Many thanks to Yume, my regular beta, and to suzume, Destroyer of Unnecessary Punctuation. *waves madly*
Author: Blue
Category: AU, 2x5, 2x3, 4x3, 4x5, 1x2
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: OOC, yaoi, language, lime, supernatural stuff. If you've gotten this far, then you know what to expect.
Spoilers: You'd never recognize it as a spoiler, unless you already know it. In which case, it can't possibly be a spoiler, can it?
Note: Let's see...some old friends show up to clear up some of Duo's questions and a new player enters the game. You know, I think I really AM evil . . . .

Dance With the Demons + Part 12
To Know the Beginning

Duo was back to pacing, turning things over in his head. Two pairs of eyes tracked his progress across the dark wine colored carpet.

Duo, Lucrezia and Mariemeia were currently occupying a small room located just to the right of Heero's. Several overstuffed chairs were arranged in a semi-circle in the center of the room, facing a fireplace. The walls were painted in a rich dark blue; a startling change from Heero's normal décor. Although, it did give the room an overall feeling of darkness. That stayed true enough to the Erus' preferences.

Duo sat back down again, facing the two women. Lucrezia was dressed comfortably, wearing a loose, long sleeved shirt and light blue jeans. She looked nothing like a lawyer or a voodoo priestess. She didn't look at all that remarkable or threatening. An image she had probably hoped to encourage.

Beside her in another chair, legs crossed loosely, sat Mariemeia. The slight young woman wore a soft blue dress, skirts brushing the floor. Her short red hair was down, framing her face. She seemed in fairly good health for someone who'd had most of their upper body torn apart.

"So, what you're saying is," Duo paused, collecting his thoughts, "that you expected me to do something like this?"

"Yes," Mariemeia answered. "Your ability to track and destroy the monsters is uncanny. Both Lucrezia and I sensed your growth separately. Once we brought it to each other's attention, we agreed that you merited closer inspection."

Duo snorted. "You make me sound like some new specimen to be dissected and studied." There was a nasty thought. Maybe Duo should start keeping a tally of the unpleasant thoughts he was having. The number had certainly increased in the past few weeks.

Still, Duo found himself astonishingly detached from the entire business. He knew he should have felt betrayed, maybe even a little indignant over their treatment of him. But he wasn't. Duo had never thought of Lucrezia as a friend. And Mariemeia . . . well, she wasn't who he thought she was. For Duo, Mary-Anne was indeed dead. The sorrow Duo had once felt because of this had evaporated into thin air. This new woman, seated before him, was Mariemeia.

And Duo found himself a little annoyed by her superior air.

"You just sat back and watched me, huh?" Duo said. "What were you waiting for me to do? Sprout wings and little horns?"

Duo's attempt at humor went unnoticed. Or ignored.

"Perhaps," Mariemeia said, looking for all the world like she was serious.

"We weren't sure what we were waiting for, Duo," Lucrezia interjected. "But I'd say that this," she waved her hand in the air, as if searching for the correct phrasing, "draining and transferring of power you are able to do was something we'd look out for."

"Being able to draw, amplify and transfer another being's life is extremely interesting, Duo. And dangerous," Mariemeia added.

"Yeah, dangerous to who?" Duo asked with a sigh.

"Everyone but you, it seems," Lucrezia answered.

That wasn't an answer Duo had been expecting. He wasn't sure what he was expecting, but that definitely wasn't it. "Okay, so the two of you sat around, making sure you had contact with me, and waited to see if I'd become a threat?" Even as he spoke the words, Duo had a hard time accepting it. Lucrezia shrugged. "That's about it."

Duo couldn't believe it. This was insane. Duo destroyed the monsters who threatened human life, he wasn't a threat to the very thing he sought to protect! He felt the stirrings of anger in his blood. This was good, anger was easier to deal with than cold detachment. Letting the twinges of fury simmer just below the surface, Duo pressed on.

"So you only found out tonight that I was capable of . . . whatever the hell I did," Duo said.

"Catalyzing, Duo," Mariemeia said. "You act as a catalyst."

Great. Now he had a nice, tidy little term for it.

Lucrezia shifted in her chair, absently plucking at the buttons on the arm of her seat. "No, we found out a little more than a week ago."

Duo furrowed his brow. More than a week ago? The incident with Heero happened only a few days ago. The only thing that had come even remotely close to what Duo had done to Sally before this was . . . "Wufei," Duo said, barely a whisper.

Lucrezia seemed to hear him, or she had guessed what Duo was thinking. She nodded, saying, "When the panther shifted in your apartment, there was a small hint of your ability. Shortly afterward -"

"We had sex," Duo interrupted shortly.

The priestess coughed delicately, smiling slightly. "Ahh, yes. That would explain it. Something involving high emotion triggered it."

"Wufei didn't end up like Sally did," Duo pointed out. "It wasn't the same. Yeah, the power rush was there, but that was it."

Mariemeia tilted her head to the side. "Its possible that you can directly control what you do. You wanted to kill Sally, or at the very least hurt her. Wufei was an entirely different matter. Of course, I am assuming that you were indeed trying to give the shifter pleasure, and not kill him."

Duo grunted. That made a disgusting amount of sense. "Are you saying I could make it either one? Pleasure or pain?" Duo was pretty sure the idea of killing someone with pleasure was a disturbing thing.

Lucrezia answered this time. "Maybe, maybe not. It doesn't seem likely, though. If you're going to kill something that way, Duo, its probably going to be exactly the same as what happened to Sally."

This was giving Duo a headache. He wanted facts, dammit! Not these stupid speculations. All of this couldn't be right.

"I've had sex before, why didn't THAT trigger this catalyst thing?" Duo said, hoping he'd found an opening for dispute.

"With a shifter? Or some other preternatural creature?" Mariemeia asked. Damn. Duo had overlooked that in his haste to argue with their conclusions.

"Okay, okay." Duo held up his hands, signaling his defeat. "Let's say you two are right, and I AM a catalyst. What I really want to know, is why you," he pointed at the redhead, "aren't dead."

A flicker of unease showed on Mariemeia's face. Ah ha.

"Someone," Lucrezia said, "or something, found out what we were up to. They had plans of their own, and decided that we were in their way."

"So what was it I found in the middle of your apartment?" Duo asked Mariemeia.

Lucrezia was the one that answered. "A zombie. A very fresh zombie."

Duo glanced at the priestess, then back to Mariemeia. "And you did something to make it look just like you."

She nodded.

"Jesus," Duo said, shaking his head. He quirked an eyebrow. "And whatever came to kill you," Catherine, Duo reminded himself, "couldn't tell the difference?"

"I am very good at what I do," Mariemeia said.

Duo stood back up, walking over to the fireplace and staring down into the dancing flames. "Alright . . . once you had found out what I could do," he turned his head slightly, looking back to the two seated women, "what were you intending to do about it?"

"Contain you," the redhead said simply.

Lucrezia sent a warning glance to her, willing her to speak carefully here.

"Contain me?" Duo echoed, making it a question. He was starting to get just a little bit more pissed now.

"If you became a threat," Lucrezia amended quickly.

"And am I threat?" Duo asked, a hard edge in his voice.

"To us, personally?" Mariemeia said. "No. To others, like Sally and your Erus? Yes, you are a threat, a very large one."

"He's not my Erus, dammit," Duo said under his breath. Why would Duo be a threat to Heero, and not to them? Sally, he could understand. Duo grinned viciously. He was a threat to Sally, with or without this newfound ability. Duo turned completely around, wiping the grin from his face. Leaning back against the mantel, he crossed his arms. "And just how would you contain me?" Duo highly doubted the two would try anything here, but they were swiftly moving closer and closer to Duo's bad side. As if two more on that side would make a difference.

Mariemeia appeared unconcerned with Duo's rising ire. "A simple ritual that would prevent your power from surfacing."

Lucrezia looked more and more uncomfortable with the direction the conversation was headed. Duo had several ideas as to why that was.

"A simple ritual, huh?" Duo narrowed his eyes. "How would you define simple, Mariemeia? Say . . . oh, I don't know," Duo rubbed his finger over his cheek, "a graveyard -- holy ground works well, I hear -- a cozy little fire, a knife, a circle of power, a tree, and an unwilling subject? Oh, and blood. There's always blood."

Lucrezia looked even more uncomfortable now, her eyes gone wider. She looked at the slender Wiccan in disbelief.

"So you remember," Mariemeia said, smiling.

"What did you do?" Lucrezia hissed.

"I did what was necessary, Lucrezia," Mariemeia snapped. She quickly regained her composure and said to Duo, "I was wondering what had gone wrong. Your Erus is a meddlesome creature, isn't he?"

Duo felt the urge to state, yet again, that Heero was not HIS Erus. Feeling the futility of it, he opted instead to agree. "Yeah, he is a pain in the ass. I take it that his finding me screwed up your plans?"

"Oh, no," Mariemeia said, "moving you should have not upset anything." She tented her fingers, tapping them against her chin. "Whatever he did once he removed you from the graveyard destroyed my efforts."

Heero had said that Duo was the one who destroyed the spell that was cast on him. Maybe he was stronger than Mariemeia had estimated. Or Heero was keeping secrets again. If he was, Duo wouldn't be one bit surprised.

"Uh huh," Duo said, choosing to keep his thoughts to himself. "You do everything by yourself?"

"Do you honestly think I will answer that?"

"No." It was worth a shot, though. "What are you going to do now?"

The question appeared to startle her. "Excuse me?"

"Well," Duo said, "your spell failed. I know what you tried to do now. Why tell me all this?" Again, Duo thought he already knew the answer. Either she didn't consider him a threat -- which was what she had said -- or Duo wasn't going to live long enough for it to make a difference.

Lucrezia, who had fallen silent during the exchange, spoke up again. "You went too far, Mariemeia. You could have killed him."

"That outcome would have been acceptable," the smaller woman said.

"You're not who I thought you were," the priestess replied sadly, shaking her head. Duo agreed wholeheartedly with that statement. "You're lying if you call yourself Wiccan. No true Wicca practioner would do what you did."

"I think you're screwed, Mariemeia," Duo said, pushing himself away from the fireplace and once again pacing the room. His movements were slow and calculated now. He kept one eye on the red haired woman as he circled the room.

Mariemeia looked at him expectantly.

"I should kill you, ya know. For what you did to me," Duo said calmly.

"You can't kill me in cold blood, Duo. And the idea of using your abilities to drain my life away repulses you." She seemed quite pleased with the fact.

Duo, however, was furious. Fuck it, she was right, and she knew it. The idea of getting Wufei and Trowa to kill her crossed his mind, but he quickly pushed it aside. In the end, it would still be him who ordered her dead. And he refused to use the panthers as mere weapons.

"I hate to tell ya, Mariemeia, but my blood is anything but cold right now. I should turn you over to the Erus, and let him decide what to do with you. He was very angry when he found me. In fact," he added, an unholy gleam in his eyes, "I think he's still angry."

A flicker of fear showed in her eyes again. "I have watched you for years, Duo, and that is one thing I know you will not do."

"You keep telling yourself that." Duo turned to Lucrezia. "And you? What about you?"

Lucrezia sighed, sinking back into her chair. "I've been misled, Duo. That's not really much of an excuse though, is it?" She smiled sadly. "The Erus has no reason to offer me sanctuary from those who would kill me, and I'm afraid on my own, it's only a matter of time."

Duo nodded. His evaluation of Lucrezia changed in the time they had been talking; just as his thoughts concerning Mariemeia had. He still didn't trust her, but that was to be expected.

Mariemeia stood. "If you'll excuse me, I think it is time I left."

"Oh, I don't think so," Duo said, turning his attention back to her. "You think this is it?"

She smiled again, and her eyes actually sparkled. "Not by far, Duo. But this is neither the time nor the place. Blame me if you want, but your power is new and uncontrolled. I did what I deemed necessary." Mariemeia calmly walked to the door, opening it and stepping outside. She turned back, nodding once to Lucrezia and Duo. Then she simply walked away.

Duo stared. "God DAMN it!" he yelled. What the hell was that!? He let her walk away! Just like that! Oh, he had wanted to stop her. He even had the Glock clutched in his hand. But he couldn't. No matter how hard he tried, he hadn't been able to do anything that would have stopped her from leaving.

Whirling to Lucrezia, Duo ground his teeth in frustration. "What the fuck was that!?"

"Compulsion spell, I think," she said, "very well done, too. I couldn't do a thing to stop her."

"God DAMN bloody fucking hell!!" Duo raged. He fought back the urge to start shooting things randomly. "You!" he pointed the gun at Lucrezia.
"Get the fuck out of here. Now. But," he stopped, trying to calm his breathing, "but you had better be easy for me to find when I want to." Inspiration hit Duo then, like a freight train. "No, on second thought, sit," he commanded, changing his mind. Then stormed toward the open door, turning side on so he could keep one eye and the Glock aimed at her. "WUFEI!!" Duo bellowed into the empty hallway.

The shifter poked his head out from a door down the hall. He looked up at Duo, a puzzled expression on his face.

"Duo?" he asked.

"Here." Duo pointed towards the spot directly in front of him.

Wufei quickly walked up the hall, wondering what in the world was going on now.

"Take this," Duo said, handing Wufei the piece of paper that Iria had given him. "Call Howard; tell him to grab Iria and haul his sorry ass down here now. I want her," Duo jerked his head in Lucrezia's general direction, "to go with them. Fill them in on what she is, and tell them to keep a fucking eye on her, I don't want her disappearing again."

Wufei nodded, not asking any questions to Duo's relief. "I'll get Trowa to watch her while I call." He gave Duo a quick look. "Are you alright?"

Duo fought back the urge to laugh. He was far from alright. But they'd been over this already once tonight; the list just kept getting longer. "Keep her alive and where I can reach her, and I'm just fucking perfect," Duo said. Turning to regard Lucrezia, Duo nodded once in goodbye. The dark haired woman nodded back, and Duo walked out of the room and past the werepanther.

Wufei watched him go silently. When Duo disappeared through the door at the end of the hallway leading up and out of Devil's Bliss, the shifter called out for Trowa.