her. He even had the Glock clutched in his hand. But he couldn’t. No matter how hard he tried, he hadn’t been able to do anything that would have stopped her from leaving.

Whirling to Lucrezia, Duo ground his teeth in frustration. “What the fuck was that!?”

“Compulsion spell, I think,” she said, “very well done, too. I couldn’t do a thing to stop her.”

“God damn bloody fucking hell!!” Duo raged. He fought back the urge to start shooting things randomly. “You!” he pointed the gun at Lucrezia. “Get the fuck out of here. Now. But,” he stopped, trying to calm his breathing, “but you had better be easy for me to find when I want to.” Inspiration hit Duo then, like a freight train. “No, on second thought, sit,” he commanded, changing his mind. Then stormed toward the open door, turning side on so he could keep one eye and the Glock aimed at her.

Wufei!!” Duo bellowed into the empty hallway.

The shifter poked his head out from a door down the hall. He looked up at Duo, a puzzled expression on his face.

“Duo?” he asked.

“Here.” Duo pointed towards the spot directly in front of him.

Wufei quickly walked up the hall, wondering what in the world was going on now.

“Take this,” Duo said, handing Wufei the piece of paper that Iria had given him. “Call Howard; tell him to grab Iria and haul his sorry ass down here now. I want her,” Duo jerked his head in Lucrezia’s general direction, “to go with them. Fill them in on what she is, and tell them to keep a fucking eye on her, I don’t want her disappearing again.”

Wufei nodded, not asking any questions to Duo’s relief. “I’ll get Trowa to watch her while I call.” He gave Duo a quick look. “Are you alright?”

Duo fought back the urge to laugh. He was far from alright. But they’d been over this already once tonight; the list just kept getting longer.

“Keep her alive and where I can reach her, and I’m just fucking perfect,” Duo said. Turning to regard Lucrezia, Duo nodded once in goodbye. The dark haired woman nodded back, and Duo walked out of the room and past the werepanther.

Wufei watched him go silently. When Duo disappeared through the door at the end of the hallway leading up and out of Devil’s Bliss, the shifter called out for Trowa.

*

Duo’s mind was a jumble again. He had never really gotten around to cleaning it up in the past week, and now it was worse than ever before. Mariemeia had never been his friend, Mary-Anne was fiction. Someone the red haired woman had dreamed up in order to get close to Duo. At least Lucrezia had never lied about who she was, hadn’t she? Maybe, maybe not. How could Duo know? Looking up personal files on Lucrezia was starting to seem like a good idea. He was beginning to not trust anyone. Soon, he’d be suspecting himself.

Sighing, Duo kept walking. Devil’s Bliss was far behind him now. The busy flow of the inner city was gradually slipping away the further Duo walked. He didn’t even stop to think of where he was going. He just kept walking.

A catalyst. That’s what Mariemeia had called him; Lucrezia had agreed. Someone who could take and amplify another’s power – their life. And give it to others. If he stole it from one, couldn’t he increase the power and then give it back? The idea gave Duo a measure of comfort. That might be what he had done when he was with Wufei. Taken the shifters power unconsciously, magnified it and then sent it back. It didn’t seem to have affected him negatively, quite the opposite, in fact. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Duo looked up, watching the clouds move overhead sluggishly. The night…morning now, was bright. The moon and stars above shone brilliantly in the blue velvet sky. A slight breeze wafted past Duo, smelling of trees and flowers.

Why would Mariemeia want to prevent Duo from realizing his power? She had said he wasn’t a threat to her, but one to Sally and Heero. And if Duo was a threat to Heero, why was the vampire so intent on keeping Duo both alive and near him? One of those ‘keep your friends close, and your enemies closer’ things? That didn’t make much sense to Duo. If anyone was Heero’s enemy, it was Sally.

And thinking of Sally, it looked like she and Lucrezia were not really that friendly with each other. The voodoo priestess most likely left her home fearing that Catherine and her wolves would come for her next, even though Lucrezia didn’t know it was them specifically out to get her.

Then there was the alliance – friendship? – between Mariemeia and Lucrezia, which, it seemed, had come to an abrupt end. Sally, Mariemeia and Lucrezia…the first two, as far as Duo was concerned, were against him. Sally downright wanted him dead; she had said as much herself, and Mariemeia had wanted Duo’s power to stay latent. Now that it had shown itself, Duo wasn’t sure where the redhead stood. She had said that Duo’s death would suit her just fine.

Duo snorted, the sound breaking the silence of the darkness. He decided to go with paranoia and stick Sally and Mariemeia in the same group: ‘happy to slaughter Duo’. But, Duo thought, the two of them weren’t working together – yet. If Sally wanted Duo dead and Mariemeia wanted Duo’s power contained, the possibility that an alliance would form between them was very feasible. One little thing kept nagging Duo. Why would Sally try to kill Mariemeia, if the so-called Wiccan was attempting to keep Duo from his power? Wouldn’t containment serve Sally’s purposes as well?

Grinding his teeth in frustration, Duo checked his watch. Almost three o’clock. Just how long had he been walking? Not that it had done him any good; Duo had more questions now than ever. He stopped and looked around, hoping to see something he recognized. He hadn’t been paying attention to where he was going.

Duo sucked in a sharp breath. How in the name of Jesus had he gotten here? He glanced back over his shoulder, the lights of the city long since grown dim. It was impossible. There was no way Duo could have made it this far in the short time he had been walking. Was there?

Closing his eyes, Duo turned his head back around slowly. After a moment, he opened them again. And it was still there.

The blackened pile of rubble was still visible under the grass and flowers. Time had almost swallowed up the ruins, along with the help of grief-stricken people. Blossoms grew over the uneven ground; the seeds of the flowers once planted by family and friends had spread and multiplied, creating a startling display of life. Life masking the tragedy.

The Church of St. Jerome Emiliani was nothing more than a mound of burnt earth and tattered greenery. In the light of the moon, all the colour was washed away, leaving only shadows. Shadows of colour, shadows of memory.

Duo walked slowly up the overgrown path, noticing with a pang of sadness that the memorial plaque near the crumbling gate was all but invisible under the grass. The trees lining the path cast dappled shadows over his face. Duo reached the end, crouching down on the balls of his feet and looked over the small plot of land. Unconsciously, his hand strayed toward the cross hanging at his neck.

He could almost hear the laughter of the children. The Father’s voice echoed in his mind.

~”I cannot thank you enough,” the Father had said, laying a hand on the lost man’s head. “His parents will be very grateful.” He had turned to the man then, and said, “Go inside now, and play with the others. They were worried about you.”

The little man had grinned up at Duo, then he took off into the church, yelling for his friends.

“The others?” Duo had asked.

“Orphans. St. Jerome is the patron saint of orphans,” the Father had replied, a sad smile on his face. “He died centuries ago caring for those who had contracted the plague. We – the Sisters and I – continue his work here. We may not be a true family, but it is all we can offer.”

“The children seem happy,” Duo had said, listening to a burst of laughter and giggles.

“Yes….” the priest trailed off, and had turned to face Duo. “What of you, young Duo? What brings you here at this time of the night? Your own family must be concerned for your safety.”

Duo had chuckled softly at that. “No, no. I’m my family. Just me.” He had looked beyond the Father then, into the warm glow of the church. “I guess I have more in common with these kids than I thought, huh?”~

Rousing himself from his memory, Duo gazed up at the sky. The kids had all scrambled out to meet the unnamed man’s saviour. The priest had given Duo the cross as he was leaving, the cross that had hung around the Father’s neck. The same cross that Duo now clutched in his hand.

Duo stood, his mind filled with questions and not a single answer. Is this where it had all begun, the fire only a short few years ago? Or had it begun long before that, long before Duo could remember? And why? Why destroy the church? A shiver passed over him. Had the church been destroyed because of him, were they trying to get to Duo that night? Was he responsible for the death, the destruction?

No. No, he wouldn’t shoulder the blame. The blood, the children’s blood, was on Sally’s hands. And whoever had ordered the church burned. Duo would find them, and he would make them pay.

Duo felt someone at his back. Heero had finally gotten pissed off enough to track him down. Sighing, Duo started to turn around.

“Do you want to know where it all began, Duo?” a voice asked quietly.

What the hell!? Duo whipped around, hand diving under his coat, drawing the Glock smoothly. “Who the fuck are you?” Duo kept the gun pointed down, tight against the blackness of his coat. The black matte of the gun blended into the material. Half of Duo was hoping he wouldn’t have to kill anyone tonight, and the other half was doing a little macabre dance of joy. Just having an excuse to shoot someone would improve his mood immensely.

A small sound of disapproval. “Such crudity.” The figure walked closer, and Duo could make out the features of his face.

Sharp eyes and a thin mouth, drawn into a small smile. High cheekbones and a strong chin gave his face a sturdy, angular look. His hair looked blonde, bleached lighter by the moonlight. Duo couldn’t tell the colour of his eyes. He was tall; he walked smoothly and with a proud bearing.

“It is a shame that innocents should die because of the stupidity of others. Wouldn’t you agree, Duo?” the man said.

Duo grunted. He was getting sick of meeting people who ignored his questions. And sick of people who knew his name, when Duo didn’t have a clue who the hell they were. “I’m pretty sure I asked you a question.”

“Yes, you did.” The man smiled. He was standing beside Duo now, looking at the church’s foundation. “I think you have many questions, Duo. Ones I’d be happy to answer for you.”

Well. That offer was tempting. First things first, though. “Yeah? Alright then, we’ll talk about that in a second. You gonna tell me who you are?”

The man looked at Duo from the corner of his eye. “A friend.”

“Uh huh,” Duo said dubiously. “And you expect me to believe you?”

“It matters not if you believe me, it is the true answer to your question.”

There seemed to be a surplus of annoying people in Duo’s life lately. He fingered the trigger on the Glock, and briefly thought about tucking the gun away. The man seemed unconcerned with the bared weapon, and that prompted Duo to keep it out. He really was getting paranoid.

“How do you know who I am, since I don’t know you?” Duo asked after a moment.

“Many people know who you are, Duo Maxwell, because of your exploits in monster hunting. Is it really surprising that I do?” He slipped his hands into his pockets, appearing at ease with the situation.

That was true enough, Duo supposed. It wasn’t like he’d never had strangers recognize him before. But this guy made Duo jumpy, and he wondered why that was. Probably the fact that he was having a conversation next to the ruined foundation of St. Jerome’s at a decidedly ungodly hour in the morning with a man that plucked the thoughts right out of his head.

“You mentioned answers,” Duo said, eyeing him. Yet another reason to be wary; the almost casual statement that he could provide Duo with answers to his questions.

“I did,” the man said simply.

“How would you know the answers? Better yet, how would you know the questions?” Duo said, not bothering to hide the doubt in his voice.

“Heero is keeping many secrets from you. It is very unfair of him,” the man said, turning his full gaze back to Duo’s face.

“No shit,” Duo said, keeping his tone neutral. Was this guy even listening to what Duo was saying? “I want to know how the hell you seem to know so much.”

The man smiled again, thinly. “That is unimportant; be satisfied that I know. Do you want the answers, Duo? Or will you let the monsters control you?”

Alright, enough was enough. He was starting to piss Duo off with all this mystery shit. “No one controls me,” he ground out.

“No, I suppose not,” the man looked amused. “No one will ever control you.” The amused tone in his voice was replaced by one that was wistful.

Duo had the suspicion that the man was going out of his way to be an annoying prick. “Look, buddy, you’re really starting to piss me off here. What do you want, and where the fuck did you come from?”

“Direct,” the man said, nodding. “Very well, come with me.” He turned to leave.

“Wait just a damn minute here. I didn’t say anything about following you anywhere,” Duo said, frowning. None of this felt right, either the man or the way he was acting. No matter how much Duo wanted answers, he wasn’t about to buy into what some nameless man told him. And the man was doing nothing to make Duo feel one little bit inclined to trust him. “No offence, whoever the hell you are, but I don’t think I trust you enough to blindly plod along behind you.”

“But you trust Heero, do you not?” the man asked.

Hell no. “What do you care about that?”

The man sighed. “You are being difficult, Duo.”

Shrugging, Duo said, “Probably, deal with it.”

“I see,” the man said. He faced Duo again. “Return to your Erus and ask him your questions. Perhaps he will even answer them.” He started walking down the path, his words floating back on the night air to Duo. “But when you truly want to know what is happening, I will find you. I will see you again, Duo.”

Duo watched him leave, his words adding to the jumble in his head. “Crazy fuck….” he mumbled under his breath. And how many fucking times did he have to tell people that Heero wasn’t HIS Erus? Slumping against the nearest tree trunk, Duo leaned his head back and closed his eyes, resting the gun in his lap. He was suddenly aware of how tired he really was.

Weird was the perfect word to sum up what just happened. Duo almost regretted not going with him. Yeah, he wanted answers, but not like that, not from him. With a start, Duo realized that he really did want the answers from Heero. Maybe Duo was just fooling himself, and he actually did trust the vampire. God knows he didn’t trust creepy men that materialized out of thin air.

Several minutes passed, and once again Duo felt a presence nearby. This time, however, it was familiar to him and he instantly knew exactly who it was. Opening his eyes and smiling, Duo said, “Hey, Wuffie. How’d you find me?”

The shifter was standing about ten feet away, a surprised expression on his face. “I followed your scent, Duo. Now, how in the world did you hear me?”

Duo laughed. “Followed my scent, huh?”

Nodding, Wufei walked the rest of the way to Duo. The braided man reholstered the gun, and Wufei settled down on the grass beside him, using Duo’s thigh for a pillow. One of his favourite places to be when they were talking, Duo noticed. Duo admitted to himself that he was fond of it too. Wufei’s eyes were so expressive when he spoke, and Duo could see them clearly with the shifter facing him directly.

“I didn’t hear you,” Duo said after a moments hesitation. He combed his fingers through Wufei’s hair, marvelling again at the texture. “I just kinda…knew you were there.” He laughed. “It the damnedest thing, Wu. Seems like I always know when you’re around, lately.”

The black haired man leaned into Duo’s hand, making a little sound of pleasure. “It’s because I’m yours, Duo.”

Duo opened his mouth to ask what he meant, then abruptly closed it without speaking. Remembering the slight warmth that had passed through his mind when he vocalized his ownership of both Wufei and Trowa, Duo discovered that he already knew what the shifter’s words meant.

Wufei’s eyes partially closed as Duo brushed the hair back from his face. “Mmmm…what are you doing all the way out here, Duo?”

“Trying to sort out the mess that’s supposed to be my brain.”

“No luck with that, I take it?”

Duo lightly slapped Wufei on the shoulder. “Thanks a lot, Wu,” he said.

Wufei shrugged. “You walked into that one.”

“Like a brick wall, huh?” Duo said, twirling a lock of Wufei’s hair around his finger.

“A very large brick wall,” the shifter replied with a smirk. “Howard and Iria arrived soon after you left. They took Lucrezia back to Iria’s hotel room. I think they’re both staying there for a while. Oh, and Howard said to tell you that you’ve got three jobs and one hunt lined up.”

It was Duo’s turn to look surprised. “When did that happen?”

“I didn’t get the details. I think Howard was hanging around your apartment. He didn’t seem to think you’d mind.”

“He’s going to eat every scrap of food we have left,” Duo moaned.

The shifter made a sour face. “Better him than me. When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator, Duo?”

Duo actually had to think about that. “Probably never,” he said finally. “I’ve been busy.”

“Right.” Wufei rolled his eyes.

“Hey, did you see anyone out there?” Duo asked as an afterthought, indicating the tree lined path.

“No. It’s almost four in the morning, Duo. Who would be out here now?” Wufei said. “Besides us,” he added with a laugh. “Why?”

“Nothing…nevermind,” Duo said absently, his fingers stilling in Wufei’s hair.

Wufei sat up with a snort. He leaned over Duo’s legs, supporting his weight with one arm, and moving his face close to Duo’s. “You don’t really think I’m going to believe that, do you? I know you better than that.”

He had a point. “But you’re going to be a good pet and let it drop, aren’t you?” Duo said in a low voice, smoothing Wufei’s lower lip with his thumb.

“Maybe,” Wufei said, letting his eyes drift closed to narrow slits and wetting his lips.

Tangling his fingers in the shifter’s hair, Duo brushed his lips gently over Wufei’s. His warmth wrapped itself around Duo, filling the air with the shifter’s scent. Wufei sighed, resting his hand on Duo’s chest.

That simple kiss was far from enough for Duo. The braided man caught Wufei in his arms, dragging him onto his lap until the shifter straddled him. Duo brought his mouth to Wufei’s again, much fiercer this time. A small sound of desire escaped Wufei’s throat, and he opened his mouth to Duo. Duo delightedly plunged his tongue deep inside, tasting Wufei again.

Firmly pushing Duo back against the trunk of the tree, Wufei forced his own tongue into Duo’s mouth. He felt a surge of pleasure when Duo moaned loudly and moved his hands lower to cup Wufei’s ass.

Wufei explored every corner of Duo’s mouth, running his tongue along the other’s teeth and then once again returning to tangle their tongues together. He pulled away, trailing his lips along Duo’s jawbone, up to lick at the shell of his ear. Duo felt a shiver course down his spine. He buried his face in the crook of Wufei’s neck, nipping at the soft skin.

“Duo,” Wufei whispered into his ear.

Duo made a sound somewhere between a grunt and moan.

Wufei moved his hands behind himself to grasp Duo’s wrists. “Let’s go back, Duo,” he said, getting to his feet.

Somewhat reluctantly, Duo stood. With everything still a jumble in his mind, he wrapped an arm around Wufei’s waist and began walking back to Devil’s Bliss. Duo pushed the troubling thoughts of the nameless man out of his mind. He didn’t want to think about the mess he was drowning in now. He was much too busy entertaining both himself and Wufei with the various naughty little ideas his brain was supplying him with.

*

Of Life’s Blood

By the time Wufei and Duo returned to Devil’s Bliss, the sun had long since crested the horizon. In the early morning, the busy city had finally fallen quiet. The happy chirping of birds and the warm rays of the sun chased away the night. Duo found himself smiling. It was hard to believe, at times like this, the darkness that plagued Duo’s life. Wufei was walking beside him, talking about something that only barely registered on the braided man’s mind.

Would it be better if none of this had ever happened? But that wasn’t even a possibility. Mariemeia had begun to watch Duo long before now…years, possibly. It had been only a few years since Duo had met Quatre. Heero probably had the blonde watching him. Hell, Heero was probably watching Duo himself. But why so much interest in him? Mariemeia, Lucrezia, Heero, Sally…and now the man from St. Jerome’s.

Mariemeia’s explanation of Duo’s abilities seemed accurate enough. She hadn’t mentioned one thing though, and Duo wisely neglected to call it to her attention. If a catalyst absorbed, magnified and transferred power, then it may well be that Duo was in fact a catalyst. But Mariemeia had said nothing about altering the power that had been drawn. And that was what Duo had done. He had stolen Sally’s life and then increased it, and yet, when Duo had given that power to the others, it wasn’t Sally’s power anymore. It was his. Duo had taken it and changed it into his own; it bore no resemblance to the power that had been Sally’s.

“…and Trowa suggested Heero and Quatre join us on stage for a grand finale orgy,” Wufei said, cocking an eyebrow and looking pointedly at Duo.

“Okay, Wu -” Duo’s eyes widened as Wufei’s words sunk in. “What!?”

“Are you listening to me, Duo?” Wufei asked in a small huff.

“I am now, that’s for damn sure,” Duo mumbled under his breath.

Wufei sniffed. “Bah. You never heard a word I said.”

“Does this mean no sex?”

Both of Wufei’s eyebrows shot up.

Duo laughed. “Sorry, Wu, I was busy thinking.”

“About?”

Duo sighed. “Everything. All this,” Duo waved a hand in the air, “mess.”

“Did you have a brilliant flash of insight?” Wufei asked, opening the door to Devil’s Bliss. Inside was dark and quiet. The chairs and tables had been put back into order; the floors swept clean. They picked their way through the tables and to the underground rooms as they talked.

“Huh. Do I look like I’ve suddenly got all the answers?” Duo snorted.

“You look like you haven’t slept in days,” Wufei pointed out. “The Erus was right, you do need to get some rest.”

Duo’s expression turned sour. “Yeah, yeah. Heero’s ALWAYS right.”

“He is the majority of the time.” Wufei led Duo through the red and black entry room and down the hall to Heero’s chambers.

“Where is the Eternally Annoying One anyway?” Duo asked, eying the door meaningfully.

“He’s resting with Quatre, inside,” Wufei nodded his head at the door. “Trowa is keeping watch. Lucrezia explained to the Erus what happened, Duo. He’s not happy.”

“I didn’t think he’d be jumping for joy,” Duo sighed. “So, Heero knows all about it?”

Wufei nodded.

“And the rest of you?”

Wufei opened the door, motioning Duo inside. The chestnut haired man shot Wufei a puzzled look, but went through the door. Trowa looked up from a book he was reading, smiling a little when he saw Duo. Wufei closed the door silently.

“Hey, Tro. Miss me?” Duo said, grinning.

The shifter cocked his head to the side, eyes sparkling. “It’s really very quiet without you around.”

Duo looked sadly at Wufei. “That sounds more like a complaint that I came back,” he sighed.

Trowa slid a bookmark between the pages and set the paperback down on the couch. He rose to his feet smoothly, picking up a bundle of clothes beside him.

“Here,” he said, handing the bundle to Duo, “now you won’t have to steal my clothes to sleep in.”

Duo held up a piece of clothing. Black silk pants, and a matching tank. Should’ve known. Still, the material was so soft and cool against his skin…it was bound to be comfortable.

“This is a not-so-subtle hint to haul my ass to bed, isn’t it?” Duo said.

“Exactly,” Wufei said, smiling.

“Awfully pushy for pets,” Duo mumbled under his breath.

They were right, though. Duo felt exhausted; just mentioning the word ‘bed’ had him yawning. Glancing around, Duo resigned himself to stripping where he was. He dropped the clothes on one of the couches and shrugged out of his coat.

“What about you two?” Duo asked, fumbling with the buckles of his shoulder holster.

“Its daylight now,” Wufei said as Trowa made his way over to Duo’s side, “we’ll take turns keeping watch. Its what we usually do,” Wufei added quickly when he saw the frown on Duo’s face.

Duo didn’t like it, but he couldn’t refute the logic. With Mariemeia back in town now, along with Sally, Duo was actually a little relieved. He trusted Wufei and Trowa. With them around, he’d probably be able to get a good night’s – day’s – rest.

“Thanks, Tro,” Duo said as the shifter helped him remove both gun holsters and the wrist sheaths.

“You’re welcome,” Trowa quietly said, starting to unlace the ties on Duo’s shirt.

Again, Duo felt an urge to protest. He was pretty sure he could manage to undress himself. But it wasn’t like protesting would do any good. And right now, it was just too much of an effort. Somewhat resigned to his fate, he let Trowa slip the shirt off.

Placing his palm on Duo’s chest, Trowa said, “Sit down.”

Duo sat on the edge of the couch and tugged the sleeveless top on over his head. It settled against his skin, wonderfully cool and soft, even if it was a little snug. Trowa knelt down in front of him, untying his boots.

“Did Heero fill everyone in on what Mariemeia had to say?” Duo asked.

“Only us three,” Wufei replied, settling down on the couch where Trowa had been reading. He picked up the book and glanced at the title. “He still doesn’t think the others need to know.”

“At least I agree with that,” Duo said, bending over to unlace his other boot.

Trowa stopped mid-motion in sliding one of Duo’s boots off. A smiled tugged at the corners of his mouth, and he silently offered Duo the Derringer that he had hidden in his boot.

“I’ve probably got a dent in my leg from that,” Duo grumbled, taking the small gun and laying it with his other weapons. It was quite a sizeable pile.

“You do,” Trowa said, rubbing said dent with his fingers.

“Stupid pint-sized gun….” Duo toed off his other boot, his socks, and stood. He undid his pants, automatically stepping away from Trowa and turning his back to them. He really wasn’t in the mood for casual nudity. Grabbing the silk pajamas, he shimmed out of his pants and underwear, breathing a sigh of relief. Trowa always stuck him in the tightest pants the shifter could find.

As Duo was stepping into his new sleepwear, he felt a hand ghost up his naked thigh. Naturally. As if either one of them would pass up the chance to grope him. Hauling up the pants the rest of the way, Duo turned back around, tying the strings together. He bit back a sigh and looked down, meeting the green-eyed gaze of Trowa.

“You said I was yours, Duo.” Trowa’s voice was barely above a whisper.

Duo sat back down on the edge of the couch, leaning forward so that his forehead touched Trowa’s, mimicking the panther’s gesture in the van.

“I know,” Duo said, running his fingers through the soft hair at the nape of Trowa’s neck. The texture was exactly like Wufei’s. Soft and silky didn’t describe it right. Saying it was like velvety fur wasn’t right either. It was warm and smooth, and Duo loved it. He moved his head to the side, so his lips were close to Trowa’s ear. The shifter’s warmth pressed against Duo’s face, filling his nose with his scent. Trowa smelled like heat and clean air. It was what Duo expected a forest to smell like. Fresh, and alive.

“I know,” Duo repeated. “You are mine.”

Duo felt the surge of pleasure racing through Trowa at his words, then the answering surge that flowed through his own mind. Closing his eyes, Duo took a deep breath, then pulled away from the shifter.

“You know,” Duo said, “these clothes seem to fit me amazingly well.” When he opened his eyes, Trowa’s characteristic impish smile had returned.

“They should, Heero bought them for you,” Wufei said.

Uh huh. The vampire was buying clothes for him. Duo really didn’t know what to think about that. To be pissed or to not be pissed…decisions, decisions.

“And you look good in them,” Wufei added.

Trowa nodded, then gracefully got to his feet. “You’re tired, Duo. Get some sleep.”

Duo put his hand on the couch, then pushed himself up. “I’m beat,” he agreed. He looked at the curtains dividing the room. “I guess I sleep there, right?”

“Do you even have to ask?” Wufei scooted down on the couch, making room for Trowa and handing him back his book.

No, he didn’t have to ask. It all still felt…odd, though. Duo sighed. And it starts again, his thoughts were running back around chasing themselves and nipping each other on the ass. Fuck it. He was too tired now to care. He grabbed the Glock out of its holster, making his way past the couches. Trowa raised an eyebrow but didn’t question it. Duo always slept with a gun nearby lately.

He shoved the gauzy curtain aside. “G’night, Wufei, Trowa,” he said. “Or is that good morning?”

Wufei smiled and shook his head. “Sleep well, Duo,” he said, before settling himself back on the couch. Trowa merely looked up from his book and smiled once, then went back to his reading.

Letting the curtain drop behind him, Duo walked towards the bed. Quatre lay near the center of the bed on his side, his face relaxed in what Duo assumed was sleep. Did vampires sleep? Quatre had told him that sleep was more of a convenience, but maybe in the daytime it was different.

Duo shifted his gaze to Heero. The dark haired vampire spooned Quatre, an arm flung over the smaller vamp’s chest. The blood red sheets were pulled up as far as their waists, and Duo stared at the light bronze toned skin of Heero’s chest. The contrast between Heero’s skin and Quatre’s paler tone was almost mesmerizing.

Duo felt his eyes drift over Heero’s exposed body. The dark hair falling softly around his face, the curve of his arm as it wrapped around Quatre. The hard, muscled planes of Heero’s chest were softened by the dim glow coming from the other half of the room. Duo’s gaze was drawn down to where the vampire’s body disappeared under the crimson sheet.

Jerking himself out of his self-imposed daze, Duo walked around the bed to Heero’s side. He set the Glock down on the table with his reach. His eyes wandered back to the two vampires entwined on the blood red silk.

Quatre’s blonde hair mixed with Heero’s darker shade in much the same way as their different skin tones met. Heero’s hand was splayed over the blonde’s chest, his thumb barely brushing one dusky pink nipple. Duo quietly sucked in his breath when his gaze transferred back to Heero’s chest, noticing for some reason the much darker shade of the tiny bud there.

Damn it, now was not the time! There was NEVER a time for this. Okay, he could come to grips with the fact that maybe, just maybe, he would be willing to trust Heero. Trusting him did NOT mean salivating over him. Or Quatre. It was time to sleep now, and one could not sleep when plagued by a raging hard on. At state which Duo was rapidly approaching.

Determined to push all thoughts of a half-naked Heero…a very accessible, half-naked Heero curled around an equally accessible and half-naked Quatre, out of his mind, he sat on the edge of the bed, facing away from them. If he kept as close to the edge of the bed as possible, and stayed facing away from them, maybe he might be able to -

“Duo….” Heero’s voice was soft and heavy.

Shit. Duo heard the rustle of silk sheets against skin as the mattress moved under him. Swallowing the tight feeling that had suddenly appeared in his throat, Duo turned partly around, pulling one leg up on the bed and leaving the other firmly on the floor. He faced Heero, keeping his eyes resolutely on the vampire’s.

That may not have been such a good idea. Heero’s cobalt eyes were heavy-lidded and cloudy with…something. Duo tried to wrench his eyes away. And, he noted, not particularly surprised, that it was impossible to do so.

“Yeah?” Duo said, surprised when his voice sounded shaky in his ears.

Duo heard the sound of sheets falling away from Heero’s body, and he saw the top of one slim hip bared out of the corner of his eye. Heero had rolled over onto his back, keeping Quatre close beside him. The blonde hadn’t stirred.

The dark haired vampire reached out slowly and tugged at the sheet Duo was sitting on. “Get in,” he said.

Duo obediently crawled under the thin sheet, facing Heero. The vampire was moving sluggishly, like it required a great deal of effort.

“Are you alright?” Duo asked. Now, he hadn’t meant to ask that. He hadn’t meant to say anything at all. Just go right to sleep. Why should he care if Heero was alright or not? He cut off that trail of thought before he answered his own question.

“Fine,” Heero answered. “It is day,” was all he offered in way of explanation.

A tiny measure of understanding hit Duo. Even if daylight didn’t knock Heero out completely, something about the time weakened him. Duo realized then how much Heero must trust him. If he wanted, Duo could have the gun in his hand and fired before anyone could stop him. Sure, they could rip him to shreds afterward, but Heero would still be dead.

“Oh,” Duo said with a tiny smile. His eyes were drawn to the small bit of fang just barely visible behind Heero’s lips. Simultaneously, he found himself wondering both what it would be like to kiss those lips and to have those fangs pierce his skin. A shiver ran down Duo’s spine, but not from revulsion.

A slight frown furrowed Duo’s brow. The fact that that thought didn’t disturb him, well, disturbed him. What was he doing, entertaining thoughts about having Heero bite him?

Heero was still watching him.

Duo rolled over onto his back, removing Heero from his immediate field of vision. He closed his eyes, but all he saw in the darkness were the twin blue flames of Heero’s eyes. Duo drifted off to sleep with that image dancing in his mind.

*

Hours later, Duo came back into the world, sighing to himself. He was lying on his stomach, snuggling into his warm pillow. It was so comfortable, it felt like warm velvet on his cheek. He ran the hand closest to his face over the pillow. Licking his dry lips, Duo buried his face deeper into the softness.

At least, he tried to. Now that he was a little more awake, Duo realized that his pillow was a lot firmer than he remembered. He cracked open one eye, blinking a few times to bring the room into focus. Then he looked up and met Heero’s blue eyes staring down at him.

Both of Duo’s eyes shot open as he took full stock of the situation. Quatre was missing, and his ‘pillow’ was Heero’s chest… the, uh, chest which his fingers were absently caressing. He put a stop to that right away. He also came to the conclusion that he was practically lying on top of the vampire, and his leg was currently flung over one of Heero’s. And the warm weight on his back seemed to be Heero’s arm. Well. This was a wonderful position to wake up in. Remember the sarcasm, Duo told himself. Remember the sarcasm.

Duo stayed absolutely still. Shock. Yes, that’s it, he was shocked into stillness. And silence. That’s why he wasn’t moving. Heero’s body was hot underneath his, the heat from the vampire’s bare skin seeping though the silk of Duo’s pajamas. Bare skin? Duo shifted his body. Heero was naked. Completely naked. Completely naked in the same bed as Duo. Duo was presently wrapping himself around a completely naked Heero. The vampire looked very pleased with that fact.

“Gah!” Duo said intelligently, trying to extract himself from Heero’s embrace.

Heero merely crooked an eyebrow at him.

“What are you doing?” Duo asked furiously when Heero refused to loosen the arm he had around Duo.

“What am I doing?” Heero repeated. That was another very annoying habit the vampire had. “I woke up when the grip you had on my arm became painful, Duo,” he said. “As soon as I retrieved my arm, you latched onto me,” he continued with a smirk.

“Uh huh,” Duo said doubtfully. “Do you MIND?”

Heero sighed. “It’s just as well, I’m hungry. And if I’m hungry, you must be ravenous.”

Duo’s hand immediately flew to his neck. Heero seemed to find that very amusing. The vampire somehow managed to move down on the bed so that Duo stayed exactly where he was, but was now looking directly into Heero’s face.

“No, Duo, I didn’t intend to feed on you.” A pause. “Unless you’re offering?” His tone was teasing.

Duo grunted. “You wish. Let me up.”

Heero brought his other arm up to lay it lightly on Duo’s waist. “Why? I’m comfortable,” he said, his face only inches from the braided man’s.

“Uh….” Duo was finding it hard to think. Step one: find problem. Heero was too damn close. Step two: remedy problem. Move so Heero is no longer close. Preventing factor: Heero wouldn’t let Duo move an inch away.

Duo grinned. Heero’s eyes narrowed.

Using the hand that was resting on Heero’s chest for leverage, Duo pushed himself up and over Heero. The vampire grunted as his eyes widened a fraction. Duo, however, kept moving. He rolled over Heero and onto the opposite side of the bed, away from Heero. He was quite pleased with himself.

Or, he would have been, except his foggy brain neglected to factor in one thing. Well, possibly two things. The sheet had been pulled almost entirely off of Heero, baring a continuous line of skin, including one very well formed thigh and buttock. And that led to the second thing; Duo had overlooked the possibility that Heero could and would roll with him, thusly placing the vampire directly on top of Duo, propped up on his arms, with one of Duo’s arms trapped between them.

The situation hadn’t improved.

In fact, it had gotten decidedly worse. Heero’s lower body was pressed firmly against Duo’s, and the thin pajamas he wore were not much of a barrier. Duo swallowed again. Hard.

“That worked well,” Duo said sarcastically.

“That’s a matter of opinion,” Heero replied, his breath tickling Duo’s throat and his blue eyes dancing. The blue fires in them were muted, but Duo still felt his eyes drawn inexorably to them.

“What’s with you anyways, Heero? You’re fucking GIDDY,” Duo huffed. The vampire was acting strange. Duo had seen Heero slightly miffed, pissed, confused, amused, and blank. The last of those seeming to be the dominant expression. Right now, however, Heero seemed…playful. That was troubling.

“We’re going hunting,” Heero breathed.

“Huh?” Duo stopped trying to maneuver his pinned arm out from under Heero.

“Howard has given me the details on the assignments that our task has forced you to neglect,” Heero said easily. “They others have taken care of the three minor ones. You and I, Duo, will complete the last. We hunt.” The vampire’s eyes were bright with excitement. Duo found it infectious.

It had been a long time since he had been asked to hunt down and destroy a renegade monster. Suddenly, Duo was a bundle of excited nerves.

“Species?” Duo asked.

“Unconfirmed. Suspected lupine or feline; possibility of humanoid eliminated.”

“Kill count?”

“Three attributed,” Heero replied. “Two together, one separate. Approximately three miles apart; suburban, exterior kills. A sixteen hour time difference between time of death.”

“You’re good at this,” Duo grudgingly conceded. “But I’m going alone.” It was worth a shot, wasn’t it? Heero couldn’t tag along EVERYWHERE.

Heero actually smiled, a full genuine smile that reached his eyes. Duo felt his stomach drop out.

“No, Duo,” Heero’s voice dropped low. “I want to hunt with you.”

“Are you going to get in my way?” Duo asked sourly. Great. His first REAL hunt in months and he had to drag along Heero the Giddy Erus. Nice to know he’d be helping Heero get his jollies.

Heero looked at him like he had said the stupidest thing in the world. Quite possibly he had.

“Okay, okay, I get it. You’re a vampire, you can hunt.” Duo tapped Heero’s nose meaningfully. “Now get up so I can get my breakfast.” His stomach growled to punctuate his words as he tried to prop himself up on one elbow.

“What would you like for your breakfast, Duo?” Heero asked, not making any movement to get up.

Duo sighed, flopping back onto the bed. “What do you want, Heero?” Damn it. He probably shouldn’t have asked that, given Heero’s current mood.

The vampire was silent for a long time. “Mariemeia is wrong,” he said finally.

What the…? That was a far cry from what Duo was expecting. “Wrong?”

“Yes, wrong. You are not merely a catalyst.” Heero’s eyes had lost their playful glint and Duo felt a little disappointed. “I remember what your touch is like, Duo. For three days I watched over you, and twice you have touched me. Once, you almost owned me.” His cobalt eyes acquired that far away look that Duo had only seen once before.

Duo nodded. He only fully recalled one incident, but he knew what it was like to touch Heero’s mind. Calling it a rush was like saying the universe was big – it didn’t do it one bit of justice. He waited to see where Heero was going with this. A small part of his brain was back to screaming at him again, yelling at him that it was ridiculous that he was having a serious conversation with Heero in this situation. Duo promptly told the voice to shut the fuck up.

“The power that you take, you make it your own. And when you give that power to others, you make them yours as well.”

“I…I know,” Duo said. “What Mariemeia was saying sounded right, as far as it went.” He snorted then. “Like hell I was telling her that.”

The corners of Heero’s mouth turned up in a small smile. Duo half wished he would smile like he had just a few minutes ago.

“Always careful, aren’t you, Duo?” Heero’s eyes shifted back to the present.

“I kinda have to be. Everyone seems out to get me, one way or another. Makes a guy jumpy.”

The vampire shifted slightly, making Duo’s already rising shirt move even further up. Duo felt his breath catch when the bare skin of his stomach came in contact with Heero’s. What the hell was wrong with him? This was Heero, for Christ’s sake! Insanely dangerous master of creepy crawlies; hell, he was the fucking definitive creepy crawly! Duo found his heart rate escalating at an alarming pace. And it had nothing to do with fear. This had gone too far.

“Alright, get to the point or get up, Heero,” Duo demanded, trying to get his body back under control. Heero had to feel the rapid beating of Duo’s heart; he thought his ribs were going to break from the sheer force of it.

“You asked me what I wanted,” the vampire murmured.

“Yeah?” Duo’s stomach did another of those little flip-flops. So much for calming down. His mouth was suddenly dry.

The tiny voice in his head was right, this WAS ridiculous. Duo tried to blame it on some trick of Heero’s, but the vampire had done nothing that he could detect. Even his eyes, the one thing that usually held Duo captive, were just eyes now. Duo found he could look away easily, maybe get up if he wanted to; Heero wasn’t holding him down with that much force. But he didn’t want to look away or get up. He didn’t want to move an inch.

“I want to feel your touch again.”

“What!? What the hell does that mean?” Duo stared up incredulously at the vampire.

Heero’s eyes had changed again, drowning blue. “You know exactly what I mean.”

Duo narrowed his own eyes. Okay, so he did know what Heero was talking about. What the hell was he up to now?

“What the fuck are you trying to do, Heero? I almost killed you the first time, and the second time you pushed me away. Are you with us, Heero? On the same wavelength, right?”

“Duo.”

“What?” the braided man snapped irritably.

“Just do it.”

“Why?”

Duo made the mistake of searching Heero’s eyes for an answer. Looking into the burning cobalt flames, Duo knew he was lost. The rest of his protests died on his lips when he felt the stirring in his mind. Once again, the world slowed down, veiled in color. But not black. This time, he saw the world through vision tinted blue.

“I want to know.” Heero’s lips moved, but Duo heard the vampire’s voice echoing in his mind.

Duo’s world sped back up. He watched the colors of Heero’s eyes blend and merge. “What do you want to know?” His voice sounded detached in his own head.

“If you can own me.”

Lifting his free hand, Duo rubbed the tip of his index finger over Heero’s lips. He opened his mind again, reaching out for the almost familiar sensation of the vampire’s touch. Duo dropped his hand down, splaying his fingers above Heero’s heart. He felt the sluggish beat echo in his mind even as he felt Heero’s power swell up and wash over him.

There was no resistance in Heero; he didn’t try to fight Duo off as Sally had. His life spilled out and into Duo, making his skin tingle and burn. Duo knew he could rip everything from Heero in that moment, take his power, take his life. The vampire was trusting him.

“Heero….” Duo’s voice was husky and low with the rush of power. “I could kill you.”

Heero’s head dropped down, his hair touching Duo’s forehead. “I know,” he gasped.

Lazily, Duo felt Heero’s power mix with his own inside him. It changed, became something more, but retained some part of Heero. It blended and merged like the endless swirl of color in Heero’s eyes. The sensation was intoxicating, every nerve in Duo’s body sang with power so intense it walked the fine line between pleasure and pain. Under his hand, the beat of Heero’s heart sped up as his own heart rate slowed down. The two met in the middle.

Duo’s breathing was labored. He could take Heero’s power, but he couldn’t make it his own, not completely. Letting his eyes close, Duo started to push the transformed power away, out of his body and mind, back into Heero. A small sound deep in the vampire’s throat stopped him.

Struggling to reopen his eyes, Duo met Heero’s gaze. A fine sheen of sweat had broken out over the vampire’s body.

“Does it hurt?” Duo asked with morbid curiosity.

Heero’s lips were parted slightly. The tip of his tongue darted out to wet them. “N-no. It’s…like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” he said, his voice faint. The whiteness of his fangs showed in stark contrast against his lips.

A bemused smile spread across Duo’s face. He held the power back, feeling like his body would explode from the pressure. He had to release it before it killed him. An idea blossomed in Duo’s mind; a better way to return Heero’s stolen energy.

Keeping his eyes on Heero’s face, Duo tilted his head to the side, exposing his neck. The vampire’s eyes widened as comprehension dawned. A fine trembling began in Heero’s arms as he held himself above the braided man.

“Take it back, Heero,” Duo whispered.

Heero lowered his head, his lips brushing the pale skin of Duo’s neck and the throbbing pulse just below the surface.

“Are you…?”

“Just do it,” Duo said with a slightly amused tone overlaying the apprehension in his voice. “Take my blood and take back your power.”

A shudder ran though Heero’s body and a groan was drawn from his throat. Duo clenched his eyes shut, waiting, not knowing what to prepare himself for. Heero’s breath was hot against his neck, then he closed his mouth over his skin. A sharp pain and then a slow burning spread out from the broken skin as the vampire’s fangs sank easily into him.

Duo’s eyes shot back open when he felt Heero begin to suck gently on the wound. He drew Duo’s blood out of his body, bringing the power with it. He could feel it slide through him, touching him in a way that was almost intimate. Duo began to tremble beneath him, sensations washing over him and threatening to drown him under their intensity.

A soft cry escaped Duo. He felt Heero’s hand cradle his cheek as he fed on his blood and their combined power. The energy flowed out of Duo from the wound at his throat, into Heero, and then back inside Duo’s body where his hand was pressed over the vampire’s heart, creating a continuous circle. It flowed though him in a brush of soft velvet.

Duo’s blue-tinted vision swam. He tried to pull himself closer to Heero, arching up towards him and whimpering as the forces inside him escalated until he was certain he would pass out.

Duo swallowed twice, forcing his voice to work. Still, all he could manage was a weak, “Heero….”

Heero’s fingers were shaking where they rested against Duo’s face. He growled deep in his throat, pressing his mouth firmly over the bite. Duo quivered, his fingers digging into Heero’s skin.

Duo felt his eyes drifting closed. The energy he had drawn from Heero was rushing through him now, leaving burning trails that turned icy as they faded away, only to burn again. Then, impossibly, it grew larger, devouring him in frozen flames.

A strangled cry was brutally ripped from Duo as the power exploded over him. He wrenched his arm out from where it was pinned, clutching the vampire to him as if his life depended on it. Heero tore himself away from his neck, throwing his head back with a primitive scream. He stayed there, suspended for a single moment in time before he collapsed, rolling to lay beside Duo and dragging the sheet with him.

Duo fell back onto the bed, his breathing ragged. Twin trails of blood trickled down his neck. He peered at Heero through heavy-lidded eyes. The vampire turned his head, watching Duo with eyes swimming with power and something very much akin to lust or passion. His lips were swollen and tinted red. A small drop of blood trailed from the corner of his mouth.

Duo brought his hand up slowly to wipe away the blood on his neck. He raised his bloodstained hand in front of his face. The blue tainting his vision melted away.

“I couldn’t,” he said, focusing his eyes back on Heero, his hand still raised. “I can’t own you. And you,” Duo swallowed, pushing away the tightness in his throat, “and you can’t own me.”

Heero reached up, covering the red stain marring Duo’s palm with his own hand.

*

Of Death’s Touch

Duo lay back on the crimson sheets, his muddled brain trying to come to grips with what had just transpired. His entire body felt heavy and warm, still tingling with the aftershocks of his and Heero’s combined energy. Feeling strangely calm and sated, he once again turned to look at the vampire that lay beside him.

Heero’s eyes were focused on the pale imprint of Duo’s hand on his chest, above his heart. The mark was rapidly fading away; the skin returning to its darker, bronzed tone. He looked up when he felt Duo’s eyes on him.

“What in the name of Christ Almighty did we just do? And please, for the love of God, don’t say you don’t know.” Duo absently rubbed a hand over the bite on his neck. The spot was tingling, almost burning with residual energy.

Heero looked stumped. That was always a good sign. If you asked Duo, they had just discovered the best fucking alternative to sex in existence. Not that he was going to tell Heero that. Then again, maybe if they combined the two….

“We found the answer to my question,” Heero ventured.

Duo resisted the urge to snort. “No shit.” That was one hell of a way to find out. Something occurred to Duo then, something that he had forgotten to ask Heero. And since they were both wallowing in the glow of something alarmingly akin to post-coital bliss, why not ask him now?

“I asked Wufei what animi motus,” Duo paused. What was that other word that Heero had used last night? “… meus meant,” he finished.

Heero’s brow winged up. “And?”

“Trowa interrupted, said it meant something like soul passion. What the hell is that supposed to be?”

Heero looked at Duo for a second longer. Then he sat up, exposing the gracefully curving lines of his back and…lower things. Duo tried hard not to stare at the rounded bend of Heero’s thigh where it joined his upper body. He wasn’t having much luck.

“And while you’re at it, you can tell me what the hell animi MORTUS means, too,” Duo added.

The vampire leaned down over him, capturing his wrists, one in each hand, and pinning them beside Duo’s head. He moved closer until his face was barely inches away. Duo felt his pulse quicken, Heero once again dominating his senses. Cobalt eyes filled his vision; the rich spicy warmth of his scent filling his nose.

“The first means my soul’s passion,” Heero whispered, touching his lips briefly to Duo’s. “The second….” His tongue darted out to swipe over Duo’s lips. “The second means my soul’s death,” Heero said, pulling away from the shocked man.

Heero released Duo’s wrists, quickly rolling off the bed and wrapping the sheet loosely about his waist. He was gone, the room empty, before Duo’s overtaxed brain could register his passing.

Duo lay still, sprawled on the silken sheets. He flexed his fingers once, then covered his face with his hands, taking a deep breath.

My soul’s passion, or my soul’s death…or both. That’s what Heero had said when Duo had first consciously used his…whatever it was. But damn it, what the hell did it MEAN? Duo realized he was absently rubbing the wound on his neck again. Angrily, he yanked his hand away, sitting up and leaning against the headboard.

Swiftly getting up from the bed, Duo was overcome with a wave of dizziness. He sat back down with a plop. Shit. Try that again.

This time, he rose slower, and was gratified when the dizziness didn’t return. Just how much blood did Heero take, anyways!? That thought stopped Duo short as the reality of what he had done crashed down around him. He had let Heero drink his blood. Willingly. And he had enjoyed it.

Now THAT was frightening.

Shaking slightly, Duo glanced about, trying to decide what to do. He had to do something, or he’d drive himself insane thinking. He was hungry and sweaty; his hair was a mess. He was torn between bathing and eating when a soft knock came from the direction of the doorway.

He looked towards the sound, surprised when he saw Relena standing just inside the door. She had clothing slung over her arm.

“Yeah?” Duo said after a moments hesitation.

Relena inclined her head slightly. “The Erus suggested you bathe. You won’t be disturbed,” she said, walking further into the room, through the curtain and laying the clothes neatly on the bed. “Something for you to eat will be sent shortly. The Erus requested that you remain here,” she finished.

Duo blinked. “Uhh…thanks?” he said, shrugging.

She smiled slightly in amusement, and Duo noticed a small glint of fang. Then she turned and left the way she came.

Duo stared after her. It was hard to tell what she thought about him. Not that it mattered. He glanced at the clothes she had brought in. Sighing, he turned on the faucet and started filling up the bath. While he waited, he unbraided his hair and dug out a couple of towels, keeping them within reach of the bath.

Once there was enough water, Duo stripped and stepped in. Submerging himself to wet his hair, he then began the arduous task of washing it. He hissed when the water came in contact with the bite mark. That stung like a bitch.

He dipped under the water again, washing out as many of the suds as he could. As he washed himself, his thoughts began to wander. Again. He’d really have to do something about that.

This time, however, his thoughts were more focused. In fact, they were focused solely on one thing: Heero. And they weren’t even his usual ‘crazy-ass-vampire-wouldn’t-trust-him-as-far-as-you-could-throw-him’ thoughts. Instead, Duo seemed fixated on how his hand had looked splayed over Heero’s chest, and the feeling of his skin under his fingers. Which probably wasn’t a very healthy thing to be fixated on.

Duo bathed quickly. He started draining the water, and then turned the taps back on. Somehow, he managed to rinse out the rest of the shampoo and soap suds that clung to his hair. Grabbing both towels, he wrapped one around his waist, then used the other to dry the dripping chestnut mass.

Picking up a piece of clothing, he examined it critically. Black straight-legged jeans, somewhat looser than what Trowa would normally stick him in. A thin shirt made out of soft material, also black, with three-quarter length sleeves, and his coat from last night. Duo began dressing, smirking slightly when he noticed Heero had also included black silk boxers. The vampire definitely had a little obsession with the color black.

Duo hauled on the boxers and pants, not at all surprised when both fit him perfectly. He rummaged around for a brush and quickly combed and braided his hair. He had just hauled the shirt on, adjusting the sleeves, when Heero walked in. Well, glided in.

The vampire was fully clothed now, clad in tight pants and a form-fitting sleeveless shirt. All of it, naturally, was black. They were going hunting, but Duo thought that Heero was going just a little bit overboard with the monochrome wardrobe.

“Don’t we look spiffy,” Duo quipped from where he was standing beside the desk. He was looping the holster belt around his waist. “You’re getting carried away with the whole hunting bit.”

Heero reached down, picking up the main part of the shoulder holster. He helped Duo shrug into it. “I’m not allowed to get carried away?” he said, a little too happily.

Duo looked up sharply. Heero’s eyes were sparkling with excitement. “What is with you?” he asked for the second time that night.

The vampire grazed the tips of his fingers over Duo’s neck, where he had bitten him. The spot twinged at his touch, sending little sparks of pleasure, not pain, singing along Duo’s nerves.

“What the hell…?” Duo mumbled, moving away from Heero and towards the mirror. What he saw made him suck in a sharp breath. The twin puncture wounds had healed over. The skin where they had been was shiny, completely smooth. “That was stinging just a few minutes ago. Heero, what did you do?”

Heero looked confused, and Duo realized with a start that the vampire’s nose scrunched up just a little; so little, it was almost imperceptible. And it was kinda sexy….

“It was like that before I touched it,” Heero said, walking up behind Duo and brushing his fingers over the spot again.

Duo felt the slight touch evoke that same twinge of pleasure. Unconsciously, he tipped his head to the side, baring the slender curve of his neck. Duo looked in the mirror, first at his neck and then up at Heero. The vampire leaned down, brushing his lips over the healed wound. The feeling intensified, and Duo melted back against Heero’s body.

“Holy shit,” Duo said as the vampire wrapped an arm around his waist.

“Duo?”

“Yeah?”

Heero grazed his teeth over Duo’s neck lightly, leaving the skin unbroken. He inhaled, breathing in Duo’s scent, and let the breath out slowly. It was hot against Duo’s skin. “I think I may be a little drunk,” he said, pushing his nose into Duo’s hair and breathing deeply again.

Drunk?

“Maybe not drunk,” Heero amended. “How about high?”

Duo tried to ignore the wonderful sensations coursing through his body and keep his power in check. How he was supposed to control anything with Heero hanging all over him was a mystery.

“How!?” Duo demanded.

“On your power and your blood,” Heero replied. Duo swore he could hear a slight sing-song lilt in the vampire’s voice. A drunken – high, whatever – Heero was a very disquieting Heero.

Duo’s heartbeat was steadily getting faster. His body fit against Heero’s perfectly, the heat from the vampire searing into his back. The power inside Duo rose up automatically at Heero’s touch, as if it was desperately reaching out to him. Duo viciously attempted to squash it. His rebellious body was also stirring in response to Heero; blood rushed happily down to his groin. He tried to put a stop to that, too. He wasn’t having much luck with either.

Then Heero interceded. His power washed over Duo in a cool wave, calming and soothing. The twisting inside him subsided, until it was only a gentle humming just below the surface. Duo’s mind and body quieted, the pleasure he felt at Heero’s touch was still there, but muted now.

“We still have a renegade to destroy,” Heero said, pulling away from Duo.

Duo remained frozen, quaking in his proverbial boots, for a moment longer. Then, turning to face Heero, he said, “All this is confusing the hell out of me, you know that, right?” Actually, what he wanted to say was, ‘hell, let’s forget about the monster and just jump each other right now.’

Heero smirked. “Work first, play later.” Duo had said the first sentence out loud, right? Not the second?

Narrowing his eyes, Duo said, “Are you really high?”

The vampire nodded. “A little.”

“This is crazy.”

“Most definitely.”

“Shut up.”

Then, to Duo’s surprise, Heero reached out and grabbed his hand and started hauling him across the room. Duo sputtered, but managed to snag the rest of his weapons on the way out the door.

*

Duo eyed the motorcycle doubtfully where it sat in the side alley. A shiny black color, it was crafted for speed, with the driver, and consequently, the passenger leaning down low over the body of the bike. Heero tossed Duo a sleek matching helmet, which he deftly caught.

“You drive?” Duo asked, failing to keep the shock from his voice.

“Of course I drive,” Heero said, settling down on the bike.

“Maybe we should just walk…or let me drive,” Duo said hopefully. Heero was still acting just a little too happy for his liking.

“Nonsense. Get on.” The vampire patted the seat invitingly.

“Why aren’t you wearing a helmet?” Duo said, delaying what now seemed to be the inevitable.

“Duo, be serious,” was all Heero said.

“I am being the serious one,” he muttered under his breath. Still, he jammed the helmet down over his head, and somewhat timidly seated himself on the motorcycle behind Heero. He rested his hands lightly on Heero’s hips, wriggling his fingers in through the belt loops of his pants.

Heero engaged the bike, revved the engine a few times, and took off like a shot

“Jesus! Heero!” Duo screamed at the top of his lungs. His arms came up around the vampire, holding on to his waist for dear life and tight enough to bruise a human. Heero’s laughter floated on the night air long after they had rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.

*

Duo’s legs were not wobbly. No sir; steady as a rock, he was. That’s what he kept telling himself as he walked beside the speed demon he usually called Heero. Well, usually he called him some little nickname that was borderline insulting, but that was a technicality, really.

They were following a small walking trail just outside the city. There had been another attack, the time placed between the first two found. That meant three separate attacks in less than sixteen hours. Duo had been informed when he had arrived at the police department for the files on the previous attacks. At least he had managed to walk steadily through the station after the hair-raising ride Heero had put him through.

Duo looked up and saw a male uniformed officer waiting on the edge of the scene. The yellow police tape was wrapped around the trees, standing out in stark contrast against the brush. The forested area was flooded by light coming from several spotlights the cops had set up. The crowd that usually crawled all over crime scenes had thinned out. Looked like Duo was the last one called in.

“Duo Maxwell?” the uniform inquired, looking at the braided man.

“Yep,” Duo said, stepping ahead of Heero.

“Who’s he?” the officer grunted, jerking a thumb in Heero’s direction.

“A menace to society,” Duo mumbled under his breath before saying, in a louder tone, “He’s with me, helping me track down the renegade.”

The cop looked at Heero with narrowed eyes. “Huh,” he said, “right then. This way.” He turned away, ducking under the tape without looking to see if they were following.

You! You there!”

Duo looked up, grinning when he saw the familiar figure storming his way. Detective Trant Clark always was the vocal type.

“What are you doing traipsing all over my scene?” Clark demanded, jabbing a finger at Duo.

“Traipsing? Me? Come on, Clark, give a guy some credit,” Duo said, laughing. “I haven’t traipsed over evidence since the Hewlett episode years ago.”

And that really wasn’t by choice. When an eight foot tall troll hauls your ass over the bloody remains of its last meal – incidentally, a family of four – it’s usually not because it was your idea to begin with.

“Well, I’ll be damned. Duo Maxwell, are you the one they called in on this one?” Clark said, a smile emerging.

“In the flesh.” Duo reached out and clasped Clark’s hand warmly. “What are you doing back? I thought they had enough of you at the station?” It was hard to imagine Clark working steadily at a desk job.

“CopCity? Shit, Duo, you know what the desk mites are like.” Clark motioned for them to continue walking.

“Still can’t tell their ass from a hole in the ground, huh?” Duo said, falling into step beside the detective. Heero eyed the man suspiciously, then took up his position beside Duo.

Clark chuckled. “They’d love to hear that one.”

“You should tell them someday,” Duo replied. “When you’re ready to retire.”

“So, are you going to tell me who he is?” Clark asked, indicating Heero.

“Ya know, that rookie at the tape needs a swift kick in the ass,” Duo said. He had no idea if Heero wanted his name known, so he’d be damned if he was just going to spit it out. The vampire hadn’t said a word since they had sighted the cops; his little high had abruptly evaporated.

Clark snorted. “Rookies. He let the both of you in without even so much as a glance at any ID. I swear, this place went to pot after I left.” He shot Duo an appraising look. “Now that you’re done trying to change the topic, either you tell me who blue-eyes is, or he waits back at the tape.”

“Heero Yuy,” the vampire said, “I am assisting Duo on the hunt.”

One of Clark’s eyebrows winged up. “The hunt, huh? Detective Trant Clark, of the 35th.” He held out his hand.

Heero merely flicked his eyes down, then, ignoring the offered hand, inclined his head in acknowledgement. Man, oh man, was the bastard charm flowing tonight.

“Right,” Clark said, withdrawing his hand and eyeing the vampire suspiciously.

They were standing on the edge of a section of torn earth, the grass ripped away and the exposed dirt muddied. Duo wrinkled his forehead. Mud? It hadn’t rained in days. He searched the area with his eyes. Pieces of white showed scattered about, streaked with brownish stains. The entire place stank of violent death. A nice mix of outhouse and old blood.

“What the fuck am I looking at?” Duo said.

“They tell me it used to be a man,” Clark said sadly. He shook his head. “I think my brain refuses to believe it.”

Duo blinked. “Holy shit. There’s nothing left.” He was thankful for that. Nothing on the ground resembled anything that could be a part of a human being. Swallowing once, and immediately regretting it as the stench lodged in his throat, he said, “You got a definite on the species?”

Heero was critically studying a lump of something. He balanced on the balls of his feet easily as he leaned down. Raising his head and doing what suspiciously looked to Duo like sniffing the air, he said, “A were. Most likely feline. This area is close by the other two. It possibly rests in the same place between strikes. Or, it hasn’t rested yet, which is the higher possibility for a renegade capable of this.” He straightened gracefully.

Clark eyes widened slightly as he whistled. “You’ve got a good one here, Duo. Second sweep concluded the same.”

For some reason that Duo was quite reluctant to discover, he felt a surge of pride. Duo mentally kicked himself again in an effort to discourage his own thoughts. Oh, yes, his little Erus was just so gosh darned intelligent.

“Thank you,” Heero said dryly and Duo noticed with a start that the vampire had looked at him when he said it.

“Ahh, anyway,” Duo pressed on, “you mind if we have a look around?” he asked Clark.

“We’re done here. They’re,” he looked over at a crew waiting nearby with various bits of equipment, “going to scrape up whatever of him is left and bring it in. Just don’t walk on him.”

That might be harder to do than it sounded.

“Thanks, Clark. I’ll let the mites know when I get something,” Duo said, letting his eyes rove over the area again.

“You do that. They had a unit working on it, but they came up with zip. I told them they should have called you in first,” Clark clapped a hand on Duo’s shoulder, then walked away to join the waiting crew.

“And the hunt begins,” Heero said softly, the sparkle back in his eyes.

Duo resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “I should just let you run off and kill it for me,” he grumbled. “Go fetch.”

The leafy trees had grown close together, the ground riddled with large roots that thrust up from the earth. Aside from the path that the cops on scene had taken and the muddy spot that was the victim, the underbrush looked for the most undisturbed. A werewolf could move unnaturally quickly and silently through a close forest, but Duo doubted it would leave absolutely no trace of its passage behind.

On an impulse, Duo looked up. The branches and leaves formed a tightly knit ceiling, blocking out the moonlight. The trees themselves were huge, stretching high above their heads.

“You think it’s a cat?” Duo asked the vampire.

Heero followed Duo’s gaze. “Not only one.”

“Yeah,” Duo scratched the back of his head. “Those branches are thick enough to support a shifter, a cat could have used that to get around and jump our mud pie here. Explains why there’s no other signs down here.”

“It may have been avian,” Heero said after a moment.

Duo snorted. “Oh, come on, we both know it was feline. You already said as much yourself. Look up there. It’d make one hell of a racket getting through that mess.”

The vampire flashed Duo a feral smile. “Let’s go find out.” Heero glanced around once, searching for something. Finding whatever it was he sought, he launched himself into a smooth run, heading straight for the trunk of a tree. A few feet away from it, he neatly kicked off the ground, hitting the trunk for a split second before pushing his body away again in an almost seamless movement. Heero reached out, latching onto one of the branches and hauling himself up.

Duo blinked stupidly. Holy hell. That was something to see. He quickly glanced back at the remaining officers. None appeared to have seen Heero’s little display. As if it was that hard to miss.

“Duo, come here,” Heero’s voice reached Duo from somewhere above him.

Looking back up, Duo saw the vampire walking easily along a branch with perfect balance.

“How the fuck am I supposed to get up there? Jesus, Heero,” Duo snapped. Heero’s show had unnerved him just a smidgen.

Instead of answering, Heero jumped with ease down to a lower limb and moved closer to the trunk. He looked back at Duo, lying down on the branch and holding out a hand.

“Oh, fuck it,” Duo said, throwing his hands up in the air.

Heero was still a good distance up, further than he could reach, anyway. Shooting one last glance at the milling uniforms, he ran over the ground, jumping up and reaching for the vampire’s outstretched hand. He felt Heero’s hand close over his forearm at the same time as his own hand grabbed the vampire’s arm. And then he was effortlessly pulled up beside him.

Standing up, Heero brushed off his clothes and said, “You can see much more from here.”

“No shit,” Duo replied, sitting on the rough surface.

The vampire was off again, moving over and in between the limbs and leaves as if he was on flat ground. “You were right, a flying shifter would have too much difficultly moving though this. We are looking for something that has the ability to move through tree branches.”

Duo remained sitting where he was. “Leopard, jaguar, cheetah, tiger, maybe a lion.”

“You forgot lynx, bobcat and caracal,” Heero said from his perch higher above Duo.

“What the fuck is a caracal?” Then he grinned. “A werebobcat?”

The vampire smirked. “It’s very rare.”

“I can see why,” Duo snorted. A werebobcat. That had to be one of the funniest things he’d heard of in a while. “Aren’t two of those three you named kinda…ya know, small?” He lifted both of his hands, holding them a few inches apart.

“Normally, yes. Shifters don’t follow the normal rules, Duo.”

“Huh. Anyway, what are we looking for up here?”

Heero was moving around again. “Tracks. Claw marks, specifically.”

“Riiight. Let me know if you find anything, o great hunter.” Duo looked apprehensively down at the ground. It wasn’t that far away a minute ago, was it? He took a deep breath and pushed himself off the branch, landing with a muted thump.

The cleaners were finishing up scooping up the remains as Duo made his way over to a rock. He sat down and waited for Heero to finish playing monkey.

Things were getting a lot more than complicated, and Duo almost itched to begin the chase. He already had a good idea of where to begin looking. The three attacks had taken place fairly close by, and in his experience, renegades never missed the opportunity to strike if it was favorable to them. Granted, this time around he didn’t have Mariemeia’s help to track it, but he had something better. He had Heero.

“We should begin now,” Heero said, back on solid ground and standing beside Duo.

“Fuck!” Duo exclaimed, jumping. “You frightened the living shit out of me, Heero! Give me some warning next time, will ya?”

“You would have heard me had you wanted,” the vampire said cryptically. “We should go north first, maybe angle towards the west slightly. It came from that direction.”

Duo pushed himself up off the rock and started picking his way carefully through the brush. “You think it’s still active?”

“Perhaps, but most likely not,” came the answer. “As long as you aren’t crashing about, I’ll be able to hear it if it comes close.”

Duo didn’t bother to reply to that.

*

Some time later, Duo signaled for Heero to stop. The vampire was just damn spooky, walking through the bushes without making so much as a whisper. At quick glance at his watch showed that it was half past twelve.

The trees had thinned somewhat the further they had moved, why, Duo didn’t know. Geography never was his strong point. It had made moving quietly easier, but Duo was careful to make enough noise to alert the renegade. He didn’t want it sneaking up on him, but he didn’t want it to miss him either. Renegades were not noted for strategic thinking, though usually any animal could tell when it was being hunted. The desire to kill in renegade shifters usually overran everything else, making them aggressive in almost any circumstance.

Turning to Heero, Duo silently mouthed, “Above, my right. Watching.” He hoped Heero could read lips, he didn’t want the renegade to know he had been spotted. The subject of lip reading hadn’t really come up in conversation.

Apparently, he could, because the vampire nodded. Of course, he could have already spotted the shifter, and was waiting for Duo to notice. How nice of him.

Heero’s eyes took on a different light then, and he stepped close to Duo and effectively backed him up against a nearby tree. His rich blue eyes were swimming with possibilities. Sinful ones.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Duo hissed, feeling his pulse pick up speed.

Now was not the time for supernatural hanky-panky. And that looked to be exactly what Heero had in mind. The vampire dipped his head, brushing his lips over the silvery skin at Duo’s neck, exhaling a warm puff of air. Duo felt the small tingling begin in response to Heero’s touch. Suddenly his throat felt dry and he swallowed dryly.

“Giving an opportunity,” Heero replied, bracing both hands against the trunk and pinning Duo between his arms.

Opportunity? Opportunity for WHAT? Duo’s hands were resting against the tree by his sides and Heero leaned closer, pressing the length of his body against Duo’s. Think, think, think! Unfortunately, his brain decided to take a little holiday as the vampire nuzzled his neck, a hot, wet tongue darting out to taste his skin. Duo’s eyes slid closed when Heero licked a trail up the side of his neck, stopping to torture the sensitive patch of skin just below his ear. His head fell back against the tree and he moaned quietly.

Duo tried to keep the rising tide of his power in check, but it seemed that it was drawn to Heero. The heat of the vampire’s body pressed against his combined with the startling sensation of Heero’s mouth on his skin was evoking a reaction he could do nothing to prevent.

At least he tired to prevent it. Not really hard, though.

“Stop,” Heero whispered into his ear. “Don’t fight me.”

Heero was an idiot. Plain and simple. They couldn’t afford this now, not with the shifter so close. It occurred to him that pushing Heero away would probably be the next logical step, but his body didn’t respond. The power singing through his veins overruled and conquered him.

Gradually, Duo realized the night air was not as quiet as it had seemed only minutes before. The breeze rustled the leaves, and he could hear the sound of mosquitoes buzzing nearby. He heard the sound of the renegade approaching on quiet feet. Then Heero’s mouth closed over his, sending liquid fire searing through his mind.

Heero’s lips were surprisingly warm and soft. The kiss grew harder, and Duo felt the sharp points of fangs pressing against his lips. He parted his lips, a surge a pure pleasure racing through him when Heero ghosted his tongue over his bottom lip. Then his tongue was inside Duo’s mouth, stroking and exploring. Duo’s hands slid around Heero’s waist, pulling him close.

Duo felt his muscles go lax, and a deliciously lazy feeling spread through his body. It clashed with the burning just below the surface of his skin, sending tiny shocks running through him. Heero’s kiss was soft, then hard. Demanding and entreating at the same time. And there, underneath it all, was the hot, spicy taste of Heero’s own particular brand of darkness. Just this one, small taste, and Heero was flowing through his veins, making Duo want more. He wanted sex and power. He wanted to take everything Heero had to offer. Above all, he wanted Heero.

The rate of the shifter’s footsteps changed; it had broken out into a run. A savage roar echoed around them as the renegade pushed off the ground, leaping towards them with claws and fangs bared. Duo heard it, he could even feel the rush of gratification the shifter felt as it closed in on its prey. At the last second, Heero flung them both out of the way. Duo caught the flash of a smile on the vampire’s face as the renegade crashed into the tree trunk.

“Holy Jesus!” Duo swore, rolling away from Heero and surging to his feet. His head was fuzzy from the vampire’s kiss. This was most definitely NOT a good way to hunt. The Glock was in his hand and ready before the scene in front of him fully registered on his brain.

The shifter – a dark colored jaguar, Duo noted – was stalking around Heero. It snarled at the vampire, darting forward to swipe at him with a huge paw. Heero moved quickly, the cat only touching air.

Duo sighted on the shifter, but hesitated to pull the trigger. Heero was calmly dodging each of the shifter’s attempts to strike him, making the cat appear clumsy. It roared in frustration, leaping at the vampire. Again, Heero deftly moved out of the way, this time grabbing the scruff of its neck and using the shifter’s own momentum to slam it into a tree.

The great cat staggered to its feet, dazed. Blood and flecks of foam flew from its mouth as it snarled at Heero, raking the air with its forepaws. Duo stood frozen, watching in shocked amazement as Heero toyed with the beast. His reawakened power sang just below the surface of his skin.

The cat whirled on its hind legs, away from Heero. Its enraged eyes fell on Duo and, with another savage roar, it launched itself straight at him. On reflex, Duo sighted and fired, rolling to the side. He heard the tearing of flesh as the scatter shot hit home. The shifter went down in a flurry of blood and claws.

Duo stayed down on one knee, the Glock still trained on the fallen renegade. He hadn’t seen where his bullet struck. The shifter growled, trying to get its legs under itself. Duo’s finger started to ease back the trigger again.

“No,” Heero said, standing beside Duo. “Something is wrong.” He looked down at Duo, his blue eyes fathomless. “Force it to revert.”

Duo risked a glance out of the corner of his eyes at the vampire. “Say what?” Maybe Heero had gotten knocked around and Duo had missed it.

The renegade collapsed again, its shoulder too wounded to support its weight. Still, the injury would heal if given enough time.

“You once forced Wufei and Trowa to shift, force this one to revert,” Heero repeated.

Heero definitely hit his head or something. “And how the hell am I supposed to do THAT? I used Sally’s power before.”

“Use the shifter’s,” the vampire said, motioning towards the struggling cat.

Duo got to his feet, blowing a lock of hair from his face. He kept the gun pointed at the renegade. “Right,” he said dubiously.

He didn’t have a clue why the hell he was listening to Heero; he should just shoot the damn renegade and be done with it. But if Heero thought something was off…he was going to kill the shifter either way. He didn’t relish the thought of killing it by draining its life away, though. If he couldn’t do what Heero asked, then he’d take care of it the way he had intended to from the beginning.

Then there was the fact that Duo wasn’t even sure how to control the power inside him. It seemed like it was quite attached to Heero, for some reason. How in the name of God was he supposed to make sure it targeted the shifter and not him?

“Just try, Duo,” Heero said, standing very close to him.

Easy for him to say. Duo relaxed, and simply stopped fighting against the energy. It rose up, swallowing his mind and body. Again, the world slowed down, veiling itself in shadowy blackness before once more resuming its normal speed.

Duo could feel Heero beside him, his impossibly slow heartbeat echoing in his ears. Of its own accord, his power tried to reach out to Heero, shifting the coloring from black to blue. Duo ruthlessly pulled it back. Heero was not his target this time. The blue veil bled slowly away, changing again to black.

Focusing on the wounded were, Duo felt its energy drain into himself. The rush of joy and pleasure at the intensity of the power filled Duo’s mind. Detachedly, he realized that, while it was powerful, it paled in comparison to the touch of Heero’s mind. His skin tingled, but he couldn’t feel the velvet touch of the power mixing with his own inside him. Duo simply took the energy and made it into his own.

“Remember what you are trying to do, Duo,” Heero’s voice echoed in Duo’s mind. “Don’t kill, transform.”

Shocked, Duo realized that the shifter was barely alive. He savagely pushed the power away, back into the cat. For one instant of stunned revulsion, Duo thought he was too late, that he had taken too much. Then, the air around the fallen renegade shimmered, and it reverted back to human form with a great explosion of air.

Duo’s entire body pulsed with the rush of power. He cast about, searching for more. His eyes settled on Heero. Duo wanted another taste of the vampire’s energy. He didn’t even register that his hand was reaching out towards him, aiming for Heero’s heart.

Heero took a step back. “No, Duo, not now,” he said, almost regretfully. “The renegade.”

Duo blinked rapidly several times, the reality of what he was doing crashing back down around him. Abruptly, his vision cleared, and he looked around with normal eyes again. He saw the naked form of a man lying face down in the brush, his shoulder a mess of blood and tissue.

A slow, rhythmic clapping echoed on the night air. Duo turned around slowly while Heero took a step towards him, standing close enough so that they touched.

“Simply amazing,” a man said, stepping out from the shadow of a large tree. “As is to be expected from you, Duo.” He was smiling pleasantly. “I am certain Sedici is happy that you spared his life.”

Duo shot him a hard-eyed look. It was the same man he had met at the ruins of St. Jerome’s. “What do you want?” he demanded.

The man ignored him, turning instead to Heero. “Hello again, Heero,” he said, inclining his head in greeting. “It has been such a very long time.”

*

Mortality’s Requiem

Duo felt his jaw drop. “What the fuck!? You – ”

/Hush, Duo,/ Heero’s voice echoed in the depths of Duo’s mind.

Turning incredulous eyes on the vampire, Duo choked on his next words. The little shit was inside his head again! Only this time, the words rang clear as if he were speaking aloud. He opened his mouth to tell Heero to get the hell out of his mind when the vampire continued.

/Listen to me for once and be quiet!/ Heero snapped. /For once…trust me,/ he finished, the voice in Duo’s head growing softer. He was staring straight at the man, seemingly unconcerned with Duo.

Duo clamped his mouth shut and resisted the urge to snort. He had let Heero snack on him, what was clamming up for a few minutes compared to that. And he was more than a little curious about the stranger.

Heero spoke again, this time out loud and addressing the man. “It has been a long time, though nowhere near long enough.”

The man smiled broadly. “Ah, little Heero, you wound me,” he said.

Duo blinked in astonishment.

“No,” Heero replied, “I amuse you.”

The man chuckled. “Perceptive. You have grown. Perhaps it would be wise to not call you little from now on.”

Duo risked a glance at Heero’s face, amazed at himself for staying quiet this long. His eyes had nearly popped out of their sockets when the man had called Heero ‘little’. Duo wondered idly how long the laughing stranger had left to live.

The vampire’s cobalt eyes were cold, dispassionate. “Perhaps. Wisdom never was one of your virtues.”

The man’s smiled wavered, his eyes glinting in the moonlight. He strode closer. “Be mindful, Heero. Your power has not increased so much that you could face me and hope to survive.”

The Erus had moved closer to Duo, stepping in front of him. Shielding him. Duo bristled at the protective movement. He could damn well take care of himself. Then a rustling from behind distracted him. The shifter had struggled to his knees, his shoulder reknitting itself quickly now.

“Believe what you want, Odin,” Heero said, the man’s name leaving his lips like a curse. “Call back your animal or I will have it destroyed.”

The man called Odin gave Heero an appraising look. “You will, will you? And how do you expect to accomplish that? Will you use your new plaything to drain the life from his very soul?”

/Duo, be still!/ Only that sharp command shouted in the recesses of his mind kept Duo from shooting the man right there and then.

“You cannot control him,” Odin said.

“You’re assuming,” Heero countered, refusing to fall into the formal rhythm of Odin’s speech. “One of the only two worthwhile things you ever taught me was to never assume.”

Duo could have sworn he saw a flicker of unease pass over Odin’s face, but it was gone as quickly as it had come.

“You assume that Death trusts you, do you not, little Heero? Why should he trust you, when you hide everything from him?”

Beside him, Duo felt the vamp’s body go tight with tension as Odin echoed the very thoughts that had been plaguing Duo for days.

“You have done nothing, nothing to gain his trust. You have used him, hidden from him what he is and what he could be with your childish games,” Odin continued, his voice burning icy trails through Duo’s mind. “You have not gained, you have lost.”

The were behind them had struggled to his feet, the wound fully healed. Duo sensed the first tentative brushes of the shifter’s power as he started to change again.

“Call off fur face before I turn him into a bloody pulp,” Duo said, ignoring Heero’s earlier request to remain quiet.

A smile leapt back onto Odin’s face. “Ah,” he said, cheerful once more. “He is not yet completely yours, little Heero.”

Heero’s coldly focused eyes narrowed. “Believe what you want,” he repeated.

Duo’s eyes flickered first to Heero and then to Odin. The two of them were discussing him as if he were a new toy to be claimed. He felt hot rage burn deep in his stomach.

/Trust me,/ Heero repeated softly inside Duo’s mind. /Please./

Maybe it was the please that did it. Maybe Duo was just feeling generous. Heero’s touch on his mind felt hesitant and unsure, nothing at all like the Heero that he had grown to know. Duo slammed a lid on his anger, stuffing it away into a corner of his mind.

“Prove that you can control this energy, then.” Odin gestured at Duo. “Use him to save your miserable existence; destroy the shifter.”

Silence followed his challenge.

“He is not yet yours,” Odin insisted.

“No,” Heero answered. “I won’t put Duo on display for your twisted games.”

That little declaration earned Heero a few points in Duo’s book. Didn’t look like Odin was too impressed.

“You are naïve and weak,” Odin stated simply. “But very well, use him to protect yourself from me then, if you can.”

Okay, that was it. Duo brought the Glock up smoothly and fired another shot into the shifter, sending him sprawling back onto the ground from a leg wound. At the same time, he drew the Browning from underneath his coat, training it on Odin

“How about we fight to save your life, hot shot?” Duo snarled. “One more hit and your shifter is only so much meat. You wanna try your luck?” One more shot wasn’t likely to take the shifter out, but it would give Duo the chance to empty a clip into him. The math worked fine for Duo.

“Kill him then,” Odin said, unruffled. “He is only a tool, to be used and discarded when he is no longer useful.” He paused, weighing his next words. “Much like Heero has and will continue to use you, Duo,” he added, fixing his gaze firmly on the braided man.

“Bullshit.”

Odin smiled. “So…American. Do you honestly think you mean anything to Heero? He is a killer, trained and willing. He is a monster. His only interest in you is for your power, and what he can use it for.”

Duo felt his anger spill out over, engulfing him. “No,” he said, tightening his grip on both guns. “No.”

“Yes,” Odin pressed. “He will defend you in order to keep you for himself.”

“Yeah, like I believe you,” Duo snapped though the cloud of rage that covered his brain. “And you’re telling me this because you’re my friend, right? We’re REAL good buddies.”

Heero remained quiet and still beside him. Duo could taste the vampire’s fury seething just below the surface. Why wasn’t Heero denying it? He was waiting, Duo decided. Waiting for Duo to make his own choice.

The shifter struggled to his feet, lurching towards Duo. Duo angled his body, looking at the blood-covered man that stumbled towards him. Without warning, he fired, dropping the were back to his knees. He fired again, taking out the heart. Dark blood, kill blood, surged from the ragged hole, seeping into the ground. Duo paused, coldly analyzing. He fired a last time, ensuring that the shifter would stay down for good.

“Ya know, that’s the funny thing, Odin. I’m a killer, too. Trained and willing. Now let’s talk about saving YOUR sorry ass,” Duo said through clenched teeth. The stink of fresh death assaulted his nose.

Surprise registered on Odin’s features.

“What’s the matter, old buddy?” Duo taunted. “Didn’t really expect me to off your cat?”

“He is very brazen, isn’t he, Heero?” Odin said, his smile turning wry. “You have deprived me of this evening’s entertainment,” he continued, shifting his focus back to Duo.

“Oops,” Duo said, sounding not at all contrite.

“Enough of your idiotic games, Odin,” Heero said at last.

“Enough?” Odin echoed. This was probably where Heero had picked up that annoying habit of repeating people. Duo considered that sufficient grounds to kill the man.

“Oh, but Heero,” Odin went on, “it is not enough. It is never enough.”

/Is he ever going to stop rambling?/ Duo thought to himself, partly to see if he could speak to Heero in his mind in addition to hearing him and partly out of pure frustration.

/It may take him a while,/ Heero replied dryly.

/What the fuck does he want?/ Duo asked.

/He should get around to telling us that eventually./

/Great. By the way, Heero…this is really fucking neat./ It scared Duo more than a little, having the vamp inside his head. Although he did have to admit that it was convenient.

Duo saw the corners of Heero’s mouth twitch.

Odin had fallen silent, looking at them appraisingly. “I am truly surprised, Duo. Truly surprised. You’ve let him inside you.”

“Well, gee,” Duo said mockingly, his voice full of contempt. “Where the fuck have you been, buddy? First you tell me you’re my friend, then you suggest Heero fight your shifter – who, incidentally, looks a little dead – and THEN you’re back to trying to convince me that Heero is using me. Pick a tactic and stick with it, will ya? You’re making my teeth ache.”

Odin sighed wearily. “Very well, Duo. Heero cannot control you, though he is steadily chipping away at your defenses. You did not trust him, yet you find yourself beginning to. You distanced yourself from him, yet you somehow always find yourself back in his questionable company, most often times alone. He is inside your mind. Where do your thoughts end and his thoughts begin?”

Duo was floored. His mind balked at what he was hearing. Then he stopped, halting his rambling thoughts. What Odin had said rang true, but it was just the way things were. You meet someone you didn’t trust at first, and then you either grow to trust them or you don’t. That was life. He glanced over at Heero, willing himself to believe his own thoughts. It was his own thought, wasn’t it?

“Consider it, Duo.” Odin continued.

Duo felt something brush through his mind, blurring his vision. He blinked, trying to clear it. Heero looked at him suspiciously. It brushed through him again, matching the rhythm of Odin’s voice.

“You know what I am saying is true, Duo.” Odin said. “He is inside you, distorting your thoughts, bending them to what he wants. He knows you.”

Odin walked closer, bringing himself very near Duo. Heero opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. His eyes widened, then narrowed with barely contained fury. Odin smiled at him once, then dismissed him, focusing all his attention on Duo.

Duo saw Heero fall slowly to his knees, eyes unfocused now. A look of intense pain crossed his features, making him clench his teeth. He looked up, searching for Duo’s face. A strangled gasp was wrenched from him as he collapsed forward, catching himself on his hands.

“What…what the fuck are you doing!?” Duo said to Odin, forming the words through the haze that threatened to swallow him.

“Listen to me, Duo. Listen to the truth. He wants to claim you for himself.”

“He can’t,” Duo managed to say. “He…can’t.” He tried to say more, but the words caught in his throat. He tried to squeeze the trigger under his finger, but his body didn’t respond. Desperate, he reached for the power that simmered just below the surface of his skin. It swirled inside him, answering his call. But it stayed coiled within, refusing to flow outward. A fine sheen of sweat broke out over Duo’s body with the strain.

“Shush, Duo, shush,” Odin said, his face inches from Duo’s. “Calm yourself. Let me show you the truth.” He lifted a hand, grazing his fingers over the shiny scar on Duo’s neck. “He has marked you. Your blood flows through him just as his mind taints yours.”

Searing pain shot from the place where Odin’s hand touched him. Where Heero’s touch had given him pleasure, Odin’s caused pain to travel through him as if his entire body was raw and stripped of skin. Duo’s mouth worked in an attempt to scream his agony, but only a strangled whimper escaped.

Heero’s ragged breathing reached Duo’s ears. The vampire was gasping in pain, his hands digging into the earth. Duo made an effort to move, unsurprised when his body again refused to obey.

“He fears you. Yes, you knew that, he told you as much. Remember the fire, Duo. The heat and the death. It was meant for you. You were supposed to die in that fire. He meant for you to die. He knew he could never control you; he envied your power.”

A heavy feeling of darkness enveloped Duo’s mind, and yet his power remained caged inside him, raging like a trapped animal. It was a lie. Heero had helped preserve his life when Mariemeia tried to destroy him.

“Ah, but Duo…when he could not kill you, he once again tried to own you. He has taken your mind. Ultimately, he will claim all of you. Mind, body…soul. You will be a husk of yourself, Duo. A toy…a pawn…a plaything for him to use as he wishes.”

No, no, no! Duo’s mind screamed under the blanket Odin had cast over him. For all that Heero had done, for all that he was, Duo had seen inside his mind. He had held Heero’s life in his hands, given to him of his own free will. He could have crushed Heero easily. He could not make the vampire completely his own, but he could have killed him. Heero had known that. Heero had trusted him.

“What…are you doing…to him?” Duo rasped finally.

“Preventing him from interfering.”

“You’re… kill-killing him,” he gasped, forcing his mouth to form the words.

Odin looked down at Heero where the vampire curled in on himself, struggling. “He is trying to reach you, use your life to heal himself.” He curled his fingers in the hair at the base of Duo’s neck.

“Get the fuck…outta my head,” Duo said, the threat sounding weak in his ears. He fixed his gaze on Odin’s eyes, seeing for the first time the color of the empty depths. They were a dirty gray, the shade of foul water and soiled clouds.

A throbbing ache spread throughout Duo, making his legs weak. His muscles protested supporting his body. He trembled, fighting the urge to give in and fall to the ground.

“You’re…hurting me,” Duo said. “Let me go.”

“I am helping you,” Odin told him. “You were never meant for the likes of Heero. He is too weak, too immature to ever deserve you. No, Duo,” he said, “you were meant for greater things than being the possession of one such as he.”

The ache grew more pronounced. Duo’s chest tightened, he struggled to draw breath into his abused lungs. He felt his eyes roll up into his head as the pressure increased.

“Who….” Duo’s throat closed over. He swallowed convulsively, gasping for air. “You said…friend.” His brain refused to work. Duo’s thoughts were fleeting, passing from one to the next with no coherency.

“Mine,” Odin said, his eyes gleaming with an inner light. “He tried to take what is rightfully mine. You are meant to be mine. Your power.” He reached up with his other hand, smoothing Duo’s hair back from his sweat-soaked face. “Your power,” he repeated, “you. Beautiful. I will take what is mine, Duo.”

Duo choked on a gasp. His body was cold, wracked with tremors. He tried to shake his head, to say no, to hear Heero in his mind. Inside him was a deep chill, tightening around his power and his heart. He coughed violently, blood speckling his lips.

“Killing…” Duo tried to say, weakly grabbing at Odin’s hand.

“Yes, Duo,” Odin said regretfully. “I may have to kill you. And him as well. Such a pity. But I will have what belongs to me.”

“… called yourself…friend,” Duo gasped.

Odin nodded again. “I did say I was a friend.” He smoothed his hand over Duo’s hair and smiled. “But I never said I was your friend, Duo.”

Trying to focus on something, anything, Duo thought first of Heero’s eyes; the way they burned into his mind, the searing heat of the vampire’s gaze. The image was swept away by the icy feeling inside him. He labored to find the image again, franticly searching for an anchor.

“Don’t fight me, Duo. It will only hurt you more. I will have what I want, regardless of what you attempt. And Heero will die along with you. He was always more trouble than he was worth.”

Duo felt Odin lift him, gently turning him around and cradling Duo’s tortured body against his chest. In front of him, Duo could see Heero curled on his side, his dark skin washed pale. The vampire shook with pain, then managed to jerk his head up, catching sight of Duo facing him. His normally vibrant cobalt eyes were dull.

Odin twisted his hand painfully in Duo’s hair, forcing his head to the side, exposing his neck and the scar Heero had given him. “You thought he was to be yours, little Heero,” Odin said mockingly, stroking the pale column of Duo’s throat. “You thought you could take him.”

Duo locked his eyes on Heero’s. He felt his power rage madly inside him, snarling viciously at being confined. It strained towards Heero, tearing great fissures in the suffocating blanket enveloping Duo’s mind.

A flicker of cold fire smoldered in Heero’s eyes. He lurched to his knees, not breaking the link with Duo. Another slash ripped through the darkness. Duo felt the energy build, burning away the ice.

Odin jerked back from Duo. “What are you doing?” he hissed.

Duo’s lips curved into a smirk. Another tear appeared in the swiftly shredding blanket. His body was still shaking, sending pain shooting through him. Odin spun him around, angry eyes boring into Duo’s. Blue-violet depths stared back at him, laughing and threatening at the same time.

“Too late,” Duo rasped as the black veil descended over his vision. He saw a look of pure horror spread over Odin’s face. Then the energy exploded from Duo, tearing a scream of animal rage from his raw throat.

Gleefully, Duo clamped his hands down on Odin’s wrists. He felt the life pour into him, flowing over him, washing away the revolting feeling of cold violation. Duo turned the power over inside himself, filling him up until he felt his very skin would split.

Nerves singing with the rush of power, Duo reached out for Heero with one hand, loosening his grip on Odin. A cold hand tentatively touched his. Holding onto Heero tightly, more for comfort than necessity, Duo let the energy spill out of himself and into the vampire. Heero’s hand jerked in his grasp as if shocked, then relaxed.

Odin was making inarticulate screams of pain and anger. With a great heave, he wrenched away from Duo. He stood there for a fraction of a second, then abruptly gathered himself together and cut off the flow of power. Heero and Duo remained joined, sharing the stolen energy.

“You!” Odin shouted, his careful speech and manners lost. “Y-y-you, you idiots!!” He drew himself up, holding tightly to the energy he managed to save from Duo’s grasp. “Don’t fool yourselves into thinking this is over,” he growled. “I’ll have what’s mine!!”

Severely weakened, Odin was fighting to be steady on his feet. He spared Heero one last look that promised incomparable pain. His face instantly changed, assuming the pleasantly smiling countenance he had worn earlier that night. Stepping back, he melted into the shadows and was gone.

Duo shuddered, finally reining in his power and falling forward. Then Heero was there, catching him and easing both of them down to the ground. The vampire rested Duo’s head in his lap, tenderly wiping the blood from Duo’s mouth and smoothing his hair back from tired eyes.

“Duo, I-” he began.

“Shut up,” Duo croaked out, wincing slightly at the sound of his own voice. “Not now. Just not fucking right now.”

Heero’s eyes darkened, and Duo was startled to see sadness swimming in them. Then it was gone, his eyes blank like his face once more.

“Don’t give me that look,” Duo snapped, his breath wheezing. “I don’t wanna deal with this now.”

Heero looked indifferent.

“Oh, haul the stick out of your ass, Heero,” Duo grumbled, disgusted to hear his voice come out weak. “And bring me home. I think I’m gonna pass out.”

Right before his vision turned completely black, Duo saw concern and relief war across Heero’s features. He chuckled to himself, then wondered darkly if he would have to kill Heero. Truth be told, he didn’t want to. He didn’t even think he could, regardless of Heero’s abilities. Duo simply wouldn’t be able to destroy him. It was getting hard to picture the world without him in it.

*

Duo awoke feeling groggy. He blinked rapidly a few times to clear his blurry eyes. Looking around, he saw that he was in his own bed at the apartment. Outside it was still dark, his curtains blowing in the small breeze from the open window. He frowned. Wufei was nowhere to be seen, but he could hear the sounds of someone moving around the apartment. Before he could haul himself up, Heero appeared in the doorway. Light streamed from the hall into the dark bedroom.

“Oh, it’s you,” Duo said flatly.

He hadn’t expected Heero to bring him to his apartment. Made sense though. This was, technically, his home. He’d expected Heero to bring him back to Devil’s Bliss. Since when had he started thinking of that as his home?

“Where is everybody?” Duo asked.

“At Bliss,” came the short answer.

Duo shifted on the sheets, letting out a hissing breath when a sharp pain ran down his side. “Jesus, what ran over me?” he mumbled, mostly to himself.

Heero moved out of the doorway, settling on the bed as far away from Duo as was possible. “Odin Lowe.”

Damn, Heero was full of insightful answers. Nice long ones, too. A whole two words.

“What’s your problem, fang face?” Duo said, aiming for the most insulting tone he could manage. “I think I’m the one who should have an attitude.”

“You do have one.”

“Ha. You think this is an attitude?” He moved again, trying to alleviate the pressure on his ribs. “Listen, Heero. You’ve got some serious fucking explaining to do.”

Heero faced Duo with a neutral expression. His eyes were dull and dark. Duo was taken aback to see that the usual light had disappeared. Even when the vampire had guarded his feelings before, his eyes had never been so dull.

“I owe you an explanation?” Heero said, his words sharp. “I wonder how long it will take before you start waving a gun around threatening to kill me.”

Duo was trying to lever himself up to lean back against the headboard. He stopped mid-movement, giving the vamp a level look. “I’ll get around to it.”

“Go back to sleep, Duo,” Heero said, getting up from the bed and dismissing him.

“Hold on a goddamn minute. How the hell did you get in here?”

“Through the door.”

“Again, ha.” Duo said. “How’d you get into my apartment, blood breath?”

The vampire stopped in the doorway, hand resting on the casing. He glanced back at Duo over his shoulder.

Oops. Duo felt his pulse quicken at the look in Heero’s dull eyes. He didn’t know if he was feeling fear or excitement. Probably both.

The vampire just stared at him for what seemed like an eternity, then he turned around and came back to the bed. He loomed above Duo silently. Duo had an uncontrollable urge to scoot away, but he was rooted to the spot.

“That’s one question I can answer,” the vampire said. He slid onto the bed, straddling Duo’s thighs. Reaching up, he touched the slivery mark on Duo’s neck.

Duo sucked in a sharp breath, filling his nose and mouth with Heero’s scent. Tiny shocks of pleasure coursed through him, teasing him. He noticed somewhat sourly that he was naked under the sheets. Go figure.

“Regardless of your own ideas, Duo, you are partly mine.” He ran the tip of his finger in tiny circles over the scar.

Duo’s breathing became more pronounced. This wasn’t going the way it was supposed to. “Stop it, Heero. Get up.” Heero’s proximity caused the energy inside him to stir.

“No.”

“Fine then,” Duo snapped. “Since you’re so bent of getting me off-”

Heero’s eyes widened a little at that, his hand stilling for a moment. “This?” he asked, nodding towards Duo’s neck.

Christ, the vampire was annoying. “Yeah, that.” Dumbass.

Intrigued, Heero laid his hand, palm down, over the scar. Duo tried to fight off the reaction, but he felt the power rise up in response to Heero’s touch.

Duo growled at him, slapping his hand away. “Stop that! Anyway,” he said, trying to pick up his lost train of thought. Having Heero practically sitting in his lap wasn’t helping much. “Tell me what the fuck was going on with the wackjob.”

“Odin?” Heero said, amused. Then his humor faded quickly. “Do you believe him?”

“What?” Duo blinked. “No. Jesus. Maybe. Look, I dunno.” Duo ran his hand through his bangs and lifted his braid away from his neck. It was too damn hot in the stuffy room. The open window wasn’t doing much good besides letting more warm air in.

“Just,” Duo mumbled, “tell me if it’s true or not.”

Heero shifted again, moving further up. Great. Now the vamp WAS sitting in his lap.

“Heero….” Duo said warningly. All he succeeded in doing was making the vamp smirk.

Heero ignored him, instead resting his hand over the scar on Duo’s neck again. Duo glared at the vampire, lifting his arm to brush him away again. His eyes met Heero’s for only a brief second, but it was enough. His arm froze. Heero’s eyes were smoldering blue underneath the dullness.

Duo’s throat went dry. He took a deep breath of air and tried to swallow. Heero ran his thumb gently over Duo’s lips and tipped his head to the side.

Scared. Yep, at this point in time, he should have been scared shitless. But all Duo could think about was the heat coming from Heero’s body; he remembered the taste of Heero’s lips. Suddenly, his mouth filled in anticipation of feeling the vampire touch him. He wanted Heero’s hands on his body…Heero’s tongue in his mouth. His chest rose and fell rapidly as he took shallow breaths.

Then Heero’s mouth closed over his, bringing with it delicious heat. He felt Heero pull back a little, then swipe his tongue over Duo’s lips, urging them to part. He pressed forward again, dipping his tongue deep, teasing Duo with light touches. The light pressure increased, and Heero stroked the inside of his mouth, running his tongue over Duo’s.

Duo groaned, helpless under Heero’s infuriatingly effective assault. His nerves were burning. Even as he melted into Heero’s touch, Duo was grumbling to himself in his mind. He’d get Heero back. It wasn’t his fault that Heero was so fucking good at this and had turned his brain, along with his common sense, to mush. Satisfied that he’d shoot the vampire later, once his limbs were working, Duo lost himself in the kiss. He felt pleasure flowing through his veins from both the vampire’s kiss and the light touch on his neck.

More. He wanted more. Ever since Heero had touched him earlier that night, he wanted to feel their combined power surging over and through him again. It was addictive. If he offered blood and power again, Heero would take it.

Heero pulled back, catching Duo’s bottom lip in his teeth. He bit gently, not enough to break the skin. Duo realized at that second that his own hands were buried in Heero’s hair. He gasped, mouth falling open, when Heero pressed forward, bringing his groin into heated contact with Duo’s. Duo felt his blood rush and his body respond, making him painfully hard.

The vampire plunged his tongue into Duo’s waiting mouth. Leaving one hand resting lightly against Duo’s neck, he cupped Duo’s chin with the fingers of his other, tipping his head up. Duo met his tongue with his own, letting his hands drop down to rest on Heero’s chest.

Instantly, the energy surged between them. The world jerked, and Duo felt Heero’s power flow into him, making his skin pulse with the sheer intensity. Heero gasped, freezing for a moment. He stoked Duo’s tongue again, drawing it into his own mouth. Then, with a savage growl, he rolled off of Duo.

Duo felt the emptiness between them, but the flow of power continued. Heero picked him up and shoved him down flat on his back, tangled amongst the sheets. Duo’s breath was forced out and several sharp pains reminded him he wasn’t in the best of health. That thought was quickly lost when Heero filled his vision again.

Heero grasped Duo’s wrists in his hands, thrusting them above the braided man’s head and pinning them to the mattress. One knee rested between Duo’s legs, pushing lightly against his erection.

Duo felt his eyes grow heavy. He was willing to offer everything to Heero right at that moment. Sheer pleasure coursed through him, Heero’s power swirled inside him like velvet and silk.

Heero watched him with dark eyes. “Let me taste you again,” he said, his voice rough. He bent his head, swiping his tongue over the first bite and making Duo groan.

Duo licked his lips, still tasting Heero on his tongue. He nodded, then swallowed. “Yes,” he said, trailing off in a sharp hiss when he felt Heero’s fangs pierce his skin.

Burning energy filled him, mingling with his own, and flowed back to Heero. He could feel it being drawn through his body, leaving hot trails of pleasure that faded and then pulsed again. Heero rocked forward, brushing Duo’s erection with his leg.

Duo’s vision faded around the edges, turning white. He was gasping, whimpering from the sensations Heero was creating. His pinned hands twisted in the sheets, clawing mindlessly at the cotton.

Abruptly, Heero released Duo’s wrists, pulling away from him. Duo’s eyes shot open as he felt the warmth leave his neck. He looked up, saw the darkness swimming in Heero’s eyes. The power slowed to a trickle between them. Duo felt cheated.

“Wha…?” Duo started to ask.

Heero sat back, skimmed a finger over the bite and then brought it up to his mouth. The tip disappeared between reddened lips. His eyes were heavy-lidded with lust. Then both of his hands were running over Duo, tracing the lines of his chest, untangling his limbs from the sheet.

Duo’s eyes threatened to close and he fought to keep them open. This was something he didn’t want to miss. Heero trailed his hands back up over Duo’s arms, crossing them at the wrists and holding them for a moment. He let go, nodding slightly when Duo made no effort to move his arms.

He ran his hands down Duo’s sides, over his stomach and across his hips. Duo felt like his skin was burning up, the combination of the vampire’s hands on him and the power inside him ridding his mind of all thoughts that didn’t involve sex.

A warm hand brushed over his knee. Heero backed off, trailing his hand back up Duo’s thigh. He nudged gently. Duo moaned softly as his legs were spread open, exposing him. Heero’s gaze was so heavy, he could feel it rake over his body. The vampire shifted again, settling smoothly between Duo’s legs on his knees.

The vampire touched the head of Duo’s erection lightly, making the longhaired man arch his hips. He gathered the droplet of liquid at the tip on his finger, smoothed it down over the length, then wrapped his hand around Duo’s arousal.

Duo surged up from the bed, propping himself up on his arms. He looked down, saw Heero’s hand gliding slowly up and down his length. His breathing was rapid, shallow. The vampire’s hand was hot; the energy they shared roared back to life. Duo’s eyes flicked up, resting on Heero’s face. Cobalt blue eyes met his, then dropped back down, watching as Duo’s erection slid through the tunnel his hand made.

Head lolling back, Duo heard himself whimper high in his throat, breath hissing out from between clenched teeth. Heero quickened his pace, making Duo’s arms tremble with the effort of holding himself up. The power grew, engulfing and devouring him.

Without warning, the vampire abruptly released Duo’s erection. Dazed, Duo tried to mutter a sharp curse, which only came out as a garbled moan of protest as he clenched his eyes shut. The power still rode through him, stealing coherent thought away. Then Heero’s arms were under him, lifting. He felt his naked skin come into contact with Heero’s clothed thighs. Instinctively, Duo straddled him, one hand on Heero’s chest to steady himself, the other clutching the back of his neck.

Heero wrapped his arms around Duo, splaying his hands across his back and bringing him closer. The vampire’s breath was warm against his collarbone; the sharp tips of his fangs pressing lightly into the skin. Heero grazed his teeth up Duo’s neck, stopping over the twin pinpricks staining the smoothness. Duo tipped his head to the side, inviting and begging at the same time. Heero closed his mouth over it again, sinking his fangs into the pale skin to reopen the already healing wound.

Duo pressed himself against Heero, a strangled cry torn from his throat when he felt the velvet power course through him again as Heero began to suck gently at the wound. He rocked his body against Heero’s hardness, his mind dazed and overwhelmed by sensation. Heat and lust, power and blood. It filled Duo completely, forcing continuous moans from him, urging Heero on. Then it crashed over him, transforming the world into white hot pleasure. He screamed, arching his back sharply and pressing himself into Heero. He came as their combined power consumed him, and then Heero’s lips were sealing over his, swallowing his breath and his screams. He fell back slowly, the vampire lowering him to the bed and leaning over him.

Duo relaxed on the bed, limp-limbed and boneless. A warm, languid feeling suffused him even as he tried to slow his racing heart. He felt Heero using the sheet to wipe some of the mess off himself and Duo, then the vampire picked him back up. Heero propped himself up on the pillows, holding Duo against him. Rolling his head to the side, Duo saw that same look in Heero’s eyes. Power and lust.

They stayed like that for some time, neither speaking nor moving, enjoying the last, glowing embers of power. Holding each other.

“Jesus,” Duo swore once he had the state of mind to speak. He lifted a hand and covered his face. “Jesus, Jesus.” He swallowed again, wincing at the ache in his throat. His body was complaining, several aches and pains from the encounter with Odin making themselves known with a vengeance. “Guess I wasn’t feeling as better as I thought I was,” he mumbled.

“No,” Heero agreed, “apparently not.”

Duo coughed, feeling the laziness in him vanishing under sore muscles. “Why the hell do I feel like shit NOW?” It was all fine and dandy while Heero’s power flowed through him, but now he felt much worse than before.

“You were already weak,” Heero said. He brushed a finger over Duo’s neck. “This weakened you even more.”

Oh. And here he was, about to suggest they do it again.

“I’ve called Zechs,” Heero continued, “he should be here soon.”

Duo felt a headache brewing. He pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes. It would have been interesting if Zechs arrived while he and Heero were…busy. He blew out an explosive breath of air, cursing when pain slashed through him again.

Duo’s memory came rushing back once the glow of power had subsided, making him tense in Heero’s embrace. He still didn’t know the truth about Heero. Not that he was terribly inclined to believe what Odin had said, but truth had a way of coming from the strangest places.

“You never told me if it was true or not, Heero,” Duo said, watching the vampire’s face.

Heero’s eyes closed, and when he opened them again, they were glinting dully. He averted his eyes, staring at the darkness beyond the open window.

Duo felt his throat close over. It couldn’t be true. He couldn’t have destroyed the church, killed all those people to get to him. Just to kill him. Just to own him.

*

Sanity’s Nocturne

“Tell me, Heero. I don’t think I have the energy to kill you right now, so you’re probably safe,” Duo said. It was only partially a lie.

“Is which true?” the vampire asked.

Duo’s throat worked as he tried to speak. “Any of it. What the idiot was rambling about.”

Heero was silent for a long time, then he pushed Duo away. He got up, walking away from the bed. Duo let him go, resisting the urge to bundle himself up in the blankets when Heero’s warmth left him. Heero turned, leaned back against a wall and crossed his arms.

“Yes….” he answered, still not facing Duo. Instead he gazed out the dark window. “The church. You were supposed to die. I tried to kill you.”

Duo froze, slumped back against the sheets. God damn it, he hadn’t expected it to be true. “There has to be a reason,” he said finally, accepting the vampire’s quiet confession with alarming ease. Much more easily than he would if he didn’t feel like his entire body had just been run through a trash compactor. His brain was still fuzzy from Heero’s energy, but the pleasant sensation that Duo felt when he shared power with Heero was swiftly being buried under the dull ache.

“You were a threat to me, to everyone,” Heero said softly. “No,” he corrected, “there was the threat that someone would use you against me. I don’t believe anymore that you would hunt me without reason. I was careful to not give you a reason.”

“Trying to have me killed is a damn good reason.”

Heero nodded.

“Then why do it?”

“Humans do stupid things all the time for no reason. Why would a vampire need one?”

Duo shook his head, instantly regretting it. Nausea washed over him in a wave. When it passed, he said, “Not buying it. You’re not making sense. How can you say you were careful to not give me a reason to kill you and agree that trying to kill me is a reason, all in the same breath?”

Heero sighed, passing a hand wearily over his face. “You’re being amazingly calm about this,” he stated.

Surprise, surprise. Duo was fighting to stay calm to keep himself from throwing up or worse. Having hysterics at this point would probably have the same effect as prodding a pissed off badger with a pointy stick. In response to Heero’s comment, he just shrugged.

The vampire missed the movement though; he was too busy staring a hole through the window. Silence reigned until Duo decided that Heero was just going to stand there, waiting for him to say something.

“Well?” he prompted. “Where’s the logic?”

“I don’t think there is any logic,” Heero replied. “I watched you hunt and kill, confident that you would leave me and mine be if we posed no threat to humans.”

“Something had to make you change your mind,” Duo said, a cold chill passing over him.

“Perhaps the rapid decrease in the preternatural population. Something was killing them as quickly as the renegades were attacking humans. I found no trace of interspecies war, private grudges, nothing.” Heero finally turned his head, pinning Duo with his cobalt gaze. His eyes were old, sad. They seemed so out of place at that moment on Heero’s face. “Only…you.”

“You think I was knocking off monsters for fun and games?”

Heero shrugged, making the movement graceful and meaningless at the same time. Duo couldn’t tell if Heero was denying or confirming what he had said. “Either that,” the vampire said, “or someone was using you against us. I couldn’t take the chance that it was the latter, and if it was the former…” he trailed off, pushing away from the wall to stand in front of the window. Duo was forced to look down the length of his own body to see the vamp.

Heaving himself upright with a grunt of pain, Duo leaned back against the headboard, letting the sheet pool in his lap. He felt better now that he wasn’t lying prone on the bed, vulnerable.

“If you wanted me dead, why am I still alive?” Duo asked, trying without much success to ignore the increasing pressure in his chest. Heero had tried to kill him. Forget reason and logic. Heero had tried to KILL him.

A whisper of a smile flitted over Heero’s face. “Your stubborn attachment to life?”

A fine tremor ran through Duo, making him shiver in the warm air. “Seriously, Heero.”

Heero shook his head as if trying to clear his thoughts. Duo pressed a hand to his side, hoping to lessen the pain. He breathed deeply. Damn. His chest was getting tighter. Heero’s face blurred around the edges. He blinked, clearing his vision for a split second before it became fuzzy again, worse this time.

“The fire, I-”

“No, wait,” Duo said, stopping Heero before he could continue. “I remember.” Duo closed his eyes, blocking out the world. A throbbing pain in the back of his head caused him to mutter a curse. But it was there, buried under years of suffering and pain. Duo remembered that night more than three years ago. And he saw the church burn.

Running, shouting for someone, anyone who was still alive. Wooden beams crashing to the floor, raining sparks and flames down. The searing pain of a beam striking him, sending him sprawling to the floor. Lying still, gasping. Smoke burning his lungs, making him dizzy. Lurching to his feet, only to stumble and pitch forward again, landing on his hands and knees. His vision fading at the edges. Shadows move among the flames, taunting him. One detaches itself, laughing cruelly at his pain.

Another shadow appears, making the first cringe in fear. It snarls something unintelligible, then flees. The new shadow stays, bending low over Duo and murmuring softly. Looking up, seeing twin blue flames dancing before him, making him wonder just how much smoke it takes to cause a person to hallucinate. Then the feeling of strong arms wrapping around him, gently cradling and lifting. A voice reaching him through the roaring of the fire. “I’m sorry… I’m sorry.”

Murmuring that one phrase over and over, Heero carefully carried Duo away, out of the flames and the burning church.

“Why?” Duo asked, coming back to the present. “Why save me?” A sharp burning replaced the ache in his chest, making the sting in his side seem that much worse.

A moment of pure silence. “I don’t know for certain,” Heero answered finally. “Maybe I did think I could own you, maybe I thought I’d never have to deal with you. Whatever it was, I didn’t think you were the one causing so much trouble.”

“Why contact me years later, and ask me to stop killing? You think I was the problem again?”

“No,” Heero answered softly. “I saw the others, vampires and shifters half a world away, become aware of you. If you continued to kill…they would take action.”

“And when trying to stop me with ultimatums failed, you tried to enlist me to your side,” Duo said.

Again, Heero nodded. “If I could convince the world at large that you were with instead of against us, they might have left you alone.”

“‘Might’?”

“You can’t predict what some will do. You simply prepare for eventualities.”

“Having me smack dab in the middle of your little fortress would be one of those preparations, huh?”

“Yes.”

“Who appointed you my guardian angel?” Duo asked, bitterness in his voice. Some angel; went from trying to sauté him to using him as monster bait.

“Angel doesn’t seem a really appropriate word where either one of us is concerned.”

Duo couldn’t help but smile at that, despite his discomfort. The smile wasn’t a truly happy one, though. “You still killed everyone in the church.”

“I was careless.” Heero held up a hand when a look of pure rage crossed Duo’s face. “I’m not trying to place the blame elsewhere, the church burned under my orders. But I was careless with what exactly those orders were.”

“Uh huh, and what exactly did you order done?” Besides a well-done barbequed Duo, he added silently in his head.

“I ordered you dead, and I said I didn’t care how. It is understood that no innocents are supposed to be caught in the middle of our disputes.”

“One of you didn’t understand that.” Duo said. “Sally.” He looked up, certain he was right. “It was Sally’s work.”

“She set fire to the church, but I’m not certain she was behind it.”

“Come again?”

“I think Sally’s being used.”

“Used…? By who?”

“That, I don’t know. But I will find out.” A pause. “Life would be simpler if people had never become tangled up with the monsters,” Heero stated.

“Yeah,” Duo mumbled. “That would’ve made my life a hell of a lot easier.” It was really just another similarity between them. If Duo had been in Heero’s position, he probably would have reacted the same way. Eliminate the threat. Of course, Duo would have just shot him, no fucking around with burning buildings and sending out lackeys to do the dirty deed. But he wouldn’t have saved Heero. He would have let the vampire burn. He accepted that realization coolly. Now, he knew, he wouldn’t, couldn’t, sentence Heero to die. He couldn’t picture Heero torn, broken, bloody. Dead. Not by his own hand, not by anyone else’s.

But what did you do when you couldn’t tell the difference between the monsters and yourself?

“I should kill you,” Duo said then, taking a deep breath and wincing when pain shot through his left side. So much for posing a threat.

“Will you?” Heero asked mildly, his tone not quite concealing his apprehension.

“No I don’t think so,” Duo said. “Mostly because I can’t walk right now. I’ll get you later, when your guard is down.” He started to laugh, but the sound rapidly dissolved into a tearing cough.

Heero was kneeling on the bed again, alarm showing in his eyes. “Duo?”

Duo waved him away once the fit had passed. “Nothing, it’s nothing,” he said, clutching the sheets to his chest. He didn’t want Heero near him right now. “Go away.”

Heero stayed right where he was. “You’re a terrible liar.”

“Yep,” Duo said, breaking out into another fit. Suddenly he stopped, gasping. “This is getting bloody damn annoying,” he said when he got his breath back. “Next time, you be the one who nearly gets their head handed to them.”

Heero’s eyes were once again drowning blue, vibrant with life. “That sounds fair,” he said softly, absently caressing Duo’s flushed cheek with his thumb. “Zechs will be here soon.”

“Yeah,” Duo said. “Hope he hauls ass. I don’t want to pass out again. It’s embarrassing.”

Duo refused to look Heero in the face. He wasn’t sure if he hated Heero right now or not. The vampire had tried to kill him, then saved him. What was the point? He was leaving out something…a whole shitload of somethings. Duo felt the world slipping away again, the pain in his chest stealing whatever energy he had left. He’d get the whole story, even if he did have to kill someone.

An odd smile emerged on the vampire’s face when Duo finally closed his eyes, turning his head into Heero’s touch.

*

“Why am I the only one who always feels like shit!?” Duo demanded. Once again, he was bundled up in the middle of Heero’s bed. Quatre sat beside him, calmly listening as Duo finished up his latest rant. Both of them were beginning to believe that Heero had a severe hang-up with having Duo in his bed.

“How am I supposed to know?” Quatre asked mildly.

“Oh, shut up, Q.”

Quatre grinned. “Do I have to threaten you to keep you in bed?”

Duo refused to dignify that with a response.

“And don’t think I won’t go through with the threats, either,” Quatre continued happily, passing Duo a hot cup of tea. “Here, drink this.”

It was childish, and more than a little stupid, but Duo turned his nose up at the steaming mug. “No, I’m not thirsty.”

“Being thirsty has nothing to do with it,” Quatre said, still holding out the mug.

“Look, Q. I’m fine. Perfect. Zechs fixed me right up. I don’t even know why I’m stuck in this damn bed.”

“So we can entertain lurid fantasies about you. Drink it.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Bite me.”

Quatre’s face lit up with a teasing grin. “Certainly.” He put the mug back on the nightstand and leaned down over Duo, turning the grin into something feral. “Where? Do I get to chose?”

Duo couldn’t help but smile back in response. Shaking his head, he pushed Quatre away. “No, you can’t. Go away.”

“I can’t pick?”

“You can’t bite, now go away!”

Quatre sighed dramatically, levering himself up. “Oh, well. You really shouldn’t tease me like that.” He picked the mug back up. “Drinky, drinky,” he said, jiggling the cup a little.

Duo snorted. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say ‘drinky’. It ruins your vampiric image. And no, I’m not drinking it.”

“Drink your fucking tea, Duo,” Quatre growled, fangs glinting.

Duo blinked. Yikes. “Okay, okay.” He grabbed the mug and took an experimental sip. Hmmm. Wasn’t too bad.

Quatre smiled smugly.

“What’s with you?” Duo asked sourly over the rim of his mug. He took another sip. Nope, not too bad at all.

Quatre shrugged and somehow managed to make the movement look sexy. “I ravaged you while you slept. Now I’m basking in the afterglow.”

“Ha.” A joke, a joke, it was just a little joke. No reason to get excited. The simultaneous thought of ‘Quatre’ and ‘ravage’ conjured up quite a few ideas, not all of them unpleasant. Actually, all of them were quite the opposite.

The blonde ran a hand through his hair. “I’m concerned,” he said, his face turning serious. “On top of everything else, Lowe has shown up again. It causes problems.”

“No shit.”

“Big shit,” Quatre corrected.

Duo chuckled.

They sat in companionable silence for some time, then Duo said, “You think some of it might be connected?”

Quatre slid fully onto the bed, rustling the black silk. Heero had changed them again. He stretched out on his stomach sensuously, then folded his arms and rested his head on them.

“Do you have to do that?”

“Do what?” Quatre asked.

Duo gestured vaguely with one hand. “Make everything…sexual.”

Quatre shrugged again. “Probably not, but it’s fun watching how it affects you.”

“That’s funny, really funny.”

“Tell me what you think might be connected, or I really will ravish you,” Quatre said.

Duo spent a split second trying to decide if that was a threat or a promise. He was tempted to keep quiet and see what the vampire would do. One look at Quatre’s sparkling blue eyes told him everything he needed to know.

“Ah,” Duo said quickly to head off his impending ravishment. “I’m thinking maybe Mariemeia has a schedule of her own. Something about her makes me think she’s not working for anyone. Sally, on the other hand-”

“She seemed confused when she came here looking for Lucrezia.”

“Yep,” Duo agreed. “Who would be strong enough to trick her into doing that, without her even knowing?”

“You think Odin had something to do with it?” Quatre guessed, then he paused, considering. “That’s possible. He would be able to cloud her mind. Why would he though?”

“Not exactly sure,” Duo admitted. He had a few ideas, though. “Mariemeia wanted my abilities to stay latent, even if it killed me. Odin wants them for himself…even if it kills me.” Christ, a lot of people were willing to kill him. “Lucrezia was involved with Mariemeia, and both of them went poof.” He held up a finger, forestalling anything Quatre had to say. “Poof just before Catherine went to kill Mariemeia. I’m guessing that someone else went to Lucrezia’s. Then Sally showed up here, looking for the voodoo chick once she had gone missing. If they were working together, Sally wouldn’t have done that; she’d have known where they both were. If they had nothing to do with each other, why would Sally care? That would put Odin and Sally together on one end, Lucrezia and Mariemeia on the other.”

“That makes sense as far as it goes, Duo, but it leaves a lot open.”

“Yeah,” Duo said, stretching. He was wearing new pajamas again, only this time red and made of something that seemed like satin. Heero really liked to have everything match his decor. But he wasn’t complaining, it was much easier to concentrate when he wasn’t naked. “It does. But still, why would Sally care what Mariemeia did, unless it threw a wrench in her own plans? If she wanted me dead, honest to God dead, why go after them? Mariemeia would have been content if I died, so they can’t be allies.”

“Are you sure Sally wants to kill you?” Quatre rolled over onto his side, interested in Duo’s theory.

“Oh, yeah, she WANTS to kill me. Think she said she’d like to rip my heart out and feed it to me.”

“Awww, how sweet.”

“Precious,” Duo said, rolling his eyes. “Anyway. Wanting to kill me and actually killing me are two different things.” Not by much, but still. There were lots of people Duo wanted to kill, but he never got around to most of them. “It just makes sense to me that Odin was the one behind Sally’s actions. He’d kill Mariemeia for trying to stop my powers from surfacing.” Duo still tripped over the word ‘power’. It sounded so weird when he was talking about himself. “And since Lucrezia was involved with Mariemeia, he’d have tried to kill her, too.”

“Alright,” Quatre said. “Odin could have been working through Sally in order to conceal his presence here. One glimpse of him, and any of us would have told Heero. Heero would have suspected him of something right away. But Sally seemed to want Lucrezia alive.”

Damn. “Okay…I forgot about that. Lucrezia’s involvement is a big unknown here. A good reason to not trust her. But now what?”

Quatre gave him a questioning look.

“I think Odin’s got Sally in the palm of his hand, which means Catherine, her wolves and the rest of Sally’s group are his too. Lucrezia seems pretty pissed off with what Mariemeia tried to do, which suggests that she wasn’t in on THAT part of the plan. Mariemeia’s gone missing – again. Odin’s after me, or more specifically, my power, and probably wants to off Lucrezia and Mariemeia, or use Lucrezia for something. She might be involved in some way that we don’t even have a clue about. And Odin’s got some serious issues with Heero, too. So what do we do? Which one do we deal with first?” Duo stopped, sagging back onto the pillows. Talk about up to your neck in shit.

“Odin.”

Duo looked up and saw Heero standing just inside the gauzy curtain. “How do ya figure that?” He’d decided to deal with Heero later. Of course, he came to that decision a few hours ago, which made now, later. He felt his headache stirring up again.

“He tried to kill you,” Heero said. Duo kept his mouth shut, wisely neglecting to mention the fact that Heero had tried to kill him, too…and the fact that he was presently sitting smack dab in the middle of Heero’s bed. The chances that he’d end up in Odin’s bed? Not bloody likely. Attempting to murder him wasn’t really Duo’s idea of effective foreplay.

Something must have shown on Duo’s face, because Quatre was suddenly standing, heading out the door. “It’s close to dawn,” he said by way of explanation. He closed the door with a soft click, and the sound seemed remarkably like the clang of prison bars to Duo.

“Shit,” Duo said under his breath. He didn’t want to be alone with the damn vamp again. He slipped his hand underneath the pillow, wrapping his fingers around the Glock’s grip for comfort. Duo would have to remember to thank Wufei appropriately for giving it to him. He wasn’t one hundred percent sure that he wouldn’t have to shoot someone. Having the option made him feel that much better.

Heero remained standing, giving no indication that he knew of the gun’s location. He was unnaturally still, silent, like a stone statue; his face betrayed no emotion. It was then that Duo realized how animated the vampire had become. Now, he was the same as before. Cold and quiet. And insanely dangerous.

“What do you want?” Duo asked quietly.

“Many things. Right now, however….” Heero stalked towards the bed, moving in his own cloud of barely contained violence.

“Stop.” Duo fingered the gun’s grip nervously. Could he really trust him? Now that he was thinking straight, he really didn’t want the vampire to touch him. Every time he did, they managed to get sidetracked. Sure, he lusted after the vamp. He could admit that much to himself, no sense trying to hide it. And sure, having sex with the vamp would be all fine and dandy, in a mildly mind-blowing way. Hell, he could even admit that being surround by the vamp’s body and that really damn arousing scent that seemed to follow him everywhere would be more than a little bit nice. And it seemed trying to think of Heero as only ‘the vamp’ really wasn’t working.

Dammed if he was going to tell Heero any of that. Especially now.

“Don’t come near me,” Duo said. Okay, Heero stopped moving. Good. Duo was about two seconds away from drawing the gun. Not so good. If he pulled a weapon on the vamp now, he was pretty sure he would be aiming to kill.

And the little voices in Duo’s head were jumping around screaming again. Oh, goody.

Logic: You don’t want to shoot the vamp, he protected you…wait a second. He also tried to kill you. Uh oh. We have a problem here.

Lust: You don’t want to shoot the vamp, look at him! He’s sex on two legs! Think about it. Four thousand years of life, he’s got to know more than a few good tricks.

Practicality: You want to shoot the vamp. He’s dangerous.

Hmm…tie. Also not good.

“Duo?” Heero was looking at him oddly.

Whoops, forgot he was there for a moment. Right. Vampire, gun. To kill, or not to kill, that is the question. For surely, ’tis nobler-

“Duo?” Heero said again.

Looking up, Duo realized that Heero had somehow made it to the side of the bed and was staring down at him with a puzzled expression on his face.

Ever get the feeling your own mind had started working against you?

“Yeah, yeah, waddaya want?” Duo asked, his hand relaxing around the gun for the moment.

“What do you want, Duo?” Heero countered.

Well. That was unexpected. Lets see…what did he want. Happiness? Security? A really good supernatural fuck? Decisions, decisions.

“That’s the sixty four thousand dollar question, isn’t it?” Duo said, glancing up and catching sight of burning blue flames. Oh no, you don’t…he looked away quickly, focusing on Heero’s shoulder.

“You don’t know?”

Amazing deductive powers this vampire possessed. “Nope, not a fucking clue. Why don’t we start with you, huh?” Wait a second. That sounded like he said he wanted Heero. Time to rephrase. Freudian slip? What’s that? “Why don’t you tell me what you want.”

“Looking at you now, Duo, and knowing that you have your hand on the gun, ready to kill me, I think it’s too late for what I want.”

Well, now that that’s taken care of…. “I’ll just be on my merry little way, then,” Duo said, tossing the sheet off of himself and scooting over to the other side of the bed.

“No,” Heero growled, and suddenly Duo was thrust back against the bed with one very determined vampire on top of him and the gun lying abandoned somewhere under the pillows.

“Get the fuck off of me!” Duo shouted, trying to get some leverage to push Heero away. The vampire had his wrists pinned on either side of his head and was using his lower body to press Duo into the mattress. Unbidden, the image of what they had done earlier that night in his own apartment swam before his eyes. Duo felt his blood rush and body tighten in response, making him hard. Heero’s groin was pressed into Duo’s, and he couldn’t stop the moan that escaped his lips.

“I know you want me, Duo, I can taste it,” Heero said, softer now.

Duo heard the words dimly through the rapid beating of his heart. He felt his power stir inside him, waking in response to Heero. “Yeah, so what?”

“Why are you fighting me?” he asked.

“You tried to kill me,” Duo snarled back, pissed off with himself and his reaction to Heero.

“I tried to protect what’s mine,” Heero replied. “Quatre, Trowa…Wufei. Everyone.”

“You lied to me.”

“I didn’t know the entire truth.”

“You used me against your enemies.”

“I tried to protect you from your own.”

“I don’t need a fucking babysitter!”

“What do you need?”

Duo opened his mouth, ready with a sharp retort before Heero’s question had really sunk in. “A vacation,” he snapped.

Heero shook his head. “What do you need?”

“I don’t know.”

“What do you want?”

“I don’t know!

“What do you want?” Heero insisted, his face hovering mere inches above Duo’s.

“I want you to shut the fuck up and kiss me, dammit!” Duo’s eyes widened when he realized what he had said. Well, shit.

Heero didn’t waste any time in asking if Duo was certain or had realized just what he had said. The vampire dipped his head down and fiercely captured Duo’s lips with his own. He forced his mouth open with teeth and tongue, a groan of satisfaction echoing deep from within his throat when Duo responded by tangling his own tongue with Heero’s.

Duo pressed himself hard against Heero, the sharp points of fangs against his lips. The heat of the vampire’s body surrounded him and he felt Heero’s erection hard against his own. Duo groaned as he thrust up against Heero, his legs unconsciously parting. The vampire’s tongue plunged into his mouth, tasting him. The sharp tip of a fang pricked Duo’s bottom lip, and he tasted his own blood.

Heero groaned, drawing Duo’s lip into his mouth. He shuddered, then pulled back, watching Duo’s eyelashes flutter over dazed eyes. The power between them was muted, still flowing just below the surface, waiting for release.

“What do you want?” Heero repeated.

Tugging one of his hands out of Heero’s grip, Duo reached up and curled his fingers in the soft hair at the base of his neck, pulling Heero’s head down. He brushed his lips over Heero’s, then swiped his tongue over them in a wet line.

“I want you to touch me,” Duo whispered against Heero’s mouth before he slipped his tongue between the vampire’s lips and the almost delicate points of his fangs. He brushed his tongue over the line of Heero’s teeth; pressed their mouths harder together and stroked his tongue over Heero’s. He felt his body grow impossibly hot, overcome with the urge to have everything Heero could offer.

Heero released Duo’s other hand, skimming his own down Duo’s arm and leaving it resting flat on his chest. He rubbed his palm over the silken shirt, making Duo’s nipples pebble hard. He broke away, slipping his hands under the cloth and dragging it over Duo’s head. With the shirt now lost amongst the sheets, Heero looked down at him. Cobalt eyes gone impossibly dark with lust, he smoothed his hands over Duo’s chest, tracing the sharp planes and curves, down to where the red silk rested low on his hips.

Duo shivered, and it had nothing to do with being cold. Heero’s eyes were like a weight against his skin, following the invisible trail left behind by his hands. The vampire lowered his head again, this time licking a wet path across Duo’s body where silk met skin. Moving up slowly, he nuzzled Duo’s stomach, taking in the scent of his skin. He traced a circle around Duo’s navel, dipped his tongue inside with quick, light touches.

Another fine tremble ran though him when Heero started moving up again, his tongue hot against Duo’s skin. He stopped at one of Duo’s nipples, hovering just above it. His eyes rolled up, met Duo’s cloudy gaze. Breathing a puff of warm air over the small bud, he said, “What do you want?” before closing his mouth over it and teasing it with lips and tongue. He rolled it between his teeth gently, then bit down with enough force to make Duo feel the hard tips of his fangs.

Duo had to swallow twice before he found his voice. “I want you to taste me,” he breathed, cupping Heero’s face in his hands and pulling him up.

The vampire made a small sound of need, borne of a hunger for Duo’s sex and blood. He laid light kisses over Duo’s collarbone, moving steadily up to the soft skin of his neck.

Heero’s scent surrounded him, spicy, hot…dark and intoxicating. He felt Heero’s cheek rub against his, then the vampire’s hot breath brushed against his neck. Heero nuzzled him with his nose, tongue darting out to lick the small marks where he had tasted Duo before.

Power sang through Duo in a rush, no longer buried deep inside him but reaching to the surface, straining towards Heero. His vision dimmed, stained a blue that mirrored the fire in Heero’s eyes. He felt Heero’s fangs sink into him, suggestive even in that little movement, and Duo arched up, pressing himself against the vampire. Velvet energy caressed him, inside and out, touching him intimately. Heero’s fangs withdrew, but the power stayed, growing stronger as he drew Duo’s blood and power out of his body and into his own.

Duo rocked his body against Heero’s, small whimpers filling the air around them. Heero shifted above him, bringing one knee between the braided man’s legs and pressing against his arousal. Duo’s mouth fell open in a sharp gasp. He felt as if he would burn up, caught between the pleasure of his power and Heero’s touch.

Heero slid his arms underneath him, then rolled so that Duo was on top of him, sprawled over his chest. He laid a gentle kiss over the tiny pinpricks on Duo’s neck, then let his hands slip down to grip Duo’s hips. “What do you want?” he asked as he dipped his hands just inside the waistband of Duo’s pants and ran heated fingers over his skin.

Duo pushed himself up on his arms, hands splayed against the black sheets. He looked down at Heero and murmured, “I want….” as he settled back on his knees, tugging Heero’s shirt up. The vampire grasped the hem and quickly stripped it off, tossing it aside.

“I want…” he said, leaning forward again and rubbing his erection over Heero’s. Duo pumped his hips slowly, gaining speed as Heero’s breathing became more and more ragged. He felt the energy flowing between them grow in waves, slacking off then surging upwards again, stealing Duo’s breath and tearing animal sounds from his throat.

Beneath him, Heero rocked up, meeting Duo’s thrusts with his own. His grip tightened on Duo’s hips, slowing him down. Dropping his hands lower to run over Duo’s spread thighs, he asked again, “What do you want?” His voice was low and husky. It sent tiny shivers coursing through Duo.

“I want you,” Duo said, pushing himself back up. He ran his hands over Heero’s chest, stopping when he came to the barrier of his leather pants. Unlacing the ties, he pushed the pants down, revealing Heero’s erection to eager eyes. Duo wrapped both hands around him, his breathing speeding up in anticipation. Heero was almost painfully hard, heavy in his hands. Duo ran his hand over Heero’s arousal slowly, spreading the small droplets of liquid that appeared at the tip. “I want you.”

Heero’s grip tightened, his fingers digging into Duo’s legs. Duo released his erection, getting to his knees to push his own pants down. The silk pooled on top of the sheets, crimson on black. Heero growled, hands sliding up to caress the skin of Duo’s lower back and buttocks. Settling down over Heero’s body again, Duo brushed their naked erections together. The vampire’s breath hissed out.

“I want you,” Duo said again, reaching behind himself and grasping Heero’s hands, “to touch me.” He drew one of Heero’s hands back around, bringing it up to his mouth. He slipped two of Heero’s fingers into his mouth, licking and teasing them with his tongue. He kept his eyes on Heero’s, watching the power and lust flow through them. Letting the fingers slip out of his mouth, Duo moved Heero’s hand behind him, pushing it towards the cleft of his ass. “I want you to fuck me.”

Heero groaned, running his fingers over the tight ring of muscle surrounding Duo’s entrance. Duo let go of Heero’s hand, using his own to spread himself open. The vampire slid lower on the bed, drawing one hand back around and slipping it between Duo’s legs, pressing on the soft patch of skin just below his opening.

Duo’s legs shook under him. His eyes threatened to close and he fought to keep them open. Heero started to lazily circle his entrance with a finger, dipping just the tip inside. Duo pushed back, crying out when he felt Heero’s entire finger inside him. He caught himself on his hands, bracing himself above Heero. The vampire pushed his finger deep inside, moving it in and out slowly. Duo spread his legs wider, his head falling forward.

Heero withdrew his finger, then pushed back inside with two. He massaged Duo’s entrance, making Duo moan each time he pressed deeper. Using the heels of his hands, Heero forced Duo’s buttocks apart, then pushed the tips of two opposite fingers inside and pulled gently, widening his tight opening.

“Hurry up,” Duo panted, wetting his lips. He lifted a hand, making a vague gesture. “Give me – !” his sentence was cut short by a harsh cry when Heero’s fingers plunged into him, making his back arch sharply. Duo pushed back, rocking his hips into the vampire’s hand. “Lubricant,” he ground out from between clenched teeth.

One of Heero’s hands ghosted down Duo’s leg, leaving a burning trail in its wake. He stretched out, reaching for the drawer and emerging with a small jar. He pushed it into Duo’s hand. Duo fumbled with the cap, finally opening the jar and dipping his fingers inside. Reaching between their bodies, he wrapped his hand around Heero’s erection, smoothing the cool gel over his length. He teased the tip, felt the heated shaft twitch in his grasp. Duo moved his hips, placing the vampire’s arousal resting against the cleft of his ass.

Heero made a guttural sound somewhere between a grunt and a moan and withdrew his fingers. The tip of his erection pressed against Duo’s sensitive opening, then pushed slowly inside. Duo rose up, bracing himself on Heero’s shoulders, then pushed down, feeling himself widen and stretch. Heero’s eyes were fixed on Duo’s, his kiss-swollen lips parted.

Duo smiled; lust clouded eyes and heavy lids transforming his expression into something decadent. Tendrils of hair had worked loose from his braid, spilling down over his neck and chest. He met Heero’s gaze and let gravity take over, dropping his hips and forcing Heero’s erection fully inside him. Duo whimpered sharply, his nails digging into the vampire’s heated skin.

Mouth falling open in a cry of pleasure, Heero snapped his hips up to meet Duo. He gripped Duo’s ass, holding him up effortlessly. Without pause, he started to thrust, pushing himself deep, only to withdraw and then plunge deeper. Duo’s back arched, his head tossed back as his cries escalated into full-throated shouts. The burning flow of energy surged forward with a vengeance; passed over and through him. His vision faded at the edges until there was only Heero and himself, consumed by lust and power.

Dimly, Duo felt himself being lifted up and turned around; Heero’s erection sliding completely out. He managed a desperate, “No!” then felt his back press against Heero’s chest as he was set down in the vampire’s lap. Heero lifted him again, his erection slipping easily back inside Duo.

Gasping, Duo reached down and tangled his fingers in the sheets. Heero’s arousal pushed so much deeper now, pressing firmly against a spot hidden inside him that made his entire body pulse and burn with pleasure.

Heero plunged himself into Duo again and again, his breath escaping in sharp groans. Duo writhed against him, nonsense sounds falling from swollen lips. Heero groaned loudly, pushing deep inside Duo and wrapping an arm tightly across his chest. His erection pulsed and Duo felt him come, spilling heated liquid into him with a strangled cry. Power surged through Duo in waves, stealing his breath. Heero’s other hand found its way to Duo’s arousal even as he bit down on the braided man’s neck.

Mouth falling open in a breathless, silent scream, Duo came, coating Heero’s hand with his essence. The burning energy grew larger and still larger, engulfing him until he couldn’t see, hear or think, only feel. Then it broke, exploding over him in a rush, and finally he found his voice. Duo’s skin burned with power as he cried out; a sound base and primitive, filled with pleasure. His hand flew to Heero’s head, holding him immobile with lips pressed to Duo’s throat.

Duo’s head fell back, his chest rising and falling rapidly as he fought to regain his breath. Heero held him in his lap, face buried in the warm, soft hair at the base of Duo’s neck. He breathed deeply, resting there for a moment; then gently lifted the exhausted Duo, laying him down on the cooler sheets.

Duo made a small sound of disappointment, which was cut off abruptly as he felt Heero slide out of him. He took a deep breath, turning his head to face the vampire and slowly cracked open an eye, somewhat relieved and disappointed that his vision was normal once again. A man had a limited amount of strength, and being with Heero severely taxed Duo’s.

“My ne-” Duo’s voice was rough and failed him before he could finish his sentence. He grinned, swallowed and tried again. “My neck is going to be one big hickey,” he stated.

Heero curled himself around Duo, spooning him, and brushed his fingers over the red-stained skin. His eyes flickered from neck to face and he smiled. Not a happy smile, although he did look decidedly content, but a secret little smirk that suggested he was thinking about a repeat performance. Duo opened his mouth to head off that idea right away, at least until after a short nap. Ten minutes should do it. That was about as long as Duo was willing to wait.

The vampire took that opportunity to kiss him, sliding his tongue easily through Duo’s parted lips. Heero’s tongue tangled with his own in a slow, languorous dance, and Duo got the distinct feeling that Heero was quite pleased with himself. Hell, Duo was quite pleased with him.

Heero pulled back slowly. “It doesn’t have to be the neck,” he murmured, somewhat cryptically.

Duo’s brow winged up. “Oh?”

The vampire nodded. “It can be here,” he said, touching Duo’s neck, “here,” his hand dropped down to brush his fingertips over Duo’s wrist, “or….”

“Or…?” Duo prompted.

Heero’s expression remained the same as he dipped his hand down, resting over a spot remarkably high on Duo’s inner thigh. “Or here.”

Duo had a quick flash of Heero’s head buried between his legs. And what a nice picture it was. It gave him ideas. Lots of ideas.

Smirking to himself, Duo shifted around a bit on the bed, pushing himself back into Heero until he found a comfortable position. He just barely managed to stifle the evil chuckle that threatened to escape when he heard Heero moan softly.

Lots of very interesting ideas.

*

Brightest Nights

Duo awoke several hours later, still pressed against Heero. He sighed and snuggled into the covers contentedly. At some point last night, he had come to a decision; he still trusted the vamp. Reasoning, logic, everything else aside, he had to admit to himself that Heero had simply reacted to the threats posed against those he considered his and had protected them. When exactly the vampire had come to the conclusion that Duo was included in this group was really not that important. It might come up later, but for now, Duo was more than a little happy with the arrangement.

However, Duo refused to admit that Heero had influenced said decision. If he had, it was probably around the time his tongue was in Duo’s mouth. It was a very persuasive argument. Then again, it could have been when his hands were…but, since the vampire had not influenced his decision in the least, the point was moot. And that was that.

Rolling over in Heero’s loose embrace, Duo watched his face as the vampire slept. Or did whatever it was that vampires did during the day. Duo lightly touched his fingertips to the curve of a cheek, trailing across slightly parted lips. A puff of warm air brushed his hand. He rubbed the pad of his thumb back over Heero’s lips, then let his hand drop down until it rested against the side of his neck. He wouldn’t be up and about for another four hours at least.

Duo frowned. And just how the hell did he know that? He glanced around, looking for a clock. He knew there was one on Heero’s desk in the other part of the room, but it was both too far away and facing the other direction. There were no windows, nothing for him to use as a guide to estimate the time. His frown deepened, and was reaching epic proportions when a knock sounded on the door, followed shortly by the sound of someone entering the room. Duo tensed, then remembered that anyone who entered Heero’s chambers without waiting for permission could only be either Quatre, Trowa or Wufei. Since Heero was out for the count, it couldn’t be Quatre – the blonde would be curled up somewhere asleep. Something familiar brushed through Duo’s mind, and he knew who it was.

Duo’s frown faded, replaced by a smile. “Morning, Wu,” he said when the shifter passed through the opening between the curtains.

Wufei’s deep black hair was sleep-tousled, small chunks of it falling down around his face. He was clad only in a pair of coal black pajama bottoms. Padding barefoot over to Duo’s side of the bed, he absently scratched his nose.

“This looks comfortable,” Wufei said with a half smile.

Grinning, Duo said, “And you sound bitter about it.”

“Really? I thought I hid that well.”

“Nope, it managed to sneak through. Here, crawl in if you dare,” he added with a laugh as he lifted the edge of the sheet and glanced down. At least that side was clean.

“It does looker warmer in there than out here,” Wufei said, eyeing the bed critically.

“In or out, Wu, I’m getting a draft.”

Wufei laughed, sliding underneath the sheet and curling up beside Duo. “Much warmer. I-” he cut himself off, nostrils flaring.

“What?” Duo said, glancing around and rolling out from underneath Heero’s arm.

“Nothing,” the shifter said, blinking. His already night black eyes had become a few shades darker.

“I know that look, Wufei, don’t give me that ‘nothing’ crap.”

Wufei pushed himself up on his elbow, staring down at Duo briefly before he dipped his head down and rubbed his face against Duo’s chest. “It wasn’t so strong when I wasn’t this close to you,” he said, lips brushing over Duo’s skin as he spoke.

“What wasn’t?” Duo demanded, refusing to be distracted by the soft caress of Wufei’s hair where it touched him.

The shifter’s hands came up, running over Duo. He pushed the sheet off of them both, exposing Duo’s nude body.

“Whoa, Wu!” Duo exclaimed, “What’s gotten into you?”

Wufei’s hands had continued their explorations, trailing over Duo’s hips and down his thighs. He looked up, meeting the longhaired man’s wide eyes with his own clouded ones. “Your skin…you smell like blood and sex…power.” His voice had grown rough.

“You’ve got a severe obsession with all three of those,” Duo said softly.

“I know,” the shifter breathed, face still pressed close to the other man. Then he sighed. “You have to get up.”

“What for? This is as good a place as any to be right now.” He arched an eyebrow.

“Heero didn’t tell you?” Wufei looked up, resting his cheek on Duo’s chest.

“He didn’t get a chance to tell me much,” Duo said, unable to keep a grin from forming on his face.

“So I see,” the shifter murmured, touching Duo’s neck.

“Before we both get so distracted that we forget our names, what do I have to get up for?”

“Meeting,” was all Wufei said as he buried his head in the crook of Duo’s neck. His tongue darted out to lap at the soft skin and a tiny shiver coursed through him. “You taste so good….”

Duo blinked. In this particular context, wasn’t that a weird thing to say? He had fallen asleep, covered in the products of a bout of very good, very messy sex with a vampire. Oh. Duo blinked again. Blood, sex, power. Riiight.

“What meeting?” Duo asked, tilting his head unconsciously to the side so Wufei could have better access to his skin. Since the shifter was so dead set on having a little taste, there really wasn’t any reason why Duo couldn’t enjoy it.

“The one I called.”

That wasn’t Wufei’s voice. Duo turned his head slowly, coming face to face with a certain half-asleep, blue-eyed vampire. Heero’s speech was slow and measured, as if it required a great deal of energy. It probably did.

“What are you doing awake? You shouldn’t be up for a few hours yet,” Duo commented, absently brushing Heero’s hair away from his eyes.

Wufei slid a leg over Duo’s, moving so he lay half on top of him. “Hello, Heero,” he greeted.

“Your energy woke me, Duo,” Heero said accusingly after a brief nod to the shifter. “I can’t sleep next to you when you’re like that.”

Duo was about to protest that comment, but one quick glance below his waist would mark him a liar. Not that he had felt his power stir, but there was the vampire, awake with more than three hours to go until sundown.

Turning back to Wufei, Duo said, “Do you think I should apologize for that?”

“It’s a nice way to be woken up,” Wufei said.

“I think you should apologize, Wu.”

“Me? Why?”

“Because it’s your fault.”

“It is not. It’s your fault.”

“How’s that?”

“Your power woke him.”

Duo snorted. “Yeah, well, you started it by licking my neck.”

“He was licking your neck? Already?” Heero said, his eyebrows shooting up.

“He tastes good,” Wufei said with a shrug.

Heero’s expression was just this side of a leer. “Really.”

Wufei nodded. “You already knew that,” he said, looking pointedly at the tiny scar on Duo.

Heero buried his face in his pillow and groaned.

“Heero?” Duo asked, not sure what that meant.

“This is why I always sleep with Quatre,” the vampire mumbled into the pillow.

“Huh?”

“Quatre doesn’t stir during the day,” Wufei explained.

“And?” Duo prompted.

“Neither one wakes up to disturb the other.”

“Oh.” Duo felt like smacking himself on the head.

“If you don’t mind,” Heero said, his voice still muffled, “would you please both find another bed to continue this on? Or continue it later with me as a participant?”

That surprised Duo, though it probably shouldn’t have. Wufei was still his, even after he and Heero had been together. It wasn’t like any of it would change. He already knew how Wufei felt about it, the shifter had developed a habit of urging him into Heero’s arms, then curling up with them both.

Smiling sheepishly at Wufei, Duo rolled over on his side and nudged Heero’s face away from the pillow. Sleepy blue eyes met his, an unspoken question in them.

“Morning, Heero,” Duo said, pressing his lips to the vampire’s. “See you later, when you’re feeling a bit more…spry.”

Heero laughed softly, eyes slipping closed again. The sound trailed down Duo’s spine, making him think thoughts that were definitely not mentioned in decent company. Fortunately for him, the company he held right now was decidedly not decent.

Wufei slipped off of the bed, waiting expectantly for Duo. Crawling somewhat less gracefully, Duo got to his feet. The shapeshifter’s gaze traveled down the length of Duo’s body then returned to meet his eyes. Taking a quick step forward, Wufei wrapped his arms around the longhaired man’s waist and buried his head in the crook of Duo’s neck.

Startled, Duo automatically returned the embrace. “Wu?”

“I want you, Duo,” Wufei said, his voice low and husky. He nuzzled Duo’s neck, teasing the soft skin with lips and tongue.

Duo drew in a shaky breath, pressing the length of Wufei’s body firmly against his own. The thin barrier of pajama bottoms did nothing to contain the heat radiating from the were.

“What meeting did Heero call?” Duo asked. Amazing. His higher brain functions were still working.

“We’re to brief you on the situation involving Odin,” Wufei answered, his breath hot against Duo’s skin.

Duo’s hands slipped lower, resting on the curve of Wufei’s hips. “How long until you guys brief me?”

“Trowa is still asleep with Quatre.”

“Good.”

*

Duo was pacing. Again. Trowa silently tracked Duo’s progress from his perch on the arm of a black wingchair, green eyes following each step and turn exactly.

Stopping, the braided man turned to Wufei, who was sitting in the same chair that Trowa had settled on. “And neither one of you has any idea where they went? No one does?” he asked for the fourth time.

Wufei sighed. “No, Duo, no one knows. It’s not odd for Treize and Dorothy to go out on their own.”

“I don’t like it,” Duo said, frowning. “The timing is bad.”

“It is,” Trowa agreed, “but they don’t know anything about Odin yet.”

“Still…I don’t like it,” Duo repeated. They may have left before the little encounter with Odin, but that hardly meant they knew nothing about it. Maybe he was just being overly paranoid; or maybe his sense of self-preservation was kicking in. About damn time, too. He was already neck deep in monsters.

“So you’ve said,” Wufei commented.

“Where the hell is Heero?” Duo half-shouted, resuming his pacing. “He should have been here by now, what can be taking him so damn long?”

Knowing Heero, the vampire would only show up when he was good and ready. Near immortality gives a person a hell of a lot of time to fuck around.

Duo stopped short, grinning. Then he started to chuckle. When Quatre and Heero finally appeared in the doorway of the blonde’s room, Duo was laughing outright, his shoulders shaking with mirth.

Wufei glanced at the longhaired man, then the vampires, then Trowa. “Do you have any idea why he’s doing that?” he asked, gesturing vaguely.

“Perhaps the stress is getting to him?” Heero offered as Quatre eyed the laughing man suspiciously.

The blonde gave Duo a wide berth, eventually sliding into the companion wingchair. He glanced at Trowa, who slipped off the chair’s arm and seated himself at Quatre’s feet.

“Stress?” Wufei snorted. “What stress? He couldn’t possibly be stressed. Tired, yes, but not stressed.”

“No, I suppose not,” Heero mused. “Do you think his mind has snapped?”

“No.”

“No?”

“No.”

“Why ‘no’?”

Wufei shrugged. “I don’t think he has much of a mind left after last night for it to have snapped,” he said pointedly.

Duo had finally gotten control of himself, and was viciously glaring at them both. “Would you two stop talking about me as if I wasn’t here?”

“You weren’t here,” Trowa put in lightly. “At least your mind wasn’t.”

“What were you laughing about?” Heero asked.

“Never mind,” Duo said shortly. “Treize and Dorothy have gone AWOL.”

Heero nodded. “I know.”

“And?”

“They are the least of our worries at the moment.”

“They’re a loose thread, Heero,” Duo said, “I don’t-”

“Like it, we know,” Quatre interrupted.

That earned the vampire a glare. It didn’t seem to bother him in the least. And that didn’t help Duo’s mood.

Everyone in the room, save Duo, turned towards the door. Seconds later, a tentative knock sounded. Une cracked open the door at Heero’s word.

“We’ve found Treize,” she stated simply. “Catherine has him in the front room.”

“Catherine!?” Duo exclaimed.

Une simply nodded. “He is undamaged as far as we can tell. She wishes to…talk.”

“What the fuck does she want now?” Duo said viciously while at the same time entertaining thoughts of slowly throttling the woman to death.

“You could go with Heero to find out,” Quatre said pointedly, rising to his feet.

Had Quatre always been such a smart-ass? Duo grunted, then turned on his heel to follow the Erus. Quatre quickly caught up with them and fell into step beside Duo, the two shifters, as usual, bringing up the rear. Duo took the opportunity to stare blatantly at Heero’s ass.

The vampire had somehow managed to pour himself into yet another pair of straight-legged black pants, and, amazingly enough, they weren’t leather. Une opened the door leading to the main room, and Heero turned around to address the others before he followed her inside. The pants, Duo noted, rested low on his hips, the front slit open with only a deep, blood red thread lacing them loosely together. Very loosely, he thought with a fair measure of appreciation. His black shirt was webbed, baring more skin than it covered. Long sleeves draped down over his hands, the cuffs flared and wide.

Heero held out his hand to Duo, something black coiled in his palm. Quirking an eyebrow at him, Duo waited for an explanation.

The vampire picked the item up, uncoiling it. An intricately woven chain dangled from his fingers. “Nichol arrived sometime last night. He is a….” Heero paused, searching for a word, “representative of the Assembly.”

“Assembly meaning that crew you mentioned before,” Duo stated.

Heero nodded.

“So what’s that got to do with it?”

“It marks you as one of us,” Quatre said. “If not in form, then in mindset.”

That sounded rather ominous.

Duo took the choker from Heero’s hand, looking critically at it. The black threads of metal twisted in upon one another in a dizzying pattern, reminding him of the Celtic knots he’d seen in Mariemeia’s apartment. A single coil of silver trailed through the black, framing a teardrop stone woven amongst the strands in the very center. Duo tipped it to the side, watching it catch in the dim light. Black diamond and something the color of fresh blood were melded impossibly close together, spiraling in an endless helix to create the solid stone. It was beautiful.

“The Assembly wishes proof that you are no threat to us,” Heero said, retrieving the chain. “Nichol was sent here to see that proof.”

“It doesn’t just mark me as one of you,” Duo said, fixing Heero with a heated glare, “it marks me as yours, doesn’t it?”

The vampire regarded the choker quietly. “It does.”

“And this will get them off both of our backs?”

Another nod.

There was more to this than Heero was telling him. Not that Duo found that particularly surprising. Placing that little piece of jewelry around his neck should have been nothing more than just a ruse to placate some collection of overly nosy busybody monsters in another country. But for some reason, Duo stared at the black and silver threads, debating whether or not simply donning it would alter his life forever.

As if his life could be more radically altered than it already had been.

Duo felt the eyes of Quatre and the two shifters like a tangible force at his back, but he forced them to the back his mind and concentrated only on Heero. The vampire was watching him with that familiar burning gaze, something like hope and anticipation swimming in the blue depths.

This was a vampire, a supernatural force to be reckoned with; a killer beyond anything humans could ever aspire to. This was his lover.

Resolute, Duo nodded. “Put it on.”

Heero stepped forward, bringing his arms around Duo and leaning over his shoulder to clasp the choker around his neck. It fastened with a quiet click at the same moment as the vampire’s lips touched his.

Amazingly soft and gentle, Heero kissed him, and it was anything but chaste. Sealing his lips over Duo’s, Heero invaded his mouth, tasting every corner. His tongue stroked along Duo’s, bringing heat and fire running through the braided man. Duo couldn’t stop the moan that echoed deep in his throat as he tangled his hand in Heero’s shirt, balling the webbing in his fist.

The presence that always lingered in the back of Duo’s mind surged to the forefront, accompanied by the feather-light brush of the connection he seemed to share with Wufei and Trowa. Only this time, the ice-fire touch of Heero came with it, along with something strange but familiar. Something warm and sexual, something purely Quatre.

But the world didn’t shatter, the ground didn’t shake beneath his feet. It was almost disappointing.

Duo blinked, clearing his suddenly blurry eyes. Maybe it was a good thing that the earth hadn’t opened up under him.

“Mine and yours, yours and mine,” Heero said softly, pulling away from him.

Reaching up hesitantly, Duo fingered the stone that rested in the center of his throat. He glanced back at the other three, surprised to notice happiness and…approval in their eyes.

“Let’s go meet the peanut gallery,” Duo said, letting his hand drop from his neck.

*

Catherine looked…normal. She was dressed in a short blue skirt, a simple tee and had her hair pulled back into a complicated twist. The two shifters that always seemed to accompany her were also dressed in street clothes, the younger in jeans and a shirt, the older in slacks and a men’s semi-casual shirt. The three stood just inside the entryway coming from the main part of Bliss.

Treize, looking tired but otherwise fine, sat on the couch facing them. His clothes were slightly rumpled, which made Duo frown. Treize was usually perfection in a bottle. He stayed quiet though, as Heero had ‘advised’ him to do. He was to follow the Erus’ lead, and not stomp ahead on his own. That had worked really well in the encounter with Odin.

Turning his gaze to the only new face in the room, Duo assumed it must be Nichol. He sat calmly in a plush chair, his back ramrod straight and his light brown hair neatly cropped. Old military. When Heero entered, he nodded curtly, his gaze darting from vampire to Duo. Recognition flared in his brown eyes.

“Hello again, Heero,” he said smoothly, “it’s been quite a long time.”

Everyone seemed to be saying it had been a while since they’d seen Heero. Must be a trend.

“Nichol,” the vampire replied in greeting, slipping gracefully into one of the red chairs. “I assume you’re here on business of the Assembly.”

That was Heero, cut right to the chase. Duo took his place beside the Erus, while Quatre stood a little to the left and behind the chair. Trowa and Wufei, as usual, sank to the floor on either side of Heero’s legs.

“If you’ll excuse me a moment,” he continued, pausing for a moment to acknowledge Nichol’s nod. Turning to Catherine, he said, “And what brings you here again?”

“I wish to speak with you privately,” the woman answered shortly.

“No business is private from the Assembly,” Heero countered.

Catherine looked indecisive, then firmed her shoulders. “No, it isn’t. Yet I will speak with only you.”

Even though Catherine and her wolves had the advantage of height and Heero was forced to look up at them, it did nothing to diminish the aura of authority that the vampire exuded. If anything, the trio looked almost ridiculous standing there while Heero reclined comfortably in a chair. It gave them an air of triviality.

“Very well,” Heero agreed, dismissing her and turning his attention back to Nichol. “And what matter brings the Assembly to me?”

“It has been brought to the attention of the Assembly that a person of moderate interest has recently come under your power. A human known as Duo Maxwell now serves you.”

Duo almost choked on that.

“He does,” Heero confirmed. “And what of him?”

“He has been slated for execution by the Assembly.”

Duo felt his face go carefully blank, devoid of emotion. Inside, he was seething. Execution, huh? Wonder how much the Assembly would appreciate their little messenger man being sent home in a Ziploc baggie.

“The human is mine, impervious to such edicts,” Heero stated simply, as if it wasn’t Duo they were discussing, but an inanimate object.

“It had been passed before the human committed himself to you.”

“Regardless,” Heero replied, sitting very still, “he is mine. The edict is nullified, unless I wish him killed.”

A smile quirked at the corners of Nichol’s mouth. “I doubt you will do so.”

“Perceptive of you,” Heero agreed.

“There are some who doubt the strength of your bond.”

Duo was starting to feel almost dizzy, watching the conversation bounce back and forth between the two.

“There are some who covet that bond.”

Touché.

A genuine smile covered Nichol’s face. “And there are still others who would see that bond broken.”

Heero’s eyes grew dark. Duo could have reached out and touched the menace that started to roll out from the vampire like a desert wind. “I pity those that would dare to try.”

“Then there are many who deserve your pity.”

Heero remained quiet, silently agreeing with Nichol’s statement.

“The Assembly wants proof, Heero,” Nichol said finally.

“And they send you here to witness this proof.”

Another curt nod. “They want him marked.”

Duo didn’t have to see Heero’s smile to know it was there. “He is marked.”

Nichol looked taken aback. He quickly covered his surprise, saying, “None of the old ones felt you mark him.”

“I am one of the old ones,” Heero said simply. Duo felt the weight of his voice fall over him, the pressure of it dulling his hearing momentarily.

“True,” Nichol said, accepting the vampire’s small display of power.

Jesus, you’d think that it’d be proof enough that Duo was sitting here putting up with all this arcane vampire shit.

“Show me the mark,” Nichol said.

This guy comes halfway around the world to see a little bite mark? Oh, hell, did vampires ever have time to waste!

The shifters at Heero’s feet moved, slipping to sit on either side of the back of Heero’s chair. That must be Duo’s cue.

Settling on the floor in front of Heero, but facing Nichol, Duo obediently tipped his head to the side and turned as the vampire slipped the choker up, baring the shiny scar at his neck.

Brushing his hand over the soft skin, Heero’s voice echoed in Duo’s mind, /Release some of your power, Duo. Show him the marks./

Confused, Duo closed his eyes. The marks? What was Heero talking about? Then, with a mind of its own, the energy coiled inside Duo rose up like a great beast waking itself from a long slumber. It curled and twisted within him, reaching out towards the four beings gathered behind him. It stretched and wound between them, touching both vampires and shifters in turn.

As quickly as it had come, it folded back in upon itself, lingering on the cool flames of Heero’s touch. And then it quieted, lying just below the surface and waiting for Duo to call it forward once more.

Duo swayed, suddenly very happy that he was sitting on the floor. That must be what Heero had meant by the marks. He remembered doing that same thing before, when he was lost in the rage caused by Sally and her games.

The question was, who had marked whom?

Across from them, Duo heard Nichol suck in a sharp breath. Heero slipped the choker back down, leaving his hand resting on Duo’s neck, a sardonic smile gracing his lips.

“Will this proof satisfy them?” Heero asked.

Nichol shook his head. “If it doesn’t…nothing will. You needn’t have gone that far, Heero.”

“I want the Assembly to leave us be,” Heero replied. “Go back. Tell your masters that Duo Maxwell is no threat to us or them. Leave him alone.”

“Very well.” Nichol stood in one fluid motion, then turned to Heero with a calculating eye. “Truth be told, I agree with the old ones. Duo Maxwell should die. That much power in one human is dangerous to us all. And you should not be allowed to run free as you do.”

“You are entitled to an opinion,” Heero said coldly. “I think you’re finished here.”

“Yes…yes, I am,” Nichol said, “I’ve seen all I need to see.”

“Hope that we never cross paths again, Nichol.”

Nichol smiled indulgently. “I sincerely hope we never do. Watch yourself with that one, Heero. I’m not entirely sure he is human.”

“Goodbye, Nichol,” was all Heero said in reply.

Finally accepting his crisp dismissal, Nichol nodded to the room, then walked towards the exit. Catherine and her wolves, forgotten in the exchange, parted to let him pass. The door clicked shut with a note of finality.

“Now,” Heero said, turning to Catherine, “what do you want?”

Duo turned, focusing his gaze squarely on the Tamer and the two shifters with her. If Heero thought for one second that he was going to be quiet during this little conversation, the vampire was in for a nasty surprise.

“Just what the hell happened to you?” Duo demanded.

Catherine actually smiled. “A very good thing, Duo, depending on your point of view. I’m wondering what happened to you.”

“I think my story’s a lot less interesting compared to yours,” he snorted.

Heero gave Duo a wry look. “You couldn’t be quiet a moment longer, could you?”

“Not one more fucking second.”

“I knew it was too good to last,” Wufei mumbled.

“Odin wants to see you,” Catherine said abruptly, steering all attention back to her.

“What?” Duo said, blinking. That was a little unexpected.

“You’re very slow these days, Heero,” she continued, a mocking tone in her voice. “Sally has been working towards Odin’s goals for a long time. Associating with so many humans is dulling your senses.”

Heero merely fixed a chilling glare on the woman. “You’re at a very large disadvantage right now, Catherine.”

“Not really. You see, he has Dorothy. Treize here was returned to provide confirmation of my story,” she said, turning to Treize, “weren’t you?”

Treize looked righteously disgusted. “I fear it’s the truth, Erus.”

“He’ll be heading back with me, too.” Catherine’s eyes were sparkling like a child’s on Christmas morning.

“How the hell do you figure we’ll let you waltz out of here with him again?” Duo ground out, rising to his feet.

“Because if I don’t return with him in the next hour, Dorothy dies. And don’t get any ideas about just killing me here. That won’t do you any good.”

“It’ll make me feel a hell of a lot better,” Duo said.

“Whatever,” Catherine replied with a wave of her hand.

“What makes Odin so certain I will agree to meet with him?” Heero asked. “Dorothy might not mean that much to me.”

“Oh, Odin thinks she does. Consequently,” she added with a smirk, “so do I. You’re such a bleeding heart, Heero. Always looking out for your people.”

Was the woman on crack!? Heero was as far from being a bleeding heart as Bambi was from being a serial murderer.

“You don’t have much choice, Heero. Bring Duo and meet with Odin tonight.”

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” Heero asked. “Odin is too intelligent to believe I’d agree to meet him with only Duo.”

“Odin is many things, but he’s not stupid,” Catherine said. “Bring your werepanthers and your second. Treize goes with me. Aside from that, choose three more of your people. That’s it.”

Heero seemed to consider this. “I will meet him. But in a place of my choosing.”

Catherine nodded, expecting this.

“Tell Odin that I will contact Sally in one hour to tell her where we will meet.”

“You can simply tell me now. I play messenger girl very well,” Catherine ventured.

“No. One hour.”

“Fine.”

“And you will leave Walker with me.”

Catherine’s eyes flashed. “I don’t think so, Heero.”

“You’re right, Catherine, you DON’T think,” Duo put in. “If you take Treize back with you to the polite psycho, then one of your wolves stays with us.”

“Call it a gesture of good faith on your part,” Quatre added.

“No deal,” Catherine said.

“Then kill Dorothy and tell Odin to stop bothering me with his childish games.”

What!?

“You can’t be serious, Heero. You would abandon the lamia for this…this human?” Catherine spat.

“Oh, I am serious,” Heero said, rising to his feet in one fluid motion. He took a step towards Catherine threateningly. “Odin is a fool to think that one lamia is worth all our lives. Agree to my terms or return and tell him of your failure.”

Ouch. Catherine visibly winced at that prospect. “Take Otto.”

“Walker, or fail Odin,” Quatre said, his tone cold and dispassionate.

“Agreed,” Catherine said after a short pause, “but you won’t be so confidant when your human fawns at Odin’s feet while he drains the life from your worthless carcass, Heero Yuy!!” she screeched. “Give me Treize!”

Treize glanced at Heero, then rose smoothly to his feet. He looked at Catherine with obvious distaste. The younger of the wolves, Walker, moved to the side as the Tamer turned and stomped out of the room. Treize sighed comically loud, then trudged after her, Otto following close on his heels.

“Was that a good idea?” Duo asked no one in particular.

“Odin won’t harm them until we arrive,” Heero said. “He wouldn’t waste the chance to kill me.”

“That’s really comforting, Heero. Really fucking comforting.”

*

Darkest Days

“I want Iria in on it,” Duo said, stalking down the hallway to Heero’s rooms. He wasn’t at all pleased with the vampire. Walking into a blatant trap was not high on his list of ways to stay alive. It actually wasn’t there at all. “If we’re doing this, and I can’t believe we are, I want another shooter with me.”

“She is guarding Lucrezia,” Heero said.

“I don’t care if she’s guarding the Pope,” Duo snapped, “I want her at my back.”

“That’s not necessary,” Heero began.

“The fuck it’s not!” Duo exploded. “Look, Heero, you’ve got us waltzing in there at a severe disadvantage. If Odin agreed to let you bring six people besides the two of us, you can bet he’s going to have twice that many.” It always worked that way when you were dealing with the bad guys. They never played fair.

Heero’s eyes hardened, but he nodded. Duo stormed off towards Heero’s desk once they reached his room and quickly dialed the number Iria had given him. The phone rang several times, but no one answered. Shit. He carefully dialed again, silently praying he hit a wrong number the first time. Still no answer.

“Jesus, there’s no answer,” Duo said, setting the receiver back on its cradle.

Heero looked at Duo for a moment, then turned back to Quatre. “Send Hilde and Zechs to their hotel,” he said. “Wufei, find Relena, Une and Meiser.”

Duo frowned at the last, unfamiliar name. He didn’t like the idea of having someone he didn’t know at his back. Not that he knew Relena or Une that well, but there was a difference. A very small one. Hell, he was paranoid. Who wouldn’t be?

“Trowa, open the weapons cache for Duo. He’ll want to be armed,” Heero said.

Duo’s ears fairly twitched. “You’ve got weapons in storage?

Heero’s eyes flickered over to Duo briefly and he gave a small nod.

“Maybe this isn’t a total lost cause after all,” the braided man murmured.

*

Forty minutes later, Duo felt like he was literally bristling weapons. The Glock was tucked in its second home, snug in Duo’s shoulder holster. The twin blades were strapped to his wrists, hidden under the long, wide sleeves of a black coat. The coat itself hung to the middle of Duo’s calves, concealing the ambidextrous hip-draw holster that both his own Browning and a nice, shiny new Ruger .40 Auto that he’d borrowed from Heero’s stash rested in. Why, exactly, a bunch of shapeshifters and vampires would need a weapons cache was beyond Duo. Far be it for him to complain, though.

The Derringer Iria had forced on him was tucked safely and definitely uncomfortably away in Duo’s left boot, while a heavier blade rested in the other boot. Two extra magazines, one for the Glock, the other for the Browning; rested in his coat pockets.

The word ‘overkill’ never entered Duo’s mind once.

Heero had presented Duo with yet another outfit, and the braided man had asked the vampire if he had a clothing fetish to go along with all the others. A tight-fitting, low cut shirt left Duo’s neck bare for the choker Heero had given him to be seen. His own cross dangled freely outside the cloth. The sleeves were short, allowing the sheaths to fit comfortably under the coat. Black pants made of a very heavy, stretchy material were molded to Duo’s thighs, falling looser near the bottom and covering the top halves his usual boots.

Duo Maxwell, wet dream for those with a death wish.

He drove the Jeep that Heero had conjured up out of thin air, while the vampire himself sat in the passenger seat, cobalt eyes burning with icy rage. A week ago, Duo would have said he was expressionless, but now he recognized the anger that boiled restlessly under the surface. Heero was not happy with Odin. Duo almost found himself pitying him. Almost.

Heero was dressed in a high-collared sleeveless shirt, colored a rich midnight blue. Black leather pants encased his legs, showing the contours of his body. Heavy boots and an odd, intricately curling armlet that glinted silver in the moonlight snaked up his left arm to complete the outfit.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, would be the wet dream of the aforementioned wet dream.

Trowa and Wufei had hauled out yet another leather pants and collar ensemble, dressing in black with solid, blood red accents. Quatre had poured himself into a pair of dark pants, donning a matching sleeveless shirt that he left open. A black and red chain wound itself around his neck. With a start, Duo realized that the chain Quatre wore was a mimic of the stone that rested just above the hollow of his own throat.

Relena and Une were following in another car. Both had opted to wear the skintight bodysuits that served as the uniform for Devil’s Bliss. Meiser, the new guy with the crew cut was handsome in a man-next-door kind of way. He wore dark, snakeskin pants and an open black shirt that had large silver clips on either side to fasten it. Walker had just plodded along with them, looking bored.

“Why, exactly, are we meeting them at a graveyard?” Duo asked, his gaze flicking from road to rearview mirror.

“It’s neutral ground,” Quatre said from the back, idly running his fingers over the collar at Trowa’s throat. The vampire had a thing for casual touching.

“How is a graveyard neutral?” It was morbid, that’s what it was. And suggestive. And clichéd. It had to be the biggest damn cliché in the world. A bunch of vampires and co. were heading to a graveyard to try and kill each other. Huge cliché.

“It always has been,” Heero said, turning his eyes to Duo.

Duo felt the heat of his gaze burn along his skin. Heero was swimming in power tonight. It was a wonder that the air didn’t shimmer around him.

“How is this gonna work? We have a plan, right?” Duo began tapping the wheel with his fingertip.

“No,” the Erus answered.

“Oh, Christ, we don’t have a plan. Heero, are you insane?” Duo hissed.

“We kill Odin and keep as many of our people alive as possible.”

Oh, great. Now they were ‘our’ people. “Killing Odin comes first,” Duo said, making it a statement.

Heero nodded.

“I want my cats in one piece, Heero,” Duo said, his voice low. “You let Wufei or Trowa get killed, and the shit will hit the fan.”

The vampire went very still. “You believe I would abandon them?” His voice was cold.

“Sorry,” Duo mumbled. The werepanthers were as important to Heero as they were to him.

It wasn’t that Duo was indifferent about what happened to Relena and the others. It’d be bad if something happened to them. Very not nice. But he’d be dammed if he let Wufei or Trowa go down saving one of them. He wasn’t worried as much about Quatre. The blonde vampire could hold his own. Then again, so could the shifters. Maybe he was just feeling protective.

“How much does Dorothy mean to you, Heero?” Duo asked quietly.

“We are going to rescue her,” Heero said.

“No, we’re going to kill Odin.”

“We are,” the vampire conceded.

“So how much does she mean?”

“Not enough that I will let you die for her.”

“She’s been with you for longer than I have,” Duo said.

Heero turned to him, slanting his body in the passenger seat. “You will not die for her,” his tone was firm. “This has very little to do with Dorothy. It’s Odin’s way of bringing you within his reach.”

“And it’s your way of getting him close enough for you to kill.”

Heero gave him a small nod, cobalt eyes never leaving Duo’s face.

“I hope it works,” Duo said, staring out at the night.

*

Trudging through the rows and rows of tombstones, Duo glanced up at the starless sky. It was a warm night, a slight breeze ruffling the hair that had worked loose from his braid. Heero loomed like a hot fire to his right. Quatre walked slightly ahead and to his left while Wufei, Trowa and the others fanned out behind them.

Grave markers reached up from the ground like old broken bones. Ancient roots of the trees that reared above the stone crypts crisscrossed the earth. The monsters surrounding Duo glided over the uncertain terrain with ease. He followed their steps, managing to not fall flat on his face. He almost wished Une or Meiser would go head first on the ground. Okay, he was bitter. So what?

Quatre led them to a clear area, open on two sides and backed up against a sheer cliff face. The final edge was lined with a thicket of trees. Duo squinted and looked around, gauging distances and space. The cliff was a double-edged sword. It could possibly keep the bad guys from sneaking up behind them or provide them with a way to drop right down on their heads. Duo tipped his head back and followed the line of rock. Nothing was getting up that quickly, at least not from this side.

“That’s why you didn’t want to send the site along with Catherine,” Duo said, glancing over at Heero and jerking his head towards the rock wall. “You wanted the cliff clear for a back guard.”

The vampire joined him, following his gaze. He nodded. “There is a small risk of being penned in.”

“Better a wall of stone at your back than an enemy,” Duo replied. Last time he checked, stone walls didn’t try to rip your heart out.

“Odin will arrive soon,” Heero said.

“How does this work? Do we start shooting right away or sit down and have a cup of tea first?”

“There are games to be played first,” the vampire said, turning to face Duo and running his fingers along the column of his neck, stopping at the choker.

“What kinda games?” Even that small touch had sent power singing along Duo’s nerves. Though part of the thrill had nothing to do with power, only desire.

“If it were Sally we were facing, I would know. Odin…is something entirely different. He could wish to bargain or attempt to steal you from me.”

Duo frowned. He didn’t like how Heero was phrasing that.

“He views you as a possession, Duo. The entire Assembly does. I don’t. I’m trying to tell you what to expect. Getting angry at me is useless,” Heero said, withdrawing his hand.

Duo almost told Heero that he didn’t have to stop touching him. He stopped himself short of opening his mouth. Duo enjoyed the feel of the vampire’s hands on him too much. It probably shouldn’t have bothered him, but it did.

“Just because I might not like it doesn’t mean I’m angry,” Duo snapped.

Heero gave him a mild look.

“Oh, shut up.” Never mind the fact that the vampire didn’t say anything, Duo wanted to tell him to shut up.

“He’ll most likely try to keep you for himself. The energy you have is more powerful when you use it. Failing that, he’ll take it from you and kill you.”

“How nice,” Duo said, angrily recalling what it had felt like the last time Odin got a hold of him. “What about you? And the others?”

“He will try to kill us,” Heero said as casually as you’d say good morning.

“Homicidal little bastard, isn’t he?”

“Suicidal,” Heero corrected.

Duo grinned. “Planning on ripping his head right off his shoulders, aren’t you?”

Heero’s eyes grew darker, the cobalt flames heating until Duo felt it on his skin like the blazing sun. “I plan on much more than that.”

“Heero,” Trowa said, walking towards them. “Odin and the others are arriving.”

Show time. Whoo hoo.

Odin came first, flanked by two large werewolves and Sally. Couldn’t be Catherine’s wolves, Walker was standing between Une and Relena. Rashid and Catherine came next, four men, one of them Duo recognized as Otto, with them. Treize brought up the rear, Dorothy standing beside him and two men Duo decided looked petty and annoying on either side of them. Twelve. They were outnumbered, but not by much. Something wasn’t quite right.

/Come with me,/ Heero’s voice echoed in Duo’s mind.

Seemingly on cue, everyone formed up around them, waiting for Odin to come close enough. Duo took his place beside Heero. The fireworks were going to start soon and he had a ringside seat. Lucky him.

“Return Dorothy,” Heero said bluntly.

Wow. That was a first; Heero wasn’t spending any time beating around the bush.

“Patience, little Heero,” Odin said. “All in good time.”

Oh, great. They were back to that again.

“We are quite well aware that this is not about your lamia,” Odin continued.

“Regardless what it is truly about, return her to me.”

“No, I do not think so.” Odin raised his hand, his forefinger extended up into the air.

The man standing beside Dorothy, the one with the sickly blond hair and weird hairband, drew back a fist and punched her solidly in the midsection. Dorothy bent over a little, then straightened. She stared at Hairband Man. He punched her again, this time knocking her to one knee. Dorothy stayed down a moment longer, then got back to her feet.

“What the hell is that supposed to prove?” Duo demanded. He’d had it with weird vampire shit.

“It gladdens me,” Odin said, lowering his hand and turning his full attention to Duo, “that Heero does not have complete control over you yet.”

“You need to find a new hobby, Odin,” Duo said. “This one is going to get you killed.”

“If you want your lamia and Treize back, give Duo to me,” Odin said.

“No,” Heero said calmly. “Duo is given to no one.”

“Not even to you, little Heero?”

“Your games are pointless now, Odin. Duo will never answer to you. His power will never be yours. Crawl back to your master and play with his toys,” Heero replied.

Cold anger flashed in Odin’s dirty gray eyes. “I answer to no one.”

“Then I was wrong,” Heero conceded. “You’re more of a fool than I thought.”

“Stupid child!” Odin shouted, clenching his fists at his sides. “Do you forget I was your master once? Do you forget all I taught you?”

Duo felt the backlash of power, not aimed at himself but at Heero. A thin trail of blood seeped from a deep gash that had appeared on the vampire’s cheek.

Ignoring the wound, Heero said, “You are not my master any longer, and I am not a child. Time has snuck up on you, old man.”

Odin reined in his anger, shaking with the effort. “You will die, little Heero. You will die by your new lover’s hand.”

“Everything dies,” Heero responded. “But I will not die today.”

“Such confidence!”

Duo watched the two vampires converse, amazed at the idiocy of it all. He could draw a gun now and kill Odin. They could pick up their people and go home. His hand strayed towards his hip.

Something cold flowed through Duo, something that made his hand freeze and pulse quicken from fear. It was Odin’s touch. Immediately, Duo reached for his power, bringing it boiling to the surface before Odin could trap it, keeping it out of his reach. He felt the cold retreat, fading away into nothing but a bad memory.

“Not again,” Duo said, blinking at Odin through the blackness covering his eyes. “Get out of my head, you bastard.”

“The puppet has teeth,” Odin said, his gaze focused on Heero. “He will kill you one day, little Heero.”

“He may kill me one day, but he’ll kill you today, Odin. Don’t underestimate him.”

“He is to me as a newborn kitten to a lion.”

Odin was the poster man for annoying people; he had to be. Duo let go of his barriers, let his power flow out and strike Odin head on. The vampire’s eyes widened.

“This kitten has claws,” Duo said, a feeling of elation washing over him as he felt Odin’s life drain away. The thought of enjoying killing him this much made him hesitate, made him lose his focus long enough for Odin to break away and take a stumbling step backwards.

Duo fell back, dizzy for a split second. Shit. That couldn’t be good. Odin was staring at him, cold hate burning in his eyes.

“I will enjoy breaking you, man,” Odin spat. “I will enjoy making you kill your lover.”

“Oh, shut up!” Duo snapped. “Jesus, don’t you ever shut up!?” So he was a little pissed. Understandable, right?

“Enough, Duo,” Heero said, his eyes glowing. “You can’t own him, Odin,” the vampire growled, turning to him. “No one can.”

Well, that was nice to know. Which meant, of course, that Odin was going to kill him. Try and kill him, anyway. That was better than being owned by him. Anything was better than that.

“Alex, kill the lamia,” Odin said coldly.

Hairband Man, Alex, grinned, backhanding Dorothy. Her lip split and blood glistened against her skin. His partner, still not named, mirrored Alex’s grin. His teeth shone brilliantly white compared to the dark chocolate tone of his skin.

That wasn’t supposed to happen. Duo was almost sure it wasn’t supposed to happen quite like that.

“If you kill her,” Heero said, “Catherine’s wolf dies.”

“What does it matter to me?” Odin asked. “He is nothing.”

“No!” Catherine said, lunging forward. “Walker is mine,” she hissed at Odin.

Dorothy grunted and fell to her knees as Alex drew back his fist and punched her in the stomach. Or she would have, if he hadn’t had a death grip on her throat. She grasped his wrist, fingernails digging into his skin. He didn’t seem to notice.

The other man beside Treize blocked him from aiding Dorothy. Duo narrowed his eyes. Treize should have been able to tear that idiot in two bloody pieces.

“What have you done to them?” Heero asked.

“I? I have done nothing to them,” Odin said, all smiles again.

“That’s it, enough is fucking enough, already,” Duo said. “I’m sick of all this vampire shit. You want to kill me? Fine.” He had both the Glock and the new Ruger in his hands, both pointed at the ground.

Odin stared at him, shock evident on his face. And that was what Duo had hoped for. He raised his arm, quickly sighting down the barrel and pulling the trigger.

Odin snarled, dropping low and swiftly moving away. The man holding Treize jerked, blood spraying from his shoulder. Treize’s elbow snapped up, striking the man full in the face. The man stumbled back but kept his feet. Lunging towards Dorothy, Treize caught her around the waist, tumbling both them and Alex to the ground.

Duo focused on Odin, quickly firing two more shots. One grazed his face while the other hit him solidly in the collarbone. Blood and thicker things flew from the wound, splattering Odin’s face in a gory mask. Rashid launched himself at Duo, slamming into him and knocking him to the ground.

Instantly, Wufei was above them, wrapping his arms around the much larger man and roughly hauling him back. An inhuman roar burst from the shifter’s throat as he flung Rashid away. The big man quickly got to his feet, but Wufei had already taken a flying leap into the air, a flash of light and heat emanating from him. When he landed again, he had shifted, swinging a huge, clawed paw at Rashid’s face.

Duo scooted back, trying to get his breath. He rolled to his feet. Both guns were somehow still in his hands. Good. Peachy. Now he needed something to kill. He cast about, trying to pinpoint Odin. He had a brief flash of Heero snarling at Odin, his hand wrapped around Odin’s throat and tearing through flesh like paper.

Bursts of energy assaulted Duo as the shifters around him changed form. He faltered, drowning in power. Someone was beside him, and he whirled around, gun pointed. Quatre stared back at him, unflinching. Duo slowly eased his finger off the trigger.

The blonde unexpectedly shoved Duo aside, aiming a savage kick at the head of a large gray wolf that was in mid-jump. The animal dropped to the ground, roughly shaking its head. It lunged forward again, clawing at Quatre’s face. The vampire raised his arms, blocking with one and latching onto a leg with the other. He twisted brutally, and Duo heard the wet pop of a joint breaking.

Duo turned, searching for Heero and Odin once more. They were close by now, only ten feet or so away. Cold tendrils of Odin’s power brushed by the edges of his mind. The larger vampire’s throat was torn and bleeding. Heero’s arm was dark red to the elbow. Odin stood a few feet away from him, struggling to breathe even as Heero slowly advanced. Heero’s energy flared, exploding over Duo and almost knocking him to his knees. Odin winced, stumbling backwards. Another surge of power quickly followed, forcing Odin to the ground. Heero bent, balanced on the balls of his feet. He was speaking quickly, quietly. Odin’s eyes rolled up, fear shining like a beacon in his eyes. He was a far cry from the overconfident prick he’d shown himself to be.

Heero reached out painfully slow. Odin’s eyes narrowed. Duo felt the cold energy grow. He opened his mouth to warn Heero, taking a few running steps forward and gathering up his own power to help stop Odin. Heero lashed out, lightening quick, and plunged his hands into Odin’s chest. The larger vamp screamed. Heero’s face remained impassive. The sick, wet tear of flesh reached Duo’s ears. He watched in morbid fascination as Heero ripped Odin’s chest inside out.

Something screamed, loud and pitiful. Duo jerked to the side, startled, and caught sight of Catherine. She had a long whip in her hands, he saw, before she hauled her arm back and let fly, the black length glinting oddly. Duo cursed and flung himself aside, dropping to the ground with a jarring thud. He aimed and fired, hoping that he hit his mark. A wordless scream echoed in his ears for his trouble. Then the whip was back, snapping across Duo’s cheek. Searing pain flared across his face and he felt metal teeth bite into his skin. He heard the sharp crack again. He automatically raised his arm to protect his eyes. More pain burst in a hot line along his leg as the whip tore ruthlessly through his clothes. Blinking through the hurt, he scrambled backwards, catching sight of Catherine and firing three quick shots before she could snap the whip back again.

Blood blossomed on her chest. Somehow, she snapped the whip again. Duo raised his arm, feeling the leather wrap around his forearm and the metal teeth biting into the material of his coat. She wrenched the whip back, making the teeth dig deeper. The leather sheaths underneath stopped some of them from tearing his skin. He jerked his arm up, feeling the length go slack as Catherine’s hands grew too weak to hold it. Rising to his feet, Duo watched her fall to her knees.

She fell forward slowly, eyes blazing with hate and loathing. Holding herself up with one arm, Catherine fixed her gaze on Duo. Another wolf barreled into him from the side. The Ruger flew from his hand. Its jaws fastened on his arm, biting down hard as it shook its head savagely from side to side. Duo fell back, letting the wolf ride him to the ground. Reaching up with his other arm, he turned the gun still clutched in his hand and fired point blank into the wolf’s head. He closed his eyes, feeling a rain of hot blood spatter his face. Kicking and shoving, he got the wolf’s body off of him and swiped a hand across his face. His arm throbbed painfully. Looking down, he saw a bloody mess, the sleeve of his coat gone but the sheath with the knife still in it holding on by a strap.

Then Catherine was looming above him, a maniac grin on her face. A long blade clutched in her hands, she started the downward stroke, aiming for Duo’s heart. He wouldn’t be able to get the gun up in time. He would have to dodge, but there wasn’t enough time for that, either. Catherine’s body jerked, confusion crossing her face. She opened her mouth to scream, but a gurgling rush of blood spilled forth instead. Seizing the opportunity, Duo fired into her face, watching it disappear in a red explosion. He lurched to his feet and came face to face with Heero.

The vampire’s hand was buried in Catherine’s back passed the wrist. The white of her spine gleamed through the gaping wound. He jerked his arm, flinging the faceless corpse to the ground and giving his arm an extra shake, ridding himself of the bloody chunks clinging to it.

“That’s disgusting,” Duo said, wiping gore from his face. His arm ached and burned. “Odin’s fertilizer?”

“Very much so,” Heero said, turning.

“You always have been very thorough,” Mariemeia said, appearing out of the darkness and stepping over the broken mess that had been Catherine. She stood calmly in front of them, as if they had met on a sunny day at the park.

“What the fuck are you doing here?” Duo said, almost too tired to be surprised.

“Duo,” Mariemeia chided gently, “hush.”

Hush. Hush. Hush!?!? She wanted him to hush, did she? He was hurting in more places than he could name, bleeding all over himself, and she wanted him to hush!?

“I should thank you for killing Odin,” she said, smiling. “He was becoming a problem.”

“Yeah, for you and me both,” Duo said. He kept the Glock in his good hand, not feeling at all comfortable putting it up. He risked a glance around, trying to take stock of the situation. He trusted Heero to watch his back.

Meiser and Relena were down, as was Trowa. Quatre bent over the green-eyed shifter, supporting his head. He looked pale, but not in immediate danger. Duo couldn’t tell what condition Meiser and Relena were in. Treize and Dorothy were nowhere to be seen. Wufei was also out of sight. Most of the other side seemed to be down, bleeding or dead.

“That leaves only one thing to take care of,” Mariemeia said.

Duo tightened his grip on the Glock, tensing. Beside him, he felt Heero quietly shift his weight forward. “And that would be?”

“Do not be so modest, Duo. You know exactly what I want. I told you days ago.” She was still smiling. Duo was annoyed.

“You wanted me dead,” he said.

“You’re correct in using the past tense, Duo. I no longer want you to die. That was merely an acceptable option before.”

“Before what?”

“Before I realized the true extent of your ability. Odin could never hope to own you, Duo. He was a fool.”

A very dead fool. Agreeing with her did nothing to change the fact that he wanted Mariemeia to go away. Far, far away. He should kill her. Now.

“A useful fool, but a fool nonetheless. He took liberties and abused his power, the power I gave him.” Mariemeia’s eyes had acquired a strange glint as she spoke.

This was also not good. There wasn’t a tiny bit of this that was good. Duo kept telling himself over and over again to raise the gun and kill her. He’d already tried. His arm refused to cooperate. Duo glanced at Heero, silently asking the vampire what the hell was going on. Heero didn’t answer. He tried again, both with his voice and his mind. His lips remained still and the vampire didn’t even acknowledge that he had heard Duo’s silent cry.

Duo was not given to panic. In fact, he handled most situations with…relative calm. Now, however, seemed like a good time to panic. Genuine, all out panic. Complete with running around in useless little circles while waving his arms madly in the air.

He couldn’t feel Heero. Somewhere along the line, Duo had gotten used to the vampire’s presence. A tiny hint of something in his mind that let him know Heero was there. He hadn’t even noticed it before, simply accepted it with the same attitude that he accepted Wufei’s presence inside his head. Now that it was gone, he damn well noticed.

He didn’t feel relieved. He felt panicky. Well and truly panicky. It wasn’t that he wanted Heero stuck in his head all the time. It wasn’t even the fact that he was only realizing now that Heero had actually constantly been there.

It was the fact that he wasn’t there anymore. Not good. If Heero wasn’t there anymore, it probably wasn’t part of any plan of his.

Of course, it wasn’t helping that now he was really trying to shoot Mariemeia and he couldn’t.

He tried to lift the gun again. Nothing. He tried to twitch a finger. Still nothing. He tried to wiggle his nose. Not a damn thing. Shit.

So much for running around in little panic stricken circles.

Mariemeia was watching him, smiling. Duo attempted to work up a glare and he found himself unable to do even that. Her smile widened. Bitch.

Alright, time to take stock. He could breathe and, obviously, think. As a little plus, he could blink. Good thing, too, because his fucking eyes were drying out. Beyond that, nothing.

“I think,” she said, “it is a good thing that Odin attempted to abuse the power I gave him. I would have never learned that you held such energy and potential inside you, Duo. And now,” she continued, a macabre smile still twisting her features, “I think it is time to see exactly what you are capable of.”

Uber-bitch.

“Leave him be, Mariemeia,” Heero growled, the blue flames of his eyes flashing in the dark. “You will fail the same as Odin.”

“No,” the woman sneered, “I will not fail. Odin was an impatient idiot. I have been preparing for years for this. Duo has been under my spell far longer than he has yours, vampire.”

Uber-bitch didn’t cut it. There wasn’t a word severe enough to describe what she was.

“Do you honestly believe I would watch him and not act?” Mariemeia turned to Duo, taking several steps forward to look directly into his eyes. “Every day, I wove the spell a little tighter, placed another layer upon the last.” Her eyes glittered as she whipped around to shout at Heero, “I could make his heart stop now; he could fall dead at your feet!”

Heero watched her impassively, but Duo saw the flare of fear behind his eyes. The vampire was afraid for Duo’s life. About time he and Heero agreed on something. Duo was petrified. Literally and figuratively.

“Would you like to test me, vampire?” Mariemeia invited, calm once more. “Risk his life and attempt to stop me.”

Duo’s chest tightened, his heart beating loudly in his ears. Something closed around it, like a fist crushing his heart. Breathing was painful; every second, the fist closed tighter. An icy cold feeling spread throughout him, frozen fingers of power twisting in his veins. Oh, this was bad. Very, very bad.

Heero remained impossibly still, no sense of movement or even life in him. His eyes had gone cold and flat.

God damn it. Heero was going to try something. The stupid bastard didn’t have the right to risk it. As fucked up as Duo’s life was, it was HIS, not Heero’s.

Curling up into a little ball seemed cowardly, but Duo was tempted. Except for the fact that the only thing he seemed able to do was breathe and think, with the occasional blink thrown in. The first one was becoming harder and harder and that wasn’t helping the second.

Somehow, blinking just didn’t seem like it would do much good.

*

Sunset and Fire

An eternity passed, and Heero hadn’t moved. Duo would have breathed easier, but that pesky hand still had a death grip on his heart. The others stayed back, commanded by Heero to not interfere. He believed that Mariemeia would go through with her threat and hurt Duo, possibly beyond repair. Maybe if Duo asked nicely, Mariemeia would ease up a little.

“You are wiser than Odin, Heero,” Mariemeia said, still smiling. “It would be a shame if I had to destroy him so soon. You seem to have grown so fond of each other.”

Then again, maybe not.

“Now, I think I would like to see what he is capable of,” she said, mostly to herself. She turned to Duo and the force of the power she shoved into his chest made him gasp. “Locate the one called Wufei and kill him.”

Duo would have fallen flat on his ass if he could. As it was, his body was already moving forward, seeking out the shifter. His power coiled and twisted inside him, almost like it was indecisive. He glanced around, grateful that Wufei was out of sight.

“Use your power to find him, Duo,” Mariemeia commanded.

Duo cursed inwardly as the link between him and the shifter flared to life. He turned, and Heero was blocking his path.

“Don’t, Duo,” Heero said, blue eyes burning.

Well, gee, it wasn’t like there was much of a choice.

“You’re much stronger than this,” the vampire hissed under his breath, “that woman can’t control you.”

She seemed to be doing a damn good job of it.

“Talking to him is useless,” Mariemeia laughed delightedly. “He is going to find the were and kill him. Because I command him.”

Heero’s hands gripped Duo’s arms, stopping him from moving forward. This was better. Not moving was an improvement. He couldn’t kill Wufei if he couldn’t move.

Mariemeia’s eyes narrowed. “Destroy Heero. He is in your way.”

Duo felt like screaming. He wouldn’t kill Heero, not because of a witch’s spell. Not for anything. His power surged through him, reaching for the vampire. Silently shrieking in his mind, Duo fought to control it, to swallow it back within him. It seethed, but curled back in upon itself. Waiting.

“Destroy him!” Mariemeia said again. “Kill him and the shifter. Now.”

Duo stepped back, and Heero let him go. The vampire stared at him, blue eyes blazing with an infinite fire. He remained incredibly still, the only life he showed was in the fiery blue depths.

Tears stung the corners of Duo’s eyes. Mariemeia had said to destroy him, she hadn’t said how. Duo drew the twin knives and launched himself at Heero, one blade leading in a backhanded slash. Heero dodged easily, stepping to the side. The other knife came down, slicing. The vampire glided back and Duo missed again. Dropping to one knee, the braided man thrust both knives upwards, aiming under Heero’s ribs. The vampire whirled, stepping quickly beside and behind him. Duo jabbed back, aiming this time for the vampire’s leg, attempting to hamstring him. He missed again, only slashing cloth.

Why wasn’t Heero fighting back? He could have easily disarmed and killed him. Duo almost wished he would. At least attack and break him, stop him from moving. Instead, Heero merely dodged and evaded his strikes. They moved faster, each one beginning to anticipate the other’s next move. Duo aimed a slash at Heero’s throat and missed, but the other knife was already in position to catch the vampire as he darted out of the way. Heero evaded that one, only to move again and narrowly miss the first knife as Duo swung it back. His injured arm was throbbing. He felt blood pulse from the wound, but he couldn’t do anything about it. His body moved forward, ignoring the cries of pain from his mind.

Mariemeia was laughing. She watched with glee as they waltzed around each other, silver blades flashing in a macabre dance. Duo wanted to scream his rage and frustration. Heero could either kill or incapacitate him, why wasn’t the idiot doing it!?

Duo’s vision blurred suddenly. Heero turned into a vague shadow, a wraith that had to be eliminated. He attacked with frenzy, whirling and spinning around the vampire, slashing savagely and always aiming for the fatal blow. Heero balked, faltering slightly under the new assault. Mariemeia shrieked joyously, her eyes alight.

Hot blood seared into Duo’s skin. A thin red line trailed down his arm, dripping from the red-stained blade in his hand. His mind jerked and cleared. He saw a deep gash running diagonally across Heero’s chest. The blood was dark red against his clothing but bright against Duo’s pale skin.

“Do not stop!” Mariemeia shouted. “Kill him!” They had moved further and further away from her and the others, heading towards a copse of trees at the edge of the graveyard.

No no no! No! He wouldn’t kill Heero. He couldn’t kill him. But he pressed forward, trying to end the vampire’s life with the glittering blades. All of a sudden Duo was flat on his back, both knives spinning away into the darkness. He heard the dull clink as one hit a broken tombstone.

“Stop,” Heero hissed, pinning Duo to the ground with his body and holding both wrists above his head.

He didn’t have a choice! Was Heero deaf? He didn’t have a choice….

“The witch is nothing compared to you. Her tricks and rituals can’t contain your power.”

Duo twisted, trying to dislodge him. He kicked viciously, but Heero kept his place.

“Use your power, Duo,” he whispered furiously. “She’s blocking you from me, but you can reach me. She wants you to take my life away. Take it.”

What fucking good would that do!? Why kill him?

“Stop doubting me and listen,” Heero insisted as Duo still tried to fight him off. “I can’t reach you with her interfering. She wants you to use your energy to kill me. It appeals to her. Do what she wants and free yourself.”

“Duo! Obey me and destroy the vampire.” Mariemeia sounded impatient for them to finish it.

Duo felt his body go slack. He stopped fighting Heero. The vampire released him, slowly backing away. The braided man lay still, staring up at the blank sky. The tightness in his chest returned, making him scream silently in his mind. It felt like his heart had stopped beating completely and was slowly being ripped to shreds inside him.

Slowly, Duo got to his feet. He looked at Heero, then at Mariemeia. The power roiled, surging upwards like a flood. Duo felt it explode from him, straining towards Heero. He felt it wrap around the vampire, caressing like a lover’s hand. It flowed around him, then plunged through him, touching him almost gently. Heero’s eyes widened, the flames dimming then flaring up, brighter than before.

Duo felt like his skin had disappeared, leaving every nerve bare and exposed. He walked the fine line between pain and pleasure, not sure which side he was falling towards. Heat suffused him, penetrating to the core. Power filled him, flowing through his veins. It brought with it the fire of Heero’s life. There was no circle this time, the power flowed into Duo and remained. He couldn’t complete the cycle and return Heero’s energy to him. Through black-veiled eyes, he watched Heero falter and fall.

The vampire sank to his knees slowly. His eyes dimmed again, going dull and glassy. He stared at Duo, the life draining from him until his eyes were dead. He made no sound, no scream of pain or rage. He simply watched Duo and let himself die.

Tears were streaming down Duo’s face. Mariemeia was laughing triumphantly, her cries of merriment echoing sharply in his ears. He felt the others far off, watching with unconcealed horror.

“No!” Duo screamed, lurching forward with an outstretched hand. He fell in front of Heero, catching him as the last of the vampire’s strength vanished.

“Oh, excellent! This is wonderful!” Mariemeia said happily. “For you to have killed a vampire of his ability…!” she trailed off, too delighted for words.

Duo stared at Heero’s dead eyes. The blue flame was gone, drained away like his life. The blackness veiling Duo’s sight grew deeper, stealing away the remaining light of the world. The vampire’s eyes slowly closed.

“You,” Duo growled, turning to Mariemeia, “I will destroy you.” He stood slowly, letting Heero fall completely to the ground. “I will end your life; rip it from your body and watch it die.”

Fear sparked behind the witch’s eyes. “Stop,” she commanded. “I control you now.”

“No, you don’t, bitch. You can’t. No one controls me!” Duo screamed, lashing out with the energy still coiled inside him; the energy he had stolen from Heero.

Mariemeia shrieked, falling backwards as the full force of the power hit her. She clutched at her chest, her mouth open in a continuous scream of pain. Blood trickled from her eyes, mixing with her tears. She tried to fight him, tried to block his power with her own. Mariemeia struggled, holding her head in her hands. A tiny hint of something battered against Duo. He brushed it away and ruthlessly tore her life from her body.

A gurgling rush of red liquid cut off her screams and she coughed violently, choking on thicker things than blood as her body was ripped apart from the inside. She fell, hitting the ground heavily on her side. Her face was a red mask, eyes flashing impossibly white through the gore.

“You…can’t…” she whispered hoarsely, fingers digging into the dirt.

“You people have an attitude problem,” Duo said. “You’re all too negative.” His voice was cold and dispassionate as he watched her blood soak into the earth.

Mariemeia’s body convulsed once, her eyes rolling back into her head. Duo stared at her, waiting until the very last of her life trickled away. He waited until her heart stopped beating. Slowly, he turned away from her, gazing down at the prone body of Heero.

Instantly, the black veil receded, replaced by the vibrant blue of Heero’s eyes. Duo drew on the power, gathering it until he thought his skin would melt from his body. He thrust it forward, pushing it back into Heero. Duo knelt by his side, watching his face intently. He felt the power flow through Heero, touching him, almost reveling. It coiled like something alive, coaxing life and breath to return to the vampire.

Heero gasped. His eyes opened, shining dully in the sparse light. He blinked, then focused on Duo’s face. He pushed himself up on his elbows and Duo reached out, helping. Once Heero was sitting up, Duo pulled the vampire towards him, tipping his own head to the side. He pushed up one side of the choker, baring the tiny marks.

A soft sound escaped Heero’s throat. He sank his fangs into Duo’s neck, piercing the skin. Duo sucked in a sharp breath, feeling wave after wave of pleasure wash over him. The cycle of energy continued, brushing like silk and satin across his nerves.

Heero reared above him, thrusting him back onto the ground. He covered Duo’s body with his own. His strength returned, filling him until his eyes were fiery cobalt once more.

The power grew and broke, engulfing them both. Duo cried out when it flooded over him, drowning him in its intensity. It flowed out, reaching for Wufei. It found him and moved on, both finding and filling Trowa and then Quatre. Tinier threads touched the others, brushing past them and then returning to where Duo and Heero lay, completely swallowed by the rush of power.

“You should listen to me more often,” Heero said in a rough voice, sitting back on Duo’s legs. His lips quirked up at the corners.

“Where’s the fun in that?” Duo asked, raising an eyebrow. His power had quieted, content to curl and rest inside him, waiting for his call. Immense relief filled Duo as he stared up at the half-smiling vampire. He felt something wet trail down his face and ignored it.

“Duo? Heero?” Wufei said, standing above them.

Duo glanced up and saw everyone who was still able to walk, Walker and Rashid included, looming above them in a circle. He started to laugh.

“That’s not good,” Wufei muttered to Trowa.

The green-eyed shifter shook his head solemnly.

“Oh, piss off,” Duo laughed. Then, on impulse, he grabbed Heero’s head and drew him down for a fierce kiss. Heero complied after a moment’s surprise, greedily plunging his tongue into Duo’s mouth.

“I hope we all get a victory kiss,” Quatre grumbled.

Trowa leaned in quickly, bracing himself on the blonde’s shoulders and obligingly gave him a kiss, complete with tongue and little nips. When the shifter broke away, Quatre blinked and gave him a strange look. Trowa merely shrugged. And Duo laughed harder.

“C’mon, Heero, get up,” Duo said, wiggling his legs a little. “Someone gimmie a hand here.”

Wufei reached down, hauling Duo to his feet after the vampire had stood.

“I want a victory party,” Duo said. He turned to Walker and Rashid. “I don’t think you’re invited.”

“They are,” Heero said. When Duo gave him a shocked look, he continued, “Mariemeia had created bonds around both them and several of the others. I felt them break.”

“Oh, well…you what?

“You didn’t drain me completely,” Heero said, his voice softer now.

“I know, but I wasn’t sure…” Duo trailed off. He was lying, both to Heero and himself. When he saw Heero fall, he was sure the vampire was lost.

“We have to check on the others,” Heero said. The gathering around them melted away, searching out the dead and injured.

“You could have killed me, Heero,” Duo said, staring blankly at a crypt. “You could have fought back.”

“I didn’t.”

“No, you didn’t.” He paused. “I could have killed you. You would have let me take everything from you to break free of Mariemeia,” Duo said. He resisted the urge to wrap his arms around himself as a cold shiver ran down his spine.

“But you didn’t, Duo. Both Odin and Mariemeia are dead, Sally is no longer a threat and we are alive. Nothing else matters.”

Duo was sure there were a lot more things that mattered, but right now, he couldn’t think of one. He’d think of them eventually.

“Come with me,” Heero said, stepping up behind Duo.

Turning, Duo faced the vampire, focusing on the blue flames of his eyes. Duo breathed in the vampire’s scent. His body ached and his head was pounding. His eyes burned and his ribs felt like every single one of them were broken. And all he could think was that Heero was alive and standing close enough to kiss.

*

Mariemeia had been busy indeed. She had been working for years, weaving layer upon layer of spells around anyone within her reach. Sally had reluctantly acknowledged Heero as Erus, but continued to defy him in a thousand tiny ways. Heero was losing patience. He should bleed her a bit. That would shut her up. Or let Duo shoot her a few times.

The only casualties were Catherine, Alex and two werewolves that no one could identify. Apparently, Mariemeia had brought those in. Duo had felt guilty about Catherine until Heero assured him that she was helping Mariemeia on her own, no spells needed. Walker, Otto, Rashid and three other men were free. They had all sworn loyalty to Heero. Duo still didn’t trust them, but Abdul, Ahmad and Auda, three werejackals, were slowly getting in Duo’s good graces. The three of them were impossible; they teased each other relentlessly, their banter filling the hallways of Devil’s Bliss. Dorothy and Treize were fine, the containment spell having been broken once Mariemeia had died.

Lucrezia was missing again. Howard and Iria had been attacked at the hotel by another bunch of Mariemeia’s flunkies. Both were relatively undamaged, the flunkies were currently pushing up daisies. Howard was pissed off that Lucrezia had gotten away, Iria even more so. It didn’t help that some werewolf had chewed up her shiny new Ruger. She sent Heero the bill.

*

Duo woke slowly, blinking into the darkness. Heero slept beside him, his face relaxed. He idly brushed a hand through the vampire’s dark hair, twisting a lock around his finger. Rolling quietly out of bed, he wandered out to the main section of Heero’s rooms.

Trowa was asleep, his head resting on Wufei’s thigh. The black-haired shifter looked up questioningly at Duo. Duo leaned down behind him, softly inhaling the clean scent of his skin. Wufei tipped his head to the side, rubbing his cheek against Duo’s shoulder.

“What time is it?” Duo asked. He guessed it was about sunset.

“Five to nine,” Wufei answered.

“Thanks,” Duo said, brushing his lips softly over Wufei’s ear. He picked up the matching top to his pajamas and hauled it on over his head. Opening the door as quietly as he could, he walked out into the hall, closing the door behind him.

Duo climbed the stairs leading to the roof. He opened the door as the final blaze of bright red and orange sunlight disappeared. He blinked several times, clearing the spots from his eyes. Walking to the edge of the roof, he gazed silently as the sun sank below the mountains.

His life had never been normal. Hell, ask anyone, and they’d have a hard time coming up with what exactly ‘normal’ was. Right now, though, his life was the farthest from any definition of normal he’d ever heard. He took an occasional case, but mostly accepted requests from the police for help. Sometimes he took private requests. But always, Heero accompanied him on the hunt. Wufei did too, more often than not.

The majority of Duo’s things had been moved to Devil’s Bliss, even though he still paid rent on the apartment. The Assembly had sent another representative, this time inquiring about the Mariemeia incident. Gwinter was pleasant, if a little anal. Anal for a vampire, anyway.

Life with Heero and the others was good. It was comfortable. Wufei managed to corner him at least several times a day, mostly when Duo was already conveniently naked. He slept with Heero, although it was questionable how much sleeping actually occurred. When the vampire was busy elsewhere, playing vampy politics and whatnot, the shifters slept with him in his and Heero’s bed. Quatre usually found his way into their bed, too. Oddly enough, the blond vampire had a habit of cuddling. Then again, given his fondness of casual touching, maybe that wasn’t so surprising after all. It was almost cute, watching Quatre snuggle. He was more than a little indignant when Duo had said so. Which just made it cuter.

Yeah, Duo’s life was still fucked up. But this time, he was enjoying it. It probably wasn’t forever, and it sure as hell wasn’t happy-white-picket-fence contentment, but it suited him. Maybe Fate had finally stopped laughing at Duo and had moved on to pester another poor idiot.

Duo was hauled out of his reverie by the familiar brush of Heero’s mind. The vampire walked up behind him, his bare feet silent on the hard roof. He wrapped his arms around the braided man. The sleeves of his robe were warm and soft against Duo’s bare arms. A shiver ran down his spine, and it had nothing to do with being cold.

“Hiya, Heero,” Duo greeted softly, unable to stop his voice from sounding husky.

“Hello, Duo,” Heero said, burying his face in Duo’s hair. The vampire had unbraided it early that morning, running his hands though it while they lay naked together in bed. “You were watching the sun set,” he said, nuzzling the crook of Duo’s neck. His tongue darted out, swiping a hot line over the tiny scar.

“Yeah,” Duo said breathlessly, leaning back into Heero. The stars had appeared, peeking out one by one while he had been lost in his thoughts.

Heero’s black robe flapped open in he breeze. Duo tugged on the sides, baring the warm, soft skin of Heero’s chest. He leaned back again, tipping his head back on Heero’s shoulder and watching the stars twinkle. The bottom of the robe fluttered around his legs, flowing out in front of them like a raven’s wings as it touched the ground. Heero was warm and smelled of sandalwood and spice. Underneath, the dark promise of heat, desire and sex ran strong. A promise that Heero never failed to keep.

He was content. Wrapped in Heero’s arms, Duo felt more content than he could ever remember feeling. Inside, Wufei and the others waited, completely happy with Duo and his life. The monsters were more comfortable with Duo than any humans he’d known. It should have bothered him. Instead, it made him smile. Today would probably be a good day. He was having lots of those lately.

End

5 Responses to “Dance with the Demons”

  1. Gadizz Says:

    hey,
    im so completely totally in love with your work…..
    especially dance with the demons

  2. Litha-chan Says:

    This is one of the few fics that I decided to read in English, and that it pleased me. Only saying that he pleased me is little, I really loved, and still I am loving, each part that I read and that still I am reading.
    Congratulations.
    Kisses.

  3. Liz Says:

    Blue,

    I love your work! Dance with the Demons is one of my favorites. It has all I expect of a good fic from you: vampires, violence, subtle sap, and PWP sex (even when there is a plot) ;). Wonderful reading as usual. Keep writing excellent fics, and I will continue to read them.

  4. Krysanthe Says:

    oh
    my
    wow…

    I’ve read this twice on “A Little Piece of Gundam Wing”- I didn’t even know you had your own site! Suffice to say I’m not very in-the-know.

    Anywho!

    I just had to tell you how much I have loved reading Dance With Demons. Your site is being added to my favourites list as soon as I post this, and I’ll be systematically devouring every bit of fiction in as many categories as I can (starting right here!).

    Now, I’m off to wile the rest of my night away drooling over your lovely little pieces.

  5. Max Says:

    I love this story soooo much. I know that you wrote this a while ago, even before it’s posting at this website, I personally read it at a different one, however could you ever consider writing a sequel? Or maybe a prequel?

    Thanks, love your writing so much!!

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