Demon of Justice + Chapter 27 (cont)
Out of Sight, Out of Body

It's a pity I'm not going to survive this, he thought privately as he 'turned' to escape into the depths of his own mind, pursued by threads of Sharna's energy. I really want a long talk with Uthmar about the way this world's gods conduct themselves!

Pain burned through him as one of the tendrils reached him, but he was ready for it this time, pushing it away along with the physical pain. Illusion, he told himself firmly, falling deeper into himself. Pain is part of the world, and the world is illusion, and illusion has no place here. The only reality is my mind, alone in darkness...

=*Get back here!*= Sharna screamed, flinging more tendrils after him.

No pain. There can be no pain... pain needs a body, and my body is illusion, and illusion has no place here... The thought trailed off as Wufei cleared his mind completely, sinking deeper.

Changing tactics, Sharna spun the threads out in front of Wufei's bodiless point of view and tangled them into a net, trying to draw him back into consciousness instead of shocking him awake. =*I'm not letting you go!*= he snarled, starting to panic. If he killed Krashnark's human and didn't get the extra power this bright soul would give him, he could depend on something very nasty happening to him as soon as Phrobus lost interest in protecting him -- and though he might think otherwise in his more optimistic moments, deep down he knew that his father favoured his older brother. Had always favoured him. Would always favour him. And therefore had very little interest in protecting Sharna at the best of times...

A mind, unlike a body, has no inherent size or shape. A point of view would be a literal point if the person concerned didn't have a strong mental image of their own body to provide a form. Wufei, falling deeper into trance, wasn't just forgetting his body; he was actively rejecting it.


'Seeing' him start to slide through the net, Sharna panicked for real... and yanked.

For an instant, Wufei's disembodied mind was almost crushed between two magics, the chain-spell keeping him isolated within his body and the improvised web hauling him up out of trance, before something gave and he felt himself spin free. Instead of the quiet, dark peace he'd expected, there was a sudden crashing flood of sensation, light and sound and a strange sort of pressure coming from concentrations of energy, disorienting him; then he steadied, bobbing like a tethered balloon, and found himself looking down at his own blank face from about three feet up.

If he'd had a throat to do it with, he would have swallowed. He pulled me all the way out?! Well... that didn't go as either of us planned!

He could see himself-- his mental self, he supposed was an appropriate term, lifting translucent hands that glowed greenish-white and looking wonderingly at them. Sharna's nauseating energy was everywhere, too, a darker, uglier green than he was; a faint lattice woven through the walls of the chamber, a solid mass seething around the stone image looming over the altar, fading tangled strands falling away from his disembodied self, and a stronger concentration spreading from the chain around his neck to surround his body, looking like matted cobwebs with a ragged hole torn in them. The 'tethered balloon' thought had been surprisingly apt, because his floating self was tethered to his body by a thin silver tendril, threaded through the hole in the cobweb-spell... which was closing up as he watched. He had barely a second to realise and feel uneasy before it sealed itself, pinching off the shining tendril and setting him adrift.

I see, he thought numbly, watching the drifting tendril as it shrank, seeming to evaporate. The spell was designed to cut me off from any links between myself and things outside my body... so it did. I might have been able to get back into my body if I'd tried before the hole sealed, but now...

Somebody leaned into his field of vision, peering closely into his body's face, and he recognised the priest, looking seriously agitated. He couldn't help feeling a tinge of satisfaction at that. Ha. That's ruffled his composure, finally... hm. I seem to have achieved my aim, even if this isn't quite the way I was trying to do it!

He bobbed higher and turned slightly, moving so that he could see more of the chamber. The soldiers don't look happy, either-- there's Vaijon! And the others! They weren't killed!

The sight of Karthan brought the subject of his lost links to the dwarf and Nataku back to the forefront of his mind. If I could just talk to him again... were the links destroyed, or just temporarily blocked? Can I re-establish them?

A faint tugging feeling made him focus his attention back onto himself, and he raised an insubstantial eyebrow as three hair-fine threads spun out of his glowing self. It seems the desire is the act, in this state-- wait. Three? Frowning, he watched one of the threads drift tentatively towards Karthan, while the other two stretched out towards one of the walls, looping and tangling around each other. I presume Nataku is in that direction, he thought, puzzled, but why two threads?

His musing was cut short as the first thread reached Karthan and immediately snapped taut, thickening. --fei! Wufei! Please, damn it, hear me, can you hear, are you still--

Karthan! Are you all right? I--

Wufei?! A momentary rush of emotion, relief and joy and hope and fear all jumbled together, and then it was as if Karthan had bundled five minutes' worth of explanation into a single mass and thrown it at him.

--use the link lend me your power I've borrowed your healing in the past I should be able to borrow your strength! I can borrow strength break free do something at least distract them buy time--

--and everything blurred as the link pulled tighter and snapped him into Karthan's body.


Curse them, why did they have to stand up again? Vaijon fretted, craning his neck and stretching up on tiptoe. I can't see, damn it! Sir Wufei stopped moving again and now they're all panicking but I can't tell why--

Karthan jerked violently next to him, rattling the chains binding him to the wall, and there was a faint crackling sound, like a pinecone thrown into a fire. Vaijon glanced down, opening his mouth automatically to ask if something was wrong, and then flinched back as the dwarf shuddered, jittering lines of white energy crawling over his skin.

"...Did it work?" he whispered after a tense pause, when nothing more seemed to be happening. "Are you borrowing his strength?" Can you get us out of this?

The dwarf looked up at him, breathing heavily, and Vaijon gulped as he saw the same greenish-white fire burning in his eyes that he'd seen in the demon's. He seemed dazed, blinking, but recovered quickly and smirked.

"Karthan didn't borrow my strength," he said quietly, voice not sounding quite right. "He borrowed me."

* * * * *

"Well, I know this is going to sound kind of flaky... but what about Lady Une?"

Everyone else in the room stared at Duo, and he almost snickered out loud at their wide-eyed looks of blank incomprehension. Goldfish, he decided, that's what they look like. Really surprised goldfish!

After a couple of breaths, Quatre recovered his composure and cleared his throat. "Duo... she's one of the bad guys!"

"Technically, no," Duo argued seriously. "She just wasn't on our side. Look, OZ sucked, I'm not going to argue about that, but the fact is that Kushrenada had perfectly good motives. He wanted system-wide peace, and we can sure as hell agree with that; it was his methods that we were arguing with."

"Turning the colonies into heavily-guarded prison states was a bad idea, yes," Trowa muttered dryly.

"My point is," the braided teen continued doggedly, "everything Une did, she did for Treize. Yes, she was so wound up in the idea of getting results for him that she went over even his limits fairly often, but I think that was usually when he hadn't made the limits clear. So... he wanted system-wide peace. This new organisation is going to be working for system-wide peace, and you bet it's going to have clearly defined limits! If we presented this to her as 'what Kushrenada would have wanted', I bet she'd jump at the chance to continue his dream, and we'll never find anyone else who'll be so determined to succeed--"

A slight pause and minute widening of Duo's eyes were the only warning the others had that something was wrong before he screamed and curled forwards into a ball, wrapping his arms around his chest. The scream trailed off into a pained whimper, and tears leaked from the corners of his eyes.

Heero grabbed his boyfriend into his arms. "Duo! What's wrong?!" He only vaguely noticed Quatre slumping forwards in his chair, fist clenched over his heart, before Duo's body jerked and his right hand spasmed, hitting the Japanese teen in the jaw.

", 'Fei, no, 'Fei, no, 'Fei..." Duo chanted breathlessly, eyes glazed and unseeing.

"Heero! What's wrong with him?" Relena asked anxiously, scattering folders over the floor as she scrambled out of her chair and moved to Duo's other side. "Should I get the doctor?"

"Hurts," Quatre gasped, pressing his face into Trowa's chest as the taller boy supported him. "Pain... not Duo's... Make it stop... Wufei?!"

Suddenly, Duo calmed and relaxed, eyes fluttering closed as he gasped for breath. Heero carefully pulled him out of his tight curl, hands searching for any physical sign of what had happened but finding nothing except a few muscle tremors and a fast heartbeat, slowing down now.

"Duo?" he asked shakily, cupping Duo's cheek gently. "What happened? Are you all right?"

The braided boy's eyes opened slightly and he raised his hand to Heero's face, returning the caress before letting it fall back to the bed. "S'okay..." he whispered to his stunned boyfriend, lying limp and apparently exhausted. "Somethin' hurt 'Fei real bad, but it went away... an' he didn't. I could still feel him for just a second after the pain stopped, an' he felt better. 'Fei's gonna be okay..." His eyes closed again, and his breathing slowed and deepened.

Heero frowned, watching Duo until he was sure he really had fallen asleep, then turned to look at the other people in the room. Relena looked thoroughly lost. Quatre had straightened and was rubbing his chest, relief and confusion clear on his face. A concerned Trowa hovered over his lover, hands lightly stroking down his upper arms in reassurance.

"Heero," Relena asked softly, touching his arm, "what just happened? I thought..."

"Yes, Heero, what did happen?" Quatre snapped, blue eyes locked on Duo's recumbent form.

Heero sighed. "I'm not exactly sure," he replied, brushing Duo's hair off of his face. "Duo had a dream last night..."

He was interrupted as the door flew open and Dr. Modi and two nurses rushed in.

"What has happened? We heard a scream!" the doctor exclaimed, rushing to the bedside.

Heero shook his head, trying desperately to think of some sort of convincing explanation, fast. I certainly can't tell him that Duo is either hallucinating or receiving mental messages from our lost friend! He opened his mouth, not really sure what was going to come out, but was saved from having to answer as Relena spoke up.

"Duo had a nightmare, doctor. We were talking, and I suppose he dozed off. It's probably from all of the stress he's been under lately... the accident, the surgery... He really isn't comfortable in medical environments, you know," she said with just the right mix of concern and calm, smiling at the older man.

"Hmmm..." the doctor replied, checking Duo's pulse and peering closely into his now-peaceful face. "That is understandable, yes. His pulse is good, there's no fever..." He turned to Heero. "If young Mr. Maxwell has any problem sleeping because of further nightmares, let the duty nurse know, Mr. Yui. I'll leave orders on his chart for a mild sleeping aid to be administered on request, just in case."

With a nod, he ushered the nurses out the door, closing it behind himself as he left.

Heero sighed and flashed Relena a small, thankful smile. Relena smiled back, then repeated the question Heero was hoping no one would return to.

"Okay, Heero. What the hell just happened?!"

Heero ran a hand through his messy hair. "Duo thinks Wufei is alive in some sort of alternate dimension, and that they were in contact last night as he dreamed." He turned slightly to glare at Quatre, remembering how Duo had reacted to the Arab pilot's earlier stubborn insistence that Wufei had to be dead. "And I believe him."

"Heero, that's... not possible," Relena said, shaking her head. "Alternate dimensions are science fiction! Surely you and Duo don't really..."

"Yes, we do," the Japanese teen said stubbornly. "Space colonies and feasible energy weapons were considered 'science fiction' not all that long ago. According to the doctors, there's one particular theory they accept regarding alternate dimensions. They explained it as being like a pair of trousers with an infinite number of legs. The massive amounts of energy released when that experimental weapon backfired blew a temporary hole in our leg, then pulled Wufei out. According to their theory, he would end up in a similar dimension to the one he left, so he'd be able to survive, and according to my theory, if some of that energy stayed with him it might act as a connection back here, making it plausible for him to be able to contact this dimension, and Duo, who he has strong ties to." Heero turned his glare on the blonde girl, daring her to argue.

"But--" she persisted.

"No... it has to be true," Quatre said, awe in his voice. "That wasn't Duo's pain! It felt like Wufei."

"'Felt like Wufei'?" Heero asked, blinking at the unexpected support.

"All the people I can feel are different," Quatre explained, still rubbing his chest. "It's easiest to express as flavours, I think. Trowa is like... melon, cool and refreshing. You're like strong peppermint with a metallic undertone. Duo is complicated, bitter chocolate and sweet orange and a little salt. Wufei is completely different to him -- warm spice and musk -- and that's what I was 'feeling' just now. And even though it was strong, it was tenuous, as if very far away or going through a filter."

"Which fits the 'alternate dimension' theory," Trowa put in quietly. Seeing Relena's confused expression, he explained further. "If you think of Duo as a receiver, rebroadcasting the 'signal' from Wufei, it makes sense that it would be dampened. Like the difference between sitting in the front row of the audience at the orchestra, and listening to the same musical piece on a stereo." He shrugged. "It really is the only explanation, unless you want to blame it on both Duo and Quatre hallucinating the same thing at the same time, without the benefit of mind-altering drugs. That seems a lot less likely to me than the Doctors' whole 'Trousers of Time' theory... no matter how confused we were the first time they tried to explain it."

Relena opened and closed her mouth a few times, speechless, then shook her head and threw up her hands in surrender. "All right... I'm outnumbered and out-argued, and... well, I want to believe it too, I suppose! So. We have reason to believe that Chang Wufei is in some alternate dimension, alive and, uh, at least semi-well and probably getting better."

"Well put," Trowa said dryly, going down on one knee to help her pick up her scattered documents.

"It's rather a vague reassurance, but since we're hardly going to get postcards I suppose it will have to do to take that particular load off all our minds," she muttered, sounding a little stressed. "And I really don't think it's a good idea for me to think about this too much until after I've had some time to let it sink in... slowly. So, gentlemen, if you think we can still concentrate, shall we finish hammering out these ideas -- quietly, without waking Duo? I have to have something to present as a middle-ground view in the council session tomorrow..."

* * * * *

Are you all right? Wufei thought urgently, feeling oddly off-balance in the shorter, heavier body. Karthan? Are you there?!

...Yes, came the tentative answer, and he closed his-- Karthan's-- the body's eyes, feeling immensely relieved.

Gods, I thought I'd knocked you out of your body when I slammed in!

I think you just knocked me further in, or something, Karthan replied, seemingly regaining his composure. You know, if you'd asked me yesterday what I thought the possible consequences of our link might be, this would not have been one of them. And may I say how very glad I am that you're not dead?

I very nearly was, popped out before Wufei could smother the thought, and he felt the dwarf's shock as the closeness between their minds let the rest of the information leak over, telling him exactly what Wufei had been about to do to himself. Cursing inwardly, he tried to close off his thoughts, with limited success. He could feel Karthan's solid, warm personality pressed close against his, like Duo's presence next to him in bed on a cold night when the memories bred nightmares and one or both of them needed company, and there was a flicker of surprise and embarrassment as that thought made it across too. Then a sympathetic wince at his embarrassment...

Sorry, he thought curtly, angry at himself at this sudden lack of control, breaching his mental privacy. (--the only sort of privacy there is sometimes in a close-knit clan or a small safehouse and I value mine so much--) He was uncomfortably aware of the few flickers of emotion and image that were trickling across to him from Karthan's thoughts; there was nothing clear yet but he was sure that would change, and the thought of listening to someone else's private thoughts was almost as bad as having someone else listen to his. I don't think I can go back to my body, but my link to Nataku is back now. I can go there and use our link to loan you--

No, Karthan interrupted firmly, nervous but determined. This is going to need everything you've got, not just brute strength, and I have no idea of how to use your other powers, like that armour and the extending punch.

Neither do I! It just happens! (--without thinking it feels good somehow but it scares me sometimes--)

And what if it doesn't 'just happen' for me? Besides which, I'm no better than average at fighting unarmed. If you stay in my body and use it to fight, I think we stand a better chance of survival. (--if I fail we die my fault--) We can try to keep our thoughts separate, and just... do our best to ignore whatever we can't hold in. (--seen some already in dreams -- honourable man trust him keep his secrets--)

All right, Wufei thought back slowly, convinced more by the 'leaked' thoughts than by what Karthan had said intentionally. I'll try. (--didn't happen when we were together in Nataku wonder why--)

You've got a point, that is strange. Maybe because we were both still linked to our own bodies? Like having an anchor.

(--DAMN IT--)

(--oh sorry--)

Try harder, Wufei requested grimly, and took a firm grip on the chains holding them to the wall.

He'd hoped that one quick yank would break the chains loose from their attachment point, leaving him/them with a short length hanging from each wrist, useful as an improvised weapon until he got his hands on something better; instead, the stone wall cracked and the ringbolt both chains were fastened to pulled out. Keeping one eye on the agitated group at the other end of the chamber, watching for the first signs that what he was doing had been noticed, he frowned as he picked it up, intending to twist the links free -- nearly dropped it as the frown felt strange, distracting him -- caught it again, fumbled as he tried to get the right grip with shorter, wider hands than he was used to, swore mentally--

Karthan's mental laughter brought him up short. Don't complain! I'd rather have a couple of fumbles getting loose than not be able to get loose at all!

Wufei grinned sheepishly, and nearly dropped the ringbolt again. Your beard tickles every time I move my-- your-- every time I change expression!

Not once you get used to it, it doesn't. (--hahaha--)

I have no intention of staying here long enough to get used to it! Taking a deep breath, resisting a hysterical urge to laugh as the damned beard tickled him again, he wrenched the ringbolt out of shape and pulled the chains loose. "It's a start," he muttered, and blinked as the voice came out strangely, Karthan's deeper pitch blended with his own quicker, sharper delivery.

"Uh... Karthan?" Jens said tentatively, staring at him wide-eyed. "How did you..."

Only Vaijon knew what I was planning, Karthan informed him quickly. The others were too far away to reach with a whisper and I didn't want to be overheard--

Understood. Wufei opened his mouth to explain, realised exactly how odd anything he could say would sound -- anything brief, anyway, and he didn't have time for anything detailed -- and closed it again. "Vaijon, you explain," he muttered, stretching up to reach the manacles on the blond knight-probationer's wrists. "I think I'm going to be busy-- Gods damn it, don't I have enough problems with being short at the best of times?!"

Hey, I'm tall by dwarven standards! Karthan shot back. (--used to get in trouble for growing out of my shirts and now he wishes I'd done it more?--)

Vaijon coughed, face colouring. "Here," he said, voice trembling with suppressed laughter, and slid down the wall into a crouch, bracing one leg for Wufei/Karthan to use as a step. He grunted slightly as the dwarf's not inconsiderable weight came down on his thigh, but held steady. Jens's explanation was delayed again for him to watch in fascination as Karthan's stubby fingers pried carefully at the thick iron cuffs, slowly bending the edges up far enough for him to get a secure grip and snap the lock without bruising Vaijon's arm. "Torframos," he swore softly, "it's just like watching my father peel the rind off a cheese!"

"Explain, Vaijon, before Jens has a heart attack," Wufei said pointedly, snapping the second lock and hopping down to the ground. "If I do it, it's going to sound like I'm speaking in the third person, and it'll be very confusing."

An alarmed shout came from behind Wufei/Karthan, and Vaijon's head snapped up to look, awe and laughter vanishing from his expression. "I'll explain, and find some way to get the others loose," he said, looking down at his burned, useless hand with a frustrated grimace. "You have something else to worry about..."

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