Blood in Siberia
Chapter 33: The Left Fork in the Road
I yawned, hands folded and resting on my stomach as one of the shape-shifters--in the form of a snow leopard this time--stood over my head. Literally. I could feel the frustration rolling off of him. He could smell me. That was obvious. Unfortunately, where he could smell me did not make sense. After all, who would’ve guessed that I was buried right underneath his nose?
Being a favorite among the gnomes had life-saving perks.
He started pawing at the ground. I tried not to worry, but the smallest bit of apprehension was taking hold. This particular Shifter was especially sharp. I meant that supernaturally as well as intellectually. All of the Siberians were sharp, intellectually. However, with this one I could see in my mind’s eye that the edges of his essence were sharp. He felt like a shape-shifter, but he also felt like the blade of a knife. I was able to tell him from the others just by that alone.
These guys have been on our asses for the last day and a half. Considering that they picked up our trail when we were only a day out from Lake Baikal, they must’ve been coming for us hard and fast. They were really, really good. It had taken every ounce of brilliance on all of our parts to avoid capture. Unfortunately, avoiding capture usually meant the three of us had to split up. Considering that we only had each other, that was something equally frightening and painful.
The pawing had turned into outright digging. I think he figured me out. Shit.
“Turn me loose!” I yelled, already bringing my gun up to bare. The gnomes quickly brought me to the surface, simultaneously sinking the pack of shape-shifters into the ground. As they fought to free themselves I took off, heading north even though we really needed to go west. I didn’t get far before I heard Trowa and Heero thundering after me in werewolf form. Heero ran ahead of me and stopped, dropping down to his stomach. I jumped on his back and held on for dear life as we sped off, hoping to put as much distance between us and our enemies as we could.
“You are not going to let this go, are you?”
The glow of Heero’s eyes in the moonlight was kind of spooky. Unfortunately, it was too risky to start a fire. It was freezing out, but these past few nights really toughened me up. I hardly felt the cold anymore. “No, I’m not,” I whispered. “I can’t leave him like this. He’s just a baby.”
“They will not be thankful,” Trowa broke in from somewhere behind me and to my right. He was resting with his eyes closed. I couldn’t see him at all. “They would let you hand Oburi over, then gut you.”
“I don’t intend to ‘hand Oburi over,’ ” I quoted with my fingers. “I intend to leave him where they can find him.”
“Then how will they know who to thank for his... retrieval?”
“Easy. I’ll hang a sign around his neck that’ll say, ‘Eat my dick.’ ” I shrugged at Heero. “After all, who else would say that to the Siberians?”
They didn’t say anything, but their snorts of laughter were enough of a response.
“Sleep Duo,” Trowa said, this time from somewhere behind me and to my left. “I give us another forty-five minutes before we have to go.”
Sighing, I eased myself to the ground, curled up and started to doze. I managed to get a decent amount of rest for the first half hour, then I reached out in order to find Oburi. I nearly screamed in frustration. I didn’t know what he did, but for the time being he was in control of his powers. He was moving fast, going to what I guessed was a train station. Unfortunately, I had no idea where this train station was and knew he was going to reach it if someone didn’t stop him. With the Prince at war with Wufei and Noin... injured, I didn’t think the Siberians would be able to do anything about him. Fuck.
“We gotta go,” I mumbled, sitting up.
“What?” Trowa moved to stand over me. His glowing eyes were even spookier than Heero’s. “Duo, rest some more. You still have five--”
“It’s Oburi,” I snarled, rising to my feet. “He’s almost to a train station! My understanding is that if he gets to Luxembourg, we’re fucked!”
“No, if we get caught by those shape-shifters we’re fucked!” Trowa snapped. “The hell with Oburi! He is the Siberian’s problem.”
“If that was the case you wouldn’t have been so willing to help them!” I shrieked in a whisper. “Don’t kid me, Trowa. I know the Shenlong are not innocent in this, okay?” The atmosphere shifted just then, becoming somber. “I know Wufei is not innocent,” I said quietly. “I don’t know what he did, but I think it’s fair to say that he had a hand in something.” I paused. Neither confirmed nor denied my statement. “I also don’t know the Siberians as well as you do, but I know how to use my brain.” I started ticking points off on my fingers. “For one, they are well-isolated. The entire time I was in the castle, no one accidentally wandered across us. Two, because of their isolation nobody bothers them. Three, because of points one and two, they literally live in their own world.” I held up a finger and pointed at myself. “Now, I can only speak for myself. But I can say with the utmost certainty that if I was living happily in my own world, it would take one hell of an incident to drag me out of it.” I turned to Heero. “I bet my life that that was the case. The Siberians were going about their days, and then suddenly their pregnant, Untouchable Alphagué was kidnapped.” I dropped my arms to my sides and turned back to Trowa. “So how do we fit into this? I know Oburi’s feelings are genuine. Did Wufei give him money to finance Noin’s abduction?”
“No!” Heero said, heatedly. Trowa seemed too stunned to speak.
My relief was short-lived. “Okay! Awesome. Then what?” I stepped back, which gave me the ability to look back and forth between the two. “What did he do?” Trowa didn’t seem the least bit moved, but Heero was biting his lip in indecision. “Look.... I love Wufei, okay? Knowing what I’m getting my ass kicked for is not going to change that. If I was really that easily spooked... or smart,” I mumbled that last bit under my breath, “then I would’ve been gone the instant Darlian put Harvest’s decapitated head on my car.”
Heero opened his mouth to say something, but a harsh growl from Trowa silenced him. That startled me. I had never heard Trowa make that sound to anyone in our Pack before. Heero seemed just as startled.
It was Trowa who spoke. “It is best all around if you do not know, Duo.”
I was startled again by his tone of voice. It stated in no uncertain terms that I was Not To Ask That Ever.
I stood there for a moment and just stared at him. I was hurt. After all that I have suffered on their behalf, after all of the fear, anxiety and worry, after experiencing the deepest exhaustion I have ever experienced in my entire life, they still kept me in the dark. I swallowed thickly. “I see,” I said at last. I didn’t know what else to say.
“Good.” He nodded, then turned to Heero. “We need to get a move on. If we delay any longer, our trail will be warm.” The werewolves immediately changed over. After a moment they looked over their shoulders, obviously waiting for me. All I had been doing was staring at them in a daze. Still blown away I climbed onto Heero’s back, my movements absentminded. When I had grabbed a sufficient amount of fur, we were off.
The pace that was set worked well. We were eating the miles without draining the werewolves’ energy. I was flat on my stomach, easily clinging to Heero as my mind ran our ‘discussion’ through my head. Although Trowa’s disposition had hurt me, I also saw where he was coming from. He was responsible for me. He was trying to get us the hell out of here and back to Texas without any money or documentation. We didn’t have food or water, but we did have the enemy up our backsides. He was outgunned and out-manned, and had a lover that was probably fighting in his stead. It was obvious that he had a lot on his mind.
So did I. The further away we traveled, the more my mind screamed at me. I remembered the feel of that infant’s fear and loneliness. I recalled the crushing weight of his father’s grief. My own desire to see this through became so great that it was overruling everything else. It got to the point where it was suffocating me. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t leave. I would probably die trying, but I wouldn’t forgive myself otherwise. This would haunt me for the rest of my life.
“I’m sorry, but I have to! I yelled. Before they could process what I meant, I let go.
We were apparently going faster than I thought. I hit the ground so hard I was bouncing, and the momentum from the fall had me rolling fast. I couldn’t hear Trowa or Heero over the sound of impacting the ground, but I knew that they would be digging their heels in and coming back for me.
Not soon enough I rolled to a stop, face-down. I knew I had plenty of abrasions that were bleeding (they certainly hurt like hell); I just hoped it was enough payment for the gnomes. Mouthing into the ground, I asked for help.
By the time Heero and Trowa had changed back, I was gone.
I woke to the sound of a train’s tooting. Opening my eyes, I sat up and found that I was laying in a darkened area out of the way. Thank God the gnomes knew where the hell this place was. I wasn’t sure my description would’ve been enough.
Closing my eyes, I mentally scanned for anything nonhuman. I found one. My guy.
Moving was agony, but I managed to get to my feet. With more effort than it should have been, I pulled my Jericho out. Stumbling forward, I made my way into the decrepit train station. I didn’t have any idea where I was but that didn’t matter. Only that infant did.
I must’ve looked like hell. The few people there looked at me in alarm and would come towards me as if to help me. Then they would sight my gun and take off, the women screaming and the men wide-eyed. I could feel the place emptying and smiled. I wouldnt have to hold back.
I was a good three meters or so away from his hiding place. He must’ve sensed someone coming but probably didn’t expect it to be me. His head popped out from around a column. His eyes widened in surprise (the one I shot out was whole) and he took off. I charged clumsily behind him and fired. The bullet struck him in the thigh. He briefly stumbled but kept going. I fired again and again, bullets pinging off of concrete columns and walls. He was fast. It took a great deal of energy to keep up with him, and I didn’t have that much left.
The place was small but spacious enough to where he could double back and run past me. He had done this several times. He was using some of his magic to defend himself, but fighting with the Hunter had taught me a few tricks. I was able to run up walls or grab an object and swing around to avoid his gusts of wind or thrown debris. I could see the frustration and anger in his face that a human could keep up with him. Unfortunately, he could also see that I was hurt and tired.
Per Murphy’s Law, the worse thing that could’ve happened, did. I could hear a train coming into the station. At this point in the fight, I was on one side of the tracks and Oburi was on the other. Something went through his mind that was too fast for me to understand. I was even more confused when he launched himself across the tracks, towards me. That wasn’t a sound decision, but that didn’t stop me from pulling the trigger and firing my last bullet. It hit him dead center in his chest and he dropped like a sack of stone. I ran to his body and grabbed the diamond on his forehead, bracing my foot against his face. I was going to get this stone god damnit, even if I had to rip his face off to do it.
I had barely pulled when his hand shot up, grabbed me around my neck and threw me onto the tracks. The train didn’t even brake, so I knew the conductor didn’t see me. There was also no hope of me getting up. Not only was I stunned, I also had the breath knocked out of me. The pain of the fall and my previous hurts had me down for the count. I was face-down and couldn’t move. This was it.
At the last possible second someone grabbed me under my arms and yanked me off the tracks. I hung limply in his hold as the train roared by, my hair blowing in my face as I caught snatches of Oburi glaring at me through the train’s windows. He gave me one last snarl before he used his magic to escape. He blew a hole in the ceiling and jumped through it, like Superman. If I wasn’t so intent on kicking his ass, I would’ve thought that was a hella-cool exit.
The person holding me readjusted their grip, and when they did I knew instantly who it was. “Aw shit,” I mumbled.
I felt as well as heard his chuckle. “So ungrateful,” G said with a smile. “Here I am, saving your life and I do not get so much as a ‘thank you.’ ”
Otto strolled up just then. “Thank you,” I said. “I would’ve been dead if it were up to him.” I jutted my chin in the werewolf’s direction. I didn’t have the energy to move my arms.
Otto didn’t smile. In fact, he didn’t have an ounce of humor in his body right then. “You look like hell.” He snorted. “Your Alphagué has done a piss poor job looking after you.”
I frowned. “I’m hurt due to a... somewhat self-inflicted incident and from my fight with Oburi.” I glared as hard as I could. “Where the fuck were you?”
“Laying traps for your ‘friend,’ Trowa,” he sneered, “which now I am going to have to undo.” Without another word he walked away. Then he stopped, really took a look around and turned back to me. “You gave the wizard hell.”
I nodded. “I want to finish this.”
He stared at me a moment. “So we shall,” he said at last, then walked away.
I expected for G to either release me or throw me over his shoulder and go to where ever they were staying for the night. I didn’t expect him to turn me around and try to kiss me. “What are you--stop! I said stop, asshole!”
Again, what I expected was for G to release me. Instead, he threw me painfully to the ground. He sat on my hips, grabbed my wrists and pinned them to my chest. I tried to buck him off but all I ended up doing was exhausting myself to the point of helplessness. When he tried to kiss me again, I turned my head to the side. Putting both of my wrists in one hand, he used his other hand to grab my chin and turn my face towards him. When he kissed me, I kept my lips pressed tightly together. This lasted for a few seconds. Then he suddenly sat back and slapped the hell out of me. My head rocked to the side. Stunned, I only laid there and tried to breathe as best as I could with him sitting across my stomach.
“I am sorry, Duo,” G whispered, touching my cheek apologetically. He then leaned down until his lips touched my ear. “I did not mean to... I just... I want you to the point where it is driving me insane!” He stuck his tongue in my ear. I shivered from disgust. I hated having my ears touched. Sensing this, he stopped. Instead, he trailed his lips down my neck. Oh boy. That definitely got Duo Jr.’s attention. “I have never wanted anyone as much as I want you,” he whispered. “Not having you causes me physical pain.” He sighed. “Seeing you on those tracks... I do not believe I have ever felt such terror before.”
Fuck. How the hell was I supposed to be mad at him now?! He hit me, and here he was getting all mushy. God damnit!
“You have no idea what I would do to have you.” He sighed again. “What I would give for Chang’s demise...”
“Stop it,” I said, quietly but firmly. “You forget yourself. One, I belong to Wufei. Two, I do not return your feelings.”
“No, but you are attracted to the scent of my power. That is more than enough for me.” Slowly, he released me and stood. “Time to go,” he said, hand held out. “Otto smelled your Alphagué... and Special. Very well done,” he said, sounding like a proud parent rather than angry that I found and freed Heero. I grabbed his hand and he hauled me up to my feet. I stumbled, but he threw my arm around his shoulders. “They were following what little scent there was of you to follow. Again, well done. I do not think any of us would have found you had it not been that there was nothing else out here except for this station... or that there were people running and screaming about a crazed, long-haired man with a gun.”
I snorted. “Yeah, that’s typically how I’m described. ...how’s Noin?”
He paused, seriously considering his answer. “Out of the way,” he said at last.
It was my turn to pause. “So... what’s going to happen to me?”
He seemed to be confused. “I do not know what you mean. What does her shooting have to do with you? After all, we are very grateful to you, as it was you who killed the Hunter that shot her.”
I opened my mouth to say something, and then shut it. If Noin garnered such animosity that her own packmates would rather conceal than reveal the identity of her shooter, then I would honor their silence. “Well, I was glad I could help,” I said, as we limped along.
“Yes... We could tell.”
We barely made it outside before I was swept up in Heero’s arms. It hurt initially, but the man radiated heat just like every other werewolf. In no time my pain was soothed as my muscles relaxed. I just hung in his arms like a limp noodle. “Hey Heero, Trowa.”
Trowa was livid. You really wouldn’t be able to tell just by looking at him, but I could. His anger came at me in waves.
“You scared the fuck out of us,” Heero whispered in my ear. “Trowa especially. He was afraid he would find you laid out dead somewhere.”
“I’m sorry,” I said, over and over again. “I’m sorry. I had to, I’m sorry...”
Otto was standing next to Trowa, watching the whole scene neutrally. Apparently, he figured out that I had escaped from my keepers. That was a feeling he should have been familiar with. “Come with me,” he said to Trowa, before walking away.
Trowa sighed, and ran his hand down his face. “We need a proper camp for him,” he said, looking at Heero. “He is a mess.” Without another word, he turned and followed Otto.
“Proper camp my ass,” G said, turning as well. “Otto and I came in one of those piece of shit van’s you all arrived in. We can find a hotel.”
That got my attention. “I’m riding shotgun!”
The bed and breakfast we found was wonderful. Big, four-poster bed, pillow-top mattress, linen that smelled like the icy wind... ahhhh.
We arrived at dawn, where the owners were just beginning to make breakfast. I wasn’t sure what everything was on the plate, but I was so hungry I damn near ate my fork. As I showered, the owner’s wife took my clothes to wash (let’s not discuss the look on her face when she saw the guns), and let me borrow a pair of pants and a shirt of her husband’s. Since he was five inches taller and sixty pounds heavier, his clothes were something of a loose fit. I could’ve given a damn. I was fed, clean and dressed... and in a room with G. I would’ve worn one of her dresses if necessary. After his confession at the train station, I was not showing any more skin than I had to.
Needless to say, after I ate and showered I went to bed. I slept heavily for six hours, with Heero napping right beside me as G guarded the door. It was just into mid-afternoon when the Alphagues returned. Heero and I had just woken up when Trowa arrived. He immediately entered the bathroom, where seconds later I heard the shower going. Otto arrived a minute afterwards with a tray full of cheese and fruit. He placed it on the edge of the bed in easy reach of everyone. Five minutes later Trowa was out, dirty clothes bundled in hand. Otto entered the bathroom next, and showered in just as short a time. The owner’s wife came up again to collect their dirty clothes, but had nothing that would fit them. They didn’t seem to care, and were fine walking around in towels. She didn’t seem to mind a great deal either, if her overt peeking was anything to go by. I was also happy to note that neither werewolf appeared to have any wounds, or showed any signs that they had to kill something. We were two for two.
“I take it you got in contact with Akito?” G asked, closing the parchment he had been reading. The writing looked Greek. Bloody hell, how many languages did he know?!
Trowa leaned against the wall by the door, arms and ankles crossed. Otto flopped into a chair by the window. I was afraid it would break when I heard it creak and groan. The werewolf didn’t seem to notice. He also accidentally flashed me. I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath. Oh lordy lord.
“Yes I did, after Barton and I checked with all of my other contacts to confirm that Oburi was heading that way,” Otto answered. “He said he will keep a lookout and that they will catch him if he gets there before we do. Talked to Hatori too. Unfortunately, he believes erasing the Air Wizard’s memory will not work. It does not make a difference what a wizard’s element is, I was told. All wizards have the same basic powers. There would be nothing to stop the little shit from reversing anything done to him.”
“He is correct.” G huffed, stretching out in the chair. “Well, are they willing to help?”
“If he shows his hide there, then yes. Akito is pissed that our... issue is entering his territory in the first place. I might have to blow him just to keep him from shooting us when we walk through the door.”
I was paying attention to the conversation, but between the words ‘blow’ and ‘door’ I was riveted. “Wait--what?” I held my hands out in front of me, as if they would defend me from his words. “Who’s going to shoot us?” I wasn’t going to ask about the ‘blowing’ part. Yet.
“There is only one other place Oburi can get to without having to go to Moscow. It is a place called Sohma House,” Otto explained, scratching his leg and flashing me again. “It is run by the Sohma Family.”
I frowned. “They don’t sound Russian.”
“That is because they are not. Very good.” Otto nodded at my catch. “They are Japanese, but enjoy the spaciousness and money they make on the continent. They have their hands in quite a few business junctures and are wealthy because of it.”
Trowa snorted. “Too bad they do not have any taste.”
“Awww.” Otto clucked. “Do not be jealous, Barton. They are neutral, you know? They could care less if you are Shenlong or Siberian. All they want is to dance and get laid.”
The more Otto spoke of them, the more confused I became. Now we went from ‘blowing to keep from getting shot,’ to ‘all they want is to dance and get laid.’ “How is reaching Sohma House going to help Oburi?”
“Not all of their business ventures are legal,” G chimed in. “You have the cash, they will get you whatever you need: a car, travel documents, a plane ticket, a child, mutual funds, tomatoes, an elephant--”
My eyebrows went higher and higher as the list became more and more bizarre. Ignoring G for the moment, I turned my attention back to Otto. “How do you guys know them?”
“My ex-boyfriend is a Sohma. He is the head of the family.” Throwing his head back, he smiled. “A few decades ago, I was traveling through Yokohama when I came across some Hunters attacking him and his cousins. I killed the Hunters but sustained injuries from the fight. In thanks, they took me to their home and had Hatori, one of the family’s doctors, patch me up.” Otto’s voice became distant, as if reliving the memory. “Later that night as I rested in one of the spare bedrooms, Akito invited himself in. He kept me up all night, as well as the next.” Otto smiled lecherously at me, flashing me for the third time. Between that and G still naming things that one could buy from a Sohma, which also included a bumblebee-colored yacht and a picture of Jimmy Carter falling down the stairs, I was ready to pull my hair out.
Then the smile faded from Otto’s face to become more melancholy. “I miss the hateful bastard.”
I was startled by the depth of emotion. “What made you guys break up?”
He still had that sad smile on his face. “He is the head of his family. I am Alphagué to the Prince of all Werewolves.” He shrugged as if that said it all. When I thought about it, it did.
“When do we leave?” I asked, in an attempt to save my sanity. G had now started to mention sex toys that could be bought. If he didn’t stop, I might have to... discuss the matter with a Sohma.
“In a few hours. Barton and I need to rest, and you all could probably use a bit more as well.”
Without another word Otto changed over, as did Trowa. They both curled up where they were and quickly fell asleep. I laid back down, as did Heero. G stretched out along the foot of the bed, using his cloak as his blanket. In the span of twenty minutes, all had fallen asleep except for me. I studied the werewolves, Heero and G and wondered at their ‘hatred’ of each other. No one was sleeping with an eye open. No one had a weapon in hand or a claw unsheathed. I didn’t think it even occurred to them that this would be the perfect opportunity to harm the others.
Shaking my head to myself I laid down and closed my eyes, safe in the knowledge that I would wake.