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fic - kdtv 5 - masks - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - kdtv 5 - masks
Series:  Kyuuketsuki Duo
Arc:  TV Series
Title:  Masks

Kyuuketsuki Duo
Episode V - Masks

"Are you free today after school, Quatre?  I was wondering if you could come over and help me with my math homework."

Quatre snapped his pencil box shut and looked up at the honey blond seated in front of him.  She was turned sideways in her seat, looking back at him with soft cornflower eyes.  In the aisle, her legs were crossed daintily at the ankles, and she leaned lightly on one forearm casually placed along the back of her stiff plastic, standard-issue school chair.

"Since when have you ever needed help, Relena?" he asked without malice, leaning on his desk with his elbows.  She had always received good marks, for as long as Quatre had known her, and they had been friends for a few years now.  "You've always done well in math."

"That's because I always had my brother to help me out," she replied.  "Just because you never saw me getting help doesn't mean I never got help."

"Oh?  Why can't you ask him anymore?" Quatre inquired curiously.

Relena's pleasant expression faded into one of faint concern.  "Well, I suppose I could...."  She took a contemplative breath before continuing.  "It's just that, lately, he seems so ... withdrawn.  Moody.  Not at all like he normally is."

"Nothing is wrong, I hope?"

Relena shook her head slightly, the two small braids she wore in her hair barely moving with the motion.  "I don't know.  I hope not.  He just snaps at me whenever I ask him about it.  I don't think he's been getting enough sleep at night.  Once, I swear I heard him sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night.  I didn't check then, I thought it was just my imagination, but the next day, I could tell he hadn't slept at all."  She laughed quietly, nervously.  "I hope it's just a girl he's seeing or something.  I hope he's not in trouble."  Then she smiled, a brief smile that faded almost as soon as it was born, and never reached her worried eyes.  "So do you think you can help me?"

Quatre's answering smile did reach his sympathetic aquamarine eyes, and some of the spark rekindled in her own.  "Of course.  But the truth is...."  He leaned in conspiratorially and whispered to her.  "I usually get help from Duo."

Her eyes widened just a little as they darted involuntarily to the quiet boy sitting in the next row, two seats in front of her.  "Duo?  But--"  She cut herself off abruptly, embarrassed.

Quatre's face showed only mild amusement.  "You didn't know he was good at math?" he finished for her, knowing that wasn't at all what she was thinking.

"He just seems so ... standoffish."

"Oh, he is, really," Quatre reassured her, only confusing her a little more in the end.  "But once you get to know him, he's really a very friendly, open person."  Noting the slightly doubtful look on her face, he came up with an idea.  "I know.  Why don't I ask Duo if he can help us both?"

Relena's house was in the same general neighborhood as Quatre's, meaning that her house was just as upscale.  As she led them to the sitting room, Quatre stopped for a moment to study an odd mask hanging on the wall.  It fit over the front half of the person's head and would cover the top half of the bearer's face.  The smooth metallic design wasn't fancy, nor was the off-white crest-like fringe falling from the rear edge particularly glamorous, yet it conveyed a certain intimidating oppression.

"Oh.  That."  Relena's voice was less than pleased as she took a few steps back towards them.  "You know how Father travels about so much?"  She turned to Duo briefly to explain.  "He's a diplomat, you see.  Father brought that home on his last trip.  I don't like it."

"It... feels like it's watching me," Quatre said hesitantly, rubbing his chest over his heart idly.

"You too?"  She shuddered delicately.  "I wish they would move it somewhere else.  It gives me the heebie-jeebies every time I walk past it.  But Milliard insists that we keep it there, for some reason beyond me.  Ugh.  Come on."  She gestured with her head and quickly walked past the mask, and Quatre tore his eyes away from the strangely captivating sight and followed swiftly.  Behind them, Duo studied it carefully with a curiously intense gaze, before following them at his own leisure.

The night air was crisp and cool, but it didn't faze the solitary character standing straight and alert in the shadow of the trees.  Wufei had had no trouble slipping out the house tonight, to follow a feeling he had had earlier.  He had been reading the newspaper, and an article had caught his eye.  Joggers had found a man unconscious in the park three days ago, with no external injuries.  Examination had shown no discernable medical condition, just an inexplicable lack of energy.  Although the man was slowly recovering from the strange ailment, Wufei was perforce reminded of his own mother, lying irrevocably comatose in a hospital across town, drained of her lifeforce.

And so here he was, stalking the park at midnight, his family's sword hidden beneath his trench coat [1], waiting for something to happen for the second night in a row.  So far, this night was as quiet as the last, but he just couldn't shake the suspicion that something supernatural had been involved in the man's lapse into unconsciousness.

He willed himself into untensing his muscles and closed his eyes, forcing himself to relax enough to go into a light trance, as he had been taught.  Remembering his lessons reminded him of the day he had learnt them, the day he had lost nearly everything, and his eyes snapped open abruptly, dispelling the crimson-bathed images burnt into his mind's eye.

Taking a deep breath, he banished his irritation and calmed himself again, closing his eyes once more and focusing only on the sound of the light breeze rippling through the drying leaves, and the chirping of the cricket from somewhere in the bushes to his left.  Finding a center of collected calm, he opened himself to hearing the rest of what the earth could tell him, and waited.  An undetermined amount of time later, he felt something intrude upon the peace of the night.  Keeping it fixed in his mind, he opened his dark eyes and took off in wary pursuit.

The disturbance was not far, and his first encounter with it was a shadow flickering in the corner of his vision.  He whirled to face it, drawing his sword, but it vanished.  He circled in place cautiously, seeking any clue of its whereabouts, but the wind stirred the boughs of the trees, distracting and fooling his perceptions with a kaleidoscope of shadows.  He spun suddenly, and was rewarded with another fleeting glimpse of it behind him before it disappeared.  The only impression he had really received was a black and white blur, as if it had had a shadow for a body and a pale mane that had shone in the moonlight.

It was still here.  He could sense it, playing with him.  There was a prickling down his spine, and this time he turned slowly, his sword held low in a defensive position.  It stood in the middle of the path, taunting him with an open stance, about forty paces from him.  It wore a surprisingly human body, about half a foot taller than he, but it was swathed in loose, ragged-edged folds of reddish brown, the color of dried blood, that shifted restlessly in a manner inconsistent with the wind.  The top half of the figure's face was a smooth metallic mask, the eyes left curiously white and empty, and a long fall of pale, straight hair tumbled from its ruffed crown and down its back.

Wufei's eyes narrowed in brief concentration, and his lips uplifted in a grim expression of satisfaction when the sword in his hand warmed slightly, reacting to the presence of the otherworldly.  In response, the demon raised its arm straight above its head, and in its hand a maroon swirl of power gathered, and solidified into a wickedly barbed spear.  It lowered the dangerous looking weapon, and crouched once more, ready to pounce.

Wufei steeled himself for attack, but it never came.  A sudden gathering of shadows materialized before him, interposing itself between himself and his opponent and safely out of his reach.  This new demon was about the same height as the other, but it wore a robe of deep obsidian, its face unnaturally shadowed by its cowl.  It spoke.

"Go home, human."  The voice was flat, muffled, and cold, and unpleasantly tickled the skin at the back of his neck like a sprayed mist of icy water.

They stared at each other in silence for several moments, before the tense standoff was broken by the first demon.  It bounded away, off the path and further into the park.  Wufei swore under his breath and attempted to follow, but he had taken only two steps before he found himself in a completely foreign landscape.  It was a lifeless place.  The land was black and cracked, the trees dead and skeletal, the sky bleeding scarlet.

He turned angrily to confront the remaining spirit.  It wasn't there.

"You would be well advised not to dabble in things beyond your power and understanding," a voice suggested casually, different from before.  It seemed to assault him from all sides at once, both warm and cold, deep and deeper.

"Who are you?!" he demanded.  "Show yourself, coward."

Light masculine laughter filled the air, and his eyes darted from corner to corner as he tried in vain to find the source of the sound.  "Coward?"

"You, who will not stand to fight me face to face.  Nor your companion, who fled."

"Companion?"  Another dark chuckle.  "I wasn't working with him.  I am not here to fight you.  I was protecting you from your own foolishness."  The landscape shifted with a blur again, and he was back in the park.  "Go home, human," the mysterious voice repeated.  "Stay out of these affairs."  With no more farewell than that, the presence disappeared from Wufei's senses.

Milliard stumbled in the front door of his rich home as quietly as he could, doing his best not to alert his sister to his late night excursion, despite his disorientation.  He had no clear idea of what he was doing at this time of night, why he had been outside.  He absently put the mask he hadn't even known he was carrying carefully back in its place, his fingers caressing its surface lightly before he tripped his way up the stairs and collapsed into his bed, still, oddly enough, wearing the sweat pants he had put on when he had first went to bed.  But when had he gone out?

A soothing voice whispered to him that it wasn't important, murmured exhaustion and comforting confusion to him before he fell into a fitful sleep.

He dreamed.  He dreamt he was a hunter, proudly holding a spear dripping red with the blood of his kills.  He lived the joyous sensation of his fierce weapon tearing through the flesh of his enemies.  He heard the triumphant song of adrenaline rushing through his veins.  He inhaled the rich metallic scent of life.  He dreamt, and through it all, he wore the mask, and it was the source of his power, the only source of fulfilment of all his hopes and dreams and successes, and when he woke unrested in the morning, he knew that that night, he would hunt again, and he spent the entire day restlessly, shamefully, craving and waiting for that feeling of power once more.

Night fell, once more finding the veil's guardian, that guardian's guardian, a broken ward's guardian, and a mask's current guardian in the park under the cover of darkness.  Funny how that works.  Anyway.

Wufei, not one to heed the sneering threats of cowardly enemies, stood quietly in the shade, watching the odd confrontation before him with keen eyes.  Perhaps all was not well in hell, for he observed the two figures from the previous night facing each other, prepared to do battle.  Could the mysterious voice have spoken true, when it claimed to be protecting him?  He shook his head to himself.  No, the enemy of his enemy was not always his friend.

He studied the opponents silently as they made a few passes at each other.  Who would win?  Was this one of the dominance struggles among the demonkind that he had studied in his family's ancient texts?  Or would there even be a winner?  Were they on the same side?

The figure in brown fled once more, and the cowled shadow took off in swift pursuit, much more quickly than Wufei would have been able to follow.  His eyes narrowed in irritation, but he did not attempt pursuit.  He would have been happier had they continued to fight here, where one would vanquish the other, and leave him only the one weakened to deal with, but perhaps the mysterious voice was right in at least one respect: these things were as yet beyond his understanding.  But by all that he held holy, Wufei swore to himself that he *would* understand, and then he would indeed interfere in their affairs.

Not too far from him, sharp eyes watched him for a moment, the associated small, grim smile of satisfaction unseen.  Then, the shadow with the long braid detached itself from the other shadows around him, and with a blur of motion, he followed the two retreating hunters.

~~ two days later ~~

Relena took her seat at her desk, smoothing the navy blue of her skirt as she sat.

"Hey, Relena," Quatre greeted her from behind.  She settled her book bag down and turned in her seat.  "We missed you yesterday."

"I took the day off, yesterday.  I ..."

Quatre looked at her with concerned eyes.  "What's wrong, Relena?" he asked gently.

"Nothing."  She shook her head.  "Actually, things are going right, now.  Well, maybe."

"What do you mean?"

"Two nights ago... it was weird.  There was this great crash in the middle of the night, and I ran downstairs, and there was Milliard, zoned out in the middle of the floor, with the pieces of that horrid mask scattered on the floor in front of him.  So I stayed home yesterday and watched over him."

"Oh my.  I hope he's all right."

"Yes, he slept for a good part of the day, and when he woke, he was a little disoriented, but he seemed much better.  He couldn't tell me what on earth had happened to break the mask like that, but that's fine.  The good news is that he seems back to his old self again.  Enough so, at least, for him to complain about having to sleep on the sofa.  As if he could expect me to drag him all the way up the stairs to his own bed!"

"That's great!"  Quatre's eyes sparkled mischievously.  "Now I don't have to help you on the math homework anymore!"

She smacked him on his arm and turned back around to unpack her work for the class period.

[1] he suffers from highlander syndrome, okay?  it grants him the ability to hide a large sword under a trench coat, regardless of the physical impossibilities.  it's not like he could just walk around with it strapped to his back.

wufei swears a lot, doesn't he?

why does everyone need help with their math homework all the time?  *shrug*  kids these days.  but it sure is a convenient vehicle for getting them over to each other's houses.

i know this one isn't particularly original, since the mask thing happened in the miyu tv series, but it was just one of those things that immediately struck me when i was drawing up the parallels between miyu and duo, and this is technically a fusion series after all...

for the missing details of the fight, one must consult the companion flipside tale.  not only is it a cheap way for me to get you to read more of my stuff, it's also 'correct' for me to put it there, since these 'original' fics are for the outsider's views, and the flipsides are for the more duo and heero view, and there weren't nobody outside there during the fight.

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