Lightning crashed in the sky above, alternating bright streaks against the rising dark clouds - and the pitch black shadow swirling and weaving between the darkness and the light, like a great snake on the horizon. Twelve pairs of eyes stared up at the unnatural display, seeing and knowing it for what it was: the rising of the lord of dark gods and demons, Vritra. Perhaps they did no all fully understand the severity of the situation, yet, but the lingering foul taste of doom in the air said more than enough about what was rising from the darkness.
"What have I done?" Morrigan whispered, heaving a choked sob mostly hidden behind her hands and arms. "I've destroyed us all..."
Aya's hands were gentle as he reached out and turned her face up to meet his. In the flashing light, his orchid eyes held no recriminations, only a deep sadness. "It's not over yet."
She shook her head in violent opposition, though she did allow him to pull her up against him this time. "The Elder Gods spent fifteen-hundred years keeping the treasures away from the demons - and I as good as handed them over to them!"
Gentle fingers brushed her cheek in a tenderness nearly out of place in the chaos around them. "It's not over yet. There's still a way to end this."
* * * * * * *
Quatre winced sharply, a hand covering his heart. He gasped for his breath and slowly sank down to his knees, the ground rocking around him. In an instant, Trowa was beside him, an arm tenderly wrapping around the blond young man's shoulders. "What is it?" the brunette asked just loud enough to be heard over the thunder.
"My heart..." Quatre returned, each word seemingly an effort to get out. "It hurts. This thing, it's pure evil. It was everything, everywhere dead..."
Hotaru's voice broke in, her tone dark and serious. "It's like in mythology, the beast that will devour the earth. But not just the earth now. Now it will destroy the colonies and the other settlements." She sighed, leaning heavily on her glaive. "It won't stop until all life everywhere is void."
"It's Chaos," cut in Michiru, "but so much more also. So much more evil." She glanced down at a small ornate mirror in her hands. "Already it's turning the future black." Haruka gently lay an arm around the aqua-haired woman's shoulders, holding her close against her.
Setsuna's loud sigh broke through the next silence. "More than that. It's destroying the future."
"So you're saying we're doomed?" Wufei sounded angrier than normal, perhaps with good reason. "Without even trying, we're doomed?"
"No one here is giving up that easily." Haruka's voice was firm, determined, as sharp as the expression on her face. "There is absolutely no turning back from now on."
* * * * * * *
Usagi's eyes traveled over their rather pitiful-looking group, taking in the pained expressions on so many of their faces. The more she stared, the more exhausted and unable to face this creature they all seemed, the more she herself felt inadequate for the task.
A dark shadow dropped into the edge of her vision, and she just barely bit back a scream, even after she recognized it as Duo. He held his shoulder tightly, though blood sluggishly seeped through his fingers, yet he reached out with his injured arm to lightly touch her arm. "Are you all right?"
Slowly she nodded. "I'm okay. You? Your shoulder?"
He shook his head. "It'll be all right." His gaze dropped to Heero, where Usagi had pulled his head into her lap and was running her fingers through the dark mop of his hair. He was breathing shallowly, the hole in his stomach from where the sword had been pulled a gaping mess. He was fading and fading fast. In a few minutes, he'd be gone forever. Perhaps then... No, that was horrible of him to even think. Usagi would be broken without that bastard.
"He's dying," she interrupted his thoughts, not even lifting her eyes from Heero's face to look at him, "isn't he?"
Numbly, he nodded. "Yeah, he is."
A single tear leaked down her face even as the thought occurred to him that she was taking this all so very calmly, much calmer than he'd be if she were the one... "Is there... is there anything you can do for him, Shin-kun?" she asked, so softly he almost didn't hear her speak. Her eyes finally looked up to meet his, and the hopelessness he saw there tightened his chest, made it hard to breathe.
"I..." he began and then paused. He wouldn't lie to her, but that still left two things he could tell her. But no matter what thoughts he'd entertained a moment ago, he wasn't quite ready to see Heero dead yet and that bothered him a little bit. "I can stop him from dying, but I can't heal him. Hotaru will have to do that."
Another shimmering tear ran down her cheek. A second later, another one chased it, then another, and another, till they were streaming down both her cheeks like two tiny rivers. "Thank you, Duo. Thank you."
For a long second, he stared into her eyes then sighed softly, dropping his gaze. "It'll take a lot out of me to do this. I'll be weak for a while."
She lifted one hand to the side of his face. "I'll take care of you."
He chuckled. "Yeah, I guess you will." He caught her hand and kissed the palm before swiftly releasing it, all but pushing her away, and rocking back on his heels. The smoke and the darkness swirled in closer to him, blotting him out from even Usagi's view. The faint moan she heard from in that blackness, though, told her both that he was there and his transformation was a painful thing. She started to reach out to him when abruptly the dark smoke parted.
Large white wings extended back behind him, and black lines like tear trails ran down his cheeks. Indigo eyes seemed to glow in the dark; a particularly bright flash of lightning proved this to be completely true. Those luminescent eyes locked on her for a second, and she felt her blood freeze before his gaze skipped down to Heero. He leaned closer; she had to fight the urge to recoil; and brushed his hand over the wound on Heero's stomach. The fingertips came back bloody, and he raised them to his lips thoughtfully.
"Duo?" inadvertently slipped past her lips, and she found herself the recipient of that pupil-less stare once again. It seemed to penetrate her, body, mind, and soul; she felt she held no secrets before it.
Whatever he sought in her eyes, he evidently found it; he nodded once then turned his entire focus onto the man she held. She followed his gaze, blinking as she saw a faint black aura building around Heero and she could feel his breathing slowly; she was losing him.
Duo's hand moved over Heero's face without quite touching it. In his hand's trail, the aura of death vanished, as if it had simply been wiped away. Heero's face tightened into a grimace - and Duo's eyes rolled back into his head, the marks on his face disappearing. The American's body went limp, and he collapsed to the ground beside her in a flurry of feathers that was his wings vanishing.
06 January 2002
Wow, I just barely managed to get this chapter in before an entire year passed! *cheers for herself* I'm sorry for how long it took, but this has been a horrible year like you would never believe.
I realized as I got to Usagi, Heero, and Duo's part, that I had never really done anything with Duo's powers since his near transformation in Chapter Seventeen. This seemed as good a time as any to show just why he got the name "Shinigami". Now, the other choice of what to tell Usagi that he mentioned was the other half of his power: either steal someone from death itself or deliver them to it, so in Heero's case, bring him back or send him on over Death's Door. Like the boy said, though, hate to see Heero go just yet.
Additional dedications: I want to make a few final dedications here. One is to Tenshi-hime; "you mean you're not done with that fic yet?" is a pretty good paraphrase, ne? >^_~< Got me dragging the file out at least. Kuriyamimizu is another; one of her images of Duo for And He Doth Descend into the Depths of Heaven helped me get an image in my mind for Shinigami. On that same note, thank you to CryKat, for her winged Duo picture. Thank you to Usa-chan, even though we don't seem to speak anymore, for the PWP (if I can find it again >.< It's vanished again) that kept my mind on the fic. And finally, to Jade Nova, Eden, for being my friend through thick and thin, even when no one else stood by me. Merci trop beaucoup, mon meilleure amie.