3-21-2001

"Walk This World"
Persephone_Elysian

Okay, I have to admit to some trepidation in posting this. I churned this out in a hurry last night and let a beta reader scan it. She seemed to like it, but I don't know... <Persephone shrugs--Maybe I'm being overly critical here.>

Anyway, at the moment, I have this thing planned at 2 parts but of course, that's always subject to change.

 

Disclaimer: I do not own Gundam Wing nor its characters. That honor goes to Bandai, Sunrise, and their respective holders. I also do not own the song "Walk This World." (Which is written and performed by Heather Nova on her album "Siren."

Warnings: Blood, angst, adult content, sympathetic Relena (now that last one is scarey).

This is an alternate universe story, meaning character relationships are somewhat different as you'll see in the first chapter. Like Relena being Duo's cousin in this one (Please don't lynch me for this -_-;) and being nice. It's all for the purposes of furthering the story. As always though this is a 1x2/2x1 story, so that much remains the same.

Thanks to Chelesedai for beta-reading this first part.

'...' indicates thoughts.

Feedback would be greatly appreciated on this piece! ^_^

***

'I have slept beside the winter and the green is growing slow
I have watched you find the places hidden by the snow
I have tripped into a valley that is blue as you can see
I want you to come walk this world with me.'
--Walk this World, Heather Nova

'Why am I here?' Duo wondered miserably, lowering his chin to rest on his folded arms as he knelt beside the balcony. He tipped his head skyward, longing for the stars and finding none. The storm earlier in the day had washed them away, leaving nothing but a field of blue with shades of midnight and navy and even the smallest hint of pale blue. His eyes traced the dark outline of clouds still lingering, their silvery tinge accentuated by the swollen moon peeking out from their shield. He felt like that moon, swallowed by a sea of people and things that didn't understand him, life passing him by in much the same way those clouds rolled across the sky.

Life, his life, lay just behind him, muffled by the closed French doors but demanding attention nonetheless. A life full of one meaningless encounter after another. A life of being protected and coddled and watched over by his anxious cousin. A life full of whispers behind his back and pitying stares that burned almost as much as the scotch he'd thrown down his throat earlier just to get through this evening.

Relena meant well. He knew that. She just didn't understand that all her efforts to 'cheer him up' were a waste of time and money. You can't cheer up the dead and he was as close to a dead man walking as you were likely to see. Relena wouldn't accept that. No, not his cousin. She thought that by throwing a little money around, bussing him from party to party, and keeping twenty-four hour surveillance on him, she was going to resuscitate the heart he no longer wanted. All he wanted was to sleep, just to let go of everything and close his eyes. He'd tried that once, tried to slit his wrists in the bathtub. He might have succeeded, too, had not that damn manservant of hers walked in to bring him a towel. Well, that little stunt had earned him an overnight stay in the hospital's psychiatric ward and weekly appointments with a shrink. To make matters worse, Relena had very nearly camped out by his bedside for nearly a month, making him swear that he would never try to take his life again before she gave him any peace. He grimaced. It had been a low trick of hers to play; she knew that once he gave his word, it was binding. If there was one thing that Duo Maxwell did not do it was break a promise. Or tell a lie. 'Trapped by my own morals,' Duo shook his head. 'I'm such a fucking weakling. I should have told Relena to go to hell and take her damned caring with her'. What kind of world was it when a man was forced to continue an existence that had become unbearable? He had killed the two people he loved most in this world. What more was there to say? He had taken that which he'd had no right to take and the burden of guilt was bearing down on him.

An accident, they said. Terrible, the whispers behind fake smiles continued. So tragic. They really were the best of people. Salt of the earth. He was behind the wheel... Yes... He just couldn't swerve fast enough to avoid the other car... It just couldn't be helped, the poor dear.

How he loathed those whispers, those catty expressions of sympathy even as they devoured his story, picking the bones clean in their excitement for new tidbits. He couldn't blame them. He was the nephew of one of the richest men in New York, cousin to a well-known society belle, and the black sheep of the prestigious Peacecraft family. His mother had already scandalized the scene twenty years earlier by running off with a priest, specifically, the family's priest. His uncle had given chase, but not before Helen Peacecraft had gotten herself pregnant and the priest defrocked. The only bright spot in the whole mess was the fact that once Liam Maxwell had been defrocked, he had been able to marry Helen, lending a respectable patina to the whole damn mess and making his son legitimate.

The damage had already been done though. It had taken five years before his uncle would even talk to his mother and his grandfather had never reopened those communications, saying that he wanted nothing to do with "that damned whore and her fuck toy. Or their bastard." Duo shuddered, remembering the grim, glaring man from his one and only meeting. He'd been all of four at the time and the sound of voices raised in ugly shouting had stayed with him for a long time afterward.

Therefore, it was somewhat ironic to him to find that the Peacecraft family was so staunchly behind him in his 'time of need.'

A shadow flickered in the corner of his eye, moving so swiftly that he couldn't help but turn his head. What he was expecting was a passing flicker of light, caused perhaps by a cloud drifting over the moon. Maybe even some small insect fluttering just past his face. What he wasn't expecting was the wiry body leaning over him, so close that he should have felt the warmth coming from the other's body. Should have, but didn't. Just like he hadn't heard the person approach.

"Who?" Duo skittered until his back met the edge of the railing, his knees raised protectively.

The person took another step, this time into more lighting. Wild, messy hair framed one of the coldest faces he'd ever seen. Every feature could have been carved out of stone for all the warmth it betrayed. A pair of eyes glittered at him like a pair of gems rendered colorless in the moonlight. And yet, the face even with all of its coldness held a beauty like nothing that Duo had ever known before. It was an ageless beauty, a beauty that defied words. The boy had the face of a god or at the very least, a demigod, touching something deep and buried within him that made him swallow reflexively and lick his throat.

"Who?" he repeated the question, his throat suddenly dry.

"Who do you want me to be?" The voice was dry and melodical at the same time. The gemstone eyes weighed him and measured him, stripping his soul bare and pulling at that deep and buried thing inside of him. Eyes too old to belong to a face that young, eyes that spoke of a hidden darkness that few could acknowledge. But Duo did acknowledge it, he did recognize it. Duo had been there, had seen and touched and tasted that darkness, however brief.

Perhaps that why it called to him now. Faintly and softly, tugging at the dark, twisty beast that lay dormant inside of everyone.

"I...I don't know."

The boy tilted his head to the side, those ancient eyes alight with a strange sense of knowing and purpose. "Don't you?"

He slid down beside Duo, smooth as liquid and twice as fast, his face just inches from the braided boy's. Those dark eyes filled Duo's vision, pulling him in and killing all sense of fear or awareness of anything beyond them. His breathing sounded loud to his own ears, his blood slowing to a trickle as time seemed to still.

"You called me," the boy caressed his cheek. Duo fought the urge to lean into that caress. His body, suddenly heavy and sluggish, wouldn't have obeyed at any rate. "Your pain. Your wish to die. I heard it. It filled my dreams. I had to find you. You wanted me to find you, didn't you?"

Duo found himself nodding. Yes, this was what he wanted. He wanted the promise of passage he glimpsed in those hard-cut eyes, the promise of pain eased. He wanted... He wanted...

The boy pressed closer, his knee sliding between Duo's legs as he captured his mouth. Duo moaned, his body arching upward into that touch, letting the other steal the breath from his body. 'Yes,' Duo thought, his lungs beginning to burn from the lack of oxygen, vision graying on the edges. This was what he wanted.

Wasn't it?

Whatever he wanted, it wasn't for the boy to pull away. He whimpered without thought or hesitation, even as he felt those cold, cold lips track a path across his skin, moving down his jaw. An icy hand slipped into his shirt, teasing his nipple as it slid up to push the collar of his shirt to the side. Those demanding kisses followed, leaving him mewling as the other boy made his way slowly towards the junction of his neck. A tongue brushed and tickled the sensitive nerves there before being replaced by the hard crush of a mouth...then teeth..

Duo's eyes widened as he felt those teeth tease then clamp down on the barrier of flesh, breaking past as if his skin were no more than cobwebs. There was a strong pull from the other's mouth, pulling at Duo, pulling away from his body and to the other boy. Dimly, he became aware of the drop of warm liquid against his skin, the scent of blood filling the air, and the sound of a tongue lapping. "Oh, God," he whispered, staring upward, watching as the moon seemed to expand in his vision, beckoning him to join it.

"I...was...wrong," he whispered. "The stars are out. Can ...see them. Beautiful."

There was no reply from his companion, just a tightening of the hold he had on Duo. Managing to lift his arms, Duo pulled him closer, letting his fingers weakly slide through that impossibly soft dark hair. He was beautiful, too, this strange creature cloaked in shadow and death. As cold and distant as those stars Duo had always loved.

Right now, however, those stars did not seem so far or so distant. It seemed to Duo that the stars were falling down on him or perhaps it was he who was rising to them. Yes, that was it. He was floating higher and higher, rising upwards to touch the stars. They twinkled and sparkled, calling to him, laughing and whispering his name over and over and over again.

So close, so touchable...

Duo tried to raise his arm, tried to touch the stars that twinkled just beyond his reach and awe became sadness as he realized the stars remained beyond his reach. His arm could not rise high enough and he could not get close enough to them. Even now, even at this moment, when Death's dark angel held him in his cold embrace, those stars continued to tease and elude him.

At his darkest hour, even the stars remained out of reach.

His chest was burning in a different way now, a pain that had nothing to do with the creature holding him, seeped into bones. His eyes burned, spilling over with tears unshed, tears he had never been able to cry before now, tears he had sworn never to cry. They scalded his skin, grounded him in a reality that he had never wanted but was all he had.

It took him a moment to realize that rhythmic pull against him had stopped. That dark, wind-tousled head lifted, revealing a pair of startled glaringly blue eyes and a red smeared mouth. Red. Blood. His blood. Duo felt none of the fear he should have felt at the revelation. Instead, his tears seemed to flow harder than before. He was dying and there was no hope, no hope of anything bright and shining beyond this place. His mother... His father... Was this dark bloody angel what they had seen in those last moments before the crash had claimed them?

A cool touch traced the line of his cheek, threading the dampness between those strong fingertips. "Tears?" the other boy sounded absolutely astonished. As if he had never witnessed anything like this before. "You--you're crying!"

"So-sorry," Duo stuttered although he didn't understand why the other boy seemed so troubled. There was no reason to cause him pain when Duo carried enough for both of them. "I-I'm so-"

The other boy shook his head, his body slumping as he cradled Duo against his chest, burying his face in his loose hair. The moon peeked out from the screening clouds, throwing slivers of light down on the balcony. Duo let his head fall back, forcing his eyes to focus, more out of curiosity than anything else. He wasn't disappointed. The boy was as beautiful as he'd initially thought, but that beauty had been tempered. There was a very human sorrow and anger that marred the coldness as if the stone had cracked and found itself alive. Brown hair hid the blue of his eyes and not even the lifting of the wind could find them again. His skin was a pale gold, the gold of dying leaves in autumn. The coldness he'd felt earlier in that touch had been banished, replaced by a muted warmth that seemed to flow out of him into Duo's bones. He mewled, burrowing deeper into that warmth. He was so cold now. When had it gotten so cold? His teeth chattered just a bit, shivering with each breath of air. The arms around him tightened and seemed to wrap around him. That was good. 'So good,' Duo thought, sleep burdening his aching eyes. He yawned. It was getting harder and harder to stay awake. He wanted to sleep... 'So tired,' he thought.

"Then sleep," his companion murmured. "You're not going to die, Duo. I won't let you. Not now."

Two things occurred to Duo before he gave into the instinctual crash of his body. One was that he didn't remember telling the other boy his name. And the other was the press of soft lips against his, the farewell kind of kiss that you saw in old movies.

Whose farewell it was remained to be seen.

***

The vampire stared down at the slumbering boy in his arms, throwing a vicious epithet into the night. ' How could have been so stupid, so careless? All those years of being careful and you still manage to screw up,' he thought bitterly.

It was his vow that he would not take one who clung to life, the only exception to that being the criminal vermin he feasted on from time to time. He would not rip another's life from them as he'd had his ripped away. That was why he sought out those who were already dead, those who had lost hope, and who wanted respite from the weight of their lives. He thought he had found that in this boy. His pain was so sharp and fresh, his despair so exquisite and like none he'd ever known. Even now the taste of it was sweet on his lips...

No, that wasn't right. What was sweet was the taste of fresh, untainted blood. For all his hurt, for all his despair, this boy wasn't ready to go. Even if he was unaware of it. The vampire had almost missed it in his frenzied feeding. If the boy hadn't cried...

"Damn," he swore, getting angrier with himself by the second. "God damn it!"

'Well, that's the point isn't it?' his mind whispered. 'You've been damned and this incident has just proven that all over again.'

The sounds of the party going on inside drew him out of his condemnation. He had to get out of here, before someone saw. Not that they'd believe it was a vampire, mind you but the general ruckus could be...a problem. He glanced back down at the boy, Duo was the name he'd gleaned from his thoughts during the feeding, reluctant to surrender his charge for fear he might die yet. 'If he does, then that's his fate,' he decided at last. 'You don't have time to waste. Put him down and get out here. Now.'

With as much gentleness as he could muster, he stretched the boy out across the concrete floor, wishing he had something to cover him with. The boy whimpered, curling in on himself. Pausing, vampire ran a hand through his soft hair, a frown of worry marring his smooth features. The boy was too beautiful for his own good. If he wasn't careful, that beauty was going to get him noticed by the wrong people. His kind craved and coveted beauty and if those damned magpies got their hands on this one... 'Not your concern,' he ordered himself to rise to his feet. Let him find his own fate.

He clambered up the edge of the balcony, half-sitting, half-crouching as he cast one last glance at his victim. 'Duo Maxwell,' he mused. The name would stay with him as would the face, as a warning of what he should not do, and as a dream. A dream of things he could no longer have, nor had any right to. Heero Yuy might have had this boy, might have stayed, but Heero Yuy was dead and the creature that had taken his place had no place among the living.

Not even the tears of angels could change that.

***

‘And I'm sucked in by the wonder and
I'm fucked up by the lies
And I dig a hole to lie in and
I build some wings to fly
And I think that I could love you
'cause you know how to be free
I want you to come walk this world with me.'
--"Walk this World," Heather Nova.

 

'Oh, Heero,' Hilde thought in amusement, watching the other vampire slip over the side of the railing, reclaimed by the shadows he haunted. 'Ever the fool, I see. At least that much hasn't changed,' she smirked. She stretched, limbs reaching and uncoiling with concealed power, her body sliding into a crouch. From this position, she could just make out the body below her perch, preternatural eyes focusing on the loose braid slung across the concrete. Launching herself forward just a bit, she tucked into a flip, landing with an inaudible thud on the balcony she had been so carefully watching.

She knelt beside the mortal curled at her feet, turning his face towards her. 'Well, I will say this, Heero, your taste is still impeccable.' Her hands slid down his neck, stretching it and holding it taunt as she lowered her head to lap at the slow bleeding wound. Mmhmm. 'Oh, yes,' she purred. 'Very, very nice.' The boy groaned but didn't wake, instead cringing away from her as if he sensed something very wrong.

"Not to your taste, am I?" she murmured. "Not like him, eh? We have something in common then. I'd much rather be standing here enjoying your blood with him instead of taking his scraps."

She sat back on her haunches, fingers toying with the wound to keep it open as she considered the situation. It would be simplicity itself to finish him off. The boy was already more than half-dead, thanks to Heero's ruthless efficiency. That ruthless streak was something Hilde had always admired about him. Whether it was in stalking in his victims or in passion, Heero did whatever was needed to accomplish his goals. If he wanted you dead, then you were dead.

She frowned, her grip tightening on the mortal boy's neck. "He should have killed you for daring to lay eyes on him. What made you think you had the right?"

The sound of the mortal's gasps as her hand tightened on his windpipe were sublime to her ears. She let him wheeze a few moments more before allowing his head drop back. With a slow smile that was more teeth than warmth, she stretched alongside him, her hand dipping up and down his chest. Putting her lips to his ear, she whispered, "I could kill you, but I won't. Oh, no. You're going to help me even if you don't know it yet. You're going to help me break him and then he'll come back, back to his family where he belongs."

***

"Is there anything I can do?" Relena asked for the fifth time in the last ten minutes. Duo had to grit his teeth to refrain from asking her to shut the hell up.

This had not been the best of mornings. After finding him passed out and bleeding on the balcony, Relena had summoned up enough presence of mind to call an ambulance. Last night had been spent hooked up to an IV receiving a blood transfusion--nearly two pints in all. It was a miracle or so he'd been informed, that he was alive to complain. And this morning had been no better, after having a battery after battery of tests run. He'd been poked, prodded, and stuck in every way possible just so they could rule out the possibility of any infection or disease. The only bright spot was they were convinced he had been attacked by an animal of some sort. Which meant no psych ward and no in-depth questions about his 'experience.' The doctors seemed to take his claims to not remember much at face value, filling the air with understanding nods and words like 'trauma' and 'shock.' He felt guilty about not being entirely truthful, but the whole truth was just too bizarre.

His thoughts turned again towards last night and the dark angel that had visited him. He hadn't been lying when he claimed his memory was a little hazy, he just hadn't told the truth about how hazy it was. He remembered the boy though. It would be hard to forget when Death's shadow, so beautiful and otherworldly, passed you by. His sleep, when he'd been able to snag a few hours, had been filled with glittering blue eyes and the scent of blood. The thought made his hand involuntarily reach for the bandage around his throat, the wound beneath it the one proof he had that last night hadn't been a dream. That boy had been real and he had bitten Duo.

A word floated to the surface of his mind and refused to be banished. Vampire. Nosferatu. A child of darkness. His mind scoffed at the very idea. Logic dictated that vampires were nothing more than superstitious relics, glorified by gothic horror novels and B movies. Logic dictated that the doctors were correct in their assumption: he had been attacked by some animal. After all, Dorothy Catalonia lived one floor up from them and everyone knew what an animal nut she was. Any of those damn dogs of hers could have gotten loose and attacked him. Unlikely, but it was far more logical than the idea that a vampire had attacked him

Unfortunately, in this case, logic was a damned liar and reality's whore to boot.

One thing continued to bother him. The vampire had drained him but hadn't killed him. It didn't make sense. It contradicted his earlier words, and indeed, his actions up to the very point when he'd suddenly released Duo. He wanted to know why, why had the vampire spared him after being so intent upon killing him?

"Duo?" Relena was shaking his shoulder, impatience coloring her tone and features. "Duo? Are you sure you're all right? Maybe I should call the doctor..."

He caught her wrist before she could make good on that threat. The last thing he needed was to be given some sort of medication that would do little more than knock him out. What he needed was time to think and as long as his cousin stayed here, that wasn't going to happen. Schooling his face into the most pitiful expression he could muster, he gazed up at Relena with pleading eyes. "No, I'm just tired, Rel. Really. I think...I think I just need some sleep."

She nodded, her blond hair bobbing up and down. "I'll just sit down and be quiet then."

‘No,' Duo wanted to yell. ‘Take the hint and leave, for God's sake.' He'd had enough warm, caring inquiry for the day and he just wanted some time to himself. Was that so wrong? ‘You're not being fair to Relena,' part of him argued. ‘You scared the shit out of her last night and you know how well she handles surprises. You're lucky she pulled it together long enough to call 911.'

"Rel," Duo finally allowed some of his irritation to seep in. His cousin froze, her blue eyes widening at his tone. "I'm tired. You've been here all night. I appreciate your concern, but you're dead on your feet. Even I can see that. Get a taxi and go home. You can come back when we've both had a few hours' sleep."

"But--"

"No, buts," he waggled his finger at her before jerking his thumb towards the door. "Out."

She sighed, picking up her coat. "You are such a jerk sometimes, you know that? I don't know why I let myself worry about you, baka."

"Relena."

She paused, swiveling towards him with a wounded expression. Duo felt himself soften. "Love you, cousin. Thanks for saving my ass."

Relena smiled, glowing a little at his praise. She crossed over to him, dropping a kiss on his forehead. "I'm kind of fond of you, too. Get some rest, Duo. I'll bring you some soup or something later on."

"Sounds like a plan," he forced a grin, waiting until she had exited the room before letting himself droop back into his sheets. After all the excitement last night and this morning, his body ached with weariness even if his mind hadn't quite gotten there yet.

He let his gaze roll up to contemplate the cheap plaster of the ceiling, overlapping it with a cold beautiful face and eyes like the stars he loved. ‘I will find you,' Duo vowed. ‘I'm going to find you and make you tell me why, why you spared me.'

After that... Well, after that, he'd see.

***

A week had passed and he couldn't stop thinking about that boy. Heero traced the rim of his glass, ignoring the scent of cigarettes and warm salty bodies pressed in close quarters. His teeth smarted with the urge to feed, an urge he brutally ignored. This was ridiculous. He had come here to pick up a meal or at the very least, a bite, something to sustain him. And all he could do was sit on the sidelines, watching the crush of people out on the dance floor as he leaned away with disgust from the emaciated addicts surrounding him. Any one of them would do; even from here, he could pick up waves of hopelessness and desolation. There were people here who would sell their souls for heroin or whatever drug you'd offer. Their lives were already over. He could take them and it would even look natural with all the puncture wounds dotting their body.

So, why couldn't he bring himself to take their tainted blood? He had never been overly picky before. True, druggies weren't exactly the most palatable dish with all the damn chemicals clogging their system but a meal was a meal. However, every time he worked himself up to approaching one of them, violet eyes flashed across his vision, his body trembling with the remembered taste of that sweet, sweet blood...

Duo. Even the name sang in his head, coupled with the memory of the taste of him, so full of life, so full of death, full of loneliness and dejection and every emotion in between.

Heero had heard it said that once, sometimes, twice in a vampire's existence came that perfect soul with perfect, sweetest of blood that called to a vampire like no other. The perfect vessel that gave life and sustenance that would forever haunt dreams and memory if destroyed or pull and tug at the eternal craving if allowed to live. The downfall of many of his kind came from just that very pull, from giving into that impossible and illogical force that would have driven even the strongest willed to the same feast again and again until one was destroyed.

‘No,' he shook his head in denial. He was stronger than that, strong enough to escape the bonds that had once bound him and definitely strong enough to fight off a mere craving, a whim, for a whelp of a boy. One mortal was much the same as the next.

‘This one isn't,' that voice in his head sing-songed. He growled in frustration, slamming his glass against the table. This was getting him nowhere fast. It was time to feed and time to put this damn silly nonsense out his head. He was a vampire and unless he wanted to kill that boy or get caught, he'd stay the hell away from Duo Maxwell.

He let his eyes wander over the crowd, checking out the possibilities when he found her. He rose to his feet, throwing a few dollars on the table as he weaved out onto the crowded floor towards the bar, the flashing strobe lights making the path with false daylight every few seconds. Daylight that was for him a hazy memory or an image seen on the screen.

She didn't notice him at first. It gave him time to make certain, certain that this was the one he would take. He didn't want any more mistakes. He couldn't afford sloppiness, not like the incident with Duo. She was young, maybe sixteen at most and if her clothes didn't proclaim an open invitation then the loose stance of her body did. He could sense her rising agitation and frowned until he noticed her rubbing her inner arm. More specifically over a patch of pierced skin. So she was in need of a fix? And probably willing to sell herself to get it, too. He watched her flirt, or rather attempt to, with the man next to her. Clumsy as her attempts were, they might have succeeded had the man been aware enough to realize what she was offering.

He sidled up next to her, so quiet that she didn't notice. Not until he put his mouth to her ear, words grazing the fleshy hollow. "Can we go somewhere?"

***

After that, things had been simplicity in itself to get her out of the bar. She... Casey, she informed him glibly as they left together, wanted two hundred an hour. Just to make things seem more on the level, he argued her down to one hundred and fifty. Catching the gleam in her hazed eyes, he probably could have argued her down to a hundred plus a small catch of whatever drug she wanted and bought her for the night.

He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. The light was unkind to the contours of her face, accentuating how tightly her skin was pulled over her skull, transforming it into a living Death's head. He eyed her with distaste. They were too thin these days, bones prominent in hollows where flesh was meant to be. Just the barest sheath of skin covering bones and veins. It made it easier to feed but difficult to make out in that emaciated androgyny if he stalked a man or woman. Not that it mattered much anyway.

Casey nervously shifted under his stare, her shirt sinking lower over small breasts while her skirt rode just a little higher. She tried to smirk, popping her gum in an attempt to look inviting as she caught his eye. It came off as sad, rather pathetic, and he was very nearly seized with the urge to throw his coat around her, pay her, and tell her to go eat something. Wouldn't do any good. She'd just throw the money away on her drug of choice later.

He could smell her even with the distance betwixt them. The scent of fruity perfume and sweat mixing to create a sour-sweet odor. The bitter tang of hair spray and gel and the detergent of her clothes. He could scent her desire and her fear, a balmy fog that lifted and clung to his nostrils, searing them and awakening his hunger. Duo had been so different. Such a gentle scent, like champagne bubbles tickling his nose with playful abandon.

He hated this. Hated the sight of this near sexless girl, wearing her make-up like battle armor. They grew up so fast these days. She couldn't be more than fifteen yet she walked the streets with an air that revealed years of experience. How long had she been selling herself to gain that hardened smile and those dead eyes? The dividing line between have and have nots had only grown wider and deeper since his birth.

"So where are we goin'?" The bubble she was blowing burst, pink gum pasting itself around her dark-stained lips. "I charge extra for blow jobs, by the way."

"Hnn."

"Have to these days," she explained, keeping step beside him. "I mean, if it's good enough for the President, then it's damn good enough to earn me a little on the side, ya know what I mean?"

"Sorry."

‘Why did I do that?' He turned away from her surprised expression. Hell, he didn't understand it himself. Why did he care anyway? She was just a two-penny street whore. You could walk down any street in New York and find dozens like her. Prettier and more talented flesh for sale to boot. A creature like her didn't understand soft things like kindness. No, she dealt in money and hard realities. She wouldn't understand or appreciate the twinge of sympathy he felt for her.

He reached out and pushed her hard against the window of a nearby store, ignoring the cursing of those behind the glass as he crushed his mouth to hers. She eeped in surprise then threw herself into it, returning his aggression with sloppy open-mouthed kisses and fumbling grasps at the crotch of his jeans.

'...was wrong...can see the stars out...'

God, why couldn't he shut that damn voice out? Why wouldn't it go away? He was angry. No, he was beyond that. He was enraged, the feeling taking him before he was even fully aware of it. He pressed her harder, hands digging into her arms. She whimpered but kept her mouth against his, lapping at his thrusting tongue. With a savage yank, he was off of her and dragging her around the corner into one of the nearby alleys. His eyes scanned the enclosure picking out the huddled form of a wino passed out near the dumpster in back and a few mice slithering through the gloom. It was perfect. Safe. Dark. So why was he afraid all of the sudden?

"Um, can I have my money now?"

He jerked, pivoting towards that timid sounding voice, his companion mussed and lips smeared and bruised from the force of his earlier kiss.

"When our business is concluded." He bit off each word, half-wishing she'd fuck the money and run for it. At this point though if she did, he was just as likely to run her down and take what he needed from her.

He reached out and stroked her face from ear to cheek, keeping eye contact with her. "Take your hair down."

His request startled both of them. He couldn't explain it, this sudden burning desire to see her hair cascade loose and soft across those stick-like shoulders. He just wanted it, wanted it so badly that his hands were moving of their own accord, shaking as they tracked through gelled hair, and unwinding the tight bindings keeping her hair aloft. He finger-combed his way through it , eyes never leaving hers as he massaged her scalp, drawing her closer and closer until his lips found hers again with less force but greater hunger than before. She moaned, slipping her hands over his shoulders and down his chest, trembling as they rested there. He mouthed the soft tight skin of her cheeks and jaw, lips closing over her ear as his tongue flicked at the inner hollow before moving off and down again. He lifted her hand, transversing it with nips and licks as she rubbed up against his hard immortal body, his knee parting her willing thighs. He traced over the marks of her addiction, the purpled flesh of her inner elbow, placing a single kiss there before he clamped down. Her startled cry filled his ears as he suckled greedily, all but holding her up against the wall.

Her flesh proved no protection or wall as the salty copper of her life trickled then flowed more strongly into his mouth. He nearly gagged at the lingering traces of heroin he tasted there. This was not the taste he thirsted for, nor the strong heart that called to him. He opened his eyes, watching as her breath fell in labored pants, her loose fawn colored hair trembling.

Fawn hair...

He flung himself backwards, allowing the girl to slip from his grasp as he stared at her in mounting horror. She looked confused, dozens of questions forming in those near violet eyes.

Near violet but not.

She reached for him, desire clouding her young face and he backpedaled. No. His hunger was there but...Not for this one! Her blood sank into him, solid and dull. There was no enjoyment, no longing for more of the taste. What he wanted, she couldn't give. Only one person could. Only one person could sate him with his blood, with his mind, with those lovely thoughts and dreams.

Oh, no. No. Heero denied it. This was not happening. Blood was blood. It was just sustenance. It didn't matter who or where it came from. Bullshit, his body informed him. Absolutely bullshit, that was. It knew exactly who and what it wanted. It had tasted manna and it wasn't going to settle for plain old water anymore.

Meanwhile, his would-be meal was starting to become aware of a few things...Like the blood running down her arms and the corresponding trickle down his chin. She opened her mouth, to scream most likely when he caught her eye and her mind, holding both. Her eyes glazed over and she swayed slightly on her feet, only the quickness of his preternatural reflexes saving her from a nasty fall. Why he caught and held this paper waif in his arms, Heero did not know. Better to have let fall, let her strike her head against some jagged corner or edge so that no one would believe her tale at a later date.

‘What tales?' the nagging voice inside of him asked. ‘Finish what you started and she won't be telling any tales.'

He needed to think. There was no time for that though, no time for much of anything except to make a choice and live with it, pray that it was the right one. He took her face in his hands, gripping her chin and moving it. "Sleep. Go to sleep and forget."

She sighed, a soft childish sound and slumped forward in his arms. He lowered her gently against the wall, brushing his knuckle against her pale skin before stepping back and away, back towards the hum of the streets.

And the hunger remained.

***

Duo stared critically at the plum of fresh bruises across his throat, the remains of his bandages dangling from his hand. With care, he let his fingers map a route across each blemish, noting the regularity and roundness of each mark. Fingers. The bruises looked like they had been left by human hands. How was that even possible? He stretched his mind back, back to that night, trying to recall if there had been any sort of roughness involved. 'No,' he decided. It wasn't from the vampire. He hadn't had to use any sort of roughness to take Duo. Duo had been more than willing at the time to accept the vampire's kiss. His hands swept across his skin to where a pair of pinkish holes stood out in relief against his pale skin. He fingered the marks, the motion sending a gentle shockwave through him. He pressed down, biting his lip in pleasure as it evoked a response in him not unsimilar to what he had felt while receiving the bite. His body broke out in a fresh set of goose bumps, nipples hardening…among other things.

With some effort, he stopped, forcing himself to grip the sides of the sink for support. His breath was coming in short pants, body caught in a reaction not unlike sexual bliss. 'Oh, God,' he thought dazedly. 'I've discovered how to orgasm with your neck.'

"Duo?"

Relena. Shit. He opened his mouth, tried to work it, then swallowed, taking a deep breath. "Yeah, Rel?"

"Are you all right?" His cousin's voice floated through the door, drawing nearer. "You've been in there an awfully long time."

"I'm fine," Duo's voice cracked on him and he cursed silently before repeating. "I'm fine. I-I'm just changing my bandages."

"Oh. Do you need any help?"

"No!"

Silence. "Well, all right but do try to hurry out, you have a guest."

"Great," Duo managed weakly. 'Yeah, fucking great,' he thought, letting himself slide to his knees, pressing his head against the cold porcelain of the sink. He reached over and twisted the facet on as cold as he could manage and splashed water all over his face. Had he time, another (far icier) shower would be in order, but this would just have to do.

When he had himself under some semblance of control again, he re-bandaged the wounds, this time avoiding touching the tender flesh. He snagged the black turtleneck draped over the robe hook and pulled it on, fluffing his loose hair out of its grasp. He grimaced, displeased at how stringy his damp hair looked. Pulling a brush through it a few more times didn't help all that much and it was with some annoyance that he simply pulled the damp mass into a limp ponytail. 'Screw it,' he thought with a touch of grumpiness. 'I'm sick, I can neglect myself if I want to.'

He threw open the door, half-expecting to find Relena hovering at the door, trying to shove medication and tea in his direction. What he wasn't expecting was to find Dorothy Catalonia seated primly on the edge of his bed, hands resting on a walking stick and a damn large dog at her feet. The dog had lifted its chocolate head when Duo had exited the bathroom and was now regarding him with a suspicious gleam in those black eyes. He didn't bark or growl, there was just the barest hint of teeth revealed as the dog's mouth flaps drew back.

Then there was Dorothy herself.

He didn't know the Catalonia very well. No one in either the building or their circle of society did. She was something of a recluse, an eccentric by reputation and manner. A few years back she had been very much like Relena, a bit of a social butterfly, and high on the eligibility scale. Then she'd gone off with her grandfather into the jungles of Central America and returned a stranger. A cold, taciturn stranger who didn't suffer the society fools she'd once associated with gladly. Many attributed her change to the death of her grandfather from some sort of exotic fever or being off with 'savages' for so long. Whatever the case, she wasn't a person to be trifled with, not with a tongue and wit sharp enough to cut steel bars. And then there were her dogs. Duo had only once seen her with all of them, but she never went anywhere without one by her side. There were about six of them in all, ranging from simply large to gigantic. Real evil-looking animals, the kind that gave you considerable pause before even daring to approach.

Duo had exchanged a few words with the girl in the past but nothing more consequential than the weather. Because of that, he couldn't imagine why in the world she was here, let alone in his bedroom.

Dorothy gave him the briefest of nods. "I let myself in."

'She reads minds, too, huh?' he thought. "So I noticed. Is there something I can do for you?"

"Not really," she shrugged. "I sent your cousin to see about the tea."

He quirked an eyebrow. Only Dorothy could send Relena after something as trivial as tea. Only Dorothy would dare to. Her pale blue eyes focused on him sharp and intimidating. He could see why Relena might well hop to. However, this was his bedroom and he refused to be cowed here.

"Is there anything in particular you wanted?" Duo tried again, trying to sound as polite as possible. That dog of hers tracked his fidgeting, looking for all the world as if were ready to pounce. With a sigh, Duo settled against the door and resigned himself to staying put. Dorothy was one thing, taking on that dog was another. He already had one set of bite marks, he didn't need another, thank you very much.

"To see how you were doing," Her gaze trailed over him, a critical gleam there. "You look pretty good for someone who was found 'half-dead.'"

‘Relena's been talking to people, I see,' he sighed. ‘The whole building probably thinks I'm at death's door or something, never mind the fact I walked in here under my own power after leaving the hospital.'

"Thanks," he replied dryly. "The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."

He expected her to crack a smile or something. Instead, her eyes grew sharper, a frown marring the smooth mask of her face. "Yes, you were lucky this time but then luck just seems to follow you, doesn't it, Duo Maxwell?"

"I'm quite sure I don't know what you mean."

"And I'm quite sure that you do," she snapped, "After all, surviving the crash that killed your parents--"

He flinched. He'd almost gotten through the morning without thinking about that.

"--and then a vampire attack. Fortune favors you indeed," she tapped her cane against the floor.

"Va--," he mouthed the words, putting his hand to his ears in certainty. He couldn't have heard that right.
He--

"Vampire," she supplied, "The whole building thinks one of my dogs attacked you. In fact, there's a movement being led by your cousin to have them removed from the building and destroyed. I think we both know, however, that it wasn't the dogs who put you in the hospital, don't we?"

He stared at her, floored by the whole conversation. He had been expecting something like a 'get well soon' or 'I brought you a gift' small talk. Not for her to read his mind, not for her to speak the words he couldn't bring himself to say aloud. "I-- How?"

"How what? How do I know these things? How can I ask?" she asked.

He nodded dumbly.

She glanced at the half-closed door to his bedroom, then stood, walking toward him and unbuttoning her shirt. He backed up or rather tried to, when his back encountered the hard frame of the door.

"Um--"

"Oh shut up," she said, unbuttoning the shirt halfway, before slipping it down one arm. He started to turn away when he saw it. Lurching off the door, he drew closer, unable to take his eyes off of her. More specifically, off of the scarred flesh of her lower neck and collarbone. Multiple scars that dotted and twisted the landscape of her creamy skin, scars that suspiciously mirrored his own. He met her eyes and she nodded, tugging her shirt up again.

"So, you see, Duo Maxwell," she said softly, "You're not the only one they've hurt."

***

'With the light in our eyes it's hard to see
Holding on and on 'til we believe
With the light in our eyes it's hard to see
I'm not touched but I'm aching to be
I want you to come, I want you to come
I want you to come walk this world with me'
--Walk this World, Heather Nova.

"I knew immediately, of course," Dorothy explained later, after they'd shooed Relena off on some frivolous errand. With his cousin gone, Dorothy had invited him up to her rooms, luring him with the promise of questions answered and stories shared. "The blood loss, the bite marks..."

She snorted, reaching down to scratch the ears of the wolfhound lying across her lap. "If it had been my dogs that attack you as Relena believes, there wouldn't be enough of you left to rush to the hospital. It's amazing how far people will stretch to avoid the truth, don't you agree?"

"Vampirism isn't something they prepare you for in schools," Duo clinked a spoon around in his rapidly cooling tea.

While it was something of a relief to know that he wasn't crazy or delusional, the realization that there really were vampires was beginning to take its toll on his fraying nerves. It had been much easier when he had half-believed but remained uncertain. Knowing just clenched everything and threw his world-view out the window. Forget about being held up for money, he was going to have a hard time just walking down the street worrying about his neck now.

"People see what they want to see," Dorothy observed. "And it's much easier to swallow the lie, the lie that the only monsters out there are the human ones we see in each other, than it is to face the truth. To acknowledge that there are things beyond our ken."

"I can't blame them," Duo admitted, "After all, who wants to know about the monsters hiding under your bed?"

Razor sharp scorn clouded those pale eyes as she snapped. "I do. I would rather know the truth and be one of the wolves than part of the flock anyway. Sheep are eaten, Duo. You'd do well to remember that."

Chilled by her words, he looked away, away from the bitter knowledge he saw in her, seeking solace in examining his surroundings. Like the Peacecrafts, Dorothy owned an entire floor she lived on. Unlike the semi-large Peacecraft clan, she alone occupied her living space. It should have been too much space for one person. It should have seemed empty and lonely and it might have save for the mish-mash of items blanketing the room, each vying for attention in their own way. Like the rosewood dijeridoo in the corner, the light reflecting softly off the carvings and paint dotting its cylindrical body. Or the pictures dotting the walls, black and white tintypes of African safaris and sailing vessels that hadn't been seen in almost a hundred years. Or the exquisite series of turquoise and jade idols resting on the bookshelf, glaring down at him with cavernous, malevolent eyes. Those statues creeped him out, he decided. It wasn't so much the fact that they were ugly (and they were very ugly, he thought). It was the aura that seemed to roll of them and fill the air around them. A feeling of dead energy seeping out and touching the living, a feeling of unease and muted...anger? Suppressed jealousy? All those feelings and more, enough to make Duo shudder and shift his gaze back to Dorothy. The blond girl was studying him, a strange smile on her face.

"So you feel them, too?" she asked softly.

"Them?"

She nodded towards the idols, "Them. They're watching us, you know? Hating us."

Unease settled on his chest, pressing in as he dared another glance at the statues. "Who? Why?"

"The Old Ones," she rose to her feet, gliding over to the bookcase to run her hand over a particularly nasty-faced jade idol, tracing the sneer curling its lip. "They watch us and they hate us for being alive, for not remembering and paying them homage. We woke them up, stole them from their places of rest... How can we not expect their enmity?"

"They never left you see. The Old Ones are still here, waiting."

"Waiting for what?"

"For their time to come around again."

The room seemed colder, almost oppressive; the hairs on the back of his neck rose with tension and unknown energy. "Dorothy," he whispered, wanting her to stop, wanting these ghosts she raised laid to rest. He could feel...something, something that heralded danger and terror in the air. "Dorothy, please."

She dragged her gaze up towards him, even as her hands still curled and stroked the smooth stone surface beneath them. He couldn't explain any of this. Not this strange, surreal quality taking shape around them. Not the oppressive cloud setting on his chest, half-choking him with panic. Nor the way her pale blue eyes were so sharp and hazy at once, as if she, too, felt and was under the same spell as he.

"Duo." For just a second, he could swear he saw fear, the same fear that he felt, cross those proud arching features. Then it disappeared, clamped down by that arrogant mask she wore so well.

Her hands gripped the idol in her hand, loving caress disappearing into a dangerous hold. "I don't fear you," she hissed, though not at Duo. "I defy you and all your powers."

If the atmosphere could have gotten any more charged, Duo didn't see how.

“Dorothy!" Duo's words and voice were whip-crack sharp, although he didn't mean them to be. It was the rising fear that made him speak so sharply and the insane feeling of a thousand invisible eyes watching him and a thousand icy phantom hands reaching out to touch him. "Dorothy!"

Unintended words, but words strong enough and sharp enough to break the spell that had fallen over the room.

His sharp words earned him a low, warning growl from the wolfhound nearest her feet. It rose up slightly, and slightly was all it needed to do, baring his teeth as a warning to the sharp voice that dared to threaten his mistress.

"Shh," Dorothy reached down and absently patted the beast upon its large head, "behave for our company. You know better."

That simple action shattered the coldness and drained the tension from the air. Duo imagined that it somehow seemed brighter and warmer than it had before she had spoken to the dog. It was all in his imagination, he was certain, but it still felt that way.

The dog sniffed at Duo, looking supremely unimpressed as he turned adoring eyes and a gentle lick on his mistress. Maybe the animal had picked up on the undercurrent running through the atmosphere, too.

The silence was awkward for a second, Dorothy appearing almost...embarrassed? Not exactly the right term. Nor was unnerved but an emotion somewhere between the two would have it. She cleared her throat. "What was I saying?"

"Vampires."

She nodded, turning to snag a heavy book from the shelf and returning to sit beside him on the couch. It was a movement that he wholeheartedly approved of as he snuck one final look at the grinning demonic faces staring back at him. He shuddered.

"Here, you might be interested in doing a little reading up on your attacker," she replied briskly, depositing a heavy book in his lap.

It was an old book, the binding well worn and cracking in some places. Rich burgundy leather had faded with time, lettering rubbed dull. He had to open the tome up to find out what he was looking at. The title was short, sweet, and to the point. Vampyr. ‘Lovely,’ Duo thought without rancor. He gingerly turned a few pages, mindful of their thinness and age.

"I won't say that the book is one hundred percent correct or even half right in what it posits. I mean, it was written in the sixteenth century as a guide for witch-hunters and clergymen. Half of it is religious propaganda and the other half of it is what most people would call 'superstitious rubbish.' It's concise though and plainly written, making it a good place to start I think," she explained. There was a pause. "Tell me how it happened?"

The question shouldn't have surprised him but it did. His hand fluttered over the page he was about to turn, then finish the action more out of mechanical habit than inclination. "Why? What difference does it make?"

He was stalling and he knew it. It was just there was something so intensely...personal about the experience that he found himself reluctant to divulge the details, as if talking about the vampire...about what they had shared would make him belong to the world instead of to just himself.

‘Belong to me,’ Duo snorted. ‘What is wrong with me? That episode with the idols a few minutes ago must have creeped me out more than I thought.’

"I was on the balcony," Duo laid the book to rest on the coffee table, rising to his feet and skirting around the pair of dogs glaring at him from the floor, to stare out the window. "And ... and he came."

"And that's all?"

"He came and he bit me. What more is there?" Duo replied defensively.

"Why you? I mean, you were hardly in a secluded place," she reasoned. "You were inches away from an apartment full of party-goers. Not exactly the best place to pick a meal if you catch my drift."

"How should I know why he picked me? What does it matter?" He snapped.

He expected her to get angry, to snap back, but her voice remained remarkably even. "Because he might try to get at you again."

‘I wish,’ Duo thought, pressing his head against the glass. /That would make things simpler. Then I'd get the chance to ask him, Why? And what he's done to me.’ "I doubt it," he replied. "I mean he did let me go."

"Yes and that's the part I don't understand. Why he let you go? That's not typical behavior. Not from what I've observed."

He half-turned, "And what have you observed? How is it you know so much?"

"And why should I share with you the details you won't give me?" She crossed her arms, sinking back against the sofa.

He couldn't fault her there. It didn't mean he was any less curious. She knew that, too. Damn. Stalemate.

"Why don't you guess?"

The concession startled him. "And you'll nod if I'm on the right track?"

"Something like that," she smirked at him.

He thought about that, hand reaching up to tug at his braid. "It happened while you were gone. While you were in Central America."

Was it his imagination or did she tense just the tiniest bit? She nodded in response to his guess.

His mind flashed back to the scars dotting her neck. "It was more than one vampire?" he hazarded.

Her eyes hardened and he took that as assent that he was on the right track. God, more than one?! One had been mind-blowing enough but several? And if Dorothy's expression and attitude were any indication, it hadn't been a pleasant experience.

"Go on. Please." He winced at the chill he heard in her voice.

The next was pure guesswork but since he was on a roll and already in trouble, he figured he didn't have much to lose at this point. "Your grandfather...your grandfather died because of those vampires. And you hate them for it?"

"I don't hate anyone," she replied, but there was no tone in her voice, nothing to indicate that she spoke the truth. She raked her gaze over him again, this time more closely. "Yes, you did very well."

What the hell did that mean? Did well? "Dorothy--"

"Relena will be returning soon. She'll panic if you're not where she left you," her voice was abrupt but the message was clear: he'd overstayed his welcome.

He nodded, edging towards the door, reluctant to leave things between them as such. But what could he say? That he was sorry? What good would that do? She already knew it was true as trite as the words sounded. And someone like Dorothy Catalonia would despise not only that pity, but him for giving it.

“Duo.”

He clutched the half open door, lifting his head towards her. “Yes.”

Dorothy rose to her feet, graceful and predatory, a dim echo of the smoothness the vampire had possessed, almost as if some of the grace of the creatures she had studied for so long had somehow been passed on to her. She scooped up the book on the coffee table, then pressed it into his hands in a motion that pushed both he and the book out, the door locking behind him with a soft, final grunt.

***

She found him draped across a row of chairs, pale skin turned ivory as he lay just under the projector’s light. Each click and whir of the machine caused the room to darken, then break with millions of pinpoints, the ceiling above them scattering anew with a rash of stars. Hilde rocked on her heels, watching Orion rise higher as the artificial night progressed, an endless succession that they never got to witness as the morning sun rose high. This… this is what a vampires’ world, a world without the harsh rays of the morning, would be like; a world of soft shades of dark and blue, broken only by a littering of stretching stars.

She hated it, hated this place, and the hopeless illusion it represented. The illusion he so loved and clung to. An echo of the pathetic mortal he had once been before she had taken and remade him with all the power her blood could give. Trowa was strong, nearly as strong as Heero, not quite as strong as she. Physically, that was. Mentally and emotionally, he was a child, little more than a servant to her whims where she wished for a tiger, someone to fight and conquer. Heero had always fought back or disagreed or ... or something. With Trowa, all she received was blind obedience and clouded affection. She could have gotten a dog if she’d wanted that sort of companionship.

It was her own fault, she supposed. She had chosen Trowa for his beauty, for those green eyes that reminded her of spring and forests and living things, for his slender suppleness, and olive skin so unlike her deathly whiteness. Yes, Trowa was beautiful, as beautiful as Heero; maybe even more beautiful but his spirit couldn’t hold a candle to her former lover’s. Heero had never broken during his long initiation from mortal youth to vampire. His strength of resolve and ruthlessness had developed a fine edge. Hilde had held hopes that it might prove the same for her gentle Trowa, had wanted to mold him and shape him like Heero but better than Heero, shape him into a perfect companion for all time.

Heero had bent, but Trowa had broken under her and the Master’s care.

The banked fire always threatening to set the grass of his eyes ablaze had wavered then disappeared, leaving her to howl in frustration at its passing. She had a beautiful doll, a beautiful slave, but not a companion, not someone to dominate and to dominate her as she wished. He was a swift and terrible killer, a worthy hunter, but it meant nothing to him. Mortals, blood lust, his immortality… None of it touched him. He simply wandered through the years, a ghost alive with no hope of any awakening or rest. He haunted her side, her bed, because he knew no other way. His beauty pained and captivated her, the potential for greatness lost and wasted because they had made a mistake, because she had not initiated this one more gently into the Blood. She could not abandon him although she had tried many times nor could she destroy him. Something, some vestige of feeling, stayed her hand and she often found herself taking him gently to her in those times, feeding him or making love to him, hoping to find something to arouse a feeling in him. A reaction. Anything. And tenderness would always give way to bitter resentment when nothing shattered the glass of his eyes. She had made him and she couldn’t even reach him. It was galling, as if his mortal heart had won a victory over her, after all.

She picked down the aisle, standing next to the projector as she reached out and brushed wisps of light brown from his face. Green glinted then disappeared as he submitted to her ministrations, neither leaning in or out of her caress.

“You come here too often,” she scolded him. Her voice was hush in spite of the fact the entire building was void of any mortals. “You’ll be caught one day if you’re not careful.”

“No,” he disagreed. “The planetarium closes to the public at five. The guard makes his first rounds of the evening at five-thirty. From six-fifteen until seven-thirty, he’s at his station eating a meatball sandwich, chips, and three chocolate chip cookies while watching a small television. He won’t make his next set of rounds until nine.”

Hilde stared at him, her hands pausing. “How long have you been watching him?”

It was another of Trowa’s quirks, watching life, watching mortals as if they were some sort of … television show. Yes, that was the best analogy. He watched them because there was nothing better to do or because sometimes they afforded him a low-level sort of amusement. He didn’t seem to grasp the notion that his activities might get him into trouble or worse, caught.

“Since you brought me to this city,” came the placid reply. “Since I found this place.”

Weeks then. He’d been watching some mortal security guard for weeks without touching him just so he could be able to sneak in here. Hilde shook her head in disgust.

“If he catches you—“

“He won’t. That would break his routine.”

“What if tonight is different?”

“It won’t be. Why should it?”

‘Because mortals change, because they’re unpredictable, because of Murphy’s Law…’ All those things leapt to her mind but not to her tongue. Saying them wouldn’t change Trowa’s outlook. It would just be wasted time and sound.

“You found him?” His voice was toneless, no hint of any of the roiling emotions Heero had in his. His voice was as empty as his eyes, as his soul; a cup waiting to be filled by other people. He asked simply to ask.

Her lips curved upward, “Of course I did. He’s never been able to hide from me.”

“And?”

“And?”

“You didn’t approach him?”

“You sound surprised.”

"I thought that was why we're here. To bring him home again."

Perceptive. She sometimes forgot that like a child, he was always so damned perceptive. Words that she did not say, Trowa heard. Actions that she did not perform, he saw in those beautiful glassy green orbs. Like a child, he took what he saw and kept it close, only throwing it out when the moment was right, when asked questions would not be ignored or tossed aside.

"Or maybe," her hands moved again, caressing the soft locks, but more she felt for her own purposes, her own need to feel the silk between her fingers than for any pleasure or enjoyment it gave to Trowa, "maybe, it's simply to see how far he has fallen."

"But if that was all you wanted, we would be gone by now." Again, simple words, stated without feeling and emotion. There was no jealousy in his voice, no bitterness or accusation. He simply knew how she operated and what drove her. He recalled habits and behaviors and pointed them out with cool, clinical detachment.

He knew her better than she knew herself and there were times when she wondered who was the manipulated and who was the manipulator.

“You’re right, that’s not all I want,” she let herself drift into the chair behind her, watching soft brown slip from her fingers without mourning the loss. She raised her arms, crossing them so that they lay atop his chest. “I want him back, Trowa. I want him with me again, with us. I want him the way he was then before … before these damned ideas entered his head. We’re vampires and they’re meat. Why complicate matters beyond that?”

Trowa gave her no answers. She wasn’t expecting one from him anyway. Hilde sighed. “I wish the Master were here.”

She felt it, the tiniest flinch in the body beneath hers. While Trowa obeyed her, perhaps even loved her in a remote sort of way, it was no secret that his grandsire frightened him. Trowa had disappointed him, had failed to surpass Heero as his chosen favorite, and he had never forgiven the boy for that. He tolerated him for her sake, but he granted him little leeway and had on a number of occasions, in Trowa’s presence, suggested to Hilde that she destroy her toy in favor of a new one. As amusing as it was to watch her sire terrify him, it also fueled her annoyance at the more timid vampire, and her need for a true companion. In nearly six hundred years she had found none so pleasing as Heero. She would not forego another six hundred in the hopes of finding a suitable substitute.

“Trowa,” she lifted herself so that her body was pressed against his, lips hovering above still lips. “I need you to do something for me. Someone I need you to watch for me.”

***

The bell jingled, out of place as the sounds of a harp in counterpoint to Loreena McKennitt’s voice rose and rolled out of the intercom system. Heero hesitated, forced to step to the side as another customer tried to brush past him, shooting daggers at him. Heero ignored him, once again finding himself impressed by the niche his friend had managed to carve for himself right in the midst of one of the busiest streets, in one of the busiest cities on the planet. The audacity it took to put himself in plan sight for all mortal to see… He shook his head. Treize was braver, more foolish, more… Ballsy, as Hilde had and would have said again, more than any vampire had a right to be.

Of course who would suspect a vampire, especially one as flamboyant as General Kushrenada, to be the proud proprietor of a bookstore. A bookstore! Heero could appreciate the irony as no one else could. This was Treize’s apology for all those houses and libraries and beautiful thing he’d been forced to destroy in pursuit of his first love. As a mortal, he had a talent for war that rivaled Alexander and he’d run roughshod over most of Europe before he was stopped, in a rather permanent fashion, by a vampire who wasn’t so enamored of the blood he shed. Heero shook his head. Poor Une. The madness had claimed her in the end as it did so many of their kind. Treize had done her a kindness when he had helped her into the fire. Treize had loved her though and had never forgiven himself for not being able to save her. For a time, Heero had feared for his friend but Treize had soldiered on, forever young and charming with the fringes of sadness now marking his twinkling eyes, eyes that had lightened more in the last five years than they had in the last hundred.

And the reason for that lightening was headed straight for him.

“Heero,” Zechs Merquise swept up to him, juggling boxes in his arms. He tried to take the vampire’s hand then realizing the sheer impossibility of that, settled on a warm smile and a nod. “We haven’t seen you in a week or so. Treize has been driving himself—and me—mad with worry.”

Heero caught one of the boxes threatening to topple out of his arms, taking it from the blond mortal’s grasp and then helping himself to another, glaring at Zechs when he tried to prevent it. “Worried? Why would he be worried?”

“How would I know? I’m just his poor mortal lover remember? That doesn’t always make me privy to His Lordship’s inner council,” Zechs made a face, strands of pale blond hair escaping his messy ponytail. “Not when he’s in one of his moods.”

Heero felt his lips quirk, not quite a smile but not a frown. “You make it sound like he’s PMS-ing, Zechs.”

“He should be for all the mood swings I’ve had to put up with lately,” Zechs muttered, rolling his eyes. Then he refocused on Heero, curiosity plain in his face and voice as he asked, “So where exactly have you been?”

“Around,” Heero replied.

It wasn’t much of an answer but then again this wasn’t something he felt like discussing, either in public or with Zechs. He liked Treize’s lover, trusted him more than he did any other mortal, but Zechs was not of his kind. There were things he could not, would not ever understand, things that went hand and kith with being a vampire and partaking of the thirst that drove them. Right now, he needed that understanding, that shared experience, more than he did all the soothing words falling from Zech’s silky mouth. He could think of no other vampire he trusted as he did Treize, no better friend to him over the last several centuries.

Zechs sniffed. “Fine, be mysterious by all means. I mean, why let the poor mortal in on anything. Vam—“

Heero glared at him, glancing sharply at the people surrounding them, rippling and out. To his credit, Zechs had the grace to blush before finishing lamely, “—Men, you’re all the same.”

“Where is the General?”

Zechs jogged his head towards a door just to the right of them. “Downstairs. You know what a late riser he is. Just after sunset and he’s still not willing to be sociable. Maybe you can drag him out before closing time. Remind him that he’s co-owner of this place too. Not that it usually makes any difference anyway.”

Heero nodded then indicated the boxes in his grasp. “Where do these need to go?”

“Oh just put them by the wall there. I’ll have one of the stock boys see to them.” Zechs turned serious, “Heero, if I can help in any way…”

“Noted,” Heero’s voice carried less frost than it might have. He had spent so much of his life maintaining an emotional distance from mortals and to have one actually concerned for him… It was strange and unsettling to say the least.

One thought played and replayed itself as he headed downstairs to find Treize. He wouldn’t have minded Zechs’ concern and sympathy… if it had come from Duo.

***

Treize Kushrenada lifted his head as the steady beat of footsteps descended further into the dimness. The tread was too light to be Zechs’ and the scent was all wrong. Treize breathed in deeply, a pleased expression touching him as he scratched out a few more sentences then capped his pen. The inventory could wait, it had been a while since he smelled that particular scent and had been graced by a visit from this particular personage.

Standing, Treize attached his pen to the clipboard. His smile widened as he heard the soft, deferential knock on the other side of the door to the room that made up his office. Taking a last glance at the inventory pad, to be certain all was in order, he put it aside, and called out brightly, "Come now, Heero. It hasn't been so long that we have to stand on ceremony."

"You knew I was here," the voice came from behind him, and was almost accusatory in nature.

"An elephant would tread more quietly." He turned, and his smile became a frown as he noted his old friend's appearance, at how thin and pale he was, dark bruises evident under heartsick sapphire. Even the clothes were crumbled and slept in, hanging loosely on a frame that either was too thin to support them, or no longer cared to. Treize much suspected it was the latter, although he wondered what possible torture could have ruffled the feathers of the ever unflappable Heero.

Treize kept his observations to himself, indicating the office with a wave of his hand. "I hope you don't plan on standing there all night. I already have a perfectly good door."

Heero grunted, stumping over to the nearest sofa, a black leather piece that Zechs had insisted on and he had paid top dollar for, and flopped down on it, causing Treize to wince as his sneakered feet pushed at one of the cushions.

“Heero,” Treize said gently, “Feet off the couch.”

Glaring, the Japanese vampire slung his legs onto the floor, so that he was half-reclining, half sitting upright. “Happy?”

“Thank you. You’re in quite a temper tonight, old friend,” Treize said, glancing over that too pale (even for a vampire), boneless form. “Perhaps you have not fed for the evening?”

“No.”

Ignoring the almost hostile ice flecking that one word, Treize turned to a nearby freezer, withdrawing a frosted green bottle and a glass from the cabinet overhead. After filling the glass, he turned the bottle in his hands, peeking over the kitchenette at his friend before picking it up along with the glass.

“Here,” Treize offered him the glass, setting the bottle on the floor next to the couch. “This should wet your appetite until you can find something better.”

Heero stared at the glass then took it, twirling it around and around in his hands. Not once did he raise it to his lips.

“That’s for drinking, not playing you know,” Treize teased. His unease grew as Heero failed to rise to the bait as he was normally wont to do. “Heero?”

Heero threw his head back, nearly tossing the contents of the glass into his mouth in an inelegant display and just as quickly spat it back up, coughing and catching the running blood with his loose sweatshirt. Treize knelt down, catching his friend and holding him through the worst of it. He reached out, raising Heero’s face to the light, struck at how young he looked, almost like a child in this light despite the blood painting the lower half of his face.

“Heero, what is it? Surely, the blood isn’t so tainted or cold that—“

“No.”

“Then what? What’s wrong?”

"It's bitter." Heero looked away as he said the words, trembling, ever so slightly. The trembling was not enough to be noticed by the human eye, or even human senses, but Treize saw, and felt the motion.

Frowning, a million thoughts going through his head, Treize raised the glass to his nose and sniffed. Few things could hurt a vampire, but those that could were quite insidious and quite deadly. There were herbs that could make the blood bitter and congealed, and although Treize doubted any sort of thing could have happened to his private stash, he checked anyway. However, the blood both smelled and tasted normal to him, and that only caused him greater fear than alleviating it. If the blood itself was not tainted, there were other things ... poisons that could make blood repugnant to vampires, charms that could make their undead forms reject their very sustenance.

These were not thoughts that Treize wanted to have. He had heard some things of late, things that made him worry and keep his eyes trained on the shadowy areas. Someone or something was out there, watching him, watching Zechs. Someone or something with a motivation and a purpose that he did not know and could not fathom, and that made him far more nervous than he would ever admit aloud. The thought that perhaps Heero had fallen into the hands of that very nameless someone or something, made his blood run cold, figuratively speaking.

"Heero, you're not well."

"No, I suppose I'm not," Heero grunted, the words delivered with a bark of laughter, half-bitter and half-laced with a hysterical edge. “It’s that boy, Treize. I can’t get him out of my head. His voice… It’s in my ears, my sleep, even in the blood. I can’t eat anymore, the blood doesn’t taste the same. It doesn’t taste like him. I haven’t eaten in days and I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard… Why is this happening?”

Treize listened to his friend’s babble, increasingly distressed by what he was hearing. He gave the younger boy a shake, forcing the sing-song flow of anxious words to cease. Using the corner of his sleeve, he dabbed at Heero’s bloodstained face, resigned to the fact that Zechs was going to kill him when he found the shirt later on. What concerned him now was the rawness he beheld in his friend’s eyes, a rawness that had been rubbed and picked at until he was just short of madness. Whatever had happened to Heero had to be sorted out, and the sooner the better. Allowed to continue…

“All right,” Treize lifted up just long enough to sit on the couch beside the boy, taking Heero’s taunt body into a loose embrace. “Tell me what happened. Slowly, if you please and as clearly as you can.”

There was a pause, a pause long enough to fill up oceans and skies with the weight of it, a pause that went on so long that Treize wondered if indeed silence weren’t another language. There were so many nuances to it, so much it said by its negation. Heero’s told him how anguished he was… how frightened. And Heero was not a creature by nature that frightened easily. And just when he thought that perhaps silence was all he would receive, Heero began speaking. Slow at first, just a word at a time, a word that might stretch five minutes or more before he found another. On and on until each word fell into place, a puzzle piece in search of another, until Treize began to understand why Heero had come to him, and why he had stayed away, and why he was so terrified. The words came in harsh breaths, the rasp of hunger making them hoarse and Treize found himself wishing that Heero had been able to palate the blood he had offered earlier. It might have taken the edge off for the younger man. Yet, he kept his attention focused, reassuring his friend with the occasional squeeze or question, never enough to interrupt that breaking flow. And when the words ended, and the silence renewed, Treize held him, pondering what to say to him, what he could say, and what would make it better, if anything could.

“Heero,” Treize began, let the word fall, wishing Zechs were here. He was better at reaching people. Treize was a soldier; a soldier with a patina of elegance but this area was better suited to his less disciplined, more emotional lover. But it was precisely Zechs’ mortality that made him ineligible. He could offer support, but he could never understand.

“Heero.” It was funny how a word, a name, could hold so much regret, so much sorrow. He would have kept Heero from this, kept the almost heartless innocence his friend had always worn as a cloak. Until now, until this boy, Heero had been immune, a true immortal but now he was as fragile as any of them, a vulnerable as this mortal, Duo, he had taken to him and spared. In this moment, as no other before it, Treize feared for his friend, truly feared for him. If he could not accept what was happening to him, if he could not embrace it and make it a part of him, it would tear him apart. Treize wasn’t sure he could stand to lose another close to him, lose him as he had been forced to part with Une.

“Heero, this boy… What’s happening to you is that you feel something for this boy,” Treize said delicately.

Heero started in his grip, his head nearly rattling with the denial. “No! That’s ridiculous, how could I? I wasn’t with him long enough to…”

“To fall in love with him?” Treize sighed. “And how long does it take to fall in love?”

“We didn’t exchange two words!”

“I wasn’t aware that the facility for speech was necessary for being attracted to someone,” Treize replied.

"I am not in -- " Heero shook his head more furiously, a feat Trieze would have thought impossible. "No! He's only a mortal. It's him --"

"Of course, it's him. You've already said that it's him."

"He did something to me. He had to. He's a witch. Or worse."

"And now, you are in denial." Trieze held firmly to the other's shoulders even as Heero tried to free himself. "Look at me, Heero. Look inside yourself, and then look at me and tell me that you do not have feelings for this boy."

"No," the vampire kept his eyes averted, evidently finding something in the tilework of the floor of captivating interest. "I don't have to prove anything to you, Trieze. I won't argue with you."

"You won't? Or you can not?"

“Stop twisting my words!” Heero snarled, fangs elongating to razor perfection as his eyes took on a brilliant brittle sheen. It was altogether possible that if he let go, Heero would attack him. He clearly wasn’t rational and being gentle was accomplishing little except to agitate him further.

“Heero, look at yourself,” Treize snapped. “You’re not losing control, you’ve lost it. And all over a boy who means nothing to you? How long are you going to lie to yourself? Until you’ve driven yourself mad? Until one of us is forced to remove you for the good of all? Heero, look at yourself.”

He stilled, going limp in Treize’s grasp. Treize held tight, half-afraid to let him go even as he sagged against him.

“What am I going to do, Treize?” Heero’s voice was muffled. “What am I going to do?”

Treize brushed those wild bangs out of his face, a weary smile there. “The only thing you can do, Heero. You have to find this boy. And you have to talk to him. Find out what it is you’re feeling. You won’t have any peace until you do.”

“Is this how it was with Zechs?”

“No, I was luckier,” Treize admitted. “With Zechs it was easy. I walked into a café and saw him sitting there, surrounded by cups of coffee as he tried to figure out how he was going to keep his bookstore afloat, and I loved him. I loved the way the evening lamp entangled with the sun of his hair, and I loved that little wrinkle in his forehead he gets when he frowns.”

“But he’s mortal…He’ll--,” Heero hesitated. This was not a subject they had ever really discussed before. Heero had always accepted without comment his commitment to his mortal lover.

“He’ll die,” Treize said, without rancor. “Maybe.”

Heero frowned, lifting his head. “Could you turn him? Make him one of us?”

“If he asked,” Treize shrugged. “Yes.”

"And if he didn't ask?"

“Then we would go on. It’s his choice, Heero. Remember that. It’s always their choice, not our own.” Treize stretched, releasing the boy in his grasp. “Just think about it all right?”

Heero nodded, more calm than he had been minutes earlier but losing none of the wildness Treize had initially glimpsed in his eyes. He sighed. Heero would have to make up his own mind. He could only hope that he would make the right choice.

“Come on, Zechs is probably wondering what’s keeping us,” Treize rose to his feet, extending his hand towards his guest.

Heero took it, hefting himself up. “Thank you, I guess.”

“You guess?” Treize asked in amusement as they climbed the stairs.

“I won’t lie and say your answer pleases me,” Heero answered evenly, “But thank you for being honest.”

“Then you’re welcome, I guess,” Treize grinned, pushing the door open and holding it for him. Heero rolled his eyes and stepped out onto the floor near the cash register. He took a step, possibly two when everything came to a crashing halt. Heero stopped, tension just banished returned not only anew but tenfold. He followed the other vampire’s gaze until he alighted on a young mortal, no more than twenty perhaps, violet eyes as fixed on Heero as Heero was on him. Had it not been for the sudden flick of an extremely long braid, Treize might not have known what or who he was looking at. ‘Merde,’ he swore softly. The universe had a very sick sense of humor sometimes. And this he feared, was going to be one of those times.

“You!” The braided boy, Duo Maxwell, exclaimed, the books in his arms nearly tumbling to the carpet in surprise.

***

Well this was certainly more than he had expected, Duo acknowledged dimly, clutching his stack of books tight against his chest as dark eyes bored into his. ‘I thought finding him would be a lot harder… I mean, this is New York; there are millions of people here.’ Finding someone without a name or address should have been the proverbial needle in a haystack scenario. Running into your quarry seemed almost too…cliché.

It wasn’t even as if he had planned this. After Dorothy had thrown him out, he’d piddled around the apartment, trying to digest what had happened and the contents of the book she’d thrust at him. Once one got past the religious rhetoric and outright propaganda, it was almost useful. Although he had his doubts as to the validity of some of the methods espoused there. Like the one about hiding the vampire’s sock to lure him out because vampires were apparently so anal that they couldn’t stand one thing out of place. It was all very interesting, entertaining even but was it practical?

Then again, how did one lump practical and vampirism in the same sentence and expect to be taken seriously?

After a few hours of trying to make out eye-blurring script, he had made up his mind to check out other venues of information. The Internet had been less helpful than he had first anticipated, with more goths and vampire RPGs than actual vampire folklore. He had been on his way to the library when he remembered this place, one of those large coffeehouse/bookstores that dealt in any type of printed material you could imagine. It hadn’t been all that far out of the way and if this place had panned out there was always the library.

But this place hadn’t panned out. Oh, no. He’d hit the jackpot in the most unexpected way. Why bother with hearsay when you could ask the source?

“Are you real?” he blurted. “Would you tell me the truth if I asked it?”

The boy, the vampire, tensed appearing as if he might bolt if given the chance. It was only the restraining hand of the older seeming, auburn-haired man behind him that held him in place. Heero glanced at the other man—glared, was more like it, Duo thought, then the fight went out of him. His posture loosened so that he almost seemed to be collapsing in on himself, those midnight eyes focused on the floor. The auburn-haired man squeezed his shoulder and Duo felt a flash of … something, some indescribable, indefinable emotion. The man looked over at Duo, his forked brows knit in thought, eyes raking over Duo in a way that made a flush begin to creep up his neck and cheeks.

“Ah,” the other said, the beginnings of a smile grooving his mouth. Duo started at the brief flash of sharp teeth it afforded him. Vampire. Another one. Dear God, how many were there? Was he surrounded? “So you’re the one.”

‘The one? What did that mean?’ Duo wondered. ‘One what?’

The auburn-haired man placed a hand over his heart, dipping into a courtly half-bow. I am Treize.”

“Um…” Duo racked his brain for something to say. The boy-vampire seemed no less surprised by his friend’s admission. “Pleased to meet you.” ‘I think,’ he added silently.

Treize nodded and Duo wondered how long it had taken him to perfect that courtly air of dignity and command. There was something very attractive about him. Not the same lure and attraction that the dark vampire beside him held. No, there was something about this one’s aura that gave Duo the overwhelming urge to step into formation and obey. A leader. Yes, this one was a leader or should be.

“I think you and Heero have a lot to talk about,” Treize replied, not unkindly.

Heero, Duo clutched the name, tried it out. So that was his name. No longer nameless, now he was Heero. It suited him. ‘This is surreal,’ he thought. ‘I don’t even know this person, creature, whatever…and I know what suits him? You’re being too blasé here, Duo.’

“That’s all I want,” Duo said, his breath hitching. “I have questions for you… Heero. Like why me? Why did you choose me?”

The questions churned and bubbled, so long held and now not to be denied. Heero flinched, still refusing to lift his head and acknowledge him.

“Why did you leave me?“

It wasn’t the question at the top of his mind. What he had meant to ask was why did you attack me? Why did you let me live? But that wasn’t what had come out and Duo wondered which question he really wanted the answer to?

“I think this conversation is one best pursued in private.” Treize stepped in. He inclined his head towards Heero. “You’re welcome to use my rooms if you like.”

“No, I’ve involved you enough in this.” An odd sense of warmth and relief filtered through Duo as the boy finally spoke. It was the same, that knife-edge, almost husky voice. It was confirmation that if he was losing his mind, then the rest of the world was going with him. Heero finally lifted his gaze, meeting Duo’s squarely with what appeared to be resignation. “We can go to my place if you wish to talk.”

“I—“ This was what he had wanted, had hoped for, and now he was hesitating?

“I promise you safe passage.” Each word was slow and deliberate. “You will come to no harm while you are with me. I swear it on your blood.”

“Witnessed,” Treize intoned behind him. From the serious sway of their voices, he sensed that something binding had passed her. An oath that might mean death if broken, if vampires could die.

“All right,” Duo agreed. He glanced down the stack of books in his arms. “Guess I don’t need these, huh?”

The words were small, almost timid, but they brought a smile to Treize’s face. He reached out and removed them from Duo’s grasp, causing the hairs on his arms to rise at the feel of that cold hand. “I’ll hold onto them for you,” Treize winked. “Just in case.”

“Thank you,” Duo did smile this time, allowing himself to be lulled by the vampire’s charm. Anything to shut out of the tendrils of excitement and panic trying to pick at him. He cocked his braided head at Heero, “Ready whenever you are.”

Heero’s steel gaze never faltered. “Are you sure of that?”

‘No,’ Duo thought at Heero’s back, his braid thumping against his neck as he followed the vampire out the door. ‘I’m not sure of that at all.’

***

‘And it's burning in our fingers and
it's burning on the road
And I like the way you're broken
and I'll like you when you're old
And I see you in the garden and I
feel you plant the seed
I want you to come walk this world with me.’
--‘Walk this World, Heather Nova.

It was odd, Duo reflected later. After everything that had happened, he should have been more apprehensive about accompanying the vampire, Heero, anywhere. Especially alone and without any sort of back up. He really couldn't blame Dorothy if she questioned his sanity when he talked to her about this later on. If he got the chance to talk to her about this later on, that was. Yet for all the danger inherent in this, all the fear and anxiety he should have felt was curiously absent. Instead, he felt almost…safe walking next to Heero, as if some unconscious part of him recognized and accepted Heero's promise of safe passage as absolute.

Anyway, who in their right mind would attack a vampire? ‘Well, knowingly,’ he amended. ‘Then again, who in their mind would knowingly walk off alone, in the dark,’ with a vampire? Countered a second voice. Duo frowned, noting that the second voice sounded a lot like Dorothy's.

‘There are no guarantees in life,’ he argued against that voice. Not now. Not ever. Yeah, Heero might be luring him off for chow time but he might also be prepared to give Duo the answers he desired, the answers he so desperately needed. Stacked against a possible lifetime of burning, unanswered questions haunting him… Well, Duo would take his chances.

He glanced out of the corner of his eye at his companion. Even now under the harsh glare of passing lamps and weak store windows, Heero far outshone the memory of the dark angel of that balcony, his allure more dangerous and immediate. It wasn't right, wasn't fair that anyone should be so beautiful, Duo thought. The beauty that Heero had most likely possessed as a mortal had been sharpened to the razor edge of perfection and it was a weapon well used. It disarmed and entranced the watcher, caused defenses to lower, and longing to set it. You wanted him to approach. You wanted to linger on the words formed by those sensual lips. In short, you wanted to be his victim; wanted that one blissful moment of death and completion. Yes, a useful weapon for a vampire, indeed. Duo caught himself wondering if all vampires shared that Venus flytrap perfection, a pleasant façade hiding destruction. No wonder Lucy had went willingly to Dracula after that first encounter. How could anyone resist such temptation?

“We’re here.” Those short words gave him no warning as he skidded into Heero’s back, catching the other’s waist to keep him upright. Duo felt his cheeks warm as the vampire cast one of those smoldering glances he excelled in over his shoulder at Duo. He let the vampire go, using his now free hand to rub the back of his neck. Heero snorted, though his eyes were softer than the gesture permitted.

The place Heero had brought them to was an abandoned store, windows whitewashed and empty. The lights of a nearby street lamp pooled around the edges of the gloom, not cracking it and casting vague shadows on the pavement. Heero jiggled the door handle, the lock rattling loudly to Duo’s ears. He sneaked a glance around them. No one seemed particularly interested in them. Hell, no one even seemed to see the two of them. ‘Strange,’ Duo thought. Maybe it was Heero. That book had hinted that vampires had the power to cloud and affect the mind, a glamour it was called if he remembered aright. The thought led to another, somewhat more unwelcome one. Had Heero put a glamour on him? Maybe he hadn’t wanted to find the vampire… maybe it was just something Heero had done to him. Maybe he had really wanted to stay back in that shop with Treize and…

Duo rubbed the bridge of his nose. Well, this train of thought was getting him nowhere fast. He was just going to have to accept that his actions were his own or else he was going to give himself a massive headache trying to untangle the how or why they had become someone else’s. Besides, he was here now and there was no reason for him to stop after coming this far.

‘No reason except to save your own skin,’ that sardonic voice whispered again. The voice of practicality and common sense he supposed… He was really starting to hate that voice.

“Are you coming in or would you rather stand there all night?”

Duo blinked, noticing he was alone on the door stoop and pushed his way into the darkness. The door slid shut, kicking up a small cloud of dust, tickling his nostrils into a sound sneeze. Aside from the muted glow of a few white sheets, there was no light, no way to find his way. Hands out in front of him, he stepped, tentative steps, forward, trying to find some center or door or wall. No sound beyond that of his own breath, no light, nothingness enveloped him in a smothering cocoon. The beginning of worlds must have encompassed moments such as this. Moments where everything trickled down to the sweat slicking down his back, the sound of his blood rushing forward pumped by an overeager heart, and an impulse, perhaps newborn, searching with hands outstretched. Hands that lingered in a forever moment of space then were claimed by a cool grasp. Duo heard his own sigh of relief, allowing Heero to tug him gently forward, trusting him to see him through this when trust was that last thing that should have crossed his mind.

The room was not so large. It was only huge in its emptiness and dimness. Therefore it was with some relief when Heero walked him through one room and an adjoining passageway, his pace enough for Duo to easily keep up, his hand not recoiling from the remnants of earlier sweaty panic.

“Are these your rooms?”

“No, they’re just rooms.” Heero shrugged or rather Duo thought he was shrugging from the way his arm lifted. It was hard to tell in this blindness.

“Oh.”

Did vampires have some sort of underground chain of safe houses? Places to hide out or meet in? Duo wondered. It would make sense. There were things that had to be hidden, he supposed, for their safety, and for the safety of the humans surrounding them. Or did vampires interact with humans beyond being a happy meal? Maybe his meeting with Heero was a first. Maybe, but somehow he doubted it.

They finally came to a stop after what seemed like miles and hours later but what Duo’s internal clock ticked it off as three to five minutes tops. He was forced to shut his eyes against the violent blossom of light as Heero found and flipped a switch, false daylight finding a way to sear his eyes and his brain with relief. After the grays and blues and blacks unending, light was welcome even with the tears of pain its sudden emergence brought.

When he had blinked the pain away and the room came into focus, Duo made a quick scan of his surroundings. It wasn’t much at all. Just a few pieces of furniture covered with a dust cloth, some crates, and wires from long ago hanging off the wall.

“Glad this isn’t your place,” he muttered.

Heero looked at him sharply. “One room is much the same as another.”

“Yeah, right,” Duo snorted. “Whatever happened to comfort?”

“Not all of us live in a penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side,” Heero retorted.

“Excuse me, but I’m not some spoiled little rich boy, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Duo sputtered, anger flickering for a moment. “My father was a priest or he was until he was defrocked. That doesn’t exactly make you eligible for great riches… Not these days.”

One of those perfect dark brows lifted and Duo watched the vampire digest that little tidbit, wondering why he didn’t comment further. Instead, the boy’s face softened imperceptibly for just a fraction of a second, then he turned away, snatching the covers off a sofa and coffee table.

“You wanted to talk,” Heero waved his arm at the sofa, indicating he should sit down. “So let’s talk.”

Just like that. He expected Duo to just plop down and start spilling his guts or asking questions as simple as that.

‘And why not,’ that annoying little voice was back, ‘you followed him as simple as that. Didn't see you hesitating then. So why are you hesitating now? Don’t tell me you can’t think of a thing to say? Or is it you’re afraid of what he might ask you when you’re done.’

Yeah, no doubt about it, he was well on his way to hating that voice.

Duo shrugged, his tone glib. “Sure, I never was one for small talk anyway.”

He took the pre-offered seat, staring Heero down until the vampire dropped down at the other end of the couch. The far, far end of the couch, glaring at him through mistrustful, strange eyes. ‘One of you is showing good sense,’ that annoying voice noted. ‘Too bad, it’s the predator and not the prey.’

‘But that was different, that was …’ Duo took a moment and forced himself to stop arguing with the voice inside his head. That way lay madness. Not that following a vampire halfway across town and being led into a lair was an action that pointed towards the path of sanity, but all things being equal, the former was worse. They had places for people who heard voices and argued with themselves . . . and by the time the night was through, he might be in need of one of those places, if he was alive at all.

Yet, he realized even as he thought it, that again, he didn't really fear death. Something deep inside of him, call it intuition or call it instinct, told him that if Heero had wanted him dead, he would be dead by now. Duo lived yet, so perhaps he wasn't the only one who wanted to talk or wanted to have questions answered. What questions the vampire could have for him, he didn't know, but he was curious to find out.

"You first." The words slipped out before Duo could stop them. Silly words, petty words, reminding him of children on a playground.

"Me first?" Heero phrased the question as though it was a foreign concept. "I never said that I wanted to talk."

"But you brought me here. You didn't have to. You could have left me back at the bookstore, but you didn't. You brought me here."

"It's private here."

"So are a million places we passed along the way. Why did you bring me here?"

"Why did you come?"

Impasse. “I really don’t know,” Duo said honestly. “I wanted to talk to you, to see you again.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Seemed like a good idea,” he kept his voice light, kept his mask in place. “Guess I’m a strange guy.”

“Yes.”

“What about you? You normally invite your meals home with you?”

Heero’s face darkened. “I have. They usually don’t leave though.”

"So, which one am I?"

"I haven't decided yet."

Duo stared at him. “You really know how to comfort a guy, you know that?” he replied when he finally found a voice.

“You asked,” Heero returned. “Besides, I promised you would leave here unharmed. I keep my promises.”

“I take it social skills aren’t high up on your list of important things,” Duo grinned at him, liking his bluntness in spite of the nonchalant way he tossed off threatening words. “That’s okay, I like honesty myself.”

“Do you? Then why do you lie to yourself?” Heero crossed his arms.

Duo stilled, smile still in place but his face felt stiff. “You’ve lost me.”

“Have I? What do I need to spell out for you? You claim not to lie but everything you are is a lie. You hide behind smiles and pray that no one sees how much you hurt and how much you hate. How fast you’re dying and how scared you are of that. You hide by opening your arms to the world and pretending to be something you are not.”

Each word cut and all Duo could do was sit there and feel each cut, feel the sear of the words and the blood they drew. If Heero was revenging himself in someway then he had picked a fine way to do it. Stripping away layer by layer of his armor, armor that Duo had worked years on and had fooled everyone else with, finding their mark beautifully in the tattered remains of his heart.

“But,” Heero replied, voice softer, “Pretending to be something you’re not… I know something about that.”

“Well, I guess we have something in common after all.” There was more brine in that one statement than the sea could contain. He pushed at his bangs, “Shit, man, I’m sorry. I—“

Heero shook his head. “Forget it,” he replied, curt. “What do you want to know? What I am? I think we both know that.”

“Vampire. Nosferatu. One of the blood-sucking undead,” Duo nodded, surprised that Heero actually flinched. “Tell me if I’m getting cold.”

“If you knew all that then why the hell did you follow me? Why are you here? What do you want?” The words were rushed, a catch of something making Duo look closely at his companion.

Blue fires of hunger and need bored into him, his breath catching as he felt the force of those emotions contained and suppressed but at such a terrible cost. Pain. Terrible pain. Heero was suffering. Duo started, relentless realization hitting him. Heero was in pain because of him. Even if he didn't understand all the hows and whys, he knew it to be true.

He reached out, sliding his hand over the vampire's clenched ones. Heero jerked backward, nearly bolting over the sofa. "Don't," he grated.

"I want to help."

"You can't help me," Something twisted in Heero's face, some dark and devouring need that made Duo's spine ridge.

Duo watched him, realizing that any movement towards him would likely send him running for cover. So he made himself still, his voice open and soothing. “Are you so sure of that?”

“Don’t play games with me,” Heero bit off. “Just ask your damn questions.”

Ah the moment of truth. Duo hesitated a moment, his hand still hovering in the open void. Finally, he withdrew it, clenching his fist at his side. He backed up a few paces, putting the distance between them that Heero obviously wanted, even if distance was the last thing Duo wanted. His words would have to be chosen carefully and deliberately; he didn't want to give Heero the chance to turn the question against him, or find a way to avoid answering. He couldn't afford for that to happen.

"Why," Duo looked away from the dark gaze, but then looked back just as quickly, determined to not be cowed or stared down, "did you spare me?"

Evidently it was not the question Heero had expected to hear. “W-what?”

“Why did you spare me?” The words came more quickly this time. It was the question that had preyed upon him, the question that had occupied every waking thought since his waking up in that hospital bed, IVs in his arm and Relena hovering at his bed. “I wanted to die. I wasn’t putting up a fight. You… you were going to kill me, I think, but then you didn’t. So what I want to know is why?”

“Because you weren’t ready to go.”

“What the hell does that mean?” Duo snapped. “Wasn’t I to your taste?”

Those last words tinkled in his ears, a sultry whisper of words followed by pain, a crushing force weighing on his neck and forcing the air right out of him… The moment passed and he found himself trying to swallow air, his lungs not expanding fast enough in the wake of that nightmarish wave.

Someone had him by the shoulders, tentative touches forcing him to calm down. Heero appeared suitably confused. “What the hell was that all about?” he asked.

“Damned if I know,” Duo slumped down. Hell, these days freaky shit happening to him was just par for the course. “Go on.”

“I’ve been a vampire for a long time. Longer than this city has been in existence, long before the English or the French set foot upon it in their race for land and riches. So long…” The glaze of centuries filmed those dark orbs with memory, hand tapping out some forgotten melody that only he could hear.

Duo watched him, entranced by how easily the other lost himself, more openly vulnerable now than ever. He mulled over his words, trying to imagine Heero in the silks and lace of an English gentleman of the early seventeenth century, his hair just a little longer and perhaps pulled away by a ribbon? Duo blinked, startled as the image rose, overlapping over the brooding youth. The blue eyes were perhaps just a bit brighter, merrier? And the hair… His fingers ached to touch that dark curtain of hair, stayed in place by a scrap of scarlet cloth, the blood of the cloth standing out in stark relief to the deep peacock of his coat. As he stared harder, trying to will more solidity into the flickering image, it misted away, leaving an older, harder pair of blue eyes staring back in wary concern.

“Sorry. I was just thinking,” He crushed the skin just above his eyes and nose, letting the tingling rush it produced ground him. ‘What was all that about anyway?’

"Don't."

"Think?"

"Try," Heero looked away from him for a moment, his eyes going inward as he focused his mind upon some place and time that Duo did not know and could not see. "Mortals always want to know what we were like, how we acted . . . before. Don't try to think about me like that. I'm not that person. He's dead. He has been for a very long time."

"So, who are you?"

"Death."

"Cliché."

Heero shrugged. "Maybe, but I'm hardly the giver of life. And taking it … it's an addiction." The eyes flashed with the words, and Duo was reminded that he shared the room with a predator, one of a preternatural nature who could drain the life from his body in an instance. The reminder sent a chill that went straight to his core, but not out of fear of the vampire; rather, the chill came from the knowledge that he had no fear of the vampire. That, if the moment came, he would go willing into those arms, gladly baring his neck for the intoxicating pleasure that came from the deadly embrace.

Just thinking about it, his imagination and memory melding together, caused him to shudder and force himself to keep breathing.

‘Talk,’ Duo chided himself. ‘Answers. You came here to talk. You came here for answers. Get them.’

"How did you -- how did it happen?" Duo blurted out the question, in hindsight realizing that it was probably rude, too bold and too personal. Too late though, the inquiry was out in the open, and he could feel his face warming from embarrassment.

If Heero was offended, he gave no indication. He leaned back, his eyes seeming to soften, if that was at all possible. Again, he seemed to move away from Duo, moving away from this place to a past long gone, but never wholly forgotten. "How did it happen? Would you believe that it was a woman? Or is that another cliché?"

"A woman . . . made you?"

"Among other things."

The warning timbre in his voice told Duo that the conversation about those ‘other things’ was not only out of the question but closed before it even began.

Still, driven by curiosity if not by some suicidal impulse, he pressed on with just one more question on the matter. “What was her name?”

“Hilde.” The word was wistfulness, regret, and resolve all wrapped up in one bitter pill.

There it was again. That strange, hurt feeling he had felt earlier in the bookstore at seeing the closeness between Heero and Treize. It took up residence in his chest, a hen pecking and pecking at all his sore spots until it was hard to breathe. No one had ever said his name the way Heero said this woman’s with all the shades and trembles of emotions that Duo could only hope to achieve. Hearing it from that flat monotone and the seeing the ability that name, that memory, had over him… Duo felt that pecking quickening with an emotion he was loathed to identify.

Jealousy.

He was jealous of people and place and things long dead. He was jealous of a female vampire and of the auburn-haired male he had seen earlier. And all because they had a hold over Heero, a hold that he couldn’t hope to compete with or even claim.

‘This is completely insane,’ Duo thought. That sniggling voice in his head snickered. ‘Told ya so.’

He ignored it in favor of listening as Heero continued. “We have to be careful these days. With computers and technology… It makes it harder to hide, to slip through the cracks. Even harder to feed when every body is catalogued.

“Some of us don’t. Hunt, that is. Some of us actually prefer taking their sustenance in what can be stolen from hospitals or blood banks or even from animals.”

“But not you.”

“No,” he agreed. “I still hunt. Usually junkies or winos or the living dead, those people like you who want nothing more than a release from the pain of life. The people who won’t be missed.”

“I wasn’t lying when I said you called me. I could feel your grief, your wish to die, above the thrum of the rest of humanity. I had never felt anything like. Never felt anything so strong. At the time, I didn’t question it. You were there, you were willing or so I thought.”

“So what’s different? Why did you leave?” Duo repeated, the question more insistent each time he asked it.

“You,” Heero admitted, searching his face. “You’re what’s different. I’ve been doing this for so long… Well, I know the ones who are ready to go or I thought I did. With you, I was wrong. And for that, I can’t even begin to make amends.”

Duo shook his head, braid swinging its denial. “No, you weren’t wrong. I was ready to die. I wanted to because…”

“Because you wanted your guilt assuaged,” Now Heero seemed more sympathetic. “It wasn’t your fault, you know.”

“What?”

"Those deaths." In the blinking of an eye, Heero was closer to him, having bridged the distance between them with a speed that Duo's mind could not easily register. "They live in your blood, in your soul. I tasted them. I know how much guilt they carry, and how much you carry with you."

Duo attempted to back away, but discovered that he had nowhere to go. In front of him was this perfect predator, all beauty and grace, defiant and proud; behind him, a wall, hard and cold. He shook his head in denial of the words, words he had heard far too often, "You don't know anything about me. About that. You're a vampire, not a mind reader."

"I tasted you!" With a growl, the world rushed by. One moment, Duo stood defiant and ready to argue, the next, he was pinned to the wall, Heero's hands on his arms. "Lie to them! Lie to all of them, but don't lie to me! I tasted all your guilt, all your pain, all your fear … I know you better than you know yourself and you can't lie to me."

Had Heero been human, he might have been panting, his breath falling on Duo's ears in harsh rasps. But Heero wasn't human and the only thing that betrayed the vampire's desire was the dilated set of pupils just inches from his own and the hunger he felt coming off the other in waves. Not that Heero was going with it. No, if anything, he was fighting it with everything in him. Duo studied him, letting himself go limp in the other's grasp as he assessed the situation. Heero could take him anytime he wanted to; they both knew that. He was simply stronger and faster than Duo could ever hope to be. If he fought him, it was just as likely to push the vampire over the edge and this time, Heero might really kill him without meaning to. Duo found himself strangely reluctant to die. Not now. Not after stumbling onto a world he had never dreamed existed in the familiar causeways and walks of his city. Not after seeing Heero swallow him with those eyes, eyes that called to him with their pain and set him on fire with the lust he glimpsed there. Eyes that made him tremble and shudder both inside and out as they called attention to an equally potent fire that burned within Duo's soul.

His mind flickered back as he recalled their first meeting, and try as he might, he could not repress the shiver that rippled from his toes to the roots of his hair. Recalling that night should have given him some measure of wariness, but it did not. He had wanted to die that night, but in retrospect the memories of being in Heero's arms, the cool lips attached to his throat as the vampire pulled from him the very sustenance of Duo's life, only made him grow warm with . . . hunger.

Heero was not alone in his hunger that much was certain. He wanted what Duo offered to him, but Duo wanted as well. He hadn't known until now the true reason that he followed the vampire, he hadn't realized until now that he felt something -- still faint and in descript -- but some sort of connection to this beautiful creature of darkness that now held him at arm's length.

No, that wasn't true; he had always known, deep inside, what really drove him down the paths that led to him being in this place at this time. He had known it from the moment he stood before his bathroom mirror, recreating the insistent but wonderful pressure of the vampire's bite with his fingertips. Or perhaps he had known it before then. Perhaps he had known it the moment that he saw Heero on the balcony, coming to him like a fallen angel.

"You can let me go now," Duo was breathless, but more than that, he was surprised that he found the ability to speak at all.

Relief warred with disappointment as Heero did precisely that, not only releasing Duo, but shoving him away as he took several steps backwards.

"You have your answers," Heero said his voice full of harsh edges that would cut if Duo let them. "Now, get out."

"No. I don't have all my answers. Not yet."

Heero's blue eyes flashed with open frustration. "What more do you want from me?"

It was amazing how the distance between two people could be so far and so small at the same instant. Duo gave up trying to rationalize what was happening. The truth was, he didn't know. What he did know was that Heero wanted him and that he wanted the boy, vampire or no. This was like those suicide games he had played months earlier, those flirtations with death that caught him fast and furious. One cut would bring death, the other would leave him wounded but alive. Could he give himself to Heero, knowing that he might well lose control and kill him at this stage? Could he give anyone that amount of trust again?

He answered his own questions in a few swift steps, pulling Heero towards him, and watching those winter blue eyes widen, then dilate further as he pressed urgent, open-mouthed kisses against those cold, cold lips. Hands dug into his arms, and he thought perhaps Heero was getting ready to push him away again when he felt the flick of a fang against his lower lip. Duo started then pushed onward, running his tongue with a teasing flourish at the small opening Heero was giving him. There it was again, that sharp, cutting tooth. Duo ran his tongue up and down the surface of that elongated canine. He felt Heero twitch, a trembling racking up his body then transferring to Duo's like some exotic fever. So he liked this? Duo let his tongue wander over to the twin of the tooth he was making love to, feeling another violent shiver rack Heero. Those rough hands had transferred themselves from his arms to cupping his face, his tongue sliding out to meet his. Duo let Heero conquer his mouth for a few precious moments, enjoying the feel of his cool flesh inside him. If he enjoyed that simple joining, what would it be like to take in the rest of him? Would that preternatural coolness feel good...down there as well?

Duo was determined to find out.

Tongues battling, Duo forgot about breathing, forgot about anything except clutching the back of Heero's head, fingers running through the silk curls at the base of his neck. Once again, his tongue slid against one of Heero's canines, only this time, it scored the sharp point. His tongue stung, a warm bitter liquid welling up there. Heero's tongue ran over the wound, then back down, actually lapping at the tear. Duo thrust his tongue in deeper, letting the blood drip into the vampire's waiting mouth and moaning as the other boy tried to suck his tongue right out of his head. Not that Duo was complaining. No, those moans humming into the back of Heero's throat were definitely not complaints.

This went on for a few precious seconds, then Heero pushed him back at that damnable arms-length, obviously trying to regain some semblance of control. It was hard to bear especially watching Heero lick those reddened lips and realizing that some of the color belonged to him. His blood on Heero’s lips, his taste just as deeply in the vampire’s mouth as Heero was in Duo’s. His own lips throbbed anew at the thought.

“You’ve tasted my blood again, can you really stop now?” Duo husked, passion-shook fingers tracing those bruised lips, desirous to bruise them anew. “Is that what you want?”

Heero groaned, licking at those fingers pressed against him. “What I want,” he hissed. “What I want.”

His face seemed to hollow out, eyes hardening to a jewel-like sheen, canines sharpening and protruding just enough to rest against his lower lip. Duo blinked, fascinated by the minute changes he was seeing, changes that transformed Heero’s cold aura into something violent and wild, a bloody whirlwind that could not be tamed or caught. He no longer promised death… He was death. Death in blue jeans, death peering out under scraggly bangs and watching him with such hunger that it stole his breath. It was the culmination of every death wish, every flirtation a razor against his skin.

“You want this?” Heero rasped out, each word punctuated by a growl and a shake. “Is this what you want?”

“Yes.”

The shaking stopped and he cracked his eyes to see Heero staring at him, struck and bleeding from an invisible wound. So much pain and so much wonder there. “Why?” he demanded. “Why?”

“Because you’re beautiful, because I can’t stop thinking about you, because…” The realization left him naked, open to the damage he had hid from for so long. “Because I need you.”

The admission left him empty of everything except anger. Anger that he was forced to feel these things again, that Heero had forced him to care again. He raised his fists and slammed blows against those thin immortal shoulders. They were harder than he thought, the flesh absorbing the blows without even the slightest shock wave escaping. That only made him angrier. ‘Yes, poor little human,’ it seemed to taunt, ‘what can you do? You can’t even die properly and you think you can hurt me.’ “Dammit, dammit, dammit,” he snarled. “What have you done to me! I can’t need you. I don’t need anyone. I won’t need anyone. Not ever again.”

His words were slurring, soft breaths or sobs that he would not give voice to and he crowned each with still more ineffectual blows, wondering why Heero was letting this continue. Why he didn’t just kill him and have done with it, anything to end this misery, this hopeless desire that burned in him with no twin in his companion save hunger? Well, Duo could feed him, sate his bloodlust despite his need for something more. He was reaching, for some connection, some hope and Heero held it or withheld it. He was dead without it and if Heero was going to withhold it then the least the vampire could do was end this now.

He thought that fate had heard him when the vampire at last intervened. With movements faster than his eye could discern, faster than his senses could put reason to, his rain of blows was halted and he found himself slammed roughly against the wall. Two firm, cold hands burned the skin of his arms, holding him in place and the strong, muscular body pressed tightly against his own, making him tremble with yearning rather than with fear. He could not see the vampire's eyes, could only feel Heero's closeness, the sharp fangs pressing against but not breaking the tender skin on his neck.

The fangs pressed against the healing bruises, cold tongue flickering against the rapidly pounding pulse in his throat. Duo whimpered, not from fear but from eagerness, one single whimper that drew the dark head upward from his neck and with a swiftness that denied physics his mouth was captured, a prisoner beneath that glorious mouth. He responded, anxious, eager, reaching out with all that he was -- and giving a cry of protest when his heart's desire was taken from him.

The vampire studied him, one hand tracing the curves of his cheek and jaw with a tenderness that surprised Duo, and yet it was tenderness that his body, and the long dying parts of his soul responded to.

"I was right," Heero whispered, the words spoken so softly that Duo had to strain to hear them, "you are a witch."

“Heero…”

The word fell, captured as the distance between them once again closed. He nipped and teased the mouth against his, coyly nibbling those delicious corners. Heero growled, forcing his lips to part, hands loosening on his upper arms. Now that he had freedom of movement, Duo let his hands wandering, relishing the feel of hidden muscle and sinew as his fingers traveled over arms and chest, down lower until he felt the other boy’s abdomen tremble under his touch. He turned his face, letting Heero’s mouth graze his ear as he mouthed flesh, the other boy’s scent, rich and musky like sandalwood, spearing through him, an addict’s drug of choice. He shuddered as Heero traced his ear with tongue then teeth, claiming the soft flesh and nearly engulfing the outer shell of flesh there. He mewled, clinging to the vampire as Heero touched and found more sensitive spots around and on his ear than he had thought possible.

“Not…fair…” Duo managed. “Some of us haven’t had all that much practice with our mouths.”

A deep chuckle rumbled in Heero’s chest then up until the shockwave reached Duo’s hands then up through his body to the ear Heero was lavishing so much attention on. He whimpered, thrusting his body up hard against Heero, rewarded by his lover’s sharp intake of breath. Duo took advantage of the pause, mouthing then biting down tenderly on the exposed flesh of Heero’s throat, lapping at an errant drop of sweat. He bit down just a tad harder, trying to mimick the wonderful sense of pressure he remembered from Heero’s mouth against his own throat, or his hands touching those marks.

“God, Duo.” Heero buried his hands in Duo’s increasingly loosened braid, tugging his head back. Duo met his eyes questioningly, hands bunching and unbunching the rough fabric of Heero’s shirt.

“Don’t pout,” Heero whispered, leaning forward to take Duo’s bottom lip between his teeth. A tentative, half-smile touched his face as he pulled back. “I’m just not sure how much longer I’ll be on my feet if you keep doing that.”

Drawing in a shaky breath, Duo nodded, reaching down to twine his fingers with the vampire’s and tugging him towards the couch. Heero followed, predatory grace mixing with hesitant desire, as if he himself were uncertain of what to do or what he felt. Duo squeezed their joined hands, pushing Heero down first into the sofa’s embrace. Those cobalt eyes never left him, roaming his body with a hunger he felt in himself, felt travel through their clasped hands, a bind that Heero used to tug him down until he was, somewhat awkwardly, draped atop him, limbs twining and intertwining with no end in sight.

Heero gently pried his fingers from Duo’s grasp, reaching around to snag the tail of his braid and loosening it with such gentleness that he wasn’t aware the tie was gone until his hair fell forward, heavy and free. Long fingers stroked and combed their way through his mane, massaging his scalp and neck as they separated each hair into fineness. He closed his eyes, back arching to keep in contact with that tingling, strong touch. The action caused him to buck against Heero, eyes flying open as he felt the bulge of Heero’s erection, so insistent and immediate, pressing back against him. He paused then with a sly smile, thrust downward, biting his lip to hold in his own cry of pleasure, wanting to hear Heero. He wasn’t disappointed. Heero gasped, thrusting back in an automatic response, hands clutching the ends of Duo’s hair and digging into the base of his spine.

Duo kissed him, rubbing up against him again, loving the way he trembled beneath him, friction building between them. So tight… God, he was so tight and hard. A little more movement and …

Heero caught his hips, stilling them. The loss of that wonderful friction was so sudden he pulled back, pleasure bleared violet eyes cracking open. Heero leaned up, touching lips then letting them dust Duo’s face. Meanwhile his hands were toying then popping the buttons of Duo’s shirt, so that it fell open, just a sliver of his creamy chest becoming visible. Those cool hands stroked him, feeling their way down his neck, lingering to trace each ridge and rise of his collarbone then down further, over his chest. Duo gasped, gripping Heero’s shoulders at the first feel of that cool touch against his nipple. Light and circling the outer rim, then harder, fingers pinching and pulling. Nothing however prepared him for the rub of a rough tongue against those swollen, afire nerves. Or the way his teeth closed so swift and ruthless, tiny pinpricks of color exploding behind Duo’s closed lips as he felt their sting against his flesh, the pull of Heero’s mouth. Such a sweet, sweet feeling. Duo found himself graying out, overwhelmed by such a sexual rush he was surprised he hadn’t come right then and there. It was only when Heero lifted his head and Duo caught sight of a faint red jewel still lingering on his lips that he understood what had happened. Heero had fed from him and damn him, if Duo hadn’t enjoyed it.

Inclining his head, he darted his tongue out, brazing Heero’s lips and stealing that last drop. Warm, coppery, salt, he catalogued each taste, wondering if it tasted much different to him. He met surprised midnight-smoked orbs, fascinated by how many shades there he glimpsed. Passion dark, they were just about the sexiest thing he had ever seen. But he wanted more, more than just the promise he saw there, he wanted that promise fulfilled.

“Off,” he grunted, tugging at Heero’s blue t-shirt, running his hands up velvety flesh, pale gold marble for his hands to mold and shape. He allowed Heero the opportunity to push back his loose jacket and shirt, hands splaying across his shoulder blades and spine, tracing along that cord until he was cupping Duo’s rear, kneading the flesh. Duo steadied himself, hands reaching for the button of Heero’s jeans, hesitating. A supple, reassuring hand covered his own and together they unbuttoned and unzipped, fabric sliding away. He pulled them over muscled thighs and legs, not daring to lift his eyes until he had flung them to the floor.

Before this moment, he had never seen another man naked. Oh, yeah, he’d seen himself naked but that was different. This was different and so were the feelings aroused in him. Duo realized with a start that this was the first time he’d given any thought that this was another man. Moreover, he found himself easily flinging away all conceptions of ‘proper’ sexuality. Heero was Heero and that was all that mattered.

Heero was beautiful, all sculpted planes and angles of muscle and skin that begged to be touched, with the proof of his desire standing so blatant against a thatch of glossy dark curls. Maybe Michelangelo could have sculpted better him better, but he didn’t think so.

Duo shed the rest of his clothes, khakis falling in a puddle around his ankles, head dipped and a blush spreading through his sudden self-consciousness. He peeked out from a golden brown curtain, gratified at the way Heero’s eyes stalked him. He slid down beside him, Heero catching his waist, and there was no room for thought as hands reached, yearning and finding, stroking to find just those spots. Duo reached down between their dewy flesh, wrapping nervous fingers around Heero and feeling his erection twitch and stiffen further in response. Heero groaned as he ringed the tip, teasing that reddened slit and letting his fingers coat with the pre-ejaculate there. He curling one hand around the base then sliding up, he used his other to cup and cradle Heero’s testicles together.

“Oh, God. Duo!” Heero was gripping the cushions of the chair, fabric tearing from the sound of it.

There was an explosion of movement and Duo found himself staring up at a rather dingy ceiling, water cracks drawing crazy squiggles and lines, and wondering just how he had ended up in this position. Heero leaned over him, wolfish as he claimed his mouth, tongue thrusting… Hell, his whole body was thrusting, his erection hard and hot searing Duo’s flesh as it pressed against him. His own erection throbbed in response, aching as he thrust, seeking some sort of release. Heero crawled his way down his body, mouth and hands everywhere, a wind that he could neither keep nor control. Down until…

Duo jerked upright at the first touch of Heero’s mouth against the head of his manhood. He moaned, thrusting up, enveloped by a cold, slick cavern and not finding it a deterrent in the slightest. Heero’s tongue traced up the length of his erection, applying pressure then denying it whenever Duo felt close. And it really didn’t help when he started stroking the inside of his thighs, feather touches to tease and torment. Coupled with that endless suction, the way Heero’s tongue beat against him, Duo felt himself tightening, moving inexorably towards climax. A climax that hit him as Heero’s fang gently scraped the edges of his length.

“Heero,” he cried, hands digging into that dark tousled head, feeling those lips move around him still, milking him until he was dry but hungry. Oh, God, would this hunger ever end?

As if in response to that thought, Heero lifted his head, eyes wild with the hunger Duo felt, feral-seeming as those dark locks half hid his eyes, a light sheen of sweat and the scent of sex covering him…covering them both. In spite of himself, Duo felt himself twitch again at the sight and Heero smirked.

“Ohmigod,” Duo groaned, reacting more to sight of that damn sexy smirk than the gentle kisses Heero was sprinkling along his abdomen and lower body. “You’re evil, you know that. You…”

That damn smirk widened just a bit and Heero licked his fingers, slowly, just enough so that Duo was forced to stop and watch wide-eyed, each touch, each coat of saliva and fluid against tawny flesh. With his unoccupied hand, he spread Duo’s legs further, rubbing comforting circles there.

“Have you ever…?” Heero let the question hang but Duo caught his drift immediately and felt his skin warm anew.

He shook his head.

“You might want to brace yourself,” Heero said apologetically. “This may hurt just a little.”

Duo gripped the arm and sides of the couch, much as Heero had earlier, and tried not to tense as he felt Heero’s hands quest downward, circling that ring of tight muscle. Closing his eyes and sucking a breath, Duo forced himself to relax. It was hard, harder still at the first burning penetration of Heero’s finger. He let go of a hissing breath, back arching, trying to back away from that invasive presence. Heero shushed him, cupping his face and deepening their kiss as his finger quested deeper. He took it slow, giving Duo time to adjust but he wasn’t used to this… Duo cried against their mouths as another finger joined the first, both burrowing deeper, searching as the burning in Duo’s body hit a fever pitch. Then Heero found it. Duo wasn’t sure what it was, something in him, some button or tab or something. Whatever it was, it made him see sparks and forget about wriggling away. Instead, he found himself pushing against those fingers, against the third one added, closing his legs and trying to draw them deeper.

He didn’t bother to stifle his disappointment as Heero pulled away, the wonderful pressure being created in him stilled. He reached out, determined to keep going when he found some harder and infinitely larger than a finger at his entrance. Heero stroked his hair, leaning down to whisper in his ear, soft sounds, perhaps words. He was too caught in the feel of being entered, of Heero’s cock pressing in him, further and further until his skin met that of Heero’s thighs. Duo let his back bow, languishing under the feeling of Heero, lost in the sounds of mixed groans and growls filling his ears. He spread his legs wider, forcing them to wrap around Heero’s slender waist and drawing him in.

Steadying himself, Heero began to thrust, shallowly at first, then picking up speed, drawing each thrust out until Duo thought he might scream before Heero moved again. He drew out until he was practically disengaged, then slammed back into Duo’s willing body, a body that rose to meet every thrust, as Duo scraped and clawed at his back. Heero sat back, pulling Duo with him until he was riding the vampire, setting his own pace and his hair bouncing with each beat of their lovemaking. Lips found lips, and Duo was the first to turn from that, feeling Heero’s mouth blaze down his neck, licking and sucking at the flesh there. Then he bit, flesh giving way before his advance as Duo’s body had. Duo dug his hands into the nape of Heero’s neck, lifting his face and continuing the relentless pace, the feeling of Heero’s cock inside him, stroking and pounding him with the added feeling of the delicious pressure of Heero’s mouth… He felt himself climaxing again for the second time that evening. He tightened around Heero, feeling a pulse then felt the other boy’s head hit his shoulder, body shuddering with his own release.

Duo was riding on pure sensation now, sagging limply against his lover and feeling him nuzzle his neck as he thrust a few precious seconds more before they both settled, minute tremors racking both of them, echoed by their joined flesh. Duo lifted Heero’s head, cradling his jaw and kissing him, once, twice before leaning forward and letting himself hang off of him, too exhausted to do much else. Strong arms wrapped around him, steadying him as they fell backward against the couch eliciting a soft creak from the ancient chair.

He had his answers now. More answers than he knew what to do with, and answers that only brought with them more questions. But those questions could wait until later. Everything could, and would wait until later.

He had everything he needed for the moment.

***

Green eyes stared at the building, listening with sensitive ears as the sounds of sex died away, leaving only the beat of a heart slowing with sleep, a mind radiating security and peace. He understood Hilde’s and Heero’s interest in this human. He was quite strong, quite extraordinary in his boldness. He had taken a gamble tonight and only luck had seen him safely through. Whether that would continue… Trowa shrugged. That was Hilde’s affair. He glanced at the sky, tasted the remains of the night. If he hurried, he had just enough time to get back and report this new development to her and return to his planetarium.

***end

I sense a sequel coming on....

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