Dance With the Demons + Part 12 (cont)
To Know the Beginning

+

Duo's mind was a jumble again. He had never really gotten around to cleaning it up in the past week, and now it was worse than ever before. Mariemeia had never been his friend, Mary-Anne was fiction. Someone the red haired woman had dreamed up in order to get close to Duo. At least Lucrezia had never lied about who she was, hadn't she? Maybe, maybe not. How could Duo know? Looking up personal files on Lucrezia was starting to seem like a good idea. He was beginning to not trust anyone. Soon, he'd be suspecting himself.

Sighing, Duo kept walking. Devil's Bliss was far behind him now. The busy flow of the inner city was gradually slipping away the further Duo walked. He didn't even stop to think of where he was going. He just kept walking.

A catalyst. That's what Mariemeia had called him; Lucrezia had agreed. Someone who could take and amplify another's power -- their life. And give it to others. If he stole it from one, couldn't he increase the power and then give it back? The idea gave Duo a measure of comfort. That might be what he had done when he was with Wufei. Taken the shifters power unconsciously, magnified it and then sent it back. It didn't seem to have affected him negatively, quite the opposite, in fact. That wasn't so bad, was it?

Duo looked up, watching the clouds move overhead sluggishly. The night . . . morning now, was bright. The moon and stars above shone brilliantly in the blue velvet sky. A slight breeze wafted past Duo, smelling of trees and flowers.

Why would Mariemeia want to prevent Duo from realizing his power? She had said he wasn't a threat to her, but one to Sally and Heero. And if Duo was a threat to Heero, why was the vampire so intent on keeping Duo both alive and near him? One of those 'keep your friends close, and your enemies closer' things? That didn't make much sense to Duo. If anyone was Heero's enemy, it was Sally.

And thinking of Sally, it looked like she and Lucrezia were not really that friendly with each other. The voodoo priestess most likely left her home fearing that Catherine and her wolves would come for her next, even though Lucrezia didn't know it was them specifically out to get her.

Then there was the alliance -- friendship? -- between Mariemeia and Lucrezia, which, it seemed, had come to an abrupt end. Sally, Mariemeia and Lucrezia . . . the first two, as far as Duo was concerned, were against him. Sally downright wanted him dead; she had said as much herself, and Mariemeia had wanted Duo's power to stay latent. Now that it had shown itself, Duo wasn't sure where the redhead stood. She had said that Duo's death would suit her just fine.

Duo snorted, the sound breaking the silence of the darkness. He decided to go with paranoia and stick Sally and Mariemeia in the same group: 'happy to slaughter Duo'. But, Duo thought, the two of them weren't working together -- yet. If Sally wanted Duo dead and Mariemeia wanted Duo's power contained, the possibility that an alliance would form between them was very feasible. One little thing kept nagging Duo. Why would Sally try to kill Mariemeia, if the so-called Wiccan was attempting to keep Duo from his power? Wouldn't containment serve Sally's purposes as well?

Grinding his teeth in frustration, Duo checked his watch. Almost three o'clock. Just how long had he been walking? Not that it had done him any good; Duo had more questions now than ever. He stopped and looked around, hoping to see something he recognized. He hadn't been paying attention to where he was going.

Duo sucked in a sharp breath. How in the name of Jesus had he gotten here? He glanced back over his shoulder, the lights of the city long since grown dim. It was impossible. There was no way Duo could have made it this far in the short time he had been walking. Was there?

Closing his eyes, Duo turned his head back around slowly. After a moment, he opened them again. And it was still there.

The blackened pile of rubble was still visible under the grass and flowers. Time had almost swallowed up the ruins, along with the help of grief-stricken people. Blossoms grew over the uneven ground; the seeds of the flowers once planted by family and friends had spread and multiplied, creating a startling display of life. Life masking the tragedy.

The Church of St. Jerome Emiliani was nothing more than a mound of burnt earth and tattered greenery. In the light of the moon, all the color was washed away, leaving only shadows. Shadows of color, shadows of memory. Duo walked slowly up the overgrown path, noticing with a pang of sadness that the memorial plaque near the crumbling gate was all but invisible under the grass. The trees lining the path cast dappled shadows over his face. Duo reached the end, crouching down on the balls of his feet and looked over the small plot of land. Unconsciously, his hand strayed toward the cross hanging at his neck.

He could almost hear the laughter of the children. The Father's voice echoed in his mind.

~"I cannot thank you enough," the Father had said, laying a hand on the lost boy's head. "His parents will be very grateful." He had turned to the boy then, and said, "Go inside now, and play with the others. They were worried about you."

The little boy had grinned up at Duo, then he took off into the church, yelling for his friends.

"The others?" Duo had asked.

"Orphans. St. Jerome is the patron saint of orphans," the Father had replied, a sad smile on his face. "He died centuries ago caring for those who had contracted the plague. We -- the Sisters and I -- continue his work here. We may not be a true family, but it is all we can offer."

"The children seem happy," Duo had said, listening to a burst of laughter and giggles.

"Yes . . . ." the priest trailed off, and had turned to face Duo. "What of you, young Duo? What brings you here at this time of the night? Your own family must be concerned for your safety."

Duo had chuckled softly at that. "No, no. I'm my family. Just me." He had looked beyond the Father then, into the warm glow of the church. "I guess I have more in common with these kids than I thought, huh?"~

Rousing himself from his memory, Duo gazed up at the sky. The kids had all scrambled out to meet the unnamed boy's savior. The priest had given Duo the cross as he was leaving, the cross that had hung around the Father's neck. The same cross that Duo now clutched in his hand.

Duo stood, his mind filled with questions and not a single answer. Is this where it had all begun, the fire only a short few years ago? Or had it begun long before that, long before Duo could remember? And why? Why destroy the church? A shiver passed over him. Had the church been destroyed because of him, were they trying to get to Duo that night? Was he responsible for the death, the destruction?

No. No, he wouldn't shoulder the blame. The blood, the children's blood, was on Sally's hands. And whoever had ordered the church burned. Duo would find them, and he would make them pay.

Duo felt someone at his back. Heero had finally gotten pissed off enough to track him down. Sighing, Duo started to turn around.

"Do you want to know where it all began, Duo?" a voice asked quietly.

What the hell!? Duo whipped around, hand diving under his coat, drawing the Glock smoothly. "Who the fuck are you?" Duo kept the gun pointed down, tight against the blackness of his coat. The black matte of the gun blended into the material. Half of Duo was hoping he wouldn't have to kill anyone tonight, and the other half was doing a little macabre dance of joy. Just having an excuse to shoot someone would improve his mood immensely.

A small sound of disapproval. "Such crudity." The figure walked closer, and Duo could make out the features of his face.

Sharp eyes and a thin mouth, drawn into a small smile. High cheekbones and a strong chin gave his face a sturdy, angular look. His hair looked blonde, bleached lighter by the moonlight. Duo couldn't tell the color of his eyes. He was tall; he walked smoothly and with a proud bearing.

"It is a shame that innocents should die because of the stupidity of others. Wouldn't you agree, Duo?" the man said.

Duo grunted. He was getting sick of meeting people who ignored his questions. And sick of people who knew his name, when Duo didn't have a clue who the hell they were. "I'm pretty sure I asked you a question."

"Yes, you did." The man smiled. He was standing beside Duo now, looking at the church's foundation. "I think you have many questions, Duo. Ones I'd be happy to answer for you."

Well. That offer was tempting. First things first, though. "Yeah? Alright then, we'll talk about that in a second. You gonna tell me who you are?"

The man looked at Duo from the corner of his eye. "A friend."

"Uh huh," Duo said dubiously. "And you expect me to believe you?"

"It matters not if you believe me, it is the true answer to your question."

There seemed to be a surplus of annoying people in Duo's life lately. He fingered the trigger on the Glock, and briefly thought about tucking the gun away. The man seemed unconcerned with the bared weapon, and that prompted Duo to keep it out. He really was getting paranoid.

"How do you know who I am, since I don't know you?" Duo asked after a moment.

"Many people know who you are, Duo Maxwell, because of your exploits in monster hunting. Is it really surprising that I do?" He slipped his hands into his pockets, appearing at ease with the situation.

That was true enough, Duo supposed. It wasn't like he'd never had strangers recognize him before. But this guy made Duo jumpy, and he wondered why that was. Probably the fact that he was having a conversation next to the ruined foundation of St. Jerome's at a decidedly ungodly hour in the morning with a man that plucked the thoughts right out of his head.

"You mentioned answers," Duo said, eyeing him. Yet another reason to be wary; the almost casual statement that he could provide Duo with answers to his questions.

"I did," the man said simply.

"How would you know the answers? Better yet, how would you know the questions?" Duo said, not bothering to hide the doubt in his voice.

"Heero is keeping many secrets from you. It is very unfair of him," the man said, turning his full gaze back to Duo's face.

"No shit," Duo said, keeping his tone neutral. Was this guy even listening to what Duo was saying? "I want to know how the hell you seem to know so much."

The man smiled again, thinly. "That is unimportant; be satisfied that I know. Do you want the answers, Duo? Or will you let the monsters control you?"

Alright, enough was enough. He was starting to piss Duo off with all this mystery shit. "No one controls me," he ground out.

"No, I suppose not," the man looked amused. "No one will ever control you." The amused tone in his voice was replaced by one that was wistful.

Duo had the suspicion that the man was going out of his way to be an annoying prick. "Look, buddy, you're really starting to piss me off here. What do you want, and where the fuck did you come from?"

"Direct," the man said, nodding. "Very well, come with me." He turned to leave.

"Wait just a damn minute here. I didn't say anything about following you anywhere," Duo said, frowning. None of this felt right, either the man or the way he was acting. No matter how much Duo wanted answers, he wasn't about to buy into what some nameless man told him. And the man was doing nothing to make Duo feel one little bit inclined to trust him. "No offence, whoever the hell you are, but I don't think I trust you enough to blindly plod along behind you."

"But you trust Heero, do you not?" the man asked.

Hell no. "What do you care about that?"

The man sighed. "You are being difficult, Duo."

Shrugging, Duo said, "Probably, deal with it."

"I see," the man said. He faced Duo again. "Return to your Erus and ask him your questions. Perhaps he will even answer them." He started walking down the path, his words floating back on the night air to Duo. "But when you truly want to know what is happening, I will find you. I will see you again, Duo."

Duo watched him leave, his words adding to the jumble in his head. "Crazy fuck . . . ." he mumbled under his breath. And how many fucking times did he have to tell people that Heero wasn't HIS Erus? Slumping against the nearest tree trunk, Duo leaned his head back and closed his eyes, resting the gun in his lap. He was suddenly aware of how tired he really was. Weird was the perfect word to sum up what just happened. Duo almost regretted not going with him. Yeah, he wanted answers, but not like that, not from him. With a start, Duo realized that he really did want the answers from Heero. Maybe Duo was just fooling himself, and he actually did trust the vampire. God knows he didn't trust creepy men that materialized out of thin air.

Several minutes passed, and once again Duo felt a presence nearby. This time, however, it was familiar to him and he instantly knew exactly who it was. Opening his eyes and smiling, Duo said, "Hey, Wuffie. How'd you find me?"

The shifter was standing about ten feet away, a surprised expression on his face. "I followed your scent, Duo. Now, how in the world did you hear me?"

Duo laughed. "Followed my scent, huh?"

Nodding, Wufei walked the rest of the way to Duo. The braided man reholstered the gun, and Wufei settled down on the grass beside him, using Duo's thigh for a pillow. One of his favorite places to be when they were talking, Duo noticed. Duo admitted to himself that he was fond of it too. Wufei's eyes were so expressive when he spoke, and Duo could see them clearly with the shifter facing him directly.

"I didn't hear you," Duo said after a moments hesitation. He combed his fingers through Wufei's hair, marveling again at the texture. "I just kinda . . . knew you were there." He laughed. "It the damnedest thing, Wu. Seems like I always know when you're around, lately."

The black haired man leaned into Duo's hand, making a little sound of pleasure. "It's because I'm yours, Duo."

Duo opened his mouth to ask what he meant, then abruptly closed it without speaking. Remembering the slight warmth that had passed through his mind when he vocalized his ownership of both Wufei and Trowa, Duo discovered that he already knew what the shifter's words meant.

Wufei's eyes partially closed as Duo brushed the hair back from his face. "Mmmm . . . what are you doing all the way out here, Duo?"

"Trying to sort out the mess that's supposed to be my brain."

"No luck with that, I take it?"

Duo lightly slapped Wufei on the shoulder. "Thanks a lot, Wu," he said.

Wufei shrugged. "You walked into that one."

"Like a brick wall, huh?" Duo said, twirling a lock of Wufei's hair around his finger.

"A very large brick wall," the shifter replied with a smirk. "Howard and Iria arrived soon after you left. They took Lucrezia back to Iria's hotel room. I think they're both staying there for a while. Oh, and Howard said to tell you that you've got three jobs and one hunt lined up."

It was Duo's turn to look surprised. "When did that happen?"

"I didn't get the details. I think Howard was hanging around your apartment. He didn't seem to think you'd mind."

"He's going to eat every scrap of food we have left," Duo moaned.

The shifter made a sour face. "Better him than me. When was the last time you cleaned out your refrigerator, Duo?"

Duo actually had to think about that. "Probably never," he said finally. "I've been busy."

"Right." Wufei rolled his eyes.

"Hey, did you see anyone out there?" Duo asked as an afterthought, indicating the tree lined path.

"No. It's almost four in the morning, Duo. Who would be out here now?" Wufei said. "Besides us," he added with a laugh. "Why?"

"Nothing . . . nevermind," Duo said absently, his fingers stilling in Wufei's hair.

Wufei sat up with a snort. He leaned over Duo's legs, supporting his weight with one arm, and moving his face close to Duo's. "You don't really think I'm going to believe that, do you? I know you better than that."

He had a point. "But you're going to be a good pet and let it drop, aren't you?" Duo said in a low voice, smoothing Wufei's lower lip with his thumb.

"Maybe," Wufei said, letting his eyes drift closed to narrow slits and wetting his lips.

Tangling his fingers in the shifter's hair, Duo brushed his lips gently over Wufei's. His warmth wrapped itself around Duo, filling the air with the shifter's scent. Wufei sighed, resting his hand on Duo's chest.

That simple kiss was far from enough for Duo. The braided man caught Wufei in his arms, dragging him onto his lap until the shifter straddled him. Duo brought his mouth to Wufei's again, much fiercer this time. A small sound of desire escaped Wufei's throat, and he opened his mouth to Duo. Duo delightedly plunged his tongue deep inside, tasting Wufei again.

Firmly pushing Duo back against the trunk of the tree, Wufei forced his own tongue into Duo's mouth. He felt a surge of pleasure when Duo moaned loudly and moved his hands lower to cup Wufei's ass.

Wufei explored every corner of Duo's mouth, running his tongue along the other's teeth and then once again returning to tangle their tongues together. He pulled away, trailing his lips along Duo's jawbone, up to lick at the shell of his ear. Duo felt a shiver course down his spine. He buried his face in the crook of Wufei's neck, nipping at the soft skin.

"Duo," Wufei whispered into his ear.

Duo made a sound somewhere between a grunt and moan.

Wufei moved his hands behind himself to grasp Duo's wrists. "Let's go back, Duo," he said, getting to his feet.

Somewhat reluctantly, Duo stood. With everything still a jumble in his mind, he wrapped an arm around Wufei's waist and began walking back to Devil's Bliss. Duo pushed the troubling thoughts of the nameless man out of his mind. He didn't want to think about the mess he was drowning in now. He was much too busy entertaining both himself and Wufei with the various naughty little ideas his brain was supplying him with.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Duo: Finally! There's lemon in the next one, right?
Blue: Uhh . . . .
Wufei: *mumbling* There had better be.
Quatre: *snicker* I heard that.
Duo: So did I, Wuffie.
Wufei: What!? I said nothing!
Heero: Yes, you did.
Trowa: *nods*
Blue: Yep, you said mphff!
Wufei: *clapping a hand over Blue's mouth* Onna! Silence!
Blue: *glare*

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