AUTHORS: Mel & Christy (and their muses)
WARNINGS: Language? Violence! 'They Might Be Giants' songs! Collateral Damage!
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't ours. We tried theft, but the security systems were too good. Wufei was slightly injured during the making of this fic, and Duo got a concussion, but they got better. (And Trowa just brushed his bangs back into order.) No money is being made from this fic, and if there was we'd just spend it on more tapes, so that's OK.

Demon of Justice + Chapter 13
Sweet Dreams

"How in Krahana's hells did that happen?"

"Do I have to explain now, or can I get some sleep first?" Karthan growled without raising his head. "We're tired."

"At least tell me how you all ended up with the same wound," Uthmar insisted. "I know you weren't bleeding before Nataku scooped you up... and you and Wufei both have the same cuts, but no damage to your clothes."

Uthmar flicked a wary glance out the window. Nataku was sitting out in the square, leaning against the tree as usual, with a very strange hole in his armour. He'd gone and had a good look at it when the demon sat down. It looked as if the thick metal covering his left lower back had been wrenched apart, then half melted and pushed back into shape. The occasional flickering light or spark could be seen through the gaps where the metal didn't quite meet... and Karthan and Wufei were lying limp and exhausted on Cord's huge bed, having wounds in the exact same place bandaged.

I said 'cuts', but that's not quite right, the Champion thought uncomfortably. They've both got a webwork of bruises and blood-blisters there. It's like those spots were battered until the skin split...

"All right," Karthan grumbled. "It's not all going to make sense, though. Don't say I didn't warn you." He rolled his head slightly to the side, looking up at Uthmar out of one eye. "If Nataku gets damaged badly enough, the same damage starts to happen to Wufei, because they're linked. Wufei can use the link to mend Nataku's damage, by using himself as a pattern, but it doesn't work properly if he's been hurt too. I got pulled into the link by accident and Wufei had to use me as a pattern to fix himself and Nataku. He didn't want to, but I convinced him he had to. Some of the damage transferred to me over the link, but I figure it was a fair swap; I know what broken ribs feel like, and that blob demon gave me at least three, but they're fine now. And now I'm going to go to sleep."

"Uh-- you-- what do you mean, you were pulled into the link?!" Uthmar sputtered, wide-eyed. "What sort of link? Is it still there?!"

"I told you it wasn't all going to make sense, and I'm not going to try to explain it now," Karthan said through a huge yawn. "The link's gone, so don't panic. Oh, and Nataku does think, but it's not really alive..." He trailed off, eyes closing, and began to snore. Wufei was already fast asleep.

Faced with two soundly unconscious informants, one of whom couldn't speak enough Spearman to explain anyway, Uthmar stamped off to pace and mutter at his god.

--------------

Karthan dreamed.

~*~*~*~

He was creeping down a white hallway, shoulders pressed to the wall as he sidled along, shooting wary glances to the left and right. There were doors in the wall opposite him, one every few paces; he was close to the right number and...

Something's wrong.

...nobody had raised the alarm yet. He wasn't the hacker that Heero was, but he'd looped the security camera footage without any trouble. Now, if the guards would just oblige him by staying in their office and not wandering around the corridors...

Where am I? This hallway's too white... too even. It's shiny!

...he might be able to get Duo and get out before they knew anything was going on.

Who's Duo?

If this is a rescue mission, why haven't I got my axe?


Sliding to a halt at a corner, he took a deep breath, bringing his gun up in front of his face...

What's that?! And that's not my hand--

... then spun around the corner, aiming down the corridor.

Nobody was there, and he took two quick steps across to the right door. His hands were trembling, but he forced himself to stop. Duo would be fine, OZ hadn't had him for long and he was tougher than he looked...

Sliding a knife blade behind the keypad, he wrenched it out of the wall and cut the alarm wire. The contacts shorted as he jammed the knife into the right spot, the door opened and he stepped in.

"Duo?!"

The bruised, bleeding form on the floor looked up and grinned crookedly. "Hey, Wu-man, good to see you. Never mind the mess, I'm fine. Only hurts when I exist..."

The feeling of mingled relief and fury was so strong he nearly wept.

'Wu-man'? Wufei?

Then they were all sitting around the breakfast table. Heero and Trowa had cereal, Quatre had tea and toast, and Duo had bacon and doughnuts. Ridiculous thing to eat for breakfast, really...

This has to be a dream. But why am I dreaming about being Wufei?!

...but he was still bandaged up from the last mission, so they'd let him get away with it.

"You're going to get fat, sooner or later, Maxwell," he said bluntly, sitting down with a bowl of cornflakes.

"Yeah, right," Duo scoffed. "I've been eating like this for the last couple of years, and do I look fat to you? I don't think so."

"Of course you don't look fat," Heero muttered under his breath. "It's all in your head."

"Hmff?" the braided pilot muttered through a mouthful, frowning. "Wha--- oi!"

"Took you long enough to work it out," Heero said, smirking. "Proved my point--"

Half of Duo's doughnut bounced off Heero's head and landed in his cereal, splattering milk everywhere, and breakfast dissolved into chaos.

I think I'd like this Duo person. He and Gunnar would definitely get along.

Chaos on the battlefield, mobile suits and explosions everywhere, Heavyarms standing on a ridge and calmly mowing down the enemy...

Hells! What-- what--

...as they attacked, but there was always more coming. Sandrock and Deathscythe were beside him, supporting each other in close combat; Wing was in the air above them...

--four more like Nataku, and Wufei was with four friends, it makes sense. It's the only thing in this that does make sense!

...and the sky rained molten metal as the energy sword hacked OZ suits to pieces. Bullets rang off Nataku's armour and he spun, chopping the attacker down. He snapped brief replies to the voices on the comm, he fought and he fought well, but somehow his heart wasn't in it; although he swore at himself, he had to admit that he didn't want to be there. It was his duty to fight, but he'd rather be in space.

...!

Space...

...is this how the gods see the world...?!

...drifting peacefully, weightless. He could be calm, here. Away from everybody... he could let down the mask that only Duo had bothered to look behind, and smile just because the Earth looked so beautiful. For just a few minutes, he could relax and not think about the war.

The sun peeked around the edge of the world below, and a sparkle in the distance caught his eye as the cluster of colonies at L4 reflected the light. Automatically, he estimated where the L5 colony should be and turned his head in that direction; he knew they wouldn't be visible, of course, they were still in the planet's shadow--

One bright spark became a massive explosion as his home colony disintegrated in flames.

~*~*~*~

Karthan woke up screaming.

* * * * *

The bonfires in the fields were finally dying down, stinking ashes swirling into the air and drifting across the village on the light breeze. One by one, the torchbugs in the trees to the south were lighting up again.

"One day," Uthmar growled into his beard, pacing up and down outside Cord's hut. "All this has happened in just one day! Two demons who aren't evil, one that was-- Gods, that was disgusting-- there's probably a whole damn temple full of Sharna's cultists and dog brothers to the south, and here I am with just six men! And one of 'em's managed to get himself linked to one of the damn demons, and I don't care if the link's gone now, I don't care if the demon's a good man and 'has style', the whole thing still makes me twitch!"

=*I noticed,*= Torframos said dryly.

"Not to mention that my god's sense of humour is getting more annoying by the minute--"

=*Sorry.*=

"--and he seems to be developing a callous streak," Uthmar snarled quietly, glaring upwards.

=*I am not! It was a mistake, I've admitted it, and it won't happen again. Now stop it!*= Torframos snapped. =*You've had a very bad day and it's upsetting, that's understandable, but giving yourself an ulcer won't help! Calm down!*=

"Oh, I'm calm," Uthmar seethed. "I'm very calm. I'm just bloody furious, that's all!"

=*What are you so furious about, Uthmar? You won. The forces of Light triumphed. The--*=

"Oh, shut up. You're starting to sound like Gunnar in a sarcastic mood."

=*Hmph. Gods have their troubles, too, you know,*= Torframos sniffed, and continued in syrupy tones. =*Here I am, stuck with an unappreciative Champion, when I could have chosen somebody who would treat it as the true honour it is. Sir Vaijon, for example. He would be composing an ode of praise about now, not getting in a snit.*=

Uthmar had to laugh. "Vaijon? That twit? He'd still be at Yithar's manor house, comparing bloodlines and jewelled sword hilts with his host."

=*Surely you wrong Sir Vaijon! He is a true knight.*=

"And an Almerhas of Almerhas, as he keeps pointing out, I know," the dwarf muttered, rolling his eyes. "All right, all right, you can stop now."

=*Pity. I was enjoying myself. What is upsetting you? The temple is certainly a problem, but you've never let bad odds really bother you before... and reinforcements are on the way.*=

"The temple's not really a problem. Gather up a big enough force, go in and clean it out... that's easy enough. It'll be messy, and we'll take casualties, but it's simple. What's bothering me is the things where either I can't do anything, or I don't know what I should do! Like Wufei and Nataku. My gut feeling is that they're allies. I want to trust them. But I don't know that I can trust them, and I have to be sure! And now there's this 'link' thing... even if it is gone, what sort of effect has it had on Karthan? How do I find out? And--"

A horrified cry from Cord's hut cut him off, and he bolted for the door.

* * * * *

[cont]