Disclaimer: How many disclaimers do you think you've read by now? I won't insult you by repeating it, and if you don't know it by now, you never will.

Pairings: 2x5, 2x3, 4x3, 4x5, 1x2
Rating: NC-17
Category: AU
Warnings: OOC, yaoi, language, touch of blood and amazingly light lime (diet flavor - wait, can you even call that a flavor?).
Spoilers: Nothing even close to spoilers. Unless you didn’t know their names . . . in that case, oops.

Note: Welcome to the pause and regroup session. *grin* Poor Duo, so confused. And antsy. Confused and antsy. What a combination.

Dance with the Demons: To Find the End
Part Eleven
by Blue Soaring

“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 lightheaded 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, Quat?”

“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 center 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 molded 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 center 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, smoldering 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 reveling 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 skeptical.

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 –


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.

on to part twelve

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