AUTHORS: Mel &
Christy (and their muses)
WARNINGS: Language? Violence! 'They Might Be Giants' songs! Collateral
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.
of Justice + Chapter 15
A Prince Among Men
Yawning, Karthan stretched,
wincing as the cuts and bruises over his left lower back protested. Even
without opening his eyes, he could tell that Wufei had woken and got up;
his feet didn't bump into Wufei's when he stretched, and the link was
--And what the heck is going on outside? he thought, frowning.
That doesn't sound right.
Scowling, Wufei watched as Yithar slowly counted coins and weighed jewelry,
and tried to understand what was going on.
Every time he weighs something, he looks more smug and Royce looks
more worried, he thought. I think that's all the valuables in the
village! I recognise that necklace, Rami wears it sometimes...
Uthmar pushed through the edge of the crowd of watching villagers and
hurried across to him. "Stay here," he whispered, tentatively putting
a restraining hand on Wufei's arm. "You can't help."
Well, at least I understood that! "What happen?" Wufei asked
quietly. "What he do?"
The next sentence out of Uthmar's mouth was almost completely unintelligible,
and Wufei sighed. "Not understand," he said tiredly. Damn it, I understood
Karthan perfectly while we were linked! Why couldn't that have stayed?
There was a thump and some mild swearing as Karthan jumped down from the
cupboard-bed, and Uthmar looked incredibly relieved. "Karthan! Come here
and--" The rest of the sentence was lost on Wufei, except for his
own name, 'Yithar' and 'explain'.
"Explain what?" Karthan asked, padding over to them; then he reached the
doorway, glanced out, and blinked. "Ah. I see."
"Sir Uthmar," Karthan said sweetly, "could you please explain to me
how I'm supposed to explain quarterly rent to a demon who lacks most of
the necessary vocabulary?"
"Did you have to put it like that?" Uthmar asked, wincing. "One Gunnar
in the company is more than enough. Can't you use the link?"
"He's awake," Karthan said flatly, jerking one thumb at the bewildered-looking
demon. "It's closed."
"Great," Uthmar muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. "That's so
"I thought you didn't like me having a link to Wufei at all, let
alone an open one."
"I don't," the Champion snapped, keeping his voice down, "but you've got
it, and I don't know any way of closing it short of killing one of you,
which I don't intend to do. Since we're stuck with it--"
"Nice use of 'we' there, sir," Karthan said sourly.
"--it might as well be useful," Uthmar finished. "Can't you at
least try? If Wufei doesn't understand the situation, and this
goes as badly as I think it could, he might do something we'll all end
"Like killing Lord Yithar and getting the rest of the Purple Lords really
angry, I suppose?" the shorter dwarf muttered, glancing a little nervously
from Wufei's face to the scene outside. "I'll try. I don't know whether
it'll do any good, but I'll try."
Taking a deep breath, he carefully put one hand on Wufei's arm and concentrated,
'feeling' for the link. It's a bit like feeling for a sore tooth with
your tongue, he mused, eyes narrowing as his attention turned inwards.
You can't see anything, but you've got an idea of where it is...
"You might want to step back, sir," he said quietly to Uthmar. "If the
power jumps out at me the way it did yesterday, it could pull you into
the link too."
"Ah. Er. How far back?"
Karthan didn't answer. "Wufei?" he said, trying to project the words with
his mind as well as his voice. "Wufei, can you understand me? Can you
open the link?"
"Not understand... word," Wufei said slowly, puzzled. "Open what?"
Karthan said something else, one hand going up to touch his forehead and
gesture towards Wufei's, and something whispered in the back of the pilot's
mind without him realising he'd heard it.
Frowning, he shook his head. "Shut. Gone."
"Not gone," the dwarf insisted, then closed his eyes and scowled in concentration.
I shared your dreams last night, Karthan's voice said, suddenly
clear and recognisable. You had a nightmare. I saw it. Your home died
in a burst of fire. You were floating so high that the world looked like
Gasping, Wufei jerked away and the voice cut off.
"Ow," Karthan muttered, opening his eyes. "You heard me?"
"Yes," Wufei said quietly, swallowing. "I heard." Slowly, he held his
hand out to Karthan. "Try again?"
Uthmar combed his fingers nervously through his beard as he switched his
gaze back and forth from Yithar, still weighing jewelry with insulting
care, to Wufei and Karthan, standing perfectly still with their eyes closed,
clasping each other's wrists.
When he finishes, I need to be over there to head him off in case he
calls their inability to pay 'treason', the Champion thought, looking
back at Yithar. He's nearly finished... but I need to be here,
too, to keep an eye on these two--
There was a faint crackling noise as white energy sparked around Wufei's
hands where they held Karthan, and the dwarf jerked slightly.
"He's got the idea," he said a little muzzily, opening unfocussed eyes.
"That was quick... He wants to know what's so bad about rent, though.
Why are the villagers so scared? I'd like to know myself..."
"The Purple Lords apparently don't call it rent," Uthmar explained in
an undertone, sidling closer. "They call it tax. If you default on rent
you get evicted, but you keep your property. If you default on tax it's
treason; the Lord can confiscate all your goods and then have you executed--"
Wufei dropped Karthan's wrists and stalked off towards Nataku, glowering.
"Great explanation, sir," Karthan said, wobbling over to lean on
"Krahana's hells-- did you at least tell him he shouldn't
kill Yithar?!" Uthmar somehow managed to keep his voice down to a sort
of strangled squeak. "What's he doing?!"
"That was the first thing I told him," Karthan said, rubbing his eyes
with the hand that wasn't holding on to the wall. "Well, I didn't exactly
tell him... he sort of lifted everything I wanted him to know out
of my mind in a lump. He's gone to get something, I don't know what. I
was concentrating on telling him something, not finding things out!"
"Is the link--"
"Yes, it's still open, but it's..." He waved a hand vaguely near
his temple, blinking. "It's just there at the moment, it's not
actually doing anything. I keep seeing faint shadows of what Wufei is
seeing, which is extremely distracting, but I can't tell what he's
thinking. We're not... touching right now."
As Uthmar turned away from him to follow Wufei with his eyes, Karthan
firmly closed his mouth and did not say that although he wasn't
touching Wufei's mind, somehow he was sure the small demon was still touching
Yithar noted the weight of the last piece of pathetically crude jewelry--
tawdry stuff, the lot of it; nothing more valuable than a moonstone--
calculated the price of the metal, added a rough estimate of the gem value,
and wrote the total down at the bottom of his list of figures. As his
pen travelled slowly down the columns, adding up, he could feel a bubble
of vindictive pleasure swelling in his heart. It wasn't going to be enough.
It wouldn't have been enough even if he hadn't been keeping his estimates
"You're short," he said acidly, laying his pen aside and looking
up at the pale headman. "Eighteen silver, twelve copper short."
And the really wonderful thing, he thought gleefully, is that
by Purple Lord law, this is perfectly legal. They've defaulted on their
taxes, and their lives and property are now mine to dispose of as I see
fit. There's nothing that peasant-stock 'Champion' can do to stop me,
and if those filthy demons try to interfere, he has to protect
"M-m'lord Yithar," Royce stammered, "if- if you would grant us a little
more time, or accept partial payment until quarter's end, I'm sure--"
"I'm sure you'd default again," Yithar sneered, "and I'd
have lost two months in which I could have had productive tenants
on my land. Denied! I want you all out of here by noon, leaving everything
behind. No carts, no bundles, nothing in your pockets," he hissed,
picking up the bag Gwent's ale money had been in and reaching to sweep
the jumbled pile of coins and trinkets into it. "Be thankful I'm not going
to report your treason to Bortalik and call soldiers in to execute--"
A golden-skinned hand contemptuously slapped his away from the pile, and
he looked up into cold black eyes.
The half-elf leapt back from the table with a strangled yelp, nearly tripping
over his overturned chair. "Champion!" he screeched, voice cracking as
he looked around frantically. "Uthmar! Dwarf! Get this--
this thing away from me!" Another yelp escaped him as he saw Wufei
calmly piling the village taxes into the bag. "That's mine! Thief!
Give that-- make him give that back!"
"Sir, no," Royce said desperately, pushing the bag away as Wufei
turned and held it out to him. "Please, don't-- you'll only
make things worse!"
Ignoring his protests, Wufei simply dropped the bag at his feet, pulling
a small paper-covered cylinder out of his pocket as he turned back to
the table. Ripping the paper away from one end, he poured a stream of
glittering coins onto the table, then flicked the paper away and folded
his arms, staring challengingly at Yithar.
"I think you will find that this is more than enough," he said, in perfect,
* * * * *
Sitting in the lounge room with a drink and a book, Quatre looked up as
he heard the van pull in. For a moment, he was tempted to just stay where
he was and ignore Heero's return, but then he sighed and set the book
If I don't warn him, he might go upstairs to check on Duo, or apologise,
and walk in to find Trowa with him, he thought, walking towards the
front of the house. He'd definitely get the wrong idea. I don't
particularly mind upsetting Heero, but it would also upset Duo... so,
it's not going to happen...
Pushing open the front door, the blond paused for a moment, raising an
eyebrow at the large-ish box in the back of the van, surrounded by shopping
bags. Heero glanced quickly in his direction as he hauled a load of bags
out of the van, then dropped his gaze and hunched his shoulders, continuing
towards the door with grim determination.
He looks like he expects me to kick him, Quatre thought, mildly
surprised. Have I been that nasty lately? Casting his mind
back over the last few days, he blinked, a faint smirk twitching one corner
of his mouth upwards. I suppose I have. Ah well... all in a good cause!
"Welcome back," he said calmly, passing Heero on his way to the van.
When the Japanese pilot came out of the house for another load, Quatre
was standing by the van's tailgate, hands full of bags, gazing bemusedly
at the box.
"You bought a bar fridge?"
Heero shrugged, not looking at him. "Easier for Duo than trying to get
down the stairs or calling us."
"Looks like you bought a lot of things to go in it, too," Quatre continued,
looking at the rest of the shopping.
"That's the whole idea," Heero pointed out shortly, grabbing another load
of bags and turning back to the house. Quatre followed.
"You might as well leave the fridge in the van for now; you won't be able
to put it in Duo's room for a while."
There was a slight hitch in Heero's stride. "...Is he still mad at me?"
he asked very quietly.
"No. He's asleep. Trowa got him calmed down." Quatre eyed the shifting
muscles in Heero's back, then took pity on him. "I don't think he was
really mad at you to start with... just stressed and upset."
"He'd be less stressed if you'd stop telling him Wufei's dead," Heero
growled, dumping the bags on the kitchen floor and turning to glare at
Quatre controlled his temper with an effort. "I have stopped,"
he said coldly. "I stopped when the Doctors contacted us and told us what
happened to him. Did you really think I was going to keep upsetting Duo
by trying to convince him of something I don't believe any more?"
"...No. No, I don't think you'd do that," Heero muttered, looking away.
His jaw worked for a moment, then he almost spat out "Sorry."
Two apologies in one day, and one of them to me? Maybe Trowa's
right, and he is making an effort..."Ahfwan," Quatre said
quietly. "That's okay. If I'm going to make allowances for Duo because
he's stressed, I suppose I should give you some slack, too... but not
much," he added sourly, dropping his bags and going out for more.
They unpacked and put away the rest of the groceries in silence. Afterwards,
Quatre came out of the kitchen on his way back to his book, and almost
bumped into Heero at the bottom of the stairs, looking up uncertainly.
"Go on," Quatre said sharply. "Go up! Just, for Allah's sake, be quiet!
If the alternative is to have you standing around looking like the bottom's
dropped out of your world..." Muttering, he stalked off towards the lounge.