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 4
Happy Christmas (War is Over)

The village was in chaos.

First, they'd been attacked by masked raiders. The grain fields had been set alight to draw most of the men away; then the soldiers had ridden in, cut down the few remaining defenders, and snatched three teenage girls. When the hastily-assembled rescue party had marched off in pursuit, nobody had expected them to come back successful. Some hadn't expected them to come back at all. Still, they had returned, unhurt, bringing with them two of the kidnapped girls, the body of the third...

...and a demon.

A very large demon.

The three men with horses had ridden on ahead of the rest -- partly to warn the village what was coming, and partly because their mounts were determined not to stay anywhere near the metal monster -- so nobody ran away as it walked carefully into the village square at dawn and knelt to lower its burden to the ground. It was a close thing, though; mothers clutched children to them as they peered out windows at Naiya and Rami, stepping off the giant hand. They seemed all right...

Rami's mother wept and babbled in relief as she clutched her only child to her breast, dogs barked hysterically, Dena's mother and sisters started to keen as Derrin brought her body to their house, babies cried, old men waved hoes at the demon and shouted questions at the rescue party; the boldest children began to dart forward to touch the demon's feet, only to be shrilly scolded back by their mothers and clouted around the ear. Nobody could make sense of just what questions were being thrown around, much less make their answers heard; and over it all the demon towered, looking down calmly at the chaos around its feet.

----------

Wufei leaned back in his chair and watched the hysterical mob on his screen.

I don't think I'll come out just yet.

He yawned tiredly, and propped his head on one fist to wait.

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Finally, some semblance of order was imposed. Royce, the village headman, hadn't been making much headway on calming everyone down until Cord added a leather-lunged bellow to his efforts.

"SHUT UP!"

Dozens of pairs of eyes stared at him in the sudden silence.

"I'm thanking you," he said graciously. "Now, I think Royce was after having something to say?"

"*ahem* Thank you, Cord." Royce raised a grizzled eyebrow at the huge hradani and got an innocent look in response. "Now then! There's nothing to be gained from everyone yelling at once, so if everyone could just be quiet while Naiya and Rami tell what happened, I'd appreciate it. And I see you sneaking over there with that spear, Manten! I'll thank you not to start anything with the demon until we know what's going on!"

"It likely wouldn't do any damage," Cord commented as the teenager sulkily put the boarspear down. He exhibited his huge axe, now with the edge rather crushed and bent. "That lad's armour is tougher than anything I've ever forged or seen, that's for sure!"

Royce turned to the two girls. "Well?"

Rami blinked huge blue eyes, and her bottom lip trembled. "I-- I-- I was so scared!" Bawling, she threw herself into her mother's arms.

"I guess that leaves me to tell it," Naiya said dryly. She was starting to act almost sensible until she got back with her parents!

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[ Some time later... ]

Royce scratched his head. "Well... I think we can say for sure this demon's not one of Sharna's get."

Naiya nodded wearily from her perch on the demon's foot, where she'd settled down half way through her explanation. "The priest looked awfully surprised when he appeared, like he wasn't what was expected. And he did kill the priest!"

"Well, now, I've heard that all demons hate their summoners for binding them, so that's not such a good sign of its intentions; but leaving the two of you alive, that's not something one of old Demon Breath's creatures would do. Let alone destroying the altar and burning the canyon clean! No, that priest made a mistake somewhere. Still, the question is, what is it? What does it want? And what do we do about it?"

"All I know is, I'm sure he isn't evil," Naiya said, emphasising the pronoun pointedly. "And--"

There was a low grumbling sound, and the demon shifted its weight slightly. Naiya jumped down off its foot and backed away to stand by her father as the people who'd sat down around the square to listen stood up nervously.

"What's it doing?" Royce whispered as the demon settled down on one knee.

"I don't know! Maybe his feet are tired! Mine certainly are, and I wasn't walking all night," Naiya shot back under her breath.

The light in the demon's eyes died out, and then there was a soft 'pssht!' sound as a section of armour on the demon's torso swung downwards. Another piece of armour, just behind it, slid up into the chest--

--and a young man walked out to stand, arms folded, staring arrogantly down his nose at the gaping villagers.

* * * * *

-takatakatakatakataka-

'Why are you watching the clock? Trowa's going to be waking him up, not you.'

*Hn.

'Oh, was that another touch of jealousy?'

Why should I be jealous? There's nothing between us.

'And after that performance, I'm not surprised! If I were Duo, I'd never forgive you.'

Heero winced internally at that.

'That's a point for my side, I believe.'

The insistent little voice fell silent as Trowa rose wordlessly and went upstairs.

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"Duo? Duo, you have to wake up."

"Why bother? I give up." Duo's voice was dull, listless.

"Duo..."

There was the rustle of bedclothes as Duo rolled over, then a soft sigh from Trowa.

Outside in the dark corridor, Heero flinched. The defeat and hopelessness in Duo's voice... He waited for the little voice to speak up, to claim another point, but there was nothing but silence.

* * * * *

Wufei looked down at the throng below, open-mouthed faces staring up at him. Well... they aren't going to understand this, but I have to start somewhere!

Drawing in a deep breath, he hoped he didn't look -- or sound -- as nervous as he felt.

"My name is Wufei! And yours?"

He grimaced inwardly as he realised he'd spoken in Japanese, not Chinese; but he'd been speaking Japanese and English almost exclusively for two years, and habit is a wonderful thing.

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"Ore no namae wa Wufei! Omae wa?"[1]

The villagers exchanged blank looks and shrugs.

"Well, that last bit sounded like a question..." Royce muttered. He glanced briefly at Cord and Naiya, but the hradani just flicked their ears and shrugged; so he swallowed and stepped forwards. The new demon's unnaturally dark eyes were on him instantly.

"Ah... begging your pardon... sir," he bowed tentatively, "but we don't understand. Do you know this language?"

The demon frowned slightly, and said something in what sounded like a different language; then a third, surprisingly musical and sing-song.

"Sorry... sir. We don't understand that either." Royce turned and looked at Cord again. "I know you know a couple more languages; want to try?"

Cord shrugged. "None of 'em sound anything like that lad's tongue, but I'll try." Stepping forward, he spoke first in one of the hradani dialects, then something Royce thought was Sothoii; he recognised a few words when Cord tried Axeman.

The demon listened intently as the hradani spoke, but showed no signs of understanding. When it was clear nobody was going to try any more languages, he seemed to sigh, slumping slightly; then he jumped to the larger demon's knee and down to the ground.

Stepping forward to stand before Royce, he pointed at himself. "Wufei." Then at the giant behind him. "Nataku." Then at Royce, raising an inquiring (and arrogant) eyebrow.

"Well, I understood that," Royce muttered; then he pointed at himself. "Royce."

The demon smiled wryly and bowed, hands held out to the sides. "Royce. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu."[2]

"Er... pleased to meet you, I'm sure, Wufei. Welcome to our village."

* * * * *

When morning came, Heero hadn't slept, though he'd gone to his room to lie on the bed for a while. He was pretty sure Trowa hadn't either; after all, he'd been waking Duo up every hour...

He stalked downstairs, cold blank mask firmly in place, to check his laptop for the results of the searches he'd been running.

"Anything?" Trowa's calm voice came from the chair in front of the TV.

Has he been there watching the news all night?"Nothing relevant... there's some data on Wufei, but it's all old stuff. Speculation, mostly. A note to field commanders when his colony was destroyed, warning that he might be more likely to try a suicide attack... that sort of thing. You?"

Trowa shrugged slightly. "They now know the explosion was the result of a battle; there's been helicopter footage of the site and a surprisingly accurate estimate of OZ losses. Normal OZ procedure would be to keep reporters away from the area and issue a statement about 'colony aggression beaten back with minor casualties', but not this time. The aerial footage of the battlefield showed people moving around, but without organisation; I didn't see any signs of strong leadership."

Trowa's laptop beeped.

Heero watched intently as Trowa opened up a message and scanned it, then closed the laptop. "Mission?"

"No. The doctors want complete battle logs from all four Gundams, plus reports on the systems problems we experienced after the explosion."

"I'll get Wing's and Deathscythe's." Heero badly wanted to ask Trowa 'how is Duo', but stayed silent. It's none of my business.

'It could be. It should be, even if you only care about his fitness for missions.'

He ignored the voice, and went to get the data.

----------

Quatre woke up, feeling much better than he had the day before. Lying in bed, he tried to remember what had happened; it was all rather blurry after the first shattering realisation that Wufei was... gone.

Was I in shock? he thought, determinedly blinking away fresh tears. I suppose so... Sitting up, he glanced over at the other bed, and was surprised to see a knot of blankets with a long braid trailing out of it.

Duo? He was hurt... I suppose they put us in here together to keep an eye on us both. He considered calling out, but there was a definite feeling of pain and 'keep away' echoing in his heart, so he got out of bed as quietly as possible and made his way downstairs.

"Trowa? Heero?" he called quietly. There was no answer, but both their laptops were set up in the lounge room and the TV was on, sound turned down low.

His eye suddenly caught by the TV screen, he stared incredulously, then ran over and stabbed at the volume control.

<<Again, repeating our footage of the announcement just made by Lady Une of OZ...>>

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"Duo! Duo, wake up!" Quatre threw himself into the room and tugged at the roll of blankets. "Duo!!"

"What?" Bloodshot eyes peered at him out of a bruised face.

"Duo, the war's over! OZ has surrendered! Kushrenada committed suicide last night!"

"Oh. Yippee."

Quatre stopped, brought up short by Duo's reaction. "...Duo?"

"Go away, Quatre."

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Trowa and Heero walked back into the safe house to find Quatre sitting on the sofa, holding the remote control and watching TV. The sound was muted, but they seemed to be showing a looped film clip of Lady Une... crying?

"Quatre! How are you feeling?" Trowa stepped forwards, but stopped when his lover looked up with his 'boardroom face' on -- cold, professional, and without any sign of softness in it.

"I have two pieces of information for you, gentlemen," Quatre said coolly. "One; the war is over--"

"What?!"

"--and two; Duo doesn't care." He stood up and dropped the remote onto the coffee table. "What did I miss?"

Heero's mask cracked for just an instant as pain and doubt flashed over his face; then the cold unemotional front was back. "Nothing important," he said curtly, sitting down at his computer and handing two disks to Trowa. "Here; you send these."

As Trowa took the disks, he flicked a quick look at Heero, then upwards to where footsteps were making their way slowly down the corridor. "I'll explain later."

The muscles along Heero's jaw clenched, and he hit the keys with more than necessary force as he started a new search.

Quatre shot Trowa an 'Oh-you-just-bet-you're-gonna-explain' look, then turned and smiled brilliantly as Duo limped down the stairs. "I was just going to make breakfast; do you want anything in particular, Duo?"

"I'm not hungry," he said flatly.

Quatre stared wide-eyed at that, coming from Duo, and even Trowa turned around from sending the data to the doctors. Heero's typing didn't slow down, but he had to go back and delete several characters.

Duo glanced up at Quatre and Trowa with dull, uncaring eyes. "...Thanks anyway," he added as an afterthought. "I'll just make myself some coffee."

"O... okay, Duo," Quatre managed. "If you're sure..."

"Yeah." His eyes lingered briefly on the back of Heero's head; then he turned away and limped into the kitchen.

Trowa sent off the message and reached for the remote, avoiding Quatre's eyes; he flicked the mute button and brought the sound back up. Lady Une was unfolding a piece of paper, slow tears trickling down her cheeks.

<<--left this note,>> she said. <<"I intended to build a world fit for the soldiers of the future, but it seems they have reached out and taken it from my hands. I bear them no ill will; I wish them joy in the world they will create, and only wish I c-could stay to-- to see its b-birth--">>

Both laptops beeped.

"A mission?" Quatre asked, muting the TV again as Trowa read the message.

"Yes."

"I'll get Deathscythe ready," Duo said from the kitchen door.

"Duo, you're hardly in any shape to--" Quatre protested.

"The state you're in, you'd just get in the way," Heero snapped. "Trowa and I will handle it."

Duo's eyes, which had been showing a tiny spark of life, went flat and dead again. "Oh, that's right; I'm useless," he said. "Thanks for reminding me, Heero. I forgot for a moment." And he turned around and shuffled back into the kitchen.

Trowa shot a cold glare at Heero as he stood and picked up his computer. "Nice work, Yui. First you stab him, then you twist the knife. What are you going to do for an encore?"

Heero rose and stalked out.

As Trowa glared after his retreating back, a small hand grabbed the front of his turtleneck and dragged him down to face Quatre's furious blue gaze. "What the hell happened last night?!" the smaller boy snarled.

Trowa swallowed nervously and motioned 'quiet!', glancing towards the kitchen. Quatre's voice dropped to a hiss, but he didn't let go.

"Tell. Me. Now."

"Um... short version..." Trowa took a deep breath and talked fast. "Duo was concussed, thought he was dreaming, and kissed Heero last night when he went to wake him up; at least, I think so, since Heero told me to wake him up the next time, and he nearly kissed me thinking I was Heero. Then I made Heero go to wake him the next time -- I thought it would force him to face how Duo feels about him and vice versa -- and I don't know what happened, but something went badly wrong. Duo came downstairs after him and yelled at him for 'trashing him in his sleep', and then just... gave up." Trowa's voice dropped even further. "Quatre, I'm worried! I've never seen him so... defeated. Could you look after him while we're gone? We shouldn't be long, this mission's just a quick infiltration and data retrieval job."

Quatre looked thoughtful, his hand relaxing its grip slightly; then he looked up seriously into Trowa's eyes. "So... Duo's best friend is missing, possibly dead, and now Heero's done something that makes him feel completely worthless and unwanted. That about it?"

Trowa nodded. "He feels guilty about not warning Wufei in time, too. Damn it, Quatre, this is at least partly my fault and I don't know what to do!"

Quatre flattened his hand against Trowa's chest and rubbed gently, comforting. "Well, Heero's broken him, and somebody's got to fix it." He looked away from Trowa's eyes, seemingly fascinated by his own hand drawing slow circles. "If Heero won't... Wufei could have helped, he was closest to Duo and might have..." He blushed slightly. "If Heero keeps on being an asshole, we may have to do something to, uh, show Duo that someone cares... someone does want him. Um... are you okay with that?"

Trowa smiled in relief, reaching out to cup Quatre's cheek gently. "Yeah. We can do that."

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[cont]