.... At least, I think it's part 21... I'm not sure. ^_^;; I've been writing this for too long... Oh well.

GW/FY, some spoilers, weirdness, AU, OOC, Yaoi, Tamahome just ain't my favorite character, and so forth. Thou hast been warned.

They aren't mine, so don't bug me.

Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Twenty-One

There was food waiting for Tamahome on the dining room table, but Duo was nowhere in sight. A quick glance into the living room revealed that the nest that was the braided one's bed on the couch had been neatly stowed away. The television was silent as well.

Tamahome frowned slightly, confused as he wandered through the house. It felt almost as if Duo were avoiding him--but why? *I'll bet it's out of guilt,* the seishi mused, moving from room to room absent-mindedly in his quest to find the other boy. *It would figure, anyway.*

He came to a halt outside the one door in the house he'd never been through. Quatre had gone to great lengths to explain that it was not a good idea for him to go into the... uh... hangar. Yes, that's what he had called it. Tamahome regarded it thoughtfully. What on earth could the four boys be keeping in there that was so important? *That's probably where Duo is, too,* Tamahome decided. *It'd be just like him to hide in the one place I can't go...*

Tamahome stared at the door for a while longer. Then, firming his shoulders, he opened the door and stepped through.

The sheer immensity of the--*thing*--inside stunned him, leaving him standing with his mouth agape at the chilling majesty of the--Tamahome paused, trying to find the word for what *it* was. Warrior? No, it was too motionless to be living. Monster? Perhaps... there was something dreadful about the stately black figure.

Then a familiar braided figure popped into view over one of the thing's shoulders, rubbing industriously at the gleaming metal and talking to himself all the while. "Ch. Women. I don't understand 'em, you know? I mean, what goes through their heads?" There was a meditative pause. "Maybe I should ask Quatre... he has enough sisters, surely he'd be able to tell me something about how they think. K'so. I wish he was around to talk to right now. No offense, partner, you're a great listener, but when it comes to handing out advice, you leave a lot to be desired." Duo laughed wryly. "Man, even Heero would have to comment about this one... and here we all thought she had it bad for *him*! It just doesn't make sense. Boy, it was random--I still don't know what happened." Duo winced. "Oi, what am I gonna tell Heero when he gets back? Maybe... if I start running now... I'll escape." A moment of meditative silence. "Naw, this is Heero "I live for the mission" Yuy we're talking about. I'd be lucky to make it off the planet..."

"Why did you do it?" Tamahome asked suddenly.

Duo swore, scrambling on his perch to face Tamahome and pulling a small, ugly object from some hiding place on his person. Training it on Tamahome, he relaxed almost immediately. "Oh, it's just you. Shit, Tamahome, don't you know any better than to sneak up on people? You could've gotten yourself killed." He stowed what Tamahome supposed was an odd-looking weapon away, clambering down from his seat. "What are you doing in here, anyway? Didn't Quatre tell you that the hangar is off-limits?"

Tamahome snorted. "Get myself killed?" he repeated. "By what?"

Duo grinned, with a look of seriousness in his eyes. "Me."

Tamahome laughed. "You're just a kid, what are you going to do?"

"Wrong, Tamahome." Duo tossed him a brief, feral grin. "I'm Shinigami, and I can do a lot more damage than you might expect... especially with my partner." He glanced back at the huge figure.

"You're crazy," Tamahome said flatly.

Duo laughed. "You think I'm bad, you should talk to Heero "Who needs a parachute?" Yuy. *He's* the one who's nuts."

"What... is it?" Tamahome asked, distracted for a moment by the hulking presence behind Duo.

Duo looked back at his gundam. "Deathscythe Hell. My Gundam. Shinigami's partner in destroying OZ."

"Aa." Tamahome turned away from the gundam, recalling his original purpose in seeking Duo out. "Oi. What were you doing, kissing Relena?"

He heard Duo sigh behind him. "Yeah, I figured that's what you wanted. Look, Tamahome, it's not my fault--"

"I suppose she threw herself at you and there was nothing you could do to fend her off, ne?" Tamahome inquired sarcastically.

"Well, yeah, that's pretty much it," Duo said, trying to sound cheerful.

Tamahome, even though he knew Duo couldn't see his face, rolled his eyes. "Teme. You don't expect me to *believe* that, do you?"

"It's true! I don't lie," Duo protested, anger coloring his tone slightly.

Tamahome snorted again. "I'm sure."

"If you're not going to believe me, then why don't you just go let your brain rot some more in front of the television, huh? Leave me and my partner alone, he's better company anyway." Duo sighed. "And why the hell should you care, anyway? My personal life is none of your concern, anyway."

"I'll keep that in mind," Tamahome retorted, tossing a final glare over his shoulder. "Excuse me for trying to point out that you're all set to ruin a perfectly good relationship with this guy Heero by going after Relena."

Duo muttered angrily as Tamahome stalked out. He looked up at his gundam wearily. "Can you believe that guy has friends?"

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Feeling both physically and emotionally exhausted, Heero pulled himself to his feet, taking in the wasteland around himself and the sprawled bodies of his companions. *They're probably going through the same kind of--* He stopped the thought in its tracks. Best not to dwell on that at the moment. If he allowed himself to think of Duo, he wouldn't be able to keep going.

And there was still a mission to finish.

Stumbling forward, Heero knelt by Chichiri, shaking his shoulder roughly. "Wake up. Snap out of it," he ordered gruffly. "Something's wrong."

The monk stirred slightly, whispering soft words. "Kouran... Hikou... gomen nasai..."

Heero frowned. "Chichiri, *wake* up," he repeated, with more force. "It's not real."

"Gomen... gomen..."

"Chichiri! The miko needs you. Wake up!" Heero barked, abandoning all semblance of gentleness. He slapped Chichiri smartly across the cheek.

Chichiri jerked and cried out in more pain than a simple blow could have caused. He sat up, breathing in swift, shallow rasps.

"Whatever it was, it wasn't real," Heero told him quietly, as the monk began to shiver.

Chichiri jerked slightly, but forced himself to regain control and examine the area. "This... this is *not* the road to Sailo," he muttered, in a forced cheerfulness.

Heero bit back a sharp retort. "Aa. Everyone else is still--in whatever that was."

The monk pondered it for a moment, staring into the hazy distance of the desert. "An illusion, formed from our own minds," he said finally.

"Can you break it?"

Chichiri hesitated. "Maybe."

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How--annoying. Tomo scowled. How dare the interloper break out of his illusion? "It's what I get for giving in to sympathy," the painted seishi grumbled while Heero talked to Chichiri.

"Problems, Tomo?" Suboshi asked, toying with his ryuseisui idly.

Tomo shot a cold glare at the boy. "Of course not. Even you could defeat the two of them while they're in such a weakened state."

Suboshi glared at the man. "Just because Nakago sent me along to keep an eye on things means you have to take it out on me. Besides, I'd like to kill that bastard Tamahome, even if it isn't the real guy."

Tomo was quiet for a moment. "That might not be such a bad idea. If one can break out, more might be able to do the same. I'd rather watch them die slowly, but... For Nakago-sama's sake, let us finish this quickly and decisively."

Suboshi rolled his eyes, mouthing "For Nakago-sama" with exaggerated emotion. It was just as well that Tomo didn't catch that.

"Let's go," Tomo said.

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tbc...

Okay, so no Tasuki in this part after all. <sighs> I tried, but I wanted to get this posted, and I'm tired, so I'm going to bed.

 

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Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Twenty-Two

The lone traveler paused, wiping the sweat from his brow. He was closer, much closer--he could feel it. Maybe he was finally near enough to... He extended his forearm, and made a few tentative marks in the skin, used to the pain enough by now to dismiss the stinging as inconsequential. *Just don't have done anything really stupid while I was gone, please?* he thought anxiously when no response seemed forthcoming.

Having finished his rest break, he continued on his way, obeying the nameless urge that had pulled him from the haven he had found temporarily. *Please, anyone who'll listen... Just don't let him get into too much trouble without me...*

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Heero moved over to Tasuki, shaking his shoulder roughly. "Wake up..." Not too far away, he could hear Chichiri muttering softly, preparing for whatever it was he did as a seishi--Heero didn't really know. Tasuki stirred a little, mumbling about overbearing sisters. Heero jostled the bandit again, too impatient to be gentle.

Tasuki's eyes flew open, and he sat up, cursing violently and clutching his head. "Oi, Tamahome, what the hell were we drinkin' last night?" he groaned, looking around. "An' how the fuck did we get way out here?"

"Baka. I'm Heero," he reminded the bandit, already moving to Nuriko's side.

Tasuki looked utterly confused as he tried to fit the pieces together. "Huh? I don't get it..."

"Ask Chichiri later." Heero knelt, intending to wake Nuriko as well.

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If Suboshi hadn't called dibs on the imposter seishi, Tomo would've cheerfully designated the one called Heero as his first target. The annoying boy had not only managed to break his own way free of the illusion, but also had awakened two other seishi. Very troublesome and annoying, Tomo decided.

Beside him, Suboshi shifted eagerly, thumbing his ryuseisui and glaring at the body of the man who had killed his brother. He felt vaguely sorry for the unfortunate fellow *wearing* Tamahome's body--it probably wasn't his fault that the body switch had even occurred--but sometimes bad things happened. And vengeance for Kotoku's death [1] was worth a little spilled blood.

Smiling savagely, Suboshi stood and threw his ryuseisui into action.

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About to ask another question about the surreal situation (but not really expecting to receive an answer--this *was* Heero, after all), Tasuki opened his mouth--and shouted when he saw a kid who looked an awful lot like Amiboshi attacking Heero's unprotected back. "Heero, look out!"

Heero responded immediately, throwing himself into a forward roll over Nuriko's body as the spheres of the strange weapon impacted the ground, carving a furrow in the rocky, sandy soil. He came up in a crouch, purple-grey eyes coolly assessing the situation.

Tasuki pulled out his tessen and pointed it at the boy, who looked sorely disappointed that he had missed Heero. "You're Suboshi, right?" Tasuki demanded, remembering Nuriko's description of the murderer of Tamahome's family.

The boy smirked. "Seiryuu no Shichiseishi Suboshi, at your service."

"So *you're* the bastard who killed those kids--Rekka Shinen!"

Suboshi dodged the blast of flame, snapping his ryuseisui back from their extension and reconsidering his target. He heard Tomo behind him, cackling softly, amused somehow by the encounter. Suboshi lashed out again, this time aiming for Tasuki since Heero was only a minor threat.

Tasuki rolled out of the way, cursing as one of the deadly spheres clipped his shoulder, drawing blood. "Your brother was a hell of a lot nicer than you are."

Suboshi growled. "Then why did you kill him?!" He attacked again.

Behind the boy, Tomo had stopped laughing, sensing the build-up of Chichiri's ki. "I don't think so, monk," the Seiryuu seishi muttered, pulling out another shin and starting the manipulations that would trap Chichiri in another world of nightmares.

He was met with unexpected resistance, as Chichiri withstood the first psychic assault. The monk lifted his head proudly, scanning the surrounding low hills and scrub where he knew his enemy had to be hiding. "The second time is not so easy no da!"

Tomo's lips curled slightly in dark amusement. He hadn't had so much fun in a very long time. Ignoring the shouted insults passing back and forth with the flames and the flying ryuseisui, the illusion master concentrated on his foe. "Fine... if you're going to be stubborn about it..." Tomo sent another wave of his ki rippling out, and grinned in satisfaction as the monk's resistance faltered.

*What to do... What to do... Damn, I wish I had a gun...* Heero looked back and forth between Tasuki and the boy, both of whom were fighting with weapons that wouldn't have even been possible in his world. He hated the feeling of helplessness the situation forced on him. Feeling useless, he settled for dragging Nuriko out of immediate danger, hoping that the purple-haired seishi would have some contribution to make to the battle.

*What the--?* Suboshi gritted his teeth, ducking a gout of flame, and chancing a glance at his bound forearm, which was stinging in a painfully familiar manner. *Masaka... aniki?!* He faltered, the ryuseisui slowing marginally and affording Tasuki a brief chance to catch his breath.

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He snuggled deeper into comforting darkness, trying to forget the pain of absolute rejection. Perhaps it was wrong, but he was tired of always giving...

==Wake up... Nuriko, wake up.==

"Don't want to... leave me alone." Miserable at the sound of *that* voice, he curled into a tighter mental ball, content to ignore him.

==K'so! Nuriko! The miko needs you.==

"Go to hell, Heero. I don't want to speak to you." Defiantly, he turned his back on the nagging mental presence, more than happy to let warm, comfortable darkness wipe out certain painful memories.

==Of all the times--Damn it!==

[pain]

"You bastard... you hit me..." Now he was *really* angry. Oblivion could wait--he needed to deal with someone first.

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Heero sighed slightly in relief as Nuriko opened his eyes, responding to the slap that had reddened one of his cheeks. "It's about damn time," he grumbled.

Nuriko glared at him with flat, hostile eyes. He started to speak, but was distracted by one of Tasuki's battle cries. "What the--Suboshi!" The way his bracelets flashed to bracers seemed almost instinctive.

*I must be missing something,* Heero decided as Nuriko clambered to his feet. He resisted the urge to sigh loudly in frustration a la Duo, and began the process of dragging the rest of the party out of the danger zone.

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A faint noise carried by an errant breeze reached the traveler's ears... "A... battle?" *Oh, no...* Dreading what must be happening not too far away, he broke into a run, urgency lending him speed he hadn't known he possessed.

He crested a low hill and saw a panorama of what he feared most-- Chichiri, wobbling on his feet, trying to do battle with a concealed Tomo, Tasuki and Nuriko fighting Suboshi, and Tamahome standing by, pulling the limp bodies of Suzaku no Miko, Mitsukake, and the boy who must have been the real Chiriko out of harm's range.

It all seemed a little odd in a way he couldn't quite define, but he shrugged it aside mentally. The time for questions would be later. Pulling out the flute he had made during his brief convalescence, Amiboshi began to play.

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tbc...

<grins> I thought that seemed like a nice place to stop for the night.

 

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Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Twenty-Three

As the pure, high notes floated across the hazy air, all action in the small valley below Amiboshi ground to a momentary halt. Numerous heads swiveled to stare at the slender figure of the flutist, jaws agape as they tried to process the impossibility of the sight. Amiboshi played on serenely, brow furrowed slightly in concentration.

Suboshi's ryuseisui dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers as his mouth worked silently. "A-a-aniki..." he whispered, voice shaking. *How?...*

The music climbed higher, the shrill notes demanding something indefinable... and Tomo cursed violently as the shin in his hands shattered. "Traitor!" he cried, enraged.

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Tired of his own mindless chatter, Duo ambled out of the hangar, deciding that even Tamahome's hostility was preferable to any more solitude. Like the day before, the other boy was sitting in front of the television when Duo walked in. From the scowl on his face and the vacant expression, though, it was apparent that Tamahome wasn't interested in the program. He glanced once at Duo and then returned his gaze to the flickering screen contemptuously.

*Don't let's be obvious or anything,* Duo thought drily, sitting down a safe distance from Tamahome and popping the tab on his soft drink. "Anything good on today?"

"Hn."

Duo grinned faintly. *It's almost like Heero himself was here...* "I guess not then..." He slurped his drink. "I oughtta go rent a movie or something."

"You're going to just pretend it never happened, aren't you?"

*So he does remember how to speak after all...* Duo shrugged. "As far as I'm concerned, it didn't happen. Relena's just a friend of mine and nothing more, and now we both know that."

Tamahome just snorted.

Duo sighed and returned his attention to the television, and was silent for a few moments as the actors on whatever sitcom Tamahome was watching bumbled their way through various misadventures. He was just beginning to catch the gist of the plot when the network logo filled the screen as a prerecorded voice recited a message apologizing for interrupting the broadcast.

"Ch. I hate it when they do this," Duo complained as the screen switched to a news room and a serious young reporter. "They always pick the best moments to interrupt, too."

"...What is it?" Tamahome asked, annoyed by yet another thing in Miaka's world that he didn't understand.

"When there's something really big and important that happens, the people in charge like to let the rest of us know what's happening," Duo explained briefly. "Or, what they want us to think is happening, as the case may be."

The reporter was speaking now, detailing the destruction of yet another OZ base by the notorious gundam pilots. Duo leaned forward, his attention suddenly captured by the information. "...closely following the self-destruction of Gundam 01. This sudden strike after nearly a month's inactivity left computer systems throughout OZ useless due to a widespread virus uploaded by these rebels, and several squadrons of mobile suits destroyed by the malicious attack. We go now to footage of the ruined base and rare glimpses of the gundams responsible for this carnage."

Tamahome stifled a curse as the screen panned across the smoking, charred swathe of destruction that might have once been buildings. Then the footage changed, showing brief shots of three *things* like the one in the hangar, moving with precise grace through the base, wreaking destruction as they went. From the floor, Duo *did* curse. "Man, the guys are gonna be pissed that they got caught," he groaned. "Heero's gonna roast 'em..." He stopped himself. "Or he would, anyway."

Tamahome found his voice. "You--you know what was responsible for *that*?!" he asked, a note of panic in his voice.

Duo switched the television off. "Yeah. Quatre and the others were the ones piloting those mobile suits," he said softly.

"That--thing--you were with earlier--can do that?" Tamahome stared at Duo, horror in his eyes.

Duo stared at his hands. "Yeah. It's what I do."

Tamahome nearly choked. "But... why? How?"

Duo laughed, without any humor infusing the sound. "Because it's what we're told to do. We're fighting for the colonies, to make them free... and we're trying to bring about peace..."

"You... kill... people?"

The other teenager looked up, his eyes far older and emptier than they had any right to be. "I told you, man... I'm Shinigami..."

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Heero grimaced as the flute-player hit an especially high note, and then realized that his three charges were beginning to stir of their own volition. *Well, it's about time!*

Miaka opened her eyes, looking around confusedly. Her gaze settled on Heero, and she immediately glomped him. "Tamahome! I just had the strangest dream!"

"Not again... I'm Heero, baka." Heero carefully detached himself from Miaka.

Her attention was already elsewhere. "Amiboshi?!" she exclaimed, shocked. Then she gaped at the sight of the stunned Suboshi. "It's *him*!"

*I miss trying to figure out the politics of OZ and Rommefeller...it's so much easier than this world...* Heero decided, remembering that Amiboshi was supposed to be dead. He started helping Mitsukake and Chiriko sit up and reorient themselves.

That was when the vines attacked Amiboshi.

Heero paused and rubbed his eyes, daring himself to see what he thought was happening. Checking again, he saw that he was right. The low, scrubby brush around their battlefield had inexplicably exploded into masses of vines that snaked out, siezing Amiboshi. The suddenly animate vines wrapped around the boy's slight figure, several tendrils ripping the flute away from his lips. Other whipping strands wrapped themselves around his throat, and even from his distance, Heero could see that they were tightening in an effort to asphyxiate him. On the hillside above them, a garishly painted figure cackled with malicious glee.

And suddenly Suboshi was moving, scrabbling through the dust with fingers made clumsy with haste for the his nearly-forgotten ryuseisui. Finding them, he sent them hurtling through the air, striking his distracted target with unerring accuracy.

Suboshi spared no time to gloat as Tomo gasped and choked, blood dribbling out of his mouth to mix with the other colors on his face. The painted, dying seishi clutched at the bleeding, gaping wound in his chest, trying futilely to stem the flow of blood as Suboshi scrambled past a staring Chichiri.

"What the hell just happened?" Tasuki asked, as Suboshi began yanking vines off his brother.

"Traitors... both of them... traitors..." Tomo wheezed, coughing wetly. He crumpled slowly to the ground, twitching feebly. "Gomen... nasai... Nakago-sama..."

Amiboshi sucked in a huge breath of air as the vines around his throat came loose. Then he promptly had that breath crushed out of him as his brother threw his arms around him, hugging him tightly. Amiboshi smiled hugely, managing to gasp, "Anou... Shun'u... I... can't... breathe..."

Suboshi immediately loosened his grasp, eyes wide. "Aniki... is it really you?" he choked.

Amiboshi nodded, shaking himself free of most of the vines. "Hai... gomen ne... I didn't mean to leave you alone for so long."

Suboshi glomped him again.

"Da... I hate to interrupt a family reunion no da... demo, we really need some answers no da."

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tbc...

Good grief, how long did it take me to get this part out, anyway? <sweatdrops> Oh well, here you go, C&C *always* welcome, now I'm going to go make some noise....

 

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<chuckles> Well, since several people have been asking for this... I spent my day working on p24. <ponders> I'm not sure how it did what it did, but I blame it on Bob.

Bob: <mutters> Sure, blame it all on the muse...

NEway. AU, FY/GW, spoilers for both sorta, especially when we hit 'boshi territory, OOC, my own weirdness, and it has Tasuki, so expect swearing, ne?

Not mine, not even in my dreams, so please don't sue me.

Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Twenty-Four

Duo had received a lot of reactions in his life to his declarations of being the God of Death, but he wasn't really sure if he'd ever seen someone take him quiet as seriously as Tamahome had. Too late he remembered that Tamahome came from a world where magic, monsters, and gods *did* exist. "K'so. Tamahome, calm down! Breathe! I'm not going to hurt you, for crying out loud..."

Tamahome didn't seem at all inclined to take Duo at his word as he pressed himself still more deeply into the cushions of the worn, faded couch. The expression of stark fear on his face would have been funny in any other situation, if only Duo could have taken the tie to appreciate it. "...please don't hurt me."

Duo winced, letting his head drop into his hands. "Tamahome, would you just *listen* to me? I am not going to hurt you. I'm no more a deity than you are, okay? I'm just a trained soldier with a warped world view... Christ, I need something to drink."

Tamahome forced himself to calm down and listen to the self-proclaimed god of death... and he had to admit, with a moment's reflection, that Duo didn't precisely fit even the loosest description of godhood. Slowly, he relaxed.

Duo looked relieved. "Gomen, Tamahome. Didn't think you'd take me that seriously."

"That's your idea of a *joke*?!" Tamahome sputtered, completely misunderstanding. "Calling yourself Shinigami is funny to you?"

Duo's eyes hardened. "Did I say it was a joke? Am I laughing?" he asked. "Ch'. Just like you not to understand."

"I'm sure I wouldn't want to," Tamahome snorted.

Something snapped inside of Duo, something that was sick of Tamahome's condescension and refusal to understand. "Listen, Tamahome, you have no idea how this world works. You may be a warrior back where you came from, but I'll bet you've never had to kill someone for the higher cause, and I can see that you've never had to lie awake nights after, trying to forget what it's like to watch someone's life bleed out of them because of what you've done to him. Calling myself Shinigami isn't a joke. Everything and everyone in my life I've ever given a damn about has always died or left me alone somehow, and I know it's just a matter of time until Heero leaves me for good too. God knows he tries it often enough with that damned self-destruct and his dedication to the mission. As far as I'm concerned, I am Shinigami, because everything I touch dies." Duo stood abruptly. "So don't judge me, Tamahome, because you sure as hell know nothing about me."

Tamahome rocked back into his seat, stunned by the outburst.

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Suboshi looked up at Chichiri's polite interruption. *Uh-oh...* "Anou... aniki... I think we may have a problem."

"Ya think?" Tasuki snorted, tapping his tessen against his leg.

"Matte--before we start fighting, can we at least talk, onegai?" Amiboshi pleaded, unconsciously shielding his brother from the glares of five Suzaku seishi, a miko, and the slightly confused expression on Tamahome's face.

"That seems reasonable enough no da." Chichiri looked at his companions. "Tasuki, put the tessen away."

"I don't trust them, Chichiri..." Tasuki sighed at the look the monk shot him. "Don't say I didn't warn you..." Reluctantly, he sheathed the tessen.

"All right, let's sit down and talk this out," Miaka said clearly, forcing a smile despite her tiredness.

The nine arranged themselves, the Suzaku seishi sitting in a semi-circle facing the brothers. Heero was reminded of a trial or a military tribunal.

Miaka started it off, looking directly at Amiboshi. "We thought you were dead," she said quietly.

Amiboshi looked sheepish. "I thought I was too, he admitted. "Demo, I didn't drown... a couple whose son had died found me on the bank of the river, and took me in."

"But you didn't stay with them no da. Why not?"

"Yeah, what's that bastard Nakago up to now?" Tasuki demanded.

"I don't know what Nakago is planning," Amiboshi replied coolly. "I left their home for two reasons--I knew my brother needed me, and something was pushing me to go." He looked wistful. "They were nice people..."

"They wanted you to stay, aniki?" Suboshi asked quietly.

"Hai.... but you know I couldn't." Amiboshi sighed.

"So what *is* Nakago planning?" Miaka asked Suboshi.

Suboshi laughed sharply. "As if he ever tells us anything about his plans. We're all just his pawns, even Yui-sama."

"That sounds pretty familiar," Tasuki muttered. "Shit, guys, what are we gonna *do* with them?"

"Are they enemies or friends?" Heero asked, scrutinizing the two.

"They're Seiryuu no Shichiseishi," Miaka murmured.

"But that one--" Heero pointed at Amiboshi "--stopped the... illusions and the other one killed his comrade, which helped us."

Tasuki snorted. "Yeah, but Amiboshi ruined our summoning ceremony and damn near killed us, and Suboshi fucking killed Tamahome's family!"

Shock spread over Amiboshi's face. "...Shun'u?" he asked, sounding sick.

"...it's true." Suboshi rested his gaze on the ground, refusing to meet anyone's eyes.

"Oh, Shun'u... why?" Amiboshi sighed.

Suboshi shook his head silently, unable to offer any explanation. "I thought... you were dead."

Amiboshi shook his head. "Well, this does change everything, doesn't it?" he asked weakly.

"Everyone makes mistakes," Heero said.

Nuriko shook his head. "Not like this, Heero."

Amiboshi looked confused by the name being applied to the man he knew as Tamahome, but didn't speak.

Heero looked at Nuriko, eyes far away. "Yes, they do." //A little girl and her puppy... an elderly man working for peace...// "I've made them."

Amiboshi was more confused than before. "But what could *you* have done?" he demanded.

"There was a little girl who called me nii-san, and an old man who was trying to make a better world," Heero said briefly. "They died because of my mistakes." He stood and left the circle abruptly, walking several feet away and staring out into the desert.

Amiboshi blinked. "Did I... miss something?"

"That's not the seishi Tamahome, aniki. He's from another world, and he's in Tamahome's body," Suboshi explained.

"From the miko's world?"

"No, from a third world... That's what Tomo told me, anyway." Suboshi glanced up at the still form of the man he'd killed.

"A third world no da?"

"You mean you didn't know?"

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*I must be more tired than I thought, to blurt that out like that,* Heero thought wearily. He rubbed his eyes. *I just want this mission to be over. I want to get home to Duo...*

Behind him, a startled voice rose in exclamation. "What do you mean, everything since we left Hokkan has been a fucking illusion?!"

So. That was what it had been. Heero was really beginning to hate this world and its refusal to obey the rules of logic. He'd suspected as much, of course... *Hn. Wonder if Nuriko's attitude right now has anything to do with his illusion.*

"So, Nuriko, I'm confused.... Does this mean you and Heero kissed or not?"

"Just shut up, Tasuki."

Unseen, Heero made a face. *Probably. K'so. I don't need this... I just want to get that Shinzaho and go home...* He composed himself and returned to the discussion. "So, what are we going to do with them?"

Amiboshi and Suboshi flinched from the scrutiny. "Anou... let us go?" Amiboshi suggested.

"If we did that... would you go back to Nakago?" Miaka asked.

"Iie."

"Hai."

The twins looked at each other. "Shun'u?" Amiboshi asked, looking confused.

Suboshi flushed. "Yui-sama is with Nakago, and I don't trust *him*. Gomen, aniki."

"Daijoubu... I just don't want to fight anymore," Amiboshi muttered.

"Great. Just fucking great," Tasuki groaned.

"You're trying to help Yui-chan?" Miaka asked. Suboshi nodded. "Then... when you see her again, tell her that I've never stopped being her friend... if she'll listen."

"You want to let them go, Miaka?" Tasuki exclaimed.

"What else are we going to do? Kill them? Keep them prisoner?" Heero asked sarcastically.

"When you put it like that no da..." Chichiri shook his head.

Nuriko looked just as unhappy. "I don't know if this is such a good idea... demo..."

"Nothing else seems any better," Chiriko finished for him.

Heero performed his best Glare o' Doom (tm Duo) at the twins. "If you threaten the miko, though... omae o korosu."

Suboshi shrank back, seeing, perhaps, echoes of the enraged Tamahome who still haunted his nightmares. "R-ryoukai."

"I'll go with you, Suboshi," Amiboshi offered quietly.

"Iie. Until Nakago decides to care that you're alive, don't go back." Suboshi paused. "Go find that nice old couple... when this is all over, I'll come find you."

"Are you sure?" Amiboshi asked.

"Hai. It can't be much longer, ne?" Suboshi rose. "I'll carry your message to Yui-sama, Suzaku no miko. And if you see Tamahome before I do... tell him I'm sorry." With that, he turned and walked away, past Tomo, and disappeared into the hills.

Amiboshi sighed heavily. "Ganbatte, Suzaku no miko. And thank you. Ja ne." He too rose and walked away.

"That was damned weird," Tasuki pronounced. "Ch'."

Heero was examining the angle of the sun in the sky. "We have a few hours till sunset. We should try to get some sleep."

"Da... if we sleep until dark, we can travel at night," Chichiri mused. "then tomorrow we can get a full day's sleep..."

"Sounds good to me," Miaka agreed, finally letting herself reveal her weariness.

Heero was already moving to the gear with Mitsukake to retrieve the tents. In a matter of minutes, the Suzaku group was fast asleep in the artificial shade, finally able to dream genuine dreams.

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tbc...

Sugoi... no cliffhanger this time. Must be losing my touch. Oh well, C&C still always appreciated!

 

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<sweatdrops> Okay, I meant to write this earlier this afternoon, but... I fell asleep. Then my friends came over and we spent a few hours eating takeout, being hentai, and laughing. However, having indulged in a number of Mountain Dews, there's no way in bloody heck I'm gonna sleep again anytime soon. So. You get this now instead of later. ^_^; Any weirdness in this part I blame on the caffeine and the lateness.
Yaoi, AU, crossover FY/GW, OOC, spoilers for FY, random weirdness, and stuff like that.
Oh, and... um... all of a sudden it got angsty. But it won't last forever, I promise! <sweatdrops> And to those of you who are real Tamahome fans... <meeps> Don't hurt me!
Not mine. Duh. Although if you wanna give it to me for my birthday....

Okane and Omae o Korosu
Part Twenty-Five

When they entered the safehouse, Quatre, Trowa, and Wufei could feel the tension hanging in the air. Duo was sitting at the dining room table, hands loosely clasped around a cup of coffee. The television blared in the other room, and the unusual closed-off expression on Duo's face told the three that it was Tamahome watching it.

"Saw you guys on television this morning," Duo announced when he noticed them standing there.

Wufei swore, tiredly. "That's just what we needed..."

Quatre jerked his head at the living room. "Still Tamahome?"

"Yep." Duo took a drink of coffee. "Still Tamahome."

"Aa." Quatre paused. "I take it the two of you still aren't getting along."

"You could say that." The words were terse and clipped, and very unlike Duo. "He got a look at Deathscythe this morning, then saw the press release about the base you guys leveled."

"K'so... He didn't take it well?" Wufei asked.

Duo snorted. "No. Not well at all. Wouldn't let me explain once he got over the shock, and now he's not talking to me."

"We can't really expect him to understand," Quatre ventured, a little uncertainly.

"What's to understand? We're terrorists. We kill people. People with homes and families who are just working for the 'wrong' side. People who are more or less innocent, every mission, because they believe in the 'wrong' cause and we follow the 'right' one. Nothing hard to understand there." Duo paused, forcing a brittle smile onto his face. "Don't mind me, I'm rambling. You guys probably just want to write up your mission reports and crash. Don't let me keep you."

"Anou, Duo--"

"I'm fine, Quatre. Go on, take care of your reports. If you guys want to eat, there's half a pizza in the fridge. I ordered it earlier, but he wasn't hungry." Duo shrugged. "His loss, your gain."

In the other room, the television went silent. A moment or two later, Tamahome passed through the room, sparing Quatre, Wufei, and Trowa a brief glance before silently moving on.to his bedroom.

"Kisama," Wufei muttered at Tamahome's retreating back.

"Eh, it's not his fault," Duo observed. "This isn't his world--his sounds a lot nicer, actually. Can't blame him for not liking it here. But, since he's finally vacated the couch, I'm going to bed. See you in the morning, guys." Duo stood and ambled out of the room.

Trowa looked at Wufei and Quatre. "Heero had better get back soon," he said eventually.

The other two nodded in agreement.

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"Would you like to talk about it no da?" Chichiri asked Heero, reining in his horse to ride beside Heero, whose withdrawn expression had warned off all other companions.

"There's nothing to talk about," Heero said evenly.

"Nothing to talk about doesn't keep a person from sleeping when he's exhausted," the monk commented.

"Aa. How perceptive of you." Heero fixed his gaze on the moonlit stretch of road just between his horse's ears. "It is not something I care to speak about." *Even Duo... doesn't know about that little girl. But there's a lot I never told Duo.*

"Some things aren't pleasant, but must be faced anyway," Chichiri told him. After a pause, he added, "I know."

"Hn." Heero continued to stare straight ahead. Chichiri had almost given up on Heero's saying anything else when he finally began speaking. "I was trained to be the perfect soldier... no emotions, just the mission. Ryoukai, kanryou... no room for failure."

"That's a heavy burden for one man."

"Aa...I have failed ... made miscalculations... and my failures cost lives... I can't even self-destruct successfully." Heero glared at the road. "All I do is destroy other people."

"You're being too hard on yourself, Heero."

"Iie. I even hurt the bakas who care about me." *Relena... Duo... even Nuriko.* His gaze flickered briefly to where Nuriko was riding, shoulders hunched and face lowered. "I'm a failure."

Chichiri glanced at him. "Is that such a bad thing, Heero?" he asked gently. "You say you're a failure as a perfect soldier, but would you really want to be a success? With no emotions to regret the mistakes and no need to atone for the wrongs? And no use for the people who care about you?"

"..." Heero blinked, considering it.

"Think about it, Heero." Chichiri smiled and turned back to where Tasuki was swearing furiously at his horse.

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*What kind of world is it,* Tamahome wondered, staring sleeplessly at the ceiling, *where such young soldiers kill so easily?*

His conscience twinged painfully. *Well, maybe not easily...* For a few moments, he'd seen a different Duo than the laughing, joking boy who'd spent the past few prickly days with him. The Duo who'd spoken so intensely about life and death was a stranger, an adult trapped in a youth's body. That bothered Tamahome as much as Duo's casual acceptance of the slaughter at the OZ base. *No teenager should have to be that... cynical. Ch. What sort of world _is_ this? And what sort of people are these?*

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Nakago resisted the overwhelming urge to rub his aching head in frustration. Yet another of his seishi, gone, and this time it wasn't even a Suzaku seishi's fault, no matter *what* Suboshi was trying to tell him. Then there was the matter of Amiboshi and his utter lack of regard for his duty to the miko... "Are you quite sure that it happened exactly as you have said?" he interrupted Suboshi's narrative.

Suboshi stuttered. "H-h-hai, Nakago-sama."

"There wasn't anything else that you've forgotten?"

Suboshi shook his head violently, *no*. "Of course not, Nakago-sama."

*Definitive proof that his loyalties lie with his brother before the miko.* "You may go." He contemplated wresting the truth from the boy as Suboshi fled the tent, but decided it would serve no purpose. Suboshi *had* at least returned to camp, unlike his brother.

Ah, well. Time for another revision of his plans.

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tbc...