Acherontia Atropos XVII


The first thing that I was aware of when I regained consciousness was pain.

Burning, tearing, stabbing pain in my arm, my chest, and my back. I did my best not to whimper. It didn't matter, though. My throat felt so raw and torn that I had a feeling I wouldn't be able to make much noise even if I tried.

The next thing I noticed was the fact that I was laying on the ground. It was cold and bumpy, and my entire back side was completely soaked, though how much of it was blood and how much of it was dew, I had no way of knowing. I didn't want to think about it though.

I was in a clearing of some sort...I could see the sky overhead, dimly. It was lit from below; I could see orange light in the edges of my vision. Fire. No, torches. It didn't make any sense. What were torches doing in the middle of the forest?

Suddenly, it became very important for me to sit up. I used my left arm, the one that didn't feel like it was going to fall off, and pushed myself up into a sitting position. I found out that I did, indeed, have some voice left. Pain stabbed through my arm and I whimpered brokenly despite my best efforts not to. After I was sitting up, I cradled my right arm against me in an attempt to keep it from moving too much. There was something sharp and white sticking out from the remnants of my blood soaked shirt about halfway up my upper arm. For some strange reason, I found it totally fascinating.

It was my bone. Oh God in heaven, part of my bone was sticking out of my arm.

A horrified little sound turned into a cough in my throat. My chest hurt, badly, and it took a lot of effort to breathe. My back felt like it had been torn. I coughed, hard, and warm liquid came up my throat and flowed out of my mouth. I dabbed at it shakily with my good hand. It was blood.

I'd definitely had better days.

I sucked in a quick breath and went into another round of coughing, bringing up more blood from my lungs. I could remember the thing grabbing Wufei, and Carmen grabbing me...and a knife sliding between my ribs. I had a bad, bad feeling that she had nicked a lung.


As soon as I was done coughing, I looked up. I wished I hadn't. There were, indeed, torches surrounding the clearing. The light should have been warm and comforting. It wasn't, because of what it illuminated. Wufei was hanging by his wrists from a tree branch, his feet dangling at least thirty centimeters above the ground. His shirt was gone, and his pants were looking the worse for wear, candy striped with blood and dirt. At first, I thought he was dead. His chest and arms were slick with blood, and for a long, long moment I thought he wasn't breathing. Then, very slowly, he pulled his head up to look at me. His eyes were wide and full of pain. Trowa knelt near him, his arms tied to a stake the had been hammered into the ground behind his back. He had been nearly stripped, as well, and his hair was matted with blood. He watched me with the eyes of the dead. Quatre was beside him, restrained similarly. I could see how pale he was in the torchlight. He was half turned away from me; his back was a ruin of blood and strips of dangling skin, as if someone had begun to peel him like an apple. No sign of Heero. I closed my eyes, feeling sick to my stomach. I had a feeling that it had all been arranged for my viewing pleasure while I was out of it.

"'re awake at last."

I opened my eyes and looked up. Carmen was standing not a meter away from me, completely unarmed and smirking. It was easy to tell that she didn't have any weapons; she wasn't wearing any clothing. For once, it didn't bother me, because I was busy thinking of something else. I was going to kill her.

We were all going to die, I knew it now, but if that was the case, I was damn well going to take her with me. With a silent growl, I gathered up all of my strength and threw myself at her. I hit an invisible wall and went crashing to the ground, broken arm first. The following minutes weren't coherent enough to remember. Next thing I knew, I was up on my feet and straining against the invisible wall, refusing to acknowledge the pain that was screaming through me. It took a couple of tries, but I managed to dredge up enough of a voice to whisper, "You're going to die, Carmen." A few more droplets of blood flowed from between my lips.

She laughed at me. Suddenly, Cheree was standing beside her, still wearing her filmy white dress, and she was laughing to, that annoying high pitched cackle. Obviously, they were trying to drive me insane now. I snarled as best I could.

"Silly boy." Cheree said. "Carmen trapped you in a circle of your own blood. You can't escape while her power still binds you."

"You'd be amazed at what I can do." I whispered hoarsely.

"Now that you're awake," someone new said, "we can begin the entertainment."

Entertainment. I really didn't like the sound of that. I snapped my head around to see who had talked, and the world went "wheeee!" for a moment. When things settled down, I could see the other vampire, a male one with an impressive mane of black hair, sitting in a stone chair that looked like a throne. I knew he was the Master the instant I saw him. I could feel it. That wasn't what got my attention, though. What had me riveted was the fact that

Heero was sitting at his feet like a trained dog. He even had a dog collar around his neck, which was attached to a leash that had been nailed to the ground with a stake. His head was resting in the vampire's lap, and he watched me blankly, like he couldn't even see me. He was completely and totally under. The wheel was turning, but the hamster was dead and buried.

I went cold for a moment, then my anger returned, burning away the last bits of pain-haze that had been fogging my mind. Suddenly, nothing existed but me, my adrenalin surge, and the sure knowledge that I would see them all dead for what they had done.

It must have showed on my face, because the vampire laughed. It was a nice laugh, I'll admit; warm, rich, and vaguely sexual. I let it wash over me and ignored it. "Let him go." I hissed.

"You're not exactly in a position to give me orders, pretty one." The vampire reached down and caressed Heero's cheek. He smiled happily. I thought I was going to be sick. "You're at my mercy, in case you have forgotten."

God, I hate being helpless. I clenched my teeth. "What the hell do you want?"

The vampire continued to stroke Heeros cheek. His hand slowly traveled lower, down Heero's neck to run over his chest muscles. "I like this one." The vampire said, ignoring what I had, instead fixing me with a steady gaze. "He smells like you. What did you do to him, pretty one?"

"Nothing." I said harshly.

The master vampire shook his head. "A lie. You're very powerful, I can taste it in the back of my mind. Your power intoxicates me." He smiled lazily. "Perhaps you'd like to tell me why you can look me in the eye."

I shrugged my good shoulder noncommittally.

Nothing showed in his eyes. "Or you could tell me why I cannot capture the Chinese boy's eyes either." He raised an eyebrow. "No? I had hoped you could, though it doesn't matter. I grow bored." He looked away. "Carmen, come to me please."

She walked over to him, her skin shining pale in the moonlight. She smiled at me. "Kalin said that we will bring your friend into the family. Are you happy for him?" She knelt by his side and rested the side of her head on the bit of the vampires lap that Heero wasn't taking up. One big happy family. Over my dead body.

"I'd blow his head off myself before I'd let you touch him." I said.

They both ignored me. I hate it when people do that. The vampire kissed Carmen on the forehead and cupped one of her bare breasts in his hand. "You did very well, love." He whispered. Gag me.

Carmen smiled. "I am your servant forever." She turned her gaze toward me, and smirked. "You look bored, Duo."

"Oh, no, I'm fine, don't worry about me." I said.

"We have entertainment planned out. It would be rude of you to not enjoy it." She giggled. I had a feeling that I definitely did not want to know what the entertainment was going to be. Carmen's giggle transformed into a pout for a moment. "Except your friends managed to kill Paul, so that only leaves Cheree to do the entertaining...unless my love would let me help."

"Of course." He murmured.

I definitely did not want to know. Shit shit shit shit shit. She said "Thank you." and stood, moving back toward Wufei, Trowa, and Quatre. For a long moment, I stayed focused on Heero. I couldn't help myself. I was scared for him. Then I heard Wufei curse, and I realized that I should be scared for all of us. I turned quickly, and was overcome by a wave of dizziness for a moment. I went reeling into the invisible wall. Not good. I was losing too much blood. Very not good.

Quatre yelled, "Trowa!" and I quickly looked up, my right hand sliding along the barrier, futilely looking for a crack or gap or something.

Cheree had untied Trowa and had him on the ground. Her hand was down his pants. For a long moment, he fought back silently, until she grabbed his chin and forced him to look at her face. He abruptly went limp, a blissful smile appearing on his lips. Cheree laughed and grabbed his arm, pulling his shoulder out until the joint abruptly twisted and I heard a wet pop. That bitch had dislocated Trowa's shoulder, just like that.

Then came the scariest thing yet. Trowa giggled, like it had felt good.

There was an incoherent snarl of pure rage, and suddenly Quatre was on top of Cheree, doing his best to kick her head in and get her away from Trowa. He wasn't moving very well; he could barely bend his back, and his arms were still tied, but I would have to give him an 'A' for effort. I'd never seen Quatre quite that angry before. Wufei started yelling at Cheree in Chinese.

Whatever he was saying, it didn't sound very nice.

"Cheree, put the boy under, please." The master, Kalin, said.

"As you wish." Cheree said. She grabbed Quatre and slammed him into the ground, locking eyes with him. He, too, went limp. Wufei started yelling louder, as Cheree stood and stalked over to him, leaving Quatre sprawled on the ground like a ragdoll. I don't know how she did it, but she set her fingers into his shoulders and ripped downwards, shredding his back as if she'd been tearing with claws instead of fingernails. Wufei's back arched in an ineffectual attempt to get away from her, but he didn't make a sound. Blood splattered down onto Cheree's white dress.

I didn't know whether to cheer for Wufei, or cry.

"You don't look like you're enjoying the entertainment very much." Carmen said.

I slowly turned to look at her. She was watching Cheree, and she looked...excited. She was stroking her breasts slowly with her hands. I felt sick. "I'm not a psychopath like you." I whispered.

Carmen giggled.

"Why?" I asked with as much force as I could muster.

She glanced back at me. "Why what?"

"Why are you giving other humans to the monsters?" The answer seemed important, somehow. Humans weren't supposed to sell out other humans when vampires were involved. I was sure it was a rule somewhere.

"Kalin is my master. I am his servant, his eyes during the day." she said, smiling. "You should have taken my advice, Duo."

"What advice?" A soft, agonized sound brought my attention back to the 'entertainment.' Cheree was slowly peeling more skin off of Wufei's back.

"I told you to contact the Master of the City and lead me to him. He's the one we want. Though I suppose I shouldn't object." she licked her lips. "This is more entertaining."

Cheree had obviously grown bored with Wufei, since he was still refusing to scream. I know I would have been howling by then. She gouged his back one more time, then slunk back toward Trowa, her hands dripping blood as she walked. "You're a sick bitch, Carmen." I said. "You're going to get as little mercy from me."

Carmen giggled. "You talk big for a little boy that's going to die. After we're done with your friends, I'm going to use the circle to drain you for my master. You should spend your last minutes worrying about yourself." She walked away from me, to where Quatre was still sprawled on the ground. He smiled vacantly at her and struggled up to his knees, willingly falling into her arms and kissing her.

I have never felt so much disgust before in my life, for myself or anyone else. One of my friends was hanging from a tree, probably bleeding to death, another was playing puppy dog for a vampire, and the other two were about to get raped as I watched.

Carmen started unbuttoning Quatre's pants, and I couldn't take it any more. I turned toward the master, Kalin. He was watching the two women with a smile on his face. Rage flooded through me, and then suddenly, I felt very, very calm.

"You're going to die." I whispered.

Slowly, he turned to look at me. He laughed.

I could feel the corners of my mouth pulling up into a smile. Abruptly, he stopped laughing like someone had flipped a switch. "I am Shinigami." I said, very calmly. "And I am going to be your end."

Kalin stiffened. "What did you say?" he demanded loudly. The clearing suddenly became very, very still.

"I am Shinigami." I could feel my smile growing. "You should clean your ears out more often."

It wasn't the thing to say. Kaling stood up, shoving Heero roughly away. He stalked up to the barrier and reached through--

Learn something new every day. A blood barrier only applies to the person it's cast on...

--and grabbed my right arm. My vision abruptly whited out, and I could barely hear him over the roaring of blood in my ears.

"You are not funny in the slightest." he said, "and I think that I shall have Carmen kill you now." He let go of my arm and I crumpled into a little heap on the ground. I didn't think I'd be able to get up again. I could dimly see Kalin walk away, dimly hear him speaking, but it all retreated into unimportance.

Heero was on the ground across from me, only a few meters away. He was staring blankly at me. Fresh blood was running thickly from my arm, flowing into the earth, and I fell into Heero's eyes.

I was surrounded with cool, dark water, crackling with the electric energy that I knew now was always a part of me. It was night; the power was awake and eager to do whatever I asked of it, and I could feel Heero's need. There was a glass barrier between his mind and his body, one that the vampires had put there. He was trying to break it, pounding at it ineffectually, but he was too weak. The spark that was Heero wasn't strong enough to go up against the brighter, further spark that I knew was Kalin.

"Help me, Heero," I whispered, reaching out to touch the familiar spark that was Heero. My power touched it...

I whispered, "Help me, Heero." over and over again, like a mantra, until the glass wall shattered, and he was suddenly on his feet, grabbing the stake that held his leash. It pulled up easily, and he threw himself at Kalin. I turned my head to watch.

Time slowed down for me, as Heero charged at Kalin, stake in hand, and Kalin turned, his expression shocked, then enraged. He was faster than Heero, and he dodged. Kalin twisted the stake from Heero's hands and reversed it, slamming it into Heero's chest.

Into his heart.

As I watched Heero crumple to the ground, I could dimly hear someone screaming hoarsely. I was bemused in a tiny corner of my mind to discover that it was me.