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Acherontia Atropos (Part 10)

A few notes before we start with this part:

This part involves some major psychological damage to Duo. I'm not sure if
he'll ever fully recover.

I also wanted to reinforce that this is blatantly OOC, and in an alternate
reality. That's the only basis I have for making Duo claustrophobic. It was
mentioned earlier in the fic, but I thought I should mention is again.

Trowa does something in this one that could be construed as blatantly OOC.
My reasons WHY he did this are perfectly valid in the alternate universe
and will be revealed if I write the sequels to AA I have in mind. After I
finish AA, of course.

Most reactions Duo has to stress/trouble come from the experiences that my
best friend and I have to draw on. Hopefully, they aren't too un-Duo-like.

If anyone gets emotionally scarred from reading this, our guidance
counselor is standing by to talk to you. ;)



I slammed the bathroom door for the fifth time, and a long, thin splinter of 
wood broke off the frame and hit the floor with a soft click. I grabbed the 
doorknob with my good hand and pulled the door open again. God, it felt 
good. When in doubt, take it out on an inanimate object. They can't take you 
to court.

I think Heero picked up on how upset I was fairly quickly, probably 
because it was pretty frigging obvious. Before I could slam the door again, 
which would probably have knocked it off its hinges, he had one hand 
against the other side of it, making it immobile. I tried to pull the door open 
wider to knock him off balance or make him back off, and he grabbed the 
knob as well.

Even at my most pissed off, I can't match for Heero's strength. I pulled 
ineffectually at the door for a moment before I gave up and just snarled at 

He didn't budge. "Want to talk?" he asked simply.

That actually shocked me out of being pissed for a moment. It was such an 
un-Heero-like thing for him to say. Normally, he left me alone if I was that 
upset, probably because he had no idea how to deal with it. I don't blame 
him for that, though, at least not most of the time. He had a shitty 
upbringing as far as human relations go.

Still, I was having too much of a bad day to be happy that Heero was 
actually showing signs of concern for me. Uncharitably, I thought he was 
probably just asking because he didn't want to have to repair the bathroom 
door. "Not really." I growled, clenching my right hand into a fist and trying 
to shake some feeling into my left hand.

"Do it anyway." Heero pushed the bathroom door the rest of the way open 
and glared at me. "What's wrong with your hand?"

"Severe muscle cramps and spasming because that stupid bitch made me 
write so much." I muttered. "I oughta report her to the authorities for child 
abuse." Really, my hand wasn't the only thing that was having muscle 
problems. My back and neck were screaming with tension from the stress of 
spending a day with the MIS-guidance counselor from hell. The mere 
thought of my afternoon made my anger boil up again, and I made a grab 
for the door. Slamming it in Heero's face would have felt good. It wouldn't 
have been a smart idea, and it would probably have destroyed any chances I 
had with him, but at that point, I didn't care.

Thankfully, Heero grabbed my wrist firmly and prevented me from royally 
screwing myself over. I tried to jerk my wrist out of his grasp for a moment 
until it was obvious that he wasn't going to let go. 

Abruptly, the entire day came crashing down on me. Until then, I'd been 
running on the remnants of my morning caffeine and pure anger. When it 
became clear that Heero not only wasn't letting go, but also that he was 
serious about wanting me to talk, all of my anger just drained away and left 
me with nothing. I suddenly became very aware of the fact that I was dead 
tired, emotionally drained, and the hungriest that I've been since I got off 
the streets. I wavered slightly on my feet and let myself slump.

Heero must have felt all the anger drain out of me, because he let my wrist 
go and grabbed my shoulder instead, propelling me out of the bathroom. 
"Sit." He ordered, giving me a gentle shove toward me bed. I didn't so much 
sit as my legs gave out. I could feel my hands shaking.

Heero went to his desk for a minute, then came back and handed me a 
sandwich and a little bottle of tea. I almost inhaled the food. The tea was 
extremely, almost sickeningly sweet, but I gulped it down anyway and felt 
better almost immediately, good enough for a little of my normal humor to 
return. I pulled the corners of my lips up in the tired semblance of a smile. 

Heero shrugged and sat down on his own bed. "Trowa stole that from the 
cafeteria for you. He said you'd be tired and upset when you got back." 

Trowa? I chewed on that thought for a moment while I finished the bottle of 
awful tea. I couldn't really imagine him doing something like that, but then 
again, I'll be the first to admit that I don't know Trowa all that well.

Heero waited until I was done before he spoke again. "Talk now." 

I heaved a sigh and threw myself back on my bed. My braid slid over the 
edge as I glared at the ceiling, a little anger stirring again now that I had the 
energy for it. "You know what happened."

"If I did, I wouldn't ask." He pointed out.

"The guidance counselors decided to have a little chat session with me."


"And what." 

"Something obviously happened, or they would have let you out before 
now." I could almost feel Heero glaring at me. 

I sighed, and muttered something incoherent. I could feel him glaring at me 
harder, so I gave up and told him. Heero can be a persistent little cuss. Too 
bad he's not persistent about the right things. "I opened my big mouth and 
now they think I'm suicidal. So I had to sit there and get preached at, then 
write a twenty page paper on how I wanted to live." I snarled.

Heero snorted, and I turned my head to the side so I could see him. He was 
smirking. "What the hell's so funny?" I demanded.

"Out of all of us, they told you not to be suicidal." 

I had to admit, I saw the humor in it. Sure, I've tried to self-destruct my fair 
share of times, but out of all of us, I'm the least suicidal. Well...except for 
Quatre and maybe Wufei. Wufei hasn't tried to blow up Shenlong before, 
but then again, he's the one that keeps telling people they can go ahead and 
kill him. I let out a soft chuckle. "Yeah, I guess that is kind of dumb, huh?"

"Aa." His smirk turned into something that was perilously close to a real 

I laughed. It felt good after being so angry. My laugh got cut off, though, 
when one of the muscles in my left hand started to spasm. "Jesus, that 
fucking hurts!" I whined, and tried to shake my hand out. 

Heero got off of his bed and grabbed my flailing hand. He found the muscle 
that was giving me so much trouble and pressed down on it until it stopped 
jumping. It hurt like hell, but I knew it was necessary to get my hand to stop 
spasming. That didn't stop me from balling up my right hand into a fist and 
hitting Heero's arm as hard as I could, though. I've never been one to deal 
gracefully with pain. 

Heero just grunted and didn't let go until my hand was finished trying to 
cramp up. "Hn." He remarked. "The rest of you that tense?"

I made a face to hide my growing confusion. "Not quite."

Heero disappeared for a minute into the bathroom and came back with a 
funny orange pill and a little cup of water. He handed them to me, and I 
eyed the pill distrustfully.

"Muscle relaxant." He said. "You might as well get some sleep, too. You 
didn't last night."

I glanced up quickly, a little surprised.

"I could hear you while I was resting." That seemed to close the subject off, 
because Heero went back over to the desk and turned the laptop's screen on.

I shrugged and took the pill. Just when I was beginning to think that Heero 
didn't feel anything at all, he went and did something like this. My 
roommate, the walking enigma.


The next day started out a lot more brightly. I actually got some sleep, for 
one. And it was Friday. I was feeling so good that I managed to choke down 
a couple pieces of dry toast along with my morning round of coffee at 
breakfast. Quatre was in a good mood, as always, and Wufei was...Wufei. 
Neither of them asked me about what happened, even though everyone in 
my dorm must have known that something was up, considering how loudly 
I'd been slamming the door. I guess it was enough for them to know that I 
was doing better. Or maybe they were just afraid that I'd get pissed off again 
if they brought it up. Who knows. 

Breakfast ended without anything terribly interesting happening. I was late 
finishing though, since I'd forgotten my calculus book back in my room, 
and by the time I was speeding toward class, the bell had already rung. The 
halls were totally empty.

So it was a bit of a shock when a girl came walking up one of the halls 
perpendicular to the one I was running through and popped up right in front 
of me so that I plowed into her. I hadn't been expecting it, and was going 
fast enough that both of us got knocked on our asses. I spun half around on 
the slick floor before I managed to scramble to my feet, apologies falling 
rapidly from my lips. Papers were scattered all over the hall--all my old, 
half-finished and not turned in homework assignments had fallen out from 
between the pages of my textbook.

The girl was still on the floor, so I scrambled over to her and offered her a 
hand up. She got up slowly, a faintly dazed expression on her face, 
completely ignoring my hand. I recognized her from yesterday as the girl 
that had been wearing the turtleneck. She was still wearing it today. 

"Gomen nasai, ojou-san! Daijoubu ka." I tried again. 

She looked at me for a long moment like she didn't quite see me. Her face 
was pale and she had dark circles around her eyes like she hadn't been 
sleeping. "Hai, daijoubu." Her words were slightly slurred.

I wondered if I'd run into her a little harder than I'd thought. "I'm really 
sorry, I didn't see you coming. Are you sure you're ok?"

"Yes, thank you." she replied tiredly. "I wasn't looking where I was going. 
It's my fault entirely. Excuse me." Without another word, she turned and 
walked slowly away. 

I quickly grabbed my book and most of my papers off of the floor before I 
followed her. We were going to the same class, after all. When I caught up 
with her, she didn't even look at me. Her complete lack of animation was 
really starting to make me nervous. " about the weather. Nice day 
out, isn't it?" I asked lamely.

"Un." Was all she said.

"So...ah...what do you think of class?" I asked, struggling. I was starting to 
feel like I was talking to Heero, but at least with him, I got the feeling that 
he was listening to me with half an ear. Sometimes. 

She didn't even bother to reply to that. I gave up and we finished the walk to 
class in a very disturbing silence. I had a harder time concentrating than 
normal. There was just something about the girl that was really bothering 
me. When I looked into her eyes, I didn't see anything, just a terrible kind of 
blankness. The lights were on, but nobody was home.

And it was really starting to freak me out.


Class let out after what felt like a hundred years. The girl got up and left 
almost first, even though I called to her. "Oi! Ojou-san!" I tried to follow 
her through the hall, but she lost me quickly in the crowd and left me trying 
to push my way up against a steady stream of other teenagers, all of whom 
seemed to be intent on blocking my way.

Someone rammed their shoulder into my chest, knocking my breath out, 
and I stumbled back and ran into another kid. I looked up as the person that 
had run into me went past, expecting them to at least apologize or 
something. He just looked at me as he walked by, his eyes never leaving my 
face. I froze at the look in his eyes, completely ignoring the crowd that was 
shoving me and pressing in on all sides. The collar on the jacket of his 
school uniform was buttoned all the way up to his chin. I watched him and 
he stared at me until he disappeared around the corner.

I let the crowd flow around me and suppressed a shiver. 

By the end of the day, I was starting to truly get scared. Everywhere I went, 
there were other students bumping into me, watching me, shoving me. I 
shouldn't have cared, since plenty of that went on in the halls every day. But 
this was different. 

Every single one of them had a mirrored glass wall right behind their eyes.

I was more than ready to escape back to the safety of my room when the 
last class of the day let out. The halls were even more crowded than normal. 
Someone shoved me from behind, hard, and I stumbled forward and had to 
catch myself against another student. He stopped, right in the middle of the 
hall and turned to look at me. I immediately jerked away, mumbling 
incoherent apologies as he continued to stare at me. Behind the blankness of 
his eyes, I could see a kind of muted malevolence that was too disturbing 
for words.

Someone grabbed my arm and I jerked around to find myself face to face 
with a pretty blonde girl, whose name, I thought, was Mika. She smiled at 
me, and I smiled back for a moment, but then I could feel my expression 
slipping, fading. She was looking right through me. "What's wrong, Duo?" 
Mika said softly, then abruptly let go of my arm.

A touch on my shoulder, and I was spun around to face one of the guys 
from my gym class, Shigeru. He was so tall that I barely came up to his 
chin. He looked down at me and smiled. "You look a little disconcerted." he 

I took a step back. Shigeru didn't talk like that.

I was turned quickly around by a hand on my arm to face another boy, a 
nerdy guy with glasses that I recognized from chemistry. He always kept to 
himself and didn't normally speak unless spoken to first. "Is something 
bothering you?"

I wrenched my arm out of his grasp and backed away until I ran into 
someone that was standing behind me. I yelped and turned to find myself 
face to face with Kaori, the Junior class president. "Gomen, I didn't see you 
there." I said quickly. Kaori was a nice girl, but she tended to get a little 
touchy if people weren't polite to her. I guess her position was going to her 
head or something. 

Kaori just smiled at me, not saying anything. She was wearing a white 
turtleneck under her normal shirt. When she spoke, her voice was soft, and 
the inflections were very un-Kaori-like. "Are you going somewhere, Duo?"

Without really knowing why, I reached a shaking hand out and tugged the 
neck of her shirt down, revealing part of her pale, smooth neck. Her skin 
was so delicate that I could see the thin blue lines of her veins just under the 
surface. Marring the soft perfection of her skin was a dark bruise.

In the middle of it sat two small, neat puncture wounds.

I yanked my hand away and took an involuntary step back, my breath 
catching in my throat. I could feel my eyes widening, my stomach 
clenching, my body getting ready to run like hell if the need arose. 

Kaori didn't both pulling her shirt back up. She just kept smiling. Soft 
footsteps came up behind me, and a heavy hand fell on my shoulder. I bit 
back a startled yelp as a wash of cool electricity flowed through me. Lips 
touched my ear, and a guy whispered. "You seem real tense, Duo."

I jerked out from under the hand and took several quick steps away, 
resisting the urge to rub my arms. I was suddenly very, very cold. I looked 
at the little group in front of me with wide eyes. There were four of five of my fellow students standing there, watching me. I 
looked into their eyes and saw Yan's face, right before he'd kneed me one. 
Kaori slowly licked one of her fingers and then touched the mark on her 
neck, a little smirk on her face. 

It was too much. I ran for the now extremely dubious safety of my room. I 
don't think I had ever felt quite so freaked out before in my entire life. I'd 
thought I was safe at school, because my fellow students were normal, more 
normal than me. They couldn't hurt me, they could be my buffer between 
myself and what I did every day. That buffer was gone, and my friends 
were now enemies.

And I couldn't even strike back at them, because they were still in there, 
somewhere. I was powerless. Again.

I ran as fast as I could, even though I couldn't hear anyone behind me. It 
was only a short distance to the dorm's entrance, and I got there very 
quickly. Right before I reached the double doors, though, I ran into 
someone for the second time that day. We went down in a tangle of arms 
and legs and slid across the polished tile floor. I ended up sprawled on top 
of the person--girl, actually, the fact that she had breasts made that pretty 
obvious. I quickly pushed myself up so that I wasn't laying on her, 
apologizing profusely.

She grabbed the collar of my uniform as I tried to get up, and her other hand 
brushed along the inside of my thigh. I looked down quickly. The girl under 
me smiled. She was the girl from my calculus class, the one that I'd run into 
earlier. I froze for an instant, suddenly feeling very cold. 

"Don't you want to play with us, Duo?" Her hand cupped my groin.

I threw myself away from her with a startled gasp, tearing my shirt out of 
her hands. A button snapped off of my collar and went bouncing across the 
floor with a soft clicking sound. I couldn't get through the dorm doors; she 
was blocking them. I shot a panicked glance down the hallway, back into 
the school. The other students were walking toward us, their pace very 
deliberate. There was no where for me to run.

The girl rolled to her stomach and stretched languidly, sticking her bottom 
in the air like a cat before she started crawling slowly toward me. It would 
have looked pretty damn ridiculous if she hadn't been coming toward me, 
staring through me like I was made of glass. I scooted across the floor, 
away from her until my back met the wall with a solid thud. She giggled. 

Vampires, I could handle. But not this. Oh god, not this. 

They were all around me now, pressing me in against the wall. I suppressed 
the urge to whimper as a sudden surge of claustrophobia hit me. It never hit 
me until I was trapped with no escape.

No escape.

Kaori reached forward and caressed my cheek with the tips of her fingers. 
The cold, electric power that I now knew was the master of the vampires 
jolted through me, and I did whimper, half from pain, and half from the fact 
that there was something about that energy that felt really good. Something 
that called to me. Mika moved in close until our bodies were pressed 
completely against each other. "Why are you running away?" She slowly 
rolled her hips against mine.

My stomach clenched and a tiny moan slid from between my lips. I wasn't 
sure whether to laugh or cry. There were guys that would pay good money 
to have something like this happen to them but I sure as hell wasn't one of 
them. I was shoving myself back into the wall so hard that it was a wonder I 
didn't melt through it and I was beginning to have problems thinking 
coherently because I was so afraid. I didn't know what to do, but my 
goddamn body seemed to. There was a definite warm sensation starting in 
my groin.

"No...please don't..." I whispered hoarsely.

Shigeru leaned in close and rubbed one of his hands slowly across my chest. 
"You can't escape us."

The girl from my calculus class was pressing in on my other side, trapping 
me completely. "Why don't you just play nice?"

I started hyperventilating and shut my eyes, trying to concentrate, trying to 
ignore what was happening around me. I was drowning in my own rising 
panic as I could feel the walls closing in around me, more and more tightly 
as my former friends pressed in, touching me...

Someone was whispering "No no no no no no no..." continuously in a high, 
thin voice. It took me a moment to realize that the voice was mine. 

"We're always watching you." Kaori was so close to me that her breath 
puffed against my lips as she whispered.

I couldn't breathe. Oh god, I couldn't breathe. Oh god...oh god...oh god...

"Duo! Are you ok?" 

Suddenly, I was free. All the pressure of the other student's bodies against 
me was abruptly gone. My eyes snapped open. I could feel how wide they 
were; the whites of my eyes were showing, I knew it. I couldn't stop 

I could dimly hear Mika say, very brightly "Duo wasn't feeling very good, 
Quatre. We were just helping him back to his room."

"Thank you." Quatre said. There was a strange note in his voice, one that 
didn't belong there. It was hot with anger. "We'll help him now."

I saw the other students walk past me, back into the school. The all stared at 
me as they went by.

"Duo!" Hands roughly grabbed my shoulders.

"NO!" I screamed and tried to claw at the hands on my shoulders. "No! No! 
Don't! No don't touch me again! NO!" I kept screaming and tried to push 
the person away, tried to cover my face and hide so they couldn't hurt me. 

"Duo, it's me!" I was shaken roughly, and I blinked, my eyes finally 
focusing. I found myself looking into intense blue eyes. Heero's eyes. 
"What happened?" He demanded.

I could only shake my head. I was still breathing much too fast, and I was 
beginning to feel dizzy. I could still feel them watching me, touching me. I 
tried to shake Heero's hands off of my shoulders, letting out a strangled sob. 
Heero pulled back slightly, and I could see the other guys dimly behind 
him; my vision was starting to black out around the edges. I was safe now, I 
knew, but the panic refused to release me. It had already coiled itself around 
me and was squeezing until I couldn't breathe. I couldn't control it or stop it. 
I was lost, and I was afraid.

I was so afraid. 

I was terrified.

Blurrily, I thought I saw Trowa grimace, his eyes narrowing. He brought up 
on hand to clutch the side of his face...and suddenly, Heero was shoved out 
of the way and one of Trowa's thin, delicate hands was rushing toward me. 
It cracked solidly across my cheekbone, and I lost my balance and half fell, 
tasting blood in my mouth.

I heard Quatre yell "Trowa!" and Heero turned and pushed him away, very 
roughly, his face twisted into the first truly angry expression I've ever seen 
on him.

I touched my cheek gingerly. It hurt, a lot, but the pain was mine. It was all 
mine. It was clean. I held it to me and focused on it until my breathing 
slowed. Heero turned back toward me and tried to help me stand up. I 
jerked away from him and stumbled to my feet. Before I knew what I was 
doing, I was running down the hall to my dorm room. I scrabbled at the 
doorknob until I was able to force the door open. I think I must have broken 
the lock. I didn't care. I had to get away. I had to hide.

I ran into the bathroom and slammed the door behind me, locking it. I half 
struggled out of my uniform, popping more buttons off of it and ripping one 
of the seams open, then gave it up as a lost cause and stumbled into the 
shower, turning the cold water up full blast. It hit me like a solid wall, 
leaving me drenched, shivering, and gasping for breath through my 
chattering teeth. But it was real.

I slid down the shower wall until I was under the freezing spray, curling 
into a tiny, shivering ball. It was real. Oh god, it was real.

The last normal thing in my life was gone. I didn't have anything left that 
wasn't tainted.

"I can't do this." I whispered softly to the empty air before I put my face in 
my hands and cried.

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