Author: Maldoror
Disclaimer: The usual, Gundam Wing belongs to it's owners (Bandai, Sunset, and a whole host of others, none of which are me) and I'm not making any money off of them. Not a single peanut.
Rated R for language, lots of violence, sexual content
see chap. 1 for more notes

The Source Of All Things + Chapter 13
Now that wasn't part of the plan...

"Shall I get the vision stone out for you, master?"

"No hurry, they won't get there for another three hours at best." Duo scrubbed the ends of his unbraided hair, the scent of soap competing with the smell of wet rock around him.

He'd found the hide-out shortly after arriving at the sanctuary, a few miles away in the foothills of the Reg. A small spring had welled up inside a sharp ravine of rock, which was completely inaccessible by foot. It was a good place to hide imp and his stuff, and a short teleport away when he needed a moment of solitude to retreat to. He'd brought a pallet from the bandit cave he'd occasionally slept in before, when he was working with Fardyo. An overhang, nearly a cave, carved out by water at a time the spring was higher, gave him shelter, as much as he needed.

He was standing waist-deep in the pool of water near the overhang, taking a bath. The water was achingly cold, but it was only a distant sensation to him. Besides, anything was better than bathing at the sanctuary now that Svale had lost her previous centre of attention; Heero had left the day before, following Trowa and Quatre to some shady deal with a techno broker that Howard had set up to obtain some piece of hardware that might or might not be related to Dragon scale.

Duo plunged beneath the water, the cold a pinching blow to his entire skin, concentrating on his back from shoulders to waist. He shivered a bit under the water as he scrubbed his hair, getting the soap out. He was grinning savagely as he broke the surface of the water, shattering its surface into silver-grey pieces of reflected sky, enjoying the thrill going through him at the shiver of cold breeze on his skin.

Then something impinged on his senses.

Duo froze, hands raised in the act of wringing out the long strands of hair, senses prickling.

Someone was behind him... He felt it just as he heard the slightest crunch of gravel under boot. Imp was silent, hiding as it'd been taught.

Duo turned slowly and stared.

The man before him stared back, standing at the edge of the pool. His body was as slender and strong as steel hawsers and just as taut. Onyx eyes blazed into amethyst. A hand was raised towards Duo's chest, it was empty and relaxed but a piece of metal above the wrist looked like some kind of weapon and the stance was threatening to remove any doubt about it. The face was a mask, beautiful lines, soft curves and an expression much colder than the water.

Duo slowly let his hands drop to his side. The vision didn't stir. Neither did Duo, caught in the breath of astonishment.

Then the man, eyes still fixed on Duo, took a few steps to the side, towards the overhang. The weapon on his wrist still pointed at Duo menacingly. It looked like a steel clamp in the shape of a dragon's head. Duo didn't twitch, just stared, feeling distantly enchanted in the numbness of surprise.

The man reached for Duo's bag. Something red and black flew up at him with a hiss.

The man didn't blink, and Duo hardly followed the blow that backhanded imp into a nearby rock face. Duo gaped. The man's eyes were still fixed on him, though the thief could feel the warrior's senses reach out behind him to make sure his small foe was no longer moving.

A hand the colour of caramel rifled blind through the pack, knocking several items out before coming back with a small flat case. The man glanced at it briefly -Duo didn't move- and slipped it in his pocket. Duo recognized a circuit from a piece of Dragon scale armour that he'd filched somewhere and was going to show to Howard, but he didn't protest.

The man stood in one fluid movement that started Duo's heart beating again, and wildly. The move was one of elegant strength and killer precision, a well-oiled gun. With his free hand the stranger flicked back the short tight ponytail that had caught on his shoulder, his black hair glistening like ravens wings. He was wearing a long tunic, slit to the waist on the sides, of silken white material that fell to his knees over black trousers. The tunic closed on one side of the chest with a pattern of knots, ties and small delicate buttons, like a sprig of blossoms. Over the wrist of the long-sleeved tunic, the metallic weapon seemed to slither almost sensuously as it gathered up and pointed menacingly at Duo.

The tableau stayed fixed for a few seconds. Then the man jerked his hand away. With a last glance at Duo - a look that was slightly puzzled as well as hostile- the man turned, and jumped. Muscles flexed beneath the silken material and he darted up the rock face, using strong legs and the occasional casual hand as if he were weightless. Duo could only stare. He saw him briefly at the top of the barrier that protected his formerly inviolable sanctuary, a slender white and ebony shape cut out against the grey sky, then the figure dropped lightly away.

Duo swallowed.

"... Imp?"

"... is it gone, master?"

"Yes."

"Oh good." Imp reassembled itself with a grinding crunch of stone.

"Master, was... was that-... ?"

"That... was one hell of a hiccup in my plan."

"Was that really a Dragon, master?"

"Hell yeah."

"... I thought they were all dead, master."

"Looks like Juusan missed one. K'so." The mild tone belied the scream of absolute anguish that tore his mind.

Duo moved slowly up the incline out of the water. As he moved, darkness crept over his skin, cloaking him in shapeless black with a few hard glints before twisting and reassembling itself into his usual worn leathers. His face was set.

"Well that's fucked us up real good. He's going to go after Heero." Duo's hair knotted itself into a braid neatly, water cascading down from the knots, and his hair band wrapped around his forehead like a snake coiling. "And he's going to kill him."

"Are you going to stop him master?"

"How?" Duo said bleakly. "Juusan is too close now, he'll pick up any major interference. And that's what'll it take to stop that one. Che! A Dragon!" Duo snarled, smashing a gloved fist into the rock of the overhang. "Damn you, Nai No Kami and all your useless brothers! If I'd known one was left I'd have planned- I would have used him instead of Heero! I-... "

He sighed, and gestured to imp who flitted over to cling to his jerkin. "Come on, let's go see the damage. Maybe there's something discreet I can do to help that might tip the scales... but I don't hold out much hope. Heero is as good as dead."



*



Shenlong caressed his skin, and whispered in his ear. The signal had been false, nothing more than a beacon from an old destroyed suit, but he had another signal to investigate. He knew that Wing was close. He could feel it in the metal and in his bones.

Wing was up ahead but for some reason his thoughts kept lingering behind him.

That young man...

He was feeling... conflicted. Not a usual state of mind for him. He had conviction that could wrench the sun from its course. He had the tenacity to find a few small strips of metal hidden in an entire galaxy. And one look from violet eyes had split him right down the middle.

He should have killed him. People had lost respect! His clan had only been destroyed a scant year ago and already the little people were collecting pieces of gundanium armour like stamps! Reason said he couldn't kill every scavenger in the galaxy but then again he could damn well try! Besides... something trembled in his mind, a warrior's instinct, that murmured that that hadn't been some small vermin, something to be squashed or spared at a whim, that... had been something dangerous. Something he should have destroyed while he had the chance.

But even as his muscles tensed to turn back and go and sink Shenlong's dragon fist into that delicate skull... he found himself following the next signal instead. And putting some distance between himself and a memory of fragile beauty, hair flowing like the water around him and eyes wide with wonder completely innocent of fear. He frowned and searched his feelings. He didn't desire that creature, he knew that. He'd certainly been celibate since his wife and his entire clan had been slaughtered, but his purpose kept him warm at night, and he didn't need anything else. And he was one of the Dragon clan, he wasn't attracted to fragility or any form of weakness.

But he wasn't able to crush that beauty either. That would be like stepping on a flower. Whatever his warrior instincts were telling him. He banished the puzzle from his mind as Shenlong tightened its metallic embrace around him, the only lover he needed now, and warned him that the signal had been positively identified as Wing.

At last.

The air rushed past him as Shenlong's pulse wings stretched from his back in thin evanescent strips of energy, its phase field splitting the air and propelling him through it just below the speed of sound. Soon...



*



"Something's coming!" Trowa snapped, swinging down his crossbow and stepping away from the vardo, lines from earth to sky clawing at his mind. Heero, on the other side of the horses, glanced at him then around them... then up.

A black speck in the sky flashed and something slammed down forty feet in front of them, the ground warping and sinking slightly under the impact. A flickering blue glow danced over the mistreated earth for a second and winked out. A young man stood up before them in one fluid movement.

Quatre was busy hauling on the reins and trying to bring the roan horse and the stupid horse under control. Trowa couldn't sense any lines of intent stabbing towards the blond, or himself either. They were all directed at Heero. He took a few steps sideways to avoid having the horses between himself and the other, but, glancing at the stranger and letting his lines dance in his senses, he was aware his crossbow was wildly inadequate.

Heero stared blankly at the man, who glared back and lifted a menacing hand in his direction.

"You. Give me Wing and I might kill you quickly." The voice was one of cold menace.

Heero appeared to think about this for a few seconds, then said: "No."

"Fine." The dragon head on his wrist reared and sprung, and the air ripped and warped under a tremendous bolt of force aimed at Heero.

The explosion sent the horses galloping off at a tangent. Trowa saw Quatre's frightened face in a flash of blonde hair as he was dragged off. "Go and stay away!" Trowa shouted after him. His lover had made him that promise as they lay wrapped in moonlight and each other last night, he would stay on the sidelines of any fight.

The man of ivory and ebony and steel ignored the vardo's departure, ignored Trowa as well; he was striding with stiff steps towards the figure blown several feet back by the explosion-... and stopped.

Heero was struggling to his feet, blinking, hand frisking dust and debris out of his hair. Trowa stared at him in disbelief; he appeared completely unharmed.

Duo, who'd teleported in behind a rock a hundred feet away, stared in similar disbelief. But knew this was just the beginning.

Their attacker raised a hand slightly and the shard of metal shaped like a dragon's head flicked itself out of the earth and darted back to his wrist.

"You appear to have some small ability. Who are you?"

"Wing is mine." Heero flexed his arms, glaring a very realistic death threat at the black and white figure before him.

"Fool. You don't even know what you have. I'm surprised Wing doesn't kill you on the spot rather than let you soil it longer." The fine lips curved into a sneer.

Heero glowered then twitched.

Wing, which Howard had activated in case the techno dealer tried to pull a fast one, exploded from him in shards of metal, which orbited him sharply before clamping on to his chest, arms and legs. The hair piece lanced out a beam of light which curved until it flickered over one eye.

Trowa was becoming fairly adept at reading the cold planes of Heero's face, and thought he had been surprised at Wing's reaction, though not, of course, nearly as surprised as his attacker was. The man blanched and stared, lips drawn back in a feral snarl, as the armour ripped through the leather on Heero's arms - Trowa noted with clinical detachment the demise of yet another one of his spare jerkins - and shaped itself into armour.

"You... who - are - you... " The voice was almost a growl, black eyes gleaming with anger, hatred and desperate longing as they fastened upon the armour slicing through the jerkin.

"Wing is mine." Heero repeated firmly, fists clenched as he glared back. "No one will take him from me." The beam of light before his eye flickered and he frowned, obviously finding it distracting.

The warrior straightened slowly. "My name is Chang Wufei, I bear Shenlong, and I beg to differ... " He smiled coldly, and metal sprang up from his waist, wrists and neck to slide down his clothes - without harming them, Trowa noted sourly - to wrap him in steel protection, glinting with blue and white reflections like slices of sky, iridescent pools of light flickering here and there .

Trowa took one look at where the lines were going, and saw that his own intersected none. This was obviously not his fight, he would not be able to do much here anyway. He turned and loped off in the direction the vardo had taken. At least he could make sure Quatre was all right and not in any danger in this area that was known for its bandits and highwaymen. That was the sort of danger he could deal with. They would creep back and try to keep an eye on the fight from a very safe distance.

Duo was the only spectator left, hiding a hundred feet or so away, close enough to send some small magic into the mix if it looked like it could make a difference. He noted Trowa's departure and grinned at the shaman's wise decision. Good, one less person to worry about. Now... the stranger had said his name was Chang Wufei. That rang a bell, and that was not good news. He looked young but Duo was ready to bet that he'd been at the top of the Dragon's hierarchy before they were destroyed, and that meant only one thing as far as Dragons were concerned: he was one hell of a fighter. Despite Wing's apparent acceptance of its new owner, he didn't think highly of Heero's chances.

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