Dance With the Demons + Part 6 (cont)
True Illusions: A Fic of Lies

+

Hours later, Duo woke up in the circle of Heero's arms. Heero lay beside him on the couch, letting Duo's head rest on his chest. Wufei sat on the floor next to Duo, holding the end of his braid like a lifeline. Quatre sat beside Wufei with Trowa's head in his lap. They watched Duo intently, waiting for him to speak.

Duo moved his head, looking up at Heero. He blinked, then rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand. He looked at the three men seated on the floor, then, letting his head fall back onto Heero's chest, he closed his eyes.

"What the bloody hell just happened?"

Instantly, Wufei smiled. "If he's back to swearing at us, then he's fine."

Quatre grinned at the Chinese shifter, nodding his head. "The day Duo stops swearing is the day the world will finally come to its end."

"I guess that means I fucking better well keep swearing then, hey, Quat?" Duo said.

Quatre continued to grin, absently stroking the crook of Trowa's neck. The green-eyed shifter smiled at Duo's response.

"Okay . . ." Duo said, his mind finally processing the fact that he was basically snuggling Heero, ". . . not that this isn't comfortable or anything, but I think I should get up." He moved to stand, but Heero's arms tightened around him like a vice.

"Hey, lemmie up, blood breath," he said, trying to rise again.

Wufei was glaring at Duo. "You will stay exactly where you are, Duo, until we decide if you are alright or not."

Duo blinked at Wufei, holding up his hands in mock defense. "Whoa, since when did you start ordering me around, pet?"

"Since I discovered you haven't got sense enough to take care of yourself," Wufei replied, defiant.

"What happened to 'yes, master'?" Duo mumbled under his breath. He didn't try to get up again, and Heero relaxed his grip.

Heero was regarding Duo mildly. ". . . blood breath . . .?"

Duo grinned.

Quatre was trying unsuccessfully not to laugh. His shoulders started to shake, and Trowa's smile grew wider. Soon, he was laughing quietly along with Quatre.

A smile ghosted Heero's lips; the coldness of his eyes melting slightly as he watched the vampire and shifter fight a losing battle with their laughter. Duo saw the look, noting the small change in the Erus.

Quatre waved his hand in the air. "Sorry, sorry," he said, finally getting control over his laughter, ". . . ahem, where were we?"

"We were about to tell Duo what the hell happened," Duo said, pointing at himself.

"Ah . . . ." Quatre said, nodding. "Well then, I nominate Heero, since he was the only one here."

Duo snorted. "That seems to be happening a lot lately, doesn't it?" he said to no one in particular.

Heero was looking at the blonde vampire. "Be quiet, Quatre."

Quatre was smiling. "Yes, Heero." He sounded very much like he was teasing Heero.

"I'm not sure what happened, Duo," Heero said softly. "You were talking about the dreams you had while you were falling in and out of consciousness, and then you withdrew into yourself. I tried to reach you, your mind, and it was shrouded in . . . nothing."

"In nothing? That makes no sense, Heero, even coming from you," Duo said sourly.

"Whether it makes sense or not is unimportant, it is what I felt."

"The ghost said the same thing . . . ." Wufei said, more to himself than anyone else.

"What?" Heero and Duo said, practically in unison.

"The ghost, Karen. The day we went to the voodoo woman's house," Wufei said. "She thought you were hot, so she went over next to you, to get a better look, I think." His face clouded at the memory. "She said you weren't there. Oh, she could see you, but it was like you didn't exist."

Duo was gaping at the black-haired shifter. "You've got to be kidding me."

"No . . . ." Wufei's voice was low.

"So what the fuck does that mean?" Duo said irritably.

Quatre was looking oddly at Duo. "I have no idea what that means. Heero?"

Heero's face was blank, but his eyes flickered with color. "I don't know."

"Well, that's just peachy. I don't exist, and we have no idea what is going on," Duo sounded more than a bit pissed.

"Being angry isn't going to help," Trowa spoke up for the first time.

"Fuck, don't talk sense to me now, Tro, I'm not in the mood." Duo crossed his arms over his chest.

"Do you remember what you said, Duo? Before you passed out?" Heero asked.

"When I was talking to you tonight?"

Heero nodded.

"No, I don't. I remember what we talked about, and your idea concerning Lucrezia. The last thing I remember is looking into your eyes," Duo said, wondering if maybe Heero had done something to him through his eyes, like he had done when they were fighting.

"I did nothing to you, Duo," Heero said, anticipating where Duo's thoughts would lead him. "When you began to slip away, I reached for your mind, and you almost dragged me down with you."

A shiver ran down Duo's back. He remembered that part. Not what he said or did, but he remembered the cold touch of Heero's power, and the small spark of life behind it. He remembered the feeling of draining that power away, into himself, and the surge of pure joy that accompanied it.

"What are you, Duo . . . ?" Heero whispered to himself.

They sat in silence for a moment, each one turning the odd chain of events over in their mind. Then the two shifters tensed. Heero and Quatre looked at the door seconds before it swung open and a petite woman strolled into the room, flanked by two of the biggest wolves Duo had ever seen. An embarrassed looking Zechs trailed after the woman.

"Erus, my apologies, she simply wouldn't listen . . . ." Zechs clamped his mouth shut when both Heero and Quatre shot the man a dark look.

The small woman was looking at the five men with an amused expression on her face. "Trowa, dear, you really should try to keep in contact."

The addressed boy merely regarded the woman coolly.

Unconcerned by Trowa's response, or lack thereof, the woman turned to Heero. She inclined her head slightly in greeting.

"Catherine," Heero said, not moving.

A smile flittered across her face. "You requested to speak with me, Erus?"

"I did. I did not, however, invite you here."

Catherine waved a hand vaguely in the air. "I am a very busy woman. My pets," she gestured at the two wolves seated by her feet, "monopolize my time."

Heero didn't look impressed. Duo was trying very hard not to, but it was difficult when faced with two wolves sitting beside the slight woman's feet. They were BIG.

"Go away, Catherine, I have no time to deal with you now," Heero turned back to Quatre, effectively dismissing her.

Anger flashed across Catherine's face. "You can't treat me as one of your lackeys. I am a Tamer, I too control the beasts!"

Heero touched Duo lightly on the shoulder, and the braided man moved out of the way. Heero rose, facing Catherine. Quatre also stood, moving a step behind and to the side of Heero. Trowa and Wufei moved to flank the two vampires.

"You, Tamer," Heero nearly spat the word, "are nothing more than a hindrance, a slight thorn in a shifter’s side. The beasts, as you call them, are not yours to control." A dark smile emerged on Heero's face. "What will you do, Tamer, when they break free of you?"

Catherine's body shook with barely controlled rage. "They are mine!" she nearly screamed. "Mine to command, mine to control!"

Duo stood, moving to stand on the opposite side of Heero, across from Quatre. Wufei took a step back and out, leaving the five of them in a rough wedge formation. Duo glanced at the others out of the corner of his eye, thinking it looked too much like a battle stance.

"I think you had best leave," Duo said slowly.

Heero's eyes flicked over to look at Duo in surprise, then he looked back at Catherine.

The woman laughed delightedly, forgetting her anger. "Do you use humans to protect yourself now, O great Erus?"

The two wolves rose to their feet, shaking out their fur and baring their teeth. Trowa and Wufei glared at them, and Duo felt the small rush of the beginnings of their power.

Heero was regarding Catherine coldly. "Leave. I will not tell you again." His own power began to stir in the room, making Duo's skin tingle.

Catherine's mood changed again, as quickly as before. Her face took on a nervous cast while she debated what to do.

"As you wish, Erus," she said abruptly. Then she turned and walked out the door as fast as she could without running. The two wolves lazily followed her, but before they exited the room, they glanced back at the five men, tongues lolling out in wolfish grins.

Heero's eyes shifted from the door to look at Zechs. "You disappoint me, Zechs. Catherine and her wolves should not have gotten this far."

Zechs winced, bowing low. "My apologies, Erus . . . she surprised us . . . ."

"Silence." Quatre's voice rang out sharply. "The Erus does not want your excuses. See that it does not happen again."

"Yes, of course." Zechs looked a little less scared now, but his expression was still strained and his skin still overly pale. He bowed to Quatre, then Heero. "Erus."

Heero nodded once, dismissing him.

Zechs bowed again, then also left the room, closing the door firmly behind him.

"Now," Duo said conversationally, "what was THAT all about?"

Instantly, the tension of the room drained away. The rapid change in the atmosphere left Duo startled. He hadn't noticed how different the little group was when others were present, until now.

Quatre looked pointedly at Trowa. "You realize your sister is crazy, don't you?"

Trowa smiled. "Very crazy."

Heero moved back to his position on the couch, crossing his legs at the ankles. "Foolish woman, what was she thinking, coming here like that?"

Duo took a step towards an empty chair, but Wufei pushed him along to sit on the edge of the couch next to Heero. The vampire shifted back, making room for Duo to lie down. When he hesitated, Wufei gave him another not-so-gentle push.

The braided man glared at his pet for a moment, then sighed resignedly as the other three made themselves comfortable on the floor in front of the couch.

Quatre's last words finally registered on Duo's brain, and he looked at Trowa questioningly. "THAT'S your sister?"

Trowa looked disgusted. "Unfortunately."

"Whoo hoo, lots of love in the family, I see," Duo said, trying not to lie to closely to Heero. "Hold on, what's a Tamer?"

Wufei spoke up this time. "Someone who can control shifters. But that doesn't really explain it well." He leaned back, gathering his thoughts. "A Tamer is someone who can compel shifters to obey them, not really control them, but something like it. It's very rare, usually the shifters get annoyed with the Tamer and kill him. Tamers have a tendency to be puffed up with their own importance."

Duo whistled. "Dangerous line of work."

Wufei nodded. "There have only been one or two Tamers that didn't become lunch. They were obeyed not because of the Tamer's power, but because the shifters respected them; treated them fairly."

"Then I take it that Catherine's wolves aren't too fond of her, since she seems to like to rant and rave about controlling them," Duo stated.

"I've always wondered why they put up with her," Quatre mused.

A thought occurred to Duo. "Hey, Tro . . . if you're a shifter, and your sister is a Tamer, why aren't you trailing after her like a good little beastie?"

Trowa laughed softly. "I'm much stronger than she is, she couldn't compel me to tie my shoes. And I belong to them." He gestured vaguely at the other three. "And you, now."

Duo looked like he wanted to say something, but he just shook his head.

Wufei smiled, patting Duo's arm. "There, there."

Duo shot Wufei a sour look, which only made the shifter's smile widen into a grin. He sighed, leaning back, only to come in contact with Heero. Duo jumped; he had forgotten Heero was behind him. The vampire wrapped an arm around Duo's waist, holding him against his body.

"Is there any chance that Catherine is the one who's sending monsters out to do her dirty work?" Duo asked doubtfully.

"No. She is much too weak. Those two wolves with her are the only shifters she has," Trowa replied.

"Even they didn't look too impressed with her. Maybe they just stick around because she amuses them?" Duo's body was tense in Heero's arms. The longhaired man thought about the mystery that was the Erus. He still had no idea why Heero had requested his help, why he was interested in him, or why he was keeping him here. In short, Duo still knew nothing. No, he knew one thing. Duo knew that Heero had found him and kept him alive. WHY he had done that was another matter entirely.

"Duo?" Quatre repeated

"Huh? What, Q? Sorry about that, I was thinking."

"About?" Wufei inquired.

"Nothing important . . . hey, why did the insane chick suddenly leave like that? One second she was all high and mighty, the next, she was tripping over herself trying to get out the door."

"He just called your sister insane, Trowa," Quatre said, looking down at his emerald-eyed pet.

Trowa rolled his eyes. "Duo is amazingly perceptive, she IS insane."

Duo looked over at Trowa, grinning. "Thank you."

Trowa inclined his head slightly, the corners of his mouth turned up in a small smile.

"Well," Quatre began, "I don't think we should consider Catherine's behavior odd . . . ."

Duo stared at the blonde vampire incredulously .

". . . odder than it usually is, at any rate," Quatre amended.

Wufei snorted. "That's better, Quatre. For a moment I thought you were losing whatever was left of your mind."

Quatre shot Wufei a half-hearted scowl. "As I was saying . . . ."

The Chinese shifter grinned, then motioned for Quatre to continue.

"Thank you . . . ." the blonde said sarcastically.

"Think nothing of it." Wufei's face was deadly serious.

"If you two are QUITE finished . . . ?" Heero interrupted.

Quatre glanced over at Wufei, who shrugged his shoulders.

"Right, anyway . . . ." Quatre paused, trying to pick up the lost thread of this thoughts. "Oh, yes. Her behavior wasn't odd, considering who she is. So I think we can put her near the end of our list."

"We have a list?" Duo asked.

Wufei held up his thumb and forefinger, holding them a fraction of an inch apart. "A very small list."

Quatre ignored the exchange. "That leaves us back to where we started. Which means," he looked pointedly at Duo, "you have to pay another visit to your dear friend the voodoo lawyer."

"You will take Trowa and Wufei with you," Heero said with a note of finality.

Naturally, Duo didn't pay any attention to said note. "No, I'll have to go in the day, and that will leave you and Quat vulnerable."

"Not really, Duo. We have ways of defending ourselves in the day," Quatre said quickly, noting the clouded expression on Heero's face.

Duo opened his mouth to argue, but Heero's hand clamped over his lips before he could say anything. He still tried, and a garbled 'mphff' came out.

"Why can't you just do what we tell you for once?" Heero asked exasperatedly.

"Cuff mime mephff?" Duo said, his eyes twinkling.

Trowa and Quatre gave him blank looks.

"What?" Trowa asked.

"He said, 'cuz I'm me,' " Wufei supplied.

Heero looked at Wufei incredulously. "You understood that?"

The shifter shrugged. "I know, I'm amazing."

No one looked convinced.

"Bah, fine. You get used to how Duo talks when you're around him as much as I am," he admitted.

"He talks with something over his mouth often?" Quatre asked playfully.

Wufei grinned, and Duo pointedly ignored both of them.

"What time is it anyway?" Duo asked.

"About three hours till dawn," Trowa said.

Duo hadn't noticed any clocks, and there were no windows, so he was left wondering just how Trowa knew what time it was. Resisting the urge to ask, he instead said, "I guess we had better get some rest before we go." He looked at the two shifters. They didn't seem tired, but Duo felt as if he hadn't slept for days. Which was odd, considering how he spent most of the last week. "Only one thing . . . ."

"Which is?" Trowa quirked and eyebrow.

"WHERE do I sleep?"

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

Duo: "He might get lucky," she says. Getting lucky doesn't seem to be a problem for me in this fic. *hentai grin*
Blue: *grin*
Quatre: Don't encourage her.
Blue: Why not? You were next on my list for lemons, but if you think I shouldn't be encouraged...
Quatre: Duo! ENCOURAGE her!!
Wufei: Does it involve me?
Blue: *eyes sparkle* Do you WANT it to involve you?
Wufei: I think I'm her new favorite.
Duo: I'M her favorite! Didn't you read 'Nagging Duo'!?
Blue: *grinning happily*
Heero: Stop that.

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