Avarion was waiting for them at the base of the hill. On seeing the guard the two pilots had acquired, Silverwolf smiled in greeting. "Ash," she said warmly. "I'm glad you came."
The young man's eyes lost some of their aloofness as he stood before the shorter woman. "Silverwolf," he greeted politely. She smiled up at him with soft eyes; watching them, Duo was surprised to find himself smiling at the obvious interest between the two. He was not usually one to look upon male-female relationships as "cute". But then again, Silverwolf struck him as being the first woman in a long time that demanded his respect by her mere soothing precense.
Silverwolf turned her gentle eyes on Duo, a look of worry flitting across her normally serene face; belatedly Duo realized he must look pretty rough from his fight with Lucias. Wiping blood from his lip, he laughed easily. "Daijabou, ojousan. I'm fine- and Lucias is dead."
The others of her coven looked grimly satisfied.
"Look," Ma'at said abruptly, wide eyes riveted on the hilltop. Everyone looked up.
Duo turned just in time to see the flare of brilliant light that erupted from the summit, and felt his breath catch at the sight.
"Someone should probably fetch the child," Cateye pointed out, frowning in motherly concern despite the awe in her eyes at teh display of power. "He'll be exhausted." She looked pointed towards Quatre, who was still unconscious in Trowa's strong arms.
"I'll go," Harebell said, stepping forward.
Ash nodded at a tough-looking Hispanic man behind him. "Arturo, go with her."
"I can look after myself," Harebell started defensively, but Sirus punched her lightly on the shoulder, grinning. "Aw, come off it, 'Bell. You don't expect to.."
"..Carry him all by yourself, do you?" Basil finished with a smirk.
Harebell gave a defeated shrug and accepted the staff Griffin silently offered. "All right, then," she said grudgingly. "Where will we meet you?"
"At the falls," Silverwolf answered, flicking a glance at Ash for his opinion. He nodded approvingly.
"Let's go," Arturo grunted. He and Harebell began climbing the hill again.
Duo turned towards Silverwolf, crossing his arms and jutting his jaw. The priestess noticed his stubborn stance and spoke quietly before he could begin demanding explanations. "Please wait until we get to the falls, and we will properly introduce ourselves to you all." She flicked her glance towards each pilot. "Then we will answer whatever questions you have on this matter."
"And get Duo up to date on what the hell Quatre and Trinity *are*," Wufei added with a slightly uncomfortable frown.
Duo spotted Atreusio huddled on the grass in the background cradling Neo's head in his lap. "First," he said quietly, "I think Neo should be taken care of."
Atreusio looked over at him, gratitude creeping into the look look of mute agony in his eyes.
"Yes," Silverwolf agreed firmly, casting the two Old Souls a sad look. "We will put Pheonix to rest when we reach the falls."
Duo nodded, his initial curiosity dampened by the solemnity of the situation and his own exhaustion. "Hai." He looked to his partners for any sign of resistance. But after witnessing Neo's unexpected sacrifice, not even Wufei looked ready to argue.
"Very well," Silverwolf murmured.
Lugh gathered Neo's limp form into his arms and they all trailed silently after him.
Duo did not look back.
Wufei didn't realize just how hungry he was until they reached the falls in the woods and Ma'at hauled a cooler full of drinks and sandwiches from behind a rock. Everyone found a seat in the grass and ate while the green-eyed woman from Ash's coven tended to the Gundam boys' injuries.
Quatre had opened his eyes sleepily while the woman- who introduced herself as Fresia -had tended to him, smiling upon seeing all his friends. When the woman moved on to tend to Duo, Trowa offered the small blond a ham sandwich, jade eyes watching him with concern. "How do you feel?"
"Very tired," Quatre admitted, eating his meal quickly but neatly. He smiled at the two boys seated protectively on either side of him, blue eyes shining with warmth. "I'm glad you came for me," he said quietly. "I missed all of you. Arigato."
Wufei brushed wind-swept bangs from the Arabian's face, allowing a small smile to touch his lips. "Aa." He was so overwhelmed with the relief and happiness of seeing the other boy again that he almost didn't seem to notice Trowa.
Quatre, however, was smiling at them both with equal warmth and- trepidition as Trowa's hand closed comfortingly over his own. He glanced from one pilot to the other, holding his breath as he waited unhappily for the two of them to start fightingo ver him again.
Wufei, however, flicked a look of understanding towards the solemn Heavyarms pilot. "Quatre," he said carefully, "Trowa and I have been doing a lot of thinking...and..." he hesitated, frowning uncomfortably. Quatre looked to Trowa and saw the same uncertainty in his face. He also saw the pained, almost longing glance he shot at the Chinese warrior. He blinked.
Wufei gave a little start of surprise as Quatre gave a sudden happy laugh and reached out, clasping both of their hands. He turned his sunny, tender smile on each of them. "Perfect," he said with quiet warmth. "Now," he added with a twinkle of mischief, "kiss and make up."
They both balked a little, caught by surprise, and Quatre was greatly amused to see Wufei's bronze cheeks flush with embarassment.
Then he glanced from Quatre to Trowa and leaned across the blond determidely, pressing his mouth quickly but softly to Trowa's. Trowa blinked in surprise as Wufei leaned back, and realized belatedly that he must have blushed, because Quatre was giggling at him. Smiling ruefully, he captured the smaller boy's face in his hands. "Stop laughing," he commanded, though the humor in his green eyes weakened the threat considerably. Quatre smiled back at him, and Trowa found himself staring, memorizing every inch of him with a happiness and gratitude that was almost painful. It was like the moment this morning when Wufei had kissed him for the first time.
He wanted Quatre every bit as much as he had ever wanted Wufei in those days when he had been blind to the blond's shy advances in his own helpless infatuation with Wufei. He leaned forward, closing the gap between them at last, and Quatre's mouth opened willingly for his.
He tasted like pure sunshine.
Duo allowed Fresia to tend to his bloodied knuckles- split from hitting Lucias so many times -as he listened intently to Silverwolf as she told him what she had told the other pilots about Juniper's prophecy. Heero sat silently off to the side, watching Duo's face carefully as he munched on his sandwich, gauging the other boy's reaction. Duo, however, seemed to be taking it all in stride; apparently he'd decided that after witnessing so many bizarre occurences in the past week, he was going to be a hard one to surprise.
"So what happens now?" Duo asked after Silverwolf had finished, flinching as Fresia tugged on the bandages on his hand. "Ow."
The older woman ran a hand through her long hair, glancing distractedly to the side, and both Duo and Heero looked towards the small mound by the waterfall, already scattered with the wildflowers the two covens had collected. Duo felt a twinge of painful regret tug at his heart at the thought of the brash boy now buried there and Davarius's mocking words.
'Neo is not as evil as you thought he was...'
No... he wasn't. He had leapt before the boy he had scorned so often, desperate in that last instant to gamble his life rather than the seer's. As he always had done secretly, according to Davarius.
'Neo used to be a lot like your friend Trowa, you know. ..Until he was hurt one too many times.'
Duo glanced around for Atreusio, but the boy had disappeared immediately after the burial, and out of respect no one had followed him.
"We will have to hold a ceremony," Silverwolf said briskly in answer to Duo's question, giving herself a little shake as if determined not to dwell on unpleasant thoughts. "To purify them."
Duo thought of the black circle and Lucias crushing Trinity against the ground and nodded quickly in agreement.
"Here they come," Heero interrupted, looking behind Duo. Duo twisted quickly.
Arturo and Harebell strode from the forest, Trinity's limp form cradled against the man's large chest.
"Trinity!" Duo scrambled to his feet, ignoring Fresia's protests, and ran to the approaching group.
Arturo halted as Duo neared. "It's all right, amigo" he said in his rumbling voice even before Duo could panic. "He passed out like the other one. Too much energy spent."
Duo sighed in relief, stepping forward and laying a hand gently against the small boy's cheek, checking his temperature. Warm, but not dangerously so. He looked peaceful. Asleep. Duo relaxed.
"What about Davarius?" Heero's cool voice was directly behind him.
"They were dead, all of them," Harebell said in a strained voice, and Duo saw a flicker of muted horror in the backs of her eyes. "All of Red Crystal had fallen dead where they stood and Davarius..." she swallowed hard.
Arturo finished for her, undisturbed. "He was torn to pieces," he said gruffly. "As if by some crazy wind."
Duo shuddered, staring down at the frail looking boy in Arturo's powerful arms silently, a little overwhelmed. Trinity, the little boy who had been so shy and helpless all those years ago on L2...how he had changed....
"Duo." Silverwolf was walking towards them, face serious. "When we hold the ceremony at sunset... I think it would be best if you and your friends weren't here."
Heero frowned, looking ready to argue.
"Sure," Duo said quickly, before his partner could say anything. "No problem."
"Why?" Heero demanded impatiently.
"Several reasons," Silverwolf replied calmly, unruffled by his snappish attitude. "For the most part, we don't need to chance any negative energies disrupting the balance and ruining what we're trying to do." She looked pointedly at the perfect soldier.
Heero frowned slightly, but didn't argue anymore- more because Duo was giving him a warning look than anything else. "Hn."
"We'll wait in the woods," Duo offered with a wry grin. "And talk."
"Hai," Silverwolf agreed, smiling at him in thanks. "Don't worry; we'll take care of your friends."
"I know," Duo said simply, and smiled back.
Wufei poked at the small campfire with a twig, glancing at his watch impatiently. "It's been almost an hour," he grumbled. "Aren't they done yet?"
Duo sweatdropped. "See why she didn't want us there?" he demanded.
"Shut up, Maxwell."
"Wufei..." Trowa quietly intervened.
Heero glanced across the fire at Duo's face illuminated in the firelight, musing silently.
"So Quatre and Trinity are supposed to save the world," Wufei grunted, poking at the fire once more. It seemed to be a nervous habit. "And just how are they going to do that? As you said," he flicked Heero a glance, "Quatre, at least, does that job as a Gundam pilot, in a way."
"Maybe killing Davarius was what was supposed to happen," Duo suggested thoughtfully, nibbling on the end of his braid. "That nutcase was pretty fucked up- who knows what he could have done in his search for power?"
"I don't know," Trowa argued quietly. "Trinity and Quatre still seem..restless."
Wufei frowned at him, but Heero nodded in silent if reluctant agreement.
"We'll ask Silverwolf when they're done," Duo said with a sigh, reaching up absently to rub at his eyes. "I just hope they don't take too long... I'm exhausted." He paused, peeping through his fingers at Trowa and Wufei, seated beside each other. They sure had gotten close since last night. "Ne..." he started curiously, "can I ask you a que-"
"No," Wufei cut him off sharply.
Trowa didn't even blink, but he closed his mouth firmly, flicking Duo an unreadable look.
Duo pouted, but lowered his hand and let the matter drop.
Just then they heard a rustle and turned expectantly as Basil appeared from the trees. He beckoned to them, looking tired but satisfied. "It's finished," he said simply. "Come on, let's all get to bed. They've fallen asleep already."
The pilots rose, stretching, and Wufei kicked dirt over the fire before they followed the tall wiccan back to the field with the falls.
Everywhere there were blankets and sleeping bags set up, and the majority of the covens were already drifting off to their own sleeping spots.
The four pilots padded over to where Silverwolf was standing over Trinity's and Quatre's sleeping bags, watching them with a strange look in her eyes.
"Silverwolf," Duo whispered to get her attention. She looked up at him, looking a little distracted. "Have you figured out what it is they're supposed to do to 'save the world'?"
Silverwolf hesitated before shaking her head minutely. "Iie. I'm sorry. But don't worry- their purpose should be revealed in time." She offered a wan smile. "Meanwhile, I think we should all get some sleep. Things might seem clearer in the morning. Oyasumi."
"Oyasumi," they mumbled as she turned and sought out her own makeshift bed.
The pilots hesitated, still gazing down at the peacefully sleeping Old Souls before reluctantly bidding each other good night and drifting off.
Duo slid into a sleeping bag, propping his arms under his head and gazing up at the moon above.
It was night. How comforting the sight of the moon had always been to him. He felt his body relax, the tension fading as his eyelids fluttered closed, the exhaustion taking its toll on him at last.
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