2-10-2002

Pyractomena Borealis 19

The door slammed shut behind me and I shoved my hands in my pockets. "Great," I muttered as I stalked back the way I'd come, "I couldn't get normal enemies that just want to kill me. Oh no. I have to get ones that want to invade my personal space and weird me out."

It felt like the walk took less time than before, probably because I didn't have all the anticipation piling up on me. I caught sight of Trowa as I slipped out of the alley. He was leaning against a lamppost, head down and face in shadow. The pose was a disturbing mixture of Hollywood gangster and dollar store whore that only Trowa could pull off and look good while doing so.

The back of my neck prickled, and Trowa's head snapped up. His eyes were wide with shock as he shoved himself away from the pole, almost runing toward me. One hand was reaching under his jacket, going for his gun. "Get down, Duo!" he yelled.

Don't have to tell me twice. I dove for the concrete without a second thought. If it was bad enough that Trowa was acting startled, I probably had one of the Dukes of Hell hot on my tail.

As it was, not even the evasive action helped. A strong, clawing hand grabbed my ankle and assisted my impact on the ground. I managed to break my fall, but I still hit hard enough to leave my hands tingling.

A woman started screaming. "Leave that boy alone!" She was followed by a cry of "Someone call the police!"

"More like a fucking exorcist." I muttered. I drew my free foot up and slammed it back with all my might. A body part went 'crunch' under my boot heel and the thing that had me shrieked, letting go. I scrambled toward Trowa. He had my gun, which made him my best friend. People were milling around me, some yelling, some just looking confused. To them, it probably just looked like a fight between a punk and a couple of school boys. Not anything to get into too much of a panic over.

"Duo!"

I looked up, just in time to see Trowa tossing the Browning toward me. It made a nice silver arc in the street light. I dove at it and actually made the catch, oh miracle of miracles. The safety went off with a 'click' and I spun back to face my attacker...

It was 'Generic Vampire A' or whatever the hell his name was, the one that had been standing next to Feld. The bottom dropped out of my stomach for a moment as I stared at him. He was smirking, fangs peeping out of his mouth. We'd been betrayed. Then again, how stupid and naïve had it been of me to expect anything else?

"Maxwell," the vampire hissed, taking a step toward me, "greetings and thanks from my master."

"You're welcome." I said. "Kiss my ass any day."

He tensed, ready to leap, and I started squeezing back on the trigger, knowing that Trowa was doing the same. The vampire was so fucked--

Then a woman stepped from the crowd and stood between us, facing the vampire, her arms outstretched. I jerked the gun to one side, firing into the crumbling brick wall of a building. She flinched slightly, but didn't move otherwise.

"Please stop. I will not let you harm these children." she said, voice polite and firm. Her outstretched hands were shaking. She was tall for a Japanese woman, very statuesque, and clad in black vinyl pants and a shiny red shirt that was streaked black by the nearby blue neon. There were multitudes of thin silver bracelets on her wrists, and silver streaks were dyed into her hair.

"No, lady, you don't want to do this..." I whispered. For a moment, the vampire hesitated, and I hoped that he'd be distracted enough to back off.

It wasn't to be. The vampire flung himself at her and she went down with a despairing scream. For one long moment that I knew I'd always damn myself for later, I simply watched in shock as blood began to spread across the sidewalk.

Just a moment, though. Then I was running forward, my foot connecting with the vampire's face and kicking him away. Ivory colored teeth scattered across the concrete. He sprawled out on the ground, and before he had a chance to so much as twitch, I emptied the clip into him.

It was chaos, then. People were running away, trampling each other, all of them screaming. I could hear sirens in the distance.

"Duo, we need to go." Trowa pushed my gun toward the ground. "Now."

I numbly shoved the gun into my shoulder rig and turned back toward the woman. There was a large, gaping tear in her throat, and blood everywhere. Not caring, I knelt down by her and gently touched her cheek. There was still a spark of life in her chocolate colored eyes, but it was fading quickly. Tears were pooling in her eyes.

There were tears in my eyes too. "I'm sorry," I whispered, as I watched her die, "I'm so sorry..."

Trowa grabbed my arm, hard enough to bruise. "Duo, we have no time."

I took enough time to close the woman's eyes, then stood. We both took off running, and not a moment too soon. The sirens were nearly on top of us. This was not a situation I wanted to explain to anyone, much less the police.

I grabbed Trowa's arm in a crushing grip of my own as we ran. I was caught in a rage that transcended everything I'd ever felt before in my life. I wanted to kill something, and so badly that Trowa almost looked like a tempting target before I managed to insert a little logic into my own mind. "Get the guys." I said. "I have a couple things to arrange. We're going to pay Treize a visit."

Maybe it was the ice in my tone or the fact that I was leaving a sizeable bruise on his arm, but Trowa didn't argue or discuss. "Affirmative."

"We'll meet outside of Tokyo Base in one hour." I let go of Trowa's arm and split off in a different direction, leaving him behind.

Someone was going to die for this.

* * *

"I sincerely hope you have a good explanation for this, Mr. Maxwell." Treize said, reclining gracefully in his marble throne. "I am not accustomed to being at the beck and call of sixteen year old terrorists." Lady Une was at his side as always, chin propped on his leg. She let out a languid yawn, revealing a set of very even, very white, and no doubt very sharp teeth. The leather was royal blue this time, and her pose was almost causing her breasts to pop out of the bustier.

I fought down the 'Kiss my ass' that was on the tip of my tongue. Now was not the time to let my rage get the better for me. I needed tact and diplomacy if I was going to get what I wanted. Boy was I screwed. "You want Johannes? He's yours."

Treize raised an eyebrow slightly. "What precisely has prompted this spate of...generosity?"

"He double crossed me." I said bitterly, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

"You revealed my identity to him, didn't you." Treize said, not acting the least bit surprised, "and no doubt gave him valuable clues on how to find where I reside."

I cursed internally. I should have expected it. "I didn't have much of a choice."

"There is always a choice, Mr. Maxwell."

The calm attitude was starting to really get on my nerves. "He was going to kill a lot of innocent people because of me, Treize. What the hell would you have done?" I was hard pressed to keep my tone civil.

Treize leaned forward in his seat, pinning me with a sharp, crystal blue gaze. "I am intelligent enough, Mr. Maxwell, that I would have never gotten myself in to such a bind."

I started forward, not even thinking of what I was doing until Quatre grabbed my arm. Une let out a warning growl, and I made myself take a couple of deep, calming breaths before speaking again. If my mouth got me killed, I wouldn't be doing anyone a favor. "Do you want him or not?"

"Are you asking for my help?" Treize had a bemused smile on his face. I wasn't fooled.

I almost bit my tongue in half in the process, but I managed to get it out. "Yes. I'm asking for help."

"If we are to be allies, Mr. Maxwell, albeit temporarily, this will not be a one-sided deal."

I'd known it was coming. "What do you want in return?"

He gave me a long, hard look, then favored Wufei with the same. Something about the hooded expression in his eyes made me very, very nervous. If whatever he wanted involved blood or pants around the ankles, I was out of here. Better to take my chances against Johannes and his monkey boys.

I didn't have to worry. "I want you to find and destroy the person that has been burning my children." he said.

That I could do. If I were really lucky, whoever I caught would end up being the person that had been trying to blow me up, too. "Deal." I said. Hopefully it wouldn't be anyone I knew.

"I trust that you will not think to cross me as you have crossed Johannes." Treize said.

I shivered at the threat in his voice. "The thought would never cross my mind." I said, and I meant it. Having one of the most powerful vampires on the face of the planet pissed at me was not something I was looking to try.

"Excellent." He beckoned, and two vampires came up the steps. I recognized one of them as our buddy Ivan. "We will have to do this properly," Treize said, "if we are to minimize...casualties. Tell Ivan where Johannes can be found. We will send a messenger."

I told Ivan the back alley route that Tony had taken me through. He made a quick sketch of it, then sent the other vampire to fetch a city map. We compared the two, coming up with the name of a theater--Black Sabbath, an old rock café that had been converted to a dance hall. We waited while Treize wrote a letter and sealed it with wax the color of blood, which he handed off to Ivan's flunky.

Ivan stayed with us as we watched the vampire disappear down the massive staircase. I looked over at him. "Now what?"

His reply was a shake of his head. "Now we wait."

* * *

And wait we did. It was probably only a couple hours, but the time passed like cold molasses. Treize simply sat in his throne and might as well have been a part of it for all he moved, with Une snoozing lightly on his knee. I guess great age breeds gobs and gobs of patience. It didn't do a whole hell of a lot for my nerves. For the most part, I was even too pissed to talk, as scary as that sounds. We all simply waited in silence, to see what reaction Treize's note of...whatever...would bring.

After nearly two hours of silence, I just couldn't take it any more. "Ivan, how much longer is it going to be?"

Ivan started, then blinked slowly a couple of times, as if he were coming out of a light sleep. "I do not know." he said, pulling a gold watch from one of his pockets, "but I cannot imagine it will be too much longer. Dawn is only a short ways away, and I doubt he would wait until tomorrow to give us his answer."

"What exactly did Treize send him, anyway?"

"An...offer." Ivan hesitated, "An offer to talk about their differences

peacefully, and, failing that, for the two of them to take their grievances into a more private battle. The Master dislikes wasting his resources."

"He's being pretty direct for the Treize we all know and love." I muttered.

Ivan looked as if he were going to answer, but instead, he turned sharply and peered down the staircase. "Master," he said, "they are coming."

"Thank you, Ivan." Treize crossed his legs, suddenly acting like he was alive again.

As alive as a vampire gets, anyway.

Ivan carefully ushered the five of us to one side. "You may witness," he said, "but do not speak. This is no longer your concern." His expression was carefully blank and still, the way only vampires could manage, but I couldn't shake the feeling that he was worried. Something had gone wrong.

A vampire walked up the steps, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the problem. He wasn't our guy. He was blonde, to start with, and was wearing a laced-up peasant shirt and black leather pants. Even more worrying, he was carrying a piece of silver work that looked like a small soup tureen. Call it a hunch, but I didn't think he was here to serve us a round of gazpacho.

The blonde vampire made an elegant bow to Treize. "I come bearing an answer from my Master, and, through him, the high council."

Treize waved a lazy hand. "You may proceed."

Without another word, he took the lid of the urn and poured a pile of thin grey ashes on to the marble floor. Three gold buttons fell out as well, barely recognizable and melted from intense heat.

"That was a mistake." Treize said, voice soft, "I hope you realize that, my Johannes." He shot a quick look at Ivan, then stood. I hadn't thought it was possible, but he looked even taller, more like a colossus that should have been straddling a harbor than a big gulp sized motivated corpse. Without thinking, I reached for my gun.

"You must go now." A very worried looking Ivan blocked my view for a moment. "Now. This is no longer a place for you." He began to herd us all toward the steps.

Wind suddenly sprang up around us, tearing at our clothing with animalistic ferocity. I caught a glance over Ivan's shoulder and almost tripped over my own feet -- Treize was floating a good five feet above the floor, with his eyes glowing like blue neon. Une let out a shriek and fell to the floor, writhing as if she were in excruciating pain. All I could do was stare as her skin almost seemed to melt, re-forming into new lines...

A woman with short black hair darted out from behind Treize, her eyes glowing the same bright blue. She grabbed my shoulder, almost crushing it in her grasp, and jerked me into a 180. "Get them out of here, Ivan!" she screamed, trying to be heard over the wind.

Ivan snatched my wrist in one gloved hand and forced me into a dead run down the stairs. The first few steps, I nearly lost my balance and fell, still trying to look over my shoulder...then the screaming started, laced with the sickening sound of bones snapping and joints tearing apart.

I didn't need any prompting to run, then. None of us did. It felt like an eternity, but we kept running down the stairs, never letting ourselves falter against the unnatural gale. The sounds behind us didn't lessen, if anything, the longer we ran, the louder the screams became. Below us, the wolves began to howl, adding to the cacophony.

Then we were at the bottom of the stairs, and Ivan manhandled all of us out of the door. He was out of breath, red-tinted sweat running down his forehead. "Do not forget your promise to my Master..." he gasped out, hanging on to the door frame for dear life.

"No--"

I didn't get a chance to finish my sentence. The wind tore his fingers from the door frame, and Ivan was literally sucked back into the room. The door slammed shut behind him, cutting off the wind and the screams as if they'd never existed.

We just stood there and stared for a long moment, before a picture fell off the wall, sending a cascade of glass shards across the carpeted floor.

Quatre finally spoke. "Duo, please tell me that this was all a really fucked up dream, and that I'll wake up in a minute."

I wished I could. I really wished I could.