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Acherontia Atropos

There was a time when I used to think that things couldn’t get any more complicated. Yeah, right. Shows you how much I knew. That was when I had first been introduced to my new partner, a machine capable of mass destruction, which I am now firmly convinced is at least as intelligent as me, even though it’s pretty good at playing dumb. That was when I’d first gotten to earth, and was up to my elbows in blood…but at least it was all human blood—or so I thought. That was when I first discovered that I was in love with my other partner, the human one…and he just so happened to be another guy. Shit. I really did think that that was as complicated as it could get. More fool me.

That was before I had my first brush with something that wasn’t natural, or human, or the tiniest bit logical.

Like everyone else, I used to believe that there was no such thing as magic, that the monsters under the bed or in the closet weren’t real and would turn into dust when the light hit them. Yeah, it sounds really naïve, but what do you want. In a world where we had to kill and run to survive, I had to have something to cling to.

But then I learned that everything they taught us in school about science and logic wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. Hey, the people that wrote that stuff lived in the same blissful ignorance as me, so I can’t blame them. But it doesn’t mean that I have to like the weltering cesspit of weirdness my life has become any better.

A year ago, my human partner, Heero, died. Up until that point, my life had been going along as well as it could, considering I’d been turned into some sort of strange guerilla freedom fighter at the tender age of fifteen. But then Heero managed to self-destruct and actually do it RIGHT for once, and things really went down the tubes. I’d thought—well—managed to convince myself that I’d just liked Heero, or maybe just lusted after him a little—well, a lot—but I hadn’t done a thing about it because I was and still am all for self-preservation, and trying to tie the Perfect Soldier down for a evening of lustful, sinful play just didn’t seem like the way to survive to live another day. That, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do, myself. Loving another man just didn’t jive with anything I’d ever been taught. So I held back and tried to muddle through things on my own. It didn’t work at all.

I found out the hard way that what I felt for Heero wasn’t just like or casual lust. When what you feel is that simple, losing the person you’re focused on hurts, sure, but not how it hurt me. When I lost Heero, I lost a part of myself that I didn’t even know existed. Half of what I was got suddenly ripped away. Shit, I know it sounds all mystical when I say it like that, but I can’t think of a better way to describe it. When Heero died, I was not just devastated. I was dead, too.

So I did some stupid things. Thank God the rest of the guys were being a hell of a lot smarter than I was.

Now, before I go any further, I just want to say, don’t get me wrong. I don’t normally even think about my problems like this. They aren’t important enough. But this is something that has to get out of my system, and it’s the main reason that my life is as messed up as it is today.

That psycho Relena managed to get a hold of Heero’s body, and she was throwing a huge, overdramatized funeral service, which of course I and the other pilots crashed. I wasn’t feeling real rational at that point. I ran up to the coffin, grabbed Heero’s body—and this is where things really took a turn for the bizarre—I started saying something, some sort of ritual thing that no one can remember no matter how hard they try. I’m not sure what I said, or why I said it…it was like remembering a tiny piece of something you’ve completely forgotten. That’s how disjointed it was. But anyway…I started saying all this odd stuff, and then I kissed Heero’s corpse on the lips—and here’s the REALLY fucked up part—


I tell no lie. He started breathing again, his heart started beating, he was alive. It was like something out of those old fairy tales, except the problem is, everyone knows that stuff like that is not really supposed to happen!

Not that I’m objecting. God no. The instant Heero opened his eyes…it’s hard to describe…but…I wasn’t alone. Not any more. I was a whole person again.

That night, Heero and I slept together. No, not sex or anything. We just went to sleep in each other’s arms. I’ve never felt that good in my entire life.

But since then, things have gone back to normal. No one mentions what happened, I think because we’re all too confused to deal with it. It could have been me, it could have been some kind of magic, it could have been God, though sometimes I wonder if I can believe in Him any more. Who the hell knows.

After that first night, Heero and I haven’t touched each other or done anything beyond the boundaries of pure friendship. It’s driving me nuts. But at the same time I’m not going to be the one to say anything.

I already lost Heero once, and it almost killed me. I don’t want to risk losing him again. Heero, of course, is just being…well…Heero.

As if that’s not bad enough. And right now, he’s here, sitting at his scarred-up school issue desk, typing on that god damn laptop of his. Wearing only a pair of crisp, white boxers.

Sometimes I think that I’m stupid for wondering if there is a God. It’s pretty obvious that there’s one up there, and he’s having a lot of fun making my life hell.


I let out a soft sigh and brought myself back to harsh old reality to find myself staring blankly at a tattered manga. It was one of my new ones…a historical one this time, about a legendary sword guy that swore off killing. Interesting stuff.

Not that I could concentrate on it. Hell no. But come on, how could anyone concentrate on anything when the object of all their lusts, embarrassing dreams and dirty thoughts is sitting not five feet away from them, clad only in a pair of thin cotton boxer shorts. My life is just too damn hard some times. I think I should get put up for sainthood when I die.

The room was completely silent except for the steady clacking of the keys of Heero’s laptop. I and the other pilots have been to a lot of schools before in our travels, but I’d have to say that this one took the cake as far as cheap, tiny rooms went. I’m talking about something smaller than a bread box, here. The two narrow beds in the room were practically side by side, and this time around, we had to share a desk. The bathroom…well, I don’t know what to compare it with. If I wanted to take my life into my hands and attempt to dry off in the bathroom and away from Mr. Perfect Soldier, I had to get into the shower stall to do it, or else risk falling over the toilet. About the only thing this prison cell of a dorm room had going for it was the fact that it was clean, new, and had some good wiring for my stereo system.

Not that Heero ever let me turn my stereo system ON when he was in the room.

God, what could be worse than being trapped with a roommate in the tiny elf room from hell? Being trapped with a roommate that I was terminally, hopelessly in love with.

And terrified of.

With a sigh, I put the manga on my face and let my eyes go all unfocused. Heero just kept typing away, completely oblivious. Damn him. The silence stretched out longer and longer—funny how I didn’t notice it until I thought about it—until I just couldn’t handle it any more.

Some people say I talk too much. I say, take a look at my roommate. It’s self defense, pure and simple.

“Ne, Heero?”

No answer.



Hot dog. A response, and on only the second try. I was in business. I pulled the manga off my face, hoping that I wasn’t leaving any smears of ink behind on my nose, and sat up. “Watcha lookin at?”

“Information on this school.”

I waited, just to see if he would elaborate on his own. No luck. “What kind of information?” Heero swiveled slightly in his chair and fixed me with one of his glares. You get that kind of look from a wolf right before it decides you’re a threat or food, and attacks. A normal person would have gotten the hint and left him the hell alone. After dealing with him for over a year, though, I’ve gained some immunity. “Well?” I grinned at him.

Heero snorted and turned his attention back to the laptop. The keys started clicking again. “Baka.” Was his only comment.

“Come on, damnit, tell me! It’s not nice to tease!” I jumped off of my bed and tried to look over his shoulder. For once, he let me, which made today something to mark down on the calendar. Some girl’s school file was on the screen; picture, class schedule, pertinent information, uniform size… “Why Heero, I never figured you for the voyeuristic type…”

He ignored me. Just peachy. Better to be ignored than to be hit. I guess. I leaned over Heero’s shoulder to take a better look at the file. One thing I have to say is, Heero’s gotten a lot easier with casual touching ever since his…damn, I never know what to call it…his brush with death. So friendly touching was ok now. Most of the time. The rest of it, though…damn, I had to stop thinking about that stuff. Anyway…the file. It belonged to one Kishiro Ayako.

Kishiro Ayako. Something about the name struck me as familiar. For a long moment, I leaned over Heero’s shoulder, thinking…then I finally remembered. Ayako was one of the girls in my class. Quiet, unobtrusive, kept to herself…didn’t hang all over me like most of the other girls, which was probably why I hadn’t noticed her that much. I was too busy flirting with the other girls. Me, an attention hound? Naw.

It took me a couple minutes longer to realize it, but Ayako hadn’t been in class today. Or yesterday, for that matter. And as little as I knew about her, she still didn’t quite strike me as the type to just ditch class. I’m surprised I thought of it, actually…the teacher hadn’t even remarked on her absence. Kind of sad when not even the adult supervision notices that you’re gone. “Ne, Heero, she wasn’t in class today, right? Why are you looking at her file?”

Again, no answer. I kept leaning over him, though. I could feel warmth rising from his body in waves, and it felt nice to be that close to him. Isn’t it great how I like torturing myself? A half hearted wave of suspicion formed itself in my brain. “Heero…you didn’t do anything to her, right?”

Heero actually snorted. Again. Who says he doesn’t have a sense of humor. “Baka.” He said flatly. “I saw she was missing, just like you. Her dorm room has been cleaned out.”

“Changing schools?” That was a perfectly good explanation. People normally didn’t do it midway through a term, but hey, if we could do it, so could she.

“No transfer order or explanation. Parents have been contacted. They don’t know anything about it.”

“Shit…” Without thinking about it, I put a hand on his shoulder. There was something, almost like a jolt of what I felt a year ago when Heero had become warm in my arms. I snatched my hand away and sat back down on my bed, trying to keep my breathing at a normal level. Heero just looked at me from over his shoulder for a moment. Damn him and his lack of facial expressions anyway. “So are we looking at a kidnapping?”

“We aren’t looking at anything.” Heero stated flatly. One key clicked, and the girl’s file disappeared off the screen. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right, to be able to dismiss someone’s life that easily. “I was curious.”

“Just curious.”

“Aa. If this is a crime, it’s not our job to deal with it.”

I shook my head. “Yeah, our job. Right.” I lay back in my bed for a moment. The manga scattered all over the blanket were square bumps along my back. “So she just disappeared. No struggle or anything. Room packed up neat as you please, ready for a new student.”

“Aa. This has happened before recently at this school.”

He sounded so goddamn dispassionate. It hurt, and I couldn’t even begin to explain why. I wondered if he’d sound just like that and say the same things if I disappeared. It wasn’t fair of me to think that of him, considering that as long as I’ve lived with Heero, I still have no idea how his mind works, not really. He couldn’t be the Perfect Soldier all the time, could he? There had to be someone real under there, right? Someone for me, maybe?

I growled at myself internally and rolled out of bed, standing to go to the door. I ended up almost nose to nose with Heero. He’d gotten up out of his chair, and I’d been so stuck on my own thoughts that I hadn’t even heard him. Not good.

For a long, long moment, I found myself staring into those beautiful blue eyes of his. I felt like I was drowning in them. All I wanted to do, right then, was reach out and touch him.

I could still hear him, though. That dispassionate voice, mentioning the fact that Ayako was missing. Like he was calmly observing that it was supposed to rain tomorrow, or that we were out of shoe polish. All of a sudden, I just wanted to yell at him, or hit him, or do something, anything to get a reaction. Instead, I grabbed my jacket and shoved past him, brushing against him a lot more than I wanted to right then, to get to the door. “I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back in a while.” The door shut firmly behind me, cutting off anything that he might have said. Not that I really thought he was going to say anything.

“Damnit.” I muttered as I slouched down the hall. It was dark, no one was up, I didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing me looking abnormally pissed off or upset. Further down the hall, in the direction I was headed, a door opened, and yellow, buttery light spilled out across the floor. It definitely didn’t go with my mood. I made myself smile, though, in case the room’s occupant saw me.

It was Wufei. Great. Just great. The one guy that I can never bluff. I grinned at him anyway, hoping that the expression was reaching my eyes.

Wufei opened his door a little wider and leaned against the door frame. It looked like he’d just gotten out of the shower—his hair was not in the usual pony tail, and tracks of water glittered on his chest in the light. He was just wearing a set of loose white pants. And wearing them quite well, I might add.

Shit. I keep trying to tell myself that what I feel for Heero is special, and has nothing to do with gender, but I’m really starting to think that maybe I am gay. Just another thing to deal with. Wufei is great, though, probably the best friend I have. He was the one that cajoled, threatened, and talked me into promising to stay alive no matter what a year ago. Other than a little casual noting of how great his bod looks at times, Wufei has stayed strictly in the category of friend and nothing more, which is a relief to me. I don’t need another man complicating my life. One’s enough for me, thank you very much.

"Duo.” he said quietly.

I stopped in front of him, not stepping in the pool of light that the door was letting out of the room. Kind of like that little game some kids still play…not stepping on the cracks in the sidewalk. Yeah. Or maybe I just felt more comfortable in the dark. Who knows. “Yeah, Wu-man?”

“I heard a noise. Must have been your door. What are you doing out here?”

Direct as always. I sighed, and decided to be direct right back for once. “Going for a walk.”

Wufei raised an eyebrow. “In the middle of the night.”

“Yeah. In the middle of the night. I didn’t feel like being trapped in my room any more.” /with him./ I didn’t have to finish the thought aloud. We both knew what I was running from. Yeah, running. No better word for it.

“You should just try talking to him, Duo.”

“We’ve been over this before, Wu. I don’t want to lose him again, and I might if I say anything. Who knows. And besides…I don’t think you want to have to pick up the pieces again.”

“Aa.” Wufei smiled slyly. “I’ve had enough of your belly aching to last a life time. I don’t need any more.”

“Jerk.” I grinned at him. “Look, I’m just going to take a walk. I’ve done it before. I’ll be careful, Death’s honor.”

Wufei nodded. “If you want to talk…”

“I know where to find your room. Daijoubu.” I grinned at him and then started walking again, cutting right through the pool of light on the hallway floor. See? Easy.

“Aa. Daijoubu.” I heard Wufei’s door shut behind me.

A couple doors later, I was out of the school and slouching my way down the street. Sometimes, I wish Wufei hadn’t turned into such a good friend. He makes me want to talk to him about stuff that I’m personally not ready to deal with—not that I’ll EVER be ready to deal with it, mind you. But the good thing about him is, he knows when it’s important to push, and when he should just leave it alone. And he’d definitely made the right choice this time around.

It was a nice night out, just edging its way toward spring…so nippy enough that I needed the jacket, but not cold enough to drive me indoors any time soon. I’m skinny, ok? Getting cold easy goes with the territory. I really wonder how Heero does it, sometimes, sticking with spandex even in the middle of winter. It makes certain parts of my anatomy cringe just thinking about it.

Damn. I had to stop thinking about Heero. I needed to relax, or else I’d never be able to get to sleep.

I was starting to like the night more and more. When I was little, I didn’t like it very much. Not many little kids do, and after I lost everything for the second time around, I really hated it, because I’d dream. The dreams don’t bother me any more, not really, because after dealing with them for years and years, nightmares start to lose their shock value.

It wasn’t that, though, not really. Just lately, I’ve been feeling more and more comfortable at night. More sure of myself, a little stronger, the whole nine yards. Which was just as well, considering I’m out here, taking walks night after night, trying to keep myself from either kissing or killing Heero.

I do this WAY too much.

The sky was totally clear, that special clarity you see only in the last few days of winter when spring’s wrestling the year from its cold grip. I could see the stars like they went on forever, like tiny little ice shards on black top. The moon was waxing, about five or six days from full. It went with the rest of the night décor; some atmospheric trick had colored it a cool, soothing blue.

Just walking was making me feel a lot better. I hated being trapped in that tiny little room. There wasn’t any room to move in it, and that drives me nuts. Hyperactive, me? Maybe. Or maybe just a little claustrophobic. Being trapped in an enclosed space while piloting Deathscythe is a little different from being trapped in an enclosed space where I wasn’t doing much of anything. Besides…Deathscythe is Deathscythe. It’s hard to feel claustrophobic when you feel like you’re riding in the embrace of an old friend. Never mind the fact that you’re killing people and blowing shit up at the same time. Details, details.

I was rapidly approaching the line of trees that marked the edges of the school grounds. They line the fence along the teacher’s parking lot, which was what I was currently walking through. Occasionally, my foot kicked up a paper bag or a bunch of soggy leaves, sending them scuffing along the pavement. Time to turn around. I wasn’t pissed or upset enough to take the entire trek through the woods to one of this crappy little town’s myriad of bars. No, I was only mildly annoyed, so I decided to turn around just as the skeletal shadows of the trees reached up to touch the horizon.

I turned to head back, and four things happened in quick succession. The little gold cross that I always wore around my neck suddenly lit up like a halogen lamp, blinding me.

I said “What the hell?” mostly because I’m not used to jewelry acting like that.

There was a very, very soft sound, like a breath of wind moving around a few of the soggy leaves I’d been kicking up before. Except there was no wind. I started to turn around, but slowly, way too slowly.

Something big, heavy, and very fast that smelled a little bit like snakes and a lot like blood hit me from behind and took me down to the ground, doing its level best to grind my head through the pavement.

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