Demon of Justice Chapter 19


                                                                                                                                                                                             "What would Duo say?"


MEL & CHRISTY: Oh, Heeeeeeee~rooooo!

HEERO: I'm leaving.

CHRISTY: Mission!

HEERO: Fuck.

MEL (snickering, trying to imitate 'Mission Impossible'): If you choose to accept this mission... er, Christy? What's the rest of it?

CHRISTY: I don't know!

MEL: I'll just have to improvise. Um... Heero, if you choose to accept this mission, great. If not, too bad! We'll send you anyway.

CHRISTY: Just accept the damn mission already!

HEERO: You still haven't told me what it is!

MEL: ...Oh. Right.

CHRISTY: We've identified a new source of eye-candy. Go get him.

HEERO: You've been watching movies again, haven't you? Or was it anime? I hope it wasn't anime.

DUO: Yeah, the last time you sent my Hee-chan after another anime character, he got trashed!

CHRISTY: No no no no no! Live-action movie, we swear.

DUO: Good.

MEL: It was fantasy live-action, though...

DUO: Shit!

MEL: Enough chitchat! We want Legolas, the *drool* gorgeous elf from 'Lord of the Rings'. Go get him or else.

HEERO: Or else what?! If threats worked on me, onna, OZ would have won a long time ago.

CHRISTY: Or else we'll start incorporating plot twists from 'Ranma 1/2' into this story. Specifically, the 'stupid misunderstanding leads to big argument between lovers' type of plot twists.

DUO: *eeeeeeeeeeeeep!*

HEERO: Ninmu ryoukai.

[He walks out.]

QUATRE: I'm glad OZ never recruited you, Christy.

CHRISTY: Oh, they probably have... in some parallel universe, anyway.

[Wufei and Trowa walk in.]

WUFEI: Where's Yui going?

[Mel is bouncing around the room, singing.]

MEL: He's gonna get us a ba-abe, he's gonna get us a ba-abe...

TROWA: Ah. Collection duties. I'd better get out the big first aid kit.

CHRISTY: Bish hunt! Yay!

DUO: Our poor Hee-chan! *sob*

[He glomps onto Wufei, sniffling. Wufei doesn't object.]

MEL: While we're waiting for them to come back... on with the fic!

'Demon of Justice'
Chapter 19
"What would Duo say?"

"My name is Krashnark." The ten-foot-tall, faintly glowing 'man' allowed his arrogant smile to widen slightly, obviously expecting a reaction.

"Am I supposed to be impressed?" Wufei asked acidly, sword still up in a ready position.

The smile lost some of its arrogance for a moment, then twisted into a sneer. "I see Torframos' little pet dwarf hasn't told you much, if you don't even recognise the name of the God of War."

"We've had more important things to discuss." Wufei's eyes narrowed slightly, but he didn't flinch. I upset him by not reacting the way he wanted me to. Good. "I had worked out that you were probably a god. The light show is a little clichéd."

He watched as Krashnark bristled, obviously not handling the idea that a mere mortal would even consider talking back in that manner well. Most of Wufei's thought processes were concentrated on what to do and say-- 'keep him off balance' and 'what would Duo do?' were his two main ideas there-- while a tiny corner of his mind stood off and observed, amazed that he wasn't gibbering in shock.

I don't have time to gibber. I can do that later... if I have a later. I know Uthmar said the gods can't interfere directly in the world, but if that's true, what is he doing here?!

I wish I could ask-- wait a minute. I can.


"I was under the impression that gods weren't allowed to do things like this," Wufei continued, a tiny circling motion of his sword tip indicating their surroundings. "Doesn't this count as 'interference'?"


Back at camp, Karthan was giving an informal report to the two Champions and Gunnar.

"--so we actually made slightly more ground than we planned for. The camp is completely-- *gnnnh!*"

"Karthan?! Karthan, what's wrong?!" Uthmar grabbed at his arm, holding him upright as his knees threatened to buckle. "Karthan!"

"Is it a brainstorm?" Arwen moved quickly to take the dwarf's other side, peering into his wide, unfocussed eyes. He'd seen an old woman die from a stroke once, and this almost looked like another, but--

"Wufei's in trouble," Karthan gasped, eyes flicking from side to side as he looked at something nobody else could see. "Serious trouble! Can't you two feel anything? He's talking to Krashnark right now!"


"I suppose you could think of it that way," Krashnark replied cooly, getting himself back under control with a visible effort. "Technically, it's not, since I have no intention of actually harming you."

That does not make me feel better about this. "I'm sure you'll excuse me if I don't drop my sword, even so."

The arrogant smile returned. "Why should I mind? It's not as if you could do me any harm with it."

"You might be surprised. Let me see now..." Wufei tilted his head slightly to one side, making a show of frowning in thought. "You're arrogant, it doesn't sound as if you like Torframos, you're violating the spirit of the noninterference law if not the letter, and you either didn't realise or didn't care that you just insulted me. Hmmm. I wouldn't happen to be speaking to the Dark God of War, would I?"

"They haven't even told you that there isn't a Light God of War?!" Krashnark looked genuinely surprised for a moment, then thoughtful. "Well, Korthrala has the title, but he spends most of his time and energy taking care of his other areas of responsibility. I'm the only true God of War." A sly smile. "Perhaps they didn't tell you because they didn't want a magnificent warrior like you choosing to serve the other side?"

"Compared to some of the people I've had trying to mind-fuck me, that little attempt at subversion didn't even rate," Wufei said crudely, and had the satisfaction of seeing the god stiffen. I think Duo would be proud of me. Thank you Kushrenada, thank you Une; the lessons I learned from you are suddenly extremely useful. "Pick something more plausible next time. There is the small problem of a language barrier that keeps them from explaining things to me-- speaking of which, how is it that you're speaking to me in Chinese?"

"I'm not. You only think I am," Krashnark said in a tight, controlled voice. "A god must be able to make himself understood to all of his worshippers, after all."

"If you want me to worship you," Wufei growled, tightening his grip on his sword, "you are definitely going about it the wrong way."

Krashnark's words weren't particularly sophisticated-- it had been almost a childish attempt to plant doubts, Wufei thought-- but somehow he'd sounded so reasonable for a moment. Whatever he's doing, he wasn't doing it when he was visibly angry. Perhaps he has to be calm to use it, or at least controlled...? Making him angry might be a very stupid idea, but the noninterference rule seems to be real enough, and Uthmar and Arwen are coming...

Besides, it might be the only way I can keep him from convincing me that he's right! Duo's lines, Duo's lines, keep thinking of what Duo would say-- insolence seems to upset him most--

"So," Wufei said, almost conversationally, "you're a Dark god. Good for you; somebody's got to watch over all the people who belong under wet rocks. I do know of another Dark god with an interest in me, you know. Sharna."

"Oh?" Krashnark's lip curled. "That would be my brother." The red glow around him intensified for a moment.

"Did he send you down here to run errands for him?"


"Gunnar, Karthan, go back to camp now!" Uthmar snarled, running beside Arwen as fast as he could move in armour. "Naiya, you too!"

"No!" Naiya yelled, running just out of his reach. "Wufei saved my life! I'm not going to abandon him when he's in trouble!"

"Damn it, that's an order! You're talking about walking up and defying a god!"

"Exactly. Going back to camp now isn't going to save me if something happens," Naiya retorted. Gunnar and Karthan saved their breath for running and let her do the arguing. "Besides, if he harmed us that would be direct interference. What can he do?"

Anger blasted outwards from the small copse of trees they were running towards, a feeling of rage and power that was almost visible. It lay over Naiya like a smothering blanket, bearing down, trying to force her to her knees--

Her vision cleared as the pressure lightened slightly, and she realised that she was cowering, hands raised to protect her head. The two Champions were still upright, but had stopped running and were squinting ahead as if they were looking into the sun.

"He can do that," Arwen said quietly.


"My worthless little toad of a brother? Errands?!" The power radiating from Krashnark was beating at Wufei, burning at his mind and will, and he could almost hear a voice screaming at him to submit as the god took a long step forward, across the narrow stream.

--kneel bow worship--

He's a god, you don't defy gods, they give commands and you obey! The tip of Wufei's sword dropped, just an inch.

--submit obey kneel--

"That fool wants to kill you," Krashnark snorted. "I want you to serve me. Give yourself over to my cause, and I'll give you battles worthy of your skill!"


Wufei froze, mind clearing slightly. "...Battles?"

"Yes! As my Champion you'll be even stronger than you are now. Compared to you, the Light gods' Champions will be weak, useless, easily defeated!"


"The weak shouldn't fight," Wufei whispered.

Krashnark laughed, grinning triumphantly. "Not if they want to live. Kneel and swear fealty to me, and--"

Wufei's sword came around in a wild, inaccurate swing, arcing past the god's startled face, and he automatically jerked back out of range. Stupid! he thought, angry at himself. I reacted as if he could actually do damage!

Then he realised that Wufei's eyes were beginning to glow.

"The weak shouldn't fight," Wufei repeated, voice growing stronger. "The weak shouldn't have to fight, because it's the duty of the strong to fight for them!"

Krashnark took another step back as shadowy armour started to flicker into view around the small human/demon. He could feel power gathering, turning his own power aside, and now Wufei's sword was beginning to glow as well--

Damn, he thought, anger and arrogance draining away to leave him feeling merely tired. This didn't go at all how I intended.

"I don't wish to fight you," he said quietly. "I can't harm you, you know that."

"We could always find out if I can hurt you," Wufei suggested, lunging forward. The glowing figure vanished and Wufei's sword stabbed into nothing; he swore, falling back into a defensive stance and staying alert, turning slowly to scan his surroundings.

=*I didn't intend to anger you,*= Krashnark's voice continued, coming out of thin air. =*I certainly didn't intend to insult you. I... apologise.*= The word sounded as if it had to squeeze out between his teeth, but it was said, and Wufei blinked in surprise.

"Whether you intended it or not, you did it," he said sharply, wary of another possible attempt to influence his mind.

=*I intended to greet you, give you a gift, and let you think about it for a while,*= Krashnark finished. =*It may now be harder to convince you to serve me, but I haven't given up. So... here.*=

His hand reached out of nowhere, right in front of Wufei's face, and touched him lightly on the forehead before he could react. There was a sudden, sharp pain behind his eyes, then everything went black.

* * * * *

Heero had told Duo he'd take a nap after the shopping trip, so he did... but he hadn't said he'd get a reasonable amount of sleep that night. Instead, after everyone else went to bed, he started looking up medical databases.

This is stupid, he told himself, hacking into a major hospital's records and looking up statistics on knee operations. Dr. Modi explained the operation and all the possible complications, so I don't need to look that data up. Duo wants new crutches, and I'm certainly not going to tell him 'no', so looking up statistics on how safe elbow crutches are compared to full-length ones isn't going to change anything... and if he finds out I'm doing this, he'll probably be annoyed at me. So why am I doing this?

Because I'm an idiot, that's why,
he told himself sourly, following a link to a collection of case studies. A paranoid, obsessed, anal-retentive idiot who can't-- eh? What's this?

The case studies listed all had short summaries on the index page, and one noted 'patient recovery rate increased noticeably after purchase of custom-made crutches'. Heero went for that one first. Twenty seconds later, he had the URL for the homepage of the company concerned; two minutes after reaching the site, he knew the proper name for 'elbow crutches' was 'forearm crutches', that most people with decent upper body strength found them easier to use, and that they were available in a wide variety of colours, designs and finishes.

"Now this is the sort of thing Duo would like," he muttered, eyeing a picture of a silver-and-black pair of crutches with what looked like racing stripes running down the shaft.


At five-thirty AM, Quatre yawned his way into the kitchen and started making coffee. We have to get Duo into the hospital by seven, so that gives us an hour to get everyone up and ready to go, he thought blearily, watching the coffeemaker as it began to make gurgling noises. Normally, that wouldn't be any problem, but Duo's not going to like having to do without his usual three coffees with breakfast... And he really won't like going without breakfast.

And that's odd. The way Heero's been acting lately, I would have expected him to be up by now, and getting ready...

He found Heero slumped over the desk in his room, in front of his laptop. What's so important that he'd fall asleep in his chair trying to finish it? Quatre wondered, carefully tiptoeing across the floor. If that's a spreadsheet titled 'Mission: Duo' or anything like that, I swear I'm going to wake him up by breaking another laptop, only this time I'll smash it over his head--

Peering suspiciously at the screen, Quatre blinked, then smiled. Not 'Mission: Duo' material, he mused, sneaking out as quietly as he'd entered. More like 'Show Duo I Really Care' material. It looks like he's really learning!

The second time Quatre entered the room, he was walking normally and carrying a large mug of coffee. Heero blinked awake as the mug clacked down next to his head, and would have jerked upright if sudden muscle spasms hadn't stopped him after moving less than an inch.

"That didn't look like a comfortable position to be sleeping in," Quatre observed, watching as Heero slowly levered himself off the desk to the accompaniment of several loud cracking noises. "Got a crick in your back?"

"Substitute 'several' for 'a' and you'd be closer to the truth," Heero gritted out, managing not to groan out loud. He was more surprised that he'd managed not to snap back a rude retort to Quatre's mildly sarcastic comment; the wonderful smell reaching him from the mug probably had something to do with it. "...Thanks for the coffee," he muttered.

"You're welcome," Quatre muttered back, on his way out of the room.

The three other pilots had decided between themselves that it was probably best to let Duo sleep through breakfast, since he couldn't have any, and Heero was pretty sure that Duo hadn't set his alarm... so he was rather surprised when he knocked quietly on Duo's door and peeked in to find that the braided teenager was already awake and dressed, sitting on the edge of the bed and staring blankly out the window.

Shit, he looks depressed... Without really thinking about it, Heero found himself climbing onto the bed behind Duo and gently pulling him backwards to lean against his chest, carefully wrapping his arms around him in a loose hug. "Ready to go?" he asked quietly.

One hand came up to rest on his as Duo took a deep breath and shrugged, forcing a small smile. "Well, I'm packed," he said wryly. "I don't know that I'm ready, but sitting here isn't going to make me any readier!"

Heero tightened the embrace for just a second before releasing him and standing up. "I'd be willing to bet that you're tougher than anyone else Dr. Modi's done this operation on," he said awkwardly, looking around for Duo's crutches. "You'll be fine."

"...I've never had an operation before, you know," Duo said quietly, fiddling with the end of his braid.

"Hn?" Heero bit back an automatic 'Sure you have', and thought about it for a moment. I don't know of any since I've met him... and from what I know of his past, he would have been very lucky to get one if he needed it... "Really?"

"Yeah. Plenty of stitches, a few broken bones and stuff, sure, and I've had a few bullets dug out of me, but no honest-to-god, general anaesthetic, lie-down-on-the-table-please-sir genuine surgery. I mean, I've still got my appendix, for crying out loud. Tonsils, too."

Heero was silent for a moment, struggling to think of a response, and Duo sighed. "Pass the crutches, would you?"

"...I don't."


"I don't have my appendix or tonsils," Heero told him. "Dr. J decided they were a possible liability, so about half-way through my training I had surgery to remove them."

It was Duo's turn to be silent for a while; then, "What's it like?"

"Unsettling," Heero admitted, sitting down next to him. "I didn't like the idea of being in such a vulnerable position, even though I was among allies, and after I woke up I was fairly uncoordinated for a while. So, no, it wasn't an experience I'd care to repeat, but... Sally wouldn't have recommended this hospital if she thought it was dangerous, and..." His voice dropped almost to a whisper. "And you won't be alone. I promise."

Before Duo could respond, Heero had bounced up from the bed, face reddening. "I'll get your bag and crutches downstairs first," he muttered quickly, grabbing them up and heading for the door.

"Oi! Heero!"

"Yeah?" He paused, not looking back, knowing he was blushing.


* * * * *

Relena always dealt with the early mail delivery at breakfast, and today when she came downstairs, there was a large special delivery package sitting on top of the neat stack next to her plate.

"Good morning, Miss Relena," Pargan said, lifting the silver coffeepot as she approached. "Would you prefer scrambled eggs, or--"

"Hold breakfast for a while, please, Pargan," she said absently, walking straight past him to pick up the package. "I'll be in my study if there are any urgent messages."

"...Certainly, Miss Relena," he said to her back as she hurried away.

Safely in her study with the door locked behind her, Relena found a pair of scissors and got the package open, breath hissing between her teeth in exasperation as the tough plastic resisted the attack. Finally, she had a stack of computer printouts and photocopies, two data disks and a cover letter from the private investigator.

'Miss,' it began, 'despite the elapsed time since the subject left L2, I was able to find a surprising amount of people who remembered him. His appearance is distinctive, and it seems he tends to make an impression-- good or bad-- on everyone who meets him. As previously suggested, I was also able to find numerous references to the subject in law enforcement records.

'Due to these circumstances, I find myself able to present my preliminary report sooner than expected. My bill for services rendered to date is enclosed; please inform me soonest if you require further inquiries to be made.'

Hands shaking slightly, Relena began leafing through the printouts.

L2's police had apparently first noticed Duo when he was only four or five years old, as a member of a gang of street children. Relena scanned the investigator's summary attached to that printout and frowned, pushing it to one side. Nothing worse than minor shoplifting and public nuisance complaints, she thought, reaching for the next document. Heero wouldn't care.

The next document was just as disappointing. Copies of orphanage records... useless! All right, he wasn't adopted, but I can't exactly tell Heero 'Nobody else wanted him, so why should you?' Relena fumed, tossing it aside. I need something he did, something unforgivable--

The second section of Duo's police file, reopened after the Maxwell Church orphanage was destroyed, was more detailed. No convictions... not even any arrests, but look at all these reports! she thought, flicking past the summary page and thumbing through the inch thich printout. 'Suspicion of theft'. 'Suspicion of juvenile soliciting'. 'Known associate of gang members'. Another 'suspicion of juvenile soliciting'... and another... I need more than just suspicion! Tiring of squinting at the small print on the poor quality printouts, Relena turned back to the summary page. Is there anything concrete in here?

'During this period, the subject would undoubtedly have been arrested several times if the local law enforcement personnel were genuinely interested in doing their jobs,' the summary began. 'Several retired police officers remember the subject as a regular source of bribes to prevent either his arrest or the arrest of members of the child gang he protected (see interview records #3-7 on disk 2). The gang appears to have been supported on the proceeds of the subject's thefts and occasional prostitution (see related medical file on disk 1)..."

Still reading the summary page, Relena grabbed one of the disks without really looking at it, feeding it into her computer.

'...I was able to locate a previous member of this gang, now living in a charity orphanage...'

The computer beeped as it opened the only file on the disk, and Relena glanced up at the screen, frowning as she realised she'd grabbed the wrong one. No, that's the medical data-- I want the interview records first-- She snatched up the other disk, impatiently opening its protective case, automatically reading another line of the summary as her eyes panned across it.

'...subject reportedly refused to allow other members of the gang to solicit, insisting it was too dangerous...'

Disk in hand, Relena looked back at the screen just as the first clinical photograph popped up.

Oh my GOD...

A younger Duo, perhaps twelve years old, was lying naked on a hospital bed, glaring defiantly into the camera out of the one eye that would still open. His body was covered with bruises and bleeding welts, one knee visibly swollen, and even with all the damage it was obvious that he was far too thin.

One hand over her mouth, Relena fumbled for the mouse to close the document, but missed the proper button and only succeeded in scrolling down. That got the photograph away from her horrified gaze, but brought up the 'initial evaluation' section of the file. Random words and phrases met her eyes.

'...moderate to severe trauma...' '...beaten...' '...brought in as a charity case by three other juveniles, approximate age 6-8 years...' '...sexual assault...' '...ample evidence of previous injuries...'

The cold official jargon only slipped in the field marked 'Other Comments'. 'Hooking to get food money, picked the wrong john and didn't even get paid. Won't be the last time. I've tried to get kids like him into government programs before, but as soon as they get a sniff of prostitution, nobody'll touch them...'

Relena wrenched her eyes away and stabbed at the keyboard, managing to close the file on her second try. Breathing heavily, she looked at the stack of papers, at the disk still clutched in her hand, thought about the use she'd intended to put them to... and suddenly felt sick to her stomach.

What am I doing?!


The high pitched shriek of a smoke detector brought Pargan to the study door. "Miss Relena? Miss Relena, is everything all right?"

The lock clicked, and she opened the door. "Quite all right, Pargan," she said, face pale but composed. "I'm just... taking care of a problem. Could you turn off the smoke alarm, please?"

"Ah... certainly, Miss Relena, but what...?" Looking over her shoulder, his eyes widened as he saw the small fire in the grate of the fireplace. Most of the smoke eddying into the room seemed to be coming from two melting data disks. "I'll get the fire extinguisher--"

"No!" Relena snapped, then controlled herself. "No," she repeated softly. "Let it burn."

"But Miss Relena, the fireplaces are only ornamental now," he protested. "The chimneys were all blocked for security reasons years ago! The smoke has nowhere to go!"

"I'm aware of that, Pargan, but it can't be helped. Please just disable the alarm."

"Yes, Miss Relena," he sighed, beginning to climb onto the desk as she sat in front of the fireplace, turning the burning paper over with a metal ruler to make sure it was all destroyed.

The 'reset' button on the smoke alarm wouldn't be of any use with all the smoke still in the air, Pargan knew, so he disconnected the power supply and backup battery. Hopefully, the air-conditioning system will draw it out of the room instead of letting it out into the hall to set off the other alarms, he sighed to himself. It does seem to be drawing it into the vents... "Miss Relena?"

"Yes, Pargan?"

"You could have placed that in the classified waste bag to be destroyed."

"I know, Pargan."

"So... if I may ask..."

"This was just something I needed to do myself," Relena said quietly, crushing the last blackened sheet of paper into ashes.

* * * * *

"If you'll just get changed, we can start the drip for your pre-op medication," the nurse smiled, handing Duo a neatly folded patient gown. "Do you need any assistance?"

"Nah; if I have a problem, one of the guys can help," Duo told her, then he cleared his throat and looked pointedly from her to the door.

"Oh! Well, I'll be back in about ten minutes to start your drip," she said brightly, walking out.

As soon as the door closed behind her, Duo balled up the gown and threw it across the room, dropping it neatly into a rubbish bin. "Gimme the shirt."

Heero reached into the duffle bag at his feet and pulled out Duo's evil smiley-face boxers and an oversized white t-shirt. "Good thing we found that custom print shop yesterday," he commented, smirking as he passed them over.

"I would've thought of something else if we hadn't," Duo grinned, shaking the t-shirt out and admiring the printed slogan. 'Patient gown? We don't NEED no @#~%ing patient gown!'

"I can see that you're going to be a very popular patient," Trowa chuckled.

"Hey, my physical therapist is going to love me," Duo growled, starting to get changed. "Everybody else can just cut me a little slack or face the consequences."

"I'm not going to ask what those consequences are," Quatre sighed. "I'd rather not be an accessory before the fact."

"You guys don't need to hang around," Duo muttered, concentrating on undoing his bootlaces. "I mean, you need to start moving our stuff, and I'm going to be doped up in a few minutes anyway, so..."

"Well... okay," Quatre said reluctantly. "We'll be back this afternoon, after you're awake, okay?"

"Yeah. See you."

"It also means we get clear before the nurse comes back," Trowa pointed out, leaning over to give Duo a quick hug. "Break a leg," he added, straight-faced.

"Get outta here!" Duo laughed, half-heartedly swatting at him with the thin pillow from the gurney.

Thirty minutes later, after a heated argument with the nurse over the patient gown (which Duo won with Dr. Modi's assistance), he was starting to drift off. The first dose of sedative had taken effect, a different nurse had come in to inject a second dose into the drip line, and everything was starting to go fuzzy around the edges.

"I hate sedatives," Duo mumbled, eyes drifting closed. "Make m'mouth all furry... an' I don't like knowing I can't wake up..."

"I know," Heero said, and Duo felt him take hold of his hand. "I'll be here when you wake up."

"I know," Duo sighed, feeling his mouth curve into an involuntary smile. "Y'promised..."

* * * * *

The first thing Wufei was aware of was the worst headache he'd ever had in his life, a dagger of pain stabbing straight across from one temple to the other every time his heart beat. The next thing to filter through was that he was lying on his back with his head on something soft and his sword hilt clenched in his hand, so tightly that his fingers were beginning to cramp.

The third thing to come to his awareness was a voice.

"If he isn't hurt, why isn't he waking up?"

"I said he didn't seem hurt, Naiya," Uthmar's voice replied; he sounded strained, as if he was worried, but trying to keep sounding calm. "There's no trace of Krashnark's power left on him, but that doesn't mean he didn't do anything."

"What in the name of all the hells happened to the whole thing about gods not being allowed to interfere?!"

"Don't shout," Wufei groaned, one hand going up to press at his forehead. It didn't help the headache, but at least that way he could be reasonably sure the front half of his head wasn't going to separate from the back.

"Are you all right?" Karthan's voice broke in. Wufei risked opening one eye a crack, and made out five dark shapes bending over him, silhouetted against a dazzlingly bright sky. "What happened?"

"That's what I was going to ask," the Chinese teen mumbled. "Uh... I think... I made him mad."

"Ooops," Gunnar commented.

"Seemed like a good idea at the time. Tried to fight him, but he just vanished... then he apologised for insulting me..."

Five voices made startled noises, and the silhouettes shifted as if they were looking at each other. "That's not usual," Arwen said dubiously.

"Surprised me, too," Wufei grunted, blinking. The dazzle seemed to be clearing up, and unless it was just wishful thinking, he thought the headache was fading slightly. "He said he'd intended to give me a gift... then he reached out of nowhere and touched me," he finished, waving his hand at his forehead in a vague illustration of what he meant, before going back to holding his head together. "That's all."

"He said he wanted to give you a gift?" Naiya asked, puzzled. "What sort of gift?"

"No idea," Wufei would have shrugged, but another trickle of situational awareness made it through the headache. My head's in Naiya's lap?! Uh... Not sure how to react to that, he settled for ignoring it until later. "All I know is that I have a massive headache."

"Er... Wufei," Karthan said slowly, "I don't think our link's open right now..."

"It isn't," he agreed, after a moment of concentration.

"So... how can you be speaking Spearman so fluently?"

Wufei squinted at him for a moment, bemused; then his eyes opened wide as he thought back and abruptly realised that according to his memory, the entire conversation had been in Chinese.

" is it that you're speaking to me in Chinese?"

"I'm not. You only think I am. A god must be able to make himself understood..."

"Somebody say something in another language," he snapped, levering himself up into a seated position, headache or no headache.

"Uh... it's a beautiful day, isn't it?" Naiya said. Now that he was concentrating, Wufei could hear that it was a different language-- rather musical, he thought-- but he understood it as well as if it had been his native tongue. And now that he thought about it...

"Yes, it is, if I ignore the fact that my head is trying to fall apart," he replied in the same language. "What am I speaking now?"

"Hurgrumese," Naiya told him, eyes wide. "Like a native."

"Right. That makes it fairly clear," he said, switching back to Spearman. "He gave me the Gift of Tongues, or something similar, and a massive headache. Remind me to put him on my Christmas card list!"

End Chapter 19

[Heero is sulking in one of the lounge chairs, leaning stiffly to one side and with a couple of soft pillows under his rear. Duo is fussing over him, Trowa and Quatre are looking with interest at a large pistol with an arrow stuck THROUGH it, and Wufei is watching as Mel and Christy introduce Legolas to the concept of channel-surfing.]

TROWA: Who would have guessed that keeping your gun in Spandex Space would end up being useful as armour?

HEERO: Shut up.

QUATRE: I still want to know why it doesn't leave a lump.

HEERO: Shut up.

QUATRE: I mean, we can see your muscle definition through those shorts. Why can't we see your gun?!

HEERO: Shut up!

DUO: I want to know why I can never feel your gun.

HEERO: Shut-- oh, never mind...

[Ardeth walks in and does a double-take when he sees Legolas.]

ARDETH: You got him? Does this mean I can go home now?

CHRISTY: Not a hope in hell, bucky. Come say hi!

ARDETH: *sigh*

[He's not very enthusiastic at first, but ends up in an absorbing discussion of the various Australian TV channels' different programming styles. Mel and Christy hand over the remote and stand back to watch, sighing occasionally.]

MEL: Well, Leggy-babe seems happy enough to stay here...

CHRISTY: *sigh* Leggy is right! Look at those thighs!

MEL: *rowr!* I'm looking!

CHRISTY: Who knew he'd turn out to be a TV addict?

MEL: I guess it's the novelty value. It also helps that Heero seems to have got him from after the whole Ring quest was over, or else he'd want to go back to finish it. *sigh* Gotta admire his devotion to duty...

CHRISTY: long as it doesn't interfere with what we want, right?

MEL: Right.

CHRISTY: I suppose we should reward Heero somehow.

[Mel grins evilly.]

MEL: Well, you know what they say in the military. 'The best reward for a job well done is another job.'

CHRISTY: Brilliant idea, Mel-san. Let's send him after Aragorn next!

MEL (with an even more evil grin): You're thinking too small, Christy-dono. Why don't we send him against the real big time?

[Christy raises an eyebrow at her. Mel raises an eyebrow back, and pulls a volume of 'Inuyasha' out from behind her. Both of them look down at the picture of Sesshoumaru on the cover.]


[Somewhere, an incredibly powerful (and rather nasty, but GORGEOUS) youkai lord sneezes.]


Chapter 20

Gundam Wing


















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