"He's just a kid! Let him go!!"
"Stop it! Leave him alone!"
"Don't sound so angry.. haha... You get to watch."
"H-hanase yo!! DUO!"
Duo's head shot up from the table.
Around him, people jumped, startled by his sudden movement. He was unaware of them, staring wide-eyed straight in front of him, breathing hard. He was in a cold sweat.
Just a nightmare, he realized as slowly his heartbeat began to slow.
"Ano..." the young librarian behind him looked uncertain. "Daijabou? You shouldn't sleep in the library, sir. I'll have to ask you to leave if you do so again."
Duo nodded absently, catching his breath. "H..hai. Sumimasen."
The woman glanced at him once more before walking away.
Duo took a deep breath and straightened, passing a trembling hand over his face. That nightmare... it had been so horrible. He had felt helpless and furious. Hatred had coursed through him. Yet even now the wisps of the dream were disappearing, and he let them go thankfully. His fingertips came away wet with tears. Whatever it had been about, he had absolutely no desire to recall it.
Clearing his throat and ignoring the people around him, he turned his attention on the open, musty volume before him and scowled. Maybe reading about all this occult shit was giving him nightmares. He sighed, pushing the old book aside and glancing over the selection he had piled on the table. He had read about Satanists and various fanatic Christian cults with no luck. Although the books on Satanism had mentioned candles and symbols, they didn't sound exactly like what Trowa had described. For one thing, the candles mentioned were usually black, and Trowa had distinctly said white candles. Ignoring the strange glances people were throwing at him because of his choice of reading material, he rummaged through the books, looking to pick one randomly.
One not-so-old book caught his eye, and he hesitated, pushing another book aside to see the rest of the cover.
On the cover was a ring of people holding hands under the moon. In big bold type the title proclaimed "WICCA". Duo raised an eyebrow but dragged the book to him. Well, it was worth a try. Wicca was like witch, right? And after all, weren't there modern day witches, too?
He intended to riffle through it until he found something about candles, but instead he opened it to page one, his curiosity piqued.
Almost thirty minutes later, when he finally put the book aside, he rubbed the tiredness from his eyes and grinned. Bingo.
Gotcha, he thought triumphantly.
"You think *witches* took Quatre?" Wufei scowled, glancing towards the screen that showed Duo's face. He tightened his grip on Shenlong's controls. "Are you telling me that it's like him being taken by Satanists? Are they planning on sacrificing him for some ceremony?"
"No, of course not!" Duo blinked, as if the idea was beyond ridiculous. "When I figured out it had to be witches, I rented a few books and I've been going through them. Real witches don't do human sacrifices...or animal ones for that matter."
In the cockpit of Heavyarms, Trowa relaxed marginally. "Then what was that ring of candles for?"
"Well, actually, I think white is..." On the screen Duo glanced down, skimming through a book in his lap, "usually for purification or protection or some crap like that.
"They were *protecting* Quatre?" Wufei sounded unconvinced.
Duo shrugged helplessly. "Well they couldn't have been purifying him, could they? Quatre's not exactly evil."
"Just tell me why they took him," Wufei growled.
Duo frowned. "Actually, that's what confuses me," he admitted. "Witches are pretty peaceful people- their entire religion is based around a 'harm none' philosophy, it sounds like. At least for modern witches. I don't understand why they'd take Quatre against his will and hurt you two."
"Hn." Wufei sounded unimpressed. "Then either you're wrong about saying witches took him or they're pretty screwed-up witches."
"Maybe the boy who came to the house wasn't one of them," Trowa suggested quietly, face solemn on the screen. "Maybe he took them to the witches because they couldn't go after him themselves. Since they couldn't take him by force and we probably wouldn't have let him go with them anyway."
Duo blinked at Trowa's insight. "Hey, you're right, that could be it," he said excitedly. "OK, so now all we have to do is find out what covens are around the area."
"Covens?" Wufei echoed.
"Yeah, it's like a group of witches or something," Duo said impatiently. "Look, I'm gonna find out what I can. I think I've got Wing in my radar, so I'm gonna go check it out. I'll contact you later."
"Yo! How's it hangin'?"
Heero shot a glance towards Duo's grinning face on the screen. "Duo.."
"Wu-man and Trowa already left. I think I got some info on our boy... listen to this."
"In a minute."
Duo made a face. "Nani? Just listen, I'll make it quick. Where are you going, anyway?"
"..Just wait a minute."
Duo rolled his eyes. "Geez, yes SIR, mister machine. I don't see why you won't just let me.... Oi, why are you landing?"
Wing lowered itself towards the trees, engine slowing. As Duo approached in Deathscythe, he looked around for a good spot to land nearby.
Suddenly Wing seemed to plummet abruptly, disrupting its easy landing, and crashed into the trees like a giant falling over. Duo's heart jumped into his throat. "Oi! Heero! Watch it, man!" He lowered Deathscythe as quickly and safely as possible, yanking at the harness even before he'd landed properly.
Punching the button to open the hatch, he slithered out and scrambed down the large Gundam to the ground, hurrying towards Wing, which was sitting calmly among the broken trees. "Oi! Not too graceful, Heero," he called, crawling up Wing's chest. "Just what the hell was that for?"
The hatch hissed open and Heero offered him a tolerant look from where he was still seated in the cockpit.
Duo shook his head in mock despair. "So why was it so important to land anyway? Something around here?"
"Eh?" Duo arched an eyebrow, leaning in and grinning at his partner teasingly. Despite his earlier anger at the boy, he couldn't help but feel glad to see him again. "What are you hoping to find around here?"
Duo blinked and slowly lowered his eyes.
Heero took his hand away from where he'd been holding it to his abdomen, and the blood he'd been holding back slowly began to pulse through his shirt, soaking his clothes.
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