Son of a Sable Night
Chapter Six: Let Waking Eyes Suffice to Wail their Scorn
The day went from comfortably warm to excruciatingly hot as our westward route found us racing through the California desert in the middle of the afternoon. I had long since stripped off Duo's sweater and was nursing my fourth can of a tangy high caffeine drink. The AC was busted and the air rushing in through the open windows was less than refreshing. I was thankful at least, that it was a dry heat.
Duo and I hadn't spoken for a few hours and during that time I was plagued by my visions of Sally. It seemed that once I had remembered her death, I couldn't do anything to forget it again. On top of that, there were other little things filtering up in my mind; disturbing, haunting echoes of other faces.
I twisted in the seat to try and get some air into my shirt and dry a bit of the sweat that had turned the back of my thin tee into an uncomfortably sticky second skin.
"I killed her," I said and I watched Duo carefully to gauge his reaction.
He didn't say anything, although I saw his fingers tighten on the wheel and his nostrils flared.
"I was one of them....whatever they are. A Hunter."
Duo still didn't respond. He slouched more in his seat and took one hand off the wheel to rest it loosely on the vibrating gearshift. I continued to watch him and finally, after about five minutes, he glanced over at me and nodded curtly. "Yes."
"Wufei said he had protection against my Hunger. I take it, the same goes for you?" Duo nodded slightly and I settled back into my seat. "Then you were a Hunter as well."
"In a manner of speaking."
Short cryptic answers and the dusty taste of sorrow; things didn't seem much different than a day spent in Wufei's company.
The road dipped down abruptly and I threw my hand against the dash to brace myself. Duo slowed down as the stretch of road turned into a series of small rises and sudden dips. The sun winked against the window of an oncoming truck, the first we'd seen in nearly an hour, and the quick flash of white blinded me momentarily. As I blinked away the spot to a dull green, I focused on the power bulge on the hood of the car. Eventually my eyes traced around the crimson wings that swept across the glossy black paint. I arched an eyebrow. Interesting...the wings didn't belong to the namesake firebird.
I was about to comment about the custom detailing on the hood when a violent jolt nearly sent me flying forward. Duo's arm snapped up impossibly fast from the gearshift and caught my shirt. The neckline strangled me, but the fabric held and kept me from impacting against the window or the dash. I lost hold of my drink can and lime green droplets sprayed out all over the glove compartment.
"What the hell was that?" I cried, hastening to fasten my seatbelt. Duo accelerated as we passed another rise. I dipped my head to look in the side mirror; the road was empty behind us.
"We've got company," Duo said calmly. The engine growled as he sped up even more and he continually checked the rearview. "You keep watch so I can concentrate on the road."
"I don't see anything," I said, as I reached out the window to adjust the side mirror for a clearer view. The butt of the gun was a reassuring presence against my stomach.
"Keep your eyes on the sky, Heero," Duo said.
Our vehicle was rocked with an impact and there was no need for me to ask my companion to explain what he had meant.
Something had just touched down on the roof.
"Get your gun out and shoot!" Duo shouted.
It was already in my hand and I was trying. A loud thunk sounded and the roof dented inwards. Duo's swerving made it hard for me to aim and I almost lost my grip entirely as the car lurched to the left. A high-pitched metal screech made me wince and I did my best to stop my arm from swaying wildly. I really didn't want to find out if the thing was trying to claw it's way inside.
I emptied the clip into the ceiling of the car.
The holes weren't in a nice cluster, but at least one bullet had done its job; dark blood was seeping in along and its sharp ferrous tang drew Duo's attention. He looked up and, once he saw the spreading stain, he spit a stream of violent curses and gestured at the glove compartment. The gunshots were still ringing in my ears, but I understood what he was trying to tell me and opened the glove box. Maps and papers spilled out and three full clips of extra rounds dropped heavily to the floor.
I studied the gun, trying to figure out how the damn thing worked. Finally, I switched in a fresh clip.
"Hold on!" Duo cried. He yanked up on the hand brake and the world began to spin.
My head slammed into the side pillar as the car had squealed to a stop in the center of the road. Our aerial attacker lost its hold and I saw a flurry of broken and bloodied wings as it dropped onto the pavement on the driver's side. Duo grabbed the gun from my fingers and unbuckled his seat belt. He shoved his door open and his anger crackled in the air. I felt pinned to my seat by the overwhelming force of it.
"Where's your other half?" Duo stared down at where our attacker lay near the front wheel well.
"Reaper..." a voice rasped. It sounded vaguely female.
"Last chance to tell me before I shoot out your knees and show you exactly why they call me that." The ominous sound of the gun being cocked followed Duo's ultimatum.
"You turned your back on us before I really knew you. I regret that."
"Yeah well, devotion isn't one of my strong points," Duo sneered and fired twice.
I fumbled to get out of the car and Duo barked an order for me to stay put. I wanted nothing more than to disobey, but the dark look he favored me with gave me second thoughts about that idea.
"Hold on to this, while I take care of business." He tossed the gun back to me as he reached into the rear seat and pulled a blanket free to reveal a sword. The weapon had a eastern hilt, wrapped with pure white braided silk, and was encased in a reddish lacquered scabbard adorned with rings. Duo smirked as he slid the blade free, and I tried to memorize the strange symbols engraved into the steel; it seemed all so very familiar. Duo caught my eye as he backed out of the car, "If we get more company, aim for the head."
He kicked the door shut, and I could see Duo from the waist up as he aimed the sword at whatever it was that lay on the burning asphalt. He placed one palm pressed flat on the pommel, ready to drive it downward with all his weight, when a plaintive cry rang out, "Wait!"
"Too little, too late," Duo scoffed and he adjusted his hold on the blade's hilt.
"Trowa is back on Earth," the voice said in breathy defeat.
"Already? He must have one bitch of a headache. How far behind us?"
"I don't know, a few hours. I left him with Catherine."
"Ahh... of course. How could I have forgotten Cathy," Duo hummed thoughtfully. "I guess that means you're alone." His beautiful, long fingers twitched slightly before he lifted his chin and spoke again. "Thanks for the info, but it's still too late."
I saw the muscles in his arm bunch as he prepared to deal death and I was oddly relieved, when he was interrupted by a frantically honking horn. Duo snapped up and spun around; his braid whipped about and thunked against the side of the car. I stumbled out into the sun and squinted; expecting to see a car barreling down the road too fast to stop. Instead, I saw Wufei's midnight blue Lotus skid to a stop a respectable distance away.
Duo kept the blade pointed down in one hand and he had his own gun drawn in the other.
"Stay your hand, Maxwell," Wufei called as he emerged. A few inky strands of his loose hair fluttered across his face as he positioned himself behind the open door of his car, and used the top of the window to steady a pistol aimed at Duo.
The two men stood frozen. If it hadn't been for the hot puffs of wind, it would've felt like time had stopped. Violet eyes landed on me for a split-second and urged me wordlessly for backup. I brought up the gun I held and trained it on Wufei. I wasn't sure I was making the right choice.
"Stay your hand and I'll go with you. Unarmed," Wufei shouted.
"No deal," Duo yelled back. I tightened my finger on the trigger and a bead of sweat trickled down between my shoulderblades. "If I agree," he kicked the being at his feet, "we'll be slowed down."
I itched to move and see exactly what was lying there.
"Shoot the woman and send her back immediately, or leave her here. It doesn't matter to me, but I'm offering you a better option than dying in the middle of the desert," Wufei cocked his head to the side. "With that flat, you won't get away from here before Quatre finds you."
"He telling the truth, Heero?"
I tried to grapple with the fact that Wufei had called whatever landed on our roof a woman, as I spared a look at the tires on my side of the car. The rear was half deflated and I could barely hear the low hiss of escaping air. As soon as I confirmed the flat, Duo snarled and backed down.
"Shift," he ordered. I heard a weak groan, some whispering rustles, then a sizzling pop and the air filled with the smell of ozone.
Duo tucked his gun in the back of his pants again and called me over.
I stared at the woman bleeding sluggishly on the ground. She looked normal. Of course, so did I, and I was far from normal.
"Help me get her into the car."