Author: Rally
Date: November 28, 2006

Disclaimer: As far as Mobile Suit Gundam Wing goes: Bandai has rights. Sunrise has rights. Sotsu Agency has rights. Rally does not have rights; she just likes to play with the characters. It's so much fun. As far as the world of Valdemar and Velgarth go: Mercedes Lackey has rights. DAW books have rights. Rally (again) does not have rights; she just loves dropping confused bishies in and waiting to see how long it'll take them to swim. (Again) it's just so much fun!

On A Pale Horse
-Death Has a Mossy Aftertaste-

Duo pulled his hand away from his middle and grimaced. His fingers were shiny with a slick red substance. Blood. It was goddamn blood from his goddamn stomach and there was enough of it to paint a wall. This job was supposed to have been easy. It was a cakewalk, a virtual baby mugging, and he had screwed it up somewhere along the line. Screwed it up? Yeah, okay, he'd slaughtered it.

An alarm sounded in the distance. It was too late to do the owners of the stolen property any good at all, but at least the stupid thing went off. Duo cast a look over his shoulder, calculating the distance between his current location and the residence behind him. He had cleared the blast zone but was at least half a mile off course and he was running late. His partner would blow the charges in exactly forty-five seconds. They were supposed to meet up two minutes after the explosion. Duo wasn't going to make it.

"Well, nothin' left to do but hold my guts in and run." The voice fell flat on his ears. That wasn't good. He hiked the rucksack higher on his shoulder, pressed a hand firmly on the bleeding wound and took off.

After a minute, he was on the ground, half-decayed leaves filling his mouth. The sound of the explosion had startled him into tripping over a stray branch. He spat out the mouthful of leaves and then crawled to his knees. That was all he could manage until he worked his way over to a tree and pulled himself back to his feet.

He was not going to die like this. He was not going to die because he was too careless to catch a stupid booby trap before he'd set it off. "Heero wouldn't have set it off." He took a step, his leg crumpled and he landed with a mouthful of the spongy dead fall again. "Wuffers would have dodged the damn bullet." This time it was a struggle to just force his knees under him. "Trowa would have balanced on the trip switch and still wouldn't have tripped the switch. And Quatre..." His hands slipped on the slick undergrowth and he got yet another shot of those tasty leaves. "Quatre would have pulled a Luke Skywalker. This is not me tripping your switch and all that."

He worked the rucksack around so he could fumble out its contents. The book was big. It was at least two feet by one foot by six or seven inches. And it was ugly. Its leather cover was so old it was beginning to crumble to reveal the wood underneath. Duo didn't know what the book was or what the geek freaks wanted with it, but he'd been given a job; snatch the book and hand it off to Heero. So, hand it off he would. He pulled it onto his stomach. When he didn't show up at the rendezvous point Heero would come looking. He was not the sort of person to fail a mission just because his partner was stupid enough to get himself shot.

"Nice job, Maxwell," he mumbled closing his eyes. He swallowed hard and then snickered. It was funny in a way. Shutting his eyes was the only thing he had the energy left to accomplish and it occurred to him that death has a mossy aftertaste. Mmmm... Moss...

"What are you giggling about?" Was that Heero? "You're late, baka."

Duo's eyes popped open. It was Heero. Duo's partner was looming over him with crossed arms and a frown. "Sorry. I ran into a problem."

"Get up. We're moving." Brusque as always.


"Explain," Heero demanded before he reached down and shoved the book to the side. "Shit, Duo." He tapped the hand Duo had pressed to his abdomen and replaced it with his own. "What happened?"

The icy pain Duo had ignored up until this point decided to branch out and tear rends through Duo's entire nerve system. "Damn!" he gasped. "That really hurts."

"How much blood have you lost?" His hands were in constant motion, checking the wound and then tearing fabric from his shirt to use as a bandage.

"About forty gallons. Ow."

"I told you..." The hands stopped momentarily. "You knew I didn't bring my first aid kit."

Oh, he liked that one. As if he'd done this on purpose. "Yeah. From here on out I'll try to schedule all my fatal wounds with your secretary."

"Shut up." He did. Duo had never heard that tone from Heero before. It was almost as if he were upset or something.

Oh, right. The mission. Right now, Duo was making Heero fail his mission. Well, we can't have that. "The book."


"The... The thing..." The pain was making it hard to focus, but Duo flailed his hand until it hit the book. "We came here for. It's here. Take it. Go." There he had his orders. He'd go finish the mission.

"I told you to shut up. I'm not leaving you here to die."

The object under Duo's hand jumped. Duo glanced over to the book and then his focus was permanently attached to the pool of blood around the book. It was growing smaller. Duo froze. The book was absorbing it. The book was feeding off of his lifeblood. It jumped again. Duo opened his mouth to scream and the world went black.