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Acherontia Atropos (Part 13)

The Browning dropped from my suddenly lax grip and fell to the thinly 
carpeted floor with a loud thud. I was lucky that it didn't choose that 
moment to go off and take me out. Right then, though, I didn't think about 
it. I didn't think about anything, really.

I was frozen, completely, staring into the flat, dead eyes of Yan. For a long 
moment, I wondered if it were just a new horror that my nightmares had 
produced. But no, the sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh was stronger than 
ever, accompanied by the dull, wet smell of damp earth and the thick scent 
of death. I was awake. 

"No." I whispered, my voice sounding strange to my own ears. "You can't 
be here. You're dead." For a crazy second, I wondered if I'd dreamed it all, 
and that he actually was alive.

No. No. It couldn't be possible.

Yan continued to watch me. There was nothing in his eyes, no vital spark or 
hint of reflection. It was like trying to look into the eyes of one of the 
preserved animal specimens at the museum. 

"What do you want?" I whispered, suddenly very, very afraid. It's not often 
that a guy gets visited by the ripening corpse of one of his friends. This was 
definitely a first for me.

Yan's mouth opened and moved, as if he were talking. No sound came out 
though, nothing but the whistling sound of moving air. My gaze moved 
slowly, reluctantly down...I really didn't want to know...oh god, I didn't 
want to look. But I did. Yan had been buried in a suit. It still looked 
starched and pressed, like he'd just taken it out of his closet and put it on. 
The high collar was buttoned and he was wearing a tie, but I could still see a 
bit of his neck. The gaping hole was still there; it looked like some giant 
had reached down and just scooped half of his neck away. Air was rushing 
out through the gap between the collar and his throat.

I covered my mouth with one hand. Of course, he couldn't talk. No vocal 
cords. No throat. It all made perfect, logical sense. A hysterical little giggle 
started bubbling up inside me, and I fought it off. If I started laughing now, 
I'd never stop. Stop. "Please stop." I said, very carefully.

Yan stopped moving his mouth and trying to speak. Once again, he just 
stood there, looking at me blankly. There was something else, though, in his 
empty gaze, as strange as it seemed. He was expecting something. No, not 
just expecting. Needing.

Needing me to command him, to give him something to do. The knowledge 
came to me, the thought forming completely unbidden in my subconscious.

Oh shit...he was looking at me for orders. What the hell was going on?

I shivered, suddenly very cold. Static energy was crawling along my skin, 
making every hair on my body stand on end. My body was too small all of a 
sudden. I was overflowing, there was too much...too much what? 

My hands stung, and I looked down at them. Blood was glittering on my 
palms, welling up from four cuts that I'd made there with my fingernails. I'd 
been clenching my hands into fists in my sleep.

And now that I was awake and looking at the blood, I needed 
something. I shook my head, slowly, trying to dislodge the weird thoughts 
that were suddenly creeping through my mind. I was filled with the cold, 
dark energy again. I could almost feel it dancing along my fingertips in the 
moonlight. I had to...

I held out a shaking hand toward Yan. Blood droplets glittered blackly on 
my fingertips. I spoke, the words drawn from me reluctantly from the power 
that was taking me, the thing I could not understand. "Drink." I said, my 
voice husky in my ears. "Take the offering and walk again."

The corpse...

No, that wasn't right.

Zombie. Yes. It was a zombie--don't think of it as Yan, think of it as 
something else--didn't need any more urging than that. It grabbed my wrist 
and pulled my hand toward it, then began to suck the blood from my 
fingers. Its fingers were hard and cold, its skin faintly waxy. A dry, leathery 
tongue rasped against my fingertips, and I let out a soft, frightened whimper 
and tried to pull my hand away. The zombie clung like a limpet, making a 
protesting almost-sound, and continued to lick at the blood. I stopped trying 
to get away when its grip tightened enough to make the bones of my wrist 
grind together. When it had finished with my fingers, the zombie turned its 
attention to the still bleeding wounds on the palm of my hand and began to 
drink from them. It looked at me the entire time.

I was caught in its gaze, frozen. With each passing minute, the zombie's 
eyes became less flat, less dead. There was something shining in them--not 
life, it couldn't be that--but awareness. Knowledge. Self. Just as weird, its 
neck healed as I watched, shiny white scar tissue closing over the gaping 

My hand protested like all hell when the zombie began sucking at the cuts. 
The pain brought me back to myself, and I suddenly realized that I was just 
standing there, letting something that must have just crawled out of the 
ground drink my blood. Oh God. I tried to pull my hand back again. The 
zombie mewled out a pathetic protest. "Let go." I said, sharply. 

It did exactly as it was told, and I stumbled back a step and ran the backs of 
my legs into Heero's bed. I just wanted to laugh. It was mine, all mine. I'd 
created it, brought it to me, and now it was mine to command totally. A 
strange kind of elation welled up inside me, and I felt the dark energy stir, 
pulling toward the zombie. I wanted to touch it again, to share my blood 
with it more, because it was mine. child...

/Stop that!/ I told myself, and shook my head sharply. I couldn' 
was too freaky...

The zombie stared at me again. Its lips were dark with blood. We watched 
each other for an eternal second, and then the zombie licked its lips, 
cleaning the blood from them. It was as if that little bit made all of the 
blood, magic, or whatever reach critical mass. Suddenly, the zombie's entire 
posture changed. It was no longer stiff and dead, though it wasn't quite 
alive. It was...familiar.

It looked at me, and self flooded into its eyes. "Duo?" It said with Yan's 
voice, inflections, and everything. "What's going on?" It--no, shit, I couldn't 
think of the zombie as an it any more, not when it was looking at me like 
that--HE sounded like a lost, scared little boy.

I took an involuntary step back, toward the door. The zombie took a step 
toward me.

That was it. "Stay there!" I yelled, my voice cracking. I backed away more 
quickly, even though the zombie obeyed my command. This couldn't be 
happening. It had to be a bad dream. My back ran into the door, and I let out 
a loud yelp. Yan the zombie watched me, a mixture of curiosity and hurt on 
his dead face. "Duo, what's wrong?" He asked.

That was too much. I fumbled for the doorknob, not looking away from the 
zombie, and managed to get the door open.

I slammed the door behind me as soon as I was out in the hall, then ran the 
short distance to Wufei's room. My breath was sobbing in my throat, 
coming way too fast. I could feel myself panicking all over again.

"Wufei!" I said as loudly as I dared, knocking on the door. There was no 
answer. "Wufei!" My voice was shaking. I knew on an intellectual level that 
the zombie would still be back in my room, waiting for the next order...but 
my intellect was definitely not at home. I could almost feel the zombie, the 
thing I had called, creeping up behind me, reaching out for me in classic 
"Night of the Living Dead" style.

I'd created it. Oh god. Oh god. Oh god...

"Wufei!" I gave up any pretense at being quiet. If the other guys in the dorm 
had a problem, THEY could go deal with the damn zombie. I pounded on 
the door harder. Still no answer, and for one terrible moment, I imagined 
that another zombie had come and gotten Wufei, and any minute, the one in 
my room would change its mind about obeying me and come and get me 
next. My knees gave out and I let out a hoarse sob, crashing up against 
Wufei's door and sliding slowly down its smooth surface until I was on the 
floor. I continued to hit the door with one hand. The cuts in my palm had 
reopened, I could feel it. I was leaving little smears of blood on the door 
every time I hit it.

There was a soft sound beyond the door, and it was suddenly jerked open. I 
fell over, caught completely off guard, and ended up sprawling at Wufei's 
feet. His hair was hanging around his face, and he was wearing only a pair 
of pants. "Duo?" He asked, incredulous. "What's wrong?"

I was feeling a little upset. Yan dying, I could handle. Dead was dead, no 
changing it, I wouldn't be Shinigami if I didn't know that. 
wasn't dead. Kind of. Because of me.

So I went into a round of hysterics.

Wufei handled it pretty well, I think. I threw myself at him and locked my 
arms around his waist, and he didn't push me away. Instead, he awkwardly 
returned my desperate embrace. He doesn't do that sort of thing very often. 
He stood there and half held me and listened to me babble for several 
minutes before he realized that I wasn't going to just calm down on my own. 
Then he pushed me away slightly, grabbed my arms, and shook me, very 

The sound of my teeth rattling in my head brought me back to my senses a 
little, forcibly stopping the words that were cascading from my mouth. My 
breath was coming in rapid gasps. I concentrated on slowing it down until a 
small measure of coherency returned to my thoughts.

"Ok, Duo." Wufei said, a great deal more calm than he had any right to be. 
Then again, he didn't know about the dead guy in my room yet. "What's 
going on?"

I took a long, deep breath. "Yan." I said, very softly. "He' my room."

Wufei's eyebrows shot up almost to his hairline. "What?"

"Yan's in my room!" I almost shouted, my voice cracking. Tears were 
stinging in my eyes, but I wouldn't let them fall. I had to stay calm. 

To Wufei's credit, he didn't ask questions or patronize me. I guessed that 
after the week we'd all been having, he was pretty much willing to believe 
anything now, too. "Can I let go of you now?" He asked.

I nodded, not trusting myself to talk again. He let go of my arms, then 
disappeared into his room for a moment. When he came back out, he was 
tugging on a shirt one handed and held his sword in the other hand. 
Wordlessly, we walked down the hall to my room. Wufei opened my door 
and took a cautious look inside.

If he saw anything, he didn't give any outward sign. For a crazy minute, I 
wondered if it had been a nightmare, and I'd gotten Wufei out of bed for 
nothing. God, I hoped it was a nightmare. If there was a choice between 
having a real zombie sitting in my room and being royally embarrassed, I 
would happily choose being royally embarrassed any day of the week.

Wufei took a deliberate step back and quietly shut the door. His had taken 
on a pale, sickly tinge that I didn't think was entirely due to the dim light of 
the hallway. "That," he said, very carefully, "is impossible."

My eyes widened. I hadn't heard Wufei sound like that very often. He was 
afraid. The only thing that was keeping him from breaking down like me 
was the fact that he was Wufei, and Wufei would never let anyone see him 
like that. I fell back against the wall with a solid thump and slid down until I 
was sitting on the floor. I wanted to laugh. "Oh good." I said. "That means I 
must be imagining it."

Wufei took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Did it attack you?"

I shook my head.

"Did it act hostile at all?"

I shook my head again. "It..." I took a deep breath and tried again. My 
words came out in a rush. "It's waiting for me to tell it to do something."

Wufei's eyes widened. "What?"

I scrubbed at my eyes with one hand, the hand that the zombie hadn't 
touched. "It's waiting for me to give it orders. It's mine."


"I don't know. Jesus, I don't know." I actually started laughing. I put my 
face in one hand and slammed the other into the floor. Hard. The pain 
shocked me enough that I managed to pull myself out of another looming 
bout of hysteria. "God, Wufei...when are our lives ever going to go back to 

Wufei crouched down until he was level with me. "I don't know." he said. 
"Were they that normal to begin with?"

I snorted. "God, I don't know how you handle this so well."

"It's happening to you, mostly, not me. I'm only effected because I am your I am at least getting a choice as to whether or not I want to get 
involved." he pointed out. "Besides, maybe you only think I'm taking it 
well. Maybe once the zombie's taken care of, I'm going to go back to my 
room, lock myself in, and draw on the walls for a while."

The comment had its desired effect. I laughed, and it wasn't tainted with 
panic in the slightest. The image of Wufei, barefoot and with his hair loose, 
drawing on the walls with scented permanent markers was just too 
ridiculous. I felt calmer almost immediately, a little removed from the 
problem. If Wufei could handle it, so could I. I hoped.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. When Wufei's not ranting about 
justice or being taken up in the heat of the fight, God is he one cool 

"You win." I said. "I'm ok now." I took a deep breath. No, I wasn't ok, but at 
least I was in control. "What do we do?"

"We go inside and see what it wants. It came from somewhere. We send it 
back." It sounded so simple when he said it. Maybe it was that easy. I hoped 
so. Sometimes I wished I could see the world in simple terms like Wufei 
seemed to. There's a fight, so you apply sufficient force to the enemy that 
you will leave nothing standing. There is a wrong, so you right it. There's a 
pervert groping you, so you kick him in the nuts. There's not enough rice, so 
you go buy more. There's a reanimated, ripe-smelling corpse standing in 
your friends' rooms, so you go in and ask it what it wants, then send it 
home. See? Fits right in.

I nodded shakily and stood up. He followed me when I walked into my 
room. It was the bravest thing I'd done all week.

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