6-11-2001

9-5-2001 (revised)

TITLE: It's a Kinda Magic
PART: Chapter 4
AUTHOR: AJ from NZ
E-MAIL: firemooncatblue@hotmail.com
ARCHIVES:
Liz http://www.geocities.com/liz_shinigami/ajfromnz.htm
Shinigami’s Demon http://www.geocities.com/shinigami_demon/archives.html
Celestial Chronicles http://celestialchronicles.50megs.com/
DHML http://kikotei_dhml.tripod.com

GENRE: fantasy, AU
RATING: PG
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3+4, 5x Sally & Meiran, Cathy & Hilde,
WARNINGS: OOC, angst, mischief,
DISCLAIMER: I don’t own GundamWing and am using the characters from that anime series without permission - all other characters and locations are the intellectual copyright of this author.
AUTHOR’S NOTES:

Special Thanks To: Liz, Tenshi-chan, Deborah, Hana-chan, Misuzu, ld, Stormy, Christie, Ashkara and Walking Terror for their continuing support.

============================================

CHAPTER FOUR

 

Heero watched his beloved sleep; the lines of pain slowly fading from the pale boy’s face. “We need to get out of here soon. The doppel won’t fool Mathias for long, and I’d rather be long gone before he finds out.”

“Me too,” agreed Trowa. “We’ve got to find a place to go to first… that’s the problem. We can’t just wander around blindly – it’d be too easy to be found again. Nor can we stay in the city, for exactly the same reason.”

“Where would be the place least likely for Duo to run to?” asked Quatre cautiously.

Fei frowned for a moment before answering slowly, “Northern Jaftan. Why?”

“Cos that’s probably the best place to go to at the moment… where he’s not likely to go.” Quatre looked around at the others to see if any of them followed him.

“Wouldn’t it be better to take Duo to one of our hometowns?” Mei suggested. “He’s well-liked by all of our families – especially Heero’s.”

“No,” Heero looked across at Quatre, something akin to admiration in his prussian eyes. “Those are the first places that Mathias and company would check. Despite the fact that mine would gladly die for my Duo, we don’t want to our families to come to any trouble.”

“No,” agreed Duo’s weak voice. “Don’t go to the families… keep them out of it. Keep them safe.”

“Duo!” scolded Sally. “You’re supposed to be resting!”

“Can’t.” came the laconic reply.

“We need somewhere to hide out near here to start with,” contributed Trowa softly. “Then we can decide on further action when we’re not so worked up.”

Heero nodded as he wrapped his arms around Duo. “That’s a point. But where?”

Leaning back against Heero, Duo closed his eyes trying to think past the pain in his head. Finally he opened his eyes and looked around at the others. “Howard.”

“Howard?” Quatre looked around for an explanation.

“Howard,” repeated Trowa, a wry grin breaking across his face. “I never thought of him.”

“He’ll help, especially Duo… and Mathias hates him, thinks Duo hates him… hell Mathias thinks we all hate him…” Fei looked smug. “That’s a brilliant idea Duo!”

“Who’s Howard?” queried Quatre.

“Howard is a crabby, powerful, former Arch-mage who lives in the city but has extensive holdings near Northern Jaftan.” Heero supplied. “He considers Mathias to be an upstart mushroom headed moron – and that’s in his politer moments – and is openly scornful of his barbarian ancestry.”

“He’s known as one of the biggest snobs in Jafa.” Sal contributed with a smile.

“And he thinks the world of Duo – mainly because Duo is one of the few people who give as good as he gets, and won’t back down.” Fei grinned at his friend. “Nearly everyone else is terrified of him… he has a formidable reputation… and a wickedly sharp tongue. He’s not a person you want to cross.”

“So,” Duo looked from face to face for confirmation. “We go to Howard’s. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” came the chorus.

*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*

Mathias walked quickly towards the cell where his son was held. He could feel Magan’s silver eyes burning a hole through the back of his head, and the feeling made him shudder. He wished, once again, that he’d never tied himself in with the Death-mage; never sworn the oath that led to this moment. If only he’d been able to keep his son under tighter control.

“Is it much further?” Magan’s soft voice cut through the silence like a knife. “I don’t wish to remain here any longer than is absolutely necessary. No doubt your son will require a lot of retraining to counter the ill-effects of your stupidity.”

Mathias clenched his teeth and bit back his sharp retort with an effort. Instead he merely nodded curtly and continued walking. He hadn’t progressed more than a step when a hand fell upon his shoulder, jerking him to an uncomfortable stop.

“I asked you a question, cur! I expect you to answer!” Magan hissed angrily at him. “You would do well to remember your place – if I have to remind you of it once more then I will make you carry out what I told you to do earlier.”

A shudder wracked Mathias’ frame and he caught his breath in fear. “Y-yes Milord. I’m sorry for my rudeness.” He swallowed hard; wishing his fear of the man wasn’t so all encompassing. “The cells are just around the corner.”

“And you’re sure that your son is confined therein?” purred Magan, a peculiar glint in his eyes.

“Yes Milord, I swear on my life. I left him locked within the cell, and I placed a constraining bracelet on him to prevent him from using his powers to free himself.” Mathias couldn’t prevent himself from looking at Magan, hoping to find some approval in those chilling silver eyes. Instead of approval all he saw was contempt.

“You swear your life, do you?” Sneered Magan. “You’d better pray to all you hold dear that he is indeed there… or your life will be forfeit. I feel like killing you… in fact I’ve felt like killing you all day, you annoy me. Don’t give me further reason little mushroom, or I’ll grind you into the dirt.”

A cold fist closing around his quaking heart, Mathias stopped in front of the cell he’d placed his unconscious son in. “This is it.”

Under Magan’s sceptical gaze he unlocked the door and gazed with relief upon the huddled shape on the floor. Despite himself he’d feared that Duo could somehow have escaped. Now he silently laughed at his own fears. He prodded the figure with his foot. “Wake up you sloth! Your Master is here for you.”

Magan rolled his eyes at Mathias’ dramatising and moved closer. He wanted to look at the culmination of almost two decades planning. The boy lying on the floor in front of them had been carefully bred for one specific reason. This close to him, he could hardly control his shivers of anticipation. He knelt beside the still figure running a hand lightly over the uncovered flesh. He frowned when the boy failed to respond. Drawing back his hand he lightly slapped the pale face. To his surprise the figure completely disappeared.

*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*_*

Rising slowly from the bed to join the others at the doorway Duo suddenly jerked, and some of his paleness faded. He looked up at the others in consternation. “Oh fark! We’re in deep tutai now…”

“Duo?” Heero wrapped a supportive arm around Duo’s waist. “What is it?”

“They’ve discovered the doppel… father and the stranger… he touched it and it dissipated.” Duo shuddered. “He’s evil… darkness is all there is in him.”

“Who?” Quatre asked, looking worriedly at his cousin. “Who touched the doppel? Your father?”

Shaking his head Duo shuddered and leaned into Heero’s comforting arms. “No, not Father… the other one. He touched the doppel and it went… usually I can maintain it for several hours before losing control of it. Its never just vanished like that… there was something in that guy… something… evil.”

“If they know that it was your doppel and not you, then I think this is a good time to leave,” suggested Trowa calmly. He hoisted one of the packs to his shoulders. “Shall we?”

“Yes,” agreed Wufei fervently. As the others filed out of the room he triggered a nest of spells he’d constructed around the room… the next person to enter the room would be on the receiving end of some really bad luck… karma was such fun to mess with. He smirked slightly, hoping that either Duo’s father or the evil unknown would be the recipient. “Let’s go!”

With Duo safely placed within the centre of the group, Heero and Sally on either side of him for support, the small party made their careful way down the servant’s passages to the exit. From there they’d go to Howard’s – keeping to the back alleys as much as they were able. With any luck it would take their pursuers some time to realise when and where they’d gone.

All was looking well until they had to pass the rooms belonging to Relena and her cronies. As Mei and Fei, who were bringing up the rear, passed by the servant’s entrance a hand shot out and grabbed Mei by her collar.

“Girl! I want some hot chocolate made, a large jugful and-” The haughty tones faded as the arm’s owner emerged from the doorway and looked closely at who’d they’d caught. “You!”

“One out of one for recognition.” Fei, noting that the others had vanished around the corner, sneered at the blonde girl holding his wife’s collar. “You amaze me Relena, one day someone might even find those brain-cells that were suspected to lurk within that black-hole you call a head.”

Relena frowned, releasing her grasp on Mei’s collar as if it might infect her. “What are you two doing, lurking around the servant’s ways?”

“I’d tell you Relena, but it would probably fry what few bits of intelligence linger on in there.” Mei smirked as she rapped Relena firmly on the head, and then wiped her hand on her tunic.

“You can’t talk to me like that!” Relena drew herself up in righteous anger, her voice growing louder in protest. “I’m a princess!”

“You’re nothing but a parasite,” sneered Mei, black eyes glinting with anger. “You make your way in life living on the sweat and toil of others.”

“Relena, who’re you shouting at?” came Dorothy’s slow drawl from behind the other girl. Dorothy blinked as she took in the latest recipients of Relena’s temper. “Why, if it isn’t Feifei and Meimei… the prettiest little couple of pests that ever ran free.”

“Who slipped your chain, Dottie?” Meiran glared at the second blonde. “Or did we disturb you bitches somehow?”

Dorothy’s eyes glittered with malice. “It would take a lot more than you peasants to disturb me. We were just talking about the punishment that will be inflicted on your precious little Duo. I hear that he’d been confined, and will have his powers stripped for continual misbehaviour.”

Fei caught his wife’s arm just before she punched the taller of the two blondes. Dorothy smirked as he hissed angrily at his wife, “Don’t do that Mei, it just gives them more to use against us.”

Glaring at the two Jafas Mei shook off Wufei’s restraining grip. “You’ll get yours... and soon.” She drew a calming breath, and pulled herself away from the door. “Come Fei, we have better things to do that waste our breath on cretins like these two.”

Wufei stalked to his wife’s side, ignoring the smug looks exchanged between Dorothy and Relena. As he looked up the passageway he was horrified to see Trowa coming back towards them. Frantically he gestured to the green-eyed Semahti to stay where he was.

Unfortunately Dorothy noticed. “Who’re you flapping at Feifei? Smelly? Or someone else you’re going to add to your harem?” She emerged from the shelter of the doorway and followed Wufei’s agitated stare. “Well… what have we here? If it isn’t little Trotro… and where are you going little man?”

Trowa glared at the mocking Jafa, wanting nothing more desperately than to wipe that smug grin off her face. “Just to a meeting of the workers collective… we’re helping the lower classes in this stinking city plot the overthrow of the nobs… nothing you’d be interested in joining.”

Wufei stifled a snigger, noticing that Mei was doing the same. Dorothy was outspoken on the subject of keeping the status quo when it came to the classes… and took her status a little too seriously. It was a constant source of enjoyment. However, now wasn’t the time to enjoy baiting Dorothy over class issues. They had to get out of the Academy before anyone else noticed them wandering around the passages. “Come on, we’ve got to get there before the colliers start taking over the meeting again.”

Mei affected a pout. “Oh you just don’t like anyone stealing the limelight do you my Fei?”

Snorting in disgust Dorothy pushed Relena back into their room. “Come on Rel, lets leave these little barbarians to their small pleasures. Far be it for us to interfere in the amusements of the lower classes.”

Rolling their eyes in unison the three friends breathed a sigh of relief.

“Oh goddess, that was a little too close,” said Mei, leaning on Wufei. “Why did we have to run into those two?”

“Bad karma?” Trowa grinned at Fei.

“Never!” Wufei stalked off ahead of the two, ignoring their muffled sniggers. “Come on! We do have to get out of here remember?”

The three stragglers caught up with their friends who were waiting for them. Duo was slumped against the stone wall, supported by Heero and Quatre as Sal fed some of her healing powers into him. She stepped back, frowning.

“What’s wrong?” Heero questioned as he tightened his grip on his lover. “Tell me!”

Sally sighed. “He needs to see a proper healer. Between the events of this morning, and keeping the doppel going he’s damn near drained himself. I suggest we detour en route to Howard’s and see if Hilde’s at home. She’d be the best to see.”

Quatre watched as Heero finally nodded then swept Duo’s semiconscious form into his arms. “Will you be able to carry him by yourself Heero?”

“Easily,” Heero cradled his aroha’s body closer to his chest. “It’s not as if he weighs all that much.”

Accepting Heero’s decision Quatre fell into step beside Trowa as they made their way through the tangle of side-passages that predominated the lower levels of the building and into a series of low ceilinged tunnels. He looked around him in confusion. “How do we get out of here? It’s like a maze!”

Despite their situation Trowa grinned. “Easily Quat. We know where we’re going. We often slip out at night – this is how… Duo found it…”

“Duo asked the servants, who told him how to get around,” corrected Heero, setting a sharp pace. “Always have a bolt-hole.”

“You stealing my saying again ‘Ro?” Duo’s voice was slightly muffled by Heero’s chest. He smiled sleepily up at his lover.

“Of course,” jeered Fei, happy to see his friend awake again. “It’s easier than coming up with them himself.”

Chuckling softly the friends made their way through the last few metres of the tunnels that opened out beyond the Academy walls. As one they stopped and looked back at the imposing edifice, noting with some alarm that rather more windows were alight than was normally the case.

“Take a last long look at it Quat,” suggested Duo softly. “You’ve probably had the shortest period at the Academy of anyone in its history. Two days.”

“I spent three months in the infirmary,” corrected Quatre with some dignity. “You’re right though, I was only a student for two days.” He laughed suddenly.

“What's so amusing?” queried Trowa, standing close to him.

“I never thought my life would be so exciting here,” Quatre raised bright eyes to his tall friend. “I was expecting to be bored to death with lessons and lectures…”

“But that was before you met Duo, and he disrupted your life.” Trowa smiled down on the shorter boy. “You wanna change your mind?”

“Never!” declared the blonde fervently. He turned and followed the rest as they began their journey towards Howard’s estate. Adding an exaggerated swagger to his steps, he gave Trowa a challenging grin. “There’s only one thing to do in times like these – STRUT!”

Trowa’s soft laugh was music to his ears.

Stifling a small chuckle of his own, Heero carefully shifted his precious burden in his arms. He looked down to meet Duo’s soft violet eyes seeking his own. For a moment all he wished was that he was somewhere private where he could quench his desire for the sylph-like boy he held so gently in his arms. From the moment he’d first laid eyes on Duo he’d fallen hard. Nothing had prepared him for the feeling of completion he felt around Duo, the sense of security. That someone would threaten his beloved was not to be tolerated – especially when that someone was his own father. He lightly kissed Duo’s forehead.

Duo smiled sleepily and snuggled back against Heero, ignoring the changing scenery. He trusted Heero and their friends, though he wished privately that he hadn’t involved them. He had a feeling that their leaving the Academy would only be the start of things. He was startled out of his reverie when the group came to a stop before a rather shabby looking house. Turning a confused look on the others he asked, “I thought we were going to Howard’s?”

“We need to get Hilde to look at you first. I’m not happy with your health; Sally’s good at healing but…”

“But I’m not a properly trained Healer, and Hilde is,” interrupted Sally, with a smile at the lovers. “She’ll be able to correct the damage done by that bitch’s spell.”

Heero nodded and set Duo down, steadying the smaller boy when he swayed. Supporting Duo with one arm, he knocked briskly on the thick wooden door. A second later it opened cautiously, a redheaded woman peering out at them. A smile creased her attractive if weathered face. “Trowa! What are you doing here!”

“Cathy?” Trowa smiled at his sister. “I didn’t think you’d be in town for another week?”

“We finished early.” Cathy tore her eyes away from her brother and took in the others. “Come in, what brings you all here?”

“Duo,” replied Heero tersely, assisting his lover indoors. “We need Hilde’s help – is she here?”

“Yes.” Cathy ushered the remainder of the group indoors, her eyes fastened curiously on Duo. “What happened?”

“Relena hit him with a bastardised healing-spell-” began Sally.

“When?” a new voice interrupted. The voice’s owner appeared out of the shadows and quickly made her way to Duo’s side. “Heero, take him upstairs; Cathy can you see to the others?”

“Yes.” Cathy assured the healer. When Hilde followed Heero and Duo upstairs, Cathy turned back to her brother with a look of intense curiosity. “What's going on little brother? Why’d you bring Duo here, instead of to the Academy’s healers?”

“Long story sis.” Trowa motioned to the next room. “Mind if we sit down?”

“Sorry,” apologised Cathy as she waved the group before her. Once they were all seated she continued her questioning. “What’s been happening?”

For a moment no one spoke, exchanging troubled glances, then Wufei finally began the explanation. “Relena and her cronies attacked us this morning – when I say us, Duo was the main target.”

“As ever!” spat Cathy angrily. “She never forgiven him for turning her down, and for Heero of all people.”

“True,” agreed Fei sourly. “In any case, when we retaliated and Quatre reversed the spell and it rebounded on her, she ran to Mathias claiming it was she that was attacked.”

“He didn’t believe did he?” At Sally’s nod, Cathy snarled angrily. “What’s wrong with that man? Why won’t he give Duo the benefit of the doubt for a change?” For a moment her face clouded with an unreadable emotion. Then she frowned. “Who’s Quatre?”

“I am,” answered Quatre softly. “I’m Duo’s cousin… I only just met him yesterday.”

Raising her eyebrows, Cathy looked the stranger over – taking in his slight frame, and more importantly the way her only brother was nearly hovering over him. A smirk quirked her lips momentarily before she suppressed it. “Pleased to meet you. Seems you’ve had an interesting introduction to life in the Academy.”

Quatre snorted. “You could say that.”

“So what happened next?” Cathy looked from one face to the next for an answer. “The latest episode in the on-going struggle between Relena and Duo shouldn’t have sent you lot fleeing the Academy for Hilde’s. What gives?”

Trowa sighed in defeat, there was no hiding things from his sister he knew from bitter experience; she had a way of wrangling a confession out of you despite yourself. “Mathias demanded that Duo be confined to the cells, and tried to slap a constraining bracelet on him.”

“WHAT?!”

Meiran nodded sharply. “Yes, and that’s not the least of it. Apparently there is someone behind ol’ mushroom-brain’s weird actions. Duo doppeled on him and the doppel received the bracelet; when they went to the cell the stranger touched the doppel and Duo felt him. He said that the stranger was evil.”

Shaking her head in disgust Cathy hissed. “By Anolleb’s Brass Bra, no wonder you fled. Where are you going to go from here?”

“We thought we’d head to Howard’s.” Heero entered the room, looking tired. “Hilde’s got Duo stabilised – the backlash from the doppel dissipating hit him harder than he was able to cope with, but she says he’ll be fine.” He dropped wearily into the nearest chair. “From there,” he shrugged, “we’re not too sure yet.”

“If you need any help getting out of the city my troop will be more than happy to assist,” offered Cathy carefully. She didn’t want to inadvertently anger the touchy young mage, not when Duo was out of action.

“Thanks,” accepted Heero with a half-smile, amazing his friends. “I’ve a feeling we’re gonna need all the help we can get.”

“Is Duo ready to be moved?” queried Mei. “Or should we wait until tomorrow to go to Howard’s?”

“Give him an hour or two to recover from the healing I’ve just done on him then he’ll be ready to be moved.” Hilde spoke up from near the door, having entered the room without anyone noticing. “Just make sure he doesn’t over-do things in the next couple of days. The spell Relena used on him plus the stress of doppeling has drained his reserves almost totally. He must rest!” She nodded emphatically.

Heero rolled his eyes at the young Healer. “Hilde, this is Duo we’re talking about! Him and rest are barely acquainted.”

Hilde laughed along with the rest of the group – the others laughter held a tinge of hysteria she politely ignored it. “Never the less he must. Tie him up or something… you’re mages for Ollopa’s sake! Use your imaginations.”