Title: 'Demon of Justice' 19
Author: Mel, Christy Redcap the Violence Muse & Stormdancer the Angst Dragon
Category: AU, Fantasy
Pairings: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Yaoi, language, angst.
Disclaimer: We write it, we watch it, we love it, we just don't own it!
Feedback: Yes

Demon of Justice + Chapter 19
What would Duo say?

"My name is Krashnark." The ten-foot-tall, faintly glowing 'man' allowed his arrogant smile to widen slightly, obviously expecting a reaction.

"Am I supposed to be impressed?" Wufei asked acidly, sword still up in a ready position.

The smile lost some of its arrogance for a moment, then twisted into a sneer. "I see Torframos' little pet dwarf hasn't told you much, if you don't even recognise the name of the God of War."

"We've had more important things to discuss." Wufei's eyes narrowed slightly, but he didn't flinch. I upset him by not reacting the way he wanted me to. Good."I had worked out that you were probably a god. The light show is a little cliched."

He watched as Krashnark bristled, obviously not handling the idea that a mere mortal would even consider talking back in that manner well. Most of Wufei's thought processes were concentrated on what to do and say -- 'keep him off balance' and 'what would Duo do?' were his two main ideas there -- while a tiny corner of his mind stood off and observed, amazed that he wasn't gibbering in shock.

I don't have time to gibber. I can do that later... if I have a later. I know Uthmar said the gods can't interfere directly in the world, but if that's true, what is he doing here?!

I wish I could ask -- wait a minute. I can.

KARTHAN!

"I was under the impression that gods weren't allowed to do things like this," Wufei continued, a tiny circling motion of his sword tip indicating their surroundings. "Doesn't this count as 'interference'?"

----------

Back at camp, Karthan was giving an informal report to the two Champions and Gunnar.

"-- so we actually made slightly more ground than we planned for. The camp is completely -- *gnnnh!*"

"Karthan?! Karthan, what's wrong?!" Uthmar grabbed at his arm, holding him upright as his knees threatened to buckle. "Karthan!"

"Is it a brainstorm?" Arwen moved quickly to take the dwarf's other side, peering into his wide, unfocussed eyes. He'd seen an old woman die from a stroke once, and this almost looked like another, but --

"Wufei's in trouble," Karthan gasped, eyes flicking from side to side as he looked at something nobody else could see. "Serious trouble! Can't you two feel anything? He's talking to Krashnark right now!"

----------

"I suppose you could think of it that way," Krashnark replied cooly, getting himself back under control with a visible effort. "Technically, it's not, since I have no intention of actually harming you."

That does not make me feel better about this."I'm sure you'll excuse me if I don't drop my sword, even so."

The arrogant smile returned. "Why sh
ould I mind? It's not as if you could do me any harm with it."

"You might be surprised. Let me see now..." Wufei tilted his head slightly to one side, making a show of frowning in thought. "You're arrogant, it doesn't sound as if you like Torframos, you're violating the spirit of the noninterference law if not the letter, and you either didn't realise or didn't care that you just insulted me. Hmmm. I wouldn't happen to be speaking to the Dark God of War, would I?"

"They haven't even told you that there isn't a Light God of War?!" Krashnark looked genuinely surprised for a moment, then thoughtful. "Well, Korthrala has the title, but he spends most of his time and energy taking care of his other areas of responsibility. I'm the only true God of War." A sly smile. "Perhaps they didn't tell you because they didn't want a magnificent warrior like you choosing to serve the other side?"

"Compared to some of the people I've had trying to mind-fuck me, that little attempt at subversion didn't even rate," Wufei said crudely, and had the satisfaction of seeing the god stiffen. I think Duo would be proud of me. Thank you Kushrenada, thank you Une; the lessons I learned from you are suddenly extremely useful. "Pick something more plausible next time. There is the small problem of a language barrier that keeps them from explaining things to me -- speaking of which, how is it that you're speaking to me in Chinese?"

"I'm not. You only think I am," Krashnark said in a tight, controlled voice. "A god must be able to make himself understood to all of his worshippers, after all."

"If you want me to worship you," Wufei growled, tightening his grip on his sword, "you are definitely going about it the wrong way."

Krashnark's words weren't particularly sophisticated -- it had been almost a childish attempt to plant doubts, Wufei thought -- but somehow he'd sounded so reasonable for a moment. Whatever he's doing, he wasn't doing it when he was visibly angry. Perhaps he has to be calm to use it, or at least controlled...? Making him angry might be a very stupid idea, but the noninterference rule seems to be real enough, and Uthmar and Arwen are coming...

Besides, it might be the only way I can keep him from convincing me that he's right! Duo's lines, Duo's lines, keep thinking of what Duo would say -- insolence seems to upset him most --

"So," Wufei said, almost conversationally, "you're a Dark god. Good for you; somebody's got to watch over all the people who belong under wet rocks. I do know of another Dark god with an interest in me, you know. Sharna."

"Oh?" Krashnark's lip curled. "That would be my brother." The red glow around him intensified for a moment.

"Did he send you down here to run errands for him?"

----------

"Gunnar, Karthan, go back to camp now!" Uthmar snarled, running beside Arwen as fast as he could move in armour. "Naiya, you too!"

"No!" Naiya yelled, running just out of his reach. "Wufei saved my life! I'm not going to abandon him when he's in trouble!"

"Damn it, that's an order! You're talking about walking up and defying a god!"

"Exactly. Going back to camp now isn't going to save me if something happens," Naiya retorted. Gunnar and Karthan saved their breath for running and let her do the arguing. "Besides, if he harmed us that would be direct interference. What can he do?"

Anger blasted outwards from the small copse of trees they were running towards, a feeling of rage and power that was almost visible. It lay over Naiya like a smothering blanket, bearing down, trying to force her to her knees --

Her vision cleared as the pressure lightened slightly, and she realised that she was cowering, hands raised to protect her head. The two Champions were still upright, but had stopped running and were squinting ahead as if they were looking into the sun.

"He can do that," Arwen said quietly.

----------

"My worthless little toad of a brother? Errands?!" The power radiating from Krashnark was beating at Wufei, burning at his mind and will, and he could almost hear a voice screaming at him to submit as the god took a long step forward, across the narrow stream.

--kneel bow worship--

He's a god, you don't defy gods, they give commands and you obey! The tip of Wufei's sword dropped, just an inch.

--submit obey kneel--

"That fool wants to kill you," Krashnark snorted. "I want you to serve me. Give yourself over to my cause, and I'll give you battles worthy of your skill!"

--grovel--

Wufei froze, mind clearing slightly. "...Battles?"

"Yes! As my Champion you'll be even stronger than you are now. Compared to you, the Light gods' Champions will be weak, useless, easily defeated!"

--grovel--

"The weak shouldn't fight," Wufei whispered.

Krashnark laughed, grinning triumphantly. "Not if they want to live. Kneel and swear fealty to me, and --"

Wufei's sword came around in a wild, innaccurate swing, arcing past the god's startled face, and he automatically jerked back out of range.
Stupid! he thought, angry at himself. I reacted as if he could actually do damage!

Then he realised that Wufei's eyes were beginning to glow.

"The weak shouldn't fight," Wufei repeated, voice growing stronger. "The weak shouldn't have to fight, because it's the duty of the strong to fight for them!"

Krashnark took another step back as shadowy armour started to flicker into view around the small human/demon. He could feel power gathering, turning his own power aside, and now Wufei's sword was beginning to glow as well --

Damn, he thought, anger and arrogance draining away to leave him feeling merely tired. This didn't go at all how I intended. "I don't wish to fight you," he said quietly. "I can't harm you, you know that."

"We could always find out if I can hurt you," Wufei suggested, lunging forward. The glowing figure vanished and Wufei's sword stabbed into nothing; he swore, falling back into a defensive stance and staying alert, turning slowly to scan his surroundings.

"I didn't intend to anger you," Krashnark's voice continued, coming out of thin air. "I certainly didn't intend to insult you. I... apologise." The word sounded as if it had to squeeze out between his teeth, but it was said, and Wufei blinked in surprise.

"Whether you intended it or not, you did it," he said sharply, wary of another possible attempt to influence his mind.

"I intended to greet you, give you a gift, and let you think about it for a while," Krashnark finished. "It may now be harder to convince you to serve me, but I haven't given up. So... here."

His hand reached out of nowhere, right in front of Wufei's face, and touched him lightly on the forehead before he could react. There wa
s a sudden, sharp pain behind his eyes, then everything went black.

* * * * *

Heero had told Duo he'd take a nap after the shopping trip, so he did... but he hadn't said he'd get a reasonable amount of sleep that night. Instead, after everyone else went to bed, he started looking up medical databases.

This is stupid, he told himself, hacking onto a major hospital's records and looking up statistics on knee operations. Dr. Modi explained the operation and all the possible complications, so I don't need to look that data up. Duo wants new crutches, and I'm certainly not going to tell him 'no', so looking up statistics on how safe elbow crutches are compared to full-length ones isn't going to change anything... and if he finds out I'm doing this, he'll probably be annoyed at me. So why am I doing this?

Because I'm an idiot, that's why, he told himself sourly, following a link to a collection of case studies. A paranoid, obsessed, anal- retentive idiot who can't -- eh? What's this?

The case studies listed all had short summaries on the index page, and one noted 'patient recovery rate increased noticeably after purchase of custom-made crutches'. Heero went for that one first. Twenty seconds later, he had the URL for the homepage of the company concerned; two minutes after reaching the site, he knew the proper name for 'elbow crutches' was 'forearm crutches', that most people with decent upper body strength found them easier to use, and that they were available in a wide variety of colours, designs and finishes.

"Now this is the sort of thing Duo would like," he muttered, eyeing a picture of a silver-and-black pair of crutches with what looked like racing stipes running down the shaft.

----------

At five-thirty AM, Quatre yawned his way into the kitchen and started making coffee. We have to get Duo into the hospital by seven, so that gives us an hour to get everyone up and ready to go, he thought blearily, watching the coffeemaker as it began to make gurgling noises. Normally, that wouldn't be any problem, but Duo's not going to like having to do without his usual three coffees with breakfast... And he really won't like going without breakfast.

And that's odd. The way Heero's been acting lately, I would have expected him to be up by now, and getting ready...

He found Heero slumped over the desk in his room, in front of his laptop. What's so important that he'd fall asleep in his chair trying to finish it? Quatre wondered, carefully tiptoeing across the floor. If that's a spreadsheet titled 'Mission: Duo' or anything like that, I swear I'm going to wake him up by breaking another laptop, only this time I'll smash it over his head --

Peering suspiciously at the screen, Quatre blinked, then smiled. Not 'Mission: Duo' material, he mused, sneaking out as quietly as he'd entered. More like 'Show Duo I Really Care' material. It looks like he's really learning!

The second time Quatre entered the room, he was walking normally and carrying a large mug of coffee. Heero blinked awake as the mug clacked down next to his head, and would have jerked upright if sudden muscle spasms hadn't stopped him after moving less than an inch.

"That didn't look like a comfortable position to be sleeping in," Quatre observed, watching as Heero slowly levered himself off the desk to the accompaniment of several loud cracking noises. "Got a crick in your back?"

"Substitute 'several' for 'a' and you'd be closer to the truth," Heero gritted out, managing not to groan out loud. He was more surprised that he'd managed not to snap back a rude retort to Quatre's mildly sarcastic comment; the wonderful smell reaching him from the mug probably had something to do with it. "...Thanks for the coffee," he muttered.

"You're welcome," Quatre muttered back, on his way out of the room. The three other pilots had decided between themselves that it was probably best to let Duo sleep through breakfast, since he couldn't have any, and Heero was pretty sure that Duo hadn't set his alarm... so he was rather surprised when he knocked quietly on Duo's door and peeked in to find that the braided teenager was already awake and dressed, sitting on the edge of the bed and staring blankly out the window.

Shit, he looks depressed... Without really thinking about it, Heero found himself climbing onto the bed behind Duo and gently pulling him backwards to lean against his chest, carefully wrapping his arms around him in a loose hug. "Ready to go?" he asked quietly.

One hand came up to rest on his as Duo took a deep breath and shrugged, forcing a small smile. "Well, I'm packed," he said wryly. "I don't know that I'm ready, but sitting here isn't going to make me any readier!"

Heero tightened the embrace for just a second before releasing him and standing up. "I'd be willing to bet that you're tougher than anyone else Dr. Modi's done this operation on," he said awkwardly, looking around for Duo's crutches. "You'll be fine."

"...I've never had an operation before, you know," Duo said quietly, fiddling with the end of his braid.

"Hn?" Heero bit back an automatic 'Sure you have', and thought about it for a moment. I don't know of any since I've met him... and from what I know of his past, he would have been very lucky to get one if he needed it... "Really?"

"Yeah. Plenty of stitches, a few broken bones and stuff, sure, and I've had a few bullets dug out of me, but no honest-to-god, general anaesthetic, lie-down-on-the-table-please-sir genuine surgery. I mean, I've still got my appendix, for crying out loud. Tonsils, too."

Heero was silent for a moment, struggling to think of a response, and Duo sighed. "Pass the crutches, would you?"

"...I don't."

"Huh?"

"I don't have my appendix or tonsils," Heero told him. "Dr. J decided they were a possible liability, so about half-way through my training I had surgery to remove them."

It was Duo's turn to be silent for a while; then, "What's it like?"

"Unsettling," Heero admitted, sitting down next to him. "I didn't like the idea of being in such a vulnerable position, even though I was among allies, and after I woke up I was fairly uncoordinated for a while. So, no, it wasn't an experience I'd care to repeat, but... Sally wouldn't have recommended this hospital if she thought it was dangerous, and..." His voice dropped almost to a whisper. "And you won't be alone. I promise."

Before Duo could respond, Heero had bounced up from the bed, face reddening. "I'll get your bag and crutches downstairs first," he muttered quickly, grabbing them up and heading for the door.

"Oi! Heero!"

"Yeah?" He paused, not looking back, knowing he was blushing.

"...Thanks."

* * * * *

[cont]