9-18-1999

Warning: The characters belong to who they belong to and not me. Don't sue me, I'm not worth your time. Special thanks to Laurell K. Hamilton for writing the Anita Blake novels.

Addtional warning: Characters acting wildly OOC. You have been warned.

Additional Additional warning: Alternate reality fic. Events that have happened or will happen in this reality not necessarily connected to what happened in the real series in any way. Don't wave the time line at me, I am beyond it now. A HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

Additional Additional Additional warning: Extreme supernatural action. Supernatural abilities are as defined by me in the shadow world, where this takes place.

Additional Additional Additional Additional Warning: Story contains Yaoi, Bad language, violence, and pretty much everything deemed as "unwholesome" by Focus on the Family. (My Arch Nemesis...) If you are easily offended, do not read. Also, extra warning is attached to this due to the "YUCK!" factor during some scenes.

 

Acherontia Atropos IX

 

After our little encounter with Carmen in the happy hentai land known as Carmenlita's, we went back to the dorms with all possible speed. I guess we were just eager to get back to a place where things made sense and were relatively non-threatening. It's pretty sad when you want to be in your dorm room because it's better than the alternative.

Then again, the alternative was pretty nasty. It was dark by the time we emerged from the basement of Carmelita's. I'd thought it was creepy in the day time. At night, it was just scary. There were all sorts of interesting people gathered up on the main floor. Most of them were wearing long coats and had hats with the brims pulled low to cover their eyes. Every time one of them moved, it was accompanied by that soft kind of creaking sound that shiny new leather makes. When we pushed our way through that friendly little crowd, a few of them pressed in a little too close for comfort. At first, we all tried to ignore them. Then, some enterprising little soul grabbed Wufei's bottom. I've never heard Wufei make a sound quite like that before.

I've also never heard anyone make sounds quite like what that guy made when Wufei snap kicked him in the crotch, then applied a swift knife hand to the side of his neck.

Hara showed up right after that and cleared a path so she could throw us out of the shop. It was something of a relief.

As I watched Hara's barely-clad derriere retreat back into the shop, I couldn't help but hope that Carmen was kidding about her being a high witch. It didn't seem right, somehow. Not that Carmen really fit my idea of a witch, either. Witches were supposed to be more...something. I don't know.

Wufei was understandably kind of upset once we'd gotten back to the dorms, though he'd managed to maintain an even strain until then. Quatre went right back to his room; I think he was a little disturbed by everything and wanted to think about it. That left me to soothe Wufei's extremely ruffled--er--tail feathers, and as much as I like Wufei, that's still not exactly quite my idea of a good time. It took nearly two hours to get him calmed down enough for a coherent conversation, and after that, it took still more work to get him wound down far enough for bed. I guess it was the first time that he'd ever gotten grabbed. I wasn't certain if I should be surprised or not.

By the time I had Wufei safely tucked in and crept my tired way back to my room, it was well after midnight and I was feeling pretty damn tired. I couldn't even go back to my room through the hall; I knew that there were teachers and administrators patrolling, so I had to go back by way of the window. That ledge might have been a piece of cake in full light when I was fresh from bed, but it wasn't nearly as much fun in the dark when I was so tired that I was seeing cross-eyed. Not to say that it wasn't easy. It just wasn't any fun.

Heero was back. The room was illuminated with the soft, faintly blue-tinted glow of the evil machine's screen, and he was seated in front of it, as always. The gentle light from the laptop softened the angles of his face until, for a moment, he didn't look like a soldier any more. He looked like just another guy my age, and he was absolutely beautiful. I sat on the window ledge for a long moment and just looked at him. Then I started shivering. It was pretty chilly, and I really didn't think that any view was worth freezing my ass off out on the ledge, no matter how nice the view was, so I opened the window and went inside.

The laptop screen went abtuptly blank and Heero looked up. "You're back late." he remarked.

I hopped through the window and shut it quickly behind me. Damn, I was freezing. I grabbed the blanket off of my bed and tried to play it nonchalant. "Yeah, had to get Wufei tucked in." My shoulder rig wouldn't settle comfortably under the blanket, so I took it off and dumped it under my bed.

"Really." Heero shot me an intense, unreadable look.

"It's been an interesting night." Poke, poke, poke. I wrapped the blanket around myself and settled down on my bed.

Heero glared at me. "It must have been. You smell bad."

"Jerk." I took a cautious sniff. I did, indeed, smell of eau d' Carmelita's. Ugh. And I was getting the smell all over my nice clean blanket. Double ugh. "Look at that. You're right for once." Not exactly the snappiest come back I've ever said, but it was the best I could think of at the time. I stood and ditched the blanket, then trundled over to the bathroom. "I'm taking a shower."

"Good."

I sneered at Heero before slamming the bathroom door behind me. The effect was, of course, lost in the darkness, which was a shame, because it was one of the best sneers I'd ever done.

***

Some days I wonder if it is possible to die from chronic sleep shortage. This was one of those days. I'd gotten about three hours of bad sleep, mostly because I was busy brooding over what Carmen could have meant by telling me I'd be sorry. If she'd meant to make me feel paranoid, it certainly had the desired effect.

By the time it hit morning, though, I was feeling too tired to be high strung. Normally, getting shorted on sleep wouldn't bother me in the slightest, but lately I'd been feeling drained, probably because of all the injuries I'd been getting. Whatever the reason, it took me four cups of coffee before I was feeling remotely human, and it was still a pretty shaky kind of human. I'd had a hard time finding my way to the cafeteria, since my eyes were glued shut.

"Ohaiyo, Duo!" Quatre sang out. Quatre is, obviously, a morning person. Sometimes I wonder how the hell we manage to be friends. If he were anyone else, I would have killed him a long time ago.

I grunted as he set his tray down and took the seat across from me, still smiling cheerfully. He'd obviously recovered from the disturbance that our adventure at Carmelita's had caused. Either that, or he was feeling good because Trowa had made it back in one piece, again. I was betting on number two. Sometimes I wonder how Trowa can manage to not notice how brightly Quatre lights up when he's around. If I knew, I'd probably also be able to understand Heero's attitude toward me. I wish.

Quatre started to tear into plethora of food that was laid out on his tray with a great deal of gusto. I did my best not to watch. There's something about eating food in the morning that's just wrong. I'll pig out any other time of the day, but when it comes to breakfast, the thought of food makes me feel mildly ill. I'm lucky if I can manage to choke down toast. So I drank my coffee and did my best to not see Quatre oinking down an entire plateful of slightly runny, bright yellow school cafeteria scrambled eggs. I don't know how he manages to eat so much and still stay skinny and little. If that old saying was true, and you are what you eat, Quatre would be a full blown supermarket with extra large tea isle and dairy section.

After I finished off my second cup of coffee, I was feeling human enough to attempt coherent speach. "You're in an unusually good mood this morning, Quatre." I said. My voice was gravelly in my ears. I hate morning voice.[1]

He paused mid-forkfull and smiled brightly at me. The eggs were quivering rather gelatinously on his upraised fork. I looked away. "Am I?" He asked, a little surprised.

"Yeah." I nodded and took a slurp of my third cup of coffee. Three sugars and four creams. It was like drinking melted espresso ice cream. Yum. Wufei had just wandered into the cafeteria, looking about as awake as I felt. I waved at him, and he headed over. Unlike Heero and Trowa, we didn't have early classes, so we normally ate together. Well, to put it more accurately, Quatre ate and Wufei and I watched him. Wufei seemed to share my aversion to even the thought of food in the morning. He usually just had some tea, or if he was feeling unusually hungry or awake, a little bowl of rice.

It must have been one of those unusual days, because he went through the food line and got himself a tiny bowl of rice and a very large mug of tea before he came over and sat down next to Quatre. He curled a lip eloquently at the plateful of eggs that Quatre was halfway through demolishing. I nodded and made a face back, while Quatre continued to snarf on obliviously.

Quatre paused again. "Actually, I think you're right. I am in a good mood."

I almost choked on my coffee. Wufei made a quiet snorting sound and succeeded in blowing bubbles in his tea.

"Trowa was in our room when we got back." He smiled and started eating again.

I recovered before Wufei, hope for Quatre suddenly flaring in my heart. "And?"

He paused. "And what?"

"And what happened?" I felt like crawling over the table and strangling the answer out of him. Sometimes I wonder if Quatre really is as innocent as he acts, or if it is just an act, designed to drive me absolutely bonkers. I was really starting to go for option two. No one can be that innocent.

"Oh, he said that he missed me." Quatre grinned.

I almost dropped my coffe cup. Just almost, though. I'd never let a cup of coffee go to waste like that. "That's it?"

"It's an improvement." Quatre pointed out, raising one of his eyebrows. Ok, maybe someone can be that innocent.

"True." I nodded.

Quatre went back to eating his breakfast, I went back to drinking my coffee. Wufei, who had remained wisely silent throughout the entire exchange, just shook his head slowly and kept picking at his bowl of rice.

***

The breakfast cups of coffee had finally started to kick in by the time I went to my first class. I was awake enough to make myself reasonably presentable, which is to say that my shirt was tucked in most of the way and my tie was laying almost flat in the general area that it was supposed to be in. I hadn't bothered with the gun, even though I was pretty sure that I could have hidden the shoulder rig under my uniform jacket without it making too obvious a lump. I wasn't that paranoid yet.

Class was just about ready to start when I got there, though I wasn't the last one to get in. A girl wandered in after me. She was wearing a white turtleneck shirt under her regular button shirt, which I could understand, considering that the day was fairly chilly and some thoughtful soul had left all the classroom's windows open, probably overnight. I kind of wished that I had a turtleneck myself.

The teacher came in and we'd all just about settled down to an oh-so-fascincating discussion about differential equations when there was a polite knock on the classroom door. Not something that normally happened. The teacher opened and lo and behold, one of the school guidance counselors, a mousy little man that whose name I could even remember, was revealed.

I instantly had a bad feeling. According to my experience, the guidance counselors tended to keep to themselves. My theory was that they didn't like reality encroaching in on their little world, where kids have conflict resolution sessions instead of fights.

Not that I don't trust counselors or anything.

My worst fears were immediately confirmed when the little mousy guy said, "We need to see Duo Maxwell, please."

This could only be about one thing. I'd thought that the counselors had given up yesterday after I bailed out of my window. I'd underestimated them, my bad. I glanced at the window. The classroom was on the first story. It would be easy. Unfortunately, I was seated far enough away from the window that I didn't have a clear escape route. Damn the calculus teacher and his obsession with alphabetical seating anyway.

I quickly ran over the options. I could make a break for it, probably get caught and hauled off, or I could willingly go with them into the jaws of hell.

Gee, tough choice there.

I slid out of my seat and skittered toward the window, keeping as low as possible. On the way there, I went by Heero’s desk. He gave me a look that said he thought I was being very stupid in no uncertain terms. I ignored him. Almost there…the window went up easily, and I had one leg over the sill—

"Maxwell get away from the window and come to the front of the classroom, please."

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck…

I didn't have a lot of choice. I got up and slouched to the front of the classroom with my hands stuffed firmly in my pockets. The mousy counselor guy waved me on, and I followed him out of the classroom and down the hall to the lair of the guidance counselors.

Next thing, I was seated in front of the rather large and imposing wood desk of a rather large and unimposing woman that was introduced to me as Mimura-san. She was very big, at least by my standards. She had to be at least twenty centimeters taller than me, and her shoulders were twice as broad as mine. Her hair was iron grey and pulled back so tightly that all I could think of was Wufei's little pony tail. Except not as friendly. Still, she didn't really intimidate me, because she was a little too--to put it politely--rounded to look threatening.

The polite, blank look and her eyes and the much too understanding smile that she seemed to have permanently fixed on her face didn't really help the look either, though. I wondered if she'd had to practice her smile in the mirror in order to get just the right amount of detached, superior sympathy into it.

The mousy counselor disappeared quickly after the introductions were complete, leaving me alone with Mimura. She smiled politely at me. "I suppose you're wondering why we pulled you out of your class, Duo."

Actually, I wasn't. But I didn't bother saying anything. I had a feeling that this was a memorized speech for her, and didn't really need my input. So I just sat up straight in my chair and smiled vacuously at her. That's me, Duo Maxwell, the perfect student. Trust me.

"We were told that you were one of Yan's close friends, and we thought that it would be a good idea to have a little talk with you, just to make sure you're doing alright after such a tragedy. Unfortunately, you weren't in your room yesterday, so we had to pull you out of class. This is very important, Duo."

I nodded and kept smiling.

"Grief is a natural part of losing someone. Now, I know that there is a lot of pressure, especially among men of your age group, to keep that grief bottled up inside and present a good face to the world. It's perfectly alright to let it out, though, Duo. That's what we're here for…blah blah blah…" [2]

For a moment, I considered dredging up some fake tears, because maybe she'd let me go sooner. I didn't feel up to it, though, and I didn't have enough stored up emotion to pull it off anyway. I was too angry over the entire thing. So I settled for neutrality. "I understand, Mimura-san."

She'd obviously been expecting me to break down and cry or something. Her smile stiffened a little. "One of the other students saw you climb out of your window yesterday, Duo. Were you running away from us?"

Shit. If I could find who'd squealed on me, I'd give them a piece of my mind. A LARGE piece. Since my little escape out the window couldn't possibly be interpreted as anything else, I decided to be honest. "Yes I was."

"Why?"

"I don't feel like talking." I shrugged.

"Now, Duo." Mimura grabbed a pencil off of her desk and absently began rolling it between her pudgy fingers. "It's not healthy to keep your feelings bottled up inside. You need to let them out…blah blah blah…"

I had to disagree with her there. Killing someone and ending up in jail didn't sound real healthy to me.

"Why are you so afraid to admit that you feel pain and loss over the death of your friend?"

It was true, I did feel a little upset about Yan dying...but in my experience, it happened all the time and there wasn't a lot to be done about it. I was planning to take care of the things that had killed him, so no problem. I couldn't very well tell a psychiatrist that, though. Not if I wanted to stay out of the looney bin. Besides, her superior attitude was really pissing me off. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I can't stand it when someone acts like they know everything. "I'm not afraid to admit that I'm upset. I just don't feel like talking about it."

"Now, Duo..."

I sighed. "Why do you find it so hard to believe that I'm ok? I am, you know." I stood up. They couldn't really do anything to stop me from leaving, and I didn't feel up to putting up with this shit.

Mimura's lips compressed, and she looked at me piercingly for a moment. "Fine, Duo. You know where to find us if you change your mind. Don't be afraid to express yourself…blah blah blah…"

"I am expressing myself." I don't know why I was bothering to argue. Maybe I am a masochist.

"I don't understand how you can hide your true feelings like this."

I pulled the door open. That was it. "I am not hiding my true feelings. Death happens, Mimura. It sucks, but there's no point in useless chest beating because it won't bring anyone back. Besides, " I added, without really thinking it through, "I've got it taken care of. This will all be over real soon." I hoped.

I heard a sound behind me. Mimura had dropped her pencil.

Quickly, I ran over the last bit I'd said and tried to think about it impartially.

Oh shit...had I really said that? I let out a very soft, exasperated sigh, and resisted the temptation to bonk my head against the wall. "Duo no baka..." I muttered softly. Me and my big mouth

"Duo, I think you'd better sit down. It seems that we still have some issues to work out."

I knew that I couldn't escape now. So I closed the door and sat. Mimura fixed me with a look that was about on the level of Heero's death glares, as far as intensity goes.

"Duo, you are a very bright young man. You have a lot of friends, you're doing very well in your classes...blah blah blah…"

I wondered since when did sliding through count as doing very well. I had a feeling that good ol' Mimura hadn't done her homework.

"...and you're extremely popular with the girls in your age group. I'm sure you have several dying to go out with you…blah blah blah…"

Well...she was probably right on that one. I idly wondered what Mimura would do if I told her I wasn't interested in going out with girls. Now, my roommate...I quickly discarded that idea. It would certainly change the topic of the conversation, but I had a feeling that it would have been out of the frying pan and into the fire. I really didn't need a lecture from some quack on proper sexual roles.

"You have so much to lose. There is no need to be self destructive…yaddah yaddah yaddah…"

Funny that she was saying that to a Gundam Pilot. I had to fight off the urge to laugh. Somehow, I had a feeling that she would take it the wrong way. So I plastered my most disarming grin on my face. "I don't suppose you would believe me if I said that you completely misunderstood what I said and I have absolutely no intention of being self destructive." It was true. Being self destructive when piloting Deathscythe was a whole different matter entirely. I had no intention of doing anything stupid in normal life.

She eyed me disbelievingly. "Denial is an ugly thing, Duo."

So much for honesty. I had a feeling that this was going to take a while.

***

It was after dinner before I managed to extricate myself from Mimura's office. My poor hand was cramping up so horribly that I was afraid I'd never be able to straighten my fingers. That stupid...PSYCHO had made me write a twenty page essay on how I had so much to live for and would promise not to kill myself no matter what. Basically, she stood over my shoulder and dictated to me, then hovered until I signed it.

ARGH!

Heero was sitting at the desk, working on the laptop as always when I flung the door open. "You're back late."

I glared at him. He actually blanched slightly. I cradled my screaming hand against my chest and slammed the door as hard as I could. The window rattled.

Heero recovered from quickly from my glare and raised an eyebrow.

"Don't even THINK about asking." I snarled before stalking to the bathroom with the intention of soaking my hand in warm water so it would loosen up a bit. I slammed the bathroom door, too. It felt really good. So I opened the door back up and slammed it again. I glared at my own reflection in the bathroom mirror for a moment. I was actually breathing hard, and my hair was frizzing out like I was pulling in a major static charge. I had the gleam in my eye that I've only seen before in pictures of me when I'm fresh out of Deathscythe's cockpit.

With a great deal of deliberation, I opened the bathroom door, and then slammed it again. Harder. The doorframe cracked loudly, and I grinned, imagining that Mimura's face had been there.

No, Mimura-san, I am not feeling even remotely suicidal.

Homicidal, though, that's a different matter entirely...

---

[1] Yes, morning voice. I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but when I first get up, my voice is about half an octave lower than normal, and rather gravelly to boot. Every time I answer the phone straight out of bed, the person on the other end always ALWAYS asks me if I'm ok. I'm normally hard pressed to be polite. ^_^

[2] Trust me. After someone's spouted edu/psycho-babble at you for a couple of minutes, you start fading in and out and only really listening to them with half an ear, and it sounds kind of like that. ^_^