Labyrinth (or a Somewhat Reasonable Facsimile Thereof)
by Blue Soaring
The walls gradually shortened and fell away, spilling Duo out into a world that couldn't exist. He hesitated, mute and awe-struck as staircases spread out before him, climbed above his head and under his feet. Upside down, turned on sides, stairs led to more stairs, marching along beside him horizontally and ending at doorways built into floor, wall and ceiling. M.C. Escher's Relativity, with all its mind-bending impossibility, surrounded him.
The sound of slow, unhurried footsteps echoed on stone. Duo turned toward the sound, turned and faced the cool eyes of the labyrinth's sovereign king.
"How you've turned my world," Treize said gesturing at the staircases with his lips curving into a sinful smile, his voice as soft and deliberate as his movements.
Duo fell back a step as Treize approached, momentarily unnerved by the surroundings, the atmosphere and the company he found himself in. He started to speak, words dying on his lips before he could give voice to them.
"You exhaust me," the king continued softly, a hint of steel under the velvet of his voice. "Everything I've done, I've done for you."
Grabbing onto those words, ready to protest, Duo cut himself off once again as Treize began to climb another set of stairs running parallel and upside down to the set Duo stood frozen on. He turned again, searching as he lost sight of the other man.
"You've come so far," Treize said quietly, leaning against one of the stone arches at the end of the stairs intersecting Duo's. In his hand he held a single crystal, turning his gaze to watch the other as he lifted it, Duo's eyes drawn and held by the clear glass. "But I could be cruel," he whispered, letting the crystal fall to the floor.
It hit the hard, cold stone with the sound of a small, delicate bell, and rolled across to the stairs. One by one, it bounced down the steps, each time it struck stone sending a high, clear chime through the air. With a final, echoing ring, it jumped into Relena's hand. She looked up, looked straight through Duo, and turned back to the ball in her hand.
"Relena!" Duo called, and when there was no indication that she had heard, he started to run over the stairs towards her.
Treize watched, silent now. Expression guarded, his eyes clouded and betrayed him. Blue shone with sadness, and he breathed a soft breath.
Relena stood on the stairs across from Duo, still out of his reach. He called her name again, and this time, she looked at him. Looked, turned and walked away, crystal held lightly in her hand. Unwilling to give up, Duo whipped around and sprinted up another staircase, winding his way closer to her.
He slowed and halted, losing sight of both Treize and Relena. Silence deafened him as he searched, and suddenly halted again, spotting Relena sitting on a ledge below him. Clenching his hands into fists, he took a step back, hesitated, and jumped, finally defying the laws of gravity that constrained only him.
There was no wind rushing in his ears, no jarring landing, but a slow, gentle glide as he fell. The staircases, like the ballroom, began to separate and fall upwards as he drifted down. The sky was full of stars, no land, nothing but the stone he was set lightly upon and the steady, quiet tick of a clock moving backwards through time. Treize stood before him, clad in the same clothing that he had worn the night he'd first appeared.
"Duo," Treize began.
"Let Relena go." Duo strode forward, face set and voice determined.
"Believe me, I have been generous up until now," Treize said, warning in his tone. "But I can be cruel."
"What the hell have you done that's generous?" Duo demanded.
"Everything," Treize said with a sharp gesture. "Everything you have wanted I have done. You asked for the child to be taken, I took her." He stalked around Duo, his frustration tangible and tightly controlled. "I have reordered time, I have turned the world upside-down, and I have done it all for you."
Shaking his head quickly in an attempt to clear it, Duo felt a thought flitter through his mind, gone like breath on the wind. He struggled to grasp it, hold it through the sound of Treize's voice battering his mind.
Treize paused, standing close to Duo, leaning down to bring their faces close together. "I am exhausted from living up to your expectations of me." He brought his lips close to Duo's ear, whispered, "Isn't that generous?"
Memory rose through the haze gripping Duo's mind, rose up and made him suck in a sharp breath as the remembrance of a soft brush of warm hair danced along his skin, of ice-blue eyes, of a small sad and knowing smile as whispered words echoed in his ears.
"Stop," Treize commanded, reading the change in Duo's expression. "Look at what I'm offering you," he said, calling one last crystal to his hand. "Your dreams."
Duo's eyes hardened, his chin raised defiantly.
"I ask for so little," the other said, and Duo saw in his eyes that Treize knew his own time was at an end. "Let me rule you, and you can have everything... that you want...."
Slowly, Duo shook his head. "No."
"Fear me, love me, do as I say, Duo, and I will be your slave." Treize's voice had dropped low, the crystal in his hand glinting dully.
Whispered words echoed in his mind again, and finally, Duo gave voice to them. He spoke quietly, knowing victory with a bitter, cutting edge. "You have no power over me."
Treize stepped back, held Duo's gaze for a mere moment before tossing the crystal high into the air. The clock finally chimed, peal after peal of echoing bells. His lips curved, a smile of sorrow that faded as he did, and Duo raised his hand to catch the crystal ball that fell through the air. It touched his palm and burst into nothing, and then Duo was falling again, the remains of the castle dropping away. And still, the bells tolled.
At the final stroke of midnight, Duo was standing in the middle of the main hall of his home, staring at the now-silent grandfather clock. He stood immobile for a long, long time before shaking himself out of his daze, the sound of a television finally registering. He walked on soft feet towards the den, peered inside to see Relena curled up against his father, his stepmother seated on the couch with them, relaxed and smiling.
"Huh," Duo murmured to himself, stepped away again. He looked at his clothes; saw that there were no tears, no dirt covering him. He felt tired, almost exhausted, but instead of taking the stairs to his bedroom, he slipped out the front door, walking through the misty night with no destination in mind.
Light clouds drifted overhead, the air heavy with the scent of rainfall and spring. Moonlight shone, reflected in the puddles scattered over the sidewalks and streets and fragmenting as his boots broke the surface. He walked on, not realizing when his steps had taken him to his usual club haunts.
"Duo! How will we know?"
He whipped around at the new and familiar voice, eyes going wide as he saw Quatre grinning at him from across the street, standing in front of one of his favourite bars. The blond waved and, stunned, Duo lifted a hand to return the greeting, stopping mid-step as a truck rumbled between them. When it passed, Quatre was gone.
Duo hesitated, not certain of the implications. He wasn't certain about anything, but curiosity compelled him to move. He trotted across the street, ducked into the building and searched the crowd. He saw nothing.
He turned to leave, stopped again and turned back around as he caught sight of Wufei striding through the crowd. The other man smiled, dark eyes shining in the fitful light, and keeping his gaze fixed on Wufei's, Duo headed straight for him. A couple jostled him, made him break contact for a split-second, and when he lifted his gaze again, Wufei was gone.
Sliding a hand through his hair and gripping, Duo dragged in a long, deep breath. Released it slowly and glanced around again. Music pounded, people danced and people sat, sipping brightly coloured drinks and laughing.
"Should you need us," Wufei whispered in his ear, and when Duo turned, the dark-haired man was gone again.
"What will you do?" Trowa asked, his quiet, strong voice coming from directly in front of Duo.
Duo turned, looked up at eyes gone dark, shining green, and tried to find the breath to answer. He blinked, and suddenly Trowa was gone, striding away through the crowd. Duo immediately followed, dodging people and furniture alike, desperately keeping Trowa in his field of vision.
He passed by a low table set against the wall, moved without hesitation into the hallway and up the stairs. A man with white-blond hair seated at the table raised frosted blue eyes from another man seated across from him, smiled slightly and nodded his head. Turning around in his chair and leaning back, the blond's companion watched as Duo rounded a corner and vanished from sight before returning to his attention to conversation and echoing the other's smile.
At the top of the stairs was a door, pushed open only a crack. Setting his hand to the warm wood, Duo pushed it wide and stepped in the small room, gaze flicking over tables, chairs and couches, landing finally on the sight of Heero leaning against a wall, arms negligently crossed and a small, winged female perched on his shoulder.
"What if you need us, Duo?" Heero said, focusing midnight blue eyes on Duo. "For any reason at all."
Duo scratched the back of his neck, mind racing. "You know, Heero, sometimes, man..." He dropped his hand, gave a small shrug and tried to ignore the pounding of his heart as he walked further into the room. "For no reason at all, sometimes, I'll probably need you."
"Well, why didn't you say so?" Wufei demanded, grinning as Duo whirled around and gaped.
"Jesus, man!" Duo whipped back around to look at Heero, breaking out into his own grin as he saw the little fairy smirk and jerk her tiny thumb in the direction of a small, thin collar wrapped around Heero's throat. In the mirror beside them, he saw Trowa and Quatre flank Wufei, and he turned around again as his friends moved closer.
"Hi, Duo," Quatre said casually.
Trowa grinned slowly, slipping his hands into his pockets and rocking back on his heels. "I like this."