Dance With the Demons + Part 10 (cont)
Shattered Minds

Sally seemed unconcerned with Trowa's reaction, but Catherine was looking at Duo with startlingly sane and calculating eyes. It passed quickly, and once again her purplish-blue eyes were shining with insanity. Filing away that little bit of information for later, Duo shifted in his chair, curling one of his legs underneath him.

"Hmm," Sally said, tracing little circles on the couch's arm with her fingernail. "Alright, what did you want to know?"

"How old is he?" Duo asked.

"I don't know."

Fair enough. "Okay, how old would you say he is?" Duo rephrased his question.

Sally smiled again. "That's a better question. But I still don't know." She dipped the tip her finger in her glass, then brought the finger to her lips and licked the wine away. Duo repressed a little shudder. "I could guess. Three, maybe four."

"Hundred?" Duo said, thinking. That would give Heero more than enough time to have picked up a few tricks.

Rashid snorted. Sally glanced over at him. She seemed to echo his sentiments. "No, human, not three or four hundred. Three or four thousand."

Duo let out a low whistle. Well then. That put him way before the Roman Empire. If Sally was right. Curiously, Duo looked at Sally. Right now, the next thing he wanted to ask her was how old she was, but he didn't think she'd take that well. Mustn't upset the hostess with the violent tendencies.

"How long has he been Erus?" Duo asked next. And here's to hoping that didn't get her all riled up.

"Only the last thousand years or so," she replied, not looking particularly vengeful.

"Okay . . . does he have power over ALL the monsters? Besides you and yours, of course."

Sally still looked composed. "No, not all."

Duo waited, hoping she would go on.

"Only those who chose to accept him as Erus, for whatever reason, are his. There are several factions that don't acknowledge his leadership," she continued.

"Are we talking state, nation or worldwide?"

Sally took another sip of her drink. "I don't think I want to answer that."

"Who was Erus before Heero?" Duo said quickly to cover his confusion. Why wouldn't Sally want to answer that question?

"You're a very inquisitive little human, Duo," Sally said after a moments hesitation, going very still.

Duo shrugged. "It's a character flaw. So, who was it?"

"Heero didn't displace me, if that's the direction your thoughts are going," Sally said, her lips thinning to a fine line.

Uh oh. Delicate line of questioning. That could mean one of several things. Duo dropped it, and moved on to a different area. "You have no interest in Wiccan magic, or any type of magic, do you?"

Sally didn't appear to be breathing; she was completely motionless. Come to think of it, did vampires even need to breathe? Iria and Howard look for all the world like they were uninterested in the conversation. They were very interested, though. Or else they wouldn't be there.

"Are you asking for your own interest or Heero's?" Sally asked, her voice cold.

"Mine. I owe Heero nothing." As soon as he said it, Duo thought it to be a lie. Didn't he owe Heero his life? No. He didn't. Somehow, getting involved with Heero had cost Mary-Anne hers. He owed Heero nothing.

Sally nodded, apparently believing him. "And them? What of your pets, Duo? Where do their loyalties lie?"

"They're mine," Duo said without thinking. Below him, both Wufei and Trowa seemed to melt, all the tension seeping out of their bodies. Something clicked in Duo's head, and he felt a warmth brush through his mind. Startled, Duo fought to keep his expression the same.

"Yes, so they are," Sally said, mostly to herself. She turned to Catherine. "You should be paying attention. He could own your wolves just as quickly and easily."

Catherine looked like she was about to start frothing at the mouth. That's never a good sign. Thank you very much, Mistress Sally. Another crazy with it in for Duo.

"I doubt I could control her wolves," Duo said, trying to head off any potential bloodshed. Especially his. Amazingly, this seemed to placate the Tamer. Her ruffled feathers settled back into place and Duo turned back to Sally.

"I don't need magic," Sally stated.

Duo nodded. "I didn't think you would." Duo briefly toyed with the notion of asking her about Lucrezia. "You want to be Erus," he said instead, not bothering to state it as a question.

The vampire nodded. "Are you going to try to talk me out of it?"

"No." Duo was tapping his finger against his leg. "Should I?"

Sally looked confused. From what Duo knew of vampires, she let her thoughts show easily on her face. Trying to come up with a viable reason for that did nothing to comfort Duo. Either it was a ploy, or Sally really didn't care what Duo knew. Not caring what he knew was the one Duo was worried about. Probably meant she intended to kill him.

"I don't belong to Heero, Sally," Duo said, using her name for the first time that night. "He means nothing to me."

"Then why, human, would you help him for nothing?"

"Human life does mean something to me. If helping Heero means less loss of life, then I'll help him."

"Ahh," Sally said, her eyes half closing. "That's it then, is it. What if helping him will mean more loss?"

That would be an unpleasant result. "I've got a feeling NOT helping him will end up in a very big loss, from my point of view."

"And what's that?"

"I'm attached to living, Sally. Its kinda hard to live when someone's already killed you," Duo said, mentally cursing himself again for even becoming involved with the vampire Erus in the first place.

"You think he'll kill you?" she asked.

"Without a fucking doubt." But Duo wasn't as sure of that as he sounded. Push Heero hard enough, and he might kill Duo. It wasn't Heero killing him that had Duo so worried, and he wasn't about to inform Sally of that little fact. No, it was Heero owning him that scared Duo shitless. Mind, body and soul. He'd much prefer dying.

"Heero should have killed you when he had the chance."

Duo's head snapped up.

Sally laughed, the sound stabbing into Duo's brain. "Don't look so worried, Duo. I'm only saying that he's had the chance to kill you already. A better chance than he's going to ever get again, in my opinion. The little Erus is going to find it hard to kill you now."

"That's the idea," Duo mumbled. Let's hear it for self-preservation and a lack of post-mortem status. At least for the next sixty years or so.

"And what if I wanted to kill you?" Sally was tapping her fingernails against the wine glass, filling the room with a tiny chiming rhythm.

Duo felt his skin start to crawl. This was rapidly going downhill. "Do you want to kill me, Sally?" he asked, his voice neutral.

"Oh, yes. I want to rip your annoying little heart out of your chest and feed it to you."

Well, there's a wonderful idea. "But," Duo asked, not sure if he really wanted the answer, "are you going to kill me?"

Sally watched Duo with icy blue eyes. Duo felt the shifters at his feet tense, and the first stirrings of their power pushed up against him.

"Call off your pets, Duo. I'm not going to kill you," Sally said, an amused glint in her eyes.

That didn't really seem like a good idea to Duo. Sally had only said that she wasn't going to kill him. That probably didn't include her lackeys. Despite his misgivings, Duo looked down and said, "Well, you heard the lovely lady. She's not going to kill me." Whatever the reason, Trowa seemed the more jumpy of the two.

"Have you learned everything you needed to know, Duo?" Sally asked, sitting up on the couch and crossing her legs smoothly.

Not by far. Duo was piecing together what he had learned so far, and it left him with quite a few more questions. Not very many he would risk asking though.

"One last thing, Sally, and then I won't bother you again," Duo said, twirling the glass in his hand and sending the wine to swirling.

"No, you won't," the vampire woman agreed.

Riiight. Duo let that one go. "You probably aren't too concerned with something like this, but do you remember a fire that happened a few years ago? In the suburbs . . . a small church went up in flames. No one survived."

Sally nodded. "I remember it. Vaguely."

Duo tipped his head back, looking up into the dark rafters of the warehouse, gauging Sally's words and reactions. "Out of curiosity, there are many myths about vampires floating around, and there's one little myth that doesn't seem based on any fact, even a small, unsupported one." Duo dug the gold cross out of his shirt, holding it up so it dangled from his fingers and sparkled in the light. "This means absolutely nothing to you, does it?"

"No," Sally replied, looking neutrally at the cross. "That's a superstition."

Duo waited a beat, then said, "Thank you, Sally. For your time, and your answers," and let the cross drop back down. He had what he wanted now. Sally had shown no reaction at all to the cross as far as Duo could tell, but he hadn't been looking at her when he revealed the little piece of gold jewelry. Duo had been watching first Rashid, and then Catherine and her wolves. Rashid had looked hard at the cross, while Catherine glanced at it and then quickly averted her eyes. The young man's eyes however, had widened in either shock or disbelief.

"Eternal life is monotonous, Duo," Sally said, setting her glass down on the table and reclining back on the couch. "You provide a small distraction. A very small, amusing one."

Duo rose from his seat, the two shifters rising with him. Iria pushed herself away from the wall, looking a little disappointed. In a way, so was Duo. He wanted a chance to kill Sally, but buried halfway into a mountain with only one little exit didn't seem like the smartest way to go about it. There are other, better chances. Usually.

Nodding once at Rashid, then Catherine and the two unnamed men at her feet, Duo headed towards the door. He still had questions, but now didn't seem like the best time to remind Sally of Lucrezia. Duo had already gotten most of the information he wanted.

"Duo," Sally called, waiting for him to turn back around before she continued. "If you're so interested in that church fire, ask Heero about it. He knows who set the fire. Maybe not who actually did it, but who ordered it done."

Duo stared at her, stunned. Why hadn't Heero said that? Had the vampire taken him so literally that he assumed Duo wanted revenge on the ones who set the blaze only? Duo wanted them all. Heero knew who had ordered the church to be destroyed. He might know why. He knew. Heero knew. And he said nothing. Not a fucking thing! The ones who where responsible for the fire . . . they were the same ones who had stuck him in that godforsaken graveyard. Put him at Heero's mercy for days. They were the ones who were killing people off like flies. Maybe they were the ones that did it. Maybe; maybe they were the ones. Duo tried to think through the cloud of rage that was brewing in his mind. The cross had been in Heero's possession. Duo didn't really know for sure if it had been planted in the apartment or not. Did Duo really know anything for sure? All he had to go on was Heero's word; even Wufei wasn't aware of everything that had happened. No one was. Except Heero, and the ones who killed Mary-Anne. And now, Duo had Sally's words to consider.

"Do you," Duo grated out from between clenched teeth, placing emphasis on the word ‘you', "know who set the fire, Sally?" Duo wasn't even sure if he cared who it was right at this second. He wanted someone to kill. Anyone. Anything. Something had to die.

"I might," Sally answered, looking smug.

"Tell me."

"Why should I? I've answered all your questions. Given you the information you wanted. Why should I help you?"

The world slowed down then. Duo's mind was raging, screaming at him. Heero knew. Sally knew. They knew. But Duo didn't know. And it mattered to him. The vampires could care less about the lives of humans. Could care less about Duo. Duo felt a macabre smile on his lips, and the world sped back up. He flicked open his coat, drawing the Glock with his left hand and the Browning with the other. He trained the Glock on Sally, keeping the other pointed at the ceiling. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Iria sight the Beretta shotgun on Rashid. Wufei and Trowa were still beside Duo, their eyes fixed on Catherine and her crew. Howard was peering out the door almost nonchalantly.

"Simple," Duo said, his voice empty and cold. "If you do know, and you don't tell me, you won't have to worry about finding something to break the monotony of eternity anymore. I'll break it for you right now. Permanently."

Sally had gone very still, her eyes hard as stone. "You can't hurt me with that."

"No? You know that for sure, do you? We could always find out. How fast can you move, Sally? How quickly can you dodge bullets?" Duo said to her, his voice calm and indifferent.

The vampire's eyes showed a hint of fear. "You can't kill me with that!" she half-shouted, insisting.

"Yes, I can. And I will. Tell me what I want to know."

"You think you will leave here alive after this!?" Sally was screaming now, and Catherine was on her feet, speaking rapidly to the werewolves.

Duo heard nothing but Sally's voice, his attention was focused firmly on her. "We'll see. Do you know how many monsters I've killed, Sally? How many shifters I've had fall dead at my feet?" Duo's finger tightened on the trigger; it made a tiny ‘click' as it slid past the first notch. "I am Death, Sally. Your death, if you refuse to give me what I want." Duo viewed the world with vision tinted black. His mind was still screaming at him, he heard it though the heat of his anger. He saw everything in excruciating detail, the tiny hairs that had worked loose from Sally's twisted hair wavering from the minute shaking of her body; he heard the shallow beating of a heart, and knew it was Sally's.

Duo realized then that he could feel Sally's life pulse through her. He believed Heero now; vampires are not dead things. Sally wasn't dead. Her blood moved through her veins to a different rhythm than a human's. So slow. Sluggish. Imperceptible, it was so slow. But Duo saw it now. And he saw how easily he could end it. Two thousand years, he knew, Sally had walked the earth. Two thousand years of life. And Duo could end it with a thought. Not with metal, not with fire. A mere thought. Her life, and her death, was his to choose.

Almost lazily, Duo reached out with his mind. His vision doubled, and he saw the room where he stood now overlapping another room, one miles and miles away. One that Duo had never seen in his life. Seated at a small table, drinking coffee and laughing together, were Lucrezia and Mary-Anne. Mary-Anne was different, though. Her eyes were blue, not green. Her lustrous black hair was now a shimmering red. Duo looked at her, and knew that it was Mary-Anne. But Mary-Anne was not her real name. Lucrezia turned her head slowly, looking straight at Duo. Mary-Anne followed her gaze, her now blue eyes looking at Duo. "Mariemeia, Duo," she said. "My name . . . is Mariemeia."

Then the room was gone, and Duo saw Heero's room in Devil's Bliss. He saw Heero, leaning against the doorframe, talking with Quatre. Curiously, Duo brushed Quatre's mind, watching as the blonde vampire's eyes widened. Duo pushed harder, and Quatre fell to his knees with a choked cry. Turning to Heero, Duo touched the vampire's mind, feeling the weight of four thousand years pressing down on him. Sorrow. Guilt. Joy. Contentment. Anger. Hate. Fear. Heero's eyes were drowning blue, twin cobalt flames that pushed Duo back. Almost gently, Heero shook his head, and the double vision disappeared.

Duo blinked, bringing the warehouse back into focus. It was still tainted, still veiled in black. He straightened, letting his arms drop back to his sides. "Who?" he asked, his voice echoing in the vaults of his mind. He reached out and touched Sally's mind, felt her try to push him back, fling him away. Duo snarled, forcing his way past her defenses. There. She knew. Sally had done it. Sally had burned the church to the ground. Catherine. Catherine had tried to kill Mary-Anne . . . no, tried to kill the woman Duo knew as Mary-Anne. Mariemeia. She had failed. Mariemeia lived. Lucrezia had her. Had her? Or was with her? Where did Lucrezia's loyalties lie? Friend or enemy . . .?

Duo heard someone screaming. Sally was screaming, clutching her head with her hands. Rashid watched impassively, his human body overlapped with the great, hulking outline of a bear. Catherine's eyes were no longer insane. She was watching Duo with interest, studying him. Iria and Howard were shadows at the edge of his vision. The air around Iria shimmered, while Howard stood on an island of calm; completely neutral. Trowa and Wufei crouched at Duo's feet, still in human form, a low growling coming from their throats. Both pulsed with life, but there, under their life, was his mark. Duo's mark. They were his.

Duo turned his attention back to Sally. Tears streaked her face, a thin trail of blood at the corner of her mouth where her fangs had pierced her own skin. Her pulse faltered as Duo drew her power from her, sucking away her life. He felt it build in him, the same feeling as when the shifters changed near him; a hot, heady rush of power that left him gasping. He took that power, made it his own, and pushed it out, away from him. It touched Wufei, then Trowa, forcing them to instantly shift, the tatters of their clothing scattering in the wind caused by the change. Wufei reared up, snarling and clawing at the air. Trowa bared his teeth, roaring.

Further away, in the middle of the city, the stolen power reached Heero and Quatre. The blonde took the power, letting it wash over him in a warm gust. The Erus let the power fill him, reveling in the feeling. It swirled around him, tousling his hair.

"Animi motus meus . . ." Heero whispered, lifting his hand as if to touch Duo. "Or animi mortus . . . or are you both, Duo?"

Breaking off the flow of power from Sally abruptly, with Heero's whispered words echoing in his mind, Duo turned burning eyes to the shadows behind her, searching. She looked up at him from where she crouched on the floor, blood and tears mixing. She looked drawn and sallow, her skin yellowed and dark circles standing out in stark contrast under her eyes.

"You . . ." Duo hissed, leveling his gaze on the shaking woman. "You, I will let live. Every fucking beat of your heart, every step you take, is because I let you live. Your life - your death, is mine!" Duo growled.

Turning and walking back into the entrance of the warehouse, Duo was riding out the last waves of whatever power was stirring through him. Wufei trotted beside him, rolling his eyes up to look into Duo's face.

"We're going to see Heero. I want to know what the fuck is going on. And I want to know now," Duo said to him, reaching the door and stepping back out into the night.

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

Blue: *cackling in glee* That was so much fun!
Duo: *scratching head* I'm soooo confused.
Wufei: And this is a NEW thing for you?
Quatre: *snickering*
Blue: Still wanna shoot me, Heero?
Heero: Hn . . .
Blue: I wonder when I'll finish the next part . . .
Heero: Now.
Trowa: Now.
Duo: Likewise.
Quatre & Wufei: *nodding*
Blue: Uh . . . . . . huh. Oh . . . kay then . . . .  

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