Dance With the Demons + Part 14 (cont)
Of Death's Touch

"They tell me it used to be a man," Clark said sadly. He shook his head. "I think my brain refuses to believe it."

Duo blinked. "Holy shit. There's nothing left." He was thankful for that. Nothing on the ground resembled anything that could be a part of a human being. Swallowing once, and immediately regretting it as the stench lodged in his throat, he said, "You got a definite on the species?"

Heero was critically studying a lump of something. He balanced on the balls of his feet easily as he leaned down. Raising his head and doing what suspiciously looked to Duo like sniffing the air, he said, "A were. Most likely feline. This area is close by the other two. It possibly rests in the same place between strikes. Or, it hasn't rested yet, which is the higher possibility for a renegade capable of this." He straightened gracefully.

Clark eyes widened slightly as he whistled. "You've got a good one here, Duo. Second sweep concluded the same."

For some reason that Duo was quite reluctant to discover, he felt a surge of pride. Duo mentally kicked himself again in an effort to discourage his own thoughts. Oh, yes, his little Erus was just so gosh darned intelligent.

"Thank you," Heero said dryly and Duo noticed with a start that the vampire had looked at him when he said it.

"Ahh, anyway," Duo pressed on, "you mind if we have a look around?" he asked Clark.

"We're done here. They're," he looked over at a crew waiting nearby with various bits of equipment, "going to scrape up whatever of him is left and bring it in. Just don't walk on him."

That might be harder to do than it sounded.

"Thanks, Clark. I'll let the mites know when I get something," Duo said, letting his eyes rove over the area again.

"You do that. They had a unit working on it, but they came up with zip. I told them they should have called you in first," Clark clapped a hand on Duo's shoulder, then walked away to join the waiting crew.

"And the hunt begins," Heero said softly, the sparkle back in his eyes.

Duo resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "I should just let you run off and kill it for me," he grumbled. "Go fetch."

The leafy trees had grown close together, the ground riddled with large roots that thrust up from the earth. Aside from the path that the cops on scene had taken and the muddy spot that was the victim, the underbrush looked for the most undisturbed. A werewolf could move unnaturally quickly and silently through a close forest, but Duo doubted it would leave absolutely no trace of its passage behind. On an impulse, Duo looked up. The branches and leaves formed a tightly knit ceiling, blocking out the moonlight. The trees themselves were huge, stretching high above their heads.

"You think it's a cat?" Duo asked the vampire.

Heero followed Duo's gaze. "Not only one."

"Yeah," Duo scratched the back of his head. "Those branches are thick enough to support a shifter, a cat could have used that to get around and jump our mud pie here. Explains why there's no other signs down here."

"It may have been avian," Heero said after a moment.

Duo snorted. "Oh, come on, we both know it was feline. You already said as much yourself. Look up there. It'd make one hell of a racket getting through that mess."

The vampire flashed Duo a feral smile. "Let's go find out." Heero glanced around once, searching for something. Finding whatever it was he sought, he launched himself into a smooth run, heading straight for the trunk of a tree. A few feet away from it, he neatly kicked off the ground, hitting the trunk for a split second before pushing his body away again in an almost seamless movement. Heero reached out, latching onto one of the branches and hauling himself up.

Duo blinked stupidly. Holy hell. That was something to see. He quickly glanced back at the remaining officers. None appeared to have seen Heero's little display. As if it was that hard to miss.

"Duo, come here," Heero's voice reached Duo from somewhere above him.

Looking back up, Duo saw the vampire walking easily along a branch with perfect balance.

"How the fuck am I supposed to get up THERE? Jesus, Heero," Duo snapped. Heero's show had unnerved him just a smidgen.

Instead of answering, Heero jumped with ease down to a lower limb and moved closer to the trunk. He looked back at Duo, lying down on the branch and holding out a hand.

"Oh, fuck it," Duo said, throwing his hands up in the air.

Heero was still a good distance up, further than he could reach, anyway. Shooting one last glance at the milling uniforms, he ran over the ground, jumping up and reaching for the vampire's outstretched hand. He felt Heero's hand close over his forearm at the same time as his own hand grabbed the vampire's arm. And then he was effortlessly pulled up beside him.

Standing up, Heero brushed off his clothes and said, "You can see much more from here."

"No shit," Duo replied, sitting on the rough surface.

The vampire was off again, moving over and in between the limbs and leaves as if he was on flat ground. "You were right, a flying shifter would have too much difficultly moving though this. We are looking for something that has the ability to move through tree branches."

Duo remained sitting where he was. "Leopard, jaguar, cheetah, tiger, maybe a lion."

"You forgot lynx, bobcat and caracal," Heero said from his perch higher above Duo.

"What the fuck is a caracal?" Then he grinned. "A wereBOBCAT?"

The vampire smirked. "It's very rare."

"I can see why," Duo snorted. A werebobcat. That had to be one of the funniest things he'd heard of in a while. "Aren't two of those three you named kinda . . . ya know, small?" He lifted both of his hands, holding them a few inches apart.

"Normally, yes. Shifters don't follow the normal rules, Duo."

"Huh. Anyway, what are we looking for up here?"

Heero was moving around again. "Tracks. Claw marks, specifically."

"Riiight. Let me know if you find anything, o great hunter." Duo looked apprehensively down at the ground. It wasn't that far away a minute ago, was it? He took a deep breath and pushed himself off the branch, landing with a muted thump.

The cleaners were finishing up scooping up the remains as Duo made his way over to a rock. He sat down and waited for Heero to finish playing monkey.

Things were getting a lot more than complicated, and Duo almost itched to begin the chase. He already had a good idea of where to begin looking. The three attacks had taken place fairly close by, and in his experience, renegades never missed the opportunity to strike if it was favorable to them. Granted, this time around he didn't have Mariemeia's help to track it, but he had something better. He had Heero.

"We should begin now," Heero said, back on solid ground and standing beside Duo.

"Fuck!" Duo exclaimed, jumping. "You frightened the living shit out of me, Heero! Give me some warning next time, will ya?"

"You would have heard me had you wanted," the vampire said cryptically. "We should go north first, maybe angle towards the west slightly. It came from that direction."

Duo pushed himself up off the rock and started picking his way carefully through the brush. "You think it's still active?"

"Perhaps, but most likely not," came the answer. "As long as you aren't crashing about, I'll be able to hear it if it comes close."

Duo didn't bother to reply to that.

+

Some time later, Duo signaled for Heero to stop. The vampire was just damn spooky, walking through the bushes without making so much as a whisper. At quick glance at his watch showed that it was half past twelve.

The trees had thinned somewhat the further they had moved, why, Duo didn't know. Geography never was his strong point. It had made moving quietly easier, but Duo was careful to make enough noise to alert the renegade. He didn't want it sneaking up on him, but he didn't want it to miss him either. Renegades were not noted for strategic thinking, though usually any animal could tell when it was being hunted. The desire to kill in renegade shifters usually overran everything else, making them aggressive in almost any circumstance.

Turning to Heero, Duo silently mouthed, "Above, my right. Watching." He hoped Heero could read lips, he didn't want the renegade to know he had been spotted. The subject of lip reading hadn't really come up in conversation.

Apparently, he could, because the vampire nodded. Of course, he could have already spotted the shifter, and was waiting for Duo to notice. How nice of him.

Heero's eyes took on a different light then, and he stepped close to Duo and effectively backed him up against a nearby tree. His rich blue eyes were swimming with possibilities. Sinful ones.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Duo hissed, feeling his pulse pick up speed.

Now was not the time for supernatural hanky-panky. And that looked to be exactly what Heero had in mind. The vampire dipped his head, brushing his lips over the silvery skin at Duo's neck, exhaling a warm puff of air. Duo felt the small tingling begin in response to Heero's touch. Suddenly his throat felt dry and he swallowed dryly.

"Giving an opportunity," Heero replied, bracing both hands against the trunk and pinning Duo between his arms.

Opportunity? Opportunity for WHAT? Duo's hands were resting against the tree by his sides and Heero leaned closer, pressing the length of his body against Duo's. Think, think, think! Unfortunately, his brain decided to take a little holiday as the vampire nuzzled his neck, a hot, wet tongue darting out to taste his skin. Duo's eyes slid closed when Heero licked a trail up the side of his neck, stopping to torture the sensitive patch of skin just below his ear. His head fell back against the tree and he moaned quietly.

Duo tried to keep the rising tide of his power in check, but it seemed that it was drawn to Heero. The heat of the vampire's body pressed against his combined with the startling sensation of Heero's mouth on his skin was evoking a reaction he could do nothing to prevent.

At least he tired to prevent it. Not really hard, though.

"Stop," Heero whispered into his ear. "Don't fight me."

Heero was an idiot. Plain and simple. They couldn't afford this now, not with the shifter so close. It occurred to him that pushing Heero away would probably be the next logical step, but his body didn't respond. The power singing through his veins overruled and conquered him.

Gradually, Duo realized the night air was not as quiet as it had seemed only minutes before. The breeze rustled the leaves, and he could hear the sound of mosquitoes buzzing nearby. He heard the sound of the renegade approaching on quiet feet. Then Heero's mouth closed over his, sending liquid fire searing through his mind.

Heero's lips were surprisingly warm and soft. The kiss grew harder, and Duo felt the sharp points of fangs pressing against his lips. He parted his lips, a surge a pure pleasure racing through him when Heero ghosted his tongue over his bottom lip. Then his tongue was inside Duo's mouth, stroking and exploring. Duo's hands slid around Heero's waist, pulling him close.

Duo felt his muscles go lax, and a deliciously lazy feeling spread through his body. It clashed with the burning just below the surface of his skin, sending tiny shocks running through him. Heero's kiss was soft, then hard. Demanding and entreating at the same time. And there, underneath it all, was the hot, spicy taste of Heero's own particular brand of darkness. Just this one, small taste, and Heero was flowing through his veins, making Duo want more. He wanted sex and power. He wanted to take everything Heero had to offer. Above all, he wanted Heero.

The rate of the shifter's footsteps changed; it had broken out into a run. A savage roar echoed around them as the renegade pushed off the ground, leaping towards them with claws and fangs bared. Duo heard it, he could even feel the rush of gratification the shifter felt as it closed in on its prey. At the last second, Heero flung them both out of the way. Duo caught the flash of a smile on the vampire's face as the renegade crashed into the tree trunk.

"Holy Jesus!" Duo swore, rolling away from Heero and surging to his feet. His head was fuzzy from the vampire's kiss. This was most definitely NOT a good way to hunt. The Glock was in his hand and ready before the scene in front of him fully registered on his brain.

The shifter - a dark colored jaguar, Duo noted - was stalking around Heero. It snarled at the vampire, darting forward to swipe at him with a huge paw. Heero moved quickly, the cat only touching air. Duo sighted on the shifter, but hesitated to pull the trigger. Heero was calmly dodging each of the shifter's attempts to strike him, making the cat appear clumsy. It roared in frustration, leaping at the vampire. Again, Heero deftly moved out of the way, this time grabbing the scruff of its neck and using the shifter's own momentum to slam it into a tree.

The great cat staggered to its feet, dazed. Blood and flecks of foam flew from its mouth as it snarled at Heero, raking the air with its forepaws. Duo stood frozen, watching in shocked amazement as Heero toyed with the beast. His reawakened power sang just below the surface of his skin.

The cat whirled on its hind legs, away from Heero. Its enraged eyes fell on Duo and, with another savage roar, it launched itself straight at him. On reflex, Duo sighted and fired, rolling to the side. He heard the tearing of flesh as the scatter shot hit home. The shifter went down in a flurry of blood and claws.

Duo stayed down on one knee, the Glock still trained on the fallen renegade. He hadn't seen where his bullet struck. The shifter growled, trying to get its legs under itself. Duo's finger started to ease back the trigger again.

"No," Heero said, standing beside Duo. "Something is wrong." He looked down at Duo, his blue eyes fathomless. "Force it to revert."

Duo risked a glance out of the corner of his eyes at the vampire. "Say what?" Maybe Heero had gotten knocked around and Duo had missed it.

The renegade collapsed again, its shoulder too wounded to support its weight. Still, the injury would heal if given enough time.

"You once forced Wufei and Trowa to shift, force this one to revert," Heero repeated.

Heero definitely hit his head or something. "And how the hell am I supposed to do THAT? I used Sally's power before."

"Use the shifter's," the vampire said, motioning towards the struggling cat.

Duo got to his feet, blowing a lock of hair from his face. He kept the gun pointed at the renegade. "Right," he said dubiously. He didn't have a clue why the hell he was listening to Heero; he should just shoot the damn renegade and be done with it. But if Heero thought something was off . . . he was going to kill the shifter either way. He didn't relish the thought of killing it by draining its life away, though. If he couldn't do what Heero asked, then he'd take care of it the way he had intended to from the beginning.

Then there was the fact that Duo wasn't even sure how to control the power inside him. It seemed like it was quite attached to Heero, for some reason. How in the name of God was he supposed to make sure it targeted the shifter and not him?

"Just try, Duo," Heero said, standing very close to him.

Easy for him to say. Duo relaxed, and simply stopped fighting against the energy. It rose up, swallowing his mind and body. Again, the world slowed down, veiling itself in shadowy blackness before once more resuming its normal speed.

Duo could feel Heero beside him, his impossibly slow heartbeat echoing in his ears. Of its own accord, his power tried to reach out to Heero, shifting the coloring from black to blue. Duo ruthlessly pulled it back. Heero was not his target this time. The blue veil bled slowly away, changing again to black.

Focusing on the wounded were, Duo felt its energy drain into himself. The rush of joy and pleasure at the intensity of the power filled Duo's mind. Detachedly, he realized that, while it was powerful, it paled in comparison to the touch of Heero's mind. His skin tingled, but he couldn't feel the velvet touch of the power mixing with his own inside him. Duo simply took the energy and made it into his own.

"Remember what you are trying to do, Duo," Heero's voice echoed in Duo's mind. "Don't kill, transform."

Shocked, Duo realized that the shifter was barely alive. He savagely pushed the power away, back into the cat. For one instant of stunned revulsion, Duo thought he was too late, that he had taken too much. Then, the air around the fallen renegade shimmered, and it reverted back to human form with a great explosion of air.

Duo's entire body pulsed with the rush of power. He cast about, searching for more. His eyes settled on Heero. Duo wanted another taste of the vampire's energy. He didn't even register that his hand was reaching out towards him, aiming for Heero's heart.

Heero took a step back. "No, Duo, not now," he said, almost regretfully. "The renegade."

Duo blinked rapidly several times, the reality of what he was doing crashing back down around him. Abruptly, his vision cleared, and he looked around with normal eyes again. He saw the naked form of a man lying face down in the brush, his shoulder a mess of blood and tissue. A slow, rhythmic clapping echoed on the night air. Duo turned around slowly while Heero took a step towards him, standing close enough so that they touched.

"Simply amazing," a man said, stepping out from the shadow of a large tree. "As is to be expected from you, Duo." He was smiling pleasantly. "I am certain Sedici is happy that you spared his life."

Duo shot him a hard-eyed look. It was the same man he had met at the ruins of St. Jerome's. "What do you want?" he demanded.

The man ignored him, turning instead to Heero. "Hello again, Heero," he said, inclining his head in greeting. "It has been such a very long time."

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

Duo: ARGH!
Blue: *confused* What?
Duo: All that time, all that WAITING, and all I get is a piddly little kiss!?
Blue: I wouldn't call it 'piddly' . . . .
Heero: *glare* Nor would I.
Duo: But . . . but, I-I waited and waited! After the whole *waving hands around* sharing power sex thingy, we were supposed to - !
Blue: Ah ah ah, Duo. I'm not done torturing you yet.
Duo: *sour face* I noticed.
Quatre: *pats Duo's arm consolingly* There, there, Duo.
Trowa: Has anyone noticed that I'VE been neglected lately? Anyone at ALL?

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