AUTHORS: Mel & Christy (and their muses)
WARNINGS: Language? Violence! 'They Might Be Giants' songs! Collateral Damage!
PAIRINGS: 1x2, 3x4, 5x?
DISCLAIMER: They still aren't ours. We tried theft, but the security systems were too good. Wufei was slightly injured during the making of this fic, and Duo got a concussion, but they got better. (And Trowa just brushed his bangs back into order.) No money is being made from this fic, and if there was we'd just spend it on more tapes, so that's OK.

Demon of Justice + Chapter 3
Daddy, He Followed Me Home

Heero was arguing with himself. One of the psychology textbooks he'd read as part of his studies had said this wasn't necessarily a bad thing... but he was losing.

That couldn't be good.

...

'Oh yes, the multipurpose statement. Next it'll be "hn".'

Shut up.

'Not until you admit I'm right.'

...

'There it is again! Are we going to stand here all night?'

...

'You fantasise about his hair.'

I do NOT!

'You nearly had a heart attack the first time you saw him with his hair loose... freshly washed... clinging to his--'

Shut. Up. Now.

'Or what? "Omae o Korosu"? That'd be a bit tricky.'

@)#!%)#@!

'You've still got the same reaction to the sight. You've seen him like that what, four times?'

Five...

'You keep track! How sweet!'

Heero was positive that part of his mind was quietly laughing at him.

----------

Downstairs, Trowa checked his watch.

Heh... fifteen minutes and counting.

----------

'You know, it's pretty surprising that you've seen Duo with his hair down at all. He keeps that very... private. Personal.'

It's unavoidable when we room together.

'You think so? Usually he combs it out wet and braids it in the bathroom, no matter WHO'S banging on the door to get in.'

...

'Think about it. Have any of the others seen it loose?'

How would I know?!

'Wufei's been alone with him on long-term missions a couple of times -- ooh, was that a twinge of jealousy?'

NO!!!

'Just checking -- anyway, you know he's ranted about "Maxwell's insufferable habit of locking himself in the bathroom EVERY morning, no matter WHAT else is going on, until that damn BRAID of his is PERFECT--" ...remember?'

...

'And if you've been rooming with him for most of two years, and you've only seen his hair down five times, do you honestly think he couldn't have avoided it?'

...

'You're losing this argument, Heero. You do care.'

Shut up.

'This argument itself is proof.'

...huh?!

'I quoted Wufei.'

So?!

'And you're so concerned about Duo, and the fact that you might have feelings for him, that you didn't -- even for a heartbeat -- think about what happened to Wufei today.'

Heero's eyes widened and his fists clenched tighter as he realised... that annoying little part of his mind was right.

'...I rest my case.'

----------

Duo jerked abruptly awake, shaken out of sleep by a rough hand on his shoulder.

"Wake up!"

Huh? Heero sounds... angry? What's going on?

Startled violet eyes met furious blue for an instant, before Heero spun on his heel and stalked out of the room. Staring up at the ceiling, Duo blinked, trying to clear his thoughts.

What the HELL did I do to piss him off NOW?!

----------

Trowa glanced at his watch as Heero came down the stairs. Nearly twenty minutes... hm. Looks like something went badly wrong. He watched from under his bangs, maintaining the illusion that he was focussed on the TV, as Heero (in full Perfect Soldier Mode) stalked across to his chair and sat down.

The expected tapping of keys did not, however, start. One of Trowa's eyebrows lifted a millimetre. Heero was just sitting at the table, staring through his computer screen, stone-faced.

The sound of a door opening came from upstairs.

Trowa tracked the sound of unsteady footsteps as they made their way down the hall. Glancing back at Heero, he saw his hands clench into fists on the table; then he looked back at the stairs just in time to see Duo half-stagger, half-fall into view, clutching at the banister for support.

"Damn it Heero, who the fuck stuck a stick up your ass this time?!" Duo nearly spat the words at Heero, eyes blazing. "If that's the way you're gonna wake me up, I'd rather take the chance of dying in my sleep! At least it would be less painful! If you have a problem with me, say so. If you've got a problem with something else, then don't take it out on me, because I have enough things to worry about without wondering if you're gonna trash me in my sleep!"

Duo's mouth moved as if he wanted to say more, but then he pressed his lips together, glaring at the back of Heero's head. Trowa glanced across to see how the Japanese pilot was taking this, and wasn't particularly surprised to see that he hadn't reacted outwardly... other than to clench his fists even tighter.

A sigh came from the direction of the stairs, and then Duo's voice -- still angry, but quieter. "Fine."

Then there was a slithering sound, a thud, and a loud hiss of pain. Trowa and Heero both spun around to see Duo on his hands and knees on the stairs, forehead pressed to one step, teeth clenched and tears of pain in his eyes. "Shit...!" he gasped quietly, then pushed himself up, grabbed for the banister and started trying to pull himself to his feet.

Heero had barely begun to stand when Trowa stalked past, shooting him an icy glare; as he dropped back into his seat, eyes wide in surprise, the taller boy was already at Duo's side helping him up.

"Daijoubu?"

"Yeah, yeah, daijoubu damnit. Just slipped and banged my knee, is all." Duo's voice was a shock, suddenly tired and defeated; Trowa had never heard him sound quite so depressed.

"Painkillers worn off?"

"You could say that."

"Right. Come on."

As gently as he could, Trowa got Duo back into bed -- miraculously not waking Quatre -- fed him painkillers, and checked his knee.

"It's no worse than it was."

"Great; that's a bright spot in my day. Situation Normal, All Fucked Up," Duo sighed. "What the hell did I do this time, man? I mean, I haven't pulled any tricks for at least a week, and then I just short-sheeted his bed; it's not like I did anything to Wing."

Trowa stayed silent, uncomfortably. Duo's voice was beginning to slur as the strong painkillers pulled him back into sleep.

"All I wanna do is keep everyone cheerful, keep us all together... and I want Heero to like me. I can't even get that right. I didn't warn Wufei in time, and now this..." Duo's eyes drifted shut. "Am I really... that much trouble... Trowa?"

"No."

Trowa wasn't sure whether Duo had heard him or not. He stayed a few minutes longer, studying the sleeping face; there was a slight unhappy frown there, and both hands were clutching the braid like a lifeline.

Well, that idea backfired miserably, he thought glumly. This is my fault -- and I don't know if I can fix it...

----------

Heero turned his head slightly as he heard Trowa coming down the stairs, but didn't look around; he just listened as the footsteps crossed the floor towards the TV, and then paused. When Trowa spoke, his voice was colder than Heero had ever heard it... except once, when Quatre had been injured.

"I'll wake him up from now on."

* * * * *

Piloting Nataku through a maze of interconnecting canyons, following a trail of hoofprints he hoped had been left by the robed man's entourage on their way in, Wufei glanced briefly at the two girls riding in Nataku's palm. At least the blonde onna's got a grip on herself now. And the... taller one... is taking all this well.

The 'taller onna', as he insisted on thinking of her, had mid-brown hair that had been braided, then coiled around her head and into a bun by her neck. Perhaps he could term her the 'brunette onna'.

It was definitely easier than thinking of her as 'the one that isn't human'.

He'd taken a good look earlier, when he first picked them up, and it was definite. The blonde girl certainly looked human... actually, she reminded him rather of Quatre in drag, from that disastrous mission where three of the Gundam pilots had had to enrol at an all-girls school. Wufei quickly dragged his thoughts away from the memory of THAT indignity; Heero and Trowa had insisted that neither of them could 'pass', the cowards. In any case, whatever the blonde looked like, the brunette was entirely too tall, especially for a human from what seemed to be a medieval-level society; there was something odd about the bone structure in her face; and there was the small matter of...

...the ears.

His eyes kept wandering back to those ears.

Long.

Pointed.

Furry...

Wufei realised that he'd nearly missed a turn, and dragged his attention back to the tracks.

----------

Naiya leaned forwards between two of the demon's fingers, peering into the dimness. "He must have great night vision; I can't see a thing!" She leaned further, craning her neck to look straight down. "Well, not quite... I can see a little, where the moonlight falls... but certainly not enough to backtrack horses, and that's what he seems to be doing. And he's so fast!"

From behind her, Rami spoke up in a worried voice. "Please be careful, Naiya! You'll fall!"

"Don't worry, I'm holding on. And he doesn't have his fingers that far apart, anyway. He's being careful not to drop us... hm! I wonder... if I did fall, would he catch me?"

"Don't try to find out!"

Naiya chuckled.

"Oooh... Naiya! You're impossible!" Rami pouted half-heartedly, trying not to smile.

"I'm a hradani; I'm supposed to be impossible."

"I thought that saying ended with 'stubborn'?"

"That, too," her companion said cheerfully.

"Um... why have you been calling the demon 'he'?"

Naiya looked surprised. "Am I...? Hm! I don't know... it just sounds right. He certainly seems too much like a person to be an 'it'."

"I guess so..." Rami said doubtfully, looking up at the smooth metal face above them. She shivered as greenish-white glowing eyes looked directly at her for a moment, then returned to scanning the path ahead.

----------

Wufei had more things to worry about than furry ears. For one thing, he wasn't entirely sure he could trust his perceptions.

While the two girls looted their former captors' baggage, he'd taken the time to do a little first-aid. The battle with OZ, and then the rough trip here, had resulted in quite a few bruises where he'd been flung against his seat harness; he was used to that, and just ignored them. The injuries from when he'd been pelted with the contents of his toolbox were almost all superficial, though he'd cleaned several oozing scrapes and bandaged one rather nasty punture on his thigh. But when he'd stripped off his tank top to check the damage he was sure he'd felt--

--flying along the corridor alone, no Gundam, no Nataku, just him alone feeling the ache of wounds across his chest and back as the energy poured painlessly through his body--

--there was nothing.

Wufei frowned, rubbing the heel of one hand across his chest. That had been bad enough -- though he had to admit, given what had been happening to him at the time, a minor physical hallucination was... understandable.

But what had happened afterwards...

After he'd picked up the two girls in Nataku's hand, he'd begun to move forwards, but had found himself transfixed by the sight of the bloodstained altar stone. Looking at it, he could feel the fine hairs on the back of his neck starting to prickle. It was the same feeling he'd had as a child, gasping into wakefulness after a nightmare, when he couldn't see anything in his room but there was a horrible weight on his chest and a presence and he knew--

It was wrong.

It shouldn't exist.

He hated it.

And without a second thought, he'd brought Nataku's foot down on top of the stone with her full weight behind it, shattering it into fragments.

He shuddered, wrenching his mind away from the memory and focussing determinedly on the tracks he was following. He didn't want-- he wasn't ready to think about what he'd done next... Nataku's fire burning the canyon until there was nothing left but greasy smears across blackened stone, exulting in the pointless destruction--

Stop it!

Furry ears, he discovered, were becoming a welcome distraction.

* * * * *

"Can't you go any faster?!"

"We are tracking by torchlight, Gwent! If we go any faster we'll lose the trail. Besides, we've only three horses and twenty men. D'you really want to ride ahead and leave all the others behind?"

"We have to go faster! That's my daughter they took!"

"It's after being my own daughter too, man, and Derrin's as well," a deep voice cut in. "We'll not do the girls any good if we get there one by one or not at all."

A thin, balding man -- Gwent -- glared at the huge hradani walking by his horse. "And what if we get there too late, Cord?"

"Then I'm thinking we'll be sending those as killed them after our girls so they can be apologising for it in person," Cord rumbled, a dangerous glint in his eye. "But we'll get there later still if we lose the trail, little man, so just you be sitting quiet and let Terrin be doing his job.

--thoom--

The horses jibbed, snorting nervously as they felt the faint tremor in the earth.

"What was that?"

--thoom--

"There it is again!" Gwent yelped, shortening the reins as his horse -- more used to pulling a wagon than being ridden -- skittered sideways. "What is it? Where's it coming from?"

--thoom--

"I'm not certain," Terrin said, pressing his palms to the trail as he listened intently. "It's too faint to be sure, but--"

--thoom--

"--I think it's getting closer... coming from up ahead."

--thoom--

"Well what is it?!"

"How in Krahana's name should I know?!"

--thoom--

"You're the hunter here!"

"And I never hunted anything that walked that heavily!"

--thoom--

There was a horrified pause.

--thoom--

"You're saying that's after being footsteps, then?" Cord asked calmly.

"Can you think of anything else it could be?"

--thoom--

All the men looked at each other, clutching their weapons tightly.

"I can't."

--thooom--

"I wish I could!"

--thooom--

"I'm thinking maybe we should be putting the torches out."

"I think we should be running!"

--thooom--

Terrin shook his head, still crouched feeling the vibrations. "It's much closer already. We can't outrun it."

--thooom--

After a hurried discussion, the villagers spread out on either side of the trail in a hasty ambush. Some way ahead of the rest, Cord and Terrin crouched behind a screen of bushes and waited. The plan was simple; when whatever-it-was reached the midpoint of the ambush, the men who'd brought bows would loose at it. Cord and Terrin would come in behind it with axe and spear, and then the others would attack.

"All this is supposing yon beastie's a threat," Cord murmured softly to his companion, reaching back to make sure his forgehammer was securely looped to the back of his belt; he doubted it would be of any use, but it was a comfort. "We'll look a right pack of noddies if it's not."

"I promise to yell if I recognise it as harmless, how's that?" Terrin whispered. "Though I hope you'll forgive me if I'm a tad suspicious, since it's coming from the same direction that Phrobus-damned wizard went in."

"Aye, there's sense in that," Cord chuckled, then sobered. The heavy footsteps were strong enough to shake his whole body now, and he could hear the frightened whinnies of the horses from where they'd been tethered some way down the trail.

Surely we should be seeing some sign of it by now--

Something glinted in the moonlight above the trees, and he stiffened.

"Is that-- how tall IS this thing?" Terrin whispered, shocked.

Then it stepped into view.

Cord stared, mouth open. Amazingly enough, there were no cries of fear from the other villagers behind him; he supposed, with the corner of his mind not occupied with watching the immense figure striding towards him, that they were all too shocked to scream. Beside him, Terrin was alternately blessing himself and blaspheming by the name of every god he could think of.

"A demon," Cord whispered. "Phrobus damn them to the deepest hells, those whoresons were after summoning a demon."

Terrin snapped his mouth shut, cutting his babble short as Cord's hand gripped his shoulder tightly.

"If we're after having a demon here," the hradani murmured into his ear, "I'm thinking we've no chance to save any of our girls at all, at all. That being so, I'm minded to start the payback with this big bastard. Are you with me?"

"Are you insane?!" Terrin hissed. "We can't kill that!" He twisted around, tearing his eyes away from the demon to glare at Cord, and was brought up short by what he saw in the moonlight. The hradani's face was almost calm, but something hot and hating glittered in his eyes.

When he spoke, though, his voice showed nothing of it. "You've chopped bigger trees than that lad's legs, man. Hamstringing should bring it down closer to our level, don't you think?"

"But--"

"And seeing as how it's headed straight down the trail to home, we'd best try."

Terrin closed his mouth, swallowed, and nodded.

----------

Wufei leaned closer to his screen, frowning as he tried to make out the tracks. The trail he was following now was broad and well-defined, almost a road; the tracks had joined it shortly after he'd left the maze of canyons and moved into forested terrain. Still, there were enough minor paths joining and crossing it -- animal trails? -- that he still needed to keep checking to make sure the tracks didn't swing off, and the false colour image enhancement mode he'd switched the screen to was giving him a headache.

He straightened suddenly, blinking. Did something just move in the trees? Reflexively, he switched to infrared.

Human silhouettes flashed into view on the edges of the trail, sidling out of cover, each raising one arm towards him--

Bows?! An ambush!

----------

Some of the other villagers must have come to the same conclusion as Cord, for several bowstrings twanged as he and Terrin sprang out of hiding. Racing forwards as the giant feet paused, he felt the Rage sputtering at the back of his mind and let it loose, pouring its strength into his arms as he howled a wordless battlecry and swung at what he hoped was a vulnerable spot.

"NO NO NO DON'T SHOOT DON'T SHOOT LEAVE HIM ALONE!"

Naiya?!

Then his axe hit the back of the demon's leg with a tremendous <<CLANG!>>, and he swore and dropped it, fingers tingling.

Armour? This thing's wearing armour?!

The smith in him immediately started calculating how to make armour that large.

The father in him had other concerns. "Naiya?! Naiya, girl, are you there?" He looked around frantically.

"Father?! Up here!"

He looked up, puzzled, then circled the demon's feet as he heard another, more timid voice join his daughter's.

"Um... please don't shoot again! You nearly hit us... is my papa there too?"

"I'm here, baby!" Gwent yelled, running forward waving his bow. "Are you hurt?!"

"No--"

"Dena, are you there?!" Derrin cried out. "Dena?!"

No reply.

"Dena?"

Naiya's voice came again, hesitantly. "I'm... I'm sorry, Derrin, but..."

Cord peered upwards, barely registering that Terrin had moved to put a comforting arm around his twin's shoulders as he sagged.

The giant demon stood calmly, glowing green-white eyes regarding the swirl of tiny mortals around its feet without visible concern. One hand was cupped against its chest, cradling something; the other was curved around it protectively. Something pale moved behind the fingers, then a hand pushed out between them and waved.

"Naiya... what in the name of all of Fiendark's furies are you doing up there?"

"It was his idea!" she called down, sounding rather defensive. "Hold on; I'll see if I can get him to put us down."

'His? Him?' Cord mouthed silently. More villagers crept out of hiding as nothing horrible happened to the others.

"Hello? Excuse me? Sir Demon?"

'Sir?!'

Naiya's head was suddenly visible above the demon's hands; she seemed to be standing up. She waved one hand at the glowing eyes, then knocked on the metal breastplate. "Hello?"

The demon's head shifted slightly to look at her.

"Could you put us down?" she called, pointing at the ground with exaggerated motions. "Down? Please?"

Its right hand uncurled from its shielding position, revealing Rami's face peeking over the edge of the other hand; then one finger pushed with the utmost delicacy on Naiya's shoulder until she sat down.

The villagers backed up quickly to give the demon room as it carefully knelt and lowered its burden to the ground. As they watched, one of the bowmen reached up and clapped a hand on Cord's shoulder.

"Well, Naiya's always been one to have strange pets follow her home," he said, with slightly forced cheer. "This one's just a bit big..."

Cord flattened his ears as he glared half-heartedly at the man. "That's not after being funny at all, at all."

* * * * *

Heero sat at his laptop, typing doggedly away in his search through OZ's computers for info about Wufei. He was just waiting for that little voice at the back of his head to dig at him again.

He wasn't disappointed.

'Are you happy now?'

-takatakatakatakataka-

'Did you prove something there?'

-takatakatakatakataka-

'Are you proud of hurting him?'

[part 2] [part 4] [back to Mel and Christy's fic]