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fic - kd: the movie 12 - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - kd: the movie 12
Series:  Kyuuketsuki Duo
Arc:  The Movie
Title:  Sanguis Draconis
Part:  12

Kyuuketsuki Duo
Sanguis Draconis - Part XII

It wasn't long before they finally got the first hint that they were nearing the dragon lands.  "There's no sun here, right?" Meiran asked.  She didn't wait for an answer.  "So why does the sky over there look like there's a sunset in progress?"

The sky in question was the sky in front of them, and it looked distinctly different from the sky behind them.  Everything around where they currently stood was bathed in shades of gray, but the sky before them was stained a yellowish-peach, and as they got closer it gradually shifted to the brilliant scarlets and oranges of a magnificent sunset on Earth, although they still saw no sun to cause it.

The colors hit their peak as they approached the top of a short incline.  "Beautiful, isn't it?" Quatre observed reverently, admiring the view.

"Yes, it is."

To everyone's surprise, it was Duo that agreed with him.  He stood closest to the top of the hill.  It was only when Quatre, followed by the others, crested the hill as well that he discovered that Duo had not been referring to the sky's rich coloring, but the loose gathering of bones scattered below them on the other side.

"Oh my," he breathed.  There were only a few skeletons, dragons by the looks of them.  Their remains lay not in repose, but on display, spread out as if they had been pinned to the earth in their death.  Dorothy had said that Epyon had thoroughly subjugated the dragon clan; did that include laying out a warning such as this?

The others came upon the scene, and Wufei glared angrily at the sight of it, his determination to defeat Epyon, and hopefully free the dragons, climbing another notch.  He paused to burn the image into his memory, then waited for Quatre to clear the area as safe to proceed through before marching grimly on.

The others followed, all except Duo.  Quatre noticed he was standing still, and when he saw that the violet eyes were still fixed upon the scene of death, he decided that he had had it.  "Okay, Duo, that's it!  What is wrong with you?  ...Duo!" he almost shouted irascibly, trying to catch the guardian's attention.  The others ground to a halt.

Duo blinked his oddly colored eyes and turned to face the spiritualist.  "Hm?"

"We've put up with it for this long, now I think we deserve an explanation.  Why are you...?"  He suddenly ran out of words.  'Being so mean' sounded rather childish, and Duo wasn't acting mean, anyway.  Why was he being cold?  But he didn't seem simply cold, either.  There was the chill of indifference around him, and yet he still interacted with them, even in a playful manner at times.  Why was he acting so differently from when they knew him originally?  Perhaps this was actually the way he normally was, and what they had observed so many years ago was the deviant behavior.  Even so, there was no denying that he was... mood-swingy.

Duo simply stared at him for a good, long while.  Quatre didn't get the feeling that he was waiting for him to finish his question, though.  Finally, Duo chose to speak without further prompting.  He spoke softly, and the others unconsciously drew closer to listen.  "Sometimes, I wish Heero were here to help me through this, but then I remember that if he were here, I wouldn't be going through this at all."

The flash of insight came suddenly, almost painfully.  "You must really love him, huh?"

Duo chuckled darkly.  "No, it's more than love.  So much more.  You couldn't...  He's the glue that holds me together, Quatre.  It's not that I can't envision a future without him.  It's that I can, and it terrifies me.  The kind of terror that wakes you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, and leaves you trying to remember what's real and what's not."

Hilde came up to him then and laid a gentle hand on his arm, pushing the love he had given her back through him.  He smiled briefly for her, then went on just a little more calmly, though still quite carefully.  There was an effort behind the words that weighed them down.  "For better or for worse, I'm more human than I really ought to be.  And the human mind just wasn't made to do what I do.  It wasn't made to bear an eternity, or to dance with the shadows.

"And that's what Heero is for.  Well, one of many things, I suppose.  He's my anchor.  He keeps me sane and grounded.  When all the rest of the world is changing around me, Heero is always there to keep me company.  He helps me sort out what's real and what isn't.  He helps me keep my thoughts in order.  He keeps me from drowning in my power.  He's the only thing that's solid in my world.

"And he's not here right now.  So maybe you can figure out the rest of it on your own."

Silence reigned supreme in the wake of his explanation, a silence deep and profound.  Meiran was thinking, see, I knew there was a perfectly good reason for all of this.  And one that made Duo seem even more human to her, too.  Hopefully Wufei might think the same.

Wufei was thinking about how Duo sounded like a time bomb waiting to go off in their midst, and he had the sudden urge to step away from the unstable guardian.  More than he questioned why they had ever accepted Duo's help, Wufei had to question why Duo had ever offered it if this was the inevitable result.

Trowa was... thinking.  He'd pretty much figured it all out already anyway.

Quatre was nothing but concerned, and not for their own welfare, but Duo's.  "Are you...?"

"What, okay?"  He snorted softly.  "Sure.  I mean, I'm not going to die or anything, if that's what you mean.  Am I going to snap and kill all of you in your sleep?  Probably not."

Was that reassuring?  Not really.  "Is there anything we can do to help?"

The smile Duo gave him was weak, but honest.  "Don't worry about it.  What can be done is being done."

"I don't understand," Wufei said.  "You said the Shinma created you.  Why would they create you with such an obvious weakness?"  Since when was humanity a weakness, Chang? he asked himself, but he dismissed that errant voice.  It would be in the eyes of the Shinma.

It took Duo half a moment to follow his reasoning.  "They did not create this dependence in me.  I did.  Like I said, I'll live.  I don't even have to go mad, really.  I could get along just fine without Heero, if you want to know the truth.  I could live and perform my duties, but I would be what they wanted me to be.  I would be cold and uncaring, and, well, I trust you see the inherent not-goodness in that.  In fact, I think you've seen it firsthand a few times in the last few days."

"You... did this... to yourself?" Quatre asked.

He nodded.  "A long time ago, I chose to hunt Shinma, not be one of them.  I'm more human than I ought to be because I have chosen to be.  This... is how things are because of that choice, and I have never once regretted that decision."

"But surely you've been separated from him before?" Wufei asked pointedly.  "And from what you say, I don't see why you should fall apart so quickly."  He stopped himself short of saying that Duo couldn't possibly be *that* disconcerted in Heero's absence.  In most of the past time they had had contact with the guardian, his companion had not been there, and he had seemed stable enough.  Upon reflection, however, it seemed that Heero had often been near his side when he exercised his power in pursuit of the strays, and that Duo had always had his dark moments and his bright moments.  Perhaps this was that brought to an extreme?

"True enough, under normal circumstances perhaps.  But we are where we are.  He's in the depths of the Dark and other outer planes, and I'm in a hellhole, almost quite literally, in particular a place where the currents aren't exactly stable either.  I can sense him; I always can.  And with a little oomph, I could call out to him.  But the connection is just stretched too thin right now to allow for the simple, mundane contact that keeps me balanced on an hourly sort of basis."

"How were you before Heero?"

"There is no 'before Heero'."

"So you, this, right now... this is 'unbalanced'?" Quatre wanted to know.

"I walk a line.  It's not all that fine, I suppose, but it's pretty darn high.  It won't kill me if I fall, it'll just hurt.  Normally, I have a little help.  I admit it.  He's my crutch.  I'm trying to keep my balance without him, so I'm all over the place.  When I'm more on one side, I'm... not nice to you, and my shadows eat things.  When I'm more on the other, I'm... still not quite normal."

"Why are you telling us this now?"

Duo shrugged.  "You caught me at a good time?  You asked?  I mean, it's not exactly important.  I'm going to help you, and I'm going to be able to help you, no matter my mental state at the time."

"And when Heero gets back, you'll be... better?"

"More or less."

Wufei decided he didn't want to question that answer.  "Why would you even consent to being separated from him in the first place?"

"Because I can handle it.  I'm still capable of doing what needs to be done."  The echo of a sharp undertone showed up in his words.  "And I needed to come here with you.  So here I am."

As Wufei chewed on that for a moment, Quatre reclaimed the reins of the conversation.  "Are you sure there's nothing that we can do?"

He shrugged again.  "Hilde's already doing what she can.  And I'm already doing what I can.  It's taken care of."

"What's Hilde doing for you?"  Then Quatre remembered just what Hilde was.  "Or do I even want to know?"

Duo chuckled softly.  It had a tired edge to it.  "Don't worry, Quatre.  Mostly, she's just reminding me that things won't always be this way.  I think I would well and truly go mad if this were my permanent state.  It's... frustrating, not knowing what direction I might be leaning from one moment to the next."  He shook his head dismissively.  "But enough about my problems.  We'll never get there if we never get going."

Heero felt as if the darkness had slithered through his pores, and only some of it had come out the other side again.  Having had to wade through a cesspool of malignancy to get to his target, he had to wonder if Trant's ultimate plan was simply to annoy or insult him.  Unfortunately, he could think of no benefit from it, unless Trant wanted mere amusement.

They were waiting for him when he arrived.  Walker stalked the shadows of Trant's little sitting room -- truly, he would have looked out of place anywhere else -- while Trant had seated himself in one of the plush chairs by the fireplace.  The glow of the flames highlighted every last one of the artfully arranged folds of Trant's crimson cloak.  "Heero.  How wonderful for you to join us.  Won't you have a seat?"

More of Trant's games.  Heero moved closer to the fire, but did not sit down, and kept his senses sharply attuned to Walker's covert motions.  "You know what I want, Trant."

"Let's not be hasty."  He gestured invitingly to a blood-filled crystal decanter on the endtable beside him.  When Heero made no move to accept the offer, Trant shrugged minutely.  "Very well.  I know what you want.  The question is, have you given me what I want yet?  What do you think, Walker?  Do you think our little pet has had enough?"  A brief pause.  "Yes, I thought so."

Walker leapt at him from the shadows, claws sharp and at the ready.  Even being aware of the attack almost the moment it began, Heero barely had the time he needed to prevent the deadly claws from tearing out his throat.  He stumbled back, hands locked tightly around Walker's wrists as the Shinma brought them down to bear with all his weight.

And then a second attack hit him, and he had only the time to realize that the first had merely been a distraction before his senses were swept out from underneath him.  Something tugged sharply on something inside his head, but before he could focus on it, his attention was diverted by Walker abruptly shifting his weight away from him.  He had to maintain his balance in order to not be skewered, but it was difficult when the attack on his mind shifted as well, releasing the string it had pulled originally and delving through all the layers of the surface of his mind.

It dug deeply, questing out something very specific, only Heero didn't have the opportunity to identify the goal.  His physical opponent shifted again and sent him crashing over a low display case and into a wall.  The force of collision lowered his guard long enough for the invading power to cry out in success as it traced a long-buried pattern across his mind.  There once were controls built upon that pattern, but they had been swept away long ago, though still the basic foundation remained, and it was the foundation that flared up now.

It was very weak, but it called upon the shadows that still clung to him from his last mission, and it was enough to send a faint tremor through the rest of him.  Walker attacked again, pouncing over broken furniture at him once more, and though Heero managed to roll to the side and avoid the strike, he was not quick enough to hunt down and stop that unseen force from pulling on what it had no right to touch.  From the way it resonated through the whole of his being, he knew what it was after.  Stretched thin by time and distance and all the murky layers of darkness between them, the bond of blood he shared with his partner seemed looser this time, but the power had not the patience to wait it out.  The pulling became a sharp stabbing, a slice and a slash and a brutal hacking, and then it snapped.  The bond's elastic recoil took a bite out of the mental fingers he stretched forth to counter the damage, and in that last, damning moment of surprise and vulnerability, he was bound, his limbs paralyzed, his mind shackled.

Walker landed upon his body with an almost playful, cheerful air as he snarled and smirked at the helpless ex-Shinma pawn.  Trant soon came into Heero's field of vision as well, crouching down beside him and touching his face in a familiar caress.  "There now, my pet.  Is that all better?  Now that we've chased away that nasty little guardian, everything will be alright.  We'll just remind you of what you really are, and then see what we can salvage.  What do you think of that?  Wonderful, isn't it?  I know I certainly look forward to it."

They started moving along again, most of them thinking about what Duo had told them, the purpose behind the dragon skeletons around them, and what they might encounter in the dragon lands.  Wufei was thinking a little bit harder than the others, and Duo got a little bit nervous when the human decided to walk beside him.  Funny things could happen when he was tired.  He silently willed himself to maintain his magnanimous mood for the duration.  The last thing he wanted to do was give Wufei yet another reason to be hostile towards him.

"If we had not approached you, how would you have gone about, what was it, harassing Epyon?"  The conversation started innocently enough.  Duo could easily accept that Wufei would be willing to speak with him if he could provide him with another point of view about their approach to the enemy.  Wufei had his pride, and a powerful sense of what was right in this world and what was not, but his burning need to conclude his family's business was stronger.

Duo shrugged, and answered the best he could.  "Well, I was helping Heero investigate the matter before this came up.  We discovered that Epyon was getting a little outside help, probably from some Shinma.  We were going to approach from that angle to get a better assessment of Epyon's situation, and then we probably would have went after his allies.  The Shinma are our thing, after all.  I'm still not certain what Epyon might have gained from striking such an alliance, though.  It feels like the answer should be obvious."  He paused to rub at his temple tiredly.  "Well, I'm sure Heero will find out while he's there."

Wufei pursed his lips in thought.  Duo's answer had confirmed one of his guesses, and he didn't particularly like the result.  "So, if we had not called upon you... you could be with him right now?"

The guardian blinked once, twice.  Why should Wufei care?  "I suppose.  Perhaps not standing by his side.  He currently haunts a territory where I would not be able to blend into.  But in mind, yes."

"...I am sorry for the inconvenience."  The words were squeezed grudgingly out of him, and yet he offered them of his own will.  Honor compelled him to do so, and perhaps a tiny bit of understanding and sympathy.

'Inconvenience, he says,' Duo snorted mentally.  But still, if the boy was trying to be nice, then he had best respond in kind.  Surprising though this may have been, he would not let it slip through his fingers.  "The thought is appreciated, Wufei, but let me assure you, no apologies are necessary.  I'm just doing my job.  It's merely an inconvenience, as you say."

"Your job...," Wufei mused softly to himself, sensing another unfortunate realization about to come to him.  This one hurt to admit even more.  "Our 'jobs' are not entirely dissimilar, are they?  Both... guardians by blood."

"We are both tied to things greater than ourselves," Duo murmured in agreement.  It had been a long time since he had really thought about what he did, or about the things that had inspired the kinship he felt with the boy.  "The course of our lives changed radically to fit our destinies.  A duty born in a single unforeseen night of blood and death and fire.  Guardians by blood, indeed."

It seemed that Wufei had not imagined it, that vision of such things in Duo's eyes when trapped within the snare that Lei Fang had set for them.  He almost voiced the question that was on his mind, but couldn't bring himself to do it.  Yes, he wanted to know.  He wanted to find out what drove the strange boy.  He wanted to know where the root of his power lay.  It could even have been said that he wanted to know how human Duo was, to be reassured that trusting him was the right thing to do, but he did not ask.  It seemed far too personal a thing, and especially to ask that he reveal such a story to one that made no secret of his distrust.  Wufei was left to be content that such a tale existed.  It did make him feel a tiny bit better.

Duo spoke again, distractedly, as if the words were an afterthought, and so they were.  He had only just remembered his manners.  "It is I that might apologize to you, for any... discomfort I might inadvertently inflict upon you with my uncouth behavior.  I appreciate your understanding in this matter."

Wufei was surprised by the apology, never having expected one out of the guardian, out of sorts or not.  The phrasing was careful, dignified, sincere without giving too much ground.  Though it admitted to no wrongdoing, it raised his estimation of the mysterious guardian.  "...You are a complex creature, Duo."

Duo smiled mirthlessly.  "That I am, Wufei.  That I--"  The final word was choked off, his attention suddenly grabbed by a sharp twanging deep inside his head.  He shut his eyes and swayed on his feet, barely aware of the words of inquiry coming from the man beside him as he sent the bulk of his consciousness flitting off into the ether with something approaching panic.  He found himself pushed hastily back with a crude shove from the other end, a faint apology buried within the signal, and he was safely back within his own sphere of influence before the connection snapped painfully.  It could have been worse if he had still been on the line.

Only barely reassured by the fact that his partner seemed to have some control over the situation, he immediately rerouted through their secondary connection.  They were not bound together by blood alone.  A weak contact was established, enough for him to get another apology, a burst of love, a soft shower of comfort, a sprinkle of reassurance, and at the last a hasty packet of vague, undetailed explanations before he was pushed away again and the connection between their two souls shoved down and buried so deeply that it could have been mistaken for dormant, or even non-existent.

Duo clamped down on the anxiety, bundled it up and tossed it into a shady corner of his mind, and forced himself to unravel what he could of the explanations.  He understood enough to be able to breathe again, and did what he had to to compensate.  When he re-opened eyes chilled down to amethyst, he shrugged off the concern of his companions and marched resolutely forward on their quest.

dear me, i really hope i didn't just do all that just to be gratuitous...

i briefly toyed with the idea of trant calling heero 'precious'...

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