Source Of All Things + Chapter 25
The shaman had just wanted to think...away from the sanctuary and its warping of nature that ached in his mind like an infection. Away from J and his insane, cruel plan, away from everyone who thought it wasn't such a bad idea, away from-...
"We need you to talk to Heero." Quatre did him the favour of not beating around the bush.
"To do what? To persuade him to do something that I think is a bad idea that will get him killed?"
"Yes." Quatre said with a shrug. "You're the only one who can really communicate with him"
Trowa stared at the hills undulating around them. He was at the crest of one of the higher ones. He could see plovers dart around a few bushes clinging to meagre dark green slopes.
"Heero trusts me." Trowa went straight to the raw, open wound. "He trusts me and you want me to betray him."
Quatre was silent for a few moments.
"Will kill him." Trowa interrupted harshly. "J wants him to sustain the power of Centre while Svale uses it to create the shield. He'll be a conduit. Not only is that not something he'd agree to in a hurry, but that amount of power crashing through his body will kill him. And J knows it. He's just hoping Heero will survive long enough to allow Svale to cast the spell."
"Yes, J is expecting Heero to die." Quatre sounded so...indifferent, removed from what he was saying. "But I don't think he will. Heero has his armour to help dominate the power surge. Wing has unexplored depths. So does Heero for that matter. Gaia, we hardly know anything about him except that he seems to be tougher than the planet herself. He might-"
"Yes, he might die." Quatre's voice was still calm and analytical. "His chances of surviving a fight with the herald armed with Jusan's powers are nil. If it's Heero you're really worried about, then think of this as being in his best interest."
Trowa was silent for awhile. Gathering his words.
"Heero would have no problem at all dying at the hands of the herald." He finally said calmly.
For the first time, Quatre actually looked at him, a quick twitch of the eyes before fixing them on the hills straight ahead again. He hardly looks at us anymore, Trowa thought, numbed by the chronic pain, it's as if it is easier to look at the future than the present.
"You know this for a fact?" Quatre's voice lost a bit of its distance, sounding curious.
"...yes." Trowa didn't bother to explain. Maybe his vision of lines wasn't as...far-reaching as Zero's, or as complex. But what it showed him, he trusted. "Fighting is his way. Improving himself, shaping himself for...something. He cannot do this without risk, and he accepts it. He does not fear death in the pursuit of his...mission.
"You want me to persuade him to become a passive conduit for Centre's energy...it goes against everything he stands for. He'll just be a tool, it won't teach him anything. And what's more...We don't know how much this shield is going to cut down on Jusan's power; the herald will still be a very strong opponent. It will still be quite a fight, but Heero...will be dead. Or so drained and weakened he won't be able to lift a finger. You- J is asking him to stand down from the chance of facing the strongest opponent he'll ever meet, to instead be nothing but a component in a spell. And oh yeah, probably get killed in the process. Even if I could persuade him to do it, I don't think I should."
Quatre was silent for awhile. Finally he spoke, his voice almost indifferent. "So what's the plan? You'll try to be the conduit yourself?"
"J's smart. He figured out I had the best chance of persuading you, like you have the best chance of persuading Heero, and he gave me all the ammunition he thinks I need. He told me about your offer to do it instead of Svale. He told me it will kill you and serve no purpose." Quatre scratched thoughtfully at a smooth patch of mica in the rock they were sitting on. Nearby, the roan horse huffed and stamped as a plover dipped down the crest of the hill.
Trowa closed his eyes. Then he opened them again, though he didn't look at the blonde.
"Thank you." He said softly.
Quatre's idle scratching of the mica stopped. "...for what?" Trowa almost smiled at the slight puzzlement in the voice that used to murmur his name when they-...looked like even Zero could occasionally have a hard time predicting him.
"For not trying to manipulate me."
Quatre leaned his chin on his fist, elbow on his knee, and followed the plover with his eyes. No, he was following the plover's path before the bird had even taken it.
"It didn't seem worth it. I know you'll do what's right for Centre in the end. Even if that does mean you'll betray a friend." Something in Trowa's chest flinched. "If it helps..."
Quatre's voice was suddenly soft and there was something there that predated Zero. "If it helps, I think Heero will survive. And this will make him stronger, in ways neither of you can imagine. I think...I think this may be part of why he was at the end of your line, Trowa. Not just to fight Jusan or his herald or...there's more. I just can't put my finger on it." Quatre sighed. It was a human sound, and a bit lost, and Trowa ached.
"We can't have this conversation now."
"Why not!" Trowa surged to his feet and spun to stand in front of his lover. Who looked right through him. "Quatre, we have to talk about this! I'm worried- I...what you said, when Fen attacked- we have to-"
"We don't have the time."
"What do you mean we don't have the time!" Trowa snapped, gesturing at the empty hills around them. "We're all alone, there's no insane recently-murdered armoured guy attacking us, the herald is still weeks away, and I-"
"We're out of time. We were out of time yesterday."
Trowa stared at the healer. Quatre was looking straight ahead still. But his eyes were darting rapidly as if he was seeing something complex unfold in front of him.
"What do you mean?" Trowa said, realizing he had to drag Quatre out of his contemplation to get any further information.
The eyes darted towards him, he felt himself neatly slotted into place in the tapestry his lover's eyes were weaving.
"It will take you a few hours to persuade Heero to do this. Then Svale needs to prepare him. The purification rituals alone take three days. There's stuff he needs to know, or he won't have a chance, and you know he'll never let Svale teach him. You'll be needed for that, we won't have time to talk. But with all that....All calculated...at the very best estimate, the herald will be here nearly a day before Heero can be ready to cast the spell."
"...doesn't that mean we're screwed?" Trowa felt light-headed.
"Well...maybe." Quatre frowned. His eyes darted faster and faster, and he grasped his hands together under his chin but not before the shaman noticed they were trembling. "I...there are two big variables here that are pretty much ending the lines' deployment at the herald's arrival. One is Heero's strength. How much power he can channel at once, meaning how fast the power potential can reach the point needed to start the resonance."
"What's the other?" Trowa asked when Quatre was silent for a minute.
"I don't know." Quatre said reluctantly. The eye movements had slowed and he sighed. "There's something here...Zero is feeling something, in the lines of fate and the calculation of probabilities. Something huge, and unseen...and I wouldn't be surprised it had to do with Duo."
"Duo!" Trowa's fists clenched. Then he frowned. "Could this be Duo dragging Fen into the fight? Blackmailing him with this stone he apparently stole from Fen when-"
"No, I've already used Fen in my calculations." Quatre said coolly. "He'll help us slow the herald down. Give us some time-"
"Quatre, no one can slow the herald down once Jusan has been summoned."
"That's...another factor...I..." Quatre rubbed his eyes. "I can't explain. There's a plan here - beyond ours - and we're all helpless links in its chain of events. But getting Heero to cooperate is an essential step and one that will save us all. It's up to you." Quatre stood abruptly and turned. For the briefest moment a flicker of...something like pain, compassion, love darted through blue eyes as they passed over Trowa. Then it was gone and Quatre was walking down the hill. "I'll leave you the horse. At this point, any minute saved might mean the difference between the complete destruction of Centre and her salvation. I'll walk, it'll do me good. There's not much more I can do at this juncture."
"What?" Trowa took a few steps down the hill to catch Quatre's voice as he walked away.
"After we defeat the herald - assuming we're still alive. We'll talk then. If you want to."
"Yeah. I'll want to." Trowa muttered, his eyes on the figure halfway down the hill. He shook his head and ran to the roan.
I'm sorry, Heero. Maybe this will be for your own good, or maybe it will kill you. I can hope Quatre is right and that you will survive this and become even stronger...But I am dedicated to Centre. I know what I must do.
The light blinked on...blinked off...blinked on...nice not to think...
Oh for fuck's sake!
"Don't call me that!" Wufei snarled and the man took an actual leap back as if he'd been bitten.
Wufei turned sharply back to stare at the console. The blinking light no longer held the ability to distract him from his thoughts.
He could hear the minion lick his lips nervously beside him. "Do...did you want to eat-"
"Oh okay er-"
"How much longer until we arrive -" Wufei scowled. He'd already asked the question today. Twice. It had still slipped from him, his impatience defeating his control.
"Er, another five days, my- er, s-sir."
"Good." Wufei shifted in the command chair. The etherripper was small; sleek, fast and powerful, its exterior and interior as streamlined as possible. Wufei and the crew were thrown into close proximity, much to his annoyance and their distress. He had his own cabin...but the image of a High Dragon skulking there when he was in command of this small force made him want to bite someone for real.
He could almost feel it...Jusan was being wise, and forbearing to comment, but he was there. Curling in Wufei's mind like a snake. Why did I agree to this...?
Wing. In five days he would be on Centre, he would find this Heero, he would dismember him and take Wing from the carcass. And then-
Wufei caught his hand as he was about to rub his eyes viciously. The three-man crew of the 'ripper were on the command deck below his chair, and Bluch was standing just outside the door, glaring at the hallway he guarded, or possibly trying to use the few neurones the gods had given them, lost within the muscle he had between his ears, to remember to keep breathing. Why had Jusan given him this-this primitive as the CO of his guard detail? Why did he have a guard detail at all?! He didn't need it!
It was to guard the ship while he was away, he knew - he could almost feel Jusan about to give him the answer. The Scourge was a continual light presence in his mind. When - in what he considered to be a moment of pure, distilled madness and despair - he'd agreed to become the creature's herald, Jusan had created a mental link between them, just one more insult to Wufei's integrity.
The link could be called upon at a moment's notice. Wufei jerked fitfully at the chain around his neck, the tiny links chaffing his skin. The pendant he never, ever touched clinked gently against Shenlong beneath the cloth of his white tunic. The small metal disk was a spell, materialized by Jusan's will. He could use it to summon the Scourge and let the tenuous link between them open like a floodgate, burying who he was...
It was understood that Wufei would not do this unless absolutely necessary. It went without saying; they had that much of an understanding. It...twisted deep inside Wufei. That despite the conditions he'd imposed and the bitching he'd put up about this herald business...Jusan had still preferred to use him than some other minion. Well, Wufei could stand a lot more power than any other creature available to Jusan, he was the natural choice, but the Scourge could have used his powers to increase a slave's strength to stand some of his might. He did not have to use a cantankerous, unwilling Dragon...Wufei felt that in Jusan's twisted view of the world, making Wufei his puppet was some kind of honour he was bestowing on his future war leader, and the whole thing just made Wufei want to gut someone.
The pendant clinked against Shenlong again. And that was another thing! Wufei's mind gladly seized upon this new source of annoyance, because this was something he could stay decently mad about without any kind of unwanted subtext. Damn the Scourge! Wufei had wanted Shenlong repaired properly! But once he'd agreed to this herald nonsense, Jusan couldn't get him out the door fast enough. So instead of painstakingly regrowing the Gundanium in his armour, Jusan had patched it together with magic and metal and hey, it'll last long enough until Wufei did his job and returned to the Libra for the final, permanent repairs. Wufei snarled silently, his face hidden behind his fist as he slouched in the command chair. If he let himself believe that this was deliberate, that Jusan was using this method to insure that Wufei would return to him once this Heero was dead, once he had Wing...though he'd have the greater armour he would no more be able to leave Shenlong damaged and crippled than he'd be able to abandon a brother wounded in combat and the Scourge probably knew it but damn it all Wufei had given him his word he'd return! Jusan could have taken a few more days to repair the armour properly, he did not need an extra noose around Wufei's neck - a leash, to drag him back and-
Light...blinking on....off...on....calm down...concentrate on getting Wing...after that...
Wufei shied away from this thought as well. Not in anger this time. There was something strange, he-...he just couldn't...see it. Wufei went through life like a ballistic missile, always sure of his path. He had the determination to rip Centre from crust to core to find this Heero and get Wing off him and then-...
It was a bit strange...he just couldn't see what he'd be doing after that. Well, he knew of course what he'd be doing, he thought hastily, as much to reassure himself as the silent presence in his mind, unsure of how much Jusan could sense/read his thoughts or interfere with them. After he got Wing he would return to Libra, get Shenlong fixed, then either find a Dragon worthy of wearing one or the other of the high armour - hah, as if that would happen - or train some up to be his successor. Preferably young children, so they could learn. Two heirs, one for Shenlong, one for Wing. They did not have to be Dragons by birth. If they could prove themselves worthy, if they accepted his teachings, his way, then they would become the seeds of the Dragon's rebirth (under Jusan's supervision, of course...)
A future, a hope...why couldn't he see any of this?
Was he going to die...? Was that why the future seemed shut to him, non-existent once he met Heero again? Was something within him - the presence of his ancestors at his back maybe - telling him he'd be joining them soon?
Every time he tried to think too deeply about these things...his mind would just stop. Like his thoughts were falling into a dark, bottomless pit...Best to stop thinking about this, he didn't like Jusan sensing his discomfort. But he wished...
He wished he could feel entirely certain that this was really the right thing, because something just didn't feel quite...
Wufei stood abruptly. The three men in the command deck flinched even though he was several feet away. He'd been in rather a bad mood these past two days and well...there was nothing in the galaxy quite as unpleasant as a Dragon in a bad mood, particularly one Chang Wufei.
"I'll be in my cabin. Call me if you clowns manage to get us into trouble you can't get us out of again." He snapped and left, closing the door on an almost palpable feeling of relief that swept the etherripper's cockpit. He nodded at Bluch - Wufei was almost past the man before his primitive brain, or possibly the one lodged in his tailbone, prompted an answering nod from his first officer - and went to sulk in his cabin, with as much dignity as he could muster.
Quatre climbed the final hill with a sigh. He'd opted to walk back because Trowa had just been about to realize they could both ride back together and talk on the horse without wasting any time...Quatre had jerked the lines of thought and intent and walked away before the thought could fully form in his lover's mind.
They could all be dead next week. He just wanted...he just wanted his last memories of his lover to not be a bitter argument. Trowa would be busy from now on. Quatre would be as well, working with Fen and the wardens to plan on slowing down the herald.
He could see Trowa in the distance as he cut across the sanctuary. The shaman was in the cirque, arguing with Heero, with Svale jumping up and down and adding a useless counterpoint. Heero had his arms crossed over his chest and a mulish look on his face, Quatre could see it despite the distance. Trowa would be good for a few more hours of beating against this resistance before it would crumble.
The next five days played out in Quatre's mind, the most likely events, the highlights, a few finer details twisting like branches from the tree of their common fate. The argument between the two lovers did not feature anywhere in the upcoming future. Something else would happen though, if Quatre had his say...Trowa had been kind and patient and waited for Quatre to give him some form of permission to touch him, to get near him; knowing how disturbing the visions from Zero could be when Quatre touched another human body. Well, Quatre could control Zero a bit better now, and chances were one or the other or both would be dead in five days. So tonight, and the next night, hell, every night until the herald arrived...the shaman had better remember to take his clothes off before going to bed or he'd be down a set of leathers again!
I need this!
Useless. I should be conserving my strength.
He is my strength...
Pathetic. He might be dead soon. What will I do then, crumble? Give up? I need to be strong!
If he dies, I'll die too. Every hour of every day for the rest of my life, I'll die too. But I'll keep on fighting. So give me this.
Please. Just give me this.
"You might want to stop now."
Quatre jerked back to the present, away from the argument in his mind, just as he was about to walk into a rock. He glanced around wildly. Fen was sitting on the doorstep to the small underground lair he'd opted to sleep in last night. The Phoenix, since that was what he claimed to be, had declined an offer of a more comfortable room in the main compound that Svale had made habitable when she moved into the sanctuary. Fen didn't trust them entirely yet.
"I'd tell you to pull up a chair but I'm afraid I don't have any." Fen said lazily. "Pull up a bit of ground, and sit down."
Quatre hesitated, then approached the man slowly. Fen was...in Quatre's own divided state, Fen was both easy and difficult to talk to. Easy because their words were only bridges to get their Zeros to tune, and then they could swap concepts that could fit in several encyclopaedias, all in a few seconds and gestures. Difficult because it felt alien to share this with someone; Quatre had gotten used to his isolation. Used to not having someone understand him, judge him...try to reach him.
Fen was doing it now. Looking at him as if he could see the lines of the fracture running up and down Quatre's mind as the healer sat down.
"You're remarkably intact, actually." Fen said.
Quatre slumped slightly, in relief/unease and glanced at Fen, a question.
"No, I didn't have quite this bad a time adapting to Zero, as far as I can remember - try to talk, Winner. I know it feels slow to us, but it focuses you. And if you don't...if you don't you might forget how to." Fen's eyes flicked towards the distant cirque, towards Trowa who was making placating gestures at a now visibly furious Heero. There was a question/argument in that glance, a twitch in Fen's lines as his Zero probed Quatre. The healer shrugged off the remark - and batted Zero away easily. What was between him and Trowa was their own business.
Quatre glanced at Fen's chest where Epyon curled under cloth, full of potential violence. Then the healer bit his lip and vocalized the question.
"Was it because you had Epyon? To help you? Was that why it was easier for you?"
Zero layered the question with subtext and meaning and hints and arguments, like an unheard chorus, but Fen was right; the words felt plodding and slow but they grounded him. Quatre relaxed slightly.
"Yes. In part." Fen was looking at him carefully. Thoughts darted across his mind and body, tiny gestures readable to Quatre, answering the question and adding details that could not be expressed into words. "The...man I was before..." Fen scowled and Quatre flinched as he felt Fen's mind twist in the howling wind of eons, thousands of memories that ripped at him and-
"S-sorry." Fen rubbed his head and glared at the dirt. "Damn that Shi No Kami. Yarou...Satsujinsha-"
"Sorry. Er...Where was I?"
"You were talking about how you dealt with Zero. Why you used Epyon." Quatre reminded him gently.
"Oh right. I was? Why were we talking about that?"
Quatre sighed. Most of the time, Fen was himself; a young man with a deadly mecha and a lot of questions about who he was and how he fit in to the events rushing them all towards armageddon. Occasionally though he'd lose himself in one of his past memories, which outnumbered the few recollections he had of his present life like the stars outnumbered a single human existence. In fact it was quite remarkable that he wasn't a complete gibbering wreck.
"I think you were worrying about me." Quatre said with some irony.
"Oh that's right. Yes. I chose to meld Zero with Epyon and not myself to keep some distance between my thought processes and its own while still being able to use it. Besides it's an instrument of war, it seemed appropriate." A flick of Fen's hand and thoughts indicated just how inappropriate it was to see Zero melded to the heart, mind and soul of a healer. Quatre's lips narrowed, in anger/grief/protest, it wasn't-
"Use words, Winner."
"Dammit, I didn't choose this!" Quatre burst out. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure Trowa was still in the cirque behind them, some distance away. Heero was now sitting on a stone, his shoulders set in a hostile line but visibly listening...If Trowa heard Quatre say this, his response would be immediate. Get rid of it then!
"Do you think..." Quatre sighed. He could ask Fen. The man had a Zero himself, could measure the risks, and above all, didn't care for Quatre one way or another, so would give him a completely honest and objective answer. "Do you think I should follow Duo's original plan? He wanted me to only carry Zero, and then have the others imprint it into Wing. Do you think I should get rid of it and -"
"Gods no. Though I wouldn't let your boyfriend hear me say it." Fen was following all of Quatre's train of thoughts in a rather disconcerting manner. "I'll be honest with you, Winner. Zero was meant for a Jishin of very high intellectual and magical capacities. You're an exceptional young man to have been able to integrate it and control it so far. Quite remarkable. It's still going to kill you or drive you insane. Well, that's the most likely outcome." Fen shrugged indifferently. "But Zero is needed in this battle against Jusan. I'm using my own to control Epyon and avoid going completely nuts. It's taken over some of the functions of my Soulstone in keeping my mind whole. As such, I can't use it as a weapon of war, it's too busy. And you people, well, all of us, we'll need someone who can deploy a strategy and give us an edge in the coming fight. And that person is not Heero. To be perfectly honest, the thought of Heero and Zero together make me-..." He shuddered, and his Zero flipped a few speculations through his mind. Quatre gave a sympathetic shiver.
"Even if you put Zero in Wing, and not Heero's mind...in his present state it would still overwhelm him. The result would be...explosive."
"In his present state?" Quatre tried to catch the thread of speculation that had flickered in Fen's mind when he'd said that.
The healer hadn't been expecting that, even with Zero!
"Heero? Young? He's older than I am! And as tough as-"
"He's younger than you." Fen corrected him as if it was obvious. "In some ways he's like a child."
"You wouldn't say that if you'd seen him kill." Quatre muttered.
"I did. I saw him kill me half a dozen times during our fight, in my visions of the future, through Zero. He's a vicious, determined, unemotional killer and he has the heart of a small child, under all that steel. He would not be able to control Zero in his present state. Maybe if he matured, changed...but right now it would consume him. Duo was wrong - or didn't care what effects it would have, as long as it made Heero ready to fight Jusan. Maybe..." Fen's eyes narrowed in speculation. Then fell on Quatre.
"Let's get something to eat, Winner. I'm starving. Then we need to talk. We need to develop some strategies to counter this herald. Even if he doesn't summon Jusan, a full-grown High Dragon with a grudge is likely to be very frisky. And we need to talk about this Shi No Kami. I think we both have ideas...maybe if we can put them together we can figure out what the bastard wants."
"Okay." Quatre's eyes wandered towards the distant hills that were starting to nibble at the sun's edge. "But I...I want to go to bed early tonight."
Fen opened his mouth to object - then his eyes darted off towards the cirque, where Trowa was sitting next to Heero, their heads together, while Svale patted the warrior's knee in a gesture that was comforting and almost totally devoid of carnal interest. Ice-blue eyes flickered over the shaman's lean frame.
"I see." He said, with a grin. "Don't need Zero for that as a matter of fact."
Quatre scowled, using his newly-won control to eliminate the faint blush that was trying to stain his cheeks. From the way Fen chuckled, it was a wasted effort. Even Zero couldn't change some things it seemed...
[chap. 24] [chap. 26] [back to Maldoror's fic]