Dance with the Demons: To Know the Beginning
by Blue Soaring
Duo was back to pacing, turning things over in his head. Two pairs of eyes tracked his progress across the dark wine colored 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 center 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 humor 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.
“Catalyzing, 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, signaling 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.”
“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 cozy 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 color was washed away, leaving only shadows. Shadows of color, 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 boy’s head. “His parents will be very grateful.” He had turned to the boy then, and said, “Go inside now, and play with the others. They were worried about you.”
The little boy 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 boy’s savior. 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 color 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 favorite 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, marveling 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.