Blood in Siberia
Part 17: Helter Skelter (The Rose Chapter)
Have you ever had a feeling that something bad was going to happen? Was it predictable, like parking in a tow-away zone? Or was it physical like an ache in your belly, which warned you of danger ahead?
That was what I was experiencing. When I woke up, I immediately recognized that feeling. Deep down in my gut, I knew that something bad was going to happen, and I was all in a tizzy because of it. Adding that I also felt like hell from the night before, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to deal. Wufei, bless his heart, listened as patiently as he could before deciding that enough was enough. Shoving some food at me, he went to his meeting with the Prince. I dabbled with my eggs for a bit before deciding that if I ate, it would make an unpleasant reappearance in an anxiety attack. So I (carefully, I was so stiff!) cleaned the room, washed up and dressed. With nothing else to occupy me, I stared at the wall, hemming and hawing from boredom. I guess I was so used to action now, that if my life wasn’t being threatened I didn’t know what to do with myself.
Quatre suddenly entered my thoughts, and if I already didn’t feel like crap, I would’ve smacked myself for forgetting he was hurt. Gingerly, I made my way into the hall (thankfully, these doors weren’t heavy like Wufei’s), and to Trowa’s room. I knocked gently before cracking the door open. The torches were out. Shit. Hoping that I wasn’t interrupting anything, I called out softly, “Quatre?”
A torch blazed to life, and my friend’s bright smile echoed across my face. He placed the candle he used on the floor. “Hey Duo!”
Faster than I thought I was capable of moving, I went to Quatre and we engulfed each other in our arms. Laughing happily, we pulled back and started speaking at the same time. I couldn’t tell you what either of us said, but we didn’t care.
Holding his head in my hands, I looked his face over. “Quatre, you look as good as new!”
“I am as good as new, and better,” he told me with a grin. “Surviving serious injuries makes us stronger. So he can back-hand me again, and I’ll certainly fly across whatever room we’re in,” and here he smirked mischievously, “but when I get up, you won’t be the only one that’ll kick him in the balls.”
Even though I always thought that incident was funny, I never laughed as insanely as I did now. Seeing Quatre healthy, whole and happy was making me giddy with joy. We embraced each other again as we laughed, and we listed from side to side as one of us tried to knock the other over. Then my euphoria started to fade, and I just held on tight. Quatre gently patted my back, cooing 'I’m okay’ and other assurances into my ear.
It took a while to get my emotions in check enough to speak. “Don’t ever put yourself at risk for me again.”
He snorted. “What part of 'we’ll defend you with our lives’ don’t you understand?”
This time *I* snorted. “The part where I earned it.”
“Oh?” He pulled back to look at me. “I seem to recall you rescuing one of our cubs from a gun-toting madman, being attacked by a hobo, being stalked by a werewolf, suffering hours on end after being bitten, suffering more hours in the healing, and solving a murder mystery on top of that, saving the Shenlong.” He tilted his head. “It that doesn’t earn our protection, what does?”
What the hell could I say to that? Nothing. I only shook my head.
“Enough of this. Trowa told me of your ordeal, and I can smell your pain and exhaustion.” I started to say something but he held up his hand. “We can speak of it later. For now, let’s rest.” Quatre grabbed me by the shoulders and guided me to the pile of pelts that constituted a bed. As he did so, I finally noticed the room. Because only one torch was lit, the room seemed sinister with jumping shadows. But I thought that the walls were the stone of the mountain, and the heavy pelts made the room feel rich and kingly. I could tell that the room Wufei and I shared was tailored more to me because I was human. This was definitely a werewolf’s den.
I jumped right in, whereas Quatre circled a bit before settling down. Surprised by how warm and comfortable I was, I debated whether or not to try this at home. I quickly dismissed the idea. I couldn’t imagine the number of deerskin I’d have to collect to create something like this. Not to mention I didn’t want to shoot any deer, their fur wasn’t soft or thick, and the thought of skinning them was making me nauseous…
“Be prepared Duo,” Quatre spoke quietly. “Something bad is coming.”
I gasped. “You feel it too?”
“Nope,” he said cheerily. I made a face at him. “But… this whole situation is not making sense. And I can not help but feel you will be right in the middle of it all.”
I blew the ceiling a raspberry. “This sucks.”
“Yep,” Quatre agreed. “Huge donkey balls.”
For the next couple of hours I slept on, waking briefly for Quatre to force a meal down my throat. Once again my mind was shot, but surprisingly to a lesser degree. Whatever caused the attack was strong, but it wasn’t as damaging as when I tried to read Wufei’s mind. Thank God. I didn’t think I could handle that again.
Unfortunately, the attack had been sustained for a couple of hours, and that was almost just as bad. I was able to 'tune in,’ but it was weak and it gave me a splitting headache. In an effort to ensure that my skull didn’t fall apart, I wrapped my braid around my head. After that, I put my shields up and discovered a nasty surprise. They were ragged. Badly. It felt as if they had been shredded by claws, then left flapping in a two hundred mile an hour wind. I mentally sighed and left them in place. Hell, shitty shields were better than none.
After that was settled I continued to nap on, but with brief intermissions. There were periods of time where I knew I had to have been in a deep sleep, and other periods where I was in a light doze. At those times, I heard things that didn’t quite make sense to me. There was one point where I woke, and shifted to see Quatre at the door. I assumed he was whispering (if they needed to whisper) something to whomever was in the hall. That wouldn’t have bothered me except… I didn’t know why, but he seemed tense. When he turned to look at me, I dropped back to sleep. The next time I woke I was alone in the room. I would’ve figured that Quatre had gone to the bathroom, except I was facing it and it was empty. The next time I woke to the sight of Quatre sitting cross-legged beside me, staring down at me. Running a hand through my hair, he quietly cooed me back to sleep. The last time I woke for good, and that was because I opened my eyes to find myself thrown over the back of a bear. A bear. A giant, humongous, big fucking polar bear. When it realized I was awake, it stopped walking.
If I ever have the opportunity to sit down and talk with God, one of my questions will be about the human instinct. Why was it, that when faced with a deadly situation, our first instinct was to scream our asses off?
I opened my mouth, and even hesitated for a second to ensure that my lungs were filled to capacity. Right when I was about to let loose with a scream I knew would bring the mountain down, a hand clamped over my face, covering my chin, mouth, nose and one eye. I looked up and immediately recognized Rashid. He gave me a look that clearly said, 'don’t make a sound.’ When he was sure I wouldn’t, he released me. Then he pointed to the bear, and mouthed 'Quatre.’ Startled, I looked the bear in the eyes. Sure enough, there was a bright blue ring around the iris that any normal bear wouldn’t have. Calmed, I pushed myself up and slung a leg over. Resting my chest on his back, I gripped his fur as hard as I dared. Then we were off in a soundless run.
Glancing around, I was shocked to see that there were only a handful of us. Besides Rashid, there was Abdul, Auda, and a few other Maguanacs. Wufei and the rest weren’t anywhere in sight. What was also funny was that everyone was dressed in their heavy cloaks (including me) and had a backpack of some sort, stuffed to bursting. Hmm… Nobody around, dark clothes, heavy cloaks, backpacks… oh my gosh! Were we sneaking out? Hallelujah!
Relieved, I relaxed my grip and positioned my head between his shoulder blades. I’m sorry, but to wake up and realize you were draped across a bear was a stroke-inducing experience. Needless to say, this new fright exhausted what little reserves I had and I was ready for another nap. After I flattened an area so that fur wouldn’t tickle my nose, I dozed again.
Ten minutes later our run to freedom ended. I was just about to fall into a deep sleep when we suddenly stopped. The momentum carried me forward, and reflex had me wrap my arms around the bear’s neck. Quatre raised his head, and that in addition to my hold kept me from sliding off. Surprised by my abrupt awakening (again), it took me a moment to figure out that what stopped us was in front of us. Looking up, up, and up, I saw Otto’s frowning face staring down at us. When his attention focused on me, his frown deepened. “What is going on here?”
At first I didn’t say anything. Hell, I didn’t know what I could say. But then Rashid leaned towards me, and whispered in his rough bass, “Tell him the truth.”
I sighed. The truth wasn’t going to win any points here, but I didn’t really have a choice. Staring Otto straight into his mirrored eyes, I said, “I don’t know.”
Without pause, he nodded. “Follow me.”
Otto spun on his heel and immediately took off. We followed him at a ground-eating pace that led further into the mountain instead of out. Hugging Quatre tighter, I buried my face into his fur and fought the urge to scream the mountain down again, only this time in frustration.
Otto led us to the throne room where we were met by a raving Wufei, and a grim-faced Prince. Both sights surprised me. My mate has been known to snap at me or the others periodically, but he’s never lost his cool in public. Right now though, he was barking like a crazed animal with foam frothing at his mouth. His fur had sprouted along his hands and on his neck where his cloak couldn’t cover. His eyes were the blackest I had ever seen, and his canines were visible to me from across the room.
The Prince might scare the hell outta people to get his way, but this time he was doing it without even trying. His eyes were so blue they had to be glowing. His hair was standing up again like it had static electricity. His canines reminded me of the tusks of elephants, and although I couldn’t see it clearly, I bet he was sporting his fur too. He wasn’t going off the handle like Wufei, but his silence frightened me just as much. Both were feeling so intensely their emotions were thrumming along my shields, making them feel as if they were vibrating.
We were ignored when we entered, and that gave me time to look the scene over. I’d nearly wet my pants from what I saw. While Wufei and the Prince went at it, the Packs sat in waiting. Some had changed over to their animals, while the rest were like their Packmasters, barely holding their wolf side at bay. Both Packs however, were ready to rip some throats out at the first sign.
Suddenly, they all turned in our direction and silence ensued. I swallowed, hard, and took a deep, slow breath to quell the urge to vomit. I didn’t like being the center of attention, especially in a crowd like this. Seeing so many glowing, colored eyes really drove home the fact that I was in another world. I heard Howard’s words echo in my head, and wished more than anything that I was at home with him.
The sight of me seemed to infuriate the Prince. Shaking, he shrieked, “OUT!” There were over three hundred werewolves in that room, and nearly all of them cleared out in less than fifteen seconds. The only ones that remained were the Packmasters and their Privileged.
When the door closed behind the last werewolf, Quatre stirred and made his way towards Wufei. He sent a few warning growls Otto’s way as he walked beside us. The Alphagué huffed in indignation, before veering away to be at his Prince’s side. He wasn’t my concern though. The Prince was. I had my eyes lowered, but all of my attention was focused on him. His eyes were narrowed, and I could feel them tracking me as if stalking prey. It was a terrifying feeling.
“You must think me a fool, Chang,” he snapped, even as he continued to watch me. “You had him packed up and halfway out before we caught him. I should’ve known your Shifter would’ve scouted the way out.”
“You are no fool Peacecraft,” Wufei replied as Quatre lined up behind him. “Otherwise Lagrange Two would’ve been mine centuries ago.”
He grunted at the unintentional compliment. “Yes, but you still test my patience at every opportunity.”
“As do you,” he answered back. “For instance, I would appreciate it if you would stop staring at my Untouchable. You are making him uncomfortable, and pissing me off.”
The Prince instantly glared at Wufei. “Watch yourself Chang.” He leaned forward. “I will not hesitate to annihilate your Pack and leave you to wander a lone wolf.”
Wufei growled low in his throat. “Harm my Pack and I will end your life.”
The Prince roared, fury making his hair stand up even more. “That does it!” He pointed at me. “Take him!”
“NO!” was involuntarily torn from my throat. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears, the pace going faster and faster as the Siberian wolves moved to surround me. Of course, the Shenlong were there, growling, snapping and clawing at anything that attempted to get close. Fights quickly began to break out. Roars, growls, and yips of pain were the sounds of battle. Quatre was spinning around in a dizzying way, searching for an out in the chaos. I held on, my head buzzing from sensory overload.
“Don’t you touch my Untouchable!” Wufei shrieked, with a fury so intense it shook my shields. The world slowed as my breath was stolen from me, voices and images duplicating and running one on top of another. I felt dizzy, and sweat ran down my neck. Something wet started to run down my lips. I knew without tasting it what it was.
“Hand him over!” The Prince roared, his voice echoing off the walls. His fury made my vision flash red for a heartbeat. “I will have my retribution!”
“There is no retribution to be had!” Wufei roared back, the words ending in a powerful yell that was barely human. Once again, my sight flared in that red haze that vanished as quickly as it appeared. “I! Don’t! Have! Noin!”
My sight flared red again, then started to blur.
The red pulsed with my heartbeat, as the noise around me faded.
“Find her!” a voice yelled from far away, “Or your Untouchable DIES!”
My breath left me in a sigh that consumed my hearing. The air kissed my fingers as I fell, and pulled playfully at my hair and cloak. The impact was a dull, distant thud in my ears, and I bounced slightly before stilling. My head turned to the side of its own accord, and I stared blankly as my blood ran freely from my nose. My heart contracted once, twice… My breath left me in a final sigh… My vision blackened…
Then I was aware of no more.
I woke with a start, fists swinging. Two people I didn’t recognize grabbed my arms and held them down. That got me to kickin’ at folks, and shortly thereafter someone threw themselves across my knees. With no other option, I tried to buck them off while cussing up a storm. It was when I took a breath (after I managed to stick my big toe in the guy’s ear) that I noticed that the people who held me down were wearing scrub uniforms, and that the objects around me were usually found in a hospital emergency room. I was in ER?
“Duo!” Quatre said frantically, materializing outta nowhere.
“Jesus Christ Quatre!” I screamed. “Where the hell did you come from?”
“You must be feeling better if you’re raising this much hell,” he said blandly, looking down at me with a slight smile on his face. Unfortunately, the slight smile made the rest of him look worse. His eyes were pink-rimmed, his hair was tousled (not from a fun way either), he had bags under his eyes and his skin had a grayish look. If I saw him walking down the street looking the way he did, I’d think he was either on drugs or had HIV.
“Whatever. Just get them off me!”
Quatre nodded before he turned to the nurses. Whatever he barked at them made them let me go, but they didn’t step away. I had stopped paying attention to them though. I could only watch in horror as saline bags, rolls of gauze, scissors, a bed pan, and other medical necessities sailed over Quatre’s head from every which direction. It seemed that the nurses thought it better to throw requested items across the room instead of handing said items to people. But none of this stopped Quatre. He yakked on as if he stood in emergency rooms everyday with medical shit being thrown over his head.
“…let you go, so you’ll have to sign an AMA.”
That jerked me back to the present. I shook my head. “What?”
He rolled his eyes. “I said, there’s no way you can stay a couple of days like the doctor wants. This isn’t our territory. It’s not safe for you to be here. We need to leave, but we can’t take you. You’ll have to sign an Against Medical Advice release before they let you go. Will you?”
It was right when he said that that someone’s false leg, I kid you not, came flying right towards us. The nurses that had held me down ducked, and Quatre leaned sideways. If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve thought the entire thing was choreographed. When it landed safely passed us, the nurses and Quatre stood as they had before, staring down at me as if awaiting my answer. I stared back for a few seconds. Then a few more. Finally, Quatre just said, “I’ll take your blink as a 'yes,’ ” and went off to find the aforementioned paperwork.
I died. I had died.
I was still trying to wrap that around my head. I had died in that throne room. It was only Sally’s quick reflexes that kept me from being dead.
It was too much to take. When Wufei felt something intensely, I had a hard time buffering him until he bottled himself up. That was only if my clairvoyance was at its peak. But with both him and the Prince fired up, and my shields shit, it didn’t take very long for the emotion to overpower me. I described Wufei’s mind as an F5 tornado. Even though I’ve never tried to read the Prince’s thoughts, I knew his would be the same. Their power was so great, it was almost a physical force surrounding them. In the end, their power crushed mine like a tidal wave.
A hand gripped my shoulder. I turned to face Quatre. “Everything’s going to be fine, Duo.”
“Yeah,” I said, before sighing.
The bad feeling that I had before? It was still there. Apparently, what happened to me wasn’t it. The worse was yet to come.
I pushed that thought aside, and went back to watching the scenery pass us. Right now we were heading for the airport. After I was discharged, Wufei encased me in three thousand blankets, kissed me passionately goodbye, and tossed me into the back of a white limo. (Why the fuck we didn’t use a limo to get here was beyond me). Quatre, Sally and Rashid were with me, acting as my bodyguards. Per Wufei’s orders, they were to get me the hell outta Siberia and back to Texas. As thrilled as I was to be leaving, I was scared crapless for the others. My mate didn’t say it, but he didn’t need to: the Shenlong and the Siberian were going to war. The Prince tried to put his hands on me, and according to Pack law, even the attempt was punishable by death.
To distract myself, I smiled at Sally. When she raised an eyebrow, I said, “I spy with my little eye something that starts with 'w’.”
Quatre immediately got into the game, glancing around and finding everything he could that started with a 'w’. Sally smirked back at me and answered, “Me, who is a hot piece of ass.”
“Yes, you are,” I said as Quatre laughed, “but the word that was going through my mind was 'window.’ Besides, 'me’ doesn’t start with a 'w.’ ”
“Yes, but 'woman’ and 'werewolf’ does.” She shrugged. “Close enough.”
My smile was genuine. “Um, no.”
Sally had opened her mouth to say something else, when Rashid suddenly jerked the limo to the right. The three of us went flying, where I slid face-first into Quatre’s crotch. Before I could react the limo veered left, where I rolled into the door and Quatre slid face-first into my crotch. “Rashid!” I hollered, then squawked as Quatre dug his elbow into my thigh to push himself up. “What the fuck?!”
Without warning, Sally and Quatre started vomiting. Badly. I was talking the Exorcist kind, okay? Totally gross. Then the limo braked to a stop, and I could hear Rashid doing the same thing. Confused (and grossed out), I turned away from everyone and covered my mouth, taking deep breaths. The nausea backed off. But as the minutes passed and they didn’t stop, I became concerned. Werewolves didn’t get sick. Sally told me that. So why...
Right on cue the door opened, and I saw someone’s shadow. I grabbed the nearest bottle of scotch, intending to club this person like a baby seal. Just as he stuck his head in, I got a good look at his face. I dropped the bottle and scooted back as far as I could, all the while hollering my lungs out.
It was a zombie.
This… thing, had died when he was around my age, but has apparently been a zombie for a long time. His hair was a dirty brown (because of the dirt still in it), and his clothes had the classic shredded and decayed look zombie’s were known for. His skin had decayed to green, but luckily his jowls were intact. What surprised me however, were his eyes. They were very clear, bright, and--this was what got me the most--intelligent.
It was when I was ready for another bout of screaming that I noticed two things. One was the silence. Glancing around, I saw that Quatre and Sally were unconscious. Judging from the silence from the front, I figured that Rashid was out too. The second was that the zombie smelled really, really, really bad. In fact, right when I noticed that, *I* started puking. The limo jostled slightly as the zombie backed away from the door, and his absence allowed me to breathe in a few gulps of slightly fresh air. Judging by my reaction to it, I could only guess that that was what caused Quatre and the others to get sick. With their sensitive sense of smell… ye gods.
My relief was short-lived. The door to Sally’s side opened, where several zombies were. They reached in and grabbed her arms, pulling her from the limo. The front doors were then opened, and the same was being done to Rashid. “Hey!” I yelled, and started for them. What I was going to do was a mystery, even to me. But as soon as I moved, a hand clamped on my shoulder, holding me down. It was the first zombie I saw.
I struggled against him, but I might as well have been trying to move a mountain. He held me still until Sally and Rashid were pulled out, and placed face-down in the snow. Quatre, I was shocked to find, was left as he was. Then all of the zombies climbed in, one of them starting to drive. Once again I jumped up to do something, and once again I was shoved back into my seat.
“No!” I yelled, trying to push him away. “We can’t leave them there! They’ll freeze!”
“They’ll be fine,” came the whispered, slightly breathy response.
I jumped, shocked that not only did the zombie understand what I was saying, he spoke back. “What?”
“They’ll be fine,” he repeated, the hand holding me down easing up. “You need to worry about yourself now.”
I jerked back. “What?”
The expression on his face was one I never thought a zombie could make. His eyes almost looked watery, and his pinched lips gave me the impression he was really worried. “We are bringing you to the Prince,” he told me quietly, with a glance towards Quatre. “He does not have good plans in store for either of you.”
That did it. I dropped my face into my hands and just… sat there. I didn’t have the energy to cry. I didn’t have the energy to scream. I didn’t have the energy to do anything, really. All I wanted right then was to be left the hell alone, and I was sick of feeling that way.
The zombie, after a while, backed away and sat down. When he did, I got up and dragged Quatre to my seat, stretching him out as comfortably as I could. Then I made myself comfortable, and rested Quatre’s head on my lap. Taking a corner of a blanket, I gently cleaned his face. Tangling a hand in his hair, I stared at his sleeping face, mentally begging him to wake up. He didn’t. I screamed in my head over and over for someone to help us, to rescue us. No one came. I held Quatre to my chest, burying my face in his hair. There was a reason he wasn’t left on the side of the road with Sally and Rashid. It was because of me, I was sure.
“Why is this happening to you?”
I looked to the zombie that spoke. It was the first one, the one with the intelligent eyes. Glancing around, I noticed the same thing in the others. Another myth in my mind was burned to ashes. Zombies were not stiff, stupid things that ambled around with their arms out. They were mobile, alert creatures. Too bad they didn’t bathe regularly. “I don’t know.”
“I’m sorry,” he said. Even without my clairvoyance, I knew he meant it.
This chapter was the hardest I ever had to write in the series. Honestly. I don't know why. I just couldn't get Duo from Quatre and Trowa's room to the throne room. (AKA I had the writer's block from hell). Then when I was going thru my music (since music inspired the entire series) I stumbled across A Perfect Circle. I heard their song 'Rose' off of the Mer de Noms album, and mentally saw Duo riding a bear for some reason. *shrugs* Then I remembered that 'duh! Quatre's a shape-shifter!' and then wham-o! I had what I needed. So this chapter is due to A Perfect Circle. If you listen to the song while reading the chapter, start it right when Duo enters the throne room to when he...er...passes out.