11-1-1999

Pyractomena Borealis Part III

 

Annoyingly enough, nothing happened for the next several days. I probably should have been happy about that, but I wasn't. I could feel something hanging over us like an axe dangling from a little piece of shredding twine, and I knew it was just waiting to happen. The fact that nothing did just made me tenser and tenser. I can only wait so long for the other shoe to drop before I start getting a little bit jumpy about things.

I'm not normally all that high-strung, but the tension was making things worse than normal for me. I started getting minor stress headaches, which made me grumpy, and I was wire tight and had a tendency to react violently if I was startled. To make things even harder one me, we were in an actual lull as missions went. Oz was keeping to itself, strangely enough; there were no new movements or installations to check out. It would have bothered me a lot if I hadn't been spending most of my time worrying about that damn exploding hot dog cart. I actually started hoping that Oz would try to pull something. I kept getting the strange feeling that Deathscythe was getting restless; he'd been cooped up under a camo-net for over a week in a nearby forest.

I stared up at the water-marked ceiling of my dorm room. This one was quite a bit bigger than the last, which was great. The old one had been so small that Heero and I had been practically sharing a bed, which did not do me a bit of good when it came to the libido-controlling department. 'A little lust is a healthy thing' my ass. Whoever said that had never had to deal with a potentially homicidal roommate...

Or nightmares that wouldn't let them go.

Nightmares. I hate fucking nightmares. For a long time, they bothered me, but then I got used to them, and they didn't any more. My adventures six months ago had provided my nightmares with all sorts of wonderful, new material, though, so I was back to being bothered. Very bothered. As in sickened and half terrified.

Which was why I was staring at the water marked ceiling of the dorm room at--I glanced at the clock--three in the morning. Class first thing in the morning tomorrow was going to suck. It didn't help that my first class was technical writing, a subject that I was hard pressed to make myself care about. Creative writing is fun. Philosophy is fun. Technical writing is boring and useless as far as I'm concerned. The day a Gundam Pilot needs to be able to write a business briefing will be a sad day indeed. Why bother learning how to write politely worded memos? Blow shit up. It's easier, and a lot more persuasive.

I glared at the ceiling a little harder. I really needed to just fall asleep. Sleep...sleep...sleep...

Ok, the self-hypnosis thing was just not working.

I sighed quietly and sat up so I could look over at Heero. He was dead to the world, sleeping the sleep of the wicked...well, not exactly. I knew that if I so much as made a suspicious noise...or a suspicious lack of noise, he'd be up in an instant and I'd have the barrel of a gun stuffed up my nose. It had happened before. A hair-trigger partner is not exactly conducive to hanging loose and relaxing.

I played the events of the afternoon over in my mind; me taking his hand before Relena found us, him grabbing my arms after the explosion...I wasn't sure what to make of it all. Sometimes, he acted like he really did care, that maybe...but then again, a lot of the time, he acted like I was just another annoyance in his life, about in Relena's class. I wasn't sure what to do. It was driving me bonkers.

I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to go over to him and sit on the edge of his bed and watch him sleep, or maybe even be really daring and kiss him, even if it would get me a gun up the snoot. I'd lost him once already, and I'd come close to losing him again only six months ago...and now that Relena had shown up, I wasn't sure what to think. And it was about to start up again. I was scared.

What the hell had I been thinking today, when I grabbed his hand? The hand in question clenched into a fist, seemingly of its own volition. What did I think was going to happen? Me and Heero walk down the street, hand in hand like a couple of lovebirds? No, no way. How could I do something like that? I didn't have the right to touch him or have thoughts like that about him, or anyone else for that matter. Never.

With another soft sigh, I stood, making just enough noise that Heero wouldn't think I was sneaking around, and padded to the room's bathroom. I needed a shower. Maybe is it was warm, it would relax me enough that I could get some sleep.

***

"--Duo? Duo!"

It finally registered. Someone was saying my name. Loudly, now. "Eh?" I muttered quietly, raising my head with a concerted effort of will.

"Are you alright?" Wufei asked from across the table. He actually had his eyes open, a highly unusual thing for him in the morning. There were also three empty teacups by his elbow, which pretty much explained that.

"Oh yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"You were about to stick your nose in your coffee cup." Wufei remarked blandly.

I blinked stupidly and looked down at the offending cup, then quickly set it on the table when I noticed how close it was to spilling. "Oh." The all night insomnia parties were really starting to get to me. "I just had a little trouble sleeping last night."

Wufei looked unimpressed by the explanation. Without looking, he reached to the side and grabbed Quatre's shoulder, saving him from hitting his plate of runny eggs and toast face first. Quatre started and tiredly opened his eyes, smiling sheepishly. Weird. Quatre's normally the annoyingly cheerful morning person of our merry little group.

Huh. So I wasn't the only one having problems sleeping. Maybe Quatre was feeling the tension, too.It was nice to think that I wasn't the only one. If Heero or Wufei or Trowa were bothered by it, they weren't giving any sign. Heero and Trowa were disgustingly aware and awake no matter what unholy hour they got up at, as always, and Wufei was as doing about as well as normal, considering he wasn't a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. "You ok, Quatre?" I asked.

"Yeah...just having a hard time sleeping." he said.

I managed to grin slyly past my utter fatigue. "Oh, is Trowa keeping you up?" Man, I am such a putz in the morning.

THAT woke Quatre up. He gave me a glare that was almost worthy of Heero. "Jerk." he muttered, then smiled sweetly at me. "I don't know, is Heero keeping you up?"

Touche. I snorted. "I'll thank you to leave my personal life out of this." /I wish./

Wufei was eyeing both of us rather strangely. He finally shook his head. "Morons."

I didn't give him the satisfaction of a comeback. Well, actually, the clever comment I was going to make got swallowed up by me yawning loudly.

Quatre sighed and poked at a bit of egg on his plate with a rather burnt piece of toast. I hastily looked away, back down at my coffee. Food. Ugh. I don't know how he does it. "So why are you having a hard time sleeping?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Not sure. I just have an odd feeling...and I've been having strange dreams." he glanced up at me, eyebrow upraised.

"Nightmares. Same ol' same ol'." I shrugged a lot more nonchalantly than I felt.

"You know you're always welcome." he said.

I shrugged again. Truth to be told, I knew I was welcome, but I hated intruding on Quatre and Trowa. Sure, nothing was going on between them right now, but you never knew...I wanted to give Quatre as much time alone with Trowa as possible. I mean, hell, if I can't get any, I at least want one of my friends to. It's the next best thing...because then you can get them to tell you all the gory details. Who me, a voyeur? Nah. "It's nothing that I can't deal with. Really, what's giving me more trouble is the fact that I'm sharing a room with Heero. Again." I sighed. I had a feeling that Heero cooked the room assignments, which was a nice thought, but I had no way of proving it, and if I asked, all I got was a glare and the usual 'baka' or 'omae o korosu.' "I figure I just need a little distraction before bed. Maybe I'll start taking walks or something again."

Quatre nodded. "Just do us a favor and take a partner."

"I'm a big boy." I grimaced. "I can dress myself and everything."

It was Wufei's turn to laugh. "Trouble follows you like a bad smell. I'm tired of having to jump in to save you."

I flipped him off, which only made him laugh harder. Some people, I swear... "Fine." I growled. "I'll take back up." I thought for a minute. "I'm not taking Heero. He wouldn't go for it to start with."

"You never know." Quatre somehow managed to fit half a slice of toast in his mouth. I'll never figure out how he does it. "He might want to go." He leered--god's honest truth, Quatre LEERED at me. "You never know, he might just be waiting for the opportunity..."

I stared at Quatre wide eyed for a moment while he let the thought trail off, still leering at me. It was about on par with the time I watched a rabbit attack and attempt to hump a small dog as far as weirdness factor went. The effect was finally destroyed when he inhaled the rest of the toast. Wufei was choking on his tea. I glared at him. "I'll think about it." I said, then grinned. "I'll just make sure to bring you along."

THAT wiped the grin off of Quatre's face. I smirked into my coffee cup. The day was looking up.

***

The school day was completely uneventful, which was both good and bad. Good, because that meant that all was as it should be with the world. Bad, because I fell asleep at my various desks several times. I'd never thought it was possible, considering how hard those wooden chairs at the desks are. Guess I'm just talented.

After class was done, I went right back to my dorm room, took off my jacket and the stupid strangling tie, and just flopped on my bed. I was at that stage where I was very tired, but not quite tired enough to take a nap. So instead, I felt around under my bed until I located a few dog-eared manga that I'd picked up...somewhere.

I stared at the black and white pictures in the manga I was holding, not really seeing them. I could hear a soft hissing in the background; Heero was taking a shower. Images of Heero, naked and wet danced in my head, and I growled quietly to myself and tried to concentrate on my manga. Damnit, I did not need this. My hormones live to make my life hell, I swear.

I could almost imagine getting up, slipping into the bathroom...and...and...

Crap.

I put the manga down for a minute and rubbed my eyes. Yeah, right. If I actually tried that, Heero would probably be wiping blood off of the tiles for the next couple of days. I firmly told my hormones to bugger off and picked the manga back up. It was a nice violent one, about some swordsman that was immortal or something--every time he got injured, weird worm thingies would close the wounds up. Trying to read the manga in the dim evening light was giving me a stress headache, but I didn't feel like getting up to turn on the light.

Heh. Maybe that was how Heero did it. I snorted. Naw, it would be too logical. This was Heero. If there was a good reason, it was going to be a hell of a lot weirder than simple magical worm thingies.

The hissing abruptly cut off. Heero was done with his shower then. I glared at the next panel of the manga, puzzling at the kanji. There was one I didn't recognize, and it was starting to piss me off. I really didn't feel like looking it up. Still, it was pretty clear what was going on; the main sword guy was cutting someone in half. That didn't take a whole lot of explanation.

A door opened, and the room immediately brightened as buttery light spilled out of the bathroom. It dimmed momentarily as Heero stepped out.

Some things are like car accidents; no matter how hard your brain is screaming "Don't look! Don't look!" you can't help it. Slowly, reluctantly, my gaze inched up, until I was peering over the top of my manga at Heero. He had one of my teeny tiny towels wrapped around his waist, and that was it. The light from the bathroom glittered across his skin; he was still damp, and water was dripping from his slicked back hair, running down his neck and shoulders in rivulets. He ignored me and walked toward his bed. The towel sure didn't cover a whole lot. I manfully fought off the urge to stand up, grab him, and lick at the water that was running down his nicely muscular chest.

Someone up there either loves me or hates me. I have a hard time deciding which, at times.

I followed him with my eyes as he walked past me. The rear view was almost as nice as the front view. He reached down to take the towel off...

Gah! What the hell was I thinking?

I hastily looked back down at the manga and flipped the page. I would not look. I would not look. I wouldnot look.

Damnit. I wanted to!

My hormones took over and slowly, I looked up again...oh man, no...

He'd put his boxers one while I'd been struggling with my hormones. I was torn between being relieved and being upset. Relieved won out, and I let out a tiny sigh.

It wasn't the smart thing to do. Heero turned to look at me, pinning me on the spot with his eyes. I managed to look him in the eye defiantly. So my partner had caught me almost ogling him. I was not going to be the first to flinch. Heero raised an eyebrow, and I could feel my face getting hot. I was starting to blush. Of all the lousy...he couldn't possibly know what kind of dirty thoughts I'd been thinking, could he? God I hoped not. I didn't want him to know how much I'd fallen. Before he could say anything, not that I was really expecting him to, I shut the manga and stood quickly, grabbing the Browning and tucking it into the waistband of my pants. If I untucked my shirt, no one would be able to see it. "I'm going out for a walk." I said.

Heero raised his eyebrow a little more. "I'll go with you." he said.

Shit. I couldn't exactly tell him that I was going out to get away from him, could I? I grimaced internally. Damn him for picking this once to be interested in what I was doing. "Don't worry about it." I said hastily. "Quatre's already going with me."

His eyebrow cranked up a little higher. I managed to keep a hold of my grin through sheer will power. "I promised." I said, putting in one of my best nonchalant shrugs. No need to tell him WHAT exactly I had promised.

Heero watched me for a moment longer before he shrugged, then sat down at his desk in front of that damn laptop. "Stay alert." was all he said before he started powering the machine up and went back to ignoring me.

I sighed silently and watched his back for a moment, then headed out the door. I don't have a lot of self control at times, so I've learned that the best way to keep myself from doing something I'll regret later is simply remove the immediate temptation. It's a good idea. I stuffed my hands into my pockets and slouched toward Quatre and Trowa's room. Theirs was located in the floor above mine and Heero's, right across fromWufei's room.

When I knocked on their door, there was no answer. I waited a couple seconds, then knocked again. Still no answer. Wufei's door was open a crack, indicating that he was in and willing to be sociable, or as sociable as Wufei gets, so I pushed it open the rest of the way and stuck my head in.

Wufei was sitting on his bed, jacket off and tie undone, his head bent over a book that was sitting in his lap. As soon as the door opened, he put his finger on the page he'd been reading to keep his place and looked up. "What do you want, Duo?" he asked, raising his eyebrows a little.

For once, he didn't sound too annoyed. I grinned at him. "Have you seen Quatre?" I asked him.

"He convinced Trowa to go out with him. I think they're shopping for books."

"Damn." I said softly. I'd promised Quatre that I wouldn't go out by myself, but I REALLY had to get away from Heero. "Ne, Wufei..." I said.

He looked suspicious. Can't understand why. "What, Duo."

"I'm going to go take a walk..."

"And...?"

"And I promised Quatre that I wouldn't go by myself..." I grinned charmingly at Wufei.

"No." he said. "I'm reading."

"Alright." I shrugged. "I'll just go out by myself, since you're the last person I have to ask. I have no problem with that. The theater district is interesting enough that I don't need company." A very true statement, but I had promised Quatre, and Duo Maxwell is a lot of things, but a liar isn't one of them.

Wufei put his head in his hands. "Wait a minute...you're going to go and wander around the theater district by yourself?"

I grinned and nodded. I've hung around Wufei long enough to know exactly which buttons he has to push. The theater district was by no means a rough part of town. The crowd was just a little more...colorful. I liked it down there.

"Hold on." Wufei shut his book and grabbed his jacket, straightening his tie out. "I'd better go along, to keep you out of trouble." he growled.

I just smiled at him. Damn, I'm good.

***

The theater district was packed, strangely enough. As early as it was in the evening, there shouldn't have been too many people there--the really interesting folks don't crawl out from under their rocks until after midnight, normally. Still, it kept things entertaining, or so I told myself as I brushed past someone that was dressed almost entirely in feathers, and appeared to be a woman at first glance. The second glance was a different matter entirely. Women normally don't have stubble. Or at least none of the women I'VE met.

I took a few more steps before I noticed that something was missing, namely Wufei. I glanced back. He was starting at the women--er, man. I snorted and grabbed his arm, then started walking again. "Wufei, man, you have to learn, they can smell your fear."

Wufei glared at me and removed his arm from my grasp, none too gently. "Are you done walking around yet?" he muttered.

"Nope. Still haven't gotten all the frustrations out." I grinned. Really, I was thinking about heading back myself, but I'm just too contrary to let Wufei off the hook that easily. That was why we were down in the theater district anyway. I hadn't really felt like going down here, but once I told Wufei that it was where I was going, I didn't have a lot of choice.

It was full dark now, and the street was becoming more crowded. Neon stood up against the black sky, blood red and poison green screaming out the names of various theaters and dance halls. I knew from personal experience (hey, I'm a curious guy) that most of the dance halls were oriented towards the homosexual crowds. I'd found that out when I went into a couple of them just for the hell of it and gotten propositioned more times in five minutes than I'd had total since I hit puberty. It was actually impressive and flattering in a kind of disturbing way. The tamer theaters had drag queen acts. I didn't want to know about the less tame theaters.

We walked past a dark brick walled building with a huge swirl of bright blue neon that said "Theater of Mysteries" on it when my back, right between my shoulder blades, got that kind of itchy, uncomfortable feeling. Someone was watching me, and watching me very intensely. Casually, I reached around my back, like I was going to scratch an itch or something, and hitched up my untucked shirt just a little so that I had a more unobstructed reach toward my gun. What I really wanted to do was draw it, but that didn't seem like a terribly smart idea in a big crowd. "Wufei--"

--There was a flicker of movement ahead of us, then something grabbed me from behind and slammed me into the brick wall of the theater, very hard. I had time to pull my gun out of waistband before I hit the wall. It knocked my breath out, and black sparks danced in front of my eyes for a moment as I struggled to draw some oxygen into my complaining lungs. Something dark and very, very big was looming over me, gripping my shoulders almost tightly enough to leave indentations in my bones, holding me suspended several inches above the dirty concrete sidewalk, and there was an odd light near the bottom of my peripheral vision.

My cross was glowing. Oh shit.

I started to bring my gun to bear on whoever or whatever was in front of me. Almost negligently, it let go of one of my shoulders and grabbed my arm, slamming it firmly against the wall. The impact hurt, but I kept my grip on the gun and started struggling wildly. I might as well have been trying to move the theater with my bare hands for all the good it did me, so I started yelling since I didn't have anything better to do. My vision finally cleared, and I could see the person in front of me, tinted a sickly blue by the neon glow.

He looked like a hit man out of a classic gangster movie. That's all I could think of. He was big, his shoulders looked like they were wider than I was tall, he had a crew cut, a nasty expression on his face, and he was wearing a suit that stretched tightly over his many and way too big muscles. He grinned at me. He didn't have fangs.

Everyone was still walking along the street like nothing was happening. No sir, no teenagers getting assaulted here. No one even looked our way, even though I was yelling at the top of my lungs and I'm not exactly quiet.

I was in real trouble. Something was VERY wrong.

I heard Wufei growling off to the side and I looked over. I didn’t have anything better to do, after all; Mr. Muscles wasn't budging. A much shorter, much skinnier man had Wufei pinned against the wall one handed, kind of like I was, if you ignored the fact that Wufei was being strangled and I wasn't. He had his hands firmly locked around the man's wrist. I think that's all there was saving him.

The man was shielding his eyes with the hand that he wasn't holding Wufei with. "Take the boy's cross off." he said.

Mr. Muscles let go of my wrist just long enough to grab my cross and yank on it hard, snapping the chain. He threw it away behind him. I was suddenly very glad that I'd decided to get a second cross and wear that instead of the one Father Maxwell had given me. It still wasn't a good thing that I'd just lost it, but at least that one didn't have sentimental value attached to it.

The cross sailed through the air and hit a woman in the head. She stopped and shook her head, then looked toward me. For a moment, I felt some hope. She squinted and stared for a moment, then shook her head and started walking again.

Fuck.

There was one good thing, though. Mr. Muscles didn't grab my gun hand as well as he had before. I still couldn't break free, but... I twisted my wrist in his grasp, and fired, hitting the vampire--he had to be one, he'd been affected by my cross--in the stomach. It wasn't a clean shot by any means; the bullet went in at an angle that wasn't even close to solid, but it expanded enough that it made a pretty big hole when it hit. Blood sprayed from the vampire, splattering all over Wufei and several passers by. One of the people, a woman, looked down at her freshly stained clothing and started screaming. Pedestrians all over the place stopped and started looking around. A very good sign.

The vampire shrieked and dropped Wufei the instant the bullet ripped through it. Wufei landed in a heap on the ground, then scrambled quickly to his feet. Mr. Muscles slammed my hand into the wall again, and this time, I did drop the gun, mainly because my hand went numb. "Wufei! Run for it!" I yelled.

Instead of following my good directions like any sane person, Wufei launched himself at my captor and hit him with a knife hand in the armpit. Mr. Muscles dropped me and swung at Wufei.

At that point, I ate concrete for a minute and didn't see much of anything. I could hear more people screaming. Maybe they'd recovered from whatever it was that had been done to them. I didn't have time to care. I scrambled along the ground until I found my gun. My hand closed over it and I rolled quickly to the side...but not quickly enough. Strong, clawing hands picked me up and threw me against the wall of the theater again. I hit head first.

The world went black.