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!>>

AUTHORS: Christy (The Lone Cliffhangerer) and Mel (Tonto).
WARNINGS: Yaoi, angst, sap, language, some OOC, AU...
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: We don't own 'Gundam Wing' and 'Oath of Swords', or the characters and settings we've borrowed from them. The storyline and the characters we've made up, though, are allll ours!
FEEDBACK: Oh please do.
APOLOGY: Ahhhh, even if we apologised you wouldn't believe we meant it, would you?

Demon of Justice + Chapter 29
Please?

Duo glared at his knee. "Damn you, BEND already! Lousy piece of..." He choked off a gasp as pain shot through his leg, and stared at it, biting his lip, as the knee slowly started to work.

Doctor Modi stood at his side and grinned. "That is it, Mr. Maxwell... Keep going, yes..."

The braided teen broke into a sweat as he strained harder, determined that this time he'd manage the full 90-degree angle required for his release. "Almost there," he gasped raggedly, fists clenched into the mattress. "A little more... come on..."

Outside the room, Heero grinned as he heard Duo's voice through the closed door. "YES! The God of Death is so out of here! Heero! Get in here! Pack my bag, call Q, let's go!"

Heero hurried in as the doctor was helping his boyfriend straighten the leg again.

"Ah, good. Mr Yui, please keep Mr. Maxwell right here until I get back with the new brace. Once we get him into it, I'll sign the release forms. I will set up his therapy schedule, and send that to you in the mail." He turned a stern glance on Duo. "Please remember, young man, that brace is not to be removed for anything except bathing until your therapy begins. You have a long way to go, and if you try to go too fast, you will only set yourself back."

Duo nodded, waving at Heero to hurry up. "I know, Doc. I'll push my limits, but not push past them. Besides, my fleet of nursemaids won't let me mess this one up, right, Heero?"

The Japanese teen looked up from the duffle bag he was packing and nodded. "Right. We'll make sure you follow the doctor's orders..."

"Very good," the doctor replied, hurrying to the door. "I will return momentarily."

Heero looked at Duo as the doctor left and grinned. "...Precisely as far as you want to and no further," he muttered, just loud enough for the other teen to hear him. Because you'll never forgive me if I try to give you orders again, but if I let you do as you like without arguments you'll end up following the doctor's instructions... most of the time, anyway.

Hmm. I think I'm getting the hang of this!


----------

"Jeez, Heero, what's taking them so long?" Duo groused, sitting on a garden bench outside the hospital entrance. He'd refused to wait in the hospital room until Quatre and Trowa arrived to drive them home, preferring to sign out straight away and wait outside. "You did tell them 20 minutes, right?"

Heero sighed, hiding a small smirk. "Yes, Duo, I told Trowa you'd be ready to leave in approximately 20 minutes, and he said he would be here. Just be patient a little longer."

"Patient?" Duo yelped exaggeratedly. "I was patient the whole time I was stuck in that medical dungeon. Is it too much to ask to have my getaway driver arrive on time? That evil nurse, the one who kept trying to make me eat the hospital food instead of takeout, she was watching when we left! For all we know she's plotting to drag me back in there and force-feed me reconstituted powdered scrambled eggs on soggy toast!"

A midsize sedan pulled up in front of them and stopped. Trowa stepped out and walked over to the bench.

"Well, Tro, for a getaway driver, you're not very punctual. I think we'll have to get someone else for when we rob the bank," the braided boy complained teasingly, pulling himself to his feet and leaning on the crutches.

The tall teen led the way to the car and opened the front passenger door for Duo to get in, then moved to the back and opened the trunk. "I see he's pleased to be out of there," he said to Heero as the other boy tossed the duffle in.

"You have no idea," Heero replied. "I think he was getting ready to walk to the new house."

Trowa chuckled. "Come on, then. We'd better hurry before he decides to drive and leaves us here..."

The short ride to the house was surprisingly quiet. Duo watched out the window, occasionally commenting on various houses or gardens, and soon they had turned onto their street. As they pulled into the driveway, Duo groaned.

"Tro, Heero... please tell me I am not seeing a pink limo ahead of us in our driveway..."

"Okay, Duo," Trowa said, straight-faced. "You are not seeing a pink limo ahead of us in our driveway."

"That was so not funny, Tro," the braided boy sighed. Turning his head to look at Heero in the back seat, he frowned. "I wanted to get my first look at my room without 'Lena around, so if it's awful I can get my expression straight before I tell her 'thanks' and try to sound grateful. And I know I told her to ditch the pink car!"

"Duo," Heero said patiently, "It's only been two days. Give her some time. If somebody told you to ditch the black clothes, would it happen overnight?"

"True... But Pargan could have--"

"Duo, get out of the car before Quatre comes flying out here and drags you inside bodily," Trowa said, getting out himself and opening the passenger side door. Heero handed his boyfriend the crutches with a flourish, and they headed for the house, Duo muttering under his breath.

"Okay... happyface, even if it's pink..."

As they climbed onto the porch, the front door opened and Quatre and Relena stood back, giving Duo room to get through. The braided teen stopped short and blinked as he saw the large 'Welcome Home Duo' sign in the foyer.

"Hey, guys, you didn't have to--"

"Oh yes we did," Relena said, smiling brightly as she stepped forward to kiss his cheek. "It's not a real home-coming without a sign, cake and a party!"

As they passed his room to go into the living room, he noticed his door was firmly shut. "What, I don't get to see my room yet?"

"You want to see it now? Before the cake?" Quatre asked, eyes twinkling with mirth. At Duo's nod, he chuckled and opened the door; the braided teen hobbled in and stopped, shell-shocked.

Relena stepped up next to him and wrung her hands nervously. "I hope you like the Gothic style, Duo... if you don't, we can change it..."

Duo didn't even hear her as he took in his room. His eyes landed on the huge mahogany canopied bed, heavy blue curtains pulled back and tied to the bedposts. The matching bedside tables were next, then the desk and bookshelves... the papa-san chair and stool... Opposite the bed was the mahogany entertainment centre, doors open to show the large tv, disk player, stereo and game machine. Duo just stared at it all in shock.

Heero stepped behind his boyfriend and wrapped his arms around his waist. "What do you think? You have to admit, it's not pink..."

Duo broke out of his daze and laughed. "No, it's not pink!" He turned to Relena and grabbed her hand. "It's absolutely perfect, Pretty. You are terrific!"

Relena blushed. "Well, come on," she said, sounding embarrassed at his praise and leading them out of the room. "There's an icecream cake with your name on it melting all over the coffee table!"

"Which is why Trowa was late," Quatre informed him dryly. "He had to give us time to buy it and get back here, after all..."

"Icecream cake?!" Duo shot one last look back at his new furniture and sped up, heading for the lounge room. "Tro, pal, buddy, I take back all the mean things I said about your skills as a getaway driver. Your timing was perfect!"

* * * * *

Halfway through a sentence, about to insist that Uthmar explain exactly what Torframos was telling him, Cord choked on the words and backed up half a step. Elemental hradani stubbornness stopped him from retreating any further, but he couldn't bring himself to criticise the cultists who were backing away, or even the ones who'd thrown down their weapons and were running in blind panic. It'd be a lie if I said I didn't understand their reasons, after all, he thought numbly, staring up at the latest impossibility hanging above the battlefield. If that weird rope of lightning was enough to drive a man to drink, this is enough to make him climb into a keg an' never come out...

"Torframos?" Uthmar asked quietly. "If that is what Wufei finally did with all that energy, personally I would have preferred it if he'd just continued to hold it. Indefinitely."

"Wufei did that?" Cord said conversationally, not looking around. "You mean... th' lad used that lightning-rope to summon a dragon made out of white fire?"

"I think Wufei is a dragon made out of white fire, right now," the dwarf replied flatly. "Am I right?"

=*That's Wufei,*= Torframos confirmed grimly, deep voice seeming to come from thin air between them. =*At least... that's Wufei's spirit. He doesn't seem to be exactly physical at the moment.*=

"Seein' as how he came through that tree when he came flyin' over here, I should hope not," Cord muttered.

Still joined to Nataku by a wrist-thick rope of crackling white energy, the long snake-like body hovering above them twisted lazily in midair, fanged head dipping to look down. The armsmen of the Order of Torframos held their position, forming a tight defensive ring around the wagon Terrin and Naiya had been using as an archery platform, but the cultists who hadn't already run for it looked like they were beginning to reconsider their decision. A silent hiss, lips wrinkling back from rows of impressively sharp teeth, tipped the scales in favour of a high-speed retreat back towards the northeast.

----------

And for my next trick... Wufei thought almost giddily, coiling in mid-air again simply because he could. He hadn't meant to change form again after he'd separated from Karthan and returned to looking like himself, but somehow it had seemed natural to shift to the longer, sleeker form when he wanted to move quickly.

I suppose I'm more used to thinking of myself as a dragon than I realised, he chuckled to himself, twisting through a figure-eight. I'm a member of the Dragon Clan, after all... there was that stupid 'Solitary Dragon' code-name the elders used for me, though Master O and I were content with just 'oh-five'... Duo used to call me 'Dragon Chang' sometimes... I was even born in the Year of the Dragon!

Gods, this feels good!

A faint warning sparked in his mind at that thought, and his lazy movements slowed.

...it feels... good? That's all? He frowned slightly, staring after the retreating cultists without really paying attention. I may not have used this energy much, but I've done it enough to know that yes, it feels good, but... every other time, part of me has been sure it shouldn't feel good. As if it's something I shouldn't be doing... something that could go badly wrong at any moment... something I should fear...

Five minutes ago I was afraid of it! What happened to change that?! I can't control it, not really, and considering what it can do I should be afraid! I was horrified when I realised it was starting to reshape Karthan's body, but now accidentally turning into a dragon is fun?!


He coiled again, looking back at himself, at the semi-transparent scales and claws that were somehow so comfortable. Is it because I'm not in a physical body? It's certainly far easier to change like this... is it 'right' to use the power like this, but 'wrong' to use it to make physical changes? Will it go back to feeling wrong when I go into Nataku? I--

The thought cut off and his eyes widened as he remembered.

Nataku. I was going to go straight into Nataku and get everyone -- Karthan, Vaijon, Jens and the rest -- get them out! What the hell am I doing?!

----------

There was a sudden swirl of white fire, energy levels blazing higher for an instant, and the dragon -- Wufei -- was gone. Uthmar blinked, spots in front of his eyes from the brief glare, and twisted to look around. He could still feel the power, slightly muted now, but he couldn't tell where the dragon-demon had gone.

Is this how it feels for Torframos, when he knows something's going on but he can't tell what? he wondered, shooting quick glances up, sideways, behind him and back again. He could see the other members of the Order doing the same, and spotted Arwen jogging towards him, head swivelling as if he wanted to be able to look in all directions at once.

=*Yes, this is exactly how it feels,*= Torframos's voice grumbled in his head. =*Frustrating, isn't it?*=

I'm beginning to sympathise, he thought back wryly.

"I can't tell where he is, either," Arwen sighed, slinging his axe back over his shoulder as he came to a stop beside the dwarf and hradani. "He could be anywhere..."

"The lad's gone into Nataku," Cord said positively, eyes fixed on the looming metal demon.

"...and you know that because?" Uthmar asked, eyebrows lifting. He was tempted to make some comment about hradani ears acting as dowsing rods for magical energy, but bit it back; there was such a thing as taking humour too far, even if Gunnar would never admit it. Besides, hradani were said to be the one completely non-magical race in the world.

"Because he was linked to Nataku with that bloody great string made of light, and if he'd gone somewhere else we'd still be seeing it, wouldn't we?" One ear tipped backwards and twitched slightly, managing to convey a shrug without any other movement. "Unless there's a reason you Champion-types can think of why we wouldn't."

"He could have cut it..." Uthmar began, then winced, one hand coming up to rub at his eyes. "In which case he wouldn't be drawing all that power any more, and we wouldn't be able to feel him at all. Argh. You're right."

"I'd take it as a favour if you'd remind me to be smug about it later." Cord smirked half-heartedly. "I'm thinking I'm not in the right frame of mind to be taking proper advantage now."

"And I'm certainly not in the right frame of mind to appreciate you being smug at the moment, so later it is," the dwarf agreed with a sigh. Beside him, Arwen stifled a snicker behind one hand, then composed his face, apparently trying for an expression halfway between 'serious' and 'innocent'.

"Do we chase after the cultists now, or wait to see what Sir Wufei has in mind to do first?"

"Get ready to chase," Uthmar said without hesitation, throwing one last glance at Nataku as he turned to jog towards the watching armsmen. "There's still the rest of the group that went for water to worry about, and we've no way to tell what's happening to them unless we go and look; for all we know, Sir Wufei could be here in spirit because he doesn't have a body any more. If he hasn't done anything by the time we've seen to the wounded and are ready to go, we'll move out without him... but let's not get in his way if he decides to move with us, hmmm?"

Arwen shook his head emphatically, eyes a little wide, and Cord laughed. "Aye, well, I'm big enough to run down most of you wee types an' hardly notice, but I'm thinking Nataku would be the one to beat me!"

----------

Wufei 'stretched' himself into Nataku's systems, moving carefully. The first time he'd done that, he'd felt pushed to do it quickly, get it over with and get out, and he felt that way again; but he could also feel the immense amounts of energy flowing into and through him, far more than before, so he forced himself to take things slowly and cautiously. Plus, this time, instead of just existing inside the systems for a moment, pushing energy to mend the damage Nataku had taken, he was going to have to operate the Gundam from there. It had seemed simple enough when he'd decided to do it, but now that he was actually trying...

I really, really do not want to flex something the wrong way and accidentally wipe out half the operating system, he thought grimly. Really. It's not as if I can pull out the master disks and reload programs, after all -- I don't have time, and even if I did I don't think I can physically move anything in this state! For all I know, if I tried to touch the disks I could wipe them too! So... one system at a time, watching for any signs that I'm changing anything.

It doesn't help that I was right... it has gone back to feeling wrong!


The computer clock was an itch at the back of his mind, ticking away the milliseconds, but he had to keep listening to it; if he didn't, he'd discovered he would speed up without meaning to, only realising what he'd done when he 'looked' at the external camera feeds and saw that everything outside had slowed to a bare crawl. Without some sort of time reference to keep him grounded, it was so easy to go faster and faster, moving up to the same speeds Nataku's electrical systems operated at.

It might be natural for a computer to perform millions of operations in a second, but it's not natural for a human mind to do the same thing! Just because it seems like I can, doesn't mean it's a good idea!


He wished he could wipe sweat off his forehead. Maybe he didn't have a forehead to wipe, and if he'd had one there might not have been sweat on it, but he had a strange feeling that doing something normal and mundane right then would have been a good idea.

I will be incredibly relieved when I can get out of here and back into my own body.

If I can. I don't even know if it'll keep breathing without 'me' in it...

...and I have no time to worry about that now. Later... I'll find out what's happened, and deal with whatever it is, later. Next, propulsion systems... start with the legs. And pay attention to the clock!


* * * * *

"It's off! We got the chain off him!"

The relieved shout from the armsmen clustered around Wufei's still body brought Vaijon's head around, and he abandoned his position beside the pile of rubble blocking the chamber's entrance with only the briefest of second thoughts. I haven't heard or seen anything to indicate the cultists are trying to get back in, he rationalised, and Sir Wufei did engineer quite a substantial cave-in, after all; a guard there isn't really needed!

Having come up with a semi-reasonable excuse for deserting his self- assigned post, he strode over to the small group by the altar, moving as fast as he could without actually running. "Does it look like he's coming back?" he asked, stepping in between Jens and Karthan for a better look. "Now that the chain's off, perhaps he-- oh."

"I don't expect him to come back to his body before he's finished with whatever he's doing in Nataku," Karthan muttered, lowering Wufei's head carefully as another dwarf slid a folded cloak under it, "but I was hoping there'd be some sort of change when we got that damned thing clear. Don't know what I was expecting, really... maybe that he'd look a bit less... uh..."

"Dead?" Jens suggested sombrely. "He's breathin' all right, and his heart's still beatin', but he looks more like a corpse than half the real corpses I've seen!"

"It's the eyes," the second dwarf muttered uneasily. "He may be breathing, but he's not blinking..."

Vaijon looked away from the blank, slack face with an effort, blinking his own eyes hard. "Shouldn't we do something about that?" he suggested, rather surprised that his voice was steady. "It can't be good for him."

"Neither is the fact that these cuts won't stop bleeding," Karthan said sharply, wiping at trickles of blood with what looked like a piece of his own shirt; belatedly, Vaijon realised that the dwarf was bare-armed, sleeves torn raggedly off. "Is there anything we can use for bandages? Anything clean, I mean -- I don't trust anything those sadistic bastards have been wearing or using."

"I'll go look!" The knight-probationer spun on his heel and walked off, so focussed on getting away from Wufei's disturbing blank gaze that he wasn't thinking about his dignity any more.

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[cont]