Bankai Wing: Lions and Tigers and Hollows, Oh My
By Mel and Christy, who do not own either Gundam Wing or Bleach, but love to torment the characters anyway.
“What?!” Mayuri snarled, not looking up from his readouts. Captain-General Ukitake had vetoed his plan to clone Treat 1 from the blood samples his scientists had picked up at the scene of his meeting with Abarai -- before he’d even had any progress to hide, too! -- so he was sulking, and not in the mood to entertain random chit-chat from his vice-Captain.
“Regarding the reiatsu strength noted from the two subjects,” Nemu went on, apparently unconcerned (as always). “Although it is not as strong as, for example, Captain Kurosaki exhibited in life--” Mayuri growled, and she went on without a pause. “--I believe it is sufficient to stimulate any latent abilities their colleagues might possess.”
“…perhaps Mayuri-sama might wish observations to be made to either confirm or disprove this hypothesis?”
“Bah!” He waved one hand dismissively. “Fine, whatever, see to it. Not that I expect anything interesting to come from it.”
* * * * *
Heero kept his face expressionless with an effort. Something was niggling at him, some threat or clue that his conscious mind was missing, and it was making him twitch.
His current surveillance target seemed oblivious. Heero had identified all his public bodyguards as well as the five covert bodyguards that took turns shadowing him, and all of them seemed oblivious to his presence too; they were used to polite, quiet, anonymous teenagers in cadet uniform showing up everywhere they went, and hadn’t noticed that one of them showed up more often than the others. They were distracted by the series of accidental deaths that had happened on base in the last week, anyway.
Heero was distracted by that, too. He’d only caused three of them. Maybe that was what was niggling at him? He was pretty sure the rest had been genuine accidents… but on the other hand, his contributions to the trend had been accepted as genuine too. Maybe somebody else was as good as he was at faking them.
Something caught his attention, and he turned to see--
Mentally working his way through a list of Duo’s favourite swear words behind his expressionless mask, Heero marched off (stamping just a little more than necessary) after his target.
Although Subject 3 is still incapable of seeing through strong camouflaging kidou, he does appear to sense my presence as well as the presence of minor Hollows on site, possibly attracted by his developing reiatsu. I believe the Hollows to be responsible for several recent deaths in the area. I have thinned their numbers as far as possible without revealing myself, and am observing the remaining specimens to see if Subject 3 is able to perceive them during a direct confrontation. Observation of subjects 4 and 5 has been postponed until after this situation has resolved.
* * * * *
“I can get a good line of fire through here,” Trowa murmured, studying the broad tree-studded park, “and they lock the gates at night, so I won’t have to worry about civilians… Quatre?”
The blond pilot was staring narrow-eyed at a clump of trees surrounding a small pond, some way away from the more populated areas of the park, and didn’t seem to be listening.
“Hm? Oh! Uh, sorry Trowa, I just… remembered something. Could you go on ahead? I’ll catch up in a second,” Quatre said, pasting a false smile over a far more serious expression. It might have fooled anyone else -- almost anyone else, Trowa corrected himself, thinking of Quatre’s close friendship with Duo -- but not him, and he felt a chill.
If Quatre’s so worried he’s forgetting that that won’t work on me… something’s very wrong. Outwardly, he nodded, hiding his concern behind his own calm mask. “Sure. I’ll check out the terrain down that way,” he said, and strolled onwards.
When he looked back, Quatre was hurrying towards the clump of trees, one hand feeling for a weapon inside his waistcoat. Trowa changed direction to follow him.
Quatre pushed his way through the bushes into the clear area around the pond, drawing his knives. The pond and the shade from the trees made the ground here permanently damp, muddy and squelching underfoot, and mosquitos whined in the underbrush; it was pretty from a distance, but nobody chose it as a spot to picnic or read.
Thankfully, Quatre told himself grimly, eyeing the two dog-sized Hollows that were turning towards him. They’d been staring at a small group of children when he first caught sight of them, radiating a predatory intent that he couldn’t ignore. I should be able to take care of them without disturbing anyone else.
They lunged, circling to trap him between them, and he dodged to one side. He was getting used to this, much as he’d prefer not to, and he could feel that they were fairly weak. Nasty, feeling like sandpaper and acid against his sixth sense, and of course a terrible threat to any normal person they decided looked tasty, but not a threat to him unless something went wrong.
Something went wrong. Slick mud and rotten leaves made treacherous footing at the best of times, which this wasn’t, and his feet skidded out from under him as he darted forward to stab the first Hollow through the centre of its mask. The knife flashed golden as the strike went home, cracking the mask from top to bottom, but the creature thrashed as it died and pushed him even further off balance. He was down on one knee, right-hand knife still stuck in the dissolving Hollow’s skull, left-hand knife completely out of position for a parry, and all he could think as the other Hollow leapt at his face was Trowa would tell me off if he could see this--
Another knife spun over his shoulder and smacked into the second Hollow’s flank, flickering faintly green as it hit. The Hollow was knocked off course, thudding to the ground and skidding closer as it thrashed, and Quatre twisted to stab hastily as its teeth gnashed inches away from his leg. It howled one last time as its mask shattered.
Trowa was standing at the edge of the clearing, one hand still extended in a throwing motion, eyes wide.
“…You need to keep one knife clear for defence when you’re fighting multiple opponents,” he said blankly, then blinked. “What was that?!”
* * * * *
“Why do I do this, again?” Duo muttered to himself. “I mean, the closest targets for that Hollow were all OZzies. Kill two birds with one stone, let it have them…”
=As if you could,= Deathscythe’s voice said out of nowhere, wryly amused.
“Noooo, of course I couldn’t. That would have been sensible,” the pilot grouched. He glanced to one side, but the passenger seat of the car was still empty, Deathscythe not bothering to become visible. “I could have let it nosh on the OZzies and then taken it out, but what did I do? I killed it, and the damn OZzies heard me, and then I had to kill them anyway, complete with bite marks slowing me down.”
=Very ungrateful of them to shoot you.=
“Think they woulda let me pass if I’d told them I’d just saved their spiritual asses from a creepy invisible ghost monster?”
“Y’know, when Tats-man and his friend left the o-mamori for me an’ Quatre, I thought we were through with Hollows,” Duo sighed, clinging to the steering wheel and squinting into the gathering dusk. He was trying not to notice how the seat underneath him was beginning to squelch when he moved. “Okay, they don’t come hunting us any more, but we still walk into the fuckers everywhere we go. And then, because we are idiots, we have to go and do something about them, and get chewed on.”
=At least they don’t feel you coming,= Deathscythe soothed.
“Pardon me for not feeling like that’s enough to make it all better. I mean, dude, if I’ve got to be a superhero and save people all the time, I’d like some compensation! Is universal respect too much to ask? Groupies? I’d settle for being stinkin’ rich…”
=I think you need to wear a cape for that. Or at least spandex.=
“Well, Heero’s set for a career after the war, then. Man of Steel and all that.”
Bantering with the voice in his head, Duo drove on at a careful two miles an hour over the speed limit. (Two miles over would be ignored. Driving on or under the limit when everyone else was speeding made you look like a cautious drunk trying to get home safely, and being pulled over for a sobriety check never went well if you were covered in bloodstains and only presentable from the chest up.)
Wufei was in the kitchen when the garage door rattled up, ancient opening mechanism squeaking like the Death of Rats in a hamster wheel -- at least, that was how Duo had described it, and now he couldn’t get the image out of his head. He dropped the plate he was washing back into the suds and headed for the hallway, drying his hands.
As he turned the corner towards the internal door that connected to the garage he heard something, muffled and overlaid by the sound of the external door squeaking its way back down. Duo’s voice, in complaining tones, saying something he couldn’t make out. A pause, and then he heard it again.
--Duo was on a solo mission, he thought suddenly, stopping in mid-stride. An icy lump settled in his stomach and he took a careful, silent step backwards, reaching for his ever-present gun. That’s a conversational pattern, not the way he sounds when he’s bitching to himself about a mission. Who’s he talking to?
Quatre and Trowa’s room was closest, and he stepped inside, pulling the door nearly closed and staring out through the remaining crack. Something in the garage thumped and slid, as if someone had bumped into one of the boxes that were stacked along the walls.
“--the hell are you doing this, anyway?” Duo’s voice became clear as the outer door closed and the squeaking and rattling stopped, sounding amused.
Not that that’s ever an indication of whether he’s in trouble or not, Wufei thought wryly. He strained to hear the answer from whoever was with his teammate, but there was nothing. Nothing recognisable as speech, at least; he thought he heard faint, buzzing static that rose and fell for a few seconds.
“That’s not much of an answer. I mean, dude, not to be rude, but you’re dead.”
The door swung open, and Duo was framed in the opening, drenched in blood, obviously exhausted, and leaning on… nothing at all.
Wufei’s gun sagged towards the floor as he stared incredulously. Duo’s left arm was raised and positioned as if it were wrapped around someone’s shoulders for support, but there was nothing there! His legs were almost dragging behind him, clearly not holding his weight, his whole body drooped down from his invisible prop, and there was still nothing there.
Duo twisted his head to the left, half-scowling, clearly seeing something to glare at. “And what the hell does that mean?!”
There was static again, barely audible, and something like heatwaves shimmered for a moment next to Duo as he took a step-- no, was carried towards the kitchen, legs moving but not quite keeping up.
…I’m going mad, Wufei thought calmly as Duo continued past his hiding place, still arguing with his invisible friend. It’s either that, or Duo is being carried by a ghost, and ghosts don’t exist, so I must be going mad.
Duo sagged onto the steering wheel as the garage door began to descend, shuddering as the complaining motor forced it down its rusty tracks. “Oh, man,” he sighed, eyeing the seemingly insurmountable distance between him and the house entrance. “I might just sit here until ’Fei comes to see what the hell is keeping me.”
=He might not be in,= ’Scythe’s disembodied voice pointed out.
“So I might sit here longer.”
=In which case he’d have the joy of finding you dead from blood loss…= “…or I could give you a hand.”
“Say what?” Duo blinked and rolled his head to the side, peering up at the no-longer-invisible spirit standing outside the car.
“Come on,” Deathscythe told him, bending down with one elbow propped on the car roof and making a beckoning motion with his other hand. “Open the door, and I’ll get you into the house. First aid is up to you, though,” he added.
Grumbling and wincing, Duo braced himself and shoved the door open, straining against its weight. “If you can help me into the house -- which I still don’t believe is possible, okay, just so we’re clear -- how come you can’t open the door yourself?”
“Because you’re easier to move than anything else,” the spirit told him, and hauled him out of the car as he yelped in surprise and pain.
“Ow! Jeez, ’Scythe, ever heard of doing things gently?!”
“I can’t hold this level of materialisation for long,” Deathscythe said cheerfully, starting towards the inner door as the outside door neared the end of its track, “so either we do it fast or I end up dropping you on the floor half way. Which would you prefer?”
“Fine, fine. How the hell are you doing this, anyway?” Duo asked, glaring down at his uncooperative legs as if he could intimidate them into supporting him.
“Concentration and focus. And you need to open this door, too.”
“That’s not much of an answer. I mean, dude, not to be rude, but you’re dead,” Duo pointed out, fumbling for a moment before he managed to grip the doorknob.
Deathscythe looked thoughtful. “I’m pretty sure I’m not, actually. At least, I won’t be until you are too.”
“And what the hell does that mean?!”
The spirit answered him almost absent-mindedly, looking ahead towards the kitchen. “Can’t you tell the difference? I’m yours.”
Duo fell silent, blinking bemusedly as Deathscythe hauled him along the corridor, around a corner and through the already open door into the kitchen. They barely made it to the table, where the spirit half-dropped him into the chair.
“Sorry,” he murmured, fading out. =This is as far as I can go.=
“…Huh,” Duo murmured, blinking again. “Whaddaya mean, you’re ‘mine’? My what?”
“Oh, great. Wonderful time for him to buzz off to wherever he goes when he’s not around. Leave me with a bunch of new questions and nobody to ask, why don’t’cha?!” he finished, half shouting.
“Sheesh,” he muttered after a moment, eyeing the pilots’ large medical kit… which was on top of the refrigerator, on the other side of the room. “Coulda put me down over there, at least.”
Trowa waited to speak until the front door closed behind them. “Do I get that explanation now?”
Quatre winced, walking ahead. “Yes, but I want coffee first. This explanation is going to need coffee, possibly with brandy in it, and I don’t even drink. I don’t suppose you’d be willing to wait until Duo gets back? It’ll be much easier with Duo helping.”
“Duo doesn’t usually make explanations easier,” Trowa pointed out, following him. “He makes them more fun, but also extremely confusing most of the time.”
“Yes, well, I’m fairly sure this is all his fault somehow, so-- Duo!” Quatre exclaimed, dropping his bag and sprinting into the kitchen, catching the long-haired pilot just before he faceplanted next to the table. “What happened?!”
“Oh, nothing much,” Duo said muzzily, clearly not focussing properly. “Just some OZzies. Well, OZzies and a Hollow. Actually, technically it was the Hollow and then the OZzies, and I drove back here and Deathscythe dragged me in like a cat with a dead rat or something, then he went and vanished the way he does…” He trailed off, mumbling something that sounded like ‘asshole’.
“That’s a bite,” Quatre said in a shocked voice, staring at Duo’s bloody right leg. “Duo you idiot, you let a Hollow get that close?!”
“…That looks like a human bite,” Trowa said slowly from the doorway. “Except that it’s about eighteen inches wide.”
“Fuckin’ Hollows,” Duo slurred. “As if th’ screamin’ wasn’t annoying enough…”
“Well, Duo’s back,” Trowa said meaningfully, walking across to get the medical kit. “And I would really like an explanation now.”
“So would I,” Wufei said in a shaking voice as he appeared in the other doorway, gun still in hand.
“Fine,” Quatre grunted, heaving Duo up until he could lower him gently onto the table. “On one condition. This goes no further, okay? Because the Doctors really, really do not need to know, and I cannot imagine trying to explain it to Heero would go well.”
“’s not like he can see ’em anyway,” Duo agreed, and passed out.
* * * * *
Heero scowled. He’d finally gotten into place to ambush his target, without interference from his assorted bodyguards or base personnel, he had mere minutes before the man would walk into the trap, and he had that feeling again. The prickly, crawling feeling along his spine, as if something was staring at him.
He’d been having a lot of those feelings lately. Most didn’t seem threatening; he just felt as if someone was there, on an empty street or in a deserted building. Sometimes he thought he’d just missed hearing something, or nearly seen something out of the corner of his eye. It was irritating, but didn’t seem to affect his mission performance.
(Even if it had, he thought a little guiltily, he probably wouldn’t have reported it to Doctor J. It wasn’t as if he had anything concrete to report, anyway.)
The other type of feelings, though, the ones that did feel threatening, he could at least do something about. He’d done it by accident the first time, but it worked.
Turning around, he looked for the faint haze that always went along with the threatening feelings, and finally located it at the other end of the alley. Drawing himself up, he narrowed his eyes, concentrated, and glared.
The ominous feeling seemed to tremble; then it faded, and the haze sank down towards the ground and slid away around the corner.
“Hn,” Heero grunted, and turned back to wait for his target, ignoring the other, fainter feeling of being watched. That one didn’t feel hostile, and he’d never been able to spot a haze associated with it… but if he ever did, he knew what to do about it.
While Subject 3 is still unable to see Hollows, he appears to be able to localise them, and has begun utilising a low-level reiatsu flare to drive them away. This is an extremely unusual development, indicating development of offensive reiatsu abilities before passive detection abilities, and worthy of further study.
- Kurotsuchi Nemu, personal files
Bankai Wing Chapter 3
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