A tap on the bedroom door awakened him from the light doze he'd fallen into. It took him a second or two to remember where he was and why he was entangled in a silky auburn web. Oh, yeah, I fell asleep with Duo again. He pushed part of Duo's hair out of his face in slight irritation. And he has nightmares. Looks like the last one destroyed his braid. Not that he was a bit surprised to discover the American had bad dreams. The current situation was driving something inside him crazy. If all the skirmishes that had begun with Vritra's rising were tormenting him, then all the death the dark god was responsible for, directly or indirectly, had to be torturing Duo.
"It's open," he called softly. A blond head appeared, and for a split second he was actually worried it was Usagi. "Quatre," he greeted blandly.
"You two look a lot better." A small smile touched his face. "Duo's a... restless sleeper, I take it."
"Nightmares," he heard himself say. He was a bit amazed to hear himself continue with "And he apparently has no qualms at all about using me as an oversize teddy bear."
"Teddies don't grouch this much, Heero," a sleep-deepened voice beside him countered. Violet eyes slid open, and a grin automatically settled on his face. "Hey, what's up, Quatre?"
"Usagi wants to talk to us all." The small blond man looked a bit apprehensive. "Whatever it is, it doesn't sound good. She... looks strange."
Duo pushed himself up on one elbow, a concerned expression on his face that Heero echoed in his mind, if not on his face. "Strange how?"
"Is she all right?" he found himself continuing.
Quatre nodded. "She's fine. She just seems... very in control."
He had to hold back a smirk as one of Duo's eyebrows shot up nearly to his hairline. His comment of "How un-Usagi-like" nearly made him break out into uncharacteristic snickering.
Quatre smiled and laughed briefly. "Anyway, come down as soon as possible. It seems rather important, whatever it is." He quietly closed the door behind himself, leaving the two sitting on the bed alone.
They exchanged an almost cautious glance, one that asked 'What do we do now?', before Duo grinned, sat up, and bumped his shoulder against Heero's playfully. "Come on. Let's go see what Usagi wants."
Could he really be blamed for staying in bed a moment or two longer, watching Duo climb out from under the covers and pull his usual black pants on over his boxers? He didn't have any qualms in admitting the American was very pleasing to look at. The four years since he'd first met Duo at the beginning of the war had added far fewer hard lines to Duo's body than it had to his own, though they were still there. He was lean, but he had been as long as Heero'd known him; one day, he'd take the time to wonder why that was, but it wouldn't be today. At least he looked a lot better than he had when he'd first woken up, but he definitely wasn't one-hundred percent yet, Heero noted as Duo struggled to get his dark red shirt on over his left shoulder with a minimum of movement and a thinly disguised grimace. Finally, he turned to look at Heero with a pleading look in those endless purple eyes. "Hee-chan..."
"Baka." The insult tumbled out of his mouth, rendered ineffectual with affection. He scooted out from beneath the covers, taking a split second to pulls his own undone shirt back over the one shoulder it had slipped off of, and circled the bed to stand before Duo. "Can't believe you're making me do this." That's it, Heero; cover... affection with coldness. Like Duo buys that act anymore. "Does it hurt that bad?"
Duo shrugged with the other shoulder, glancing away from his face as he did so. "I'll be all right," he muttered.
He felt a new smirk building on his face. "Translating from Duo-speak, it hurts like hell." Duo rolled his eyes but didn't deny it, and he chuckled.
"It's just a bit stiff... and a little sore."
He let that one pass with another brief laugh and started gently helping Duo into his shirt, buttoning it up from the bottom, leaving the top two undone as he'd often seen Duo do. "There. You're presentable, for you at least," he finally declared.
The other man grinned and playcuffed him in the side. He started buttoning Heero's shirt with the explanation "Well, then we need to fix you up. No one's allowed to ogle your body besides me and Usa."
Based on the laughter Duo broke out into, the expression on his face but have been priceless. "Who else would be ogling my body?"
By now, Duo was laughing so hard that he had to collapse onto the bed, only managing to stay sitting by bracing himself with one hand. "Who wouldn't want to?" he got out between gasps for breath. He shot Duo a rather impressive glare, trying his best not to smile; Duo's amusement was contagious. "Seriously! I've caught Quatre checking you out a lot. I even caught Setsuna and Hotaru exchanging," he paused to clear his throat and waggle his eyebrows suggestively, "comments on your, um, assets."
He felt heat rush to his face. Embarrassment definitely was not an emotion he was glad to be recalling. "But - I -"
He felt Duo's right hand snake around his waist and pull him up close to the other man's body. "But from now on, Usa and I will be doing the only ogling."
He couldn't help snickering. "So you and Usagi will be defending my honor?"
The grin he wore was threatening to break Duo's face. "You could call it that. Or you could say we'll be defending what's ours. No sharing!"
He laughed shortly, dropping a brief kiss on Duo's lips, much like the one that had been bestowed on him when they'd first awakened together, when they'd come up with this unusual arrangement. Soon he stood back up, his fingers entangling in Duo's loose hair. "We'd better get down there before they send a search party after us."
Duo sighed softly. "I wouldn't put it past them." He leaned away from Heero, searching through the sheets till he produced his hairband. He started to reach up to rebraid his hair, wincing before he got his arms above shoulder level. "Damn," he cursed under his breath.
Heero held his hand out silently. Once Duo had relinquished the elastic band and turned slightly, he moved behind the other man and, after another second's consideration, pulled the long hair up into a clumsy ponytail. "There," he stated softly, tone making it clear that he wasn't pleased with his handiwork.
Duo ran the fingers of his right hand up and over the mess. "Not so bad for a first try." He grinned, turning back slightly to regard Heero. "We'll have to get Usa to show you how to braid it."
Heero nodded slightly, disappointment barely evident in his eyes if not on his face. He held a hand down and pulled Duo to his feet. "Let's go."
"All right." It didn't escape his notice that Duo refused to release his hand until they'd reached the hallway, or that he kept finding excuses to brush up against him as they made their way to the library, or that somehow Duo had managed to arrange things so that he and Usagi sat on either side of Heero on the couch.
* * * * * * * *
"...That's all Hyperion-tousama was able to tell me," Usagi finished.
"So," Quatre spoke up after a moment, and she redirected her focus onto him, "all we have to do is get back the treasures, all three of them, perform some kind of sacrifice - and even Hyperion didn't know what it entailed -, and then summon Amaterasu into the body of the one person in the whole world who can hold her? Is that everything?"
Usagi shifted slightly in her seat. A hand wrapped around one of hers; she glanced down to see it was Heero's. She smiled faintly, relaxing. "Hyperion-tousama said Morrigan will be back soon."
"Maybe she should start thinking about hurrying up," Wufei muttered.
Hotaru nodded. "Otherwise, I'd say we're pretty much, well, screwed, for lack of a better term."
"Then somehow we need to get the treasures back, so we'll be ready!" Duo declared, pushing himself to his feet.
"How do you propose we do that, Duo?" Quatre rebutted. "We have no idea where Thanatos is, and even if we did know, how the hell are we supposed to go against him and Vritra - and that demon girl - when we couldn't even beat just him?!?"
"Well, we certainly can't just give up!" The American wavered on his feet. In an instant, Heero was also standing, a steadying hand on one of Duo's shoulders. In spite of everything else, she felt a surge of relief; at least those two were friends again.
"It's easier said than done," Aya commented under his breath from where he leaned against the adjacent wall. All in all, he looked completely disinterested in the going-ons and like the reason he hadn't left yet was either because he'd been here first and was waiting them out or because she, Duo, and Heero were between him and the door.
A slight whistling noise sang through the air. Heads lifted, trying to place the sound. Then almost casually Aya lifted his hand to catch a rapidly flying object. He opened his hand to see a small silver jewel. "What the -"
Usagi stood quickly and crossed the floor in a heartbeat. "That's the Ginzuishou!" she cried, all but snatching it from him.
Heero glanced over at her, frowning sharply but seemingly unwilling to risk letting go of Duo. "Didn't we just say that Thanatos has all the treasures raising his demon?"
"No," a very familiar and missed voice answered. "It's a present."
A woman, dressed completely in black, stepped out of the shadows of the doorway. Huge black wings were folded behind her. She looked so much the same and yet so very different. Her sapphire eyes seemed softer and endless, like the wisdom of the universe hid within them, while her face and body were leaner and her entire demeanor even more serious than before.
Before he realized, Aya had taken a few steps closer. He couldn't help the look of surprise that slid over his features as she held up a hand to stall him before he could touch her. "I didn't think you were coming back, Morrigan."
"I almost didn't, but I guess I couldn't stand to be away from you," she admitted.
"Anechan?" Heero hesitantly began. She turned away from the Elder God to set those suddenly endless, serene eyes on him. "How did you get this?"
A small smirk lifting one corner of her mouth, she shrugged nonchalantly. "I stole it, along with the mirror. Since Thanatos raised his pet monster, security has been rather lax?" She tossed a small disc no bigger than the palm of her hand into the room, smiling when Heero easily caught it.
"'Stole it'?" Duo echoed.
She nodded once, smirk growing ever so slightly, then she froze, shuddered. And then abruptly they could see through her. "Damn it," she whispered, holding a hand up for her own inspection. "Guess I couldn't hold on that long after all."
Heero and Aya spoke in the same instant, and she favored them both an indulgent smile. "Seems I used up too much energy getting two of the treasures away from Thanatos and getting us here."
Aya stepped closer, ignoring as she tried to push him away in favor of touching her cheek. "Morrigan," his voice was soft, and those who could hear it besides Morrigan felt acutely embarrassed, trying not to listen, "you can't leave me."
"Tell that to Himura. He's waiting on me." She smiled faintly, though the expression seemed a little tight; it was getting harder for her to hang on. She nodded to someone only she could see. "Of course I'll tell them." This time she spoke to the whole room. "Himura says to remind you that time is growing short. If you don't hurry, there won't be anyone left to save." Her wings completely vanished from sight as the rest of her wavered a bit more. "And life is a circle. We'll be back someday soon." She faded nearly completely out but held on just enough to cover Aya's hand on her cheek with one of her own. "I'll see you again soon, Aed."
"Ran." His voice broke slightly. "My name is Ran."
"Mine's Marie," she whispered, pushing his hand away from her, then she was gone. Silence reigned for several long moments till Aya lowered his head and pushed his way out of the room, slamming the door closed behind him.
Setsuna let out a breath she didn't remember holding. "Just like that, we've lost them both, both the Elder Gods," she murmured. "We've lost."
Quatre stood. "Not yet. If what you say is right, then we just need to summon Amaterasu."
Hotaru shook her head gently. "We still need to get Kuzanagi, and if I were Thanatos, I'd be guarding that sword with my life."
"Then we just find a way to get around Thanatos. Usagi?" The blonde looked away from the empty spot where Morrigan had stood only minutes before and met his eyes. "You're the only one here who's been inside where Thanatos is. Could you find where he's hiding the sword?"
She considered it then nodded. "Yes. I don't know where his compound is though."
"I'm sure between the rest of us we can locate it. Heero, Duo, why don't you both get on computers and see what you can turn up?"
Duo tossed them a grin as the others began to file out of the room. "Time to save the world again, eh?"
Heero rolled his eyes. "Come on, baka. Let's get to work." He gave the other young man a gentle tug in the direction of the door that belied his harsher words. A hand on his arm stopped him before they left the room, though. He glanced down into distant sapphire eyes. "Usagi?"
"Leave the mirror with me. I'll need it and the Ginzuishou to track down Kuzanagi" was all she said.
"Do you know how to do the summoning?" he asked, hesitant to relinquish the treasure just yet. After all, Morrigan, his Anechan, had died to get it, and she had given it to him, maybe even for a reason. There was - There had been no telling with her.
Again, she nodded. "Hyperion-tousama told me."
"Maybe..." Duo paused then pushed on. "Maybe you should tell the rest of us, just in case."
"I'm the only one who can," she replied, her voice grim and perhaps a little sad. "I'll have to do it."
Duo wrapped a careful arm around her shoulders. "Then we'll make sure you can get it done safely. It's about time for this whole thing to be over, don't you think?"
"Past time," Heero agreed. He hesitated a moment longer then placed the mirror in her hand. "The sooner this war is over, the better."
She glanced up at them but did not meet either of their eyes. "Absolutely."
First draft: 20 October 2003
Rewrite: 29 February 2004
Author's Closing Note : Yes, it's four years after the GundamW TV series started. Given that Duo, Heero, Quatre, and Wufei were all 15-16 and Trowa was 17 during the year that the series took, that would make all of them but Trowa 19-20 now and he would be 21. Since I moved Usagi in from Sailormoon R and it's been four years, she would now be 18-19. So we can send Trowa on beer runs. *winks*
Author's Closing Note : I'm sorry that Subaru and Kamui had to be written out. I'd been wanting to put them in ever since Animazement 2003, when that was most of what Klepto and I talked about on the way home. However, Gods and Other Creatures has become more of a project than even the novel I'm working on, and I really need to tie it up and get back to work on what I might one day get paid for. (On another random tangent, I'm also working on a rewrite of GaOC to be turned into a novel. It's taking a while because I'm also tying it into my novel.) To make a long story short (too late), I haven't been able to make myself figure them out for this story, nor have I been able to locate a set of gods in mythology to make them. All things considered, I'd rather not write them than write them poorly.
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