Dance with the Demons: Of Death’s Touch
by Blue Soaring
Duo lay back on the crimson sheets, his muddled brain trying to come to grips with what had just transpired. His entire body felt heavy and warm, still tingling with the aftershocks of his and Heero’s combined energy. Feeling strangely calm and sated, he once again turned to look at the vampire that lay beside him.
Heero’s eyes were focused on the pale imprint of Duo’s hand on his chest, above his heart. The mark was rapidly fading away; the skin returning to its darker, bronzed tone. He looked up when he felt Duo’s eyes on him.
“What in the name of Christ Almighty did we just do? And please, for the love of God, don’t say you don’t know.” Duo absently rubbed a hand over the bite on his neck. The spot was tingling, almost burning with residual energy.
Heero looked stumped. That was always a good sign. If you asked Duo, they had just discovered the best fucking alternative to sex in existence. Not that he was going to tell Heero that. Then again, maybe if they combined the two . . . .
“We found the answer to my question,” Heero ventured.
Duo resisted the urge to snort. “No shit.” That was one hell of a way to find out. Something occurred to Duo then, something that he had forgotten to ask Heero. And since they were both wallowing in the glow of something alarmingly akin to post-coital bliss, why not ask him now?
“I asked Wufei what animi motus,” Duo paused. What was that other word that Heero had used last night? “. . . meus meant,” he finished.
Heero’s brow winged up. “And?”
“Trowa interrupted, said it meant something like soul passion. What the hell is that supposed to be?”
Heero looked at Duo for a second longer. Then he sat up, exposing the gracefully curving lines of his back and . . . lower things. Duo tried hard not to stare at the rounded bend of Heero’s thigh where it joined his upper body. He wasn’t having much luck.
“And while you’re at it, you can tell me what the hell animi MORTUS means, too,” Duo added.
The vampire leaned down over him, capturing his wrists, one in each hand, and pinning them beside Duo’s head. He moved closer until his face was barely inches away. Duo felt his pulse quicken, Heero once again dominating his senses. Cobalt eyes filled his vision; the rich spicy warmth of his scent filling his nose.
“The first means my soul’s passion,” Heero whispered, touching his lips briefly to Duo’s. “The second . . . .” His tongue darted out to swipe over Duo’s lips. “The second means my soul’s death,” Heero said, pulling away from the shocked man.
Heero released Duo’s wrists, quickly rolling off the bed and wrapping the sheet loosely about his waist. He was gone, the room empty, before Duo’s overtaxed brain could register his passing.
Duo lay still, sprawled on the silken sheets. He flexed his fingers once, then covered his face with his hands, taking a deep breath.
My soul’s passion, or my soul’s death . . . or both. That’s what Heero had said when Duo had first consciously used his . . . whatever it was. But damn it, what the hell did it MEAN? Duo realized he was absently rubbing the wound on his neck again. Angrily, he yanked his hand away, sitting up and leaning against the headboard.
Swiftly getting up from the bed, Duo was overcome with a wave of dizziness. He sat back down with a plop. Shit. Try that again.
This time, he rose slower, and was gratified when the dizziness didn’t return. Just how much blood did Heero take, anyways!? That thought stopped Duo short as the reality of what he had done crashed down around him. He had let Heero drink his blood. Willingly. And he had enjoyed it.
Now THAT was frightening.
Shaking slightly, Duo glanced about, trying to decide what to do. He had to do something, or he’d drive himself insane thinking. He was hungry and sweaty; his hair was a mess. He was torn between bathing and eating when a soft knock came from the direction of the doorway.
He looked towards the sound, surprised when he saw Relena standing just inside the door. She had clothing slung over her arm.
“Yeah?” Duo said after a moments hesitation.
Relena inclined her head slightly. “The Erus suggested you bathe. You won’t be disturbed,” she said, walking further into the room, through the curtain and laying the clothes neatly on the bed. “Something for you to eat will be sent shortly. The Erus requested that you remain here,” she finished.
Duo blinked. “Uhh . . . thanks?” he said, shrugging.
She smiled slightly in amusement, and Duo noticed a small glint of fang. Then she turned and left the way she came.
Duo stared after her. It was hard to tell what she thought about him. Not that it mattered. He glanced at the clothes she had brought in. Sighing, he turned on the faucet and started filling up the bath. While he waited, he unbraided his hair and dug out a couple of towels, keeping them within reach of the bath.
Once there was enough water, Duo stripped and stepped in. Submerging himself to wet his hair, he then began the arduous task of washing it. He hissed when the water came in contact with the bite mark. That stung like a bitch.
He dipped under the water again, washing out as many of the suds as he could. As he washed himself, his thoughts began to wander. Again. He’d really have to do something about that.
This time, however, his thoughts were more focused. In fact, they were focused solely on one thing: Heero. And they weren’t even his usual ‘crazy-ass-vampire-wouldn’t-trust-him-as-far-as-you-could-throw-him’ thoughts. Instead, Duo seemed fixated on how his hand had looked splayed over Heero’s chest, and the feeling of his skin under his fingers. Which probably wasn’t a very healthy thing to be fixated on.
Duo bathed quickly. He started draining the water, and then turned the taps back on. Somehow, he managed to rinse out the rest of the shampoo and soap suds that clung to his hair. Grabbing both towels, he wrapped one around his waist, then used the other to dry the dripping chestnut mass.
Picking up a piece of clothing, he examined it critically. Black straight-legged jeans, somewhat looser than what Trowa would normally stick him in. A thin shirt made out of soft material, also black, with three-quarter length sleeves, and his coat from last night. Duo began dressing, smirking slightly when he noticed Heero had also included black silk boxers. The vampire definitely had a little obsession with the color black.
Duo hauled on the boxers and pants, not at all surprised when both fit him perfectly. He rummaged around for a brush and quickly combed and braided his hair. He had just hauled the shirt on, adjusting the sleeves, when Heero walked in. Well, glided in.
The vampire was fully clothed now, clad in tight pants and a form-fitting sleeveless shirt. All of it, naturally, was black. They were going hunting, but Duo thought that Heero was going just a little bit overboard with the monochrome wardrobe.
“Don’t we look spiffy,” Duo quipped from where he was standing beside the desk. He was looping the holster belt around his waist. “You’re getting carried away with the whole hunting bit.”
Heero reached down, picking up the main part of the shoulder holster. He helped Duo shrug into it. “I’m not allowed to get carried away?” he said, a little too happily.
Duo looked up sharply. Heero’s eyes were sparkling with excitement. “What IS with you?” he asked for the second time that night.
The vampire grazed the tips of his fingers over Duo’s neck, where he had bitten him. The spot twinged at his touch, sending little sparks of pleasure, not pain, singing along Duo’s nerves.
“What the hell . . . ?” Duo mumbled, moving away from Heero and towards the mirror. What he saw made him suck in a sharp breath. The twin puncture wounds had healed over. The skin where they had been was shiny, completely smooth. “That was stinging just a few minutes ago. Heero, what did you do?”
Heero looked confused, and Duo realized with a start that the vampire’s nose scrunched up just a little; so little, it was almost imperceptible. And it was kinda sexy . . . .
“It was like that before I touched it,” Heero said, walking up behind Duo and brushing his fingers over the spot again.
Duo felt the slight touch evoke that same twinge of pleasure. Unconsciously, he tipped his head to the side, baring the slender curve of his neck. Duo looked in the mirror, first at his neck and then up at Heero. The vampire leaned down, brushing his lips over the healed wound. The feeling intensified, and Duo melted back against Heero’s body.
“Holy shit,” Duo said as the vampire wrapped an arm around his waist.
Heero grazed his teeth over Duo’s neck lightly, leaving the skin unbroken. He inhaled, breathing in Duo’s scent, and let the breath out slowly. It was hot against Duo’s skin. “I think I may be a little drunk,” he said, pushing his nose into Duo’s hair and breathing deeply again.
“Maybe not drunk,” Heero amended. “How about high?”
Duo tried to ignore the wonderful sensations coursing through his body and keep his power in check. How he was supposed to control anything with Heero hanging all over him was a mystery.
“How!?” Duo demanded.
“On your power and your blood,” Heero replied. Duo swore he could hear a slight sing-song lilt in the vampire’s voice. A drunken - high, whatever - Heero was a very disquieting Heero.
Duo’s heartbeat was steadily getting faster. His body fit against Heero’s perfectly, the heat from the vampire searing into his back. The power inside Duo rose up automatically at Heero’s touch, as if it was desperately reaching out to him. Duo viciously attempted to squash it. His rebellious body was also stirring in response to Heero; blood rushed happily down to his groin. He tried to put a stop to that, too. He wasn’t having much luck with either.
Then Heero interceded. His power washed over Duo in a cool wave, calming and soothing. The twisting inside him subsided, until it was only a gentle humming just below the surface. Duo’s mind and body quieted, the pleasure he felt at Heero’s touch was still there, but muted now.
“We still have a renegade to destroy,” Heero said, pulling away from Duo.
Duo remained frozen, quaking in his proverbial boots, for a moment longer. Then, turning to face Heero, he said, “All this is confusing the hell out of me, you know that, right?” Actually, what he wanted to say was, ‘hell, let’s forget about the monster and just jump each other right now.’
Heero smirked. “Work first, play later.” Duo HAD said the first sentence out loud, right? Not the second?
Narrowing his eyes, Duo said, “Are you really high?”
The vampire nodded. “A little.”
“This is crazy.”
Then, to Duo’s surprise, Heero reached out and grabbed his hand and started hauling him across the room. Duo sputtered, but managed to snag the rest of his weapons on the way out the door.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Duo eyed the motorcycle doubtfully where it sat in the side alley. A shiny black color, it was crafted for speed, with the driver, and consequently, the passenger leaning down low over the body of the bike. Heero tossed Duo a sleek matching helmet, which he deftly caught.
“You drive?” Duo asked, failing to keep the shock from his voice.
“Of course I drive,” Heero said, settling down on the bike.
“Maybe we should just walk . . . or let me drive,” Duo said hopefully. Heero was still acting just a little too happy for his liking.
“Nonsense. Get on.” The vampire patted the seat invitingly.
“Why aren’t you wearing a helmet?” Duo said, delaying what now seemed to be the inevitable.
“Duo, be serious,” was all Heero said.
“I AM being the serious one,” he muttered under his breath. Still, he jammed the helmet down over his head, and somewhat timidly seated himself on the motorcycle behind Heero. He rested his hands lightly on Heero’s hips, wriggling his fingers in through the belt loops of his pants.
Heero engaged the bike, revved the engine a few times, and took off like a shot
“Jesus! HEERO!” Duo screamed at the top of his lungs. His arms came up around the vampire, holding on to his waist for dear life and tight enough to bruise a human. Heero’s laughter floated on the night air long after they had rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Duo’s legs were NOT wobbly. No sir; steady as a rock, he was. That’s what he kept telling himself as he walked beside the speed demon he usually called Heero. Well, usually he called him some little nickname that was borderline insulting, but that was a technicality, really.
They were following a small walking trail just outside the city. There had been another attack, the time placed between the first two found. That meant three separate attacks in less than sixteen hours. Duo had been informed when he had arrived at the police department for the files on the previous attacks. At least he had managed to walk steadily through the station after the hair-raising ride Heero had put him through.
Duo looked up and saw a male uniformed officer waiting on the edge of the scene. The yellow police tape was wrapped around the trees, standing out in stark contrast against the brush. The forested area was flooded by light coming from several spotlights the cops had set up. The crowd that usually crawled all over crime scenes had thinned out. Looked like Duo was the last one called in.
“Duo Maxwell?” the uniform inquired, looking at the braided man.
“Yep,” Duo said, stepping ahead of Heero.
“Who’s he?” the officer grunted, jerking a thumb in Heero’s direction.
“A menace to society,” Duo mumbled under his breath before saying, in a louder tone, “He’s with me, helping me track down the renegade.”
The cop looked at Heero with narrowed eyes. “Huh,” he said, “right then. This way.” He turned away, ducking under the tape without looking to see if they were following.
“YOU! You there!”
Duo looked up, grinning when he saw the familiar figure storming his way. Detective Trant Clark always was the vocal type.
“What are you doing traipsing all over my scene?” Clark demanded, jabbing a finger at Duo.
“Traipsing? Me? Come on, Clark, give a guy some credit,” Duo said, laughing. “I haven’t traipsed over evidence since the Hewlett episode years ago.”
And that really wasn’t by choice. When an eight foot tall troll hauls your ass over the bloody remains of its last meal - incidentally, a family of four - it’s usually not because it was your idea to begin with.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Duo Maxwell, are you the one they called in on this one?” Clark said, a smile emerging.
“In the flesh.” Duo reached out and clasped Clark’s hand warmly. “What are you doing back? I thought they had enough of you at the station?” It was hard to imagine Clark working steadily at a desk job.
“CopCity? Shit, Duo, you know what the desk mites are like.” Clark motioned for them to continue walking.
“Still can’t tell their ass from a hole in the ground, huh?” Duo said, falling into step beside the detective. Heero eyed the man suspiciously, then took up his position beside Duo.
Clark chuckled. “They’d love to hear that one.”
“You should tell them someday,” Duo replied. “When you’re ready to retire.”
“So, are you going to tell me who he is?” Clark asked, indicating Heero.
“Ya know, that rookie at the tape needs a swift kick in the ass,” Duo said. He had no idea if Heero wanted his name known, so he’d be damned if he was just going to spit it out. The vampire hadn’t said a word since they had sighted the cops; his little high had abruptly evaporated.
Clark snorted. “Rookies. He let the both of you in without even so much as a glance at any ID. I swear, this place went to pot after I left.” He shot Duo an appraising look. “Now that you’re done trying to change the topic, either you tell me who blue-eyes is, or he waits back at the tape.”
“Heero Yuy,” the vampire said, “I am assisting Duo on the hunt.”
One of Clark’s eyebrows winged up. “The hunt, huh? Detective Trant Clark, of the 35th.” He held out his hand.
Heero merely flicked his eyes down, then, ignoring the offered hand, inclined his head in acknowledgement. Boy, oh boy, was the bastard charm flowing tonight.
“Right,” Clark said, withdrawing his hand and eyeing the vampire suspiciously.
They were standing on the edge of a section of torn earth, the grass ripped away and the exposed dirt muddied. Duo wrinkled his forehead. Mud? It hadn’t rained in days. He searched the area with his eyes. Pieces of white showed scattered about, streaked with brownish stains. The entire place stank of violent death. A nice mix of outhouse and old blood.
“What the fuck am I looking at?” Duo said.
“They tell me it used to be a man,” Clark said sadly. He shook his head. “I think my brain refuses to believe it.”
Duo blinked. “Holy shit. There’s nothing left.” He was thankful for that. Nothing on the ground resembled anything that could be a part of a human being. Swallowing once, and immediately regretting it as the stench lodged in his throat, he said, “You got a definite on the species?”
Heero was critically studying a lump of something. He balanced on the balls of his feet easily as he leaned down. Raising his head and doing what suspiciously looked to Duo like sniffing the air, he said, “A were. Most likely feline. This area is close by the other two. It possibly rests in the same place between strikes. Or, it hasn’t rested yet, which is the higher possibility for a renegade capable of this.” He straightened gracefully.
Clark eyes widened slightly as he whistled. “You’ve got a good one here, Duo. Second sweep concluded the same.”
For some reason that Duo was quite reluctant to discover, he felt a surge of pride. Duo mentally kicked himself again in an effort to discourage his own thoughts. Oh, yes, his little Erus was just so gosh darned intelligent.
“Thank you,” Heero said dryly and Duo noticed with a start that the vampire had looked at him when he said it.
“Ahh, anyway,” Duo pressed on, “you mind if we have a look around?” he asked Clark.
“We’re done here. They’re,” he looked over at a crew waiting nearby with various bits of equipment, “going to scrape up whatever of him is left and bring it in. Just don’t walk on him.”
That might be harder to do than it sounded.
“Thanks, Clark. I’ll let the mites know when I get something,” Duo said, letting his eyes rove over the area again.
“You do that. They had a unit working on it, but they came up with zip. I told them they should have called you in first,” Clark clapped a hand on Duo’s shoulder, then walked away to join the waiting crew.
“And the hunt begins,” Heero said softly, the sparkle back in his eyes.
Duo resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “I should just let you run off and kill it for me,” he grumbled. "Go fetch."
The leafy trees had grown close together, the ground riddled with large roots that thrust up from the earth. Aside from the path that the cops on scene had taken and the muddy spot that was the victim, the underbrush looked for the most undisturbed. A werewolf could move unnaturally quickly and silently through a close forest, but Duo doubted it would leave absolutely no trace of its passage behind.
On an impulse, Duo looked up. The branches and leaves formed a tightly knit ceiling, blocking out the moonlight. The trees themselves were huge, stretching high above their heads.
“You think it’s a cat?” Duo asked the vampire.
Heero followed Duo’s gaze. “Not only one.”
“Yeah,” Duo scratched the back of his head. “Those branches are thick enough to support a shifter, a cat could have used that to get around and jump our mud pie here. Explains why there’s no other signs down here.”
“It may have been avian,” Heero said after a moment.
Duo snorted. “Oh, come on, we both know it was feline. You already said as much yourself. Look up there. It’d make one hell of a racket getting through that mess.”
The vampire flashed Duo a feral smile. “Let’s go find out.” Heero glanced around once, searching for something. Finding whatever it was he sought, he launched himself into a smooth run, heading straight for the trunk of a tree. A few feet away from it, he neatly kicked off the ground, hitting the trunk for a split second before pushing his body away again in an almost seamless movement. Heero reached out, latching onto one of the branches and hauling himself up.
Duo blinked stupidly. Holy hell. That was something to see. He quickly glanced back at the remaining officers. None appeared to have seen Heero’s little display. As if it was that hard to miss.
“Duo, come here,” Heero’s voice reached Duo from somewhere above him.
Looking back up, Duo saw the vampire walking easily along a branch with perfect balance.
“How the fuck am I supposed to get up THERE? Jesus, Heero,” Duo snapped. Heero’s show had unnerved him just a smidgen.
Instead of answering, Heero jumped with ease down to a lower limb and moved closer to the trunk. He looked back at Duo, lying down on the branch and holding out a hand.
“Oh, fuck it,” Duo said, throwing his hands up in the air.
Heero was still a good distance up, further than he could reach, anyway. Shooting one last glance at the milling uniforms, he ran over the ground, jumping up and reaching for the vampire’s outstretched hand. He felt Heero’s hand close over his forearm at the same time as his own hand grabbed the vampire’s arm. And then he was effortlessly pulled up beside him.
Standing up, Heero brushed off his clothes and said, “You can see much more from here.”
“No shit,” Duo replied, sitting on the rough surface.
The vampire was off again, moving over and in between the limbs and leaves as if he was on flat ground. “You were right, a flying shifter would have too much difficultly moving though this. We are looking for something that has the ability to move through tree branches.”
Duo remained sitting where he was. “Leopard, jaguar, cheetah, tiger, maybe a lion.”
“You forgot lynx, bobcat and caracal,” Heero said from his perch higher above Duo.
“What the fuck is a caracal?” Then he grinned. “A wereBOBCAT?”
The vampire smirked. “It’s very rare.”
“I can see why,” Duo snorted. A werebobcat. That had to be one of the funniest things he’d heard of in a while. “Aren’t two of those three you named kinda . . . ya know, small?” He lifted both of his hands, holding them a few inches apart.
“Normally, yes. Shifters don’t follow the normal rules, Duo.”
“Huh. Anyway, what are we looking for up here?”
Heero was moving around again. “Tracks. Claw marks, specifically.”
“Riiight. Let me know if you find anything, o great hunter.” Duo looked apprehensively down at the ground. It wasn’t that far away a minute ago, was it? He took a deep breath and pushed himself off the branch, landing with a muted thump.
The cleaners were finishing up scooping up the remains as Duo made his way over to a rock. He sat down and waited for Heero to finish playing monkey.
Things were getting a lot more than complicated, and Duo almost itched to begin the chase. He already had a good idea of where to begin looking. The three attacks had taken place fairly close by, and in his experience, renegades never missed the opportunity to strike if it was favorable to them. Granted, this time around he didn’t have Mariemeia’s help to track it, but he had something better. He had Heero.
“We should begin now,” Heero said, back on solid ground and standing beside Duo.
“Fuck!” Duo exclaimed, jumping. “You frightened the living shit out of me, Heero! Give me some warning next time, will ya?”
“You would have heard me had you wanted,” the vampire said cryptically. “We should go north first, maybe angle towards the west slightly. It came from that direction.”
Duo pushed himself up off the rock and started picking his way carefully through the brush. “You think it’s still active?”
“Perhaps, but most likely not,” came the answer. “As long as you aren’t crashing about, I’ll be able to hear it if it comes close.”
Duo didn’t bother to reply to that.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Some time later, Duo signaled for Heero to stop. The vampire was just damn spooky, walking through the bushes without making so much as a whisper. At quick glance at his watch showed that it was half past twelve.
The trees had thinned somewhat the further they had moved, why, Duo didn’t know. Geography never was his strong point. It had made moving quietly easier, but Duo was careful to make enough noise to alert the renegade. He didn’t want it sneaking up on him, but he didn’t want it to miss him either. Renegades were not noted for strategic thinking, though usually any animal could tell when it was being hunted. The desire to kill in renegade shifters usually overran everything else, making them aggressive in almost any circumstance.
Turning to Heero, Duo silently mouthed, “Above, my right. Watching.” He hoped Heero could read lips, he didn’t want the renegade to know he had been spotted. The subject of lip reading hadn’t really come up in conversation.
Apparently, he could, because the vampire nodded. Of course, he could have already spotted the shifter, and was waiting for Duo to notice. How nice of him.
Heero’s eyes took on a different light then, and he stepped close to Duo and effectively backed him up against a nearby tree. His rich blue eyes were swimming with possibilities. Sinful ones.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Duo hissed, feeling his pulse pick up speed.
Now was not the time for supernatural hanky-panky. And that looked to be exactly what Heero had in mind. The vampire dipped his head, brushing his lips over the silvery skin at Duo’s neck, exhaling a warm puff of air. Duo felt the small tingling begin in response to Heero’s touch. Suddenly his throat felt dry and he swallowed dryly.
“Giving an opportunity,” Heero replied, bracing both hands against the trunk and pinning Duo between his arms.
Opportunity? Opportunity for WHAT? Duo’s hands were resting against the tree by his sides and Heero leaned closer, pressing the length of his body against Duo’s. Think, think, think! Unfortunately, his brain decided to take a little holiday as the vampire nuzzled his neck, a hot, wet tongue darting out to taste his skin. Duo’s eyes slid closed when Heero licked a trail up the side of his neck, stopping to torture the sensitive patch of skin just below his ear. His head fell back against the tree and he moaned quietly.
Duo tried to keep the rising tide of his power in check, but it seemed that it was drawn to Heero. The heat of the vampire’s body pressed against his combined with the startling sensation of Heero's mouth on his skin was evoking a reaction he could do nothing to prevent.
At least he tired to prevent it. Not really hard, though.
“Stop,” Heero whispered into his ear. “Don’t fight me.”
Heero was an idiot. Plain and simple. They couldn’t afford this now, not with the shifter so close. It occurred to him that pushing Heero away would probably be the next logical step, but his body didn’t respond. The power singing through his veins overruled and conquered him.
Gradually, Duo realized the night air was not as quiet as it had seemed only minutes before. The breeze rustled the leaves, and he could hear the sound of mosquitoes buzzing nearby. He heard the sound of the renegade approaching on quiet feet. Then Heero’s mouth closed over his, sending liquid fire searing through his mind.
Heero’s lips were surprisingly warm and soft. The kiss grew harder, and Duo felt the sharp points of fangs pressing against his lips. He parted his lips, a surge a pure pleasure racing through him when Heero ghosted his tongue over his bottom lip. Then his tongue was inside Duo’s mouth, stroking and exploring. Duo’s hands slid around Heero’s waist, pulling him close.
Duo felt his muscles go lax, and a deliciously lazy feeling spread through his body. It clashed with the burning just below the surface of his skin, sending tiny shocks running through him. Heero's kiss was soft, then hard. Demanding and entreating at the same time. And there, underneath it all, was the hot, spicy taste of Heero's own particular brand of darkness. Just this one, small taste, and Heero was flowing through his veins, making Duo want more. He wanted sex and power. He wanted to take everything Heero had to offer. Above all, he wanted Heero.
The rate of the shifter’s footsteps changed; it had broken out into a run. A savage roar echoed around them as the renegade pushed off the ground, leaping towards them with claws and fangs bared. Duo heard it, he could even feel the rush of gratification the shifter felt as it closed in on its prey. At the last second, Heero flung them both out of the way. Duo caught the flash of a smile on the vampire’s face as the renegade crashed into the tree trunk.
“Holy Jesus!” Duo swore, rolling away from Heero and surging to his feet. His head was fuzzy from the vampire’s kiss. This was most definitely NOT a good way to hunt. The Glock was in his hand and ready before the scene in front of him fully registered on his brain.
The shifter - a dark colored jaguar, Duo noted - was stalking around Heero. It snarled at the vampire, darting forward to swipe at him with a huge paw. Heero moved quickly, the cat only touching air.
Duo sighted on the shifter, but hesitated to pull the trigger. Heero was calmly dodging each of the shifter’s attempts to strike him, making the cat appear clumsy. It roared in frustration, leaping at the vampire. Again, Heero deftly moved out of the way, this time grabbing the scruff of its neck and using the shifter’s own momentum to slam it into a tree.
The great cat staggered to its feet, dazed. Blood and flecks of foam flew from its mouth as it snarled at Heero, raking the air with its forepaws. Duo stood frozen, watching in shocked amazement as Heero toyed with the beast. His reawakened power sang just below the surface of his skin.
The cat whirled on its hind legs, away from Heero. Its enraged eyes fell on Duo and, with another savage roar, it launched itself straight at him. On reflex, Duo sighted and fired, rolling to the side. He heard the tearing of flesh as the scatter shot hit home. The shifter went down in a flurry of blood and claws.
Duo stayed down on one knee, the Glock still trained on the fallen renegade. He hadn’t seen where his bullet struck. The shifter growled, trying to get its legs under itself. Duo’s finger started to ease back the trigger again.
“No,” Heero said, standing beside Duo. “Something is wrong.” He looked down at Duo, his blue eyes fathomless. “Force it to revert.”
Duo risked a glance out of the corner of his eyes at the vampire. “Say what?” Maybe Heero had gotten knocked around and Duo had missed it.
The renegade collapsed again, its shoulder too wounded to support its weight. Still, the injury would heal if given enough time.
“You once forced Wufei and Trowa to shift, force this one to revert,” Heero repeated.
Heero definitely hit his head or something. “And how the hell am I supposed to do THAT? I used Sally’s power before.”
“Use the shifter’s,” the vampire said, motioning towards the struggling cat.
Duo got to his feet, blowing a lock of hair from his face. He kept the gun pointed at the renegade. “Right,” he said dubiously.
He didn’t have a clue why the hell he was listening to Heero; he should just shoot the damn renegade and be done with it. But if Heero thought something was off . . . he was going to kill the shifter either way. He didn’t relish the thought of killing it by draining its life away, though. If he couldn’t do what Heero asked, then he’d take care of it the way he had intended to from the beginning.
Then there was the fact that Duo wasn’t even sure how to control the power inside him. It seemed like it was quite attached to Heero, for some reason. How in the name of God was he supposed to make sure it targeted the shifter and not him?
“Just try, Duo,” Heero said, standing very close to him.
Easy for him to say. Duo relaxed, and simply stopped fighting against the energy. It rose up, swallowing his mind and body. Again, the world slowed down, veiling itself in shadowy blackness before once more resuming its normal speed.
Duo could feel Heero beside him, his impossibly slow heartbeat echoing in his ears. Of its own accord, his power tried to reach out to Heero, shifting the coloring from black to blue. Duo ruthlessly pulled it back. Heero was not his target this time. The blue veil bled slowly away, changing again to black.
Focusing on the wounded were, Duo felt its energy drain into himself. The rush of joy and pleasure at the intensity of the power filled Duo’s mind. Detachedly, he realized that, while it was powerful, it paled in comparison to the touch of Heero’s mind. His skin tingled, but he couldn’t feel the velvet touch of the power mixing with his own inside him. Duo simply took the energy and made it into his own.
“Remember what you are trying to do, Duo,” Heero’s voice echoed in Duo’s mind. “Don’t kill, transform.”
Shocked, Duo realized that the shifter was barely alive. He savagely pushed the power away, back into the cat. For one instant of stunned revulsion, Duo thought he was too late, that he had taken too much. Then, the air around the fallen renegade shimmered, and it reverted back to human form with a great explosion of air.
Duo’s entire body pulsed with the rush of power. He cast about, searching for more. His eyes settled on Heero. Duo wanted another taste of the vampire’s energy. He didn’t even register that his hand was reaching out towards him, aiming for Heero’s heart.
Heero took a step back. “No, Duo, not now,” he said, almost regretfully. “The renegade.”
Duo blinked rapidly several times, the reality of what he was doing crashing back down around him. Abruptly, his vision cleared, and he looked around with normal eyes again. He saw the naked form of a man lying face down in the brush, his shoulder a mess of blood and tissue.
A slow, rhythmic clapping echoed on the night air. Duo turned around slowly while Heero took a step towards him, standing close enough so that they touched.
“Simply amazing,” a man said, stepping out from the shadow of a large tree. “As is to be expected from you, Duo.” He was smiling pleasantly. “I am certain Sedici is happy that you spared his life.”
Duo shot him a hard-eyed look. It was the same man he had met at the ruins of St. Jerome’s. “What do you want?” he demanded.
The man ignored him, turning instead to Heero. “Hello again, Heero,” he said, inclining his head in greeting. “It has been such a very long time.”