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 8
Hero Worship

"Jarad," Wufei said clearly, never taking his eyes off the frozen lord in front of him, "to mother. Go."

There was a quiet sniffle from behind him. "B-b-but, Wufei..."

"Now."

"*sniff* Yes, sir."

A scuffling sound told Wufei that he was being obeyed, and he relaxed slightly, pulling the end of his staff back from Yithar's throat. "Hit child," he said scathingly. "Big man. Very brave."

Yithar sputtered furiously, fear swiftly giving way to outrage, and snatched out his sword. He's only got a stick, he thought, slashing at Wufei's unprotected side. I can get-- eh?!

Without bothering to block, his target jumped contemptuously over the stroke. Staggering off-balance, the half-elf had a split second to gape at the almost-hovering figure before a foot lashed out at his face.

----------

Halfway through his strike, Wufei's eyes widened as he realised exactly what could happen if he completed the kick using his new full strength.

Oh shit, he thought, visualising a very messy separation of Yithar's head and body. *Pull it pull it pull it--!

The kick connected; Yithar staggered backwards for several paces, then collapsed onto his back.

Have I killed him? Wufei wondered nervously, landing in a defensive crouch. I wouldn't regret it, but it'll cause trouble if I have... I could have broken his neck. I haven't had enough practice to accurately judge the strength of my blows, I don't know how hard I hit him--

There was a strangled squawk of outrage as Yithar pushed himself up onto one elbow, clutching at his face, and started yelling. Wufei sighed, felling a strange mix of relief and annoyed disappointment.

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"By face! By dose!" Yithar howled, blood running down his face from his broken nose. "He kicked be! Whad are you wadig for? Kill him! Kill that basdid! He sdruck be!"

Three of his armsmen charged as the fourth ran for his bow, still slung behind his saddle. A couple of Uthmar's men automatically started forwards too, but the dwarf Champion held up a hand to stop them.

"Wait and see," he said curtly. I hope I'm right... Torframos? Is this what you meant by 'events are developing'?

There was no answer, but Uthmar could feel his god watching intently through his eyes.

The small figure almost danced his way through Yithar's men, and it was immediately obvious that they were completely outclassed. Precisely aimed strikes from staff, fist or feet staggered and dazed them, and the man -- demon? -- they were fighting hadn't taken a single wound.

"Sir?" one of the lay-brothers asked tentatively.

"He's got a three-foot sword on his back, and he hasn't touched it," Uthmar said quietly. "He's not striking to kill, or even to do much damage... look at the way he moves! He's not putting even a fraction of his strength into those blows. Yet he doesn't seem to be playing with them, either... what's he doing?"

"Trying not to kill them," a new voice broke in, sounding exasperated but resigned.

Uthmar shot a quick glance sideways at the speaker. "Would you care to explain that comment, Goodman Royce?" he asked, amiably enough. Well, he doesn't look scared any more!

Royce snorted, never taking his eyes off the one-sided fight. "That lad's not evil, sir Champion, and neither is his big friend. They've no wish to harm anyone who doesn't deserve it. We've only known them a few days, but..."

"I am so looking forward to hearing the real story of those days," the dwarf said dryly. "Assuming, of course, that you now feel you can tell it?"

The village headman had the good manners to look mildly embarrassed. "Well... we didn't think you'd believe us, m'lord, and we had no wish to see our friend killed. Or to be killed ourselves, for harbouring demons."

"We would have listened," Uthmar said, gently reproving.

"Lord Yithar wouldn't've," Royce said grimly. "Anyway, m'lord... Wufei's stronger here than he is in his own world, and he's not used to it yet. At least, that's what Cord and I think; the lad's surprised himself a time or two. I think he's holding right back so he doesn't chance killing anyone by accident. Not what you'd expect from a murdering demon, now is it, sir?" he added pointedly.

The dwarf grinned despite himself. "I am paying attention, Goodman."

=*Then pay closer attention, my Champion,*= a deep voice said abruptly within his head. =*You're about to miss something very important.*=

Uthmar's head snapped up as his full attention jumped back to the fight, just in time for him to see Wufei despatch the last armsman with a careful blow to the back of his neck.

But the fight's over, he thought confusedly as the small demon turned warily towards him, not even breathing hard. I can't see Yithar getting back into the fight, and all three armsmen are--

=*Three?*= Torframos asked pointedly.

A sudden movement across the square drew Uthmar's eye as the fourth armsman stepped out from behind his horse, arrow already on his bowstring.

That reckless idiot! He'll hit innocents -- children-- He tried to lunge forwards, reaching for his axe, but discovered that he was held motionless, unable even to speak. Torframos!

=*Watch.*=

The armsman loosed the arrow, a sharp snapping noise echoing across the square as the bowstring slapped against his leather bracer. It was a hurried shot, and sloppy. It seemed to Uthmar that he had all the time in the world to watch its flight, to see that it would never even come close to the intended target; instead, it was heading straight for a cluster of villagers. Most were women and children.

TORFRAMOS!

=*Watch,*= the deep voice said implacably. =*This is important.*=

So are their lives! Let me go!

=*No. Watch.*=

The arrow vanished into the group with a dull -thwock-. A split second later, someone screamed.

Still held frozen, Uthmar saw every nuance of Wufei's reaction as the small demon spun to stare at the source of the scream. He saw the look of horror and outrage on the slightly alien features; he saw Lord Yithar get to his feet and run towards the seemingly oblivious demon, sword raised for a killing stroke; and he saw the armsman nock and draw another arrow.

* * * * *

Heero lay on top of the covers next to Duo's unconscious form, as close as he could get without actually touching him. His eyes were fixed on the braided boy's slack face, alert for any twitch or change.

Now that he'd admitted how he felt -- hell, now that he'd realised that what he felt for Duo was love -- it hurt. It hurt terribly, seeing Duo injured again and knowing that he was to blame. Before he'd known how he felt, he'd always been able to (eventually) dismiss any concern as concern for the mission, concern that a fellow Gundam pilot was incapacitated and that might affect the progress of the war... anything except concern for the pilot himself. Never concern for Duo. He wouldn't let it be concern for Duo. That would have meant that his missions, the focus of his life to date, were no longer the be-all and end-all of his existence, and that would have meant... what?

It would have meant that he could no longer run his life according to black and white standards of what must be done and what must not be permitted. He'd always had plenty of leeway concerning how and even if he would perform his missions, but always there was the overriding goal: to defeat OZ and keep the colonies safe. It was a framework he could live his life within, a set of standards and requirements he could judge all his actions by.

Loving Duo meant that there was now a very important aspect of his life that he couldn't keep within that framework. Quatre had made that quite clear.

It terrified him. For the first time in his life there was something he couldn't treat as a mission, or as support for his missions. He had nothing telling him what he should do about it.

And yet...

...the only way he could avoid that, return to his mission-oriented outlook, was if he shut Duo out again and refused to allow his feelings any place in his life. And that idea terrified him even more.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, reaching out towards Duo's bruised face but not quite daring to make contact. "I'm an idiot. I've been lying to myself almost from the first time I met you, lying to you, lying to everyone... trying to pretend you mean nothing to me. And when I couldn't pretend to myself any more I got mad at you, like it was your fault somehow that I couldn't stop thinking about you. It was never your fault, it was my fault, but I still acted like you were to blame... like it was something someone should be blamed for. I hurt you, and I knew what I was doing and I felt like a complete asshole and I still kept doing it... Duo, I'm so sorry! Even when I finally worked it all out, and I tried to start fixing it, I screwed up and this happened. I keep hurting you whether I mean to or not! I wouldn't blame you if you just gave up on me and l-left..." Heero swallowed hard, voice thickening. "I-if you decide you don't w-want me any more, I... I won't fight, but... please, I just want one more chance. I have to make it up to you somehow for the way I've been treating you. And... I w-want to find some way to prove to you that I really do l-love you."

He squeezed his eyes shut as a tear trickled down and soaked into the pillow, whispering the words over and over again. Somehow repetition seemed to make it easier to admit; perhaps he'd even be able to say it again after Duo came to...

"I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you..."

"I love you too, Hee-chan, but could you shut up right now? I'm tryin' to sleep here," a slurred voice informed him. Duo rolled over and burrowed his face into Heero's shoulder, draped one arm over Heero's ribs and relaxed with a half-yawn, half-sigh. Ten seconds later he was snoring very quietly.

Heero lay there in the dimness, holding himself perfectly still, for what seemed like a very long time.

* * * * *

This time the arrow wouldn't miss. Unable to intervene, seeing everything as if events had slowed to a crawl, Uthmar watched as it was loosed and noted almost calmly that it was on target to strike the small demon between the shoulderblades. If that wasn't enough to finish him -- demons were notoriously hard to kill, after all -- Lord Yithar would strike immediately afterwards.

Uthmar wasn't even sure who he wanted to win.

----------

There was a small figure huddled on the ground in the centre of the group of frantic villagers, red blood swiftly soaking into the cloth around the arrow shaft.

Dena's sister, Wufei thought, frozen in shock. Dena's youngest sister. She's younger even than Jarad -- can't be more than four or five years old--

The child's mother fell to her knees beside her, wailing, and Wufei turned to face the archer. Wisps of colour flicked into existence around him as he snarled, forming into the illusion of Nataku's armour, and he felt his link to the Gundam slam wide open.

The man was nearly thirty feet away, but Wufei never even considered that he might be out of reach; he simply lashed out with his right fist and a shadowy image of Nataku's dragon-arm shot forward, shattering the second arrow in flight and smashing the man backwards into a wall with a sickening thud.

A flicker of motion to one side, and he faced Lord Yithar. The half-elf was backpedalling frantically, trying to change directions now that his easy target had transformed into a terrifying monster; he desperately lifted his sword to parry as Wufei spun the staff over his head and struck, green energy sputtering from the end as the wood began to smoulder.

Yithar's sword clattered to the ground in two pieces as he landed on his butt in the dirt for the second time that day. A wisp of smoke curled up from the half-melted cut edges, and from the front of his tunic, too; his eyes slowly dropped to the neat line scorched into the embroidery, then rolled up into his head as he flopped backwards in a dead faint, a wet stain spreading across the front of his trousers.

Wufei shivered, heart pounding, as the power drained away fron him and the shadowy armour faded. There was no longer any doubt where his new strength and abilities came from; as he'd lashed out, he'd felt the slight scrape in the third joint of Nataku's arm that he'd never been able to bring back up to 100%. The staff in his hand felt hot, but not unbearably so; when he lifted it for a better look he saw that it was charred and smoking, and when he flexed it experimentally it broke into several pieces.

It couldn't take the energy, I suppose, he thought dazedly. Perhaps I should experiment with metal?

A tiny part of his mind noted that the sensitive spots mapping Nataku's damaged armour on his own skin had started to fade.

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[cont]