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


AN: The finale! Anyone who's read my fics knows I like my little twists, so you'll know there's going to be something unexpected cropping up. There were small clues sprinkled throughout the chapters, so hopefully it won't be a momentous surprise :) Enjoy!

Two Halves: Circles + Chapter 21
Treize

Duo threw his full weight against the dead hand of the corpses, nearly breaking his arms to wrench from their hold, but they clasped him to them, twining around him like a winding sheet. Ten feet away Heero collapsed to his knees, eyes blind and face twisted with pain; the clang of the mage blade hitting rock rang like a death tocsin.

No no no...Duo saved his breath but his screams were still ringing inside as waves of agony washed up from Heero through the link they shared.

Don't kill him!

"He won't." Hunger had approached, thin bloodless lips pulled back over a ravenous grin. "He may be insane, but he's not crazy enough to go against the wishes of the Lord of the Circle of Pain...He knows what his masters will do to him if he kills their chance of conquest." She grinned at Duo, then at Heero, who had slumped forward, white as death, still held up by Pain.

Duo felt magical senses brush him. He turned his head - his body now firmly caught by the dead things- towards the creature in the ice who was examining him.

"I can't do it alone!" He screamed. "Heero's the one you want! Get your fiend off of him!"

The creature seemed to hesitate.

"Either of you will do, as long as the other is in close proximity." Hunger approached him, bobbing her head like a praying mantis. "My master has told me so. The chaotic one can use either of you to do it, as long as you are both here."

Shit, Duo thought, his soul screaming. Pain was still holding Heero but didn't seem intent on killing him. But that was only until they used Duo's raw power to rip open a hole in the world, and then, if they were very, very lucky, they would both die quickly.

"You."Hunger gestured to the dead things. "Take this -" a bony finger like a twig poked at Duo "- to Chaos. Quick."

Wait...

There was a crack in the ice, it settled and Duo could almost feel the waves of pain from the figure within as it was ground a bit more. From the state of the fiend's body, this happened frequently. This is what the world is going to be like, if I let them have their way, Duo thought. Perpetual torment. I'm sorry Heero, love, but if there's any way I can get either one of us killed in the next few minutes I'm going to have to take it, we can't let this happen.

Yes...the thought was barely a flicker across his consciousness, but he knew where it came from, if only because of the echoes of pain that came with it.

Duo looked around with resolve. Hopefully, Zechs' attack would succeed outside and Jay would manage to close the breach without them, however difficult that would be without Heero. He wished them the best of luck. Duo wouldn't be around to see it. Once one of them was dead, the other would apparently be useless to the fiends and unlikely to survive that state of affairs. Duo, for one, would rather have it that way, and he thought Heero would as well. Damn, looks like we are going to die together after all...

...at least we lived together first...Duo didn't know whose thought that was, bathed in pain and acceptance and a memory of happiness, and maybe it didn't matter...

Right, how could he get them to kill one of them? And if there was any way he could take one of the bastards with him, well, that would be a bonus.

Hunger, come here.

Hunger blinked her over-big eyes in the fleshless face, then skittered over to the side of the room.

Closer.

Hunger scampered up to the wall of ice on all fours, after a quick gesture behind her. The corpses began to pull Duo towards the writhing figure at the end of the room, their bones creaking as he struggled. The sorcerer still had his dagger. If he could get an arm free-

Are you ready, Treize?

Hunger bobbed her head, practically touching the ice. "Yes, ready? Are we ready? Our masters will reward us! Feed us!" She writhed happily.

Duo gritted his teeth, tugging at the dead thing holding his arm. He didn't know how Treize planned to use his powers, but-

Wait a minute.

'Are you ready, Treize?' Had that chunk of ice called the gross thing 'Treize'? Hadn't the fiends lost all memory of their human pasts?

"NNnNnYeeesss." Duo shuddered at the 'words' uttered by several mouths that were mere gashes in the tortured flesh.

I'm sorry, Hunger.

"What?" Hunger glanced away from the creature between the fires to stare, puzzled, into the sheet of ice.

I'm...sorry.

A fracture ran up the wall of hoarfrost and a huge chunk detached itself, a jagged knife of ice the size of a man, which rammed itself down onto the thin body, crushing it to the rock with jarring force.

Duo gaped for one precious second but then reacted with the speed and deadliness that had been ground into him during the trials of Lin; a huge burst of magic sent the dead things staggering back from the sorcerer as his powers were freed from the blood talisman the now-dead Hunger had yielded. Duo spun and sent a searing, narrow burst of black magic hammering into Pain, who reeled back, with another reason to scream as its flesh was ripped and torn from crotch to chin.

Duo ran forward, sending another pounding pulse of power into the reeling figure, getting it further away from Heero. He grabbed his husband by the waist, hauled him up, sent another round into the corpses nearby to keep them away, and dragged Heero back a few feet towards the central pillar. Pain was still between them and the door, as were a dozen dead creatures that had come in since they'd arrived.

Pain roared, jaw flapping. A flayed hand gripped at the flesh Duo's blast had torn, and wrenched at it further. Spurred on by the agony the fiend charged forward - and slammed into a wall of ice that had suddenly grown out of nowhere, cordoning off the end of the room where Pain and the corpses had been shoved by Duo's power.

"What's going on?!" Heero gasped as he hung on to the sorcerer's shoulder. The ice was jagged and thick, panes glinting in the firelight from behind them. They could barely see shapes moving around frantically behind it.

"Damned if I know." Duo muttered. The wall kept them locked in with Treize and the other, true, but it also kept Pain and the dead things out. What the hell-

Come here, both of you.

"Not on your life." Duo ground out.

You'd rather deal with Pain again?

"Well at least I know what the hell he's trying to do!" Duo snapped, which he knew didn't make much sense, but then nothing did at this point.

Heero suddenly ground his hand into Duo's shoulder, then shoved away from him, staggering towards- towards Treize!

"Heero are you crazy!? Get back here!" Duo shouted, reluctant to leave the slim protection of the pillar at his back.

"No, we got it wrong, I got it wrong, it's the other way around-" Heero was panting, still shaking from the bone-wrenching pain that had nearly killed him.

"Heero!" Duo took three steps after him, then spun around as he heard a creak. The chunk of ice, containing the fiend from the twelfth circle, was moving towards him with the slow, sure finality of glaciers. "Shit! Heero get back here!"

"He's not holding it open, Duo, I can feel it."

"What are you talking about!? I don't feel anything!" Except for panic.

"He's my father, I can tell...he's not holding it open, Duo, he's trying to hold it shut."

"What?!"Duo tried to keep one eye on his husband, who had apparently cracked under pressure, and the advancing Ice.

Well, if one of them understands this, we may have a chance after all, Treize.

"Hnn>>NN...CaN yOU hoLd tHem offf, HeSs?"

I'll try. The other one can help me.

Duo's head was spinning. Heero was standing in front of the-...the thing, apparently unafraid. Must be the blood spell- no, Jay said it couldn't rule the fully aware will- but-

Heero walked around the fires, circling the thing that was once his father, eyes unfocused. Feeling the edges of the breach, Duo realized. Treize was an obscene writhing thing of flesh, scales, erupting boils, fluttering gills, leaking fluids...this close, the smell from the mutating carcass caught Duo in the throat. He felt like he was drowning. He wanted only one thing; to run over, rip his lover away from the obscenity, and blast until he had no more power left. Black magic crackled as his fingertips, but he hesitated.

Something important had been said, what...?

Come on, your majesty. Pain is apparently using one of the dead things to hammer its way through my barrier. We may have a fight on our hands soon.

Duo went rigid as words flashed through his mind.

"Hess?! Did ugly there call you Hess?"

Yes...yes, he did. That...was my name. Can you cast a barrier to fortify-

"Hess, like Master Hess, the crossroads wizard who was murdered by Treize?! At the Gap?"

Who told you that?

"I-...my mentor, G."

G?...G... The voice, buried in the creaking ice, sounded distant, and almost, but not quite, past caring. Yes...I remember...But to answer your question; obviously Treize did not do me the favor of killing me. He was holding me captive, and I was dragged into the twelfth circle of hell when the spell backfired and sucked us in.

"But-..."

But why am I helping him now? Your lover just told you; I have to or the breach will open. For thirteen years, since his son used his powers and caused a link between them, Treize has been keeping this breach as small as possible. As long as our masters were concentrating on the bigger, more powerful breach at Sevring, he was ignored. When that one closed, however, they turned here, and sent their representatives to assist him, thinking he was, in fact, serving them and trying to wrench it open. The tortures of the circles of hell robbed all the other humans with us of their mind and reason, but Treize and I were made of sterner stuff, and familiar with fiends and their ways...We were able to keep a part of our mind intact, hidden from them...

"F-fo0led ThEm. ga1nEd theiR Trust..."

But they have weakened us, our powers are chained to theirs. We do not have the strength to close the gap here, however much we tried-

"I don't believe you!" Duo snarled. "It was Treize who opened the bloody Gap of Sevring in the first place! Don't trust him, Heero! They've been trying to drag us here from the start!"

Yes. To help Treize close the breach. His blood, his power, his son. If that won't do it...then the world is about to become a very interesting place.

"You're lying." Duo's voice was weak. "The fiend from the circle of Chains, he-he said you would use us to open the breach!"

I told you. The others belong heart and soul to their masters now, and they can communicate with them at will. We couldn't tell the others what we planned to do. And we needed Treize's son here. Well, both of you, since the power has apparently spread to the Sanq prince as well. So we-

"You had your fiends try to kidnap us!"

Believe me, your majesty, if we thought a written invitation would do the trick, you would have gotten one of those instead, in a golden envelope and carried by three vestal virgins if I could have managed it. Don't you see that-

"How can we believe you." Duo whispered, glancing wild-eyed from Treize, to Ice, to the barrier from which a grinding crunching noise could be heard as Pain endeavored to transform it into so much ice-cubes. "You guys were after us from the beginning to-...to-"

The fires on either side of Treize suddenly blazed like beacons. But above the monstrosity a darkness nothing could dispel was gathering. Heero suddenly choked and staggered back, hands at his head, a grimace of pain twisting his features.

And Treize screamed.

Every slobbering pit in the tortured flesh gaped wide and a multi-throated howl rendered the air. His body's writhing turned to convulsions. The darkness around him seemed to creep into his flesh, which withered and blackened, before mutating and growing back again. But the attack - Duo realized it was an attack, from the wave of pure malice that nearly knocked him to his knees - continued, warping the former King's flesh at an ever increasing rate.

Duo whimpered as the air contracted and thickened with sheer evil. He could barely breathe, his body shaking like a leaf under the waves of psychic attack which weren't even directed at him. Heero had dropped to one knee, breathing heavily; then his training took over and he staggered to his feet again, face grim.

Now we get to the crux. Hess's voice was still cold and uncaring, as icy as his cage, but he was speaking quickly. Now you get to decide the fate of the worlds, young humans. For months Treize and I have planned and plotted and hidden ourselves from our masters, trying to maneuver his son here. He has the power to close what was opened by Treize's power and blood.

But now the masters of Hell have been informed by Pain and Decay that we have betrayed them.They are attacking Treize directly. They will try to turn him, finish the job of converting him to one of their own. Or kill him and then rip--

"Rip open the breach, I got it." Duo snapped. Heero was frowning, staring at the roiling air around Treize as invisible claws of pure evil ripped at the chaotic flesh and the edge of the breach.

I can hold off Pain and the others. You can help me. Treize's son - wait a moment, which one IS his son?

"I am." Heero said quietly.

...Really? But I thought the king of-...never mind. The son should be able to seal the breach, if Treize can last that long. You have minutes, young man. Make up your mind.

"Are you sure we can trust them?" Duo whispered, hoping the link between them could carry his words since his voice was muffled by the chaotic distortions in the air.

Heero stared at what remained of Treize. Duo tried to imagine...Treize had been insane, but his invasion of Sanq had been for what he saw as a good cause, to free his people from the magical mountains of Lin that were slowly killing them. His madness and despair had grown at the loss of his consort, Une, and his son. The son who was now standing in front of him. And, from the look in Heero's eyes, judging him; for the war, the dead, Maseng, all the suffering...the thing writhed under that clear, direct gaze as much as the torture of its master. Duo thought of the way Zechs and G had talked about Treize; with something like reluctant respect. This was a man who would and could resist even the tortures of hell if he set his mind to it, and apparently he had no wish to see a breach opened and controlled from the side of Hell, leaving the world at the mercy of evil.

At least Duo hoped not...If they had time to think about it, they'd probably be able to sort out right from wrong, truth from lies, but they had no time...

Do what you think you must, Heero, trust your feelings, he silently told his husband, knowing that the emotions would reach Heero if the actual words did not. He felt the love and thankfulness in return. Then the king of Lin swung towards the fiend of the twelfth circle.

"Right, snowball, let's make sure that whatever happens here, they're not disturbed!"

...Snowball?

"Pain is nearly through your barrier. Can you recast it?"

No, I've been cut off from my source of power in the twelfth circle.

"Your own boss just put two and two together and got a double-cross, hm? Looks like it's up to me then! How can I stop Pain?"

Don't bother hurting it, it's pretty much impervious to anything you can think of.

"I'll just go in for the kill, then! It's what I do best anyway." Duo said modestly. "One should always go with one's natural talents. Hey, mincemeat! Hurry up and break through that barrier so I can set you on fire! And if that doesn't work I've got a whole lot of other stuff I can try!"

... G really was your mentor, wasn't he...

---

Heero stared doubtfully at the breach and the monstrosity that had given birth to him. He had trained extensively to deal with this type of situation and he knew he was being asked to take a monumental risk. If he went ahead, if he released his powers this close to Treize, in these circumstances...if his father was lying, if he was only pretending to work at closing the breach and was in fact waiting for his son to try to seal it, then the former King of Lin would be able to warp the black magic Heero would use to his own purpose. Treize would have the energy needed to rip the breach fully open, wide enough that no-one could ever get it shut again. Heero would be playing right into his hands.

He came to a decision in an instant. Heero could feel the Masters of Hell rip into the flesh and the psyche of his father, and his furious, desperate resistance. His mind told him he had little reason to trust the insane, ruthless Treize or the fiend he'd become. His feelings...

"If this is a trap, Treize, it's a pretty good one." He said, raising his hands and triggering the mental sequence that would release his power and allow him to start weaving together gaping strands of reality.

"T-tRap?" The creature writhed, but a part of its concentration stayed on this young man he'd never known, who shared his blood. "I'm - aAannnh! -... n0t thAT goOd an -nhn!-...Actor..."

"I must be insane to trust you." Heero's hands were shaking, his mind screaming with doubt even as he started to reach out to the breach. "This is what you were trying to do at Sevring after all. Open a link to Hell-"

"anD I have p-pAid for mY folly..." Treize's body was beginning to collapse, blacken and die, all his mind and strength taken to oppose the powers clawing at him. Only one mouth near Heero continued to whisper, a small voice suddenly more human as it tried to reach out. "I kn0w n0w that this is nOt something mere m0rtals cAn contr0l...If i let them thr0ugh-"

"It will be hell on earth and no one will be able to stop them." Heero felt power burst from his inner self, echo through his body, run down his hands, start touching the edges of the gap..."But why do you care..." He could feel it now that his power was reaching for the edges of the breach; the malice of the Lords of Hell trying to rip it open, trying to turn Treize and force him to obey, or destroy him for resisting their efforts to widen the gap -...Heero knew his own limits well, he didn't think he could oppose that kind of massive pressure. "Why do you resist them? I know what this will cost you. You could have just let them -"

"Even I am n0t thAt insAne...and besiDes, I -nnnnH- still have tHings in th1s world I wish to protect...mY...pe0ple...my coun-country...You..."

Heero's mind was focused on the edges of the breach, it took a few seconds for that last word to penetrate his concentration, but when it did, sudden fury almost made him loose his grip. Connected by the power feeding into the breach and by the blood they shared, his rage made his father flinch even in the jaws of torment.

"Don't you dare..." Heero managed to say. He was on the edge of losing his control...a steadying touch of love and support brushed his mind. He was barely aware of Duo in the background, launching blast after blast at dozens of corpses, and Pain screaming in its own funeral pyre, bashed by prongs of ice as Hess did what he could too. But his husband was with him here and now, as he would always be, and this helped him regain his centre. Whatever Treize was fighting for, it allowed him to hold out, so that was good. As for Heero, he knew what, and who, he was fighting for. The world was a huge and intangible concept. His husband however was as real to him as his own body.

Heero gripped the lines of power breaching the gap in the world and started to apply the force needed to close it. Because Treize had been keeping it from growing, the breach was much more manageable than Sevring...hopefully Heero wouldn't have to die to close this one...as long as his father held out. Power flared and tensed and the edges of the breach shifted.

Treize felt it, and though most of his body and mind was being consumed, a small part, the part that had held on through all those small eternities of years since he'd been pulled in to Hell, that part reached out one last time for...something.

"Can yOu forgiVe me?"

Heero had spent years crushed under Treize's legacy; his father had murdered Zech's queen, Duo's mother, he'd annihilated the town of Maseng, wrenched the peaceful kingdom of Sanq into decades of war, had nearly opened a breach to Hell to bathe all the kingdoms in blood and fire for his own ambitions, and had condemned his son to fix his mess, and live with his power and madness...

But that was in the past. Now Treize was trying to avoid causing more harm. As for Heero, well, maybe it was time to finally move out from the shadow of the legacy that he'd used to narrow, limit and control his life.

"Forgive you? No. But I think I will try to forget..."

He thought his father understood what he meant; there was a feeling of acceptance, maybe of relief from a creature who would much rather be forgotten then remembered with undeserved forgiveness. They shared a certain bloody-minded obstinacy it seemed...

Heero felt the last doubt leave his mind, and with it his powers unleashed fully. The sides of the breach wrenched closer and closer, nearly shut. The things on the other side screamed and howled and tried to reach out for him but they couldn't get past Treize, however much they ripped and tore at the creature.

The power in his body began to pulse like a heartbeat. Duo's was harmonizing with his, he realized distantly, his entire mind and body now enslaved to the energies roaring through him.

You better not die, Yuy! The thought reached him through it all, amplified by the synchronization of their magical powers. Behind him Duo was defending his back against an ever-increasing number of enemies, weaving walls of fire and force.

Won't. Got too much. To live for.

Remember that! Or I'll follow you to hell and kick your ass if I have to crawl through all thirteen circles to do so!

Heero felt his face crease into a smile, his body, freed from the directives of his overstretched mind, reacting of itself.

And he closed the breach with a final wrench of power and a resonating crack that nearly brought the ceiling down on their heads.

---

Heero wondered if he was dead. He was so drained that the possibility didn't excite him that much.

There was a scrambling in the utter darkness near him. Heero remembered Pain and tried to move.

Hands gripped his thigh, then quickly moved up to his shoulders, his face. "Heero?! You okay? You alive?" Duo's voice was barely a whisper.

"I don't know." The slightly concussed prince of Sanq muttered.

"Man, you greedy bastard, you not only used up all your own juice, you took most of mine with it in that last thrust. I started tossing a fireball at Pain and ended up fanning him with hot air instead." Duo muttered, an inch from his ear. Soft hands felt his face, his pulse, then lingered over his forehead. They were trembling.

"Are you alright?" Heero tried to sit up and failed miserably.

"Yeah, I think. Pain was going to grab me, then the breach closed and the fires blew out...and nothing happened. Maybe he can't see in the dark, and he's wandering around stubbing his toes on things. Hope that hurts! Nothing else I did impressed him much, I gotta admit."

If he is wandering around then you shouldn't be talking, Heero thought numbly, but it would take death to stop the King of Lin from venting. And his love's voice was bringing him back from the edge he was clinging to, giving him strength. It had to be magic.

Heero grunted and, with Duo's help, sat up, then stood on trembling legs.

"Light?"He whispered.

"Is that wise?" Duo's voice was even fainter, he could feel him turn his head trying to use his exhausted mage senses to scrutinize the darkness.

"Yes. It's okay." Still, Heero couldn't seem to raise his voice above a whisper. The darkness was cloying. "The breach closed."

"So?"

"So trust me, and give us some light." Heero was too tired to explain.

He felt Duo reach out. His straining eyes were painting little flashes of illusory light on the canvas of darkness; it took him a few seconds to realize that one of them was steadier than the others, and slowly growing brighter, stabbing at the darkness and carving the shape of Duo's hand from the shadows.

"Brighter." Heero sighed.

"Yes, your highness. How come I'm the one who always has to bust my hump with the magic- oh."

The light slowly painted in the details of the cavern around them, in pale shades of grey. The body before them seemed like a fallen statue among the rocks.

"It's-....he's-..."

"The breach closed." Heero hesitated, then walked on shaking legs towards the man lying naked on the floor where the hole in the world had been. He looked down at the body and realized for the first time that he'd had no idea what his father had looked like in life. He'd been a handsome man, tall, with patrician features and light-colored hair. His eyes were open, unseeing; Duo's mage-light washed them of their color and painted them a tint of slate.

"He is dead, right?" Duo's voice behind him oscillated between nervousness and pity.

"Yes. They were all already dead. The fiend in them kept them ali- that is, animated. When the breach closed-"

"They were cut off once and for all from their source of power and so they became fully human again."

"Fully dead too..." Heero sighed. He felt...nothing towards the body at his feet. In the growing light, Treize's face looked empty. He'd been such an intense man...But it was hard to imagine those features lit by a smile or darkened in anger.

"Duo-" Heero suddenly choked "-let's get out of here!"

He felt the hand of his other half slip into his and pull him away. He followed blindly, leaning on his husband's strength. They spotted two other bodies as they made their way to the entrance. One, an unknown man with stringy grey hair and a pinched face, was lying spread-eagled where Duo had been fighting to protect Heero with all his power and his life. This would be what was left of Pain, Heero surmised. A few feet away, in the act of throwing himself at the other fiend in one last desperate attempt to stop him, was a second body. This one was in a big puddle of sludgy water and was still marked by the crush of ice, limbs twisted, nose missing, features torn. Duo sighed, looking down at the body.

"It's a pity-...but I guess they were already dead, right? G will be...do you think I should even tell him?"

"Yes. He'll want to know his friend Hess fought to do his duty to the last, and beyond, far beyond."

"Seems like cold comfort somehow." Duo said softly.

"Yes..." Heero found himself looking back towards the end of the cavern. But he scowled and wrenched his eyes forward again. Forget it, forget him. Let the dead rest in peace, it was the least the living could do for them.

"Come on." He slipped his arm around Duo's shoulders - and felt his heart quiver a little as an arm slipped around his waist in response. They crunched through the bones of the corpses that had fallen like puppets with their strings cut. The doorway was faintly illuminated by the muted light from the hallway outside. They moved towards it, leaving the darkness behind them.

[chap. 20] [chap. 22 - epilogue] [back to Maldoror's fic]