At long last! WOOOOOOOO!!!

*ahem* Standard disclaimer apply. (Yaoi and violence and such)



Pyractomena Borealis IV

The next thing I knew, I HURT. It felt as if a very vengeful, nasty Taiko drummer had taken up residence inside my head and was beating out rhythms on the inside of my skull with a set of those huge wooden drumsticks they always use. The only time that I could even remember that I'd felt worse was six months ago, after a vampire had tried to grind my head through the asphalt surface of a parking lot. Well, that, or the time that Quatre and I had managed to get a hold of two bottles of tequila...

I moved my head slightly, just as an experiment, and immediately wished I hadn't. No, this definitely beat out the tequila binge by a lot. I heard a thready little moan through the roaring of my own pulse in my ears, and I hoped that it was someone else. There was no way I could sound that pathetic. The surface underneath of my aching head shifted, sending a thrill of pain down my neck, and I heard the moan again. Yeah, it was definitely me. Damnit.

Cool fingertips touched my forehead, gently but firmly holding my skull together and keeping me immobile. I cautiously cracked an eye open. I couldn't see anything. Great. So I'd either hit the wall so hard that I was blinded, which was not a prospect I even wanted to consider, or I was in a pitch black room, which also wasn't a great possibility.

"Are you awake, Duo?" someone asked softly. Wufei.

"Nng." I stated intelligently. Yeah, that's me. Mr. Word Power. After a couple of false starts, I got my mouth to move the way I wanted it to. "Yeah," I whispered. Talking loudly would have made my skull fall apart, I was sure of it. "I'm awake, but I wish I wasn't."

"I'm not surprised." Wufei said.

I tried to remember what the heck had happened. It was a challenge. It hurt to think. I could remember hitting the concrete and scrabbling around, searching for my gun in the eye hurting pool of neon light...then my fingertips touched the cool metal of the gun...and...and...

Oh yeah, that was right. Something grabbed me and gave me a nice close up view of the blue lit brick wall of the Theater of Mysteries right before everything went black. Well, that explained everything. Shit. "Wu, what the hell happened?"

Wufei snorted. "After you got thrown into the wall, the monster threatened to kill you if I didn't cooperate. They were both very angry, and I think the only thing that kept them from fighting was the fact that I was there and watching them."

"Fighting about what?" I asked curiously. I would have thought the monsters were a unified front against us.

"The big one seemed to be of the opinion that throwing you against the wall was a bad idea." Wufei said.

"Gee, that makes two of us." I muttered. "I'm with complete agreement with the big guy on that one. Then what?"

"The big one picked you up and they brought us into one of the theaters and locked us in the basement. I've been waiting for you to wake up ever since. With no lights, I might add."

I let off a long-suffering sigh. "Jesus, Wu. I had them all distracted and I gave you the PERFECT opportunity to run for it, but no, you had to go all noble and white knight-ish and now look where we are."

"A man doesn't run away from a fight." Wufei said stiffly.

"A man also doesn't get his ass willingly locked in a dank, dark basement either, unless he's into really kinky stuff!" my exasperated voice hurt my own ears, so I left it at that. If I'd been feeling better, there was a LOT more that I could have said.

"If I'd run off, you would have been left helpless in their hands and we wouldn't have known where you were." Wufei pointed out.

Ok, I guessed I couldn't leave it at that. Aching head or no, there was no way that I was going to let him win this argument. "Yeah, but no one knows where you are, so instead of just one, two of us are lost--and no one has any idea at all where we could be!" I pointed out. Wufei muttered something under his breath, and the surface underneath my poor, aching head shifted once more. After I was feeling coherent enough to talk again, I cracked an eye cautiously open, even though it didn't change the view much. "Wu?"


"Is my head in your lap?"


I had to stop and think about that for a moment. "So let me get this straight. We're in a cold, dark basement and I'm laying on the floor with my head in your lap."


I blinked. "Why?"

"Because it was either that or the floor, which is concrete, I might
Wufei said. It sounded like it was his turn to be exasperated. After a moment, he spoke again, and his voice softened a little. "You were bleeding very badly when they threw us in here. I had a hell of a time getting it to stop."

"I'm sorry." I said. I'm never sure exactly what to say in situations like this. It seems strange to apologize for bleeding all over the place when it wasn't exactly your fault to begin with, but what else can you say? 'Oops?' I think not.

"You owe me a new pair of pants." Wufei said.

"Ok, I'm really sorry." Geeze. Some people.

Wufei snorted. "Baka."

"Thanks." I muttered, closing my eyes. There were interesting light sparkles dancing in my vision from my eyes attempting to find anything at all to see in the complete darkness. "So what's your assessment of the situation, Wu?"

"There's at least on vampire, which swings the odds against us, since we are now completely unarmed." Wufei said.

"Yeah...I remember...the skinny guy that got you. He couldn't look at my cross." I guessed I was going to have to buy another expendable cross now. If I got out alive, that was. "What about the other guy?"

"He's a completely unknown factor. He's obviously not a vampire, but..."

"...But he certainly can't be normal, considering he's hanging out with one." I finished. "Hold on a sec. Something's bothering me." Wufei stayed quiet, waiting for me to complete to thought. There was something about the big muscular guy that was trying to worm its way into the forefront of my mind. Despite the fact that thinking hurt, I forced myself to mentally run through the events of the last few minutes I could remember before things went blank. Being a terrorist is bad for the health, not to mention dirty and exhausting, but it does wonders for the memory. I quickly skimmed across the details of what had happened, discarding most as unimportant for the moment. There was something...I could almost see Mr. Muscles grinning at me again, and then I had it. "He's wrong." I said.

"In what way?" Wufei asked. I could almost feel him going completely still like he always does when he's listening with all his will and ready to jump on any bit of information you can throw at him and rip it to shreds. Sometimes, I swear he's a computer.

I could feel my eyebrows drawing together as I concentrated on the frantic memories. The top of my head felt like it was about to slide off, but I ignored it, or tried to. "Eyes." I finally said. "And teeth. They don't look right." Wufei stayed quiet, so I kept going. "It could just be the funky-ass blue lighting, but the guy had pointy teeth...and his eyes look wrong. Kind of like cat's eyes."

"I see." was all Wufei said. I could almost hear the little gears in his head turning at about mach two. "Anything else?"

I frowned. "He just felt wrong. He felt like he was larger than he was. Like he had waves of heat rolling off of him, if that makes any sense."

"Like he was out of focus and not quite the right shape for his body." Wufei suggested thoughtfully.

Bingo, he had it pinned. I knew there was a reason I kept him around. I grinned to myself and actually managed to keep quiet so that Wufei could think without me interrupting him. It was a bit of a strain, actually. Whether my eyes were open or closed, it was completely black. The only reason I actually knew that Wufei was there was because I could hear him breathing, and feel warmth radiating from his legs under my aching head. It felt really weird, but it was comforting in its own way. It kept me from thinking about how dark it was, because if I did that, I could almost feel the walls closing in until I was trapped like a rat with no where to go...

Damnit, I was not going to start thinking like that. I just had to stay calm and quiet and let Wufei cogitate, and this would hopefully all be over soon.

A loud clank echoed through the basement and light burst into the room. I yelped and shut my eyes as quickly as I could, shakily covering them with my hands for one valuable second so they could adjust. Ok, so it would be over a lot sooner than I had originally thought. Wufei grabbed my shoulders and pushed me into a sitting position, then dragged me to my feet, holding my arms tightly enough to leave bruises, which I wasn't going to complain about, considering that his hold on me was the only thing keeping me on my feet. I concentrated on holding my head steady and not throwing up. The bad guys already had us in a bad position. They didn't need any help from me.

My eyes adjusted to the sudden change in light levels fairly quickly, and I was soon able to make out the silhouettes of two people standing--well, lounging, more accurately--in the doorway. It took a lot of squinting, but I could tell that one of them was Mr. Muscles. Oh joy. The other one looked enough like him that they could have been brothers. They were both large, hairy, extremely ugly, and giving us huge toothy smirks with their weird, pointy teeth shining in the light. Great. With a lot more nonchalance than I felt, I grinned. "Hey, Wufei, look. It's the Doublemint twins."

That had the desired effect. The two knuckle dragging monsters stopped smiling at the same time.

"Nice coordination." I commented, ignoring the disapproval I could almost feel radiating from Wufei. The poor guy still hadn't gotten used to my mouthy tendencies. He thought that every serious confrontation had to be approached seriously and with...what was that word...decorum. Poor sucker didn't know what he was missing. Heckling is a sadly under appreciated art form. The day I cease being an artist in that particular field is the day I'll be pushing up daisies with vampires jigging on my grave.

Mr. Muscles took a deliberate step forward, then another and another, and I let my grin get bigger. He wasn't smiling any more. So much for "laugh and the world laughs with you." Shit. Oh well, if it was my time, at least I was going to go out smiling. I just stood there and watched him come toward me, waiting. There wasn't much else to do.

He stopped about a foot away from me and just stood for a minute. "You shouldn't make things any worse for yourself than they already are." he finally said slowly after a great deal of deliberation.

I got the distinct feeling that slowly was pretty much the only way he could talk. After a moment of sober reflection, I decided to keep my snide comments to myself. My head was still attached to my body and all of my limbs were still in their sockets, so pushing the nice shaved gorilla didn't seem like a great idea. So instead, I just kept on grinning. "Really? How could they get worse?"

He had to think about that for a moment. "The boss could be mad at you." He said.

The boss. Oh, perfect. "Ok." I said. Wufei seemed to be pretty content to let me do the talking, which was great. It's what I'm good at. "So now what?"

He smiled beatifically, revealing those nice pointy teeth of his again. I guess I was just making his day by cooperating. "You and your friend come with me'n my brother nice and we take you to see the boss."

They were brothers. Oh, even more perfect. I glanced at the other big muscular guy. He glared at me. He definitely did not look as warm and fuzzy as his brother, even if he did seem to be a good deal swifter in the mental department. "Come on, Tony. Let's go." He said. So Mr. Muscle's name was Tony. Oh, it was all just too perfect!

"Yeah, Angelo." Tony said. He peered at me. "Can you walk?" He asked.

Angelo. Oh gawd. I did my best not to laugh, and I was almost successful. "I think so." I said.

"I will be helping him." Wufei said, rather stiffly.

Tony glanced back at his brother with a confused look on his face. Angelo shrugged. "Can't let you. Boss said you were too dangerous together."

"Well, yeah, I suppose we're just too damn sexy for our own good." No one laughed. Angelo and Tony just looked at me funny. Wufei dug his fingers into my arms. Nobody understands my sense of humor.

After another dumbfounded glance back at his brother, Tony grabbed me away from Wufei a little rougher than my aching head really approved of and slung one of my arms over his shoulder. It was kind of like being supported by a freaking tank.

"You come here." Angelo said to Wufei. Wufei glanced at me, then walked up to Angelo. "No funny stuff, kid. I'm watching you."

"Yes." Wufei said. "No...funny stuff." He was either trying not to laugh or trying not to sound nauseous, I couldn't tell which.

Angelo and Wufei disappeared out of the doorway, and Tony started pretty much dragging me along. I tried to walk at first, but my legs didn't seem to be listening to my brain very well, which was going to make things really interesting when it came time to leg it. Things weren't helped by the fact that Tony was at least a foot taller than me, though. The arm around the shoulder bit was just too awkward, so I gave up and let him pretty much carry me along. The two of us went up a set of wooden steps and into another basement, it looked like. The walls were concrete and there were bare pipes crisscrossing the wooden beams overhead. The floor was carpeted, but the carpet was pretty threadbare; I was betting it was a worn out reject from a main room somewhere upstairs. There were black splotches all over it that could only have been old gum that was ground into the thinning threads.

After winding our way through a bunch of narrow passages, we stopped in front of a door that was missing most of its varnish. There was a little plaque over it that said "Storage Closet A: No Unauthorized Entry." Angelo didn't even hesitate, he just opened the door and went on in, hauling Wufei after him. Tony dragged me inside and shut the door behind us, and then we were in another world.

The room--it certainly wasn't a closet--was carpeted and padded so thickly that I felt like I was walking on a pillow. The carpet was stark, unadorned black. The walls of the room were covered with black and gold filigree wallpaper, and there were various impressionistic pictures of...er...naked women arrayed around the walls in even intervals. The only furniture was a huge wooden chest that seemed big enough to put someone in--wasn't THAT an unpleasant thought--and a delicate wooden desk that looked real out of place compared to the chest. The big attraction of the room, though, wasn't the furniture. It was the guy sitting behind the desk.

I had to admit it, I was impressed. He was certainly dressed to kill. I'd seen a costume like his, once, at a renaissance festival. He had on very tight black pants and a big white shirt with laces at the cuffs and the neck, and it looked pretty nice. His hair was a kind of weird, bright canary yellow, but I figured that would happen to anyone's hair if they hadn't seen the sun for a couple centuries, and this guy hadn't been up in the daylight for at least six, maybe more. I don't know how I knew, I just did. He felt that old in my head.

He smiled at Wufei and I, a nice close lipped smile that kept his teeth perfectly hidden, not that he was fooling anyone. "Mr. Maxwell." He said. "How kind of you to accept our invitation."