Blood in Siberia
Chapter 25: Unraveled
I was still stunned as I was brought into a room, and continued to zone out as G and Sedici settled me on a pile of pelts. My mind buzzed as the Siberians puttered around and bitched at each other like old men. I didn’t know how long I sat there for, but as time went on I felt a wave of emotion come over me. Noin was kidnapped by a wizard who was supposedly dead. She and the Prince had lost their son. The Shenlong and Siberian were going to fight to the death.
What for?! What good was fighting to the death going to be? Wufei demanded the same thing the Prince demanded; to have the members of his Pack back where they belonged. How the hell both of them could be after the same goal and not see it was beyond me.
What pained me the most was Howard and Hilde. They weren’t going to know that I never wanted to leave them. They weren’t going to know that I was sorry. I shouldn’t have left the way I did by climbing out of the window like a runaway. Nor should I have brushed off their love for me so flippantly. I wished I could reach them and tell them over and over again that I was sorry.
I tried to tune G and Sedici out as they rearranged things, but my sharpening survival instincts were forcing me to pay attention. I was in yet another room I had never been in before. It was a large suite of some kind, the size of which I would expect in a penthouse hotel room. The walls seemed as black as the Prince’s den, with wickedly shaped torches buried into the wall. There was a massive fireplace that I could tell hadn’t been lit all winter.
Strangely, there were pieces of furniture that I wouldn’t think werewolves used. A stack of pelts made my usual bedding, but there was a black tea-table to my left. A beautifully crafted mirror hung above it, its frame made of silver. I thought the tarnish gave it an antique quality, then changed my mind when I thought about who owed it. There was no doubt in my mind that the mirror was as old as it looked. A vanity was haphazardly shoved into a corner, as if they weren’t sure where to put it. Then there was an armoire that was placed a little too far from the wall, and a balcony. Its railing was uneven and rough in a way that matched the aesthetic of the mountain. It was beautiful. Unfortunately, it lacked doors.
I jumped when Sedici slammed his hand against the tea-table. He appeared angry, gesturing wildly as he made a point to the wizard. G seemed unimpressed.
“I have better things to do than to babysit him!” the werewolf yelled, jerking his thumb in my direction. “I should be a Betagué! Instead, I am kept busy with bullshit like this!”
My instincts told me to back up. So I backed the hell up.
“You will do as I tell you, or I will make your blood boil in your veins,” G said, sounding bored.
“I do not fear you, Wizard!”
“I could easily kill you, Werewolf.”
Shit. Not much cover hiding under the vanity. Could be cut by the mirror if they started swinging. Might be better if I crawled over there...
“I am going to search with the Packmaster. Have one of the runts look after him.”
G continued as if Sedici hadn’t said a word. “At dawn you are to arrange for his breakfast, his bath, his clothing and anything else he needs. He is to be treated as a political prisoner-”
Damnit! I couldn’t get my fat ass to fit in the armoire! I was such a fat American. I bet I’d fit if I was French!
“I said to get one of the runts!”
Shit. Now I was stuck.
“Your shift will end at noon. I haven’t decided yet who will be your replacement, but rest assured that it would be someone far less pathetic than you.”
I looked up just in time to see Sedici throw a punch, and tilted my head in confusion when he punched himself instead in the stomach, jaw, eye and ear. I frowned when he stomped the hell out of his foot, and grimaced when he used his boys as punching bags. I turned to G, and felt the color drain from my face. The werewolf had no control over his body. Even with my shields up, I could mentally see the web-like strings that flowed from the wizard to Sedici. Otto was right to warn me of a wizard’s power. Even the werewolf’s breath and heartbeat were by G’s will.
Afraid of what this could mean for me, I made my shields as hard as possible. I imagined my mind surrounded by a stone wall, then steel, then concrete. I flinched from the pain this caused as I felt the walls snap into place. I was so intent on protecting myself, that I was missing what was happening until it was nearly too late. G had Sedici punch the vanity mirror, pick up one of the shards, and aim the point at his eye. I could see the werewolf’s arm vibrating with tension.
“No, don’t! G, stop! You guys are taking this too far!” I started to struggle, kicking my legs and pushing to pop myself out of the armoire. I could kick my own ass for being so stupid as to squeeze into this in the first place!
“You are to ensure his safety,” G continued calmly. “I have no doubts that Chang would snatch him from under us if we allowed ourselves even a second of distraction.”
“Gerald!” I grunted as I finally freed myself. Landing clumsily, I stumbled for a few steps until I caught myself. In my distraction my shields weakened. When I was sure I had it together, I looked up to find that I stood between the two Siberians. Unsure of whom to run to (or from), I stayed where I was and turned to G. His face and eyes were expressionless. Judging by his demeanor, I knew that he could kill Sedici and not think twice about it. I would though. His death would never leave me. It would haunt me, like Silver Water’s haunted me. “G? Don’t.”
He turned to me. “He is to obey me, Duo.”
“He will!” I promised, easing to my knees. I could see out of the corner of my eye the shard aimed for Sedici’s eye. Mrs. Darlian popped into my head, and I could feel my stomach roll. That was enough to distract me again, and my shields paid for it. The concrete shattered and the steel was brittle. The stone wall had cracked, but thankfully still held. I took a deep breath to curb the nausea, and tried to get my focus back. I couldn’t. I was too rattled.
“No,” G snapped. “You are not to kneel for the likes of him!”
I cringed when I heard the proud creature whimper. I ran my fingers through my hair and pulled, unable to resist the urge. “Please, G. I’m sure he didn’t mean to be so difficult.”
He raised an eyebrow. “He seemed to mean it to me.”
“But he didn’t,” I argued. “He’s just trying to prove himself. Aren’t you, Sedici?”
He whimpered again, but louder. I didn’t turn to him, afraid of what I might see.
The wizard studied me a moment more before sighing. At that instant, Sedici threw the shard down and backed as far away from us as possible. I plopped onto my butt cross-legged, dug my elbows into my knees and dropped my face into my hands. The Siberians had too much shit going on. I was more stressed out now than I was with the Pike Creek Murders, and that didn’t make an ounce of sense.
“Clean up your mess, Sedici.”
I heard footsteps, then the door opening and closing. I heard footsteps again and immediately jumped to my feet, backing up until I hit the wall.
“Stop right there.” G stopped. I tried to make a fortress of my mind again, and couldn’t. Shit. “Don’t come any closer.” I held my hand out as if that could physically stop him. “Just... just stay there.”
G sighed. “Duo, I am not going to hurt you.”
I snorted, and wrapped my arms around me. I didn’t notice it before since I was scared shitless, but now I realized that it was freezing in here. The cold along with the fading adrenaline had me shivering big time. “Yeah well, all the same... I’d rather you give me my space.” I closed my eyes and held myself tighter. I didn’t think I’d ever wanted to be somewhere else as much as I did right then.
He was silent for all of two seconds. “You are cold.”
I snorted. “It’s freezing in here.” I nodded towards the balcony. “You guys don’t have doors to your balconies. There’s nothing to keep the cold air out.”
G easily trekked to the fireplace. In a matter of seconds he had a roaring fire going. When the heat reached me, I relaxed. “We are near the top of the mountain,” he said. “I’m afraid it is much cooler here than in the lower and underground levels. It’s also much more difficult to escape.”
I snorted again. “Escape? Is that why I’m up here? You’ve got to be kidding! We’re in the middle of the fucking tundra!” I threw my hands up. “If I escaped, where would I go? I’d freeze to death before I’d make it anywhere.”
He smiled. “Duo, I find you extremely resourceful. I have no doubt that if you escaped, you would make it to your destination and then some.”
I rolled my eyes. If I was so damn resourceful, I’d already be back home. Ass-hat.
Sedici came back with a dustpan, a bucket and a broom. He made quick work of collecting the glass, then took a few steps around to make sure there weren’t any fragments for me to step on. “Guard the door,” G commanded. When he left, G and I stared at each other. I tried to shield my mind with the walls of steel, concrete and stone, but I couldn’t. My mind was still too scattered.
In fact, I wasn’t sure how the hell I did it in the first place. I’ve never shielded myself like that before.
“You are still trembling,” G said, stepping forward.
I closed my eyes and turned my head away. “I’m fine.” I tightened my arms around me, hugging myself.
“You are not ‘fine.’ ” He stepped forward again. “And I would not expect you to be. After all,” he stepped forward, “you were brought here against your will.” Another step. “You have been exposed to and threatened by creatures you have never met before.” Another step. “You died, you were abused, and you were kidnapped.” His last step brought him chest to chest with me. “And now, you have been taken from your Pack, whom will be annihilated in a week. You will never return home. The life you lived is over.”
I had nothing left, not even for myself. I could feel the tears gathering behind my eyelids. “Thank God you’re not a Life Coach,” I spat, turning so that my back was to him. I didn’t want him to see how he reduced me to tears. “Mother fuckers would be offing themselves left and right from your pep talks.”
He sighed. “Duo, what I am trying to get across is that I know what you are going through. I went through all that myself, and then some.” He gripped my shoulders but I shook him off.
“Don’t touch me!” I flung my arm blindly behind me, striking his elbow. “Why the fuck does everyone touch me?!” I yelled. “Am I or am I not the god damn Untouchable?!” Curled in on myself against the wall, all that could be heard between the crackles of the fire was my harsh breathing. I could feel G’s stare boring into the back of my head. After a few minutes of this, my ire rose again. “Don’t you have somewhere to be? Someone to be controlling?” I sighed. “Just leave me alone.”
“Duo. Let me help...” I felt that his body was too close to mine, and snapped. I shoved him as hard as I could and took off for the balcony. With Sedici guarding the door, I had no other option. I barreled into the railing and looked down. I saw that G not only told the truth, but understated the situation. This room was a few yards from the top of the mountain. The air was very thin, cold and windy. It whipped my hair and snow hard enough to cause pain, and stole the air from my lungs. The bottom was too far away, and barely visible. No, escape wasn’t difficult. It was impossible.
“Leave me alone!” I screeched, and in what I would always claim was a fit of insanity, jumped up on the railing. Turning to face G, I screamed as loud as I could. “Go away!” The wind kept upsetting my balance, causing G to reach for me. I in turn would lurch away from him, which would cause him to reach for me again. This turned into a vicious cycle until I was nearly out of railing.
G stopped but had his hands up, ready to pull me in. “Duo, come down! This is insane!”
In all honesty, I wanted to. I was freezing, hungry and terrified. I had no idea what would become of the others, or of me. I had the horrible image of the Prince being victorious, and spiking the heads of Wufei and the others around the mountain. I was afraid of being his slave, of displeasing him and being killed like Oburi. I was afraid of G controlling me, forcing me to hurt myself. I saw myself in different scenarios: eaten by a mist with teeth, Otto’s pet, Sedici’s punching bag. So many fears. Too many fears.
Suddenly, I felt someone in my mind. G. I recognized the feel of him. He wasn’t trying to read my thoughts, though. He was trying to gain control of my body.
I lashed out. I slammed up every shield I could, forcing him out of my mind. It worked with terrible results. I instinctively flailed about. That, combined with a huge gust of wind, toppled me off the railing. I had fallen one heartbeat before I was caught by my ankle, but the momentum had me swinging. The back of my head banged against the mountainside with enough force to see stars, and to knock me out of my insanity. Panting heavily, I looked towards my feet to see my savior.
It was Otto.
He was leaning almost casually over the rail, hand braced against it in support. His other hand easily wrapped around my ankle and lower calf. His eyes and the stars surrounding them appeared brighter than usual. I couldn’t tell if it was from the moonlight or irritation.
I tried to reach for him, but he didn’t reciprocate. He was studying me. “Should I let go?”
My panting even harsher, I cried out, “No!”
“It didn’t look like you were pushed. Were you?”
“No! It was an accident!”
He made no move to pull me up. I could feel all of the blood going to my head, making it full of pressure. I reached for him again without success. “For fuck’s sake Otto!”
In a smooth and controlled move Otto pulled me up. G grabbed my arms and together they got me on my feet. G had one arm around me as he led me back inside. Since my legs were made of jelly and I was cross-eyed, I allowed it. He seated me in front of the fireplace, and wrapped me up tightly in pelts. I touched the back of my head to feel for the lump, and instead brought forward a bloody hand. I jumped and turned to Otto, scared that he would be in a hunger-driven frenzy. He wasn’t. Instead, he pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed as if I was working his last nerve. Hell, I probably was.
“Sedici, bring some warm water, cloths and food.”
Silence reigned for the next half hour as I ate and G cleaned my head. When I finished, Sedici took the bowls of food and bloody water away. Otto only watched us as he leaned against the fireplace. So it was a shock my system couldn’t handle when he stepped forward and kicked G across the room.
The necromancer landed in a heap in a corner. With a sigh of annoyance, he sat up and gave the Alphagué a bored look. I guess this wasn’t an unusual occurrence.
I heard Otto move to stand in front of me. Slowly, I looked up his body until I met his eyes. He was Not Happy. “You are the most pathetic Primus I have ever seen,” he sneered. “I should have let go.” With a turn in G’s direction, he dismissed me. “Wizard,” he growled, “you are getting ahead of yourself. You treat the Untouchable as if he is yours. He is not. He is the Prince’s property, first and foremost. Now get out.” G sighed as he rose, and left without a word.
Otto turned back to me and squatted down to my level. I didn’t respond as he carded his hand through my hair. “What a mess,” he mumbled to himself. “Duo, pay attention. I do not like what I am about to say, as it could be considered disloyal to my Pack.” He brought us nose to nose. “This does not help Chang,” he whispered. “I can understand the reason for your,” his eyes shifted as he thought of the word, “meltdown.” He nodded to himself as if satisfied with his word choice. “But that accomplished nothing. You were pathetic.”
I pulled back from him. “Yes, so you said two seconds ago-”
“Yes!” he hissed. “I did because it is true!” His face twisted into a terrible sneer. “There are moments, fleeting as they are, where I can see what Chang sees in you. At those times, I contemplate killing you before you realize your potential.”
Oh God. They were going to kill me...
“Then that creature goes away and the pampered, prissy, pathetic Primus is back. At that point I can not help but question the Shenlong’s sanity.”
I sniffled, wiping my nose with my arm. “Why bother telling me this?”
“Because I want my Packmaster happy. Because I want Noin back. Because I want the Shenlong off of our mountain and out of our country. They stink of impure lands.” He wriggled his nose. “It is obvious to all of us that you are the key. I do not know how, and I could care even less.” He sighed, shaking his head. His whole demeanor changed, going from asshole to concerned acquaintance. “What happened to you? Where is the spitfire I met in Texas? Where did he go?” He sounded truly bewildered.
I grabbed at my collar. He was going to get my answer whether he was ready or not. “You guys are killing me,” I told him. “Literally.” I swallowed, and had a tough time doing so. The lump was hard, and tasted of tears and snot. “You guys scare the shit outta me to the point where I can’t function. I mean, I just learned that werewolves were real two months ago, and now I’m involved in all this!” I threw my hands out, gesturing to everything. “Zombies, ghouls, wizards, safe havens, mixing magics... it just goes on! Then there is the threatening, the kidnappings, a dead baby, G and Sedici... how much more do you expect me to take?”
“As much as necessary,” he said briskly, then stood. He stared down at me then sighed. “No more stunts tonight. Fall apart if you need to, just have your shit together by morning. A lot of lives are depending on you, mine included.” He turned and left.
Thanks Otto, appreciated it. No pressure at all. Asshole.
Now an even bigger mess, I spent the next hour pacing, mumbling to myself and having tantrums. I went through fits where I would alternate between pulling my hair while screaming, and kicking the door while yelling obscenities. The door was locked so I was unable to see if Sedici was still guarding it. If he was, he was completely unmoved.
Exhausted, I collapsed onto the pelts and into a troubled sleep.
“I am here, Duo.”
I shifted in the pelts, halfway to consciousness but fighting it. I didn’t want to wake. “Go ‘way. M’ seeping.”
A chuckle. “I would love to let you rest… you need it terribly. However, you called me here, and your call I could not ignore.”
“Huh?” I said, and opened my eyes to… nothingness.
I was in a room that was completely black. There weren’t any visible walls, ceiling or floor. There was a light source, but again I couldn’t see from where. No breeze, no noise. Everything was still.
Sitting up in my bed, my eyes widened in shock as I saw Silver Water.
“Silver Water?” I asked in confusion. Why was a dead man sitting next to me?
“Uh… I’m not dead, am I?”
Another chuckle. “No.”
“But I called you here?”
“I do not know. I am not a clairvoyant.”
Damn. “Well… uh… hi.”
He laughed out loud. “Duo, you are such a treasure!”
I snorted. “I don’t feel like a treasure.” I looked around as he frowned at me. “Where are we?”
He raised an eyebrow. “You do not know?”
I made a face. “No. Why would I?”
“Because this is where you chose.” I recoiled as he continued. “When I arrived you were laying where you are now, sleeping.”
I dropped my head into my hands. “I… I…”
“Shhh,” he said instead, scooting closer and pushing me onto my back. “Rest. Relax.”
I settled back down, and felt my body loosening as Silver Water massaged my scalp. The events of the day weighed heavily on me, but with the shape-shifter here I knew I would have help. “I’m sorry to have bothered you.”
“Please do not be. I was only too happy to come when I felt your pull.” I could hear the smile in his voice. “I can sense that you are in a great deal of trouble. Knowing that I put you in this situation, it is only right that I help.”
“I was thinking of you earlier,” I said drowsily. “I was thinking how your death haunted me. Maybe that’s how I called you?”
“Maybe,” he agreed. “But do not let my death continue to upset you. My existence since has been complete bliss.”
I felt the truth in his words. Suddenly, I felt something loosen and break away to be replaced with relief and peace. “That’s better,” I heard him murmur. “Now, how can I help you?”
I snorted. “I don’t know. Not unless you can tell me who Oburi killed.”
I sat up and twisted around to face him. “Excuse me?”
“Akai. The vampire’s name was Akai.”
I didn’t know whether to jump up and dance or punch the hell outta him. “How the fuck do you know that?”
“The dead are aware of the dead, and Oburi was among us, however brief,” he said with a shrug. “And the… permanent death of an undead is always celebrated.”
I raised my eyebrow. Supernatural racism. Gotta love it. “Do you know where he lived?”
“No, but ask one of your gnomes. No one knows the Earth better than them.”
I wanted to smack myself. Duh! The little guys could probably take me there.
“Enough for now.” He pushed me down again. “I have a feeling you will have a busy day tomorrow. Sleep. I will guard your dreams.”
Unable to do anything more, I closed my eyes. Otto was right. I needed to get my shit together. Many lives were depending on me, and I couldn’t fail them. Only for tonight will I depend on someone else.
I couldn’t help but sleep peacefully with an avenging Thunderbird chasing away my nightmares.
A/N:Chapter inspired by Bjork's 'Vertabrae by Vertabrae.' In my mind, this fit too well into Duo's situation. Title of chapter also inspired by another of Bjork's songs.
Akai is from the anime Kite.