Author: Maldoror
see chap. 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Two Halves: Circles + Chapter 15
Chains

The pair were as still as the stones around them for a split second. Then Duo sensed, more than saw, something hurtling at him out of the dark, a slash of silver.

He's barely registered the object; he was shoved out of the way and a blur of moonlight ripped the air a few inches from his face. He blinked. Heero's mage blade had transfixed whatever it was right in front of Duo.

"Get the basket!" Heero snapped, standing in one fluid movement, wrenching his sword from out of the ground with a metallic clink as a broken object fell from the blade -

Duo didn't have time to think, something was hissing through the air. Heero's blade flashed again, and the object clinked and went flying against a rock to one side.

Duo shouted. Something had grabbed his arm. He stared down in horror and barely had time to flinch as Heero spun and sliced him free, before turning in the same fluid movement and parrying a flash of silver that had been headed towards his throat.

Chains! Duo stared in amazement at the broken thing wrapped around his arm, glinting dully in the moonlight. It was a fairly thin chain, only a finger in width, with widely spaced links. It appeared to be splattered with some dark substance, dried and flaking in the light of the fire. Duo dropped it, grabbed the basket and upended it into the flames.

The bread and some fruit rolled into the embers, and a small packet at the bottom of the basket fell into the heart of the flames, its thin gauze covering immediately blackening and turning cherry red at the edges of the burn.

Duo felt something jerk him back and he swore in a very un-kingly like manner as he tried to wrench the thin chain from around his chest. His knife -broader and longer than his usual one, since the Maseng incident- leapt from his belt scabbard and caught in one of the rings. He tugged viciously and the chain broke after tightening on his chest.

Duo rolled to his feet and his hands shot out towards the shadowy figure that was slowly moving towards them through the rocks. He wasn't surprised when nothing happened.

"Power's out."

"It's touched me too." Heero grunted, not even bothering to try his magic. "Fire?"

"Done." Behind him, the gauze had disappeared in a flash of flame and its contents were starting to combust. The fire suddenly roared, flared and smoked, a belching burst of acrid white fumes.

Duo stared at the figure that had finally stepped into a pool of moonlight, silver dripping off the coils and slithering... chains. It was all chains!

No, there was a figure under there, he realized, as he dodged another, thicker chain that surged at him from the coiling mass as if hurled by a ballista. He could barely see it, except for the occasional glimpse of an eye or mouth behind the chains.

"K! K! I suppose you will not surrender k!gracefully."

Oh good, this one talks. And it's a lot more house-friendly than the ninth circle wormbait. Duo tensed as the thing rattled chains in what might have been laughter.

"This time there is no one here to k!get you out of our trap!"

"We can get ourselves out." Heero snarled.

"No, no, you k!can't." The thing's coiling became more frenzied. "This time you will not es-k!cape. You will k!come with me and you will serve him and then you will be the first to die at the k!clutches of our masters."

The chains jangled and shook together. "A pity... you were so k!cute together... "

"Are you sure we need it alive?" Duo whispered in sudden fury.

"Yes."

"Damn."

"Now you will k!come... "

Chains shot out from the writhing pillar of metal, hurtling towards Heero.

"Watch my back." Heero sounded almost bored.

And then the mage-blade exploded into motion.

Duo, dagger at the ready, stood to protect Heeros' back but he couldn't help but stare in stunned amazement. The blade was like distilled moonlight lancing up and down, shattering chains, spinning, splitting others, each movement claiming several hits against the flying, crawling, clinking creature grasping at them.

The blade flew up - a thick chain was struck out of the way, hurtling back a few feet. Heero spun into the movement, slicing two more chains, turned and sent his boot crushing down on a thin flat-linked shackle snaking along the ground towards his legs. The sword shot straight up to bash away a strike aimed at his face, as he dodged and simultaneously caught another chain heading for Duo in an iron fist, snapping it with a sharp tug, steely arms tightening beneath the light leather armour.

The creature made an angry rattling noise and the chains started coming out faster and thicker, some coiling far above their heads or off to one side to catch them off guard. Duo shook himself from the trance the flickering blade had put him in and started batting and cutting away at the few chains that made it past the glittering wall of steel and muscle before him.

Heero didn't even flinch as one thick chain with curled barbs on it managed to half wrap itself around his chest, ripping his armour; he leaned back in one fluid movement, lifting his sword in both hands and sliced it straight down between the links. Then the blade windmilled around and two more chains hit the rocks, which were fast becoming covered in metal. The fiend seemed to have an endless supply, however. They weren't real chains, after all, though they were real in all ways that mattered to a human. They were being generated from one of the circles of Hell -the fifth, the analytical part of Duo informed him- and being phased into existence through the intermediary of the fiend. They wouldn't stop coming until the spouses were caught.

The creature bellowed and the chains dropped back a bit. And something else uncoiled from among the slithering links; it looked like a chain but it was black like a hole in the world and its shape flickered in and out of reality. It poised like a snake waiting to strike and then hurled itself at Heero's chest.

Heero's mage blade flickered up to intercept and his eyes widened as the object that wasn't one went straight through the steel... and shattered like glass as it crashed into Heero's ward, shards fading into oblivion.

"Hah take that!" Duo screamed, a manic grin on his face, proud that his gift to Heero had stood the test of fire. He caught a fierce smile of thanks from his husband that was much brighter in his night than the smoking, chocking fire. Then the world erupted into a metal hail of deadly intent.

The creature howled and clattered as it threw chain after chain at them. The mage-blade started to loose ground, and Duo found himself caught in several strands, nearly immobilising him. He could only stare, helpless, as Heero and the chains danced to a final refrain.

Heero was bleeding now, several chains had slipped his guard and had ripped leather, cloth and skin, but he appeared oblivious, his sword still dancing, light and deadly in the dying firelight. Duo felt his heart catch in his throat. Heero dodged as he struck, each movement neat and graceful in its simplicity, a step out of harm putting him in place for the next strike even as he finished the previous one. He staved off two more coils with his fist and boots. He turned, carving, dodged, brought the sword up, over, spinning-

"Duck."

- slicing the air like silk an inch above Duo's hastily lowered head as he cleaved the chains around the sorcerer's shoulder and right arm in one graceful movement, then, still spinning, the sword flickered up through the night air to block and parry a chain as thick as a cudgel aimed at his head.

Duo managed to free himself from the other restraints, the creature was concentrating on Heero now. This couldn't go on! Where were they?!

Four flashes of blue light ripped the night air.

"Finally, what took you so long?!" Duo screamed.

"For someone who stinks so much at teleporting, that's almost funny. Almost." G ground out, hands weaving as quickly as Heero's blade. He was to the north of the creature, a few feet from Heero. To the south stood Jay, silent and menacing, hands ramming through the gestures of entrapment. Amon and one of Jay's disciples stood at the west and east, blocking the last cardinal points.

The creature screamed and darted chains forward but they crashed into the walls of the prison of magic the sorcerers were weaving around it.

"Whoa, the bondage special I see." G's voice sounded lazy, though a trickle of sweat ran down his thin face. "Fifth circle, I take it... "

"You can save your time." Jay ground out from the other side, as he watched the creature writhe and spin and clatter. "The boys kept you busy long enough, we cast half the spell before we even 'ported. You can't break out now. This is my spell, my domain, and you are going nowhere."

"Duo, are you alright?"

Heero had turned towards him. Duo had staggered back a bit under the effect of the adrenaline surge which he was unable to burn off with his usual magical release. He hoped the creature's spell would fade now that it was trapped; if he didn't blow up something soon he was going to have a-

His heart rammed twice against his chest.

Heero was standing a few feet away, his back to the creature, his eyes on Duo only. His leather armour had been completely shredded from him and he was struggling out of the remains one-handed, still not letting go of his blade. Underneath his shirt had been ripped and pulled to strips, falling from smooth shoulders by itself. Duo followed the few bloody welts that had marked his husband's skin but then lost sight of that and pretty much everything... gods Heero was beautiful. His skin was brushed silver in the moonlight and the flickering blue light of portal fire danced across well-defined muscles and hard features. Duo could still see it; could see in the hard, lithe muscles of arms and shoulders the poetry of destruction that had been weaving its own spell of blade and moonlight a few feet away from him, protecting him from the metal grasp of the fiend.

Duo felt as if every cell in his body was harbouring a tiny speck of the light that had flashed from the dancing blade, warming him and making him glow...

He vaguely remembered someone mention the fact he might not like men, some time ago, in another lifetime... well, he didn't know if he liked men but he liked what he saw. A lot. He tore his eyes away reluctantly before he embarrassed himself further, he'd been staring for a minute and Heero had come forward to put a concerned hand on his shoulder. Duo started as if the touch had torched the air between them.

"I'm fine! Let's go see what we caught!"

Heero was looking at him strangely and he couldn't blame him, he was going as red as Quatre as he staggered forward, kicking away a loose chain caught around his boot. Heero followed him closely, too close for comfort right now. Duo had the nasty feeling that if he regained his powers any time soon, he wouldn't need any physical contact for an explosion to occur. His heart seemed to be beating wildly, and he couldn't stop from staring straight ahead, even though Heero was now behind him, his presence a burning brand in his mind.

Duo concentrated on their catch with something like desperation. Later. When things were quieter and he'd sorted out the other problem...

The creature was a huddled mass of metal in the center of the trap which was nearly complete.

"Can we get it to talk? Is this similar to a summoning circle?" Duo asked G.

"Well, it's a special custom piece, but it will do. It's not like we can tie it up anymore than it already is, right? Of course it will be stubborn to start with, but sooner or later it will have to obey the spell-"

"Fools."

"Yeah, they always say that. I wonder what it is about fiends that make them so pathetic at cussing." G remarked wisely.

"I may have failed but you are only delaying the inevitable. We will su-k!ceed. My masters will ta-k!ke revenge for my death on your bloodied bodies and tortured souls."

"Death?" G seemed puzzled. Duo frowned as well. Fiends had no concept of the word, except where it applied to mortals. Destroying a fiend's physical aspect only sent it back to its original circle. He assumed it was the same for these ones, though they were so different from anything they knew of...

"Damn!" G suddenly snarled, and Jay swore like a soldier.

The thing had started twisting and writhing, and the chains shot out again, but this time they stopped short of the spell wall. More and more sprang out...

And they began to pull.

A creak of strained metal and slowly tearing bone became louder than the cries of the sorcerers.

"Shit! It's trying to kill itself! Or disintegrate or whatever!" Duo shouted. "Do something!"

"I'm open to suggestions." G ground out. "It doesn't seem to be obeying the summoning spells we wove into the prison! They should control any fiend that- What is this critter?!"

"We won't find out if it's dead!" Duo yelled.

The creature screamed, a rattling agonizing cry. The chains pulling it apart had left it nearly visible, a splayed humanoid form, the links sprouting from its bones through torn skin, flashes of ivory glinting as the skeleton slowly bent in and out depending on the direction of the ripping forces.

"My... masters... k!...will-"

Duo could see its eyes, almost all iris and the colour of metal shards.

"M-masters!" It seemed to be writhing in obscene obeisance, unafraid of its own destruction. Until...

Duo and G were facing the creature and so saw it clearly. For a few seconds, the chains hit the last resistance of the skeletal frame they were wrenching and as they strained, the form seemed to bend and twist under a different force, as if something was squirming away from it. And the huge grey orbs suddenly blinked and became two pupils in wide eyes. The face slackened beneath the smaller chains pulling the flesh away from bone, and it looked... almost... human...

The man blinked several times, a look of pain way beyond what was happening to his body invading his eyes. It looked as if he were remembering something, and understanding something.

The chains buckled and ripped...

"Gods... I-I-... s-sorry-"

And just before the body became a splatter of blood and flesh and metal, the man threw back his head and changed everything with his scream of agony.

"Treeeize!"

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