CHAPTER 5: WHEN PAST & PRESENT COLLIDE

Duo jerked awake, sweat pouring off him in droves as he sat up amidst his thin pallet. He panted, his bony chest heaving. The only light in his dark room was the soft, faint moonlight that shimmered through his half-opened window.

His hands lifted to cradle his head, shifting through his loose long-brown hair. He stared down at the rumpled bedding, trying to remember his dream. The only thing he remembered was a beautiful face with violet eyes and long golden-streaked hair who looked enough like him to be his older brother or his father. And then there was another face. It was Heero, but not a Heero he had ever seen before. The Heero of his dream had long dark-brown hair tied up in multiple braids and a twitching pair of ears and a swishing wolf's tail. :Had that been okami-Heero?: Duo wondered. :If so, how do I know what he looked like? Who was that man who looked so much like me?:Standing up on shaky limbs, Duo limped towards the weapons-rack where all the pilots had placed their newfound weapons. He murmured a soft prayer of thanks that Heero was in the Ningenkai with him. They had all decided during last night's meal, after Kurama had thrown away the burnt remains of whatever he had been cooking, that the other pilots, including Heero, should go back to Ningenkai at night. Kurama had reasoned that there was not enough room for all of them at the treehouse, not to mention the fact that they all had to keep an eye on OZ and the Pro-Treize movement.Now, all that remained was him, Kurama, and Hiei. The other two was sleeping soundly in their chambers, exhausted after their exertions. Duo flushed crimson as he remembered the half-stifled sounds of pleasure that leaked out from the bedroom only a few feet away. Inadvertently, he wondered whether Heero made love quietly. Flushing even more, Duo stifled his lustful thoughts and limped onwards. He felt much better, the burning of his insides much milder, but he still felt shaky on his feet.

He stared at the huge weapon Heero had gifted him with yesterday. The rune-encarved wood looked smooth and inviting, a sharp contrast to the deadly promise of diamond-edged scythe-blade and the sharp metal spikes of the enchained ball.

Without really knowing why he did it, Duo took hold of the weapon and lifted it from the rack. Without the support of his bed, Duo's legs folded beneath him and scythe fell with a soft thud on the wooden floor, Duo on his hands and knees, panting at the unexpected weight. Taking gulps of breath, he reached out and touched the weapon, tracing the weird symbols all over the wooden handle.

:Aduron.: The mental whisper again, this time with a hint of smugness and triumph.

:Who are you?:

:Don't you remember, my prince?: the mental voice sounded shocked and disbelieving.

:Would I ask if I did?: Duo's reply was tart and sarcastic. It was the middle of the night, he had just awoken from a nightmare he couldn't remember and he was in no mood to be talking to a smartass piece of wood and metal.

:I am NOT a smartass piece of wood and metal!: loudly exclaimed the scythe. :For your information, I am made from a Soul-Searcher's branches and everything metal on me was forged from Black Mountains of the Fire-demons!: The mental voice sounded pompous and condescending.Duo grimaced.

:Whatever. Who is this Aduron you keep talking about, anyway? My name's Duo Maxwell.:

:Duo Maxwell?:

:Yup. I may run, I may hide, but I never lie. I am Shinigami,: proclaimed Duo, mentally imagining himself in a superhero's pose. A chuckling erupted his beautiful dream.

:Oh, you're Shinigami, all right, my love.:

:So are you going to answer my question or not?:

:Aduron is dead. That's why you felt so different.: the voice seemed musing and thoughtful. :Do you want to know about your past? Do you really want to know?:

:What are you talking about?:

The scythe sighed. :After death, Reikai decides whether to reincarnate a person or not. You are the reincarnation of a prince once known as Aduron.:

:A prince?:

:Yes. Now, I could restore you all your memories but it would be through a binding ceremony. Your reincarnation has half-broken the bonds between us and it must be repaired. Do you want to?:

:Does this mean I'm damning my soul to you?: Though Duo had often claimed he did not believe in God anymore, the teachings of fire and brimstone were hard to dispell.

:Idiot. You've been bound to me before and does your soul feel damned?:

Duo's mind froze. Suddenly, his ears were flooded by dying screams, his eyes imagining the countless silent assassinations he had done, his hands feeling the cold metal of guns and knives. :Yes,: he said bleakly. :My soul is damned and it has been ever since this war started.:

The scythe was silent. Duo was silent. The wind howled beyond the half-opened windows.

:I'll undergo the binding ceremony,: the American said finally.

:Are you sure?: the cocky arrogance that had flavored the mental voice was gone now, replaced by an unsure sadness.

Duo snarled mentally, :I don't need your damned pity! You're a scythe, a weapon of murder and assassination. It'll be a cold day in hell before a weapon pities me!:

He half-expected the magical entity to withdraw its offer. Instead, the mental voice spoke up again, firm and steady. :So be it. You are truly Aduron's incarnation.: The last was said ruefully. :On with the ceremony. Bring me to your lap.:

Duo did so, bracing himself against the weight of the scythe. To his amazement, the weapon weighed as much as a feather. He easily placed it on his lap.

:Slash your right wrist on my blade.:

His heart thudding, Duo shakily did so. The pale flesh gaped open, like an obscene smile.

:Pour your life's blood on each of the runes on my body.:

Duo moved his hand, watching with a sick fascination as his blood rushed in a black flood down to the wooden handle. Each time blood splattered on the wood, it glowed with an eerie white light.

:Now grasp me and shout,

By my blood, I call upon thee,
To serve and protect me until the end of days,
By my blood, I bind ourselves as one!:

Frightened but resolute, Duo followed the orders. As soon as the words poured from his lips, he was engulfed by a searing fire that made Palyprusi's fire seem nothing in comparison. He slid forward to lie face down on the floor, his hands still clinging to the scythe.

Hiei and Kurama woke up at the screaming. Both ran out their bedroom, stark naked, to stare at the fallen form of their charge. Blood, a black pool, stained the floor underneath the American boy.

Kurama gasped and moved forward, only to be stopped by Hiei.

"Don't."

"But Hiei, he'll die!" Kurama protested.

"No. It's a binding ceremony."

Kurama stared at his husband with wide golden eyes. He looked back at the boy. He realized now that the pool of blood was actually glowing, very faintly true, but it was glowing. The scythe underneath the boy also began to glow.

"Leave him. There is nothing we could do." Hiei went back towards their bedroom. Kurama, after looking back at the glowing form of the unconscious boy, reluctantly followed his husband.

:Where am I?:

Duo opened his eyes and gasped. He was floating in what looked like an endless abyss stark naked. He flushed and looked around but there was nothing.

:You are in my mind. Now relax and watch as your past is relived.:

Duo calmed down at the sound of that familiar mental voice. He looked amazed as the abyss vanished replaced by what looked like a motion picture, sharp and clear. And the hero was him.

He watched, fascinated, as winged women operated on a suffering young woman. His mother, Duo realized, seeing the familiar features and the pain-wracked violet eyes. His heart thudded in his ears as he realized that the woman was dying as she gave birth. Tears tracked down his cheeks as a wailing winged baby appeared and a deep moan echoed at his birth. Then nothing.

:She died to give me life.:

:So she did. Now, hush.:

The next scenes were Duo, or rather, Aduron's growing up years in the palace hidden in a dark, gloomy desert. Watching, Duo learned that he was actually from a race known as the Chimera. They were youkai created by the lords of Meikai as their servants, harvesters of dead demons and holders of the power of death. However, due to the Reikai-Meikai war, Meikai was destroyed and all its surviving people were stripped of most of their powers, including the Chimera. Now, only a tiny band was left, led by Duo's father, a tall, broad-shouldered man by the name of Rhipfier. Rhipfier was a harsh taskmaster, not given to forgiveness. He expected everything from his son and disciplined the young Aduron harshly if the boy didn't meet his expectations.

Duo watched, fists clenched, as his former incarnation was beaten bloody for failing to steal the magnificent horse he was sent to steal. There were other punishments, each one more hideous than the previous one, and Duo watched it all with a boiling hatred.

:I know your father was a bastard. Now, he is a dead bastard.:

Duo grinned at the scythe's heated comment. The next scene brought Duo to blush again. Aduron, approximately 2 centuries of age, have discovered the mysteries of sex and pursued its pleasures recklessly and relentlessly. Scene after scene of illicit affairs flashed through.

:Now there's something I would like to try,: Duo thought as he watched his former self enjoyed the administrations of two of his admirers, one male and one female. The female offered her breasts for the prince to suckle while the male impaled the prince on his staff from behind. Duo felt as if he was on fire and he moaned along with his former self.

:I don't think your lover would like that,: the scythe commented.

:W-who are you talking about?: Duo panted, eyes trained on the scene. The male had withdrawn from the prince, his fair skin flushed with his climax. The prince, a sensual smile on his face, pulled the female to him and mounted her. They made love fiercely, racing towards orgasm with dizzying speed.

:Heero.:

The scene ended with both Aduron and his female lover achieving climax, backs arched, faces slack, as pleasure washed through them. Duo gritted his teeth as he felt himself climax also, his seed releasing onto his thighs. "Shit!" he exclaimed, looking at himself in dismay. Then the name 'Heero' registered on him. "What are you talking about?" He forgot to phrase his question mentally.

:You love him, don't you?:

"So what? He doesn't love me." Duo said bitterly, trying to wipe away his semen with little success.

:Yes, he does.:

The next scene was that of a young boy. Duo gasped as he recognized Heero. It was the Heero of his dream, except there were no ears or tail. Long dark-brown hair in braids fell to the knees, framing wide cobalt-blue eyes, which mirrored nothing and felt nothing. A skimpy black tunic, belted at the waist, barely covered the essentials, leaving a great deal of smooth, pale skin. A golden armlet in the shape of a snake was curled around Heero's bare upper right arm. His ears were pierced and studded with jeweled gold earrings, three at the right and four at the left. A magnificent diamond collar, complete with black crystal shards that looked like metal spikes, was latched at the boy's neck. Knives of various sizes hung from the small, slight frame.

"He looks like a cross between a whore and an assassin," Duo said in horror, even as he felt himself becoming aroused again at the delicious sight of his beloved in the loose, nearly-transparent get-up. :Where is this? What has happened?:

:Rhipfier has offended a powerful youkai, with a massive army. He is seeking the aid of Zashoun, a shadow-master and Ethan's master.:

"Ethan?"

:The former Heero. I believe, from his touch, that he and Ethan are one and the same, not an incarnation.

"Heero did say he was half-youkai," Duo murmured. He watched fascinated at the interaction happening before him. The prince was intrigued and fascinated by the young boy who looked like a ningen. Zashoun, a pretty adolescent with S-class powers, much higher than Aduron's own A-class, seemed to take delight in torturing Aduron by proving his claim on the boy again and again. Heero, or rather Ethan, was as good at hiding his expression as he is now and Duo couldn't read him at all.

One of the ways Zashoun showed his ownership of 'Ethan' was an assassination. A peasant youkai had offended the shadow-master and Zashoun decided to set as an entertainment a hunt. Duo watched as 'Ethan' was let loose to hunt the poor youkai. He growled low in his throat as he watched Zashoun stop Heero from killing the hapless demon with a thrust at the heart and had Heero, instead, dig out the youkai's heart alive. Duo watched as Heero did so, face impassive, even as he brought the still throbbing bloody heart for his master to feast upon. He noted that Aduron looked as pleased as Duo was at the hunt. The rest of the youkai were cheering wildly.

"Man, he's sick," Duo exclaimed, feeling his stomach roiling queasily.

:Are you alright, Adu---Duo?:

"Hai, hai! I can't wait to pound his face to the ground. It's no wonder Heero feels nothing when he kills."

:Yes, he does. Watch.:

The scene changed. The scythe told Duo that Zashoun and his tribe of vile followers were out to raid a neighboring village. Aduron had declined to join them. Heero, Zashoun's prized pet, was also left in the shadow-shrouded castle.

The scene started with Heero. He wore only a black loincloth as he slowly walked into a pool of crystal-clear water. Unbeknownst to him was Aduron, who had been lounging in the shadows, looking at the full moon.

Both Duo and Aduron watched in stunned amazement as Heero slowly changed. His slight body bulged slightly, growing horizontally and vertically until he reached six feet. Duo drooled at the sight of Heero's mature body, with those broad shoulders, washboard stomach, and powerfully-muscled arms and legs. His long hair was loose from their multiple ties and flowed on the water's surface. His face also changed, his cheekbones becoming more prominent, his lips becoming fuller, more sensual, changing the delicate boy's beauty into the sensual face of a man. The loincloth had been torn during the transformation, leaving Heero naked in the water.

Duo gasped as he watched Heero's ears slowly elongate and become furry and mobile on either side of his face, unlike Kurama's ears which appeared on the top of his head. Duo could see a swishing tail, appearing behind Heero.Then okami-Heero began to cry. Both Aduron and Duo watched in stunned amazement as the wolf-man began scrubbing himself frantically in the water, as if trying to erase a stain that can never be gone. Tears, glinting silver in the bright moonlight, fell from his closed eyes and down to the pool of rippling water.

"Heero," Duo whispered, reaching a hand to try and touch the image. His hand passed through the image and Duo withdrew his hand, fists clenching once more. "Heero, what did that bastard do to you?"

Aduron apparently had the same idea as he strode out from the concealing shadows and into the water, ignoring the fact that his delicate silk garments would be destroyed by the water.

Duo watched with growing jealousy as Heero, frightened and outraged at the other man's appearance, slowly began to accept Aduron's comfort. The winged prince wrapped his arms around the Ethan's shivering body, his taller form perfectly merging with Ethan's new form. The tender whispers became kisses, the comforting hands became more passionate as they caressed the skin Duo had so longed for.

Unable to watch anymore, Duo turned away. The scene froze with Heero and Aduron entwined in a passionate kiss, the moon's light bearing fully on them.

:What's wrong, Aduron?:

"Don't call me that! I'm Duo now!"

:Ah, so that's it.:

"What's it?!" Duo demanded. His guts were clenched and his nails dug into
his palms as he fought with his green-eyed monster.

:You're jealous.: The mental voice became a sibilant whisper.

"N-nani?! How can I be? Aduron was me before I was reincarnated!"

:I know that. You know that. What are you worried about then?:

"Nothing!"

:Are you worried that he might not love Duo Maxwell as much as he loves Prince Aduron?:

Duo looked back at the scene. The image had been replaced by a collection of photograph-like pictures: Heero and Aduron passionately making love in a silken chamber; Aduron teasing the impassive young boy and receiving a whack in the head in response, followed by a gentle caress; Heero shyly initiating a lovemaking session; the two of them just holding each other as they cuddled in the afterglow; 'Ethan' finally revealing his true name, 'Heero', Aduron and the prince's delighted respons; Heero's expression as he watched the prince, unknowing that the prince's sentient weapon watched him. It was on this last picture that the images froze again.

:Look, Duo Maxwell. What do you see?:

:I don't want to! I don't want to!: Duo chanted in his mind but he forced himself to look at that beloved face. Duo stared at Heero's eyes and saw something that both shattered and engulfed him with a tumultuous joy. Love.

:Heero does feel love for you as Aduron. The question now is, can you make him love you as Duo Maxwell?:

"I don't know."

The scythe tactfully said nothing but continued the display. He narrated to Duo the fact that Zashoun, after toying with the prince for a month, had decided to pledge his allegiance. However, Zashoun betrayed them at the last possible moment, setting his army to destroying what remained of the Chimera. A few managed to escape, but the majority was destroyed along with the ruling family.Turning a pale green at the scenes of absolute massacre, Duo watched as Zashoun singled the hapless Chimeran prince out and tortured him to death. His final words echoed in Duo's mind:

"I have granted you hospitality of my hearth and home. In turn, you betrayed me by stealing my priceless treasure. Ethan was mine, heart and soul. He was mine the moment I took him from a diseased cavern of dead to be my personal slave. He loved me, he killed for me, he would die for me. Now, he has betrayed me by loving you. For your betrayal, so I shall betray you. For stealing his body through love, so shall I steal yours through rape and torture. For stealing his love, so shall I steal your soul."

With those words, the shadow-master left the bleeding and broken body of the prince on the ground. Heero crept from the shadows, tears staining his face as he knelt by his lover.

"What did that bastard do to you?" Aduron unknowingly echoed Duo's words earlier.

"Nothing," the boy tried to reassure the dying prince.

"Don't lie to me, Heero."

The boy hesitated but said the truth. "He trapped me in this form. He took my youki."

"The bastard!" hissed Aduron. He coughed suddenly, spitting globules of blood. He smiled at Heero's frightened expression. "Never forget that I love you, Heero. I'm sorry." His eyes fell close and his breathing became even more ragged and painful.

From the corner of his eyes, Heero saw the shadows gathering and slithering towards them. "You bastard, I won't let you have him," Heero yelled, even as he took out his dagger and plunged it straight into Aduron's faintly rising chest. Blood spurted out in an obscene fountain, coating Heero from head to knee. He stared in the shadows, face twisted in an animal's snarl.Duo watched as Heero took up the scythe and fled Zashoun's castle, taking with him a black crystal he had stolen from the shadow-master's study. Zashoun had not realized the depth of emotion his slave had for the dead prince so he had not expected Heero's subsequent flight. He, along with his montrous shadow army, ran after his slave, intent on his return. Heero, unable to run anymore, dropped the crystal on the ground and, smearing Aduron's blood on the blade, shattered the crystal. The loss of the crystal, the focus of all Zashoun's shadow power, ended the hunt because Zashoun lost control of the shadow elements and became as weak as a ningen. Heero beheaded him with Aduron's blade mercilessly.

Scene after scene was about Heero's exploration of his freedom for the next few weeks and finally, his capture of the slave-traders. Heero had been separated from his scythe and the scythe, with the death of his master and his separation from his master's beloved, went into hibernation.

:Until you called me again. Now name me, Duo Maxwell.:

"I name you Ikinosatsugai, Bound for Bloodshed."

:Which blood will I shed?:

"Zashoun's."