Alrighty...here ya go. ;) See, Seimei no Miko kitty, ask and ye shall receive. ^^;;;

--
Katsu no Miko (ICQ me! 13773131)
Wufei no Seishi
Keeper of Duo's Angst
Duo's Grand Inquisitor and Head Torturer
Keeper of Duo's Stake, Mallet, and Browning .40 Hi-Power III
AND: Keeper of Ad's Sanity! (*snicker* What sanity?)

"Erst wenn die Wolken schlafen gehen/kann man uns am Himmel sehen/
wir haben Angst und sind allein.../Gott weiss ich wil kein Engel sein..."
(~Ramms+ein~)

 

Passage: Dark segment 3

 

A shock ran through him, leaving him gasping for air, the fine hairs on the back of his neck standing on end. He'd felt it three times before, when he'd first met Heero, Trowa, and Quatre.

Recognition.

All of his hope had been in vain, it seemed. The boy was indeed the one. He was Fire.

/I'm so sorry.../

Wufei closed his eyes for a moment, cutting of the strange feeling in the pit of his stomach that the recognition had brought on. He was the only one out of the Masters that had ever felt the recognition; no one was quite certain why. It was perhaps an extension of his power, since Wind was the element of thought and intuition, or maybe a latent ability similar to that of the twins. Whatever the reason, he knew without the confirmation of the twins or the binding.

They were five again.

/I'm sorry.../

He opened his eyes to find the boy still staring at him with the world-wary look of a wild animal, waiting for the signal that would tell him whether or not Wufei was threat, comfort, or food. Wufei simply stared at the boy...he hadn't thought at all about what he would say when the boy woke, and his mind seemed to be frozen now for a reason he couldn't quite explain. 'Are you alright?' seemed just a bit too ridiculous to ask. 'Welcome back to the land of the living' didn't sound like a wonderful option either. 'Did you have a nice nap?' was definitely out.

/Damnit, why me? Why not Quatre? He's so much better at talking than I am./ Wufei grimaced internally, keeping his expression neutral through an effort of will. A sour expression would probably only frighten the boy.

Wufei stared at the boy. The boy stared at him. The minutes stretched out, further and further until the Wind Master was forced to begin running through calming routines in his mind to keep himself from screaming at the boy. /What's wrong with you. Say something! Anything! Are you dumb? Did they cut out your tongue? Why don't you speak?!/ The knowledge that the boy was probably thinking the same things about him didn't really help his feelings. There was something disconcerting about the boy's eyes. Something frightening...

Finally, after a thousand years of waiting, the boy was the one that broke the silence. His tongue flicked out in an ineffectual attempt to wet his cracked, dry lips. His voice, too, was cracked and dry, barely more than a whisper and made thin by too much screaming. "Safe...?" he forced out raggedly.

Wufei winced slightly at the sound. He'd only heard a voice so destroyed by screaming twice before, and neither time was a memory he wanted to dredge up. "You're safe." he said softly. Before the boy could answer, the Wind Master stood quickly and walked over to the window, keeping his blanket firmly wrapped around him. The air temperature had dropped significantly, and he had to bite back a yelp when his bare feet came in contact with the freezing cold floor.

There was a pewter pitcher sitting on the windowsill. Droplets of water clung to its sides, dripping to the floor the instant Wufei picked the pitcher up. He poured cool water into the small wooden cup that had been sitting next to the pitcher, and too the whole mess back over to the bed, setting the pitcher on the floor and handing the cup to the boy.

"Where?" The boy asked. He seemed to be limiting himself to one word at a time, which was just as well...it more than likely hurt like hell to talk. He tilted his head up with a great deal of difficulty to drink. The cup was too full and water spilled out of it, running down his chin. Wufei leaned forward, intending to help the boy sit all the way up...the idea was thwarted when the boy shied away, spilling more of the water in the process. Wufei quickly sat back.

"You're in the Tiamat's Palace in Sanctuary." The boy's eyes widened in shock, and Wufei hastily continued. "You haven't been unconscious for more than a day, my friend. We flew." The moment the words left his mouth, he knew he'd made a mistake. Somehow, he had a feeling that the boy wouldn't be comforted by the thought that he'd had a close brush with magic.

He was right. What little color the boy had in his cheeks drained quickly away, and his eyes widened enough that Wufei could see the whites all the way around.

Wufei sighed quietly. /Damnit, why me.../ "You don't have to be afraid. I've been with you the entire time."

The boy abruptly let go of the cup of water, pushing it away from him. It
fell to the blankets, the little water that had been left in it spilling
out to make a wet spot before the cup rolled off the bed completely,
clattering hollowly to the floor. The boy shifted, his face white, as if
trying to move away from Wufei.

Wufei put his head in his hands and groaned softly. /Is there any way I could make a bigger mess?/ He quickly cut that thought off. Thinking like that would be exactly the way to find out how things could be worse. "Damnit..." he said quietly. It definitely wouldn't help matters if he raised his voice to show his frustration. The boy was already frightened as it was. "Look, boy, I haven't eaten you and I haven't threatened you, and I brought you to some friends of mine that tried to heal your wounds to the best of our ability. There's no reason for you to be afraid." It came out sounding much harsher than he'd intended, and he winced internally. Perhaps it was time to start socializing a little more with people other than the other Masters; his rather shaky social skills had deteriorated until he was nearly as tactless as Heero. That was a disconcerting thought; the Water Master was infamous in most circles for his blatant honesty, surliness, and complete lack of any kind of social grace when it came to dealing with the more gently bred court hangers-on. Heero never particularly cared, however. On the rare occasions that he actually wanted to socialize, his chosen companions were the other Masters. Wufei sighed again. "You can either be afraid, or you can accept that I'm not a threat...and being afraid won't accomplish anything." Slowly, he lifted his face from his hands and looked at the boy.

The boy was still watching him warily, but he was no longer leaning away from Wufei, and a little color had returned to his face. When he saw that Wufei was looking at him, he nodded slowly, once.

Wufei let out a small sigh of relief. "Do you have a name?" he asked.

"Ketten." the boy said softly.

Wufei nodded. "You're lucky to be alive, Ketten. I've rarely seen someone as badly injured as you live for more than a few hours." he hesitated, unsure if he should continue. He didn't really have much of a choice, though...they--HE--needed to know. "What happened?"

Ketten's breath caught in his throat. "Attacked." he said. "My caravan..." the boy closed his eyes, his neck arching back as if he was in pain. A thrill of alarm ran through Wufei. "My caravan...burnt. Everyone...they were hurting everyone." with each word, his voice became stronger, his tone more more dead as the memories burned away the last of the pain that had been fogging his mind. There was a strange accent in his voice, one that Wufei didn't recognize. /Caravan...a nomad, possibly./ Ketten suddenly opened his eyes. "Was...is...there anyone else?" he asked softly.

Wufei shifted uncomfortably under the weight of the boy's gaze. There was a hunger there that was frightening. Too much emptiness...too much for someone so young. Instead of answering right away, he rescued the cup from the floor, refilled it halfway and handed it back to the boy.

Ketten took the cup, but his eyes never left Wufei. "Was there anyone else?" he asked again, even more softly.

"You were the only one that I found." Wufei finally replied quietly. "Everything else was ashes."

"Ashes..." Ketten said quietly. He let out a short, sharp sound that could have been a laugh or a sob. "Ashes...and the world became nothing but ashes in my mouth...and the men and women wept and cried 'Kai, kai, kai'[1] and laid handfuls of their hair upon the ground..." he closed his eyes tightly. "They're better off dead. They can't hurt when they're dead." he finally said.

The flat statement was even more disturbing than the emptiness in the boy's eyes. There was nothing there, no emotion, no tears, just simple emptiness. /Not good...he's closing himself off./ Wufei shook his head. He knew what it felt like, to be left completely alone, and he knew the urge to cut off all emotion...it was an urge that would cripple. So he tried again. "I'm sorry, Ketten..." the words sounded too trite in his own ears.

"That's not my name." the boy said, cutting Wufei off.

"But..."

"That's not my name." he said again. "Ketten died with the rest of his caravan. The wind is playing fiddle and drum on his bones now...What do you call that?"

The question startled Wufei, driving the morbid image from his mind, as well as the shock at the boy's sudden change. "Call what?"

"When two instruments play music together."

Wufei thought for a moment, searching for the word that was used in Sanctuary; he didn't think the boy would be interested in his native language. "A...duet. Yes. Duet."

A sudden smile flitted across the boy's cracked lips. It was almost frightening. "Duet, ne? Then my name...my name is Duo." The smile grew, and he turned his face toward Wufei. "My name is Duo. It is my pleasure to meet you. May the sun be warm on your shoulders and the land firm beneath your feet." The words were stilted and he paused, as if mentally searching for the proper words. The greeting was not one that Wufei readily recognized.

Still, it seemed rude not to answer in kind. "I am Wufei." he paused, attempting to think of the proper return greeting. After drawing a complete blank, he shrugged and fell back on the greeting he'd been laboriously taught when he'd first come to Sanctuary. "Storm winds cradle you and never leave you bereft of comfort." the irony was so strong that he nearly choked.

If the boy...Duo, now...felt it, he gave no sign.

"I'm glad to make your acquaintance." he said quietly. "And I'm grateful for your help. Name your price and it will be yours." his smile never wavered, but there was something in his tone.

Wufei froze. There was a challenge in Duo's tone...but a challenge to do what, he didn't know.

***

He waited tensely for the kivula to answer. His stomach was clenched so tightly with anxiety and something else that he couldn't understand that he thought he would throw up the cool water the stranger had given him to drink. The woman--no--man, definitely a man, just sat and watched him, as if he didn't know what to do. Duo had been surprised when the woman had spoken with a deep, definitely masculine voice. And when he had stood to go fetch the water pitcher, his movements had been graceful, yes, but not as delicate as those of a woman.

Which only made things worse. He could perhaps hope for mercy from a woman...but not a man. Never a man. He'd known the kivula were an angry people, empty and tied forever in one place by their own strange choice, forever removing themselves from the Dance...but he hadn't thought until now that they were tvilag--animals.

/But maybe...maybe.../

He shifted restlessly, and his legs sent sharps stabs of pain shooting up into his hips and groin.

No...he hadn't thought they were animals.

/Please god, maybe.../

The smoothness of the wooden cup was reassuring under his fingers, and he held it as tightly as he could--not very tight at all. /Weak...always too weak.../

His people were dead, all of them, because he'd been unable to save them. He'd been the caravan leader for this journey. It was his responsibility. His...and he hadn't been strong enough. They were all dead by the hands of the kivula...and he himself was dead. He'd done it himself, changed his name, removed the last tie he had with his people and the dance, naming himself with one of the ugly kivula words.

/Why should I care what this man chooses to do with me? I'm already dead.../

/But then why am I trembling? Why? I shouldn't care. He can't be any crueler./

He felt that strange, frightening smile on his lips again, but it was good. It was comforting. It covered up his emptiness, and perhaps hid how vulnerable and weak he was from the strange man.

/Ketten! KETTEN!/

/NO! Ketten is DEAD! He died with his people! I'm Duo!/

A little panicked sound tore itself from his throat, and he flung the cup of water away once more, clutching at his face with his hands. His eyes stung, hurt, burned. He hurt. He burned.

/No! I won't cry! I won't be weak again!/

The other man was up in an instant, his hands firmly on Duo's shoulders, trying to hold him steady. The man--Wufei, Duo reminded himself in a distant, rational corner of his mind--the man's long black hair brushed against his face for a moment. It was soft, very soft, like his sister's had been...

Sister...Hilde, screaming his name as the soldiers...

/NO!/

A scream managed to tear itself from his throat, and he idly wondered how he had managed it...he'd thought all of his screams were gone...

Someone slapped him sharply across the face, and he stopped, too stunned to do anything but blink.

***

Wufei immediately regretted his hasty action as soon as he saw the stunned look on the boy's face. He quickly let go of his shoulders. "Go--gomen." he muttered hastily. He stared down at his hands for a moment, then at Duo.

The boy's eyes were empty of everything. Wufei scrubbed his hands against his bare legs, only maintaining contact through sheer force of will. /Smart move, Wufei. He's been tortured for the last month, and you go and slap him..../

"It's alright..." Duo whispered softly, his lips curling up in another smile. "You never need to apologize to me. I owe you too much." he continued to stare blankly at Wufei. The smile didn't belong on his face.

/Great...why don't I just go out and kick a few puppies while I'm at it.../ Wufei sat down carefully on the edge of the back, trying to decide what to do. Duo stiffened as he sat, but relaxed after a moment. "Do you want to talk?" Wufei finally said, his own voice uncertain.

Duo looked at him like he'd just said the sky was orange. "No."

"I think you need to talk." Wufei tried again.

The animation suddenly returned to Duo's face, the grin once more becoming natural. "I'm tired, Wufei. My legs hurt."

"I'm sorry...Quatre said that we can't give you pain killers." Wufei sighed, his stomach twisting for a moment. Helplessness...he hated it. "You should sleep. You'll be meeting the Tiamat and the Twins tomorrow."

Duo's smile became strained, but he nodded. "Goodnight. Thank you." He closed his eyes.

Wufei sat on the edge of the bed until his breathing had quieted completely into sleep. The boy's face only lost a little of its pain and wariness when he slept; there were still fine wrinkles around his eyes and on his forehead, that he had a feeling not even time would erase. Duo sighed softly and murmured in his sleep, and Wufei reluctantly stood, returning to his chair to brood over his helplessness in the face of whatever demons were haunting the boy. Only then did he realize how adroitly he'd been sidestepped.

---

[1] Ok, a slight note. I'm not going to explain the passage fully, because it should be elaborated on later...and if I don't elaborate on it by the end of the Passage: Dark series, feel free to e-mail me and ask. Just as a translation, "Kai kai kai" is the equivalent of "No no no" but "kai" is not just a simple no...it is the final "no," a useless denial of that which cannot be changed (such as death.) The language is that of the Zsidok, which are favorites of mine in this world...in my other original stories, they're featured prominently. ;)