Dance With the Demons + Part 8 (cont)
Imitations of Immortality


+

Duo scowled. "What do you want?" he asked Heero, biting off his words.

"What happened to Lucrezia?"

Shit. Heero didn't know. Well, that explained why he had been so surprised by Sally's actions. "Lucrezia skipped town, at least that's what her decapitated butler said."

Heero's brows knitted. Was it just Duo or was Heero becoming more expressive? That had to be the third different expression Duo had seen on his face.

"Haven't you been talking to Quatre?" Duo asked when Heero still had said nothing.

"No. I returned here," - 'here' meaning Heero's rooms, in which he and Duo were now seated - "and found you as soon as I got back."

"Ahh . . . ." Duo really didn't want to think about that just now. Damn. His bath had been cut short. And now his exhaustion was setting back in. Nothing like an adrenaline crash to remind you just how tired you really were.

"Duo."

Well, Jesus, Heero had to stop using his name. Duo was already partly hard and more than a little antsy because of the shifters energy. And every time Heero said his name, it sounded more and more like 'fuck me'.

"Yeah?" Duo asked, struggling to control his rebellious body.

"Run the bath again." Heero stood and walked, no, more like flowed, towards the bed chamber.

What the . . . !? Run the bath? Duo snorted. Like hell. If Heero wanted a bath, let him run it himself. Duo looked up to tell Heero just that when he caught sight of the mess that was Heero's back.

"Holy fuck, Heero, what happened to you?" Duo hissed, standing.

"Shifter wounds," he replied simply. "Harder to heal."

"Christ . . . ." Duo stood, running his fingers through his still damp hair. Heero could still run his own fucking bath . . . but . . . . Sighing, Duo followed Heero once again, this time through the curtains. He did use it before without asking, what harm was it to run a bit of water for the vampire?

Duo laid the gun on the currently deep red sheets of Heero's bed ­ he seemed to alternate between black and red, then climbed the few steps up to the bath. Draining the now cold water from his bath, Duo ran fresh water to replace it. He even got a clean towel out of the cabinet for Heero before he sat on the tub's rim.

"Hey, Heero," Duo said, idly running his hand through the water. "Why'd you let her go? You should have killed the bitch."

Heero laughed, sending little ripples along Duo's skin. "What point would there be to that? Her death would give me nothing, her life . . . perhaps we’ll discover why a human priestess is so important to her."

"It seemed like she didn’t even know that herself."

"Then maybe we will find out who Lucrezia is important to. Important enough to deceive or spell a vampire into attacking a room full of humans and another vampire's home."

Duo's brain must have been operating on empty. He hadn't even considered that possibility.

"You are tired."

Duo looked sharply at Heero. The other's back was turned to him. Heero was laying the Glock on a table near one side of the bed. Then he pulled back the silken sheets in one smooth movement. He didn't expect Duo to SLEEP with him, did he? Forget the fact that he had spent three days or more in the room with him, Duo was damn well conscious now, and he could speak for himself.

"Is there enough water?" Heero's voice cut through Duo's inner rant.

Jogged out of his thoughts, Duo glanced down at the bath. More than enough water. He reached out and shut off the tap, standing up in the process.

"Sit, Duo," Heero commanded.

And Duo was back on his ass on the rim before another thought crossed his mind. That was annoying. "Listen, Heero, I don't what the hell you've got set up here, but would you fuck off giving me orders? And get the hell out of my head. Your little whispers are getting more annoying than your voice." Well, that last part was a little bit of a lie. Heero's voice was annoying, but only because it made Duo want to jump him. Duo refused to believe that it was HIS mind coming up with those particular ideas. Heero was the one who kept talking about taking him.

Laughing again, Heero turned and moved towards Duo. "You, Duo, are the one who is in my mind."

Duo's brow creased in confusion. What the hell was the vampire talking about now?

"I hear your 'whispers' every time you think of me." A smile crossed Heero's face then. "I hear your whispers often."

Yeah, yeah. Heero-speak for 'you think of me A LOT'. Duo was about to refute that claim when he stopped himself. He did think of Heero quite a bit. But that was only because of Heero's mind tricks, wasn't it?

"No trick of mine, Duo, your tricks."

"What the FUCK!? What the hell do you mean, my tricks? You're the supernatural one here, you're fucking with my mind," Duo said, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at the vampire.

"No," Heero's eyes were burning into Duo again. "You are fucking with my head, and you have been ever since I met you. I know what I am. I am a vampire, whatever you want that word to mean. But you, Duo," he paused, closing his eyes slowly and then opening them again, as if to steady himself, "do you know what you are?"

Damn skippy Duo knew what he was. Confused, angry and fucking horny. Duo had to get away from this. Killing renegade monsters was one thing, getting cozy in their lives was another. Wanting to be cozy with them . . . Duo didn't know what that was. But it was confusing as hell.

Duo reached down and grabbed the towel, flinging it half-heartedly at Heero. "Get your goddamn bath, fang-face. And get the fuck out of my head." He stood, intent on finding Wufei and getting the hell out of there. He was halfway to the door when that last thought caught up with him. Wufei. Duo stopped short. What was he supposed to do about Wufei? He wanted to take him home, the thought of leaving him behind drove Duo crazy. Could he just pluck Wufei away from everyone like him and expect it to be alright?

"Animi motus . . . do not leave."

Duo turned around. "What?"

Heero had already shed his bloodied leather pants and stood on the marble dais with the crimson towel wrapped low on his hips. His face was unreadable.

"What did you say?" Duo tried again.

"I asked you not to leave."

That wasn't what Duo was referring to, and Heero knew it. Duo decided to let it drop for now. "No, you TOLD me not to leave."

Heero inclined his head in acknowledgement of that statement. "Now I'm asking you."

Talk about a rock and a hard place. Duo barely held back from laughing at the implications of that thought. Rock and a hard place, indeed. Maybe Duo could turn this to his advantage.

"Why do you let the others call you by your name, but to the rest you are only the Erus? When you're alone, anyway."

The question seemed to have startled Heero. Good. One point for Duo. Surprising vampires was always a hard thing to do. Live long enough and eventually, you'll see it all. It was the living part that was tricky.

"If I answer that question, will you stay?"

Duo mulled that over. Stay, yes. In the same bed, possibly. Fuck with Heero, no. "I'll stay here, but that's all I'll do."

That seemed to be enough for Heero. He turned around and dropped the towel in one fluid motion, then stepped lightly into the bath. Duo caught a glimpse of dark skin and a well formed thigh before Heero sank into the water. Was the Erus FLASHING him? Duo shook his head in disbelief and pointedly ignored the protests from his aching groin. Answers first, comfort later. Although willpower didn't seem to be helping Duo much at the moment.

"I trust them," Heero was saying. "Quatre I have known since before I can remember. Trowa arrived soon after that, I can't remember when, exactly. They bonded."

Duo was about to ask if 'bonded' had any special meaning, but he had a suspicion that it didn't. He knew what Heero was talking about. Duo had done the same with Wufei, he just hadn't known what to call it.

"Wufei was last." As Heero spoke, Duo climbed the stairs again, kneeling on the top step. He took a cloth and began bathing Heero's back, clearing away the dried blood. The wounds already had healed partly, but Duo could see it was taking much longer than normal. Heero had healed the knife wounds in less than half this time.

"We formed something. No, asking ‘what’ is no use. Even we have no idea what it is," Heero continued after a moment.

"Why are you the Erus?" Duo interrupted, trying not to hurt Heero. The vampire didn't seem to be bothered by the foot long gouges in his back, butDuo was careful anyway. "Why not Quatre?"

"It is the way it is. There have always been those dominant, and those submissive. Trowa and Wufei are submissive by nature, you have seen that. You have tasted it."

Duo was silent. No use arguing with the truth.

"Quatre is slightly different. Where Trowa and Wufei are submissive to all, Quatre is submissive only to some."

"By some, you mean one, don't you?"

Heero nodded.

"So that’s why you’re the Erus. And why it's always different when the four of you are alone together." Duo mulled it over, thinking about what Wufei had told him only days before about the Erus forbidding Wufei to fight for dominance. The shifter was very submissive, despite his considerable power. And that meant that everyone else was that much stronger. That's why Heero had forbidden Wufei to fight. He simply wasn't strong enough. "Is Wufei growing any stronger?" Duo asked suddenly.

If Heero was surprised by the abruptness of the question, it didn't show. "Wufei has the physical strength to fight, but not the will. If the others - excluding Quatre and Trowa - knew of this, Wufei would be unable to survive in our world. And there is nowhere else for him to go; humans would not accept him. I forbade him from fighting for that one reason; to hide his compassion from those who would exploit it. He will fight to protect others, but that is all."

Duo chewed on that for a while, turning it over in his head and trying to find a fault in it. There was none. Not that he could see, anyway. "When Wu said he was anybody's meat before Quatre came, I thought he was referring to Quatre joining you here. He didn't, did he?"

"No."

Duo waited, hoping Heero would continue. At least some things were becoming clearer.

"He was talking about when Quatre first found him. A very long time ago."

"Shifters have extended lifespans?"

"Somewhat. Lamias are close to immortal; they will die only when they want to or they are killed. It seems being with vampires will lengthen the lifespan of other shifters, mammals mostly. Trowa has been with Quatre and I for longer than I can remember."

The conversation had definitely taken a sober tone. He wondered what Heero meant by ‘being with vampires’, but another question loomed larger in his mind. Duo rested his hand on Heero's shoulder, feeling the threads of sorrow in the vampire's voice. "How old are you, Heero?"

"I don't know. I stopped counting the years long ago."

Duo felt something in his chest wrench at the sheer exhaustion in Heero's voice. When humans dream of immortality, they seldom think of the consequences. Life that doesn't end is just that. Endless. How many empires had Heero seen rise and fall? How many times had Heero wished for the dance to simply end? Duo understood why the four were so close now. They were the only constant in an endless world that was forever changing. At that moment of understanding, Heero seemed less and less the monster he was considered to be. Heero was forced into a dance choreographed by Fate, and he was simply tired. As was Duo.

Duo was silent, searching for the right words. For once, he understood.

Heero sighed, and Duo felt it brush through him, jolting him out of his somber musings. That was a neat trick Heero had. The damn vampire even fucking SIGHED in a sexy way. Duo didn't stop to think of exactly what point in time Heero had become sexy. Some questions just didn't have answers. And some questions . . . .

"What is a vampire?" Duo asked suddenly. Now why had he asked THAT?

"Evil devil-spawn corpses that feed off the life and blood of poor, innocent human beings."

Duo flicked some water at Heero. Naturally, the vampire would take this moment to develop a sense of humor. At least, Duo was pretty sure Heero was joking.

"Seriously," Duo said.

Heero turned his head, shifting his upper body so Duo could see his face, but he avoided eye contact. "I am neither dead nor immortal, Duo. You can't kill something that's already dead or that is immortal. I can be killed. I am a type of life that imitates immortality. This either makes humans afraid or jealous. Humans seek to destroy that which they fear and, if they cannot have it, that which they covet."

Duo looked at Heero in shock. He had not expected an answer quite like that. But Heero was plugging right along.

"I am more like you than you think, Duo. But if one of us is to fear the other, it would serve me well to be terrified of you."

Duo opened his mouth, then shut it again. Heero should fear him? Maybe Heero got hit on the head during the fight. Duo had just heard more from Heero in ten minutes than he had in the entire time since he had first gotten involved in this sorry affair. A thousand more questions swirled through Duo's mind, but he was much too tired to ask them tonight. He got to his feet slowly, handing Heero the towel.

"Dry off, Heero. I'm tired, and you just gave me a hell of a lot more to think about than I wanted."

Heero wordlessly took the towel as he stood, and Duo stepped down from the dais, moving back to the bed to retrieve his gun before heading over to the couches to get some sleep. Wufei and the others would probably trickle in before long; Duo didn't think anyone wanted to be alone this night. And truth be told, Heero's words had shaken Duo more than he wanted to admit. It was pretty bad when the demons were more afraid of you than you were of them.

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

Duo: Is that it?
Blue: Yup.
Quatre: You didn't explain anything very well there, you know.
Blue: Nope.
Quatre: ARE you going to explain it further?
Blue: Maaaaybe.
Wufei: *sigh*
Blue: *grin*
Heero: Just let me shoot her. Just once. Only in the foot.
Trowa: No.
Heero: Kneecap, maybe?
Trowa: No.
Blue: Oh, calm down. I can't give EVERYTHING away. Besides, you're all due to sit down and have that little chat where everyone in the fic is brought up to speed with what's going on.
Duo: *grumbling* About damn time too . . . this fic is giving me a headache.
Blue: And at this point in time, Yume the Almighty Beta Reader says, “Oh sure, so that's your reason for not putting out in this chapter.” *grin*

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