Author: Blue
Category: AU, 2x5, 2x3, 4x3, 4x5, possible 1x2 ^_~
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: AU, OOC, yaoi, language, violence, blood, mystical crap, annnnnnnd that about covers it. Spoilers: Not really.
Note: Ohhh! Turning point! Still wondering what the hell Duo is? *snicker* I finally decided to do something about that. Curious?

Dance With the Demons + Part 10
Shattered Minds

Duo sat in the back of Howard's van with Trowa, Wufei and Iria. Howard drove, following the directions the shifters had given him.

"Do you want the Beretta or the Derringer?" Iria asked Duo from where she knelt on the van's floor.

Looking from the shotgun to the small, one inch wide gun, Duo shook his head, laughing to himself. "Big difference, don't you think?"

The Beretta shotgun was a semi-auto, 89mm, somewhat shorter than the standard shotgun. And loaded with Iria's preferred ammunition, which meant that whatever was in its line of fire was most likely to loose an appendage or two. The Derringer, on the other hand, was a small, double action Simmerling. Total capacity of five bullets, with one carried in the chamber. In Howard's words, the Derringer was loaded with ‘only' .410 Buckshot. Only, he says. Where in the name of Jesus did Howard manufacture his ammo? Legally manufacture it, that is.

"Besides, I've got the Glock and the Browning. You really think I need another gun?" Duo continued. The Glock was in its usual place, secure in the shoulder holster under Duo's arm, hidden by a coat. The 9mm Browning was tucked in the small of his back in a specially made holster. Both were loaded with Luger scatter rounds, thirteen in the Glock and ten in the Browning. Twenty three bullets, plus the two spring-sheathed knives Duo always carried at his wrists. If that wasn't enough, it was just as well to forget it.

"Damn, Duo," Howard said from the front seat, "You're walking straight into a vamp's home. You should have an Uzi in each hand and a flamethrower for backup."

Duo wisely neglected to mention that he had agreed to meet Heero armed with only three knives and the Glock.

"I think you should take the Derringer, and replace one of those knives, or maybe both, with the serrated blades I showed you," Iria said, looking completely serious.

"What's five more bullets gonna do, Iria?" Duo asked.

"What are five less?" she countered.

Duo sighed. "Fine, fine. Gimmie the Derringer, but forget the knives. Last thing I want to happen is to get a blade stuck in someone and not be able to get it out." Helpless because your knife was stuck in someone's ribs. Not a good idea.

Pleased, Iria handed him the little gun. "Tuck it in that empty sheath you have in your boot. At least you'll have two well concealed weapons, since that jacket doesn't hide the Glock much."

"Four," Duo said, settling the Derringer into his boot and moving it around until it was set for a somewhat easy draw. It dug into his leg, but what was life without a little discomfort?

"I'd hardly count those little stickpins on your wrists as weapons," she said depreciatingly.

Duo flicked his wrist, palmed the knife hilt and threw it in one swift movement. The blade flew past Iria's head, severing several stands of glossy hair before it thunked into the van's carpeted floor. It stood there, quivering in mute testimony.

Iria let out a low whistle. "You've been practicing." Her eyes had gone a little wider.

Duo grinned to himself. About time he surprised Iria. "If nothing else, it'll be a painful distraction. Give me enough time to draw one of the guns if I need it."

"Hmmm . . . ." Iria jerked the knife out of the floor and handed it back to Duo. "If someone's stupid enough to laugh it off like I just did, you'd probably be able to take out an eye."

Resheathing the knife, Duo nodded. "Those shark tooth blades of yours aren't balanced right for throwing. These might not be true throwing knives, but they're damn close to it."

Wufei was watching Iria curiously, glancing occasionally at Howard in the front.

Iria noticed the look, and asked, "Yes?"

Wufei looked startled, then turned to Duo. "Who are these people, anyway?"

Duo laughed. "We never got around to introductions, did we? Now's a good a time as any." He shifted around in his seat, settling back against the van's wall. "Your driver for this evening, and the owner of your current transportation, is Howard. A mechanic, arms expert and supplier, part time manufacturer, and general, all 'round tinker," Duo said with a mock flourish.

Howard raised his hand in a little wave, wiggling his fingers.

Duo chuckled and rolled his eyes. "And this vision of loveliness is also a munitions expert. Though that, I think, was an accident. Her true calling seems to be the opposite. Wufei, Trowa, meet Dr. Iria, one of the best doctors I've ever met in an emergency room. And I've seen an awful lot of emergency rooms."

"Odd combination," Trowa pointed out, the first words he had spoken in the past hour or so.

Iria shot Trowa a bright smile. "We live in an odd world, Trowa." Her smile faded at the corners. "The number of deaths caused by preternatural creatures is astronomical. I learned a long time ago that humans have little defense against some things." She shook her head, as if she were trying to rid herself of an unwanted thought. "Most days, I've learned, it is better to kill a creature before I try to patch its victims back together." Iria's smile vanished completely, and her eyes once more managed to look world-weary and cold.

"Hey, little man," Howard called back, interrupting. "You want me to just drive right up to the front door or what?"

Duo looked over at Wufei. "Well?"

"Doesn't matter. She knows you're coming anyway," the shifter answered.

"Fair enough," Duo said, not even bothering to ask exactly how Sally would know that. He had a feeling he wouldn't like the answer. Big surprise there. Then, to Howard he said, "Pull up right by the front door, Howard, we might as well play nice. For now."

Iria nodded, giving Duo a look of approval. "For now," she echoed.

Howard brought the van to a stop just outside an old warehouse about thirty minutes from the city. Typical. They piled out of the van, Iria and Howard still dressed the same as when they had arrived at Duo's apartment hours before, although Iria had added a red coat in the van. Iria still had the Ruger under her arm, but had added a long, jagged blade about a foot and a half in length to a sheath at her back. The only reason Duo knew it was there was because he had seen her strap on the sheath. She had taken the shotgun and placed it in an odd holster that hung at her side. A strap went over her shoulder and it just hung there, like you'd hang a purse over your shoulder. Didn't make sense that she wasn't making any attempt to hide it, since she had concealed the blade. Duo snorted to himself. Figuring out Iria was impossible. Then again, how do you hide a shotgun? Didn't look very comfortable either . . . but, again, what's life without a little discomfort? It also looked like a Howard custom job. Howard himself appeared unarmed, but Duo knew better than that. In fact, Howard looked like a misplaced tourist.

At both shifters' insistence, Duo had changed into low, tight black pants, made out of some material Duo couldn't even name. He flat out refused to wear the fishnet shirt Wufei held out for him, and settled instead on a matching black shirt that laced up the front. It was cut open at the waist, baring Duo's stomach. The sleeves, hidden under his leather coat, also laced up, and were tied tightly to his arms. Duo's main reason for accepting the shirt was that it was loose enough in the shoulders to give him a good measure of room to move. The leather coat hit him mid thigh. Duo buttoned only the center button of the coat, leaving the laces of the shirt and his stomach exposed.

Wufei and Trowa had, according to them, dressed as Duo's pets. Both wore form fitting pants, in a color Duo called dark chocolate. The pants were made of the same material as Duo's, but neither shifter wore any other clothing. They were even barefoot. Blood red chokers circled their necks, with matching cuffs at each wrist. Wufei left his hair loose, while Trowa's fell softly over his face. When Duo inquired about the odd color; dark brown hardly seemed like a color Wufei would chose, the black haired shifter had said, quite matter-of-factly, that brown hid dried blood better. Duo had joked with them, calling them prelude-to-bondage bookends. Truthfully, Duo thought they looked perfect. And distracting. He found himself entertaining various indecent thoughts during the ride to Sally's.

Duo stood looking up at the warehouse. The huge doors were locked, but the smaller entrance door cut into them looked unbarred. Iria had a hand wrapped around the shotgun, tapping the barrel with her nail. Howard had his hands shoved into the pockets of his shorts, whistling a happy little tune.

Turning to Wufei, Duo suddenly asked, "By the way, Wu, what the hell is an animi motus?"

The shifter looked surprised for a moment. "Animi motus . . .? Are you sure you've got that right? That can mean either - "

"Passion or soul's passion," Trowa interrupted smoothly.

Duo raised an eyebrow. "Really, now? Isn't that interesting . . . ." Overhead, a hoarse cry echoed. "What the hell is that?" Duo demanded, looking up as his hand twitched in the direction of the Glock.

"Raven," Trowa said, nodding his head towards a sputtering lamppost. The black bird let out another sharp series of squawks.

"Huh," Duo said, "idiotic bird." Duo shook his head and flicked a stray hair out of his face. "Well, lets get this over with." He walked up to the door, Iria and Howard a few steps ahead of him with Wufei and Trowa flanking him on either side. Duo cast one last, surly look at the bird as it fluttered its wings. "Poetic," he mumbled, before stepping inside the door.

+

The inside of the warehouse was dimly lit and cold compared to the outside air. A musty smell assaulted Duo's nose as he looked around, waiting for his eyes to adjust.

"Welcome," came a deep voice from the shadows. The tall, bulky man that Quatre had beaten to a pulp at Devil's Bliss stepped closer as he spoke. "We have been waiting for you. Trowa, Wufei," he greeted, nodding at the two shifters. Then he turned to Duo. "Duo, and your two friends." He had the oddest hair Duo had ever seen. Stuck off on the top sides like little horns. He would've looked really cute with a tail and a pitchfork.

"Rashid," Wufei said, acknowledging the greeting. Trowa remained silent.

"Delighted, I'm sure. Now, if you don't mind, Rashid, you can stop right where you are," Duo said, shifting his weight forward. "We've only just met, you see. Wouldn't want to get too close and cozy, huh?"

Rashid frowned, but he stopped moving forward. "Mistress Sally is waiting in the back," he said, turning on his heel. "Follow me if you wish to see her." He moved away from the small group, winding his way through the boxes and crates scattered around the warehouse.

"Do we wish to see her?" Howard asked, leaning negligently on a crate three times his height.

"Yeah," Duo answered, "we do. C'mon."

Duo trailed after Rashid, glancing back and forth in front of him, trying to penetrate the deep shadows between the crates. His skin was crawling, and for some reason the area between his shoulder blades started to itch. This probably wasn't going to be pleasant. Maybe he should have invited Sally out for coffee instead. In the park. At noon.

They reached what looked to be the back of the warehouse. Rashid ran his hand down the wall, searching for something. Duo heard a soft ‘click' and a portion of the wall was pulled aside, disappearing into the side of the warehouse. The light was brighter here, and Duo could see that Rashid was wearing casual dress slacks and a light coffee toned shirt. The big man stepped aside, waving Duo ahead.

"No, that's okay. You go right on ahead," Duo said, peering into the opening.

Rashid's frown deepened, but he went inside first. Duo followed with Trowa and Wufei at his heels. Iria and Howard came last.

The back of the warehouse went far beyond what could be seen from the outside, and Duo realized that it was carved into the face of a mountain. Suddenly, the millions of tons of rock above him pressed down, and Duo felt a twinge of unease. A feeling of oppression. He quickly pushed it aside and surveyed the spacious room.

Cushioned couches were arranged in the middle of the room, around a table laden with a selection of cut fruits and wine. Sally lounged on one of the couches, a glass of dark red liquid in her hand. Hopefully wine. She was dressed in a green pantsuit; the jacket cut low enough in front that you could tell she wasn't wearing a shirt under it. And look at that, she was a blonde. Catherine sat in a chair beside her, with two men at her feet. Probably her wolves. One was an older man, with odd, short curling dark hair and sharply chiseled features. It gave him a rough, angular appearance. The other was a young man, his face smooth and light brown hair cropped close to his head. He looked to be a few years older than Duo. Catherine wore some odd concoction of clothing that Duo tidily labeled an insane woman's idea of a ball gown. The riot of colors clashed painfully with each other. The men at her feet were dressed much like Wufei and Trowa, only their pants were colored a burnt orange with black collars and wrist bands. They didn't look too impressed with the color scheme either.

Rashid kept moving into the room, settling in a chair to the left of Sally. Duo stayed by the door, quirking an eyebrow when Sally shook her head disapprovingly.

"Duo, you come into my home and don't even take a seat? After all the trouble I went to, preparing for your visit," she said. "Sit. Drink with me. And we'll talk."

"If its all the same to you - " Duo began.

"No. Its not. Sit, or you can consider this meeting over," she snapped, her eyes hardening.

Well. Couldn't argue with that logic. Duo made his way over to the couch with its back to one of the walls. He was well aware that the door was the only obvious way out, but he was pretty sure nothing was going to come through the mountain and kill him. The door was chancy. Wufei and Trowa followed him, settling at this feet. Iria also followed, but she leaned on the wall behind Duo's couch. Howard stayed right where he was, hands still shoved deep in his pockets.

"I meant for all of you to sit," Sally said, looking first at Howard, then Iria.

"Hemorrhoids," Howard said with a perfectly straight face, shrugging his shoulders. "They're a pain in the ass."

Duo was quite proud of himself at that moment. He managed to not break out laughing in a fit. He didn't even chuckle once. The younger man at Catherine's feet smiled broadly, his eyes sparkling. No one else seemed to find it one bit funny. Pity, that.

"I see," Sally said, not the least bit amused. Howard didn't look like he cared. She turned to Iria. "And you?"

Iria smiled, that unfriendly little twist of her lips that she was so fond of. "I just don't like to sit."

"Humans," Sally nearly spat, saying the word like a curse. Nice to know she was oh so fond of her primary food source. Then again, she could be snacking on Catherine's wolves for all Duo knew.

"I'd take it as a personal favor if you left Iria alone and let her hold up the wall," Duo said to Sally, knitting his fingers together over his stomach and getting comfy on the oversized couch.

Sally looked just a little incredulous at that. Just a little. Her eyes didn't bug out nearly as far as they had when Duo had called her a bitch. Whoops, forgot about that. Sally probably wasn't too happy about that little incident.

Duo shrugged. "I'm the one who's going to have to listen to her moan and complain later if you make her sit now."

A slow smile crept across Sally's face, and she let out a peal of laughter. Duo could feel Iria's icy gaze boring into the back of his head. Catherine looked from the laughing Sally, to Rashid, to Duo, and then back to Sally. She hesitantly grinned, then joined in Sally's laughter. Great. Even the crazy woman was afraid of Sally. Or . . . she didn't have a very good sense of humor.

Sally eventually calmed down, resting her chin in her palm. "Cute, Duo, very cute. Fine. Your little girlfriend can stand behind you and look menacing, since it means so much to her."

"Thank you," Duo said, pretty sure that he wasn't that grateful at all.

"Now, to business," Sally continued, nodding her head at Duo's thanks. "Rashid, would you please get our guest a drink?"

Rashid got to his feet smoothly, despite his considerable bulk. He poured a glass half full of the same red drink Sally had, setting the decanter back onto the table and handing the glass to Duo. Duo looked down at the glass, uncertain. It had better be wine. Rashid sat back down, looking like he didn't really enjoy being asked to be the serving man.

"Chianti," Catherine said, her eyes still dancing with laughter.

Sally's head whipped around, leveling a deadly glare at her. Oops again. Looks like the lackeys weren't supposed to speak until spoken to. To Catherine's credit, she didn't spontaneously combust under that heated gaze. She just tried to make herself seem two inches tall. In the back of his mind, Duo seemed to recall hearing something about Chianti and liver . . . eating someone's liver with a nice, red Chianti. That wasn't a very helpful thought to have right about now. Maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if the drink hadn't been wine after all.

Sally was looking at Duo again, Catherine forgotten. "What do you want from me?" she asked shortly. Well, thank you very much Catherine. The crazy woman's interruption evaporated that good humor Duo had worked in.

"Information," Duo said simply, tipping the glass to his mouth. He let the liquid touch his lips and made a swallowing movement. He didn't really want to drink anything Sally gave him. Here's to hoping she didn't see through his little deception.

Sally looked curious. That could be a good sign. "Information," she repeated. "About what?"

"The meaning of life?" Duo said, making it a question.

Sally narrowed her eyes, then she realized that Duo was joking again. "I'm beginning to see why Heero keeps you around," she said, smiling at him with a hint of fang showing.

"Really? Why's that?" he asked lightly.

"If nothing else, you're amusing. Then again, Heero always did have a peculiar sense of humor."

Duo almost choked. Heero had a sense of humor? Well, Duo thought, remembering last night. He might: deadpan sarcasm. "Hmm . . . thank you. I'll take that as a compliment," Duo said, tipping his glass at her.

"What is it you really want information about, Duo?" Sally had leaned back into the couch, resting her head on a pillow.

"Quite a few things, actually," Duo answered. "First of all, Heero."

Sally's eyebrows shot up. "I don't think I'm the right one to be asking about him."

"No," Duo disagreed, "I think you are. Everyone else available to me seems to be a bit . . . biased." He felt Trowa tense at his feet, but Wufei's demeanor didn't change. Reaching down, Duo brushed his fingers through the soft hair at the nape of Trowa's neck, trying to calm him without words. Duo was dealing with Sally now, and he had to appeal to her character. Duo wasn't sure if Trowa understood that, but he did relax, leaning back against Duo's legs and keeping their bodies in contact.

[cont]