Chapter 5 - Headaches and Children
Heero watched anxiously as Duo coughed and hacked back into consciousness. Sally had given him some sort of a potion to wake him up but Heero was nervous. He was afraid that Duo would be angry with him for trying to kill him, even if it was inadvertent. He still had no idea how he had restrained Duo or how he had managed to choke the breath out of him. He had been angry, more angry than he had ever been. Was that the key? Noin watched Heero watching Duo. Heero seemed impassive but Noin could see his hands twist in a nervous fashion. Noin felt sorry for Heero, but she was also afraid of him. If she hadn't jumped in when she had, Heero might have killed Duo. It would not have been his fault, but the result would have been devastating anyway. She had to keep Heero under close observation; he could lose control again. Noin came back to reality with a start when Sally spoke.
"There now, young man, how do you feel?" Duo squinted at Sally and made a face.
"How do you think I feel? I nearly had the life choked out of me by invisibility. Despite what you think, that doesn't happen to me everyday, okay?"
Duo's mocking words had no effect on Sally. She ignored his answer and continued poking at him. "Will you stop! I'm not some experiment! Darkness, you people are just weird."
To Duo's surprise, the other lady, the one they had called Noin, laughed. She had a nice laugh, the kind that made one want to laugh along. But Duo was in no mood for jollity. "Lady, I don't know what you think is so funny, but it better not be me. I don't take kindly to people laughing at me."
Noin shook her head in denial and responded. Even though Duo was displaying some brave tendencies, she could see that he was afraid of them.
"I'm not laughing at you. I just think it's funny that you are the Water Glider."
No sounds could be heard except for the crackling of the fire. Then Duo burst out into laughter that bordered on hysteria.
"Yeah, now I know you are crazy. The Water Glider? What in the Darkness is that? You people need to stop looking at the sky. I think all your blood supply deserted your brain."
"I agree with Duo," Sally ground out, "how can he possibly be a Warrior Mage?"
Shaking her head at the two, Noin told them about the reading she had earlier.
"The Water Dragon spoke. The Water Glider would be a thief in the night. He would be the Air Slicer's liberator. He would be death itself."
Again, silence fell upon the small group. Uncharacteristically, it was Heero who breached the silence this time.
"He is another Warrior Mage? Him? Are you serious?"
The disbelief was evident, as was the shock. Sally and Heero now wore identical expressions clearly showing their doubts. Duo, on the other hand, was not as skeptical.
"Hey, if Gorgeous can be an Air Slicer or whatever, I can certainly be the Water Glider. I don't see why not!"
Noin agreed. The prophecy had never said that the Warrior Mages would fit Noin and Sally's profile. Neither of these Warriors were grown men with years of magical and physical experience. They were just boys.
"You are the Water Glider," Noin replied, "believe me. You are the thief in the night, and you provoked Heero enough to make him use his powers so you are his liberator in a sense. But that death part.. That's kind of puzzling. I guess we'll figure it out later."
A soft chuckle made Noin look over at Duo. He was laughing quietly, as if he was privy to a private joke. Noin just hoped he wasn't getting hysterical.
"Death, huh. Death itself. How.. ironic."
Duo continued chuckling after his puzzling statement. Noin and Sally watched him closely in case he lost his mind while Heero eyed Duo with worry. What was wrong with this boy?
"Stop looking at me like I'm crazy. Jeez, it's like you guys haven't seen anyone laugh before." Heero, who was supposed to be a veritable wall of silence, spoke.
"What's so funny, Duo? Are you laughing because the idea of you being the Warrior Mage of Water is so absurd?"
"No, that's not it at all. I'm laughing because I AM that Water Glider thingie. People who know me, they call me Shinigami. It means god of death, or rather, death itself. Who knew that the stars could tell such things?"
Everyone except for Duo was completely dumbfounded. Every single word of the star reading was true for this boy. Even Noin, who had not questioned Duo as the Water Glider, could not believe that this cheerful and wordy boy had actually been dubbed as Shinigami. How would a fifteen year old boy earn such a name for himself? Heero had that same question.
"Are you really Shinigami or just saying that to make yourself look better?"
Duo looked at Heero disdainfully before deigning to answer.
"Look,, Gorgeous, I don't know about you, but I really don't need other people's approval or attention. I'm Shinigami because I deserve to be."
"Deserve to be death? What the hell kind of honor is that?"
"The kind I deserve!"
"That doesn't mean anything!"
Sally and Noin watched the two boys wrangle at each other and then at each other. Both sighed at the same time. Maybe Sally had brought Duo out of unconsciousness too soon.
As the moon waxed and waned, Duo assessed his situation. The gorgeous boy Heero was still staring at him. Rather, glaring at him. The two ladies were talking to each other softly on the other side of the fire while eyeing him and Heero furtively. How long had he been here, an hour? Two? Duo had to get back, but he could not leave without the food. He had promised that he would bring back something to eat. He thought about escaping into the woods but did not want to make Heero angry. He definitely did not want yet another episode of choking to death. So he sat and contemplated his situation. He was the Water Glider, the Warrior Mage of Water. In the vaults of his mind, his mental laughter rang and echoed. It was a long title for a thief dubbed Shinigami.
"What are you smiling at?"
Heero's quiet yet compelling voice made Duo look up. He had not realized that he was smiling.
"Nothing, Gorgeous. Just thinking. You should try it sometime."
The glare intensified. Duo mentally whacked himselffor the second time that night. Apparently, his mouth still had not learned the valuable lesson of keeping back nasty words in the face of Heero. If he kept talking back to Heero like this, he would not live to see daylight. Fortunately, Heero kept his anger in check.
"Are you always such an insolent bastard?"
Now, that was a question Duo had not expected. But he would answer it.
"Yeah, I am. You always go around smothering people with air?"
When Heero did not answer but stared at him more, Duothought he had bought the farm, so to speak. As he said good bye to his earthly friends and possessions, Heero spoke, startling the wits out of him.
"I'm sorry about that. I had no idea that I could.. do that. You just pissed me off."
Gathering his thoughts quickly, Duo responded almost immediately.
"Yeah, well, I piss off people well with regularity. The day I don't make someone mad enough to kill me will be the day I fuck a cactus."
"You are crude and disgusting, too. Does anyone like you?"
Despite Heero's statement, Duo spied a small twitching at the corner of his mouth. Heero was trying not to laugh and it was an endearing sight.
"I like me. And I'll bet you everything that you like me."
"Cocky too. And you'd lose that bet."
Smirking, Duo tossed his braid over his shoulder and threw Heero a smoldering stare.
"I don't think so, Gorgeous. If you don't like me now, I can guarantee that you'll like me soon enough. I will bet my life that one day, you will like me so much that you won't think about anything else."
"If that day ever comes, remind me to kill myself in the most painful and slow way possible."
Heero had answered flippantly because Duo was making him feel uncomfortable. It did not help that Duo had looked at him with the violet fire in his eyes, almost challenging him to go over and ravish him. Heero had to consciously remind himself that he did not like Duo, even if he was the most beautiful person he'd ever laid eyes on. He did not want Duo, like Duo, anything Duo. He kept repeating it to himself until he almost believed it. Then Duo had to go and ruin his efforts.
"Gorgeous, stop pretending to not like me. I like you, even if you tried to kill me earlier. And since I'm that Warrior person, I'm supposing that we'll be together for a while. Well, at least until we save the world, right?"
The gravity of his words were lightened by the softchuckle he emitted. It seemed to Heero that Duo was constantly talking or laughing. It was appealing and he found himself smiling at Duo instead of glaring at him.
"You see, Gorgeous? You can smile. You are stunning when you smile."
Speechless, Heero continued smiling at Duo and received a warm, soft smile from him as a reward. The moment was broken when Noin padded over to them and spoke.
"Stop flirting with each other. We have more important things to do."
"We're not flirting."
Heero's automatic and quick response evoked a knowing smile from Noin. She didn't know how these two boys were going to work out the attraction, but if they liked each other, so much the better. It would mean that these two Warriors would get along and that would be better for the Darkness in the end. Instead of chiding Heero's blatant denial, Noin decided to question Duo. With all the excitement, they hadn't really asked him anything about himself.
"Duo, why were you stealing our food? Are you hungry?"
The compassion and care in Noin's voice made Duo feel warm inside, just like he used to feel when his mother was alive. Holding back the sudden tears at the remembered emotion, Duo answered in a husky voice. "Not me. But there are people counting on me to feed them. I told them I'd be back tonight with food. Can't you let me go?"
Noin's heart went out to Duo. Despite his earlier arrogance and brash attitude, he seemed to have a good heart that cared for others. But she could not let him go. He was the Water Glider. He was needed. "I can't let you go. I have to take you back to the Dreamer's Dome with me. But if you want, we can all go to where your friends are and eat together. Will that be okay?"
Duo scanned Noin's voice and mannerism for tricks. He had not survived to his age without a significant amount of mistrust directed at others. However, Noin seemed very sincere and concerned. He could trust her not to betray him.
"Yeah. I guess you and Sally will meet the gang. Not to mention Gorgeous over there."
Ignoring Heero's response, Duo stood from his seat on the ground and dusted off his pants with his hands. Pivoting sharply on his toes, he tossed back a look that plainly suggested 'follow me.' As Duo walked off into the darkened woods, Sally and Noin quickly picked up their food sack and followed. Heero, however, stood by the fire a bit longer, confused about the strangely cocky thief with the hauntingly beautiful face named Duo.
"Hey, Gorgeous, you coming?"
Heero shook his head, attempting to clear his thoughts. Giving Duo a glare that should have killed, Heero kicked dirt onto the fire to kill it and then padded over to where his small group of companions stood. He could not afford to have his thoughts in confusion, especially over this boy. For now, he would follow and see where his destiny led. He would figure out what was going on in his heart later.