Demon of Justice Chapter 20




[Mel and Christy are sitting on their writing couch as usual, looking quite calm and composed despite the fact that the house is in ruins around them. Bits of the rubble seem to be dissolving into hissing green puddles, and there are huge pawprints everywhere.]

MEL: He's gone, guys. Coast is clear.

[Various Gundam Pilots, Ardeth Bey and Legolas slowly emerge from under the sofa, along with three cats and a rather shell-shocked dog.]

LEGOLAS: Did the TV survive?

CHRISTY: Nah. We wanted to get a bigger one, anyway.

ARDETH: What in the world was that thing?! It looked like a giant dog, but dogs do not have acid drool and the ability to fly!

MEL: That was Sesshoumaru. *sigh*

CHRISTY: Otherwise known as Fluffy-sama. *sigh*

DUO: You sent my Hee-chan after that thing?! Alone?! Without his Gundam?!

WUFEI: Even for you onnas, that's low!

MEL: Well... we didn't want Fluffy-sama to get hurt!


CHRISTY (pointing): Over behind what's left of that wall.

[Duo runs off.]

QUATRE: Why did you want an immense demon dog?!

MEL: Because he usually looks like an incredibly gorgeous almost-human guy. *sigh* Fluffy is a babe.

CHRISTY: Except when he's mad. In hindsight, the dart gun and net may have been a mistake.

DUO (in the distance): OH MY GOD! Hee-chan! Speak to me!

WUFEI: That sounds like my cue.

[He picks up a first aid kit and walks off towards Duo's voice. Trowa shrugs and trails after him, carrying a bag of plaster bandages.]

QUATRE: I think it's time you stopped sending Heero after incredibly dangerous people just so you can drool over them!

CHRISTY: You're absolutely right.

QUATRE: I'm glad you see it our way.

CHRISTY: We're going to have to send you out in teams.

QUATRE: After all, it's hardly fair to-- WHAT?!

MEL: Well, so far Heero's had one success out of four tries. That's not exactly the best win-loss ratio, now is it?

QUATRE: No, but--

MEL: So, obviously, he needs backup.

QUATRE: No! He needs you two to stop doing this!

LEGOLAS: Or else pick people who wouldn't mind staying here, and just get him to deliver invitations. If I'd known about that TV thing, I wouldn't have shot him. Speaking of which, could you get a new one soon? There's three documentaries and a movie coming up that I don't want to miss.

[Christy rolls her eyes.]

CHRISTY: I never would have picked you for a documentary addict.

MEL (whispering): At least he doesn't watch daytime soap operas. Just don't get the new TV until after that documentary on ocean life is over, OK? We don't want him wandering off looking for the Sea.

CHRISTY: Good point. On with the fic!

'Demon of Justice'
Chapter 20

Duo drifted up out of unconsciousness, slowly gathering the strength to open his eyes. He was feeling strangely heavy, and everything except his right hand was chilled...

"...not likely to wake up for at least half an hour," he heard, echoing as if it was coming from the bottom of a well. "Would you like to take a break? The visitors' waiting room is quite comfortable, and you can get something to eat."

"No," Heero's voice replied, and the warmth cradling Duo's hand shifted. "I'd rather wait here."

"Really, sir, there's no need for you to be here while he's still under the anaesthetic. At least take a short walk to stretch your legs!"

"No," he repeated, politely but firmly. "Thank you, but I'm staying here."

"He promised," Duo mumbled through what seemed to be a mouthful of cotton wool.

"Duo? Are you awake?" Heero's voice was suddenly closer, and there was a surprised exclamation from the other person in the room.

"Izzit over?"

"Yeah." Calloused fingertips gently stroked over Duo's forehead and through his fringe. "All done."

"Good. M'thirsty..."

"Here," the other person said, apparently recovering from the shock of having Duo wake up early. "Just a few sips, until we're sure your stomach hasn't reacted badly to the anaesthetic, all right?"

Duo managed to open his eyes a little as he sipped cool water through a straw, and blinked fuzzily at the slightly out-of-focus faces of Heero and a nurse, both watching him intently. The nurse smiled a bit sheepishly as she took the glass away, and patted him on the shoulder. "My apologies, Mr. Maxwell; I was sure you were going to be asleep for a while yet, and I was trying to drag your friend away for a break. Luckily he knows better than me, hmm?"

"I know Duo," Heero muttered, managing a crooked grin. "I'd listen to you if it was anyone else, but Duo always manages to surprise people."

"Smart guy," Duo told her, squinting slightly and feeling a mild surge of triumph as he managed to bring them into focus. "He's been payin' attention lately."

"That's always a good thing," she chuckled, checking his pulse. "Mm-hmm... are you feeling up to raising your head a bit?"

"Dunno. Less' find out."

A few seconds spent fiddling with the bed's controls later, the head of the bed had lifted up about twenty degrees, and Heero was helping the nurse rearrange Duo's pillows behind him. "How's that?"

"Feels all right," Duo said, shifting experimentally and looking curiously at the long bulge under the covers where a frame was keeping them off his leg. "M'sorta fuzzy-headed, but thass' going-- ulp!" A queer expression crossed his face, and he swallowed hard. Before Heero could work out what was happening, the nurse had whipped a paper cup in front of Duo's mouth and was steadying him as the water came back up.

Shit! Automatically, Heero clutched at Duo's hand again, quickly assessing his vital signs. No blood in the vomit-- colour's good-- temperature's OK-- pupils dilated but tracking-- he's coherent-- It's just a drug reaction. That's all! His heart slowly settled back into its proper place as Duo stopped heaving and blinked, looking confused.

"Whoa," he muttered, pressing one hand to his stomach. "Thass' weird. I don' feel sick..."

"About thirty percent of the population react that way to this anaesthetic," the nurse said comfortingly, handing Heero the vomit cup and taking Duo's pulse again, then making a note on a datapad. "Most people's stomachs settle down in under ten minutes. If you still can't keep water down after half an hour, or if it gets uncomfortable, I'll give you something to fix it, all right?"

"Sounds fair t'me," he agreed, still rubbing his stomach. "Can I have 'nother blanket?"

"Feeling cold?" When he nodded, she frowned slightly and felt his forehead, then his hands. "There's extra blankets in the cupboard, but I think this is another side effect, sorry. It won't make much difference." She still got him the blankets, though.


Twenty minutes later, Heero was nearly frantic. Duo was thirsty and dry-mouthed, so he kept taking sips of water, and then bringing them straight back up. The only thing stopping Heero from charging out into the corridor, grabbing the first nurse or doctor he saw, and demanding that they do something to fix this was Duo's repeated assurance that it wasn't a problem.

"I don't feel sick or anything," he insisted, pulling the blankets back up around his shoulders and shivering. "Normally throwing up makes my stomach hurt, but not this time. It's like everything is working just fine, except that anything I swallow gets stamped 'no such address' and returned to sender."

"By express courier," Heero said, trying to smile in response.

"'When it absolutely, positively has to get out of there NOW'," Duo quipped, imitating an ad's voice-over, "'use HurlMail and'-- ulp!"

Heero got the vomit cup in place and sighed, shaking his head. "I think that was tempting fate just a little too far, Duo."

* * * * *

Relena lingered at the breakfast table long after she would normally have left for her office at the Ministry, picking at the cold food on her plate and ignoring the stack of mail still waiting to be read.

"Is everything all right, Miss Relena?" Pargan eventually asked, beginning to be seriously worried.

"...I don't know," she said quietly, putting her fork down and standing up.

"I don't understand."

"Neither do I, Pargan. That's the problem." She began to turn away, then looked back at him. "I don't have any appointments or meetings today, do I?"

"No, Miss Relena, you do not."

"Good. I won't be going into the office today, Pargan; please let my secretary know."

"Certainly, Miss Relena. Will you be going anywhere else?" he inquired, smoothly passing her to open the door.

"I haven't decided yet. That will be all for now, thank you."

Normally, when Relena needed to think, she would close herself off in her study; but the scent of burnt plastic and smoke was still too strong, and a maid was busily cleaning ashes out of the ornamental fireplace. Relena's search for privacy took her out into the garden, to a quiet spot with a bench to sit on, where she began to examine her own motives for the first time in years.

I preach pacifism and tolerance, she thought, looking at the beautiful view in front of her without seeing it. I tell people to be kind to each other. Two days ago, I even did a live broadcast to the entire Earth sphere, saying that we can all get along peacefully despite our different backgrounds... and yet I was willing to ruin Duo's life by raking up the worst parts of his background, because I want what he's got.

I have everything. He has almost nothing. And I'm still jealous.

And what am I jealous of? Heero's in love with him.

So... I was willing to ruin Heero's life too, wasn't I?
she suddenly realised, eyes widening. I love... no. I kept telling myself I loved Heero, but I never once considered that if he loves Duo -- and he does, I saw it so clearly -- then the best thing I could do for him would be to leave them alone!

Do I love Heero?! I've believed that for two years, but...

Slowly, Relena thought back over all the times she'd spoken to Heero. What he'd said back. The way he acted. How they'd met...

...I never really listened to him, did I? I never paid attention. I hung on his arm, and watched his every move, and memorised every expression... I told him everything I thought and wanted, and I assumed that of course he agreed with me, but... I never asked. He'd look at me as if I was stupid, sometimes. I memorised that expression! And I never, not even for a second, stopped to think that maybe that expression meant he really did think I was stupid!

That's not love. That's blind obsession.

I met him in an incredibly dramatic way, and I fixated on him. All the things I've hoped for since, the plans I've made for the future, how he'd finally be able to let down his masks and admit he loved me... I made all of that up inside my head, and never thought to find out if my plans had any resemblance to reality. I never even thought of consulting Heero to find out what he thought, because I was so sure I was right. I've been viewing everything to do with Heero through my own set of warped assumptions, and never realised just how far it's twisted my own behaviour.

I'm a pacifist, but I told Heero it was all right to kill someone, because he was trying to kill Heero. If it had been anyone else, I would have tried to make them both stop... I would have said nobody should die... but he was threatening Heero, so that made it all right for him to be killed.

I think of Quatre as good, because Heero respects him. I think of Duo as bad, because the first time I met him, he shot Heero...

...defending me.

Now, that is monumentally stupid.

Relena dropped her head into her hands, shaking as the full impact hit her. Duo saved my life. I should have been grateful. I should have thought of him as some sort of hero... but I hated him, because he shot Heero. He wounded Heero to save my life, and I made him into the bad guy!

And I kept chasing after Heero. I was still convinced that we were in love! He pulled a gun on me, and it didn't shake my fixation a bit!

What is wrong with me?!

If I'd met Duo first... would I have fixated on him instead? Would I have cheered him on when he shot Heero? Would I be digging into Heero's past to find something to use against him? Or Quatre... if I'd met him first, would I hate Trowa now? What about Wufei? If I'd fixated on him, would it have survived the sort of cold politeness he could turn on when he didn't like someone?

Probably. He used it on me often enough and I just ignored it.

So what do I really want? Am I so desperate for love that I'll invent it when it doesn't turn up on cue?

...No. Not love,
she decided. I wanted Heero, and I told myself it was love, because that fit all the stereotypes and stories I knew. So what was I really after?

* * * * *

"You know, that's the first time I've ever been grateful to someone who's just stuck me with a needle," Duo commented, sipping at his second glass of orange juice. Thanks to an injection from a nurse, the first glassful had gone down and stayed down.

"Now if they could just do something to stop you feeling cold, it'd be perfect," Heero muttered, tucking the blankets in around Duo more snugly.

"I don't mind just waiting it out," Duo shrugged. "At least now I can stay still and keep the blankets in place."

"Still..." Heero grimaced and sat down again.

"Did you get hold of the guys?"

The Japanese pilot nodded. "They'll come in for a visit later this afternoon, when they've finished moving our stuff."

"I'm surprised you didn't call them earlier," Duo said absently, examining the multifunction remote control attached to the head of the bed. "I would've expected Quatre to be just about vibrating with impatience until he found out how it went."

"I didn't feel like calling him and telling him 'Duo is throwing up every thirty seconds, but that's nothing to worry about'," Heero said dryly. "He wouldn't have taken it well." And there was no way in hell I was going to leave you to find a payphone before that stopped!

"Good point." Duo yawned, surprising himself, and scowled indignantly. "This is ridiculous! I just woke up and I'm sleepy again? I haven't even had lunch yet!"

"Bits of you have had a busy morning," Heero pointed out. "If you want a nap, I'll wake you up when the food arrives. Assuming they're planning to feed you, that is," Heero added, suddenly uncertain. "I know they don't let you eat before an operation, but I don't know about after."

"They'd better," Duo growled, stabbing at the remote to lower the head of his bed. "Otherwise, knee or no knee, I'm going out for junk food."

"You will not! You will assign me a search-and-acquire mission on the kitchens. Or on the nearest pizza place, if the food here lives up to the usual hospital stereotype."

Duo had been about to snap an angry reply to Heero's first order, but the rest of what he said made him chuckle. "Sounds good," he yawned, settling down and adjusting his pillows. "I've got a loaded Heero and I'm not afraid to use him..."

* * * * *

"He wants you to be his Champion," Uthmar repeated flatly.


"This is not good."

"I'm not exactly ecstatic about it myself!" Wufei snapped back, then winced and lowered his voice again. They'd returned to camp, so he'd been able to get at his medical supplies, but the painkillers weren't making much of an impression on his headache; it looked as if he was going to have to wait it out. Discussing the cause of that headache couldn't wait, however, so he and the two Champions of Torframos had found a private spot a short distance from the camp. "I don't know where he got the idea I'd want to be his champion, though. Even if he's been watching me somehow -- which shouldn't be possible, if what you said about your god not being able to sense me at all unless one of you is looking at me is accurate -- I don't think I've been acting like a good prospect for recruitment."

Uthmar and Arwen exchanged looks, hesitating for a moment, before Arwen replied. "Er... the way you act wouldn't necessarily have anything to do with it. Neither would the fact that you don't want to serve him."

"Gods don't just pick Champions from their most devout followers, Wufei," Uthmar explained.

"If they did, Vaijon would have become one years ago," Arwen muttered.

"They look at our souls and see something... different about us," the dwarf continued, glaring briefly at his fellow Champion. "Torframos once told me that it's like seeing a spark, the same colour as his power. It's what lets him act through us without destroying us. If Krashnark offered to make you his Champion, then something in your soul matches his nature."

"Which also means he probably can see you," Arwen added.

"...Great," Wufei said after a long, shocked pause. "That's just what I needed to hear. Part of my soul 'matches' a Dark God. Do you have anything else morale-boosting to tell me about this?!"

"It's not as bad as it might seem--" Uthmar started.

"What do you mean, not as bad?!" Wufei almost screamed back. "I'm being stalked by an evil god because he likes the way my soul looks! How would you feel?!"

"Terrified," Arwen said bluntly. "Uthmar's right, though, it could be a lot worse. Sit down and listen, okay? There's a lot you need to know."

Wufei took a deep breath and held it, fighting down the impulse to keep shouting, and rubbed at his temples in a futile attempt to ease the pounding headache. He didn't let out his breath and speak until he was reasonably sure he could do so without losing control again. "Arwen," he said carefully, "at this point I don't think there's anything you could say that would make me feel better about this."

"Krashnark isn't actually evil."

"...What?" Wufei blinked at him, then shook his head, grimacing. "Wait a minute. He's not a Light god, so--"

"I mean it. He's a Dark god, yes, but all that means is that he was born into the Dark pantheon and serves his father, Phrobus. Hells, Phrobus was born into the Light pantheon, but that didn't make him good! Krashnark is ruthless, and he can be cruel, but he's also honourable. He's the only Dark god that the Light gods actually respect. Wufei, that's probably why you 'match' him well enough to be a possible Champion!"

Wufei finally took Arwen's advice and sat down, leaning back against a tree and taking several deep breaths as he organised his thoughts. "You're right," he admitted. "That is better than it could be."

"Definitely," Uthmar agreed. "You could have attracted Fiendark's attention; he's easily amused by anything that upsets his siblings, so the fact that you destroyed several of Sharna's servants might have got him interested in you. Or, gods forbid, Phrobus could be after you himself."

"That still doesn't mean I like the idea of having any Dark god even know I exist!"

* * * * *

"You'll change your mind soon enough," Krashnark predicted, 'watching' the conversation through a shimmering image he'd called up. "I'll give you a little time to calm down, and then..."

All I have to do is wait until he comes around to my way of thinking, he thought complacently, and keep talking to him in the meantime. We're too alike for him to reject me forever. Given enough time, he'll like me.

I already like him... but, after all, I can see everything I need to know about him in one glance,
he mused, changing how he looked at Wufei and smiling as the emerald-green fire of Wufei's soul became visible. A deep red spark bobbed within the green, flaring and dimming unpredictably as Wufei gestured and spoke. He's perfect. It'll take him a while to realise just how perfect he is for me... and the way I mishandled our first meeting will make it longer.

Never mind. I can wait.

* * * * *

"Excuse me, sir?"

"I'm a lay brother, not a knight, Sir Vaijon," Gunnar said, twisting to see the tall, golden-haired human standing behind him.

"Nevertheless, you are my superior in the Order," Vaijon said stiffly. "'Sir' is therefore appropriate."

You've just got to pigeon-hole everybody, don't you? Gunnar thought behind a bland expression. And it really bothers you that a mere lay-brother dwarf does outrank you. "If it makes you happy," he drawled, and watched with amusement as Vaijon flinched a fraction of an inch. "What do you want?"

"The... ominous feeling earlier," the knight-probationer said slowly, choosing his words with care. "It occurred while you and the Champions were out of the camp, responding to the... ah... apparent danger to the demon Wufei. I assume you were aware of it?"

Probably more so than you, boy. "Yes."

Vaijon paused for a moment, until it was clear that Gunnar wasn't going to volunteer any information, then continued. "We have received no explanation of either happening, sir, apart from 'don't worry, it's been taken care of for now'. Might I inquire as to the cause of these events?"

"You know, Sir Vaijon, that's the most convoluted way I've ever heard someone ask 'what the hell happened?'," Gunnar said dryly.

The knight-probationer stiffened indignantly, face reddening. "I was brought up, sir, in the belief that a certain formality of manner is appropriate when addressing one's--"

"Yes, well, that's all very well in court," the dwarf cut him off, "but in the field it's better to get your meaning across quickly and damn the flourishes. Karthan!"


"Ask Wufei to ask Uthmar if we're making what happened public, will you?"


"I need a better idea of what gods exist and exactly what they do," Wufei was saying, rubbing tiredly at the back of his neck. "It doesn't do me much good to ask 'who was that' after a deity pops into view and does whatever they came for. You mentioned-- eh?" He cut himself off and frowned for a moment, then managed a weak chuckle. "Uthmar... Karthan says Gunnar is 'trying to adjust Vaijon's attitude'."

"Are they fighting?" Arwen asked, worried.

"No; just talking."

"That's worse," Uthmar said darkly. "More effective, probably, but worse."

"Gunnar wants to know if he can tell Vaijon what happened, or are we going to try and keep it a secret?" Wufei finished.

"...Now there's a question," Arwen muttered. "Uthmar?"

"Why are you asking me?"

"You're senior. I bow to your superior wisdom."

"There's a first for everything." Uthmar snorted and turned to Wufei, becoming serious again. "I think it's really up to you, Wufei. Which would you prefer? You're the person most affected by this, after all."

Wufei sighed, leaning his head back against the tree and closing his eyes. "It won't make it any easier for people to trust me... but... if we try to keep it a secret and it gets out, that will be much worse. Won't it?"

"Yes," the dwarf sighed, sitting down next to him. "And it won't be an easy secret to keep, if Krashnark decides to come talk to you in person again."

"I got the impression that that's exactly what he intends," Wufei muttered. "Besides which, I don't like lying, even by omission."

"We don't have to tell everyone, though," Arwen suggested. "We should tell the men, I agree-- and Sir Terrian, when we eventually reach the Motherhouse. They need to know, especially if it's going to happen again... but there's no real reason to tell anyone else, is there?"

"Go on," Uthmar said, and Wufei slitted his eyes open to look at them.

"We trust you," Arwen emphasized. "If we couldn't, I think we'd know. That's part of what being a Champion is about; you're a demon, and if you were an evil demon, we'd sense it. Members of the Order will take our word for it-- or they should if they want to stay members!"

"Softly," Uthmar warned, but he was grinning behind his beard.

"Telling people in general will just make them distrust you for no good reason," he finished. "If we can keep the knowledge within the order for a while-- without lying, yes-- that gives you a chance to build up trust. If you have a reputation as a good, honourable man, it will be much easier for people to accept it. Right?"

Wufei managed the ghost of a smile. "I suppose it might work. We'll tell them."


Karthan raised one eyebrow as Wufei's agreement reached him down the link, and suppressed both a sigh and a smile. Trust Uthmar to be out of the way when Vaijon reacts, he thought back.

...I haven't seen enough of him to have a clear idea of how he'll take it, came Wufei's reply. He's the 'Golden Boy' type, yes?

That's a perfect description,
Karthan snorted, rolling to his feet and dusting himself off.

And he's going to take this badly? Wufei asked, resigned.

Badly? Karthan scooped up his axe and swung it over his shoulder, hooking it onto his weapons harness. He's not going to 'take it' at all. He's going to hear the word 'Krashnark' and... what was it again? Ah, yes. Four hundred years of Almerhas blood, honour and tradition will rise up and demand that he, as an Almerhas of Almerhas, take 'proper action'. In the process, that four hundred years of Almerhas bushwah will negate what intelligence he possesses. To be fair, he added, shrugging his shoulders and stamping his feet to make sure his boots and weapons harness were properly settled, he is intelligent. He just doesn't use his intelligence very often, because his Almerhas history and training almost always provide a 'proper' response without him having to think.

Judging from your preparation, the proper response is going to be violent.

Probably. He's certainly not going to consider the fact that you could defeat him without working up a sweat-- assuming he realises that fact. He probably doesn't. It's been a long time since he's lost a fight, and he doesn't really think of the possibility any more.

That is stupid,
Wufei thought disgustedly. Under the right-- or wrong-- conditions, anyone can lose.

I know that, and you know that, but he is an Almerhas of Almerhas.

Why do I get the feeling that I'm going to grow to hate that phrase?

Because you have a low tolerance for inane repetition?
Karthan scratched at his beard, hiding a grin behind his hand as he felt Wufei's mingled amusement and exasperation, and then stretched. I should tell Gunnar he can tell Vaijon before his well-bred Almerhas patience evaporates... and then I get to try to keep him from storming off to kill you, long enough for Gunnar to pound some sense into his head.

Wufei's mental 'voice' was concerned. You could leave this until we get back... then the Champions could tell him directly.

If you're not right in front of him when he hears, he can't go for your throat,
Karthan pointed out dryly. You might want to start back now, though. "Go ahead, Gunnar," he called out, taking a few steps sideways to place himself directly between Vaijon and the path the Champions and Wufei had taken.

Gunnar looked consideringly up at the tall human, who was waiting with at least the appearance of patience for his query to be answered, and apparently decided to give him the short version of events. Very short.

"The ominous feeling was Krashnark being annoyed when Prince Wufei turned him down."

For about five seconds, Vaijon just stood there, blankly looking at Gunnar and waiting for the rest of the explanation. Then he realised there was no more to it... then he finally processed what Gunnar had actually said. To Karthan's surprise, there was no outraged bellow; he just stiffened, eyes widening, then narrowing, glittering angry blue. He even nodded sharply to Gunnar before spinning on his heel and stalking towards Karthan with his hand on his sword hilt.

His family really did drill manners into him, didn't they? the dwarf thought incredulously, holding up empty hands and hoping he wouldn't have to pull his axe. "There's no need--"

"Stand aside," Vaijon snapped, pointing his free hand. "I won't listen to you if you try to dissuade me from my clear duty! You've been tainted by that demon and are not to be trusted!"

Hells. I should have seen this coming. "Your 'clear duty' is to support Torframos's Champions in their decisions and actions, Sir Vaijon, and they have accepted Prince Wufei as an ally!" Karthan retorted, emphasizing Wufei's rank in the hope that it would help.

"If you think I'll believe--"

"The whole point is that Prince Wufei refused," Gunnar rumbled from behind Vaijon. "Weren't you listening?! The Order of Torframos has a duty to support such a courageous warrior, not try to kill him!"

"And whose word do we have that he did refuse, other than his own?" Vaijon shouted, whirling around to glare down at Gunnar.

"Krashnark would hardly have been that angry if he hadn't!"

"Besides which, I don't think he could have hidden his new status from two other Champions if he had said 'yes'," Karthan snorted.

"Exactly," Arwen's voice came coldly from behind him. "His Highness, Prince Wufei, has the full confidence of both Sir Uthmardanharknar and myself. He carries no taint from Krashnark's attempt to recruit him, and is not, himself, a threat. Have I made myself clear?"

The watching lay brothers and knights all nodded and rumbled quiet agreement-- doubtfully in a few cases, but it was still agreement. Vaijon spun around again to stare open-mouthed at his commander, and Karthan choked back a badly-timed snicker as he wondered how long it would take before the knight-probationer got dizzy.

"But, Sir! If he--"

"Have I made myself clear, Sir Vaijon?"

"How can you trust him if a Dark god wants to recruit him?!" Vaijon screeched, flinging out one hand to point wildly at Wufei. Unfortunately, his position at the time meant that the easiest hand to point with was his right... the hand that was still clamped on the hilt of his sword. Only Karthan's reflexes saved him from being struck in the head as he snatched up his axe and turned away, feeling the axeblade thump against his back as he blocked the accidental blow, and Vaijon was left staring aghast at what he'd almost done.

"I'll tell you one thing, Sir Vaijon," Karthan said into the frozen silence, slowly settling his axe back into place. "I trust him not to forget about innocent bystanders."

End Chapter 20

[Mel and Christy are slumped on the couch, lazily fanning themselves with pieces of paper, as they stare off into distance with glazed eyes. Miraculously, the house is fixed.]

DUO: What gives? I thought they were going to send us off after some other ludicrously powerful monster bish-boy.

ARDETH (nodding): And why are they fanning themselves? It's not that hot today.

MEL: Ohhhhhhhh yes it is. Woooo.

CHRISTY: We already got our dose of eye-candy for the week, guys, so relax.

QUATRE: Eye-candy? Who?

MEL: Who wasn't eye-candy?!

CHRISTY: The Pacific Islands section of the Multicultural Festival. Rrrrowr!

MEL: Fijians... Maoris... Tongans... Samoans... big muscly men in grass skirts...

CHRISTY: Sweat glistening... You know, some of those guys could win a limbo competition if they didn't have those big things sticking up.

WUFEI: What?!

MEL: They were waving spades, or fans, or something. Get your mind out of the gutter, Woofers!

CHRISTY: Thighs... pecs... bronze skin...

WUFEI: Get your own minds out of the gutter!


LEGOLAS (eyes fixed on the TV screen): You can't win. I've only been here a chapter and a half, and I already know that. (He changes channels and finds Olympic coverage.) Hm! Nice legs.

ARDETH: What've you got? Women's ice skating?

LEGOLAS: I don't see any point in whatever it is they're doing, but they've got good legs.

ARDETH: Legolas... that's bobsledding. Men's bobsledding.

LEGOLAS: So? They've got good legs.

[Duo exchanges a speculative glance with the onna authors.]

DUO: You don't suppose... maybe he's...

LEGOLAS (oblivious): I wonder what sort of training they do? I want legs like that.

DUO: ...or maybe not.

MEL: Your legs are already better than theirs, Legolas. Trust me.

[The conversation looks like it's going to degenerate into a discussion of the relative merits of muscly vs. trim thighs, when the coverage switches from bobsledding to ice hockey. Christy is immediately captivated.]

CHRISTY: Woo-hoo! USA vs. Russia! Mel, you know how to haka, right? I wanna haka* at the Russians!

MEL: They can't see you.

CHRISTY: I don't care, let's do it! --I refuse to do the tiki-face, though.

MEL: Fair enough. We can feed Heero a chili dog with Vegemite on it and he can do all the tiki-faces we need.

CHRISTY: Oi! Russian team! We haka in your general direction!

DUO: (ignoring the insane women): U-S-A! U-S-A! Oi, Ref, that was a high stick, you moron! If I was there and had my scythe--

[Everybody else trades significant looks, and they quietly sneak out of the room, leaving the three hockey fans and the TV addict behind.]


* For those who don't know: a haka is a Maori concept where you line up in front of your enemy and try to scare the living daylights out of them by stamping and chanting and making faces... it's a heck of a lot of fun, actually. If you've ever seen the All Blacks play, that is a haka, only they have to get by without the spears and facial tattoos.


Chapter 21

Gundam Wing


















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