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: 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.
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Apology: No matter how many cups of coffee and tea Krashnark zaps into ice cubes, we are NOT going to say we're sorry! So there!

This is dedicated to the marvellously talented Orin, for her fantastic pictures of Krashnark, Wufei and Duo. Thank you, Orin!

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 25
In Dreams

Duo settled into sleep with Heero's arm snug around his waist, hoping that maybe, this time, he wouldn't dream. Maybe tonight he wouldn't see Wufei attacking the strange energy gun again... being shot again... being lost again.

He found out very quickly that he wasn't going to be so lucky.

~*~*~*~

"WAAAHAHAHAHAHA! It's time to meet your maker!"

He was in Deathscythe, back to back with Sandrock, hacking his way through Leos and Aries like there was no tomorrow -- and there wouldn't be, if he screwed up now. Wing was up above, Heero doing his best to trash Zechs and Tallgeese, and Duo spared half a second to glance at the tiny window he'd allowed himself to dedicate to the camera that was tracking that battle. Really, he knew he shouldn't do it, he shouldn't let himself get distracted that way, but surely just a glance once in a while wouldn't hurt--

Time slowed down. The window showing Wing seemed to expand, taking up more and more of his screen. He couldn't see the rest of the fight properly around it, but he couldn't seem to find the key that would close it...

< < Trowa, Wufei, there's some sort of energy weapon on that southern hill, > > Quatre transmitted. < < It looks like they're aiming at Wing-- > >

Shoot it, he tried to say, but now he couldn't find the control for the radio and his voice wasn't making any noise. He couldn't see the weapon either, the window showing Wing was covering everything, but he knew what it was. Don't go near it.

< < On it, > > Trowa replied.

Yeah, Tro, you can get it from a distance-- use your rockets--

< < No, I've got it, > > said Wufei. < < You've got a clearer path to help 2 and 4. > >

No! NO! We're fine, there's nobody really threatening us, we can take care of it!

His hand found the radio control at last, but what came out of his mouth wasn't what he meant to say. "Ah, yeah, Tro-man, not that we need a hand really -- but I'm sure you'd hate it if we trashed them all by ourselves!"

< < Right. Coming. > >

Forget about us, SHOOT THE FUCKING ZAPGUN! Duo howled mentally, but nothing came out. He could see now, see Shenlong arrowing towards the new weapon on thrusters, thermal staff swinging around with Wufei's usual speed and economy of motion, but the damn Buck Rogers ripoff still had all the time in the world to swivel around and take aim and Duo knew exactly what was going to happen to his best friend but he couldn't do a damn thing to stop it--

--and all of a sudden he had his voice back and yelped in surprise as he found himself somewhere else.

...Whoa. Mental whiplash. What's going on?

He could feel his heart still hammering in his chest and took a few deep breaths, forcing himself to relax as he stared at his strange new surroundings. And that's not all that's strange -- since when do I notice my heartbeat and breathing in dreams? Okay, take stock... no Gundam. No fight. Hell, no ground, either, just these floating bits of stone and buildings and fog... Toto, this ain't Kansas.

"Man, that was a sudden switch!" he muttered, more to hear himself speak than because he thought talking out loud would do any good. "Gotta say it's an improvement over before, though... hmmm. The scenery for this dream is weird. When do the penguins turn up?"

A shocked voice came from behind him. "Duo?!"

----------

"Wufei?!"

Wufei barely had time to wonder how someone could spin around in midair with no leverage before Duo had flung himself upon him, babbling hysterically.

"Oh my GOD, Wu-man, are you okay? Where the fuck have you been?! I've missed you like hell! Are you really here or is this just a dream?! Oh hell, who cares--" Duo's voice was suddenly muffled as he pressed his face into Wufei's shoulder, arms putting serious pressure on the Chinese pilot's ribs, and he sobbed once or twice before getting control of himself.

"You're not dead?" he asked in a tiny voice, turning his face a little to one side to get his mouth clear. "You're really not dead?"

"That's my line," Wufei said shakily, carefully wrapping his arms around Duo's shoulders to return the hug. He felt real, more solid than any dream should be; thin shoulders under the white slogan t-shirt, wisps of hair escaping from his braid to tickle Wufei's wrist, the edge of his brace bumping back against what was probably going to be a serious bruise on Wufei's knee--

Brace?

"Since when do you wear a leg brace?" he asked, puzzled.

Duo sniffed and pulled back far enough to see Wufei's face, hands releasing just enough of their death grip to let him pat carefully at his friend, testing to make sure that yes, he was there along with all the normal appendages present and accounted for. "Since I munged up my knee and Sally made me hold still for an operation on it," he said, annoyance showing even through his distraction. "It's a pain -- sometimes literally -- but it's not gonna drop off or anything. Man, 'Fei, you're a sight for sore eyes. Even if this is just a dream, it's a hell of a lot better than instant replay of you getting blown out of our dimension into God knows where!"

"I'm not so sure this is a dream," Wufei said uncertainly, holding the other pilot's shoulders and looking him searchingly up and down. "At least, not an ordinary one. Even with the decidedly odd surroundings, this feels far too... concrete. And why would I dream you with a brace on your leg? For that matter, why would I dream of you wearing a t-shirt I've never seen?" he asked, mouth quirking into a smile as he read the slogan 'Patient gown? We don't NEED no @#~%ing patient gown!' that was proudly blazoned across the front of Duo's oversized top. "Don't get me wrong, it's a wonderful example of a 'Duo shirt', but I'm sure it's one I've never seen you wear!"

"Yeah, it's new," Duo shrugged, glancing down at it. "I got it the day before I went in for the op-- oh."

"Exactly," Wufei said grimly, twisting to look suspiciously back at the floating stone image of Krashnark's face. "If this is my dream, why would I invent a leg brace and a new t-shirt for you? If this is your dream, why would I -- a figment of your imagination -- be surprised by them? Either one of us is dreaming far more imaginatively than normal, or--"

The eyes of the stone mask opened, and Krashnark's mental 'voice' whispered into their heads. =*This isn't a dream. Or to put it another way, it _is_ a dream... a true dream, that you are both sharing. Make the most of it; this is taking rather a lot of power to maintain, and I don't think I'll be able to do it again.*=

"Oh-kayyyy," Duo murmured, fingers tightening on Wufei's biceps. "I take it that's the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz? Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain..."

Wufei's scowl deepened, and he turned to face Krashnark fully, pushing Duo behind him without thinking. "If this is supposed to be some sort of bribe, I--"

=*It is _not_ a bribe,*= Krashnark insisted, sounding slightly impatient. =*I promised not to nag you, and a bribe could be considered a form of nagging; it's certainly a form of pressure. Besides, I'm not foolish enough to think that you'd allow a bribe to sway your opinion.*= Humour leaked into his 'voice'. =*In any direction except away from what I was trying to get you to do, that is! I merely thought that you might be better prepared for tomorrow's fight if you weren't occupied by worrying about your friends. As long as there's the slightest chance that you might someday agree to become my Champion, it's in my best interests for you to survive, after all...*=

=*In any case, I can hold this for only a limited time. May I suggest that you take advantage of the opportunity to talk to your friend now, and yell at me _later_?*= The huge stone face smiled past Wufei at Duo, bobbed slightly -- a nod? -- and evaporated into mist.

Wufei let out his breath in an annoyed snort and glared at the dissipating cloud, seriously considering calling Krashnark back and giving him a piece of his mind right then and there, but was distracted by Duo's voice.

"Um, 'Fei?" he asked, voice carefully nonchalant. "You've heard of Easter Island, right? How did we end up there, and when did the stone faces start talking to people? Come to think of it, much as I hate to say this, a talking stone face is probably a good sign that this is just a dream..."

"Actually," Wufei sighed, turning back to him, "while I would normally agree with you, in this case it means just the opposite. That was Krashnark."

"Uh-huh," Duo said sceptically, quirking an eyebrow at him. "And who's he when he's not imitating an evaporating Mount Rushmore?"

"My penance for ever sneering at Heero's fear of Relena," Wufei muttered, then cleared his throat. "This isn't going to convince you that this is real, I'm sure, but... he's a god."

Duo just stared at him for a moment... then stared some more. "Riiiiiight," he drawled eventually. "Now I know the dancing penguins are going to turn up. Any minute now..."

Wufei laughed helplessly, pulling Duo back into a hug. "Gods, I've missed you," he whispered, burying his face in the curve of Duo's neck and taking a deep breath, drawing in the familiar scent of clean skin and lemongrass shampoo. There was a faint medicinal tinge as well, presumably from the hospital, and although he couldn't imagine how Krashnark had managed to arrange things so that they could smell each other, it gave him an idea.

"Duo," he said abruptly, tugging the other boy closer, "smell me."

"What?!"

"I'm serious, just smell me."

Duo leaned forward and sniffed tentatively at Wufei's hair, frowning. "You smell a bit like woodsmoke," he muttered. "And grass."

"Have you ever been able to smell something in a dream before?" Duo's eyes widened, and Wufei pressed on. "You can see and hear things in dreams, and sometimes feel things a bit, but I at least have never smelled a figment of my imagination. So..."

"...So maybe this is real," Duo whispered hopefully.

"Seems like it," Wufei agreed, drawing in a shaky breath. "Which means you're alive. Are you all-- is everyone okay? Losing me didn't cause any," he nearly said 'deaths', "any problems? The battle wasn't going well..."

"Problems?" Duo laughed. "Wu-man, losing you the way we did saved us! Not that I wouldn't rather have kept you with us and had to fight a bit harder, but... You remember that energy gun thingy?"

"I should hope I do, since the cursed thing shot me," Wufei said sourly.

"It did more than shoot you, it blew up. Impressively. When the dust cleared, there wasn't a hill there any more, most of the Ozzie suits were trashed, and Tallgeese had taken a header into the dirt. The Gundams took it a lot better; we got some bumps and bruises, and Zechs survived OK according to what I heard, but the death toll on the OZ side was pretty horrific. They've surrendered, 'Fei. We won."

"Surrendered...?" Wufei nearly choked as that one word destroyed all the possible scenarios he'd thought of. He'd imagined his friends dead, defeated, scattered and trapped... but triumphant? "So... what's happening now? Has OZ disbanded? Is--"

"Ohhh no you don't, Wu," Duo said firmly, taking a firm grip on Wufei's hands and settling into a seated position in midair, braced leg sticking out in front of him. "First, you tell me what the hell happened to you after that thing burped or hiccupped or whatever it is the Doctors think it did, and you got pulled out of our universe! If this dream is real, that means that god was real, too, and I want to know what the fuck is up with that!"

"It's not just gods! It's like a fantasy novel, elves and dwarves and magic and demons... you know, I keep thinking 'Duo would love it here'. At the very least, you'd have a better idea than me of how to get Krashnark off your back!"

"You have a god on your back?" Duo asked incredulously.

"Two gods, technically, though I haven't actually met the other one," Wufei sighed, running one hand back over his hair and tugging distractedly at his ponytail. "At least Sharna only wants to kill me..."

----------

"So despite being very definitely not a pacifist in any way whatsoever, this Krashnark god is a lot like Relena at her worst?" Duo asked eventually, grinning.

"I certainly think so, though he was rather offended by the comparison," Wufei snorted. "It got him to shut up for a while, at least. How is the pursuit going, by the way? I'm feeling rather guilty about all the times I considered Yui to be a coward for avoiding her."

"Actually, she's backed off."

"She's what?"

"Backed off. Given up on Heero. She's actually being nice to me, now, and it seems to be for real... not a ploy to get brownie points or anything."

"Duo," Wufei said slowly, "quite frankly, I find that less plausible than anything that's happened to me since I got dragged into this world."

"What, less plausible than being headhunted metaphorically by one god, and headhunted literally by his twin brother? 'Lena isn't that bad!"

"I seem to remember you having a different opinion, that time she turned up unexpectedly and forced you to abandon your favourite pair of boots when we left the safehouse," Wufei teased. "'Living embodiment of Murphy's fucking Law' was the politest thing you called her."

"All right, so maybe she comes across as an annoying force of nature sometimes, but still, she's not supernatural!"

"True. Actually, that reminds me of something I was thinking about today. What's your opinion of a pantheon that has a god of thieves and seductions, and a goddess of stars who doesn't actually seem to do much, but no god of Death?"

There was a long pause as Duo stared at him, apparently stunned. "...Say what? No god of Death? Wu, that is seriously screwed up, you know. Every damn pantheon has a god of Death, it's a union requirement or something!"

"I thought you'd think it was odd."

"Odd? It's just about impossible! If you take the view that deities are imaginary constructs invented by humans to fill the psychological need for explanation and 'control' of natural forces and events," Duo said earnestly, "Death is right up there with Life as something that needs explaining, right? And if the gods are real, which they sure as hell seem to be where you are, then Death is an incredibly important process that's just begging to have someone in charge of it! Are you sure there isn't a god of Death? Maybe as a secondary function of whatever god is the head honcho?"

"Um... no, Orr seems to be purely a god of creation," Wufei said slowly, thinking back to what Uthmar and Arwen had told him.

"Life, right," Duo nodded. "Who's in charge of birth? A lot of the time the same god is also in charge of Death, sort of taking care of both ends of the life cycle."

"You seem to know a lot about this!"

"Comparative Religions class at Lamar High," the braided teen said shortly. "It's the only time I ever liked doing homework, and I kept the textbooks when we booked it out of there. Well?"

"Hm. Kontifrio and Lillinara, I think... and Lillinara does comfort the dying, sometimes, but I got the impression that that was more to do with assuring murdered women that they would be avenged than as a general thing." Wufei shrugged helplessly. "There's a dark goddess who holds power over undead creatures, but that's all."

"Screwed," Duo said firmly, shaking his head. "Definitely screwed. There should be a light deity of death to balance that dark goddess, if nothing else! Either you didn't get full information or there's something badly out of whack over there, 'Fei. Maybe the next time Krashy tries to wheedle you into being his general or whatever, you can distract him by asking about this?"

"Maybe," Wufei said doubtfully. "I think he-- Krashy?!"

"Hey, sorry, but the guy's name sounds like a car accident in a 'Pinky and the Brain' cartoon," Duo grinned, not looking at all repentant. "It's just begging to be made fun of!"

"He's got a temper, you know. If he shows up again before we wake up, _please_ don't call him that to his face... Okay, it's your turn now. How in the world did Kushrenada manage to get Lady Une to go along with a surrender?"

"Ah. Well. Actually..."

----------

When Duo had finished explaining what had happened to OZ, it was Wufei's turn to look at him disbelievingly.

"Say something, Wu," Duo said uncomfortably, leaning forward to get a closer look at his eyes. "I know you don't like talking unless you have something worthwhile to say, but really, you don't have to take it to Trowa's lengths..."

"Kushrenada suicided?" the other teen whispered, ignoring that last comment. "I can't believe... It's not the sort of thing he'd do!"

"Yeah, well, I was kind of out of it at the time," Duo admitted, "so when I got my act together enough to pay attention we were dealing with the results, not the fact, but... I have to admit, he always struck me as the sort of person who'd go and pick a fight he couldn't win if he ever wanted to die, instead of pushing a self-destruct button or swallowing some pills. Go out with glory, or whatever... Still, he did it. Left a note wishing us luck building the future and everything. And since Une apparently only ever wanted to win for his sake, without him there to fight for she just... folded."

"I see," Wufei said numbly, and then shook himself. "'Out of it'?" he asked sharply, putting the matter of Kushrenada's suicide aside for later thought. "I thought you said you weren't hurt?"

"Bumps and bruises, like I said," Duo said evasively, and then wilted as Wufei raised a sceptical eyebrow. "Plus a minor concussion. That wasn't the problem, though; I, um... Heero was being a prick at the time so I was kind of depressed, okay? But he stopped!" he added quickly, waving his hands in a sort of 'calm down' gesture as Wufei bristled.

"If he was being enough of a 'prick' to get you depressed, it must have been bad," Wufei growled, looking ready to march out of the dream and confront Wing's pilot face-to-face.

Duo grimaced. "I think Quatre threatened him with grievous bodily harm a time or two, and you know the sort of provocation Q-man needs before he'll consider anything of the sort! For a while there he was being damn snarky. Still, he's sorry now, and he's trying really hard to make up for it... which is just as annoying sometimes, when he overdoes it, but... um... we actually seem to be getting things sorted out. Boyfriend-type things, I mean," he muttered, fiddling with the end of his braid. "He says he loves me..."

Wufei reached over and plucked the tuft out of Duo's hands, rescuing it from imminent destruction. "I can always tell when you're really nervous, you know," he said gently, capturing the other teen's hands in his when they reached for the braid again. "You start actually picking at your hair instead of just waving it around... So," he went on, only half joking, "how do you feel about this? I know it's what you've wanted, but do you think he's genuine or am I going to have to find a way to get back home and dispense some justice?"

Duo looked down at their clasped hands with a watery giggle. "I can just see you tying him to a chair and lecturing him for a few hours straight--"

"Lecture, hell, if he hurt you I'd kick his sorry ass!" Wufei insisted, ducking down to look at Duo's face. "First. Then I'd lecture him, after I'd broken his legs so he couldn't get away. And you haven't answered my question."

"I think he's for real," Duo said, voice barely above a whisper.

"So what's the problem?" Concerned, Wufei abandoned his efforts to look past Duo's bangs and reached out, gently nudging his chin up with one hand. "You're acting like this is a bad development. Is it?"

"No! No, it's good, it's just..." Duo's face crumpled and he drew in a deep, shaky breath, tears welling up in his eyes. "Hell, this was easier to discuss with Relena, damn it... I feel like I'm betraying you, somehow. Like I got him by losing you, and if I let myself be happy with him I'll lose any chance to ever get you back!"

"So I'm the sacrifice on the altar of your relationship, is that it?" Wufei wiped carefully at the first tear trickling down Duo's cheek. "Don't you dare blame yourself for my situation, Duo! You had nothing to do with causing it, and I don't see how anything you do or don't do could possibly affect it now. All you'd accomplish by pushing Heero away would be to make yourself and him miserable, and that's the last thing you should do!" He sighed, pulling the other boy into another hug. "As for getting me back... well, unless the Doctors come up with something damn impressive, I don't think it's going to happen. We might be able to talk again, like this, but I seem to have been 'summoned' into this world like one of their demons -- technically, I am a demon -- and there was nothing in what Uthmar and Arwen told me about any demons being 'un-summoned' back to where they came from. Once they're here, they're here to stay." Until some Champion kills them, he carefully didn't add.

"The Doctors said they couldn't do anything," Duo sniffed miserably into his shoulder. "Well, they said they could probably blow us out of our universe by recreating what happened to you, but they couldn't arrange for us to end up in the same place."

"Not something you should try, then," Wufei said dryly, rubbing his back. "Believe me, Duo, finding happiness with Heero would not be a betrayal of me. I want you to be happy, and if he can make you happy, more power to you both! I'm your friend, after all, not your boyfriend."

There was a faint, hiccupping laugh from the general region of Wufei's collarbone. "Yeah, well, if I hadn't been so stuck on Heero I might have tried to change that."

"If you hadn't been so obviously stuck on Heero, I might have tried to change that," Wufei admitted wryly. "But you were, so it never came up... and I can't help feeling a little glad. I miss you badly enough as a friend; I can't imagine how I'd feel if I was missing you as a lover."

[cont]