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Acherontia Atropos (Part 5)


My ass was a sorry ass indeed the next morning when it got hauled out of 
bed. Note that I said "got hauled" instead of "got up." I didn't have the 
pleasure of waking up on my own. Heero did it for me.

I guess I should have been grateful that he'd been thoughtful enough to 
wake me up so that I wouldn't oversleep and miss yet another day of class. 
Instead, I was just pissed. I'd never thought that I could throw a chair with 
such accuracy, especially right handed. Heero ducked, though, so he didn't 
get hit. It made a nice dent in the wall.

Heero had woken me up from a nice dream that involved him, a can of 
whipped cream, and a set of handcuffs. So I had a good excuse to be 
cranky.

School was the same old stuff as always. Boring teachers, even more boring 
lectures, and yet another lab in science where the teacher's assistant 
wouldn't let me have a bunsen burner. Chemistry is only interesting when 
it's hands on. When you have to sit back and watch everyone else playing 
with potentially lethal substances, it just sucks. You'd think that after a 
couple of months, they'd start to let me participate again, but no, the 
teacher's assistant was being a dork. I mean, geeze, his eyebrows had grown 
back ok.

As predicted, I was cornered by a group of girls and was forced to endure 
their distressed cooing over my face until Quatre, who was passing by, took 
pity and rescued me. Normally, I wouldn't have objected to the attention I 
was getting from the ladies. Actually, I would have basked in it. But a guy 
can only take too much "poor baby"-ing before he starts losing patience 
with it. Especially when the guy has as much on his mind as I had.

"Ne, Quatre, thanks." I said as soon as we were out of earshot of the lovely 
ladies. I dusted my jacket off. One of the girls had been eating potato chips, 
and had gotten crumbs all over me. I'm a slob, yeah, but not that much of a 
slob.

"No problem." Quatre said. We walked along in companionable silence for 
a few moments.

"Did you hear about the latest incident? Someone broke into our room last 
night and left us some guns and ammo." It's kind of sad when weirdness 
becomes so commonplace that it turns into casual conversation. The story 
of our lives.

"Aa. Trowa heard from Heero, and told me."

I grinned slyly and looked at Quatre out of the corner of my eye. "How go 
things with Trowa, hm?"

I was awarded with a very cute, pink blush. That's Quatre, all over. He'd 
admitted to me a long time ago that he had the hots--well, let's be fair to 
Quatre--MORE than the hots for Trowa. And I was all for it. The two of 
them were so damn cute together. The only problem was that Trowa was 
being about as affectionate and open as Heero. Well, maybe not quite that 
bad, but still, it was a source of endless frustration for Quatre. He and I 
sometimes got together for several hour bitch sessions (at least they were 
bitch sessions on my part) over tea when either of us were feeling too 
frustrated to deal with the men, or, rather, /lack/ of men in our lives. I'd have 
to say next to Wufei, Quatre was my best friend. I could talk to Quatre 
about things that I wouldn't talk to Wufei about, and vice versa. It was a 
great arrangement.

He didn't let the blush stop him from getting me back. "About as well as 
things with Heero, I imagine." You wouldn't think it to look at him, but 
Quatre has quite a dry sense of humor and a quick mind to go with all that 
kindness and patience. But like I said before, looks can be deceiving. He's 
not just another pretty face.

"Ouch! Stung!" I clapped a hand to my forehead in a dramatic gesture, and 
immediately wished I hadn't. "Damnit!" 

Quatre peered at me with concerned eyes. "Daijoubu ka." 

"Aa, daijoubu." I shook my head. "I'm too absent minded."

"Hai."

"You don't have to agree!" I grinned, and Quatre grinned back at me. "Is 
Trowa still upset about me throwing that cup at him?"

"I don't think he was ever mad about it at all. We all know what you're like 
in the morning." 

"I am a real monster, ne?"

"Until you get your coffee, yes." 

We passed through the school lobby. The school was a pretty nice place. 
The lobby floor was actual varnished wood, a real departure from the grey-
speckled off-white tiles that were in every other school lobby I'd ever been 
in. It had wood panneling, too, and the main office had actual glass doors. 
Very impressive. The only school I'd ever seen that was nicer was that 
Relena girl's school, but considering how rich she is and all that, it wasn't 
that surprising.

I scowled. Why the hell did I have to think of Relena now? God only 
knows, she might show up. I pushed the thoughts away, just in case, like the 
devil, thinking about Relena would draw her attention. Instead, I took a 
quick survey of the lobby. My eyes fell on the pay phones. There was 
something I had to do with a phone...

The little white card. I pulled it out of my pants pocket. It was looking a 
little less than white now, more of a kind of dusty gray from all the lint it 
had picked up in my pocket, and it was half crumpled from me sitting and 
walking. I grabbed the arm of Quatre's jacket and pulled him over to the 
phone.

"What are you doing?" Quatre looked at me owlishly, but he didn't bother to 
resist.

I tossed the card at him. "This was with the guns."

Quatre caught the crinkled little piece of thick paper and did his best to 
smooth it out until it looked fairly neat again. He turned it over and over 
until the faint penciling, which had somehow miraculously survived 
through several hours in my pants pocket, caught his eye. "Who's the 
number for?"

"No idea. I figure I should call it, though. Someone went to a lot of trouble 
to get me that number." I started searching my pockets for some change to 
feed the phone. No luck. Quatre, ever helpful, produced some and gave it to 
me. "Thanks, man. What's the number on that card?"

He read it off to me, pausing several times so he could decipher the faint 
traces of pencil. When I had it all dialed, we waited. It rang, which was a 
good sign, I supposed. And rang. And rang. And rang. After about ten 
times, I got ready to just hang up so I could save Quatre's change...not that 
he was hurting for the money or anything. I just figured that I could borrow 
it off of him again some other time. 

On ring number eleven, there was a click, and a woman's voice came on the 
phone. It was a nice voice, fairly low for a woman. A good phone voice. It 
was obvious that she said that one phrase a lot, though. Her tone was pretty 
flat through all of it. "Carmelita's. Tell me what dreams you'd like me to 
make true."

Id been expecting a lot of things, but that certainly wasn't one of them.

There was a lengthy pause. "Hello?" she said, with a little more animation 
in her voice.

I managed to gather up my scattered brain, took a deep breath, and launched 
myself into the conversation. "Er, hi. Gomen, ojou-san, you caught me off 
guard." There was silence on the other end of the phone, which could mean 
that she'd hung up. Just in case she hadn't, I bravely forged on. "Uh...My 
name is Duo. I was given this number to call and no one told me why, so 
I'm hoping that you know."

Pause pause pause.

"Ne, ojou-san? Are you still there?"

"Yes." The woman said, with an almost normal speaking voice. "I don't 
know what you're talking about--wait."

Weird sounds started coming out of the phone. I think she'd put her hand 
over the mouthpiece, but I thought I could hear muffled voices. Two 
women. After a moment, someone else came on the line. She sounded a lot 
younger than the other woman. "Hello?"

"Yes?"

"You said your name is Duo, right?"

"Yep."

"Good. Can you meet with me tomorrow?"

"What?"

"Tomorrow, five o'clock. The store is at the corner of ninth and Bowing, 
you can't miss it. I'll see you then." The phone went dead. I couldn't help it. 
I did that stupid ass stare-at-the-phone-in-shock thing. 

"Duo, what was that about?" 

I hung up the phone. "We're supposed to meet a woman tomorrow at five." I 
looked at Quatre. "Want to be my backup?"

He looked a little surprised. I don't normally ask for backup, but this was 
getting past the point of strange. "Sure."

"I want to bring along one more person, too. Do you know if Trowa is free 
tomorrow?" 

Quatre shook his head. "He said he and Heero have a mission tomorrow."

"Damn. Do you know if Wufei will be back by then?"

"He might be." Quatre raised his eyebrows. "It's that bad?"

"Probably not, but better to be safe than sorry. If Wufei's back, we'll take 
him. If not, we won't. Sounds good to me." I reached over and pulled the 
white card out of Quatre's hands, then crumpled it up the rest of the way and 
tossed it at a garbage can. Swoosh. Go me. 

***

Ceilings have got to be just about one of the most boring things in the world 
to look at. They're blank, white, unadorned, and totally uninteresting. So 
why the hell was I laying in bed, staring at mine?

Easy. The answer was sitting at the desk, typing on that damn laptop. I was 
really starting to hate that stupid machine.

"Ne, Heero?"

"Aa."

"I'm bored." Yes, it sounded childish, but what else could I say in that 
situation? 'Heero, I lust after your body?' I think not. 

He didn't even bother turning around. "Do your homework."

I curled my lip at that particular suggestion. The homework in question was 
laying in piles on the floor around my bed, a nice, pretty scattering of books 
and papers. I hated homework. I didn't figure that I'd need it anyway, 
considering I was probably going to get killed before I saw graduation. 
Besides, the homwork was all chemistry and calculus, not stuff that I cared 
about...and if I don't care about the subject, it's almost impossible for me to 
buckle down and do actually work on it. "Ne, Heero...."

"No." He said, very flatly.

That annoyed me. "You didn't even know what I was going to ask!" 

"You should do your homework."

I stuck my tongue out at his back. "I was going to ask for your help, jerk."

"You're smart enough that you don't need my help. You're just being lazy."

I could have gotten a little more pissed about that comment if I'd known it 
wasn't true. But really, it was. I just wanted an excuse to get Heero close to 
me. Though considering how he was acting, I had no idea why. Whatever 
bug had crawled up his ass lately was really starting to wear thin. "Ne, 
Heero?"

"What?"

Still no emotion. For all I could hear, I wasn't even annoying him. Fine 
then. The real question. "Why didn't you tell me you were going on another 
mission tomorrow?"

He actually stopped typing. Will the wonders never cease. "I didn't think it 
was important." He said, very quietly. 

"You didn't think it was important?" I was suddenly on my feet and stalking 
over to Heero, and I couldn't even remember getting up. "So you were 
planning to just go off on the mission tomorrow without even telling me?" I 
could hear my voice getting a little louder with each word, but at that point, 
I didn't care. "Did it ever occur to you, that as your friend, I might get a 
little worried???"

Heero shrugged. "Quatre would tell you. He obviously did."

"It's not the same if you hear it from someone /else!!/"

Heero shrugged again. That was it. I turned around and stalked out of the 
room, slamming the door behind me.

***

So I found myself outside, taking a walk. Again. Without a jacket or a gun. 
The jacket wasn't that big of a deal, since it had warmed up even more in 
the last couple of days, but the gun was a real pisser. I wasn't going to go 
back to the room and get it, though. No way. I might be tempted to shoot 
someone, and that would waste the silver bullet.

So I shoved my hands in my pockets and slouched off along my normal 
walking route, toward the trees at the edge of the woods that lined the 
teacher's parking lot. I was feeling unaccountably jumpy, even taking in to 
consideration the fact that I had been attacked several nights ago. It wasn't 
so much a jumpy feeling as the sensation that my skin was too small. My 
hands itched like they were collecting static electricity, and my head felt 
fuzzy with it. I cautiously felt my bangs to see if they were standing on end. 
They weren't. I had no idea what it was, but being outside, under the night 
sky with the full moon was making it a hell of a lot stronger.

I'd been feeling that way all night, which was probably why I had been so 
quick to jump on Heero. Not that I was sorry about getting on his case, lord 
no. I was just kind of mad at myself. The way I'd been going after him, I'd 
sounded more like a scorned girlfriend than an angry friend. Not good. I 
didn't think Heero would notice, though. Quatre would have, and maybe 
Trowa or Wufei, but Heero was way to obtuse when it came to emotions to 
get it. I hoped.

A flash of light color against the dark grey tinged world caught my 
attention. I wasn't the only one walking out to the trees tonight. There was 
someone else, but I couldn't quite make out their face, so I sped my pace 
and moved to intercept. I reached the kid pretty quickly. He was one of the 
boys from my class, Yan. He was still half dressed in his school uniform. 
He'd just taken off the jacket and the tie. 

"Ne, Yan! Matte!" I sped up a little more so that I could catch up with him. 
He didn't even pause or stop, like he hadn't heard me. He did stop, though, 
when I grabbed his arm. "What are you doing out here?"

Yan blinked a couple of times, like I had just woken him up, and looked at 
me with surprised eyes. "Maxwell-kun?" Yan was a nice kid, and a real 
refreshing guy to get to know after having spent some time with the other 
pilots, because he actually acted his age. He was pretty good looking too; 
golden skin with a permanent tan, dark sloe eyes, very classic oriental 
features. Hell, he and Wufei could have been distant cousins, they looked 
enough alike. He had something Wufei didn't, though; he was still innocent. 
Completely and totally. "Duo?" He said again. "What are you doing out 
here?"

"Taking a walk. What about you?" I didn't relinquish my hold on his arm. 
Something was bothering me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

"I was taking a walk too?" Yan made it sound more like a question than a 
statement. He waved his free hand vaguely toward the woods. "I told some 
friends that I would meet them out here tonight."

The hair on the back of my neck suddenly stood on end, and I glanced 
toward the woods. There was a light shape there, shining in the moonlight. 
It looked human. As I watched, it was joined by another. Something told 
me, though, that they weren't human. Not by a long shot. All of a sudden, I 
really, really, really wished I had my gun. I started slowly backing away, 
pulling Yan with me. "Yan, those aren't your friends."

"Yes they are." He looked back at them. "I've been meeting them here for a 
couple of days."

I just stopped in my tracks, doing my best to keep an eye on the two...wait, 
no, there were three now...figures at the edge of the woods. With a slightly 
shaking hand, I reached up and pulled down the collar of Yan's school 
uniform. He had two sets of neat puncture wounds, already starting to heal, 
on his neck. Without really knowing why I was checking there, I reached 
down and pushed up the cuff of his right sleeve. Two more punctures on his 
wrist. "Oh shit." I said, very quietly. "Yan, come on, let's go back inside. 
Now. Please." I started to pull him back toward the school again. There 
were four figures at the edge of the woods, now.

Yan did something totally unexpected. He glanced back toward the woods, 
and then his face twisted with sudden, inexplicable fury. And then dear little 
innocent Yan yanked his arm out of my grasp, kneed me in the groin hard, 
and took off running toward the woods.

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