Author: Mel, Christy, Redcap the Violence Muse & Stormdancer the Angst Dragon
Disclaimer: These characters and the settings are being borrowed for entertainment purposes only, and we're not making any money from them, so no suing, OK? Besides, if you do, _you'll_ have to tell our readers that they aren't getting any more of this stuff.

Key:
minor scene change (from person to person at the same place, etc): ----------
major scene change (at another place, some time later, etc): * * * * *
flashback or dream starting or ending: ~*~*~*~
thoughts (and the occasional sound effect): *Tadah!*
some more sound effects (little ones!): -tadah!-
electronics (phone, TV, intercom etc): <<Tadah!>>

Demon of Justice + Chapter 23
Confession

Wufei fell asleep even before Arwen finished cleaning the blood off him, and slept as if drugged until the members of the Order of Torframos started packing up the camp around him. Whatever woke him, it wasn't a noise; he still couldn't hear anything when he opened his eyes, though his ears had stopped hurting.

Looks like I was right when I thought that my link to Nataku would make me heal quickly again, he mused, sitting up and stifling a yawn. I'd still be in serious pain if I had to heal normally...

Ye gods. What if I hadn't been right?

Exposure to certain irrational personages is clearly making me behave irrationally myself, he thought sourly, shooting a quick glare upwards. Even if deafening myself did get him to leave me alone-- for now-- it was still a stupid thing to do. And if I don't get my hearing back quickly, it could be more than just inconvenient. We are heading towards a battle, after all...

A flicker of movement at the edge of his vision caught his attention, and he looked around to see Naiya and Terrin hurrying towards him. The tall Hradani girl knelt down beside his bedroll, peering anxiously at his ears before saying something.

"I still can't hear," he told her, hoping he wasn't speaking too loud or mispronouncing anything. A look of dismay crossed her face, and he quickly added, "I'll get better!"

----------

"You did say the cuts and bruises he had when he first arrived healed overnight," Terrin shrugged, glancing from the demon to Naiya and back again. "I know the wound he got in the fight with that green thing got better quickly, too. Maybe that's just the way it works for him?"

"But eardrums don't heal," Naiya said miserably. "Or even if they do, people don't get their hearing back!"

"They do if a priest or Champion heals them," he pointed out, "and metal doesn't normally grow back into place, either, but that didn't stop Nataku. I don't think even Wufei would be this calm if he thought he'd be deaf for good!"

"A Champion," she said, seizing on the first part of what he'd said. "We've got two Champions here! I'll go get them."

Wufei looked quizzically at Terrin as Naiya ran off, and the hunter shrugged again, rolling his eyes. "Women," he muttered.

It wasn't long before Naiya returned, looking as if she would have preferred to tow Uthmar at speed rather than just walking beside him. Arwen and Karthan followed, looking rather amused.

"Go ahead," Naiya told Uthmar, in a voice that was just short of an order. "Heal his ears."

"Er... I'm afraid I can't."

Karthan glanced at Wufei and raised an eyebrow; Wufei nodded and they both seemed to concentrate for a moment. There was a brief greenish-white flicker in Wufei's eyes, and when he looked back at the others it was clear that he was following the conversation.

"Why not?" Naiya demanded.

The dwarf Champion sighed. "Some priests of Khalifrio and Lillinara can heal, and so can some of the magi who follow Senkirk. They can heal anybody. Champions, on the other hand... even if they have the right sort of mindset to heal, which I do, they can't heal anybody they don't know well. I don't know Wufei well enough. I'd have to build a picture in my head of Wufei as he should be, clear enough for Torframos' power to reach through me and make the picture real. I might be able to succeed if the problem was something less subtle, like a swordcut, but... well, hearing is a tricky sense to fix at the best of times."

"Oh," Naiya bit her lip, and looked at Arwen. "And you can't..."

"I know him even less than Sir Uthmar does, and I've never even tried to heal," Arwen said quickly, holding up his hands in an oh-no-not-me sort of gesture. "I probably can-- most Champions can, at least a little-- but it's not something I want to casually experiment with!"

"I think I should point out that I am healing all by myself, thank you," Wufei said dryly, voice much clearer than before.

"You can hear again?" Terrin asked, blinking in surprise. "That was quick."

"Not yet; I'm 'borrowing' Karthan's ears," Wufei corrected him. "I do seem to be healing fast, though, so it shouldn't take too long."

"And if necessary, he can always use me as a template to heal himself again," Karthan volunteered cheerfully.

Wufei frowned at him. "The last time I did that, I transferred some of my wounds to you. I'd rather not."

"You also fixed my ribs," Karthan shot back, "and the cuts on my back healed a lot quicker than normal. Not as fast as yours, perhaps, but I still think I did quite well from the exchange."

"It might actually be a good idea," Arwen said, exchanging looks with Uthmar. "We expect to reach the area where the temple is before midday tomorrow, which means that we'll be within easy range of an attack from this afternoon on. It wouldn't be wise for anyone to be handicapped in any way."

"We were in easy range of an attack back at the village," Wufei pointed out dryly. "Or have you forgotten the screaming green blob?"

"It's doubtful whether they can summon another demon so soon after the last one," Uthmar said. "For one thing, it's damned dangerous. For another, they need two suitable sacrifices; one to power the summoning, and one to bind the demon to whatever task they set it. Because the temple was built out here--" He waved one hand at the uninhabited woods on one side and the rocky hills on the other. "--it's much less likely to be found by accident, but it's also much harder for them to find sacrifices. Even if they do find them, one disappearance from a small village is much more noticable than a dozen in a city."

"'Suitable'?"

Karthan grimaced. "The Dark gods' followers haven't exactly given us a list of their requirements, but we have a fair idea. They want sacrifices that will release a lot of energy as they die, so... Preferably young. Preferably virgins. Usually female, because that makes it easier to be sure they're virgins."

"Why is that?" Naiya interrupted. "Why does being a virgin make a difference?"

"The more unfulfilled potential somebody has, the more energy they hold," Arwen shrugged. "If you're young, you have a lot of years ahead of you, and by killing you, the priest destroys that potential. It's the same if you're a virgin; you have the potential to-- er--" He blushed. "Uh, you have that potential as well, but you haven't, er, used it."

"Intelligence counts, too," Karthan continued, grinning at Arwen's embarrassment. "So does magical talent of any kind. In an emergency, however, anyone could be a potential sacrifice."

"So, they probably can't summon another demon, but we shouldn't count on it?" Wufei summed up. At Uthmar's nod he sighed, propping his chin on one hand. "Wonderful. I hate 'maybes'."

"Well, maybe you'll need your hearing," Karthan told him sweetly, teeth gleaming for a moment in his beard as his grin widened. "Maybe you should do something about it, to make sure you don't end up with a nasty surprise."

"And maybe you should consider the fact that I may not be able to heal you, but I do know Karthan well enough to heal him if your injuries transfer to him," Uthmar added, cutting in before Wufei could refuse again. "Hmm?"

Wufei stared at him wide-eyed, then shook his head, smiling a little sheepishly. "I never even thought of that. All right; I can hardly keep listening through Karthan's ears all day, after all!"

* * * * *

Duo let out a quiet groan as he flopped back onto the bed, face scrunched up in pain. "Not gonna happen," he gritted out through clenched teeth. "Damn it."

"I would not feel bad, if I were you, Mister Maxwell," Dr. Modi said soothingly, carefully lifting Duo's leg back onto the bed and fitting the brace around it. "You are already far ahead of any normal patients; very few people try to bend their leg the day after the ligament surgery, and it usually takes six or seven days before they succeed."

"Yeah, well, no offense intended, Doc, but being in the hospital kinda sucks, you know?" Duo said tightly. "The sooner I bend my knee, the sooner I get out of here, and the sooner I can get on with the exercises and get better."

"You were listening when Dr. Po and I mentioned the fact that if you push yourself too far, you will knock yourself straight back to 'crippled' status, weren't you?" Modi inquired politely.

"I don't intend to go beyond my knee's limits. I am going to push things up to those limits, though."

"So long as you listen to me when I tell you that you are approaching those limits, I have no objection to that," the doctor sighed. "And, speaking of limits, one of them is that it would not be wise to take this brace off and-- er-- 'practice' knee-bending by yourself."

"Even if I was stupid enough to do that, Heero wouldn't let me," Duo muttered, mouth twisting in a half-exasperated, half-amused smile. "Don't worry."

"Speaking of Mister Yui, I believe he is waiting outside with a package that smells suspiciously like hot meatball sandwiches," Modi chuckled. "I do hope some form of vegetable matter is going to feature in your dinner as well."

"I asked him to get me a side salad, too," Duo grinned back. "I even plan to eat it, which should keep all my mother hens content for a couple of hours."

----------

Hearing his name called, Heero turned and saw Trowa and Quatre walking towards him.

"is something wrong?" Quatre said anxiously, hurrying the last few steps. "Why are you standing out here?"

"Duo's trying to bend his knee," Heero said shortly. "He didn't want me there watching, so he sent me to get dinner."

"Already?! He just had the surgery yesterday!"

"The doctor said it was okay, so I wasn't going to tell Duo he couldn't try it if he wanted to!" Heero snapped, glaring at Quatre. "If you think it's too soon, you tell him!" You can be the one getting yelled at for being overprotective for a change, he added mentally, shifting the takeaway bag he was holding to his other hand and looking away.

"Sounds reasonable to me," Trowa said quietly, putting a calming hand on Quatre's arm. The blond reddened and also looked away, biting back an angry retort.

"...Sorry," he said eventually. "I shouldn't have snapped at you."

Heero shrugged, relaxing slightly. "It's the same reaction I had, so I can't blame you." Though thankfully, I managed not to say it out loud! "How's Duo's furniture? Pink?"

"No," Trowa said, smirking.

"It's not just Duo's furniture," Quatre blurted out, near-argument forgotten. "Relena furnished the entire house! And none of it's pink! It's fabulous!"

"We have discovered that Relena has taste," Trowa put in. "We have also discovered that Pargan can pick locks."

Before Heero could think of a reply to that, the door to Duo's room opened behind him.

"I am no longer torturing your friend, so you are welcome once more," Dr. Modi said cheerfully, stepping out. "Please hide the takeaway containers if you hear this shift's floor nurse approaching-- even I get out of her way-- and do not tell me what you are doing to get rid of the hospital meals Mister Maxwell is obviously not consuming. I should probably be thankful that the plumbing in this building is so good."

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[cont]