AUTHORS: Mel and Christy, cliffhanger-ers extraordinaire.
WARNINGS: Yaoi, angst, sap, language, some OOC, AU... some eeeew and ickiness... Wufei torture... Duo mental torture...
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: We're only borrowing 'Gundam Wing' and 'Oath of Swords' from their real copyright owners, who are not us. We plan to give them back before they notice they're gone.
FEEDBACK: More more more more more more more!
APOLOGY: We're apologising for nothing! Bwahahahahah... and HA! We're not sorry for the cliffie!

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 26
Waiting for Pain

Krashnark seethed, pacing back and forth in the area of the Dark Gods' realm that was loosely defined as his 'quarters', glowing a pale red. Random items of furniture appeared out of the swirling mist around him, twisted and distorted by the force of his rage, lasting only seconds before evaporating again or being destroyed.

"That filth," he snarled to himself, smashing a small table to one side. "That worthless little cockroach! If he thinks our lord father will protect him from me, he's wrong. I'll crush him the way Wufei would crush one of his precious bugs if it dared to scuttle out from under its rock!"

...Once I'm strong enough to do it and block him from taking revenge in the mortal world, that is...

Anger gave way to worry as he turned to stare at the glassy, shimmering spot in midair that he used to watch Wufei when he wasn't actually hovering invisible at the human/demon's side. Behind him, the roiling chaos began to settle down into the usual pattern he shaped his 'rooms' into as he concentrated his will on the shimmer, trying to force it to show something other than the vague green-streaked darkness it was reflecting.

I shouldn't have used so much of my power making that link for him, he berated himself. I should have done it some other time, not the night before he went into a battle against my idiot brother's forces. Or I should have cut it off sooner, instead of hanging on as long as I could maintain it. But he seemed so happy, talking to his friend... and I was sure I had Sharna cowed! Where in Krahana's hells did he find the courage to defy me like that?!

At the very least I should have realised before now that I had so little power available, curse it!

Scowling, Krashnark sent another pulse of power into the floating shimmer, and growled as even that tiny expense of energy made his glowing aura dim slightly. After effectively ignoring it for several hundred years, he finally had a reason to regret neglecting his church.

They were boring, it's true, he thought sourly, but boredom is no reason to neglect a duty. I stopped paying attention to the priests... four hundred years ago? Longer? They all seemed to be the same, cowering and fearful and crawling before me, begging for scraps of my power. They reminded me of my brother, damn it! Then, after my last Champions died, there wasn't anyone else who appealed to me, so I ignored the mortals except when there was a major war happening. The church still exists, if smaller, but... when did they stop really praying to me?

He still had his own strength, of course; the strength that made him his father's second-in-command instead of his older brother Fiendark, the strength that he could have sent to Wufei to use against his enemies if the annoyingly honourable little demon had just accepted his place as Krashnark's destined Champion. He would have noticed quickly enough if anything had happened to that! But the power that came from prayer, the power that he could use to do things only a god could do, things where he didn't have a Champion to use as a conduit -- the power he could have used to stop Sharna from cutting Wufei off from his power -- hadn't been there when he'd needed it. He'd had only the barest fraction of what should have been available, and he'd used it all up... and there was no-one involved in the fight who was even slightly inclined to worship him, so now that he was cut off from the anchor that Wufei would have provided, he couldn't even go there in person to watch.

"Sharna seems to have plenty, the little worm," he snarled, glaring at the faint acid-green smears across his scrying illusion. "Enough to help his priests summon demons. Enough to trap my chosen. Enough to stop me from even seeing what's happening to him!"

I will wait, he decided grimly, forming a chair out of the mists with a flick of thought and settling into it, eyes fixed on the shimmer. I will wait, and see if Torframos's Champions can save my Champion. And when it is all over, I will take full and proper payment for every drop of blood, every moment of pain he suffers, out of my worthless little brother's hide!

* * * * *

"I'm serious, Heero, I just know it! Wufei's alive!"

Heero blinked and wrapped his arms tighter around the braided teen's shoulders. "Duo, it was just a dream," he repeated. "You--"

"I know it was a dream!" Duo interrupted, raising his head to look him in the eye. "But it was still real! A true dream! We talked! Touched! He was surprised by my brace!"

"Dreams can be like that. Your subconscious--"

Duo put two fingers across the Japanese teen's lips, silencing him. "I know what your mind can do in dreams, and I know this sounds crazy... but it was real."

Heero sighed, then gently pulled Duo's hand away from his mouth. "Okay. Convince me."

"...what?"

"Convince me. I know you, Duo, and I know you're not crazy... no matter how much you may pretend, sometimes," he added dryly, settling back against the pillows and pulling Duo against his chest. "Whatever convinced you, it's got to be pretty good." I hope!. "What happened?"

Duo relaxed and let Heero hold his weight. "Well, it started with another nightmare about 'Fei getting blown away. Then something twisted and it was like I was floating, with mist and stuff all around. I started talking to myself--"

"As you do," Heero interrupted, smirking.

"--and the next thing, I heard Wufei say 'Duo?'," the long-haired teen continued, jabbing Heero in the stomach with his elbow without losing a beat. "We both thought it was some sort of freaky dream, at first, but we could actually feel each other... like you felt me just now. Ha. Then he brought up the brace, and the new t-shirt, and asked why he would dream about me in things he'd never seen before. He said he thought it was too 'concrete' to be an ordinary dream."

There was a slight pause while Duo thought about how best to put the next bit. He didn't think telling Heero that a god had turned up and spoken to them both would help the story's credibility. It didn't feel good to keep anything from his boyfriend, but maybe if he just left that bit out? It's not like lying, after all... just, ah, 'editing for content', maybe?

Ugh. Still feels bad.

He sighed, and went on. "Wufei's exact words were, '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--' Then he told me to smell him. Heero, he smelled like grass and woodsmoke."

Heero blinked. "I don't see how that--"

"Think about it," Duo interrupted impatiently. "Have you ever smelled anything in a dream? Really smelled it, I mean, instead of just knowing how something should smell, or waking up to find out that the smell was in the air where you were and just got incorporated into the dream?"

"That's... a valid point," Heero said slowly. "And if the Doctors are correct, and he's been pulled into a different leg of the 'trousers of time'," he continued, getting a snicker from Duo, "then it is possible that, thanks to some lingering connection to this world, he might be able to contact you when your mental barriers were down for sleep. Still, that would almost certainly take incredible amounts of energy! Where did that come from?"

"Pleased to hear you saying 'did' and not 'would'," Duo said lightly, covering an inward wince as he mentally deleted any mention of gods and magic from the story. Plausible but not a lie, plausible but not a lie... "Well, we spent more time discussing what happened to everyone than how we were managing to have the conversation. If we're talking theoretically," he said carefully, "what about the energy from the gun? That was a pretty cataclysmic sort of thing, you know; there was enough from that to do just about anything, I'll bet, and the Doctors said it came from the 'trouser fabric'. What if he could draw on that? Maybe it never really left him?"

"True, and plausible," Heero agreed, nodding. "Given a source of energy and a 'connection', for want of a better term, and the oddities of the dream itself, I'd have to agree that it's possible... and I certainly can't prove it's not!" He thought for a moment longer, frowning, and then shrugged. "All right. I'm at least provisionally convinced."

Duo sighed happily, then winced again at the next question.

"So, did he say where he is? What it's like? Anything?"

"Um... he said he was okay. He ended up in some sort of mediaeval-type world," the injured boy said, thinking fast and editing out all the unbelievable parts. "There are knights and peasants... no guns or anything... he said they even thought he and Shenlong were demons at first. But he's met some good people. Some of them aren't human, though -- he said something about them having a few non-human intelligent species! They have different languages, of course, but he's catching on quick. He said it's really interesting, and that I'd love it there." A soft sigh escaped him.

Heero hugged him closer. "You really miss him, don't you?"

"Yeah, a lot," Duo nodded. "He told me not to miss him so much I screw up what I've got, though!" He turned slightly, snuggling against Heero's chest, and went on after a few moments. "He's my best friend... like the brother I never had. Like Solo was, kind of. I could tell him anything. He may not have shown it to you guys, but he always had time for me. He read to me when I couldn't sleep, listened when I bitched about Relena, commiserated, cheered me up when things went wrong... he even gave me advice about you."

"About me?!" Heero asked, surprised.

The other teen chuckled. "Yeah. He'd tell me when I was being an idiot, throwing myself at you or whatever. He said to be more subtle; you already had Relena stalking you, and you didn't need me to join the Scary Brigade. Oh! He was totally_ shocked at Relena's turnaround. He said that her giving up on you and being nice to me was less plausible than anything that had happened to him!"

Heero laughed along with his boyfriend, then sobered. "Do you think this will happen again? This real dream?"

Duo shook his head sadly. "I don't think so. It felt like a one-time deal."

The Japanese teen pressed a comforting kiss to Duo's temple. "It's early, but not too early," he said, changing the subject. "Do you want to stay up, or try to get a little more sleep?"

"Maybe sleep a little more? Like this, if it's okay. I'm comfortable."

"It's fine, Duo. I'm comfortable too. Go to sleep."

Silence descended on the room, and ten minutes later Heero thought the other teen had drifted back to sleep. He closed his eyes, trying to digest everything Duo had told him. Part of him stubbornly refused to accept that Duo could have received a mental message from another world -- technically a completely different reality -- in his sleep... but another, even more stubborn part of his mind insisted that this was Duo. Duo was not crazy, or gullible, or stupid, and therefore there had to be some concrete truth behind his conviction...

It was a difficult concept to grasp, and he could tell it was going to take him some time to absorb--

"Heero... are you still awake?"

"Yes, Duo, is there something wrong?"

"Um... will you help me to the bathroom? I have to pee..."

* * * * *

Vaijon leaned back against the rough wall where he'd been chained, panting slightly. Their captors had forced the knight-probationer and armsmen to run at what would have been their best speed if their arms hadn't been bound tightly behind them, and he'd fallen several times, only to be yanked roughly to his feet and forced onwards.

"Not precisely the way we want to enter a Dark God's temple, is it, Sir Vaijon?" Karthan muttered almost absent-mindedly from his place next to the blond human, craning his neck and peering towards the other side of the good-sized chamber. "Sword in hand and together with a lot more of the Order's fighting men would be better, I think..."

Myself leading the charge, a Champion glowing with the God's fire, thought Vaijon automatically, a lifetime's fantasies supplying the way it should have been; he grimaced, dismissing the thought, and tugged experimentally at his manacles. "Even if I had my sword right now, it wouldn't be doing me much good," he muttered back bitterly, trying to flex his burned right hand and not having much success. "I should have tried to pull that thing off him with my off hand, not my sword hand!"

"How is it?"

"It doesn't hurt," Vaijon said shortly. "I'd feel better if it did."

The dwarf glanced up at the white, seared flesh and winced sympathetically. "Well, if we get out of this with our skins more-or-less intact, Sir Uthmar and Sir Arwen should be able to do something for it. Assuming they can fight their way through to us in time, that is... or if we can do something for ourselves."

Vaijon gave one last, futile yank at the chain holding him to the wall and sagged, blowing out his breath with a sigh. The damn thing didn't even rattle, curse it, it was so heavy and well-greased against rust that it just clanked dully. "Quite frankly, Sir Karthan, and yes I know you're not a knight but you are the voice of experience here... I am completely open to suggestions."

There was a faint, pained chuckle from his other side. "First thing I've heard you say that didn't sound like you had the family banner up yer arse, flagpole an' all," Jens grunted, shifting to ease the roughly bandaged wound in his shoulder. "May be there's hope for you yet... sir."

The knight-probationer stiffened, mouth opening for an automatic freezing rebuke... and then stopped.

I am probably going to die, he admitted to himself, staring blindly across the chamber, past the twenty or so assassins who had brought them in, at the huge stone scorpion looming over the blood-caked altar. Soon. Not gloriously, or heroically, or even peacefully. I am going to die badly, and Sharna will eat my soul. Why waste my last moments snarling at one of the only people here who isn't going to cheer the priests on, just because he isn't giving me the respect due my birth and position? As if that matters right now!

"Under the circumstances, Jens," he said, a little stiffly, "I'm going to take that as a sort of warped, back-handed, possibly sarcastic compliment. Thank you. Would you happen to have anything a little more constructive to contribute, perhaps on the subject of how we get out of here? We can return to the question of flagpoles when we have a little more free time."

Jens gaped incredulously at him, but quiet sputtering sounds from the other side of the human armsman indicated that the other members of the party were appreciating the comment.

"Gods save us, Gunnar's rubbing off on him, too..."

"I have a bit of an idea," Karthan whispered tensely, ignoring the byplay. "Can you see where they've taken Wufei? It's not going to work without him, and I can't reach him through our link."

At slightly over six foot three inches in height, Vaijon had the best view of anyone in the group, and he nodded grimly as he looked back towards the altar. "I can see him," he said quietly, "and I think you'd better come up with a different plan..."

* * * * *

"Dammit!" Duo muttered, flopping back on the bed. "I was sure I'd do it today..."

"This is nothing for you to upset yourself over, Mister Maxwell. Your knee is just not ready to bend yet, that's all," Dr. Modi said calmly, patting the braided teen's good leg.

"I almost did it yesterday, and almost did it this morning, and almost did it just now! Why won't it cooperate?!" Duo pouted.

The doctor chuckled and waved to the brand-new forearm crutches standing proudly next to the bed. "I am quite sure you will manage it soon. Now, since your magnificent custom crutches have arrived, and the incision has stabilised sufficiently to survive any minor accidental strains you may put on it as you swing your way around, why don't you take a walk around the hospital? Perhaps you could buy your Mister Yui a cup of coffee in the cafeteria?" he said with a smile. "I promise you, the cafeteria food is of a far higher standard than the patient breakfasts..."

"You mean I can hobble anywhere I want?" the teenager asked, pout turning into a grin as he reached for the matte black crutches, covered in silver lightning bolts and scythes.

"As long as I have your word that you will put absolutely no weight on that leg during your travels," the older man replied, walking towards the door and opening it.

"You got a deal, Doc! Hey, Heero, get in here and help me put my sweats on! We're going for a walk!" he called through the doorway.

The doctor nodded politely to the Japanese teen as they passed in the doorway, and continued down the hall towards his next patient examination. Back in the room, Heero opened Duo's bag, pulled out a pair of sweat pants and started helping his boyfriend into them.

"Since you haven't told me to pack your bag, I assume we're not leaving today?"

The braided teen sighed. "No, this stupid leg just doesn't want to cooperate yet." He brightened. "But the doc said I could wander around, so I'm taking you down to the cafeteria and buying you a coffee or something. Consider it our first date!"

Heero blinked. "Okay... uh, Relena, Quatre and Trowa should be here soon. I'll just leave a note on the door, telling them to come find us." One scribbled note later, he was following Duo as the American pilot swung merrily off down the hall.

Our first date, huh? he thought, watching his boyfriend carefully, ready to grab him at any sign of unsteadiness. Not exactly the most romantic place... but it is a start.

He never realised there was a small smile on his face.

----------

[cont]