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Acherontia Atropos (Part 12)

As exhausted as I was, I didn't sleep well or long. I'd been put completely 
off balance. I've always been a light sleeper--you can't survive on the street 
or as a terrorist if you aren't, really. Normally, though, my brain acts as a 
pretty good filter and I only wake up if I hear something suspicious. This 
time was different, though. Every little sound that I heard made me struggle 
for wakefulness, my body readying for a fight or flight response. 

And the nightmares. Oh god...the nightmares. So much for dreams not 
bothering me any more.

Every time I began to wake, though, someone was there, either sitting by 
my bed or even laying next to me to reassure me that I was safe and could 
go back to sleep. I know Wufei took his turn, because I once again woke to 
the sound of him quietly reading to me in Chinese. Another time, I started 
to struggle into wakefulness and I heard someone speaking a comforting, 
even blur of words that sounded like a prayer. The familiar sound of it 
calmed me.

I woke up for good when the world outside my window was just starting to 
lighten. I don't see sunrise very often, and when I do, it's always from the 
wrong end. So it wasn't a very welcome sight. Some people say that things 
will always look better in the morning. That's bullshit. I was just as scared 
as I had been when I went to sleep. The only improvement was that I wasn't 
freezing my ass off any more.

I shuddered and sat up quickly, rubbing my bare arms. I was breathing 
heavily, like I'd been running or something, and I could feel beads of sweat 
running down my forehead. That last nightmare had certainly been 
interesting. Like an instant replay of the fun and games yesterday, but with 
Quatre and Trowa and Heero and Wufei instead of the other students. 

I covered my mouth and manfully fought off the urge to retch. Throwing up 
wasn't going to do anything for me other than make me feel more shitty, 
especially since I didn't have anything in my stomach. No, what I really 
wanted was to take a shower and just wash away all the dirt that yesterday 
had put there...those hands...

Unfortunately, I had the feeling that it wasn't filth I could just wash away. I 
wasn't sure if I'd ever be clean again.

At that thought, I did retch. Immediately, there was a soft rustle from the 
vicinity of Heero's bed and then a cool hand touched my forehead. I closed 
my eyes as the person's arm was wrapped around my waist.

"Calm down." Heero's voice said quietly by my ear. "You're starting to 
hyperventilate again."

I did my best to nod and concentrated on my breathing. In and out. Slow 
and steady. Focus in on the sound of your own heartbeat, and listen to it 
until it slows down. Feel every individual muscle in your body and make 
them all relax, one by one. The entire touchy-feely-one-with-the-universe 
routine that Wufei had taught me a couple months back was tedious, boring, 
and just what I needed. It got my mind off of my nightmares and washed 
away all my thoughts while I concentrated on just controlling my own body. 
It took a while before I had everything back to normal, though. I was having 
a hard time concentrating.

Heero backed off as soon as I had everything under control again. He 
handed me a cup of water and sat down on the wooden chair that was still in 
its eternal place beside my bed. For a long moment, I just stared into the 
water, like I thought I was going to find answers or some kind of weird 
salvation in it. No such luck. I took a cautious sip. The water was warm; I 
guess it'd been sitting out for a while.

After I'd finished attempting to communicate with the spirit of the glass of 
water, Heero spoke up. "Daijoubu ka." Was all he said. 

I snorted and inhaled some of the water, then coughed it out. After that little 
bit of excitement was over, I started laughing. "Why does everyone keep 
asking me that?" I asked through my giggles. They weren't the healthiest 
sounding giggles. My voice isn't normally that high-pitched. "The answer's 
pretty damn obvious, isn't it?"

"Aa." Heero said.

I made myself stop laughing by running through Wufei's touchy-feely 
routine again. Hey, becoming one with the universe is harder than it sounds. 
Really, though, it was a good exercise, and I shouldn't make fun of Wufei 
like that. Not that I was going to stop or anything, though. I finished the 
water off in a couple of gulps and then let my hands drop to my lap, still 
holding the cup. I could feel a little breeze where no breeze had gone 
before, and I adjusted the blanket with one hand before I went back to 
holding the cup. Silly, I know. Yesterday, I'd been wearing a whole lot less 
than a blanket in front of Heero and Quatre, not to mention crying like a 
baby. Dignity's dignity, though. I only had a couple pathetic shreds left, but 
I was going to hold on to those with a death grip. Besides, being naked in 
front of your friends while you're halfway to freezing to death and 
completely incoherent is one thing. Being naked in front of your friends 
when you're in full possession of your faculties is another.

Not that I thought Heero would agree with me if I claimed to be in full 
possession of my faculties, though. I wasn't so sure if I believed it, myself. 

The silence stretched out longer and longer between us. I slowly turned the 
cup in my hands, concentrating on the smooth, clean texture of the glass 
underneath my fingers. I could see the distorted reflection of my hands on 

Finally, I couldn't take it any longer and turned to look at Heero. He was 
staring at me, completely frozen.

"What? Do I have something on my face?" I asked with a nervous laugh. I 
wasn't quite sure what to do. 

Heero reached out and grabbed my left wrist, pulling my arm toward him. I 
jerked at the touch and had to put a lot of effort into not pulling away. The 
occasions when Heero touches me were too rare to waste, as far as I was 
concerned, no matter how much they might freak me out. I concentrated on 
the fact that it was Heero who had a firm grip on my wrist, not anyone else.

As soon as I was done fighting down the bout of panic that being grabbed 
had caused, I brought my focus back onto him. He was staring down at my 
arm. "What are you looking at?" I asked, then looked down, a little curious. 
My wrist looked extremely delicate against his hand. I was wiry rather than 
outright muscular, unlike Heero, so I'd always look like a peanut next to 
him. I had a couple fading bruises and healing scrapes on the inside of my 
arm. There were some old scars, too. Nothing interesting as far as I could 
see. Nothing new. 

I blinked with confusion, then realized what Heero must be looking at. One 
long, thin scar ran halfway up my lower arm, starting at my wrist. It had 
faded now, but it was still pretty visible against my skin; shiny white and 
puckered. "You haven't seen them before, have you?" I asked quietly. When 
Heero had...come back...I'd still been wearing bandages. I'd graduated 
straight to long sleeved shirts and hadn't worn anything else since then. 
People tended to get disconcerted when they saw my scars, especially when 
they were still pretty pink and new, and hell, I'll admit, they disconcerted 
me too. Long sleeved shirts were my friends. So it was quite conceivable 
that Heero hadn't really seen them until now.

He touched my arm with his other hand, and gently traced the line of the 
scar with his fingertips. It tingled.

That, I couldn't quite handle. I pulled my wrist out of his grasp as quickly as 
possible, and wonder of wonders, he let go. 

He looked up at me. "You cut along the vein." was all he said.

I nodded. "I try to do things right whenever the opportunity presents itself."

That got the desired reaction from Heero. He snorted, and the intensity in 
his eyes faded back to normal levels. "I...don't remember." He said 

"That's not surprising." I shrugged. "Don't worry about it. You're alive, I'm 
alive, so everything's ok, at least for now." /I wish./ 

He looked up at me. "Why?"

I knew what he meant, and I shrugged again. "I can't really say. I wasn't 
exactly myself right then. And I don't like to think about it too much now. 
You're here, so I don't have to remember."

He shook his head. "Are you going to be alight?"

I hugged my knees to my chest, fighting off the cold that was creeping up 
on me. "I don't know." I mumbled. I just wanted to forget what had 

"Do you want to talk?"

The irony was a little much. Heero asking me to talk. I didn't laugh, though. 
I just didn't feel up to it. In fact, I didn't feel like anything at all. "No. I don't 
even want to think about it. Ever." 

He didn't push the point. If I had been able to feel anything, I would have 
been relieved. At this point in time, I just didn't care. Instead, he shifted so 
he could dig around in his pocket. "I almost forgot..." he said, then held a 
hand out. "Here."

I grinned. It felt good that I had something to grin about. "Thank you!" I 
said, and grabbed the cross that was dangling from between his fingers. I 
hadn't even really thought of it until now, but I felt a small part of my 
anxiety go away. It was easy to slip the chain over my head, and my braid 
didn't even catch in it too badly. The cross settled against my chest 
comfortably. It was warm from being in Heero's pocket. "Thank you." I said 

"I found it in the parking lot." He shrugged. "I thought you'd need it. We're 
going to go hunting tonight."

I looked up quickly, suddenly feeling cold. "What??" This wasn't 
happening. No. Bad Heero.

"The mission is getting too intense. We need to finish it now."

Heero was certainly back to normal, like he hadn't been acting at all strange 
a moment before. He had that good old "ninmu" glint in his eye. I shook my 
head. "Count me out." Nuh uh. No way in hell, you little son of a bitch.

You would have thought that I'd said the sky was green, the way he looked 
at me. "What?"

"I said no. I couldn't stand up against what they sent after me yesterday. 
There's no way I'm going to be effective against them. I'm too scared." I 
said. That's me, Duo the logical. No, Duo the freaked.

"They were playing head games with you." Heero shrugged. 

I nodded in agreement. "They won." Surprise, surprise. Duo has left the 

Heero's eyebrows raised. "That's it?"

"Yeah, that's it. I'm scared, I'm sick, and I'm not playing any more. I'm not 
going to be able to beat them." /So why should I try?/

The eyebrows cranked up a notch higher. "That's not like you."

"I'm having a bad fucking week." I couldn't tell him the real reason why I 
was so scared. I could still feel that vampire's power dancing across my 
skin, and I remembered how good it felt. I didn't want to get any close than 
that, because I might not be able to say 'no' again. I couldn't tell Heero that, 
though. No, I couldn't. And to be totally truthful, I had punted. I didn't want 
to deal with it. I just wanted to crawl into a little hole and bury myself so 
that no one would ever find me again. 

"Fine." Heero said.

"Fine?" I blinked. I'd been expecting more of an argument.

"Fine." He said again. "We'll leave you here, and Wufei as well in case they 
come back." He stood up. I could tell that he was angry, even though he was 
hiding it behind the usual cold Perfect Soldier Mask. Not that I cared. No 
matter how pissy he got, I was not doing this.

"You're still going against them?" Now I was shocked. I knew he was 
suicidal, but...stupid?

"Yes." He said, looking at me coolly. "We can't fail." With that, he quietly 
stormed out. I just watched him go, torn between fear and anger. That had 
HURT. No matter what, though, I knew that I couldn't go up against the 
vampires. I was too weak. One little round of mental toying, and I lost it. I'd 
brought it on myself. I'd been overconfident, even after I'd seen them kill 

I stayed in my room the rest of the day. Heero didn't come back.


Heero still hadn't come back when I went to sleep. He and Quatre and 
Trowa were already out hunting, I guessed. For a long time, I just lay in bed 
and stared at the ceiling and tried not to think of all the things that could 
happen to them. They probably wouldn't find the vampires, since we still 
didn't know where to look. Yeah. That's right. Who was I trying to fool?

I rolled over and put my pillow over my head and tried not to think at all. If 
anything happened, it would be my fault. Hell, if anything DIDN'T happen, 
it would still be my fault.

I fought off the urge to cry. It wouldn't do any good. Even if I could manage 
to pull it together, I wouldn't be able to find them now. They had way too 
much lead time on me. 

Who the hell was I kidding? It wasn't like I could make myself get up and 
go after them to begin with.

What kind of friend was I, that I would just turn my back at the first sign of 
something bad? Maybe that was why everything I loved always left me in 
the end. I was too weak to hold on to it.

Maybe I was getting punished for not having enough faith.

I growled into the mattress and cut off that train of thought. Damnit, I 
wasn't going to accomplish anything like that.

My back muscles started protesting loudly as I got tenser and tenser while 
my thoughts ran around in an unhappy little circle. Finally, I curled up in a 
little ball, cocooned myself in the blankets and just let the world go on its 
merry way without me. I lay there with my pillow still over my head until I 
fell into an uneasy sleep.

I dreamed, again. I was at the edge of the forest, kneeling in the bloody mud 
where Yan had been killed. His body was laying there, pale in the 
moonlight. I could see a white glitter in the ruin where his throat used to be. 
His spine. I got up to go back to the dorms, but when I turned around, the 
school wasn't there. It was the ruins of Maxwell Church. I could see the 
twisted bodies wrapped around stone and wood and steel, littered with sharp 
glass shards. There was blood everywhere. I could hear the flies buzzing 
thickly, see them flying above the corpses in dense black clouds. Some 
circled around me, then landed at my feet where blood was dripping from 
my pants onto the ground. The started to drink it off of the ragged stone.

I'd done this. It was mine. It was my home.

I was Death.

I walked through the ruins and looked over the destruction that I had 
brought down. There was a child laying face down on what was left of a 
wall with blood running out from under its--his--face. I knew that if I turned 
him over, he wouldn't have a face, only a huge bullet exit wound. Further 
along, I could see a nun spread eagled on the ground. I'd been through this 
old dream, half memory and half guilty vision, so many times that I didn't 
even have to look at it any more to know where each body was. I'd learned 
not to step in the dream blood a long time ago; it was always tacky and 
would stick to my shoes, and then the flies would all converge on me and 
try to settle on my legs. 

I stopped by the body of another little boy. He looked a lot like Yan. His 
chest was riddled with tiny bullet entry wounds. I knew that if I turned him 
over, he didn't have a back left. But his face was still perfect and uninjured, 
only splattered with a little blood. If you just looked at his face, you'd 
believe that he would open his eyes at any moment, and smile at you, and 
ask you why you were so upset. Shit.

Yan had looked like that. 

Yan. Another person that I'd killed.


Something was wrong, very wrong, out of kilter. I was smelling something. 
It wasn't the thirsty coppery scent of freshly spilled blood, but instead the 
gagging, clinging stench of flesh that was just beginning to rot. It sat, 
sickly-sweet, on the back of my tongue, making me want to retch. Dreams 
weren't supposed to smell like anything, were they? It was perhaps the only 
blessing in wasn't as real because I couldn't smell the deaths.

The smell didn't belong in my dream!

I threw myself into wakefulness and sat up in bed, my hands already feeling 
through the blankets and under my pillow, trying to find my gun. When I 
realized that I'd left it under my bed, I scrambled off the bed, away from the 
choking stench. My legs got tangled in the blanket and I fell, making a grab 
for the curtain. With numerous metallic popping sounds, it followed me, 
ripping right off of the rings it was mounted on.

Suddenly, the room was flooded with pale, insane moonlight. My searching 
hands found the shoulder rig under my bed and I pulled it out, drawing the 
Browning and clicking off the safety in one smooth motion. My world fell 
away until I was in the static, empty white place where I stand whenever I'm 
about to kill, and I looked calmly down the barrel of the gun...

The Browning dropped from my limp hands to the floor as I looked into 
Yan's flat, dead eyes.

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