Ch 18: Get That Thing on a Leash

He lifts his head slowly, staring up at me with dead eyes, the chains wrapped cruelly around his throat, wrists, and waist clinking with the small movement almost as a reminder of his own helplessness. His hair is matted with blood, but his face is strangely untouched save for a trickle of blood trailing down his chin from his mouth. The rest of him is riddled with long scratches and dark bruises, his chest moving with labored breathing. The pants are covered in blood and slashed almost to ribbons, leaving one scarred leg exposed. He opens his mouth a little, but no sound emerges as he continues to stare up at me blankly. A keening whimper starts in my throat, and I fall to my knees before him, no longer able to support my own weight. Reaching out, I cradle his head in my hands, ignoring the blood in his dark hair as I pull his head against my chest, burying my face in his shoulder and fighting fiercely to hold back tears of rage and sorrow.
His voice is so quiet-- merely a breath of air and noise against my neck --that I almost doubt I've heard it. Then again, like a sigh: "Duo...."
"H-Heero.." I cannot stop the mortal tear that slips down my cheek, my heart throbbing with pain inside of me. "What did he do to you...??"
"Don't......don't cry...." he breathes, chains clanking ominously as he lifts one hand painfully, cupping the back of my skull in his hand, head still leaning heavily against my chest. I tremble a little at his touch, clenching my eyes shut tightly. "Gods.." I choke, wrapping my arms around him in a moment of fierce protection. "Don't worry, we're going to get you out of here," I babble, hearing the strained tears in my own voice and not caring. "We'll get you out of here, and you'll be fine, I promise; we'll get you out and you won't have to go through this anymore...Heero..."
"Duo.." Quatre steps forward timidly, his face a mask of sadness and pity. "Come on, we need to get him out of here before Irdarr finds out, if he doesn't know already."
I force myself to calm down a little, sniffing loudly and gently shifting Heero so I can inspect the chain around his neck. "Right. You're right. Come help me get these things off of him."
The others surge forward without another word of encouragement. "Here." Trowa roots through the jumble of chains and lifts the heavy padlock, holding it towards me. With my free hand-- my other is still wrapped protectively around Heero's waist --I reach in my shoe and pull out one of my lock picks. Trowa holds the lock steady as I jiggle my tool inside the keyhole until I'm finally rewarded with a loud click. The padlock pops open, and Trowa pulls it free from the chains. The others immediately begin unlooping the restraints from Heero's body as I hold him forward carefully. They are gentle in their movements, though he doesn't so much as wince, simply watching them dully and silently. Finally the last chain slithers free from his waist, and I lift one of his limp arms to my shoulders as Trowa takes the other side. We lift him slowly and carefully, waiting for any murmur of pain. There is none. His head sags forward in exhaustion, though when we begin to move towards the door he helps us by walking, albeit slowly. "Don't tire yourself, Heero," Quatre says anxiously. "Just hang on, we'll get you out of here." He hesitates, then adds, "Relena's safe, too. We left her behind."
A small sigh of relief escapes Heero's lips, and I stiffen, biting my lip hard.
"Good.....Irdarr... he..."
"Don't talk," I say quickly, swallowing my bitterness and looking around quickly as we re-enter the hall, reminded fleetingly of the day Heero saved me from Oz on a mission to destroy me. It's time to return the favor, old buddy. "Wufei, you take the front, Quatre, you keep behind us with the cat. Come on, let's move. Our first priority is to get Heero out, *then* I'm coming back for Irdarr."
"We're going to fight him with you," Quatre says stubbornly.
"Like hell you are," I growl. "You have no idea--"
"No--" Heero breathes harshly, a split second before the tiger snarls loudly.
The ground suddenly begins to shake, a hollow booming echoing in the tunnels, coming from all sides at once, slowly getting louder.
Like footsteps.
BIG fuckin' footsteps.
"Shit," I hiss, looking around frantically. "Which way's it coming from?!"
"There," Trowa nods unhesitantly towards the way out. "Whatever it is, it's coming this way, and it's blocking our exit. We--" he blinks in surprise as the tiger, still snarling fiercely, leaps in front of him protectively. He frowns slightly. "Iya," he says sharply, and the tiger glances back at him.
"Here it comes," Wufei warns loudly, his wings-- like mine and Quatre's, too big to extend in the tunnel --flexing in anticipation.
Suddenly a furry head turns the corner.... twelve feet above the ground.
"Aw, shit," I say weakly, swallowing hard as the-- *thing* steps slowly into the passageway.
It looks almost like an abominable snowman or something, except with fluffy orange fur, his face resembling an ape's or something.
An ugly ape's. o.O;
"What *is* that?" Quatre squeaks, eyes as wide as saucers. At a barked order from Trowa, the tiger reluctantly takes up a position in front of the blond angel, though he would obviously much rather be guarding Trowa.
"Must be one of Irdarr's 'pets'," I growl as we shuffle backwards warily. It takes a booming step towards us, staring down at us with beady black eyes, drool seeping from its mouth. I make a face. "Eww.."
"How are we supposed to get past?" Quatre asks, and Wufei growls irritably, obviously miffed at this new obstacle.
Trowa is silent for a moment, then he looks towards the dragon. "Come here and take Heero from me. Let me try."
"Nani??" I cry. Wufei looks at him like he's crazy, and Quatre gets a horrified look on his face.
"What do you plan on doing?" Wufei asks, finally moving forward and taking Heero's arm from the pilot of Heavyarms and looping it around his own neck.
Trowa never takes his eyes from the monster as he hands Heero over and calmly walks towards us. "It looks like an animal," he says. "Right?"
"It looks like a *monster* to me," I say.
"Trowa, yamero!" Quatre cries, but the tiger blocks his way. "Trowa, it will kill you!"
"Iya..." he says quietly, halting a few feet before the..thing.. and gazing up at it steadily. Slowly he extends his hands, palms face-up, still staring at it intently. "Yamero.." he says sternly, his voice ringing with quiet authority. "That's enough."
The thing hesitates, blinking down at him stupidly.
"Trowa," I start nervously.
"That's enough," he repeats, voice very quiet
And slowly..
The thing lowers itself to the ground, seating itself in front of him, eyes still locked with his.
Quatre gives a little noise of surprise.
Trowa walks forward calmly, lying a hand on the monster's head. It blinks up at him, fangs still bared, then slowly its lips lower to cover its teeth as its entire body seems to relax, its head ducking slightly in submission.
"Aa..." I blink dumbly, comprehension dawning on me. "So *that's* who you are."
"Beast Master."
Everyone but Trowa jumps, startled, as a figure appears from behind the monster sitting dociley on the rocky ground.
"What a surprise... Such a variety. We are honored, I'm sure," the man says sarcastically, giving a mock bow. He looks young, despite the gray-colored hair that flows down his back like a waterfall, nearly touching the ground, the multi-colored beads woven through it catching the torchlight and glinting. He is dressed in a patterned red vest and the same type of pants Heero is wearing, only of course these ones are in good condition. He's wearing thin sandals on his feet, along with at least two toe rings. There are also large hoops in his ears and a strange medallion around his neck. He smiles up at us unpleasantly, his honey-colored eyes flashing. Beautiful. "Welcome to our humble abode, Shinigami, Son of Michael, Dragon." He nods to Trowa. "And Beast Master. How do you like my pet?" He pats the monster's side, smirking. "Yes, this beast is under my command. I would have sent a horde of goblins if I had known we would be graced with the Beast Master's presense. Goblins are a little too hate-driven and brain washed for even *you* to control, ne?"
Trowa merely gives him a hard look. "Dare da?"
"Why, my name is Jova." He gives a much more elaborated bow this time, as if presenting himself to royalty. "It's a pleasure," he smirks. "I'm assuming you're planning on rescuing your stoic friend over there?"
"That's the idea," I growl.
"I'm sorry, that's quite out of the question. No can do." He shakes his head in feigned sorrow. "You see, my Master would prefer we keep him here a bit longer. You'll notice he didn't marr the face..?" He motions towards Heero's untouched features. "He took quite a shine to him, I think.." He flashes perfect white teeth in a wicked grin. "He wanted to keep that handsome face clean for playtime, see."
I tense immediately, and if Heero wasn't already hanging from me I would have leapt across the room by now and wiped that damned smirk off the bastard's face. "You.."
"Though I don't know why he bothers when he's got perfectly good *me* around him.." the young man trails off, scowling slightly. Then his lop-sided grin is back. "But anyways, never mind me. Let's talk about you."
"Let's not."
"But don't you wish to discuss yourselves with me?" He gives me an innocent look.
"How about we discuss how your face will look when I rearrange it for you?"
"Mou, how rude."
"Duo.." Wufei warns. --we don't have time for this nonsense--
~I know, I know. But he's strong. I can sense it. And we're so deep in wherever-the-hell-we-are that I don't have the power to kill him outright. Not unless I can get my hands around his scrawny neck, that is..~
--....go. i'll take care of him--
~Wufei, no!~ Quatre looks to him, eyes frightened.
::I'll stay.::
Quatre's anxious expression turns to pure horror. ~ Trowa!~
He doesn't even bother to glance over his shoulder at us. ::Protect him.::
The tiger growls in its throat, obviously displeased by this turn of events but unwilling to disobey his master.
~Trowa!~ Quatre looks frantic. ~Don't! He's strong, I can feel it!~
I curse under my breath. The Beast Master's powers are very limited. His control in all animals is his best weapon.
::...Go, Duo. Get everyone out of here.::
"You know, it's not nice to talk about someone when they're in the same *room*," Jova says coldly, figuring out by our expressions and our silence that we're still speaking to each other somehow. "Bad little boys have to sit in the corner.." He lifts a tanned hand ominously. "Until they've learned their lesson."
With a snarl of helplessness I leap forward, Wufei along with me as we rush at Jova, who only grins, flexing his fingers, his palm lit up with a yellow-tinged Power. "Where do you think--"
Then Trowa leaps for him from the side, distracting him, and he whirls to meet him, the Power shooting from his fingertips and slamming into his chest, hurling him across the tunnel until he crashes into a door with a grunt of pain.
"Quatre, no!!" I shout uselessly.
The angel is on Jova in the blink of an eye, a feathery bundle of fury, taking the other man completely by surprise. Quatre manages to land a good few solid punches to his jaw and then his stomach, doubling him over with an "oof" before Jova manages to get his bearings. He reaches out, snagging a fistful of feathers in one hand and golden hair in the other, growling over Quatre's pained cry as he pulls viciously, throwing Quatre off balance.
"Quatre!" I stumble under Heero's weight as I try to shoulder him over to Wufei and aid my friend.
A loud snarl nearly drowns out my shout as the tiger leaps forward, claws flashing, fangs bared. A hand snagging my braid also halts me in my tracks, and I twist around angrily. "Wufei, let--"
He is leaning heavily against Wufei, breathing hard and holding my braid in a death grip, eyes narrowed fiercely. "Iya," he growls. "That thing.."
I turn back just in time to see Trowa rising unsteadily to his feet, his one revealed eye burning with partially hidden fury on seeing the grip Jova has on his angel, still holding him cruelly by wing and hair, using him as a living shield to ward off the tiger. "Let...him go.." His tone is cold as ice, his arms shaking slightly as he clenches his fists by his sides in an effort to recapture the endless calm he is so used to. "Let him *go*."
Jova offers a sneer, backing closer to the ape-like monster that is still sitting behind him dumbly.
Something in Trowa's eyes flashes, and suddenly the ape gives a rumbling sound, beady eyes narrowing dangerously as his big paw swoops down, easily encircling Jova's neck and squeezing just enough so that he turns bright red in the face, his eyes bulging in shock. "URrghh!!" he gurgles, thrashing uselessly. Finally he releases Quatre and begins clawing frantically at the hairy hand slowly squeezing tigher around his neck.
Gasping back tears of pain, Quatre collapses to the ground, one wing pressed tight to his back while the other is half-extended, probably bruised. "Y...Yame.." he swallows a gasp, turning to Trowa with beseeching eyes as the rest of us watch the strangulation in silence. "Yamero, Trowa," he pleads. "Yamero! Let him go...please.... Tell it to let him go..."
"You're too soft, Quatre." Trowa's voice is hard, his hard eyes never leaving Jova's desperate face, which is beginning to turn blue.
"Onegai, Trowa!" Quatre's eyes begin to brim with tears, his face crumpling. "Yamero! Don't kill him!"
Slowly, reluctantly, Trowa's eyes turn from the gruesome sight and lock with Quatre's. He stares silently at him for a long moment before blinking slowly and turning his now-calm eyes back towards Jova, who is gasping his last breaths. "Let him go," he says in a monotone. The monster drops him immediately, and the young man falls in a heap to the ground, unconscious, but alive.
Quatre lets out a shuddery breath of relief, touching Trowa's arm and looking up at him with sad, wet eyes. Trowa stares down at him, his gaze slowly softening. He reaches out, brushing golden bangs from a flushed face and murmuring something too quiet for me to hear. Quatre's cheeks turn pink and he lowers his eyes shyly, but he doesn't move away from the gentle touch.
Wufei clears his throat noisily, looking the other way. When he has our attention, he nods at the boy draped against him. "Yuy just passed out. We need to get him out of here."
"A-aa," I agree, quickly taking half Heero's weight again. Trowa steps forward as if to help once more, but Wufei waves him away in an unusually thoughtful gesture, leaving Trowa to walk beside Quatre. I offer the dragon an approving smile, and he merely grunts in reply, shifting Heero's dead weight more comfortably and padding along swiftly and silently alongside me. The tiger trots in back as a rearguard, and we leave Jova and his beast alone in the tunnel behind.
~Heero...Daijabou...We'll get you out of here, just hang on a little bit longer.~

"Which way was it?" Quatre asks after a few minutes as we pause at a fork. Wufei points unerringly in one direction. "This is the way out."
I nod. "Yeah. He's right. The other way is probably leading to Irdarr.." I scowl at the name. "We'll deal with *him* later. First we--"
Suddenly a terrified shriek echoes throughout the tunnel, causing us all to jump and the tiger to snarl in surprise.
"Oh, SHIT," I curse, at the same instant Quatre cries,
"That sounds like Relena!"
Damn you, bitch.
Damn you to hell.
Dumping Heero into Wufei's startled arms, I whirl towards the other tunnel and race down it, ignoring the frantic shouts behind me of my friends calling me back.
As much as I hate her, as much as I wish she'd just shrivel up and *die*, I can't just leave her here in Irdarr's claws.
I have to get her out.
It's...'s what Heero would want.

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