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fic - kd - the, uh, not so wonder years - insidiae 2 - the turnip patch
version 2.0
fic - kd - the, uh, not so wonder years - insidiae 2
Series:  Kyuuketsuki Duo
Sub-section:  The, uh, Not So Wonder Years
Arc:  Insidiae
Part:  2

Kyuuketsuki Duo
Insidiae -- 3:2

"I don't like this," he remarked to his silent partner as he surveyed the site.  The location showed evidence of recent Shinma battle, to those who knew how to read the signs.  "There was a Shinma here last night.  Damn!"

::Don't blame yourself, little one.::

"You shouldn't have let me take that break last night!  Then maybe we could have gotten here soon enough and there'd still be something here to do!"  Duo ran his fingers through his bangs and clutched them in frustration.

::Don't blame me, either, little one,:: Heero's amused mindvoice chided him gently.

"Hm?  Oh, yeah, sorry."  He freed his fingers from his hair and waved his hand vaguely in dismissal.  "But -- argh!  Okay, tell me what you see."

He felt Heero's eyebrow raise behind the mask in an ironic, 'Taking the easy way out, I see,' and he scowled at his companion.

::I see the remnants of the aura of a powerful Shinma,:: the hunter began.  ::It would not have caused us too much trouble, but it was powerful enough in its own right.::  He mentally indicated the power traces to the guardian.  ::It fed well.  I see a newcomer.  It came suddenly and attacked the first.  The first was defeated and destroyed, the second left.::

"Damn.  I was hoping I was wrong.  Why would one Shinma attack another?"  Duo had much experience with returning stray Shinma to the Dark, but not much experience in actually dealing with them, especially compared to Heero, who had lived among them as one of them.

::There are many possibilities.  Territory.::

"But it left the area," Duo pointed out.

::Just plain antagonism.  You've met that kind.::

Duo snorted.  "Oh yeah, a little too often, thank you very much."  That was the kind that lashed out against anything and everything.  They were usually the most dangerous to confront, and usually caused the most damage to humanity.  "But I don't get that same feeling here.  The power is much more focused, although I'm willing to entertain the notion.  Anything else?"

::Elimination of a threat?::

He shook his head.  "I wasn't under the impression earlier that this fellow was doing anything that could be considered threatening, or else I would have come out much earlier.  I think it was just minding its own business, feeding well above normal, but just feeding."

::There are few other possibilities.::

"Power?  Like the demons?"  The demons often fought amongst themselves in order to gain rank in the hellish circles.  Also, since many demons fed upon death, they usually became more powerful by feeding upon the vanquished.  In general, the more powerful they were, the more demons they defeated, and the more lesser demons they had in their employ.

Heero shook his head in the negative.  ::No.  There is no obscure ranking system among the Shinma.  And there is little for one Shinma to feed upon from another.::

Duo blew his bangs out of his way.  "Don't tell me there are such things as Shinma serial murderers."

::I've never heard of any.::

"Great.  Well, whatever it is, I don't want it running around loose on my turf.  Can you track it?"

Heero's mind went distant for a moment as he searched the othercurrents for signs of the stray.  Duo could track, but Heero was better at it.  A long moment in silence passed as Duo fidgeted with the end of his braid, watching him work.

::That way.::  He raised a slender finger in the direction of the trail.  The remains of the power had been weak, disguised deeply in the ether, but not well enough to avoid detection by a skilled hunter knowledgeable in the ways of evasion.  Still, he had only a direction.  They would need to travel further in that direction and hope that the trail would be stronger there, or that some new clues could be found.

Duo turned to look where he pointed, something less than enthusiasm shining in his deep violet eyes.

"Well.  Let's get to it."

They had painstakingly followed the path of the wanted stray.  It had led them weaving through the land, stopping irregularly in what had seemed random places, at first.  But closer observation showed that wherever it stopped, there had been another stray.  In most cases, it had just moved on, leaving the stray alone, but they were falling farther and farther behind it.  Not only was the trail becoming less distinct as time passed, but also some of the strays that they had encountered along the way had merited the guardian's immediate attention, and determining which were the strays he needed to deal with now, and which he could leave alone until later, involved at least a short period of observation, and having to deal with them required more time yet.

The trail was just about to become quite cold when they came upon the remnants of another unexplained battle.


The signs were the same : stray, feeding well, got attacked, stray destroyed, attacker left.

"Heero!" Duo whined irritably.

::What?:: Heero responded, almost as irritably.  He hated being called for things that were beyond his control.  ::Just what do you expect me to do about it?::


::Then what's the problem here?:: he demanded.

Duo's irritable mood vanished abruptly as he shrugged it away.  "Hmm?  No problem, really.  I just feel better having someone I can whine at."

Heero just looked at him, intensely expressionless, as his partner blinked innocently back at him.  ::Hn.  Instead of concentrating on the problem, we'd best concentrate on the solution.::

"Hai, hai," Duo lazily saluted at his teacher.  "So you've said many a time."

::And have I been incorrect?::

Duo did not dignify that with a response.  Instead, he prowled the scene of their latest find.  The brief battle seemed to have occurred just a day prior to their arrival, and it rubbed him the wrong way that they had only just missed their adversary once again.

"Am I mistaken, or does the essence of the Shinma seem stronger now?"

::That appears to be the case.::  The trail was colder than it had been the first time they had encountered it, but it was still stronger, stronger, even, than when they were tracking it, even given the fact that they were closer than they had been when they were tracking it.

"Hmmm.... You know, so far, this Shinma has attacked and destroyed two relatively powerful strays, and bypassed all the weaker ones along the way.  And then, after destroying the second, it somehow became more powerful than it was before then.  Could it have somehow taken strength from the destruction of the other stray?  I mean, I know you said that Shinma don't feed on one another...."  His uncertain voice trailed off into a silence matched by Heero's own, as the cloaked figure stood in quiet contemplation.

"But it didn't just feed on the other, or else there would still be a stray lurking here.  It destroyed it... or something like that, at least.  Whatever it did, it's no longer around."  His own thoughts were trying to wrap themselves around an answer that kept eluding him.  He still didn't know enough about strange Shinma quirks to be able to form any viable hypotheses.


::You're tired.::

Duo bit back the bitter response on the tip of his tongue.  Of course he was tired.  They were several days on the path of this unknown stray, and there were already now several fewer strays in the human realm.

He shrugged his tired shoulders and tried not to look as worn out as he was.  "It's nothing.  We should get going."

Heero glided up soundlessly beside him, unfooled by the effort.  ::And you have a headache.::

"Eh?"  He made a sound of general disappointment and stopped attempting to stand up straight.  "How can you tell?  Am I that transparent?"

A brief surge of something akin to affection colored the responding mindvoice.  ::Only to me.  You're getting that crease on your forehead, right there.::  The point was emphasized by a pale finger indicating the area between his brows.

Duo's brow smoothed in gentle amusement at his quirky friend, although that did nothing to dispel the headache.  "Even I don't know that about me."

A negligent shrug.  ::I notice.  And the last time I noticed, you did this.::  Heero moved gracefully once more, into a position behind the guardian's back, and imitated Duo's own motions as he had observed them once, gently brushing the chestnut bangs out of the way and massaging the boy's temples.  ::This seemed to help some for you, last time.::

Indeed it did help, even more so than when he had done it himself.  He felt life and energy coming back to him and soon the braided youth had his eyes closed and was trying to forget about the stray for just a small moment, trying to forget about everything but the comforting presence of his partner, the feel of his fingers on his forehead, the reassuring solidity and reality of it all...

The violet eyes snapped back open.

"What are you doing?" he demanded of his companion.

::You're tired.  You need what energy you can get.::  The straightforward one wasted no time in pretending not to understand.

"No," Duo shook his head emphatically and freed himself from Heero's light hold, breaking the subtle link.  "No, I won't feed off your energy.  I fed off you once before.  I have no intention of stealing your life or power or blood ever again."

::You're mistaken.::

"About what?"

::I'm giving my power to you willingly, Duo.  You need it more than I do, right now.  You're taking nothing from me that I'm not freely offering.::  He closed the small distance between them and reclaimed his charge loosely in the folds of his robe, open and welcoming.  ::I'm here to help you, Duo.  Let me help you.::

Well, he had to admit that he was feeling a little more refreshed, and Heero didn't seem to be suffering for the loss.  The more he thought about it, the more the feeling grew that it wasn't that Heero was giving his power, so much as just sharing it with his partner.

"I thought you said that Shinma couldn't feed off each other," he pointed out, a weak attempt at protest.

::One day we're Shinma.  The next, we're human.  Make up your mind, little one.::

"Yeah, whatever.  I thought you said Shinma couldn't feed off each other."

::They can, actually.  Just not effectively.  A Shinma needs life energy if it is to remain corporeal and significant in this realm.  You and I are human enough that we can run under our own power, for the most part.  But a Shinma by itself has no such independent power source and must steal it from others.::

"And since they don't have that, they don't make good snacks for the others.  Gotcha."

end flashback

"Wait a sec."

:: ? ::

"I'm getting an idea here...," Duo trailed off into silence, letting the idea take shape in his mind as he paced.  "After a Shinma feeds, it retains the energy for a while, right?  Until it needs to feed again.  So what if this crazy stray is stealing that from its victims, not anything inherent to the Shinma, but what the stray stole in the first place?  But why would it go through so much trouble when it could just feed itself?  And why steal all the power, stolen and otherwise, 'til there's nothing left?"

::Why not?::  Heero shrugged dismissively.

"But why would a Shinma want power? ... Okay, silly question maybe.  Bad guys always want power.  But what would it do with more power?"

::Probably win more power.::

Duo blinked, then sighed at the sheer nonsense of it all.  "Probably.  That's depressing.  The least they could do is blow up the world or something."  Heero raised an eyebrow behind his mask, but Duo ignored him.  "But why?  There has to be some sort of motivation!"

::Maybe he gets off on it.::

He whirled to face his partner, braid flying behind him.  "What?" he demanded incredulously.

::Perhaps he merely enjoys the gratuitous theft of power,:: Heero explained calmly.  ::He is exerting his own power over creatures of comparable level, and defeating them completely.  It probably makes him feel very good about himself.  Likely, he feels weak in his current position and desires to rise to more power.  He is envious of those with power, and the envy would soon manifest itself as hate, so he will lash out viciously to try to destroy those with power, but he will always be discontent and unsatisfied, for there will always be someone stronger than the last.::

Silence trailed in the wake of the mechanical, factual dissection of a psyche.  "Hm.  Sounds plausible.  I didn't think you'd do much in the way of psychoanalysis.  Do it often?"

Heero shrugged slightly once again.  ::I can not be an effective hunter if I can not understand my enemies.::

"Oh?  Then what do you need me to help you with?" Duo teased.  "You seem to have the whole emotional understanding thing down."

The former hunter shook his head in negation, dark brown hair wafting lightly.  He had uncovered his head since the two of them were alone here, although he still retained the mask.  ::I understand the emotions of my enemies -- hate, fear, anger, jealousy, lust, vengeance.  These I can comprehend.  But ... joy, love, forgiveness, humor.... I understand these things only abstractly.  They are not common traits among the Shinma, nor the demons.::

Duo grinned, always happy to learn something new about his partner.  It was rare, even now, for the stoic warrior to share very much about himself, and the guardian savored each new tidbit of information, fitting it in with each of the other pieces in the puzzle that made up Heero.  "Well, glad to hear I'm not completely unnecessary."

Receiving no reply, the grin faded and he crossed his arms and sighed, mentally tracing the stray's path as it sought its next victim.

"So what we've got here is dangerous stray who's doing stuff I don't like in my territory.  He is *so* going down."  His eyes glimmered dangerously, at odds with the light, bantering words, and Heero knew he meant business.  The guardian took his work very seriously.

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