Notes: Takes place during the mid 20th century, during "Ghost in the Darkness" era. (This reference is a little bit of a clue to part of the plot. hope I'm not being too obscure again) Feedback: Yes, please. All comments welcome (although flames may be fed to my dogs, who, since they have notoriously gassy intestinal tracts, will be spending the night with the flamer afterwards)
The sled settled to a halt just within the shade of the trees, shielding the occupant from the sun's punishing rays for just a few minutes longer. A silent step brought the owner of the sled past the edge of the forest, onto the riverbank where the low boat waited patiently for him.
"You're much later than you expected," a quiet voice observed calmly from the branches of a nearby tree.
Heero Yuy turned, glancing up to spot where his guide, Wufei, reclined easily in the stout boughs, a hefty rifle slung across his lap.
"Aa. The hunt was a good one," Heero replied, indicating the sled with a quick jerk of his head. He held out his gauntleted fist for the white raptor flinging itself through the forest to alight upon. With a soft thunder of wingbeats, Wing, his pale gyrefalcon, settled upon the scarred leather with a soft chirr of greeting. Heero reached up and absently scratched the falcon's breast with the fingers of his free hand while Wufei dropped down to the ground once more.
The Chinese youth stalked over to the sled, walking around it several times to fully examine the inert form resting unconscious upon the meticulously constructed bamboo carry-all. The body under the heavy ropes and netting didn't move as he circled it, not even to bat open one felinoid eye.
"So. That's it. That's Shinigami, the Ghost Panther?"
The silence stretched on between them for a long moment, the hunter still distractedly stroking the raptor while the native guide watched his friend's cobalt eyes drift away thoughtfully.
"What's wrong?" Wufei finally asked at length, grabbing the hunter's attention so quickly that the Chinese youth swore he almost heard the sound of the air rushing past Heero's head as it snapped around to fix him with a pensive stare.
"The hunt was a good one. It was a worthy adversary."
Wufei's eyes blinked open widely as Heero's words took him by surprise. Not 'prey', but 'adversary'. And 'worthy' at that. With a sudden flash of insight, Wufei knew this would be Heero's last hunt. There was nothing worthwhile left in the world for him to test his skills upon by hunting.
"I'm sorry," Wufei said softly.
Heero looked away sharply, refusing to meet the Chinese youth's stare any longer.
"So am I."
Across the tiny room within the boat, Wing napped contentedly, a soft, very un-raptoresque trill breaking the thick silence occasionally. Heero's gaze never left the sleek feline lying oblivious within the heavy iron cage. The drugs he'd used to subdue the captured beast should have worn off long ago, and yet, still the fierce panther did not awaken. A worried frown marred his brow at the thought of having harmed such a worthy opponent. Only the occasional twitch of limb or shudder of eyelid betrayed the great cat's life within the midnight black form. Heero hopped down from his perch on his hammock to pad over to the cage. Kneeling, he reached through the bars to reverently stroke along the ebony flank.
"What dreams visit you, that hold you in their thrall so tightly, I wonder?" he mused quietly, "Past victories and nights of swift hunting? Or nightmares of recent defeat?"
Cobalt eyes darted up to the sleeping falcon in the corner, before returning to caress along that sleek black pelt.
"I'd be chasing you still, if Wing hadn't distracted you into the pit trap. Why did you give up? You were too smart to fall for the antics of even my bird. Why did you conceded?" the hunter breathed into the sultry afternoon air.
Only silence answered him.
He stood, rushing to his feet as if propelled by a cold wind. With a shake of his head, he returned to his abandoned hammock to be lulled to sleep by the rhythmic sway of the boat on the waves.
Heero's eyes snapped open, taking in the thickness of the darkness with a quick gasp. Night, and from the very pale swath of moonlight splashing through the tiny doorway, deep night at that.
But an unsettled night. Something was wrong.
His gaze darted over to the cage, expecting to see the slit-pupiled eyes of the panther staring at him balefully. Expecting even perhaps to see the shadowed form still sleeping. Expecting anything, but the empty cage and the open door swinging gently open and closed on its oiled hinges.
He leapt out of the hammock, rushing to the cage to examine it, praying his eyes were deceiving him, and knowing that they weren't. The cage was intact, unbroken and undamaged. The lock even was whole, although opened, and obviously not by accident; the wire that had been used to pick the lock was still in the mechanism. He opened his mouth to shout for Wufei, when a soft voice halted him.
"He's gone. I sent him away."
Heero spun on a single heel, turning to face the dark corner where the crates of supplies were stacked. He could just make out a shadowed form crouched atop the crates, waiting.
"What have you done?" Heero hissed, reaching for a weapon he suddenly found he was no longer wearing.
"Corrected a mistake. Why did you hunt the panther?"
Heero blinked, the question taking him by surprise for a moment.
"Stories of the Ghost Panther reached me even in Japan. The spirit they called Shinigami who prowled the flats and lowlands of these poor Chinese villages. It… intrigued me," he answered slowly.
"Your own mentor, Odin Lowe, was the one who gave him the name," the shadowed voice remarked.
"You were about to ask why the Chinese people gave the panther a Japanese name. It was your mentor who named him. Before he left for Tsavo, and met the lions there," the figure answered, hopping down off the crates gracefully.
Heero backed up a pace, keeping his distance from the intruder as the stranger paced around the perimeter of the tiny room.
"How do you know?" Heero asked, his voice as cold as the dead moonlight flooding through the door.
"Because you are the great hunter, Heero Yuy, and I am Shinigami's Shade. I guard the Ghost Panther. I'm the one who set him free."
"I should kill you for that," Heero growled, watching as the figure approached the splash of silver light from the doorway.
"But you won't," the stranger replied in a low purr, "Do you know why?"
Heero swallowed hard as the intruder slipped closer in the darkness, almost close enough to feel the heat rising from his skin.
A long, graceful sweep of chestnut silk, almost o the floor, floated into the puddle of liquid light, followed by the curve of a bare calf, pale skin glowing faintly. The stranger pressed closer, so close that the air hummed between them.
"Because deep down you're intrigued by anyone who commands the finest creature you've ever hunted," the quiet alto observed, slipping fully into the caress of the moonlight.
Heero watched, mesmerized as a ghostly pale hand slipped up to slowly stroke callused fingertips across his cheek. He felt his gut tighten painfully, heat flooding him from his loins as a gentle breeze slipped in through the doorway, brushing the soft curtain of hair away from the intruder's nude form. Moonlight bathed the boy in silver radiance, from the sculpted curve of throat past the defined chest and stomach, and even lower still to the firmly aroused shaft of the youth's cock as he stalked even closer. Heero felt his body awakening in kind, the thick weave of his pants growing tight and painful against his engorged flesh. His eyes darted back up to the predatory gleam in the boy's violet eyes.
"You were afraid to win," the boy whispered, his breath washing over Heero's throat hotly.
The pale hands slipped up to his shoulders, resting there for a moment before moving to the collar and then down the front, deftly unbuttoning as they went, and baring his chest to the warm night.
"You were afraid that your task had been completed. That there would be no more worthy hunts to give your life purpose," he breathed, the soft lips ghosting over the pulse in Heero's throat before a tongue darted out to lap at the flushed skin.
His shirt fell to a heap on the floor, joined an instant later by the thick pool of cloth that was his pants. A startled gasp leapt from his throat as the pale hands wrapped around his shaft, and his hands wrapped around the youth who was once again pressing forward.
"There will be other hunts," the boy said before sucking firmly at the skin at his collarbone.
"Wh- who are you?" Heero managed to gasp as he was pushed slowly backwards until he felt the press of the floor against his back.
"I am the two in one," the boy said with a wicked chuckle, "I am Duo."
And then the lips that had spoken were upon Heero's attacking, insisting, almost savage with need. Heero felt the heat within him flood forth, infusing him with the same passion that overcame him when deep in the hunt. He turned the tables on Duo, his tongue darting out to demand entry, while his hands wandered freely over the pale flesh pinning him to the floor. He felt Duo's chuckle within the boy's chest, drank it up as Duo opened his mouth, absorbed it into every pore of his being as Duo arched into his touch.
With a familiar tensing of muscles, Heero flipped them, so that Duo was now pinned to the floor, with the Japanese youth sprawled atop him. He felt his breath freeze in his lungs for a moment as their erections ground together at the sudden shift, and then when Duo squirmed with sensual grace below him, a wet moan bursting from his throat.
"What have you done to me?" Heero growled, rearing back to stare down at the boy's languid expression with a hint of fear and a silent scream of need.
"Set us free."
Heero shook his head savagely, leaning down again to claim Duo's mouth once again with his own. He reached down, past Duo's legs which were pinned under his own, to stroke the shaft of steel in velvet heat pressed between them. Then his hand drifted lower, teasing at the puckered entrance below until Duo's voice burst from him in a feral growl. The growl dissolved into a hiss as Heero slowly worked first one, then a second, and finally a third finger past the tight ring of muscle. When the fingers withdrew, Duo leaned up and bit the tender skin at the juncture of Heero's throat and his shoulder, leaving a bruise.
"Bastard," Heero spat out, grabbing the boy's hands in his own and pinning them to the floor as he positioned himself.
"Probably," Duo agreed, the word trailing off at the end into a groan of mixed pleasure and pain as the Japanese youth slowly started sliding within him.
It was torture. Never before had Heero felt something so perfect. Not since that afternoon when the panther had stared balefully up at him from the bottom of the pit trap, and even then, the dark amethyst gaze hadn't admitted defeat.
Below him, Duo let out his breath, not even conscious of having been holding it until Heero was finally fully within him. It washed over the Japanese hunter in a hot wave, ruffling the messy brown bangs. His hands were clenched into fists, wrists straining against Heero's hold as the hunter slowly withdrew. Without warning, Heero thrust back in again, arching sharply and hitting something within Duo that sent his vision glaring out in a wash of bright pleasure. Then the hunter's talented mouth started working it's way from his throat to his chest, teasing his nipples into stark attention, and driving even the memory of thought from him.
The world was falling away. That was the only way Heero could describe the insane sensations of purest pleasure battering at him as he pounded into the youth pinned below him. For the first time in his life, he felt a completeness that no hunt, no task, no mission had ever given him before. It was like a wave of something more primal than adrenaline, more potent than destiny, and more deadly than rage rushing in on him from the edges of the universe, picking up speed with every second. The growled cries of abandonment issuing from Duo's throat weren't doing anything to forestall the crash of it either.
He released one of Duo's wrists to wrap around the boy's cock and pump it in time with his own fierce thrusts. Duo's throaty moans spiraled up into a needy howl, his body arching up off the floor in one long line. He came with a strangled shout, his seed spilling over Heero's hand to splash between them in a searing wave. Heero followed an instant later as Duo's body tensed against him, gripping him tightly and wringing his climax from him like the last drops of heart's blood from a felled stag.
And the whole world exploded into a flash of fire and ice and light and sound until there was nothing to hold them up as they tumbled into it together.
Slowly, so slowly, the world drifted back into focus. Heero reached out, sitting bolt upright when his seeking hands encountered nothing but the wooden floor of the gently rocking boat. Duo chuckled from the darkness again.
"Why?" Heero asked.
Duo rose from his crouch, padding to the doorway where he paused, tossing Heero a look over his bare shoulder. Then he passed through the portal into the moonlit night beyond. Heero followed, watching almost hypnotized by the soft sway of the fall of chestnut silk brushing the backs of the boy's bare knees.
They both came to a halt at the bow of the small boat anchored in the still river. Duo turned his gaze out over the tree lined bank, as if seeking his answer there amidst the branches.
"There will be other hunts," he finally said, his voice all at once chiding and reassuring.
"How do you know?"
Duo turned to give him a wickedly predatory smile.
"Because the panther is still free," he finally replied, "But next time, he won't be caught quite so easily."
Before Heero could respond, Duo tensed, and then sprang out over the river, his body arching over the smooth water before slipping below its surface with a soft splash. The long-haired boy surfaced far away, and swam easily to the distant shore. Heero watched, his brow furrowed in deep thought as Duo pulled himself up onto the bank.
The long-haired boy stood proudly, facing Heero on the boat with a wry grin, and deep amethyst eyes flashing with wicked amusement. Heero was caught by those shifting eyes… the same fierce shade of defiant violet as Shinigami's baleful glare.
"The hunt was a good one! You were a worthy adversary!" Duo called from the far bank.
Heero bit off a sudden curse, eyes narrowing as Duo's grin widened and he nodded almost imperceptibly at the angry hunter. Growling fiercly to himself, Heero watched as the other youth's body shifted and melted in the silver moonlight. Even from across the river, he saw one feral violet eye wink at him, and the tip of that night black tail flicked almost playfully at him before Shinigami sprang off into the forest once more.
"The hunt was a good one," Heero agreed after a long moment, an eager light brightening his features.
He finally turned away, heading back into the boat and his abandoned hammock.
"There will be other hunts."
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