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

Two Halves: Circles + Chapter 8
Burning For You

Heero stood, mage-blade ready if useless, staring up into his death, and there was precious little he could-

Something hit him between the shoulder blades and he fell just as the fiend let loose a roaring spear of flame straight at him at point blank range.

The weight on him was of a warm, familiar body instead of an avalanche of burning death. The later recoiled off of Duo's wards as the sorcerer sheltered him with his body and cursed him thoroughly.

"-damn it you're always doing that, if this guy doesn't kill you I will, by the lords of the eleventh circle of hell, so help me if you ever-"

"I guessed it changed its mind about wanting me alive." Heero muttered, as the lance of flames slowly flickered out.

"You ass, you never believe anything a hellspawn fiend tells you, that's the first rule of summoning! The second one is, don't piss them off by poking holes in them!"

The flaming death subsided and they glanced up, Heero twisting around and squirming up onto his elbows.

The fiend was floating higher, and it seemed to be gloating.

So little mageling, what are you going to do now?

"That's your Majesty to you, you bastard. I'm a lord of Lin and we eat things like you for breakfast!"

You've never met a thing like me. You may be a Lord of Lin, boy, but I am a Lord of Hell!

Heero saw Duo's face suddenly go blank as it watched the fiend ascend higher, stretching a leisurely hand out to blast them again. Then his cousin put a hand over his head and ducked back against Heero.

"You're also the Lord of idiots... " Duo muttered.

Heero stared at the fiend poised to blast them, probably strongly enough to disperse even Duo's wards. And gasped.

Two, then three lances of dark power caught the fiend sideways, slewing it across the sky.

The thing screamed as fire erupted, it dodged one lance only to be caught by another. Then Duo reared up, coughing through the smoke, lifted his hands, and let loose with all he had.

The fiend, pinpointed by several sources of major power, let out one final shriek and disintegrated into a shower of flame and ash.

*

Outside the fiery barrier...

"So, G, what kind of monster is dumb enough to create a repulsive barrier like that, then floats up above it so we can conveniently knock his ass out from under him?"

"I don't know, Jay... a hot-headed one?"

"... That was bad even for you."

"Well I'm worried about Duo."

"You're not the only one."

The escort was frantic. The fire that had magically separated them from their charges had set the forest alight; horses were panicking, men swearing, trying to beat out flames and get nearer... Amon, Duo's second in command in matters of sorcery, was staring white-faced at the barrier. He'd helped the doctors nail the fiend, but this...

"If we blast that-"

"It will collapse inward, and kill them. Assuming they're still alive." Jay snapped.

"Duo is, I'd recognize his power signature anywhere, he let fly at the bastard." G rubbed his long nose and glared at the fire. "I hope he's got enough power left to rupture it from inside. He's too dodgy at teleporting to get them both out without a landmark. Any other ideas? Anything we can do?"

"I'm thinking... " Jay growled, his face tense and worried, staring at Wufei who was scorching the air with swearwords from his native tongue as he tried to get near enough to the barrier to help, however futile the effort.

*

"Duo, are you okay?"

His cousin was coughing and gasping. The air was getting terribly thin and poisonous. We have to get out of here soon, Heero thought anxiously, as he glared at the barrier, which showed no signs of disintegrating along with its creator.

"Shit!" Duo gasped, following his line of thought. "I thought it would be gone! I'm tapped out."

Heero felt cold sweat trickle down his back. "Your wards?"

"Still have those, so we -cough!- won't burn to -gasp- death, until we choke that is."

"Hn."

Heero felt the air singe his lungs, his voice rasped. "Is there anything you can do? Duo!" His cousin was getting a glazed look in his eyes. The exhaustion of burning up all that power with the lack of oxygen and the fumes were overcoming him quicker than Heero.

Heero glared around the clearing, then put an arm around Duo and helped him to the centre, where some air was hopefully left. It didn't help much. Heero tensed his own powers, looking at the barrier. He grimaced and lifted a hand-

"Don't bother." Duo's voice was soft, barely heard over the flames. "You know how to seal dimensional breaches just fine, but your blasts are pitiful. You don't have the power. It will die down now that the caster is dead."

"It will? When?!"

"Well that's the question... " Duo wheezed, a strange smile on his lips.

Heero hesitated. Duo was panting against him, coughing once in awhile. The smoke was bearable here, but the air was terribly thin, Heero felt his head spin, his hands tremble as they supported his cousin. He let them both sink to the ground, on their knees, evading some of the smoke. The heat was getting oppressive.

"Heero-"

He could try it, in a minute or two, if he had nothing else to lose. If he exhausted himself, well, it would only kill him faster at that point.

"Heero, just wanted to let you know, I realized something... "

Damn it, why were the others outside not doing anything? The doctors could teleport - no, not blind, of course, and with the fire and smoke, they could misjudge... but surely they could-

"I don't love you like a friend... "

- blast their way in! His head was spinning so badly, they didn't have much time to-

"What?" Heero blinked down at Duo who was staring at him in a vague way.

"... not like a brother... "

"What are you-"

Duo grabbed him by the vest, put a hand behind his head, pulled him down and kissed him, lips gentle, slightly parted. He tasted of wood smoke and burning fire.

For someone with uncanny reflexes, Heero took a few long seconds to react, the lips a mere warm pressure against his. Unsure how to react. In that instant of hesitation and uncertainty, it was as if someone else, who was not the perfect warrior Jay had forged, was leaning in slowly, wrapping arms around Duo and- tilting his head to- parting lips gently and-

*

The explosion sent most of the remaining horses shooting away from the woods in panic, and some of the lighter guards staggered.

"That was Duo!" Wufei shouted over his shoulder as he bounded towards the clearing, which was becoming visible through hazes of smoke, the barrier around it blown away from the inside.

"How do you know?" Trowa asked reasonably, though he felt a surge of hope that his friends were still alive as he followed the oriental youth.

"Duo and explosions go together like your two blades."

"Oh."

The forest wildfire the barrier had started crackled and leapt around them.

"Sally, stay back!"Wufei barked.

Sally's answer was a greater tribute to her soldier's training than to her feminine qualities. Behind her, Amon blushed.

"There!" Wufei leapt over a burning branch, and, gasping at the smoke searing his lungs, staggered into the clearing.

Wufei, Sally and Trowa ran towards the two prone figures near the center of the clearing who were, thankfully, beginning to stir.

"Duo! Yuy!" Wufei quickly knelt by his king. Two soot-stained faces looked up at him, they appeared unharmed but nearly unconscious from smoke inhalation.

But they had enough strength to gasp as one: "What happened?"

Wufei stared at them, then decided he didn't much care where the liberating blast had come from, in the circumstances, and he and Trowa dragged them away. Behind them, a broken down hovel was finally burning to ashes in the center of the clearing, closing a final chapter to its history without anyone noticing its demise.

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