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. Hamiltonfor 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.

Additional...Oh, HELL With It Warning: This is not an Anita Blake crossover, per se. Sorry if anyone's been misled. For more details about the universe this takes place in, contact me about the shadow world.

 

Acherontia Atropos Part XII

 

As exhausted as I was, I didn't sleep well or long. I'd been put completely off balance. I've always been a light sleeper--you can't survive on the street or as a terrorist if you aren't, really. Normally, though, my brain acts as a pretty good filter and I only wake up if I hear something suspicious. This time was different, though. Every little sound that I heard made me struggle for wakefulness, my body readying for a fight or flight response.

And the nightmares. Oh god...the nightmares. So much for dreams not bothering me any more.

Every time I began to wake, though, someone was there, either sitting by my bed or even laying next to me to reassure me that I was safe and could go back to sleep. I know Wufei took his turn, because I once again woke to the sound of him quietly reading to me in Chinese. Another time, I started to struggle into wakefulness and I heard someone speaking a comforting, even blur of words that sounded like a prayer. The familiar sound of it calmed me.

I woke up for good when the world outside my window was just starting to lighten. I don't see sunrise very often, and when I do, it's always from the wrong end. So it wasn't a very welcome sight. Some people say that things will always look better in the morning. That's bullshit. I was just as scared as I had been when I went to sleep. The only improvement was that I wasn't freezing my ass off any more.

I shuddered and sat up quickly, rubbing my bare arms. I was breathing heavily, like I'd been running or something, and I could feel beads of sweat running down my forehead. That last nightmare had certainly been interesting. Like an instant replay of the fun and games yesterday, but with Quatre and Trowa and Heero and Wufei instead of the other students. Lovely.

I covered my mouth and manfully fought off the urge to retch. Throwing up wasn't going to do anything for me other than make me feel more shitty, especially since I didn't have anything in my stomach. No, what I really wanted was to take a shower and just wash away all the dirt that yesterday had put there...those hands...

Unfortunately, I had the feeling that it wasn't filth I could just wash away. I wasn't sure if I'd ever be clean again.

At that thought, I did retch. Immediately, there was a soft rustle from the vicinity of Heero's bed and then a cool hand touched my forehead. I closed my eyes as the person's arm was wrapped around my waist.

"Calm down." Heero's voice said quietly by my ear. "You're starting to hyperventilate again."

I did my best to nod and concentrated on my breathing. In and out. Slow and steady. Focus in on the sound of your own heartbeat, and listen to it until it slows down. Feel every individual muscle in your body and make them all relax, one by one. The entire touchy-feely-one-with-the-universe routine that Wufei had taught me a couple months back was tedious, boring, and just what I needed. It got my mind off of my nightmares and washed away all my thoughts while I concentrated on just controlling my own body. It took a while before I had everything back to normal, though. I was having a hard time concentrating.

Heero backed off as soon as I had everything under control again. He handed me a cup of water and sat down on the wooden chair that was still in its eternal place beside my bed. For a long moment, I just stared into the water, like I thought I was going to find answers or some kind of weird salvation in it. No such luck. I took a cautious sip. The water was warm; I guess it'd been sitting out for a while.

After I'd finished attempting to communicate with the spirit of the glass of water, Heero spoke up. "Daijoubu ka." Was all he said.

I snorted and inhaled some of the water, then coughed it out. After that little bit of excitement was over, I started laughing. "Why does everyone keep asking me that?" I asked through my giggles. They weren't the healthiest sounding giggles. My voice isn't normally that high-pitched. "The answer's pretty damn obvious, isn't it?"

"Aa." Heero said.

I made myself stop laughing by running through Wufei's touchy-feely routine again. Hey, becoming one with the universe is harder than it sounds. Really, though, it was a good exercise, and I shouldn't make fun of Wufei like that. Not that I was going to stop or anything, though. I finished the water off in a couple of gulps and then let my hands drop to my lap, still holding the cup. I could feel a little breeze where no breeze had gone before, and I adjusted the blanket with one hand before I went back to holding the cup. Silly, I know. Yesterday, I'd been wearing a whole lot less than a blanket in front of Heero and Quatre, not to mention crying like a baby. Dignity's dignity, though. I only had a couple pathetic shreds left, but I was going to hold on to those with a death grip. Besides, being naked in front of your friends while you're halfway to freezing to death and completely incoherent is one thing. Being naked in front of your friends when you're in full possession of your faculties is another.

Not that I thought Heero would agree with me if I claimed to be in full possession of my faculties, though. I wasn't so sure if I believed it, myself.

The silence stretched out longer and longer between us. I slowly turned the cup in my hands, concentrating on the smooth, clean texture of the glass underneath my fingers. I could see the distorted reflection of my hands on it.

Finally, I couldn't take it any longer and turned to look at Heero. He was staring at me, completely frozen.

"What? Do I have something on my face?" I asked with a nervous laugh. I wasn't quite sure what to do.

Heero reached out and grabbed my left wrist, pulling my arm toward him. I jerked at the touch and had to put a lot of effort into not pulling away. The occasions when Heero touches me were too rare to waste, as far as I was concerned, no matter how much they might freak me out. I concentrated on the fact that it was Heero who had a firm grip on my wrist, not anyone else.

As soon as I was done fighting down the bout of panic that being grabbed had caused, I brought my focus back onto him. He was staring down at my arm. "What are you looking at?" I asked, then looked down, a little curious. My wrist looked extremely delicate against his hand. I was wiry rather than outright muscular, unlike Heero, so I'd always look like a peanut next to him. I had a couple fading bruises and healing scrapes on the inside of my arm. There were some old scars, too. Nothing interesting as far as I could see. Nothing new.

I blinked with confusion, then realized what Heero must be looking at. One long, thin scar ran halfway up my lower arm, starting at my wrist. It had faded now, but it was still pretty visible against my skin; shiny white and puckered. "You haven't seen them before, have you?" I asked quietly. When Heero had...come back...I'd still been wearing bandages. I'd graduated straight to long sleeved shirts and hadn't worn anything else since then. People tended to get disconcerted when they saw my scars, especially when they were still pretty pink and new, and hell, I'll admit, they disconcerted me too. Long sleeved shirts were my friends. So it was quite conceivable that Heero hadn't really seen them until now.

He touched my arm with his other hand, and gently traced the line of the scar with his fingertips. It tingled.

That, I couldn't quite handle. I pulled my wrist out of his grasp as quickly as possible, and wonder of wonders, he let go.

He looked up at me. "You cut along the vein." was all he said.

I nodded. "I try to do things right whenever the opportunity presents itself."

That got the desired reaction from Heero. He snorted, and the intensity in his eyes faded back to normal levels. "I...don't remember." He said tonelessly.

"That's not surprising." I shrugged. "Don't worry about it. You're alive, I'm alive, so everything's ok, at least for now." /I wish./

He looked up at me. "Why?"

I knew what he meant, and I shrugged again. "I can't really say. I wasn't exactly myself right then. And I don't like to think about it too much now. You're here, so I don't have to remember."

He shook his head. "Are you going to be alight?"

I hugged my knees to my chest, fighting off the cold that was creeping up on me. "I don't know." I mumbled. I just wanted to forget what had happened.

"Do you want to talk?"

The irony was a little much. Heero asking me to talk. I didn't laugh, though. I just didn't feel up to it. In fact, I didn't feel like anything at all. "No. I don't even want to think about it. Ever."

He didn't push the point. If I had been able to feel anything, I would have been relieved. At this point in time, I just didn't care. Instead, he shifted so he could dig around in his pocket. "I almost forgot..." he said, then held a hand out. "Here."

I grinned. It felt good that I had something to grin about. "Thank you!" I said, and grabbed the cross that was dangling from between his fingers. I hadn't even really thought of it until now, but I felt a small part of my anxiety go away. It was easy to slip the chain over my head, and my braid didn't even catch in it too badly. The cross settled against my chest comfortably. It was warm from being in Heero's pocket. "Thank you." I said again.

"I found it in the parking lot." He shrugged. "I thought you'd need it. We're going to go hunting tonight."

I looked up quickly, suddenly feeling cold. "What??" This wasn't happening. No. Bad Heero.

"The mission is getting too intense. We need to finish it now."

Heero was certainly back to normal, like he hadn't been acting at all strange a moment before. He had that good old "ninmu" glint in his eye. I shook my head. "Count me out." Nuh uh. No way in hell, you little son of a bitch.

You would have thought that I'd said the sky was green, the way he looked at me. "What?"

"I said no. I couldn't stand up against what they sent after me yesterday. There's no way I'm going to be effective against them. I'm too scared." I said. That's me, Duo the logical. No, Duo the freaked.

"They were playing head games with you." Heero shrugged.

I nodded in agreement. "They won." Surprise, surprise. Duo has left the building.

Heero's eyebrows raised. "That's it?"

"Yeah, that's it. I'm scared, I'm sick, and I'm not playing any more. I'm not going to be able to beat them." /So why should I try?/

The eyebrows cranked up a notch higher. "That's not like you."

"I'm having a bad fucking week." I couldn't tell him the real reason why I was so scared. I could still feel that vampire's power dancing across my skin, and I remembered how good it felt. I didn't want to get any close than that, because I might not be able to say 'no' again. I couldn't tell Heero that, though. No, I couldn't. And to be totally truthful, I had punted. I didn't want to deal with it. I just wanted to crawl into a little hole and bury myself so that no one would ever find me again.

"Fine." Heero said.

"Fine?" I blinked. I'd been expecting more of an argument.

"Fine." He said again. "We'll leave you here, and Wufei as well in case they come back." He stood up. I could tell that he was angry, even though he was hiding it behind the usual cold Perfect Soldier Mask. Not that I cared. No matter how pissy he got, I was not doing this.

"You're still going against them?" Now I was shocked. I knew he was suicidal, but...stupid?

"Yes." He said, looking at me coolly. "We can't fail." With that, he quietly stormed out. I just watched him go, torn between fear and anger. That had HURT. No matter what, though, I knew that I couldn't go up against the vampires. I was too weak. One little round of mental toying, and I lost it. I'd brought it on myself. I'd been overconfident, even after I'd seen them kill Yan.

I stayed in my room the rest of the day. Heero didn't come back.

***

Heero still hadn't come back when I went to sleep. He and Quatre and Trowa were already out hunting, I guessed. For a long time, I just lay in bed and stared at the ceiling and tried not to think of all the things that could happen to them. They probably wouldn't find the vampires, since we still didn't know where to look. Yeah. That's right. Who was I trying to fool?

I rolled over and put my pillow over my head and tried not to think at all. If anything happened, it would be my fault. Hell, if anything DIDN'T happen, it would still be my fault.

I fought off the urge to cry. It wouldn't do any good. Even if I could manage to pull it together, I wouldn't be able to find them now. They had way too much lead time on me.

Who the hell was I kidding? It wasn't like I could make myself get up and go after them to begin with.

What kind of friend was I, that I would just turn my back at the first sign of something bad? Maybe that was why everything I loved always left me in the end. I was too weak to hold on to it

Maybe I was getting punished for not having enough faith.

I growled into the mattress and cut off that train of thought. Damnit, I wasn't going to accomplish anything like that.

My back muscles started protesting loudly as I got tenser and tenser while my thoughts ran around in an unhappy little circle. Finally, I curled up in a little ball, cocooned myself in the blankets and just let the world go on its merry way without me. I lay there with my pillow still over my head until I fell into an uneasy sleep.

I dreamed, again. I was at the edge of the forest, kneeling in the bloody mud where Yan had been killed. His body was laying there, pale in the moonlight. I could see a white glitter in the ruin where his throat used to be. His spine. I got up to go back to the dorms, but when I turned around, the school wasn't there. It was the ruins of Maxwell Church. I could see the twisted bodies wrapped around stone and wood and steel, littered with sharp glass shards. There was blood everywhere. I could hear the flies buzzing thickly, see them flying above the corpses in dense black clouds. Some circled around me, then landed at my feet where blood was dripping from my pants onto the ground. The started to drink it off of the ragged stone.

I'd done this. It was mine. It was my home.

I was Death.

I walked through the ruins and looked over the destruction that I had brought down. There was a child laying face down on what was left of a wall with blood running out from under its--his--face. I knew that if I turned him over, he wouldn't have a face, only a huge bullet exit wound. Further along, I could see a nun spread eagled on the ground. I'd been through this old dream, half memory and half guilty vision, so many times that I didn't even have to look at it any more to know where each body was. I'd learned not to step in the dream blood a long time ago; it was always tacky and would stick to my shoes, and then the flies would all converge on me and try to settle on my legs.

I stopped by the body of another little boy. He looked a lot like Yan. His chest was riddled with tiny bullet entry wounds. I knew that if I turned him over, he didn't have a back left. But his face was still perfect and uninjured, only splattered with a little blood. If you just looked at his face, you'd believe that he would open his eyes at any moment, and smile at you, and ask you why you were so upset. Shit.

Yan had looked like that.

Yan. Another person that I'd killed.

Yan.

Something was wrong, very wrong, out of kilter. I was smelling something. It wasn't the thirsty coppery scent of freshly spilled blood, but instead the gagging, clinging stench of flesh that was just beginning to rot. It sat, sickly-sweet, on the back of my tongue, making me want to retch. Dreams weren't supposed to smell like anything, were they? It was perhaps the only blessing in it...it wasn't as real because I couldn't smell the deaths.

The smell didn't belong in my dream!

I threw myself into wakefulness and sat up in bed, my hands already feeling through the blankets and under my pillow, trying to find my gun. When I realized that I'd left it under my bed, I scrambled off the bed, away from the choking stench. My legs got tangled in the blanket and I fell, making a grab for the curtain. With numerous metallic popping sounds, it followed me, ripping right off of the rings it was mounted on.

Suddenly, the room was flooded with pale, insane moonlight. My searching hands found the shoulder rig under my bed and I pulled it out, drawing the Browning and clicking off the safety in one smooth motion. My world fell away until I was in the static, empty white place where I stand whenever I'm about to kill, and I looked calmly down the barrel of the gun...

The Browning dropped from my limp hands to the floor as I looked into Yan's flat, dead eyes.