Dance with the Demons: True Illusions
by Blue Soaring
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 color. The collar met in a low 'V' just above the center 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.
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 analyze 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."
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."
"What is it with you and answering questions with questions?"
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."
"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."
"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?"
"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 manís 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 boy 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.
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.
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 manís 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, Quat?" 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 defense. "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 . . .?"
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 blonde 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 color. "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?"
"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 boy 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 shifterís 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 behavior odd . . . ."
Duo stared at the blonde 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 blonde 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 behavior 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 Quat 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?"