I'm not sure how I wind up on my back, Wufei's hands gripping me tightly, and his mouth sealed over mine, but I'm pretty fucking sure it's not my fault. All I did was shake his shoulder, looming over him as creepily as I can, and next thing I know he's yanking me down.
Oh, I push him away, but he leaps out from the covers and tackles me to the ground.
"Fucking shit, man, get off of me!" I holler, trying to swing at his face. He pins my arm to the ground, though, and resumes trying to suffocate me with his tongue.
The banging of wood against plaster doesn't distract him, but apparently lifting him into the air works. Tossing him across the room does, too. Trowa's the one looming over me now, his arms outstretched and his face as blank as it ever is.
Panting, I push myself up off the floor, warily watching Wufei do the same. Apparently, meeting Wufei's eyes isn't the smartest thing to do, because as his gaze locks with mine, he pounces. Again. And, once again, I'm on my back, choking. And, once again, Trowa's pulling him off of me, tossing him to the side.
"Get back!" Trowa snaps at me, and I scramble behind his legs, barely able to avoid the hand reaching for me. Trowa kicks out, catching Wufei in the chest and sending him back to 'his' side of the room.
It doesn't seem to make a difference, though, as he only keeps trying. After the third kick, even I'm starting to feel sorry for the guy. His nose's bleeding heavily from where Trowa's steel-toe boot met it straight on, yet his eyes are still fixed on me.
I close my eyes, pain blossoming in my temples as I'm pushing my hands against my eyes hard. When I open them again, Heero's standing beside Trowa, both of them in front of me and in Wufei's way. But he's not, well, not trying to jump me again.
"Wh… what happened?" he slurs, slumping against the wall behind him. I try to level my breathing, scooting a little further away from the trio.
"What do you last remember?" Heero snaps out, his words as sharp as his gaze. Wufei's only shows confusion, swaying side to side absently.
"…Duo? I-I can't remember—"
"Focus." Heero's voice softens slightly, his legs shifting his weight more towards Trowa. "What do you remember?"
"I was asleep, then… Duo woke me up? It gets blurry after that."
"You were attempting to seduce Duo rather violently," Heero clarifies for the man, and Wufei's cheeks go rather pasty.
"That's normally referred to as rape," Trowa corrects quietly, and Heero shrugs.
"I-I what?" Wufei stumbles over his words, his eyes darting around. They slide towards me, but just keep going by. "Is he okay?"
"He's fine now," Heero assures blandly, his eyes staying focused on the man in front of him. Trowa's dart toward me, but I don't hold his gaze for long. My focus jumps from Heero to Wufei to Trowa, then rinse and repeat. My breath is starting to even out, my hands loosening their grip against my jeans. "Focus on me."
Wufei stops searching around the room, his face turning once again towards our boss.
"Go to the base, I'm going to go help Duo now," Heero suggests, and Wufei nods, his legs trembling as he pushes himself off the floor. As soon as he leaves, Heero turns and stares me in the eye.
It's not a question, and I don't have an answer. I blink tiredly, my head pounding angrily and the room starting to swim.
"M'head… 'urts," I slur, slumping sideways. As the adrenaline fades, the headache grows worse, but two arms wrap around my chest, pulling me upright.
"What's going on?" I hear Trowa ask, his voice hazy. Heero's voice is distant, too far for me to understand.
"Lift his feet – shock – can't see him?"
"No – unclear – information."
"—Missing for days, Yuy, that's not a little problem!"
"What concern is it to you?" Heero asks bluntly, and it's at this point that I notice my head's not hurting as much. I try to talk, but start coughing instead.
"Here, drink this." Heero's shoving a cup into my hand, and I take a sip, the lukewarm water burning against the rough edges of my throat.
"I take it that you did your… thing again, to make Wufei unable to perceive you?" Heero asks me, and I nod, rubbing at my temple.
"Yet we are able to still know you are presently with us."
"Yeah. S'not an all-or-nothin' thing," I admit, scooting myself up into a sitting position. Trowa's quick to slide behind me, letting me lean against him as Heero grills me. I can feel his hand sliding across my neck, moving my braid out from between us. It drops in front of me, pooling in my lap. My hands quickly seize it, playing with the tail nervously.
Wow, Heero, you don't ask for much, do you?
"Well, s'like this. 'Fore, I made y'not see me. But it's all of you that time. This time, s'just the Wu I'm playing hooky with. Y'know I'm here, 'cause I'm lettin' ya. It takes less brain t'do it, an' I didn't really mean to… It's defensive."
"His assault against you triggered a defense mechanism, which manifested in your ability to make him unable to locate you by sight?"
"Or sound, or smell, or touch," I correct him. "I could go up to him and poke him in the eye, and all he'd know is his eye suddenly hurts. He'd not know it was me, though."
"Do you know the cause behind Chang's sudden assault?"
"Nu-uh." I reply, shaking my head lightly. "I was just gonna scare the shit outta him, an' next thin' I know, he's tryin' t'jump my bones."
"If neither of you were the instigator of this phenomenon, it's to be investigated further. How long can you keep yourself invisible to Chang?"
"I'ma have to wait at least another day," I sigh. "I wasn' ready t'do it 'gain so soon. S'why my head hurts so bad."
"Please reverse this effect as soon as you feasibly can. I would like to observe the reaction, and will put in place the necessary precautions if whatever is causing him to attack you has not faded."
"Got it," I salute sloppily, and Heero turns from me, leaving the room swiftly. I let my head fall back against Trowa's shoulder, groaning tiredly.
"Fuck this shit," I mutter bitterly. "why is it always me?"
"You're just irresistible," Trowa murmurs, running his hands up my arms. I shiver, pressing into his chest. Moist lips press against my exposed neck as his hands slide across my chest.
"Mmm." I can't stop the moan from escaping my lips, the air parting them slightly as I melt under his attention. His lips turn up in a smirk before his teeth join them in marking my skin.
"Oooh, keep doing that," I plea, shifting to spread my legs out in front of me. My hands are curling into fists, my jeans keeping me grounded and focused on the marvelous thing he's doing to my neck. I also track Trowa's hands making their way down my chest, dancing across my sides and stomach, before stretching down to cover my hands as well.
Unable to resist anymore, I twist around in his hold, pressing my lips against his firmly, splaying my fingers across his chest as I push him down. I take in his face, flushed and alive, his lips parted to draw in rapid breaths and his eyes fixed on mine, mesmerizing me. I lean down, gently nipping his lower lip and drawing it into my mouth.
As I let my hands slide under his shirt, feeling his trailing along my back, it's inevitable that something will come along and fuck this up.
And of course, it's in the form of Quatre Winner.
"Trowa! I heard shouting and—Oh, Duo! You're back!"
I sigh, sitting up and letting my head drop down. Trowa pushes against my chest, and I slide to the side, resigned to the fact that this little… whatever it was, is not going to be happening.
"I—uh, I—" I tune out Quatre's embarrassed rambling, as the other man realizes what he's interrupted.
"It's good, just… go back to work, Tro," I mutter, straightening my shirt. Trowa helps me, his hand resting against my lower back before he steps away, his attention now solely focused on Quatre.
"Get some rest," Trowa murmurs as he passes me, his fingers trailing across my skin as he follows his employer out of the room.
I groan miserably, flopping down onto my side.
Yeah, not a chance in hell I'm getting any rest. Not with this hard-on.
It's a couple hours later that I finally drag myself back into the base, twisting my damp hair into a braid. With each plait I add, a little water squeezes out, but I kept a towel around my shoulders just for this reason.
"So what's going on? Anything funky show up?"
"Negative." Wufei looks up as Heero talks, his eyes darting around the room.
"And Relena? Is she okay?" I ask, coming to lean against the desk beside Heero. He shakes his head again, rubbing at his eyes tiredly.
"She was apprehended about two-hundred feet from the window she jumped from. After bringing her back, she remained in her room until oh-eight-hundred, where she then proceeded to use the bathroom located two doors down from her and returned to her quarters at oh-eight-four-five."
"…Who are you talking to?" Wufei wonders, but Heero ignores him, instead flipping open some folders and pushing them my way.
"I'm going over her family records to see if the dilemma could be a new power surfacing late. So far I haven't come up with any of her ancestors showing unusual abilities—"
"But I've had Serena in my head," I finish, seeing where he's going with this. "Any verbal records would still be with her."
"Ms. Peacecraft would also be a source to interview—"
"But Serena died when she was young. She might never have heard the stories."
"Can suck my dick for all I care," I snap, and relish the twitch developing above Heero's left eye.
"Yuy? Are you feeling alright?" Wufei asks, concern heavily coating his words. "No one's there, and I know you can't see spirits."
"If he can provide any information regarding genealogical-"
"I'll get it from Serena. Now say something to Wuffers before he has a stroke," I cut in, gesturing to the man beside Heero. Heero rolls his eyes at me – Heero 14, me 9 – before turning his chair to face Wufei.
"I need you to take temperature readings for every room and floor, and to get a reading every hour to establish a good baseline level. Coordinate with any remaining staff to see if there are temperature controls active in any areas, and what those are normally set to at any time."
Wufei splutters, mouth opening and closing several times before he clenches his jaw.
"Fine!" he snarls, getting to his feet and snatching the handheld temp gauge from the table. As he storms past me, I flick him with the end of my braid. He flinches, spinning wildly around.
"Don't play around," Heero points out tonelessly. "There's a lot of space to cover."
Wufei doesn't say anything, just lets his fingers trail over the damp spot my hair left on him. I snicker, stealing the chair he'd been sitting in and watching him run out of the room.
"You're positively evil," I crow, and Heero raises a brow at me.
"Get to work, Duo, before I fire you."
"Got it, captain!" I salute, picking up the first folder and flipping it open. I lean back in the chair, propping my feet on the table and settling in for a long read.
"Okay, Serena, let's see if the private records are any more interesting," I mutter to myself, letting my fingers trail along the wall. Feeling the hidden latch, I let my fingers sink into the wall, twisting and gripping the lever firmly. The wall slides out, revealing a room only known to me in her memories.
"Let's take a look around, shall we?" I ask aloud, as if the long-dead woman can hear me. I don't get a response – which is normal, she's dead – and I start pulling open the filing cabinets, reading through the file tabs for anything, well, interesting-looking.
"Taxes, bills, taxes, deeds, taxes, fuck, this is boring," I groan, slamming the drawer shut. It rattles loudly, reverberating through the room and making my ears ring.
"Oww," I groan, clapping my hands to my head. It's still sore from pulling my disappearing act on Wufei, and really, for my own good it'd probably be smart of me to stop pissing it off more.
When I open my eyes again, it's obvious something's different. My shadow – which had been on my left – is now on my right. Unless I blacked out, mini-me should still be on my left. Which, thinking about it, doesn't matter; there's no windows in this room.
I spin around, throwing my fist out. In vain. It's caught in another hand – not mine – and gripping tightly, is used to pull me closer to the other.
That smell and hair is unmistakable.
"Hello, dickwad," I greet cheerfully, bringing my knee straight up. It's blocked by his knee, which he then uses to hook around my still-grounded foot. Which, now, doesn't stay grounded that long. I land on my ass (really, really hard. Motherfucker!) and he crouches over me, his eyes sending me into déjà vu.
Wufei had this look on his face, right before Trowa kicked the living shit out of him.
"Oh, fuck no," I breathe, twisting to the side. Zechs pins me down, limb matching limb to keep me still. My eyes widen, panic spreading through my veins.
Shit, no, can't go there! I mentally scream at the feeling, trying to calm myself quickly. I'd already pulled it once, I can't do it again. Not this soon!
…Well, I could. If I want to live as a vegetable the rest of my life.
Trowa, now would be a great time to pop up out of the woodwork! I call out, though it never leaves my lips, as my throat is closed tightly in fear. I can feel myself shaking, adrenaline drenching rationality and sharpening my vision.
All the better to see you with.
"No one's coming to save you now, little one," Zechs teases, leaning in closer. His breath caresses my cheek, followed by the long draw of his tongue. "Just you, and me. Doesn't that make you happy?"
"As happy as getting an amputation," I gasp, trying once again to pull myself out of his hold… and failing miserably.
"Don't be like that, now. You should feel honoured! You're the favourite, after all. A little pet, tagging along after his masters."
My mind grinds to a stop, the words echoing in my head.
"Who are you?" I ask suddenly, and Zechs' eyes widen. I lean up, bringing my face closer to his. "I know you're not Zechs Merquise, because he wouldn't ever think of laying a finger on me like this. So… who are you?"
I feel my wrists start to burn with raw power, flaring visibly from my skin. Zechs pulls back, and the power courses through my body. My lungs release their own pained cry, but it's nothing like his. I scramble backwards, finally free of my human bond, and slam my back against the wall.
"Tell me! Who are you?!" I scream, holding my hand out towards the other man. It's burning with unfocused power, brightly glowing and growing from my skin. It hurts like a bitch, but considering the alternative, I'd rather have this instead.
"You already know who I am," Zechs says, eyes fixed on my palm. "Or, as you would put it, what I am. The rest is up for you to decide. After all, it's no fun if I give it all away."
With that, the room flares white before plunging into darkness. Panting, I'm holding out my still-glowing-still-hurting-like-a-mo'fo hand, but it's not that good of a life-source.
Good enough, though, to see that Zechs Merquise isn't moving.
I drop my hand, exhaustion creeping over my senses.
"No, no no," I mutter, using the wall to get me to my feet. "Not yet, get the door open, Duo. Just get the door open."
I get three steps before the ground meets me, and I close my eyes.
I hope someone eventually finds us.
Hands brush against my forehead, cool and soft. Eyes fluttering open, the first thing I see are dancing lights.
I'm back here, again, and apparently Serena's joining me once more.
"S'riously," I slur, my mouth numb with fatigue, "y'gotta move ov'r 'lready."
"I think you should worry about yourself," she says gently, still running her hand across my face. "There's powerful forces at work, and you need to get some things off your chest before you try getting to them."
"There's always powerful forces at work," I complain. "What's so different about this one?"
"You need to open your eyes a little wider. Everyone else has, already. Think about what you're doing, before you do it."
"I don't know what to do now," I whisper, rolling onto my side. Serena wraps her fingers in my loose hair, trailing them through the strands before resting them back in her lap.
"Have you tried the archives? There's always information to be found, if one knows what to ask."
I open my mouth, closing it again just as quickly. "I didn't think of that."
"Be careful, you're walking too close to the edge now. Your hands are going to slip; it's only a matter of time."
"He's waking up," someone says quietly, and hands flutter around my arms, their touches like flames against my skin. I flinch, trying to get away from the pain.
"Back up! Don't crowd him! Duo, can you hear me?"
"Nngh," I groan. "F'ck, y're loud."
"Sensory overload. Dim the lights."
This time, something is brushing against my skin again, but it doesn't hurt as much. It's actually quite cool, and feels wonderful on my raw skin.
"Take your time, you did quite a bit of damage to yourself."
"Nn?" I hum, confused. What did I do to myself? Where is—
"Zechs," I breathe, twisting away from the hands still touching me. "Get away—"
"He's not here. He brought you to us and gave us what little he remembered. It wasn't much, but enough to know that something's possessing people and appears to have a crush on you."
"Yes. Whatever it is you did to me, it broke when your power play against Zechs happened. Luckily for you, our sensors picked it up. We couldn't find the room you had been trapped in, not until Zechs opened the wall up."
"We also found the family records you'd been searching for, apparently," another voice cuts in. Heero.
"H'ro," I slur. "'lo."
"Is he even listening?" a third voice. Trowa.
"G'd, why're y'll 'ere?"
"You're bombarding him with information. Give him time to reorient himself first!"
"F'cker," I mumble in greeting, and the voices go quiet.
"Hello, Duo," the fourth voice greets. I can't place it though, not with a name. I just know I don't think I like him.
"…Where," I start, my lungs tight and heavy. I draw in another breath, trying again. "…Cathy? Where?"
"She went home over a week ago, Duo," Trowa reminds me.
"…No. Here. Now. Need her here," I protest. "Now! Phone!"
"Are you sure? You've been hallucinating for a while, Duo. Maybe you should rest first—"
"Shut up! Cathy!" I call out, hoping she can hear me.
"Just get him the phone. Letting him drunk dial his sister isn't going to hurt anyone," Wufei mutters, and something small is shoved into my palm. Larger hands wrap around mine, guiding my fingers.
I feel myself compress several buttons, before the hand guides it up to my ear. The call tone goes for three beats, before a young voice sounds on the line.
"…Hey, kiddo. Is your mom there?" I ask, trying to not sound so… well… dead. I don't think I pull it off, because I can hear the kid call out to Cathy.
"Mom! There's a dead guy on the phone for you!"
Cathy's voice is faint, but I can still hear it.
"Rafael, don't be rude! Now give me the phone."
My throat tightens, my head spinning for a moment.
That was my nephew, Solo's kid, I realize, a little too late. The sounds of the phone being passed over, children laughing in the background, and a television running somewhere close to the phone is all I hear for a moment, before Cathy's voice comes over the line.
"Cathy?" I croak, and I hear her gasp, something clattering on her end.
"Oh, Duo! What's wrong? What happened? Are you wearing your talisman, how soon do I need to get there? I can take a train—"
"The archive. Where is it right now?" I demand, and silence overwhelms both sides of the line.
"Duo? Can you just calm down and—"
"There's no time, sis," I cut in. "I need to find the archive."
"…I'll ask around. I haven't kept track of it since your brother—"
"Good. Okay." I lean back against Trowa, closing my eyes. One problem tackled.
"Now, answer me this. How much did you fuck yourself up?"
I roll my eyes. "Nothing too bad. It'll take less than a day to get back on my feet."
Silence reigns on the phone before she scoffs at me.
"Nice try. Do I need to find you a doctor?"
"No doctors!" I snap, but Cathy keeps going.
"I have a friend up at the hospital, she'll be willing to help—"
"Cathy!" I try to break in, but she's not listening.
"Now, don't do anything stupid until we get there. Understand?"
I don't get to respond, because the line goes dead. I snap the phone shut, groaning tiredly. I hear someone clear their throat, and my eyes fly open. It's at this point I remember that I'm not alone.
Oh boy, Duo, good job.
"One at a time," I plead, and Heero scowls.
"Fill us in at the base. We need to get you stabilized."
It's at this point that I realize I'm covered in blood.
"…Holy shit," I hiss, the pain slamming into me all at once. Trowa's holding onto me though, his words a low steady thrum in my head.
"Just keep breathing, Wufei's about to take your legs, I have your arms. Heero'll have your back, and Quatre will too. Just keep breathing, don't black out again, okay?"
I focus on his instructions, unable to ignore his requests. In… out… oh… fuck… this… hurts… really… bad…
"You keep an IV… and a blood bag?!" Quatre's voice asks, perplexed. Heero's responds, as if it's a normal thing to carry around on a case.
"The first-aid kit's been altered since Duo's employment began."
I think that's a nice way to say I bleed out a lot. Or that I get the short end of the stick a lot, too. Or maybe even that I'm accident prone.
"Okay, put him down now, gently. Wufei, get the IV set up and start a low-dose painkiller and antibiotic. Wait until we can assess the damage before running the blood in."
"Nngh, no," I groan. "Jus' gimme a beer, it'll be good."
"Alcohol is not going to fix this, Maxwell!" Wufei snaps, grabbing my wrist. He's wiping away at it with a cloth, trying to clear a spot well enough to stab me. My head lolls to the side, meeting Trowa's brilliant green eyes.
"I wanna beer," I moan. "Hurts."
Trowa crouches next to me, his hand resting against my forehead. Unlike before, I don't feel like my skin is crawling; it's been months since I've gotten that kind of reaction. I've grown used to it, knowing now how his power feels, not trying to keep it out. I feel him mingling with me, feeling how badly I've fucked myself over.
"…I'll see what I can do. Until then, let Wufei play Doctor and pretend you're a good patient. We need to get your physical body repaired before we move onto that level."
"Nn, bastard," I whine, and he just shakes his head. I can see his eyes dancing in amusement.
"No, I don't want the alcohol mixing with your medication. After you're stable, I'll bring you something that's even better than beer, I promise."
"Good. I'll kill you if you don't," I warn him, and he shrugs.
"I'd like to see you try. Now rest."
I turn my head again, watching Wufei play with the tube and bags.
"See? Someone loves me. Unlike you."
Wufei snorts. "He provides a minor with alcohol, I don't think that's love."
"Who're you callin' a kid?" I ask angrily, but Wufei's ignoring me. "Damn it, I'm talking to you!"
"You were almost raped, again, Duo," Heero cuts in, saving Wufei from having to listen to me. I wince, refusing to look him in the eye. He kneels closer to me, his lips brushing against my ear as he says quietly, "Wufei is trying to earn your forgiveness."
I nod, Wufei's sudden helpfulness making more sense. Heero's the one usually patching me up, but Wufei's refused to let anyone else near me. I give in, letting myself be pampered; well, as much as having needles and blood forced into my body lets me. Wufei leans back, wiping bloody hands on his white pants, and I take the chance to reach out and snatch his wrist. Blank, dark brown eyes are watching me warily, and I quirk up the side of my mouth.
"No hard feelings, 'kay? I know I'm sexy," I reassure him with a wink, and he pulls his hand away, disgusted.
But I also see the relief my words give him.
"'Sides!" I yawn, feeling the sedatives kicking in, "I hit ya with'a fuckin' car. Call it even?"
"Whatever," he mutters, and I laugh.
"You stubborn, reckless, idiotic moron!" Cathy yells, slamming the door to the room open. "If there were any doubts of you and Solo being related, they've been cleared!"
"Hey sis," I greet, and she snarls at me, crossing her arms over her now-prominent belly.
"Don't even start that with me. Playing sweet isn't going to get you any points with me. Didn't I tell you to not do a fucking thing until I got here? And what, you land yourself on bed rest, on a god damn IV with a blood transfusion!"
"That was before I called you!" I shout back, trying to defend my honour. Really… I didn't do anything after I called her, and now I'm getting chewed out for it?
"He really didn't," Quatre cuts in, and I sigh, rolling my eyes. Damn it, now I can't pretend he's not in the room still. Cathy turns her furious gaze to him, and he steps back a bit.
"I was not addressing you Mr. Winner. Now please, shut up or get the fuck out of here."
I don't blame the blond for bolting. Fuck, if I was sure I could stand up at the moment, I'd be following right behind him. But I still can't help but feel the dread as the only witness now leaves the room, leaving me and the Harpy alone.
"What the fuck happened here?" Cathy demands, and I scoot myself up a bit, ignoring the pain searing down my arms.
"I was defendin' myself. Somethin' fucked up's goin' on here, an' I'm fate's bitch 'gain."
I don't know if I've made this clear before, but women are terrifying. I watch as Cathy goes from raging mad to on the brink of tears in a split-second. Her arms are wrapping around me – painfully – and choking the life out of me.
"Oh, you idiot," she sniffs, burying her face into my hair. I grimace, but don't have the energy – or leverage – to shove her off of me. Wiping at her eyes, she leans back, giving me a watery stare. I advert my eyes, uncomfortable.
It's at this point another woman walks into the room, a white smock covering her entire body. Curly blonde hair is draped over each shoulder, tangling down her chest and framing a distinctly-Asian face. Her blue eyes, along with that hair, give away that she's probably not as Asian as Wufei is.
"Hi, I'm Dr. Po," the woman greets me, holding her hand out to mine. I stare at it for several long moments before she drops it with a frown.
"Your sister said you'd be difficult, so I'll get right to it then. Can you explain to me what happened to get you injured?"
She starts pulling out shiny shit from her bag, and doohickies I'm pretty damn sure I don't want anywhere near my body are being lined up neatly on the nightstand. Cathy moves away, sitting next to my bed instead of all over my lap.
As I decide how to answer her, I scratch my head a little, wincing at the grimy feeling under my nails. God damn it, I fuckin' want a shower.
"Well, it's kind'a like this," I start, trying to figure out the best way to even put what happened into words. "One of the dudes here got possessed by whatever we came to find, and it made him try to jump me."
"Please clarify that, Mr. Maxwell," she interrupts. "Jump you as in a physical assault, a sexual assault, or a combination of both?"
"Er, the second one? Though, there was some of the first with other dudes," I admit, "and the last guy was tryin' both of 'em."
"Did they succeed? Because if so I'll need to examine you for damage," she explains, and I widen my eyes, shaking my head rapidly.
"No no no, they didn't get far 'nuff," I assure her, waving my bandaged hands in front of me wildly. "Heero interrupted the first guy, an' then I got the second guy off've me. Tro' kicked the third guy off me, an' I knocked out the fourth'un."
"Sounds like you've had a rough week, so far," Po notes. I grimace, turning away from her.
"Yeah, tell me 'bout it."
"Why don't you? Some of these injuries appear to be burns." I frown, looking at my blistered skin
"They are, I guess," I agree, "but… they're not real burns? It wasn't fire, it was power."
"Yet it achieves the same effect? Marvelous!" She's in awe, prodding at my tender flesh and twisting my arm so she can see it better. I yelp, tugging it away from her.
"Gentle with the goods!" I scold, and she laughs, snatching my arm again.
"Oh, Mr. Maxwell, I'm sure you've endured worse than an exam."
It doesn't get any better from that point, and she keeps poking, prodding, and taking pieces of me away to examine later at some point. Cathy doesn't stop her either, and at one point she even abandons me to go find Trowa. When Sally finally leaves me with my remaining parts, I sink down on the bed, exhausted.
"Have fun?" Heero asks, stepping into the room. I scowl, turning away from him.
No, I'm not pouting. My actions are completely justifiable!
"I believe some concerns should be addressed first, then a meeting will be held to see how to proceed from this point on."
My muscles are tense, ready for the verbal (or physical, the guy's already done it once) lashing I'm about to get. But to my surprise, it's not accusation that's tossed at me.
"First, I need to apologize for my actions toward you prior to your first manifestation of power. I am unsure of what came over me, but I now believe it might be involved with the same symptoms that overcame Chang and Lord Peacecraft."
"No biggie," I shrug. "I was a little more worried 'bout losing my job."
"That was never considered," Heero states, and I sag against the wall, relieved.
"Now, the other concern that needs to be addressed is your exertion of will over myself and Chang."
"…Eh?" I have no clue what the fuck he's talking about. Heero sighs, pinching the ridge of his nose.
"At oh-four-hundred Tuesday morning, you issued a verbal order to me. This order was empowered with energy, compelling me to obey against my will. The same thing occurred to Chang when you forced him to help you relocate me to another room."
"…Well, fuck," I finally say, not knowing what else to say. "Never did that 'fore."
"That occurred to me after you disappeared. Now, I shall be calling everyone for a planning meeting, which will take place here as you are unable to attend anywhere else."
"Okay," I respond, picking at my blanket. Well, fuck me sideways, Heero Yuy gave me an apology. I didn't know that was possible.
Maybe at some point, I'll give one back.
"Do we have any idea of what we're dealing with here?" Cathy asks, sitting to the right of me. Trowa's on her other side, next to Quatre. On my left is Relena, who is using my lap as a pillow. Zechs is sitting stiffly next to her – too close to me for my own comfort – and Wufei is on his other side. Sally's to Wufei's left, and Heero's on her left, which is on Quatre's right.
It's strange to think that this is the first time all of us have been in the same room since arriving here. Normally on cases Quatre contracts us for, he's not present. Or Trowa, for that matter; except when he comes to torture or humiliate me. Cathy's never been on a case with me before, and, well, Sally hasn't stopped saying how "Amazing! Fantastic! Brilliant! Marvelous!" every little thing is yet.
Out of all of us, I hate to say that Zechs is probably the only one sharing my sentiment of this pow-wow. We both have the "Get me the fuck out of here!" face going on. And we're still here for the same reason, too.
Who's clutching onto me tightly, as if I can make everything better. Or because for a brief time I was her mother. Either way, I'm losing feeling in my legs, and Zechs is suffering diligently beside her.
I'm sure the three of us would make a great fucked-up family portrait.
"Our preliminary data has yet to reveal anything that we did not already know. While it is confirmed there is something possessing Ms. Peacecract, we have not determined what. Duo's presence did not draw out any visible manifestations, so if this is a spirit or ghost we do not know, either. There is a matter of concern though, which has affected several of us over the last week. I am not certain if it is in lieu with the initial problem we were called for, but it needs to be taken care of nonetheless."
"You talkin' 'bout everyone tryin' t'get into my pants?" I drawl, and Relena's fingers clench tighter on the blanket.
"Among other things. I believe the increased volatile behaviour towards you is also a factor of this."
"Okay, so all've ya tryin' to kick the shit outta me, that's this… thing's fault?"
Heero nods, and I glance over at Wufei. He's staring at his feet, and I don't blame him. He was the first to attack me, and the first to… well…
How did Heero put it? Seduce violently.
Cathy's tightening her hold on my arm, as is Relena.
"We can no longer rely on the cameras, so those will be taken down tomorrow," Heero continues, and Quatre furrows his brow.
"Why? Did they not work the way you thought they would?"
Heero glares at the blond, who wilts under his look. I roll my eyes, my lips twitching. Man, didn't he know by now never to suggest Heero did something wrong?
"No, data transmission was perfect until Duo overloaded every single camcorder in the building. Until each camera can be repaired, we will have to rely on other methods."
"As long as I don't have to be bait again, I don't care," I mutter, and Trowa puffs out a laugh.
I don't end up being bait, for once. I think it has more to do with the fact that I'm stuck in bed for the time being, and less with Heero feeling compassionate about my injuries. It's hard to get any sleep, what with my room being turned into the base. Heero brought his laptop in, setting up shop between the beds. Wufei sleeps in the other bed on occasion, though he's mostly running errands for Heero. The ghost hunt continues, regardless of my absence in it.
Sally also continues to torture me to perfect health. When I'm able to get myself in and out of bed on my own, Heero puts me back to work.
"So far no trace of this presence has been found. Are you… willing to help draw it out?"
"I don't think it'll work," I admit. "It knew me."
Damn, I hate it when he asks that. I also hate that I'm never able to deny him.
"When Zechs was… well… yeah. Before, he was talking to me. But it wasn't him."
"He mentioned much of the same to me, though he was unable to recall the words being said."
"Yeah, don't blame him f'r that," I mutter, "I was makin' sure he stayed off've me long 'nuff to get 'way."
"The fact that it is willing to talk to you could be to our benefit."
"I don't think it'll comply as easily again," I point out. "If it knows I want to find it, find what it is… it's going to hide."
"Or brag, or boast. This is a great possibility I am unwilling to let pass."
With those parting words, I find myself knocking on the door to Relena's bedroom.
"Duo! Feeling better, I hope?" she greets, hugging me gently. I pat her back, stepping away and looking over her. She's exhausted, and I feel my stomach churning.
We're taking too long.
"I want to try to talk to whatever's inside of you."
A shadow crosses over her eyes, and she lets her head dip down a little.
"I… I've been hearing it, Duo. I can hear her talking inside my head."
"What does she tell you?" I whisper, urging her to open up. Man, I don't think I'd be here if Heero already knew this. Or… did he know, and knew she wouldn't talk about it to anyone else?
That guy fuckin' pisses me off, either way.
"She says that I… that I like what's happening to everyone. That I'm the reason you're hurt, and that I wanted you hurt. She—she's blaming me for being too weak…"
"She's wrong," I assure her, my hand resting on her shoulder. I squeeze gently, pulling her to me. Her arms wrap around me tight, and I ignore the pain as I cradle her head to my neck. "If you wanted all of this to happen, I'm sure it'd be a lot worse. You're doing your best. You did the right thing, having us come to help. We're going to help you."
"It's too late, it's too late," she wails, "it's too late!"
I feel it, then. The familiar, tantalizing, addicting power that haunts my dreams, haunts my existence. I feel it, and I push her away, staring at my—Serena's daughter.
"Oh," I breathe, unable to voice the curses rising in my throat. Though, it could be bile, they both would be appropriate. The power fades, but the residue lingers on my senses.
"It's never too late," I hiss, in case it can hear me. "Not with Solo's protégé."
"Fuck, fuck, fucking damn it all to the seventh level of Hell!" I slam the door to the new base open, the wall rattling from the impact. Heero looks up sharply, his eyes cool and calm. Trowa's head snaps up, as does Cathy's. Quatre jumps about a foot into the air, dropping the phone in his hand. Sally shrieks a little, caught off guard.
"I need a fucking drink!" I snarl, pacing the floor. I want to throw myself on the bed, onto the floor, out the window, really. But I can't. I can't sit still, not when that… that fucking thing is in my daughter!
"Explain, Maxwell!" Heero snaps, and I spin to face him, glaring.
"Did you know, Yuy?" I hiss, my eyes narrowing. "Did you fucking know what was inside of her? Living in her, controlling her, corrupting her?"
"Duo!" Cathy's trying to break into my rant, but I ignore her.
"I do not. Please, enlighten me." His voice is cold, flat, toneless. Mine matches his. I can feel my emotions shutting down, the anger bleeding away. When I speak again, it feels like I'm talking once again to Spineless, explaining why keeping cocaine in the front display is a fucking stupid idea.
"A demon, Yuy. A god damn fucking demon. But it's not possessing her. Oh, no. No, that would be simple, that would be detectable, easy to fix. No, she's hosting a demon. Which means that someone here is withholding information. Someone isn't telling the truth. Someone's lying to me!"
Gold sparks fly across my vision as a hand smacks my cheek, burning against my skin. Cathy's in front of me, her chest heaving and her hand still shining with golden light.
"Are you paying attention to me?" she asks, and I nod, eyes wide. She lowers her hand, the gold fading back into her skin.
"Heero didn't know. Wufei didn't know. I didn't know. You didn't know. Don't start throwing around accusations before we get the facts. Get a grip on yourself, Duo Maxwell, because I'm not putting up with your shit."
I meekly nod, and satisfied, she moves back to sit on the bed. Most of the room is staring between me and her, unsure of what happened.
"Okay… sorry," I mumble, leaning against the wall. "But there's still an issue with Relena and her parasite."
"And we'll figure it out. The right way. Not your way."
"My way's faster," I grumble, and she narrows her gaze, gold sparking against her skin again.
"Your way is what killed your brother."
I flinch, dropping my eyes to the ground.
"I'll perform an exam on Relena, with Duo's help. If we don't get results, I'll… figure something out."
Cathy grabs my wrist, pulling me from the room and back down the hall. I don't resist. I can't.
Not after that.
"Just lay down, and I'll begin," Cathy says, and Relena lies back on the bed, her fingers clenched in the thin gown she's wearing. I'm on the left side of the bed, and Sally's at the foot. I kneel next to her, running my fingers through the long blonde hair.
"This isn't going to hurt at all," I assure her, examining the glimpses of scalp I can see between the strands. I continue to part her hair, checking each inch of skin to make sure it's clear. Cathy's working on her upper body, and Sally's starting at her feet. Relena lies there, trembling slightly as six pair of hands relentlessly examine each inch of her. By the time we get through, disappointment is thick in the air.
"Nothing visible on the skin," Cathy tells Heero back in the base room. He doesn't say anything, yet I know what he wants.
"It means that it has to be at least a Third tier demon," I elaborate. "First tiers are easy to spot; they disfigure their host, and not in a good way. Second tier demons leave a visible mark on the surface of their host, as proof of ownership."
"Third tier demons must leave a physical mark as well," I add on, "but they are able to do it either on the surface, or on more delicate flesh, such as organs. They also are capable of carving their marks into bone."
"So I need to get her to an X-ray machine, and an MRI," Cathy finishes, and Sally steps up.
"I'm trained to use both, so there will be no danger from continuing the exam."
Heero nods his permission, and I turn and leave quickly.
I'm not ready to talk about Solo, not yet. And I know that's exactly what Heero's waiting for.
The X-ray comes back negative for anything, as does the MRI. We extend it to a CT-scan, and no markings appear on the brain tissue.
"I'm telling you, if I could just give it a try—" I shout, but Cathy cuts me off, her voice matching mine in volume.
"And I told you, no! It was one of the rules put down after Solo died, and I'm not going to have you go ruining ten years of work!"
"So she should die, have her life ruined, because you're afraid of them?!" I scream, slamming my hand into the wall. It resists my blow, but doesn't dull my anger. "For once, you're going to follow the rules?! What happened to the woman who married a fucking killer, huh? Where's the woman who gave birth to a psychopath's child?!"
"Don't talk to me that way!" she's screaming back. "You got yourself into this situation, you have to live with the results! I'm not going to let you rip out her soul on a whim!"
"I wasn't going to do that," I say, the fight leaving me. I take a step back, and watch as Cathy's face crumbles. The air between us is thick, the ever-present barrier of Solo growing too large for me to handle.
"I wasn't going to hurt her."
I don't stay to listen. I can't. I can't deal with her, not now.
"Go home, Catherine. Go home to your children."
I hear her start to cry, but I can't bring myself to care.
If I care, I might change my mind; as I told the demon, I'm my brother's protégé.
A/N - I have my will written out, and all my assets will be left in the capable hands of Ro. Please don't kill me. At least let me finish the story first, okay?