Ch 22: Face-Off

I give a little start of surprise as a small burst of warm air hits the back of my neck, accompanied by a soft, strained voice.
~Heero!~ I force myself to continue to face my cousin, though every fiber in my being longs to turn and take Heero's head in my arms. ~Daijabou ka?!~
"...Get out......Run..." His labored breathing is loud in my ears, and I hear the chains on his wrists clank as he struggles feebly to move.
~Don't move! I'm not leaving you. Don't worry, we'll get you out of here! Just...hang on! Please!~
"...Duo..." A quiet sigh.
I keep my eye warily on my cousin, edging backwards slightly, ready to act as a human shield.
I blink, surprised as his mental voice seeps into my head, warming me all over.
There is a moment of hesitation, then a flickering image flashes in my head, causing me to catch my breath. Heero, seizing me in the woods, crushing his lips to mine, my hands reaching up of their own accord to tangle in his hair as he clutches me to him in close desperation.
//I finish that....//
A slow heat spreads across my cheeks at the next image that flashes through my head, and I swallow dryly. ~H-Heero!~
His lips trailing down my neck and shoulders, my breaths coming fast, my hands pulling frantically at his bare back, trying to pull him closer to me as we lie together, limbs entwined, hard to tell where one begins and the other ends....
"Die, slut!" Irdarr leaps for me suddenly, claws upraised, and I dive forward quickly, *into* the blow, wrapping my arms around his waist. He gives a loud "oof!" as we crash to the ground, the air driven out of his body momentarily. We tangle clumsily for a few moments before he gets his wind and his senses back and seizes my throat in one hand and the front of my shirt in the other. Hissing, he sits up quickly, shoving me off of him and tossing me brutally across the room.
My body slams into the wall, the rocks tearing through cloth into flesh, and a choked-off gasp is all I can muster before he comes at me again, faster than I remember, sharp teeth bared, both hands slashing downward. I dodge, but not quickly enough. I cannot stop the scream of pain as razor-sharp claws rake my ribs and side.
I roll away, struggling to my feet and breathing hard, one arm wrapped protectively around the bleeding wounds, the other upraised. "ADUNAGA!!" A rush of black wind whirls towards my adversary, but merely knocks him back a few feet, not even throwing him on his back. Shit. My Power is next to nothing down here. The fact that I have to use Ancient Words to work my spells instead of throwing them at will is proof of just how weakened I am.
I throw a quick glance over my shoulder to see how Wufei is doing against Jova.
He is still intoning the words of the ancient spell, trembling slightly with the strain of it all. Trowa is standing before him, eyes narrowed as he faces down Jova, ready to take the blow himself.
'It will kill him,' I realize suddenly, my heart sinking. 'It will save Wufei, but the Beast Master can't handle that kind of attack in his weakened condition. And he knows it.'
I whirl back to face Irdarr just in time to get smacked in the face by my own spell as he sends it looping right back at me. I grunt as it throws me into another wall, amplified with his own strength. "Ungh!!"
"Stupid little Shinigami," he taunts in a low voice, walking slowly and menacingly towards me. I scramble backwards, pushing away with my hands, my heart hammering, my mind racing.
'Now, Wufei, now now, do it now, gods, let it work, now now....'
Irdarr lifts a hand pulsing with green energy, his face wreathed in a terrible smile. "Say goodbye to your mortal body."
I clench my eyes shut, tensing in preperation, and just at that moment, feel a *pull*...
"GERFALDINAROM!!" Wufei finishes the spell with a shouted word, and suddenly the landscape around us is streaked with black and white, and my stomach lurches as if I've suddenly plummeted down a roller coaster track.
I gasp for breath and open my eyes, blinking repeatedly as slowly my churning stomach calms down. Up above I see not rocks, but...
Blue sky.
A slow, relieved smile spreads on my lips.
"Nani?!" Irdarr looks around wildly, cloak whirling. His eyes are wide in disbelief and fury. "You-- A transportation spe--?!"
Then everything happens at once.
I twist my head quickly, just in time to see Jova's orange blast rocket towards Trowa, who is bent over trying to help a weakened Wufei to his feet.
Just before the truck-sized blow reaches them, it smashes into an invisible barrier and shatters, the noise of the explosion making my ears ring as I scramble to my feet, catching a glimpse of Quatre glaring straight at Jova, hands still upraised from his shield-casting. Not bothering to see what the two do next, I hurl myself at my cousin, catching him off guard as my fist, enveloped in black Power, slams into his gut, bringing him to his knees with a pained grunt.
My wings flare wide as I leap backwards, avoiding his flashing claws, my teeth bared.
He snarls at me as he climbs to his feet, hissing through his fangs with his furious pants. "Little *slut*!! How dare you!"
I gaze at him cooly, brushing my braid over my shoulder. "We are no longer in your realm, cousin," I remind him. "My Power is nearly equal to yours."
"Only nearly," he sneers, lunging. I duck quickly. "You are still part mortal. And I can still kill that mortal part of you!"
"You can try," I snap back, seizing his fist as it flies towards me, twisting my free hand in his red locks at the same moment his other hand seizes my throat. He screeches in enraged pain and I holler as his grip tightens. In retatiliation, I yank hard, bending his head backwards and pulling painfully on his hair. We stand like this for a few moments, torturing one another and spitting curses, neither one of us willing to relinquish our grip.
Out of the corner of my eye I see Jova tangling with Trowa, their fingers interlaced as they strive against each other, strength to strength, gritting their teeth and glaring into each others' eyes, feet scrabbling for a hold in the loam and leaves of the forest floor. Orange and yellow jolts flicker around them, crackling against each other, Power against Power. Quatre is kneeling beside Wufei, the Chinese warrior's head pulled into his lap as he watches Trowa fight with wide anxious eyes: the silent cheerleader.
"Let *go*, you little shit!" Irdarr shouts furiously, sinking his claws into my throat and bringing up his knee, driving it into my gut. I double over, gasping for air, and his claws slide away from my throat. I release his fist and stumble back feebly. "Nnh.." Blood trickles down my throat and I wince, coughing violently.
Breathing heavily, he cups his head with one hand, flinching unconsciously. "Itai...stupid brat." He turns on his heel suddenly, panting as he strides quickly towards his two prisoners.
I stagger after him, my voice hoarse. "Iya--!!"
He whirls, lashing out in a swift kick. I leap backwards to avoid the wicked-looking boots, throwing one hand out desperately. A black wave surges forward and he lifts his arms protectively, a barrier flying up before him. Even so, it presses him back several feet, and one little thread manages to get past his shield and slice his cheek. "Kuu," he pants, lowering his arms and glaring at me, the blood sliding down his handsome face. "You'll pay for that!" He lifts an arm imperiously, and immediately the leaves lying all around me on the ground fly into the air and whirl around me, their edges sharp as razors. I yelp, trying to dodge, the sound of ripping cloth loud in my ears. Cursing as I try vainly to protect my face with one hand, I wave the other frantically. A small tornado of dark wind quickly snatches up the leaves and shreds them, tossing the pieces everywhere. I lower my arm immediately, but he is already upon Heero, tearing the rope from his waist, leaving Relena to sag weakly to the ground as he jerks the Perfect Soldier around, ignoring his stumbling, quickly placing the torn boy before him like a living shield, breathing harshly but grinning triumphantly, his ruthless grip on Heero's throat keeping the soldier standing more than anything else.
Heero stares back at my horrified face with blank eyes, lips opened partially, looking more dead than alive as blood from a head wound slowly trickles down between his eyes.
"Iya!! Let him go, Irdarr!" I shout, my voice scratchy from all the yelling. I stumble forward a few steps, but halt when that grip tightens threateningly around Heero's neck. "Leave him be! This is between you and me!!"
Oh gods, don't kill him don't kill him don't kill him...
"Tell you what," Irdarr says breathlessly, mad eyes sliding towards the others. "You help Jova kill them...and I let your precious little prince here go."
I gasp back a sob, shaking my head frantically, clenching my fists. "No!! I won't! Let him go!" I scream. "I'll KILL you, I swear it!"
"Forfeit your life," he hisses, and I stop breathing, my eyes widening.
"Nani....?" I whisper after a few moments of stunned silence.
"Destroy the body you inhabit and become my prisoner," he hisses, eyes narrow slits of fiendish, triumphant delight. "Spend eternity in a cell in my realm where your powers are too weak to use to escape or slay your new master.." His grin widens. "Namely, me."
I close my eyes tightly, biting my lip so hard blood wells up.
To save them... that would mean forever being a prisoner of my hated cousin, able to minimally use my Power in taking mortal lives, but losing most of my abilities. Never again able to see the bright sunshine of Earth or intervene in the lives of the mortals I love so much. He will probably never allow me to mercy kill the sick and the suffering. A small helpless whimper claws its way out of my throat. The choice I have to make tears at my heart.
Kami-sama, what do I do?!
I open my eyes, meeting Heero's cobalt blue, and make my decision.

**Author's Notes: mwahaha... nice little cliffhanger there, ne? ^_^ *ducks rotten veggies* eep o.o;

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