::Hachiman...:: the sword in his numb fingers whispered. ::Hachiman, I...::
It should have amused him at least a little to hear the pain-in-the-ass sword at a loss for words. The circumstances, however, prevented him from feeling much of anything. This loss of feeling was not an unfamiliar feeling, but it was one he'd never considered he'd might have to experience again.
He felt a calm nothingness, but all he could see was red. The demon before him fell back a few steps, obviously trying to get away from him. No way he was allowing that. Kuzanagi took the shape of the Masamune, the extra length more than enough to take off the creature's head before changing back to its previous shape.
What demons there were left scattered throughout the long hallway, trying to vanish into the shadows, and that suited his purpose just fine. He had to get further down the hallway. He had to get to him.
'Not a word from you,' he thought savagely at the weapon. 'If he's dead...'
::If he's dead, I give you full permission to melt me down and use me for scrap metal. I'm sorry. I forgot that he would be able to feel the death around him.::
He was almost to his side. He paused long enough to take another demon's head and think, 'Is it us killing these demons that's doing this?'
::It shouldn't be, but if it's not, then that can only mean another god has died. Maybe even more than one, given his reaction.::
'The flash of light,' he concluded. 'That had to be it.' Almost absentmindedly, he flipped the sword to stab a demon behind him through its heart.
That was the final obstacle between him and his partner. He was not usually the emotional type, the kind to fall over themselves because of someone, but now he dropped to his knees next to the fallen God of Death. He knew part of the blood he saw belonged to the demons, but too much of it was Duo's and was coming from the deep slicing claw marks across his chest.
"Duo?" He almost stopped to look around. Surely that worried voice wasn't coming from him! He simply didn't sound like that - but he was the only other one here.
The American had pushed himself up against the wall, wedging himself between it and the nearest closed door. It was only once he was next to him that he realized it was indeed Duo again and no longer Shinigami. Indigo eyes had darkened in pain till they were nearly black, and he had a hand pressed over the wound, evidently trying to slow or stop the bleeding.
"It's not too bad," Duo murmured once he was close enough to hear him.
"It looks bad enough," he returned, setting Kuzanagi down against his leg so his hands were free to tear off part of his shirt to make a rough field dressing. He helped Duo ease out of his top shirt so he could apply the dressing closer to the skin. "Don't trying passing it off for a scratch."
"Heero?" He glanced up. "Why are your eyes all red and glowy? It's kinda cool but really, really freaky too."
Okay, how much blood had he lost, if he was already starting to hal-
::He's not hallucinating, Hachiman. Your eyes are glowing red,:: Kuzanagi interjected. ::Way to go. You're officially a true god.::
"Don't worry about it, Duo. It's not important right now."
"Heero, what about the demons?"
He glanced over his shoulder. "I think your screaming fit has them thoroughly cowed."
The American grinned tightly. "Liar. You went on a hack-and-slash, didn't you?"
He tried to return the smile, but even he could tell he was failing miserably. "Not too bad. Now, hold still. I don't want to mess this up," he ordered, starting to use Duo's top shirt to tie the bandage in place.
"This from the same guy who set his own leg with a wrench and a strip of cloth? That's rich."
"You still remember that, huh?" he asked. It was probably a good idea to keep Duo talking. He could make sure the American was still conscious then.
"Of course I remember that! I don't think I've ever been so grossed out." He scowled faintly. "And you took advantage of my hospitality and plundered Deathscythe for parts. I still haven't forgiven you for that, Heero Yuy."
"I guess I'll just spend the rest of my life making up for it then," he stated as he finished tying the bandage in place.
Duo was silent for a moment, pinning him with the weirdest look he'd ever seen. "If that was your idea of a proposal, we'd better practice before it's Usagi's turn." He winced then gave Heero a faint smirk. "Didn't you know you're stuck with me the rest of your life anyway?"
Faintly, he could hear a rumbling noise overhead. In the back of his mind, he had to wonder if it was starting to storm outside. Just faintly, so low it was barely noticeable over their breathing and the racket outside, his ears also picked up the creak of a floorboard. Acting completely on instinct, he grabbed Kuzanagi back up and whirled to his feet, blade at the ready. The demons had apparently regained their courage and were slinking back out of the shadows. "Stay back there, Duo." He paused briefly as a thought occurred to him. "Would changing to Shinigami help you heal faster?"
"Yeah, probably," the other man returned. "It wouldn't hurt at least."
"Then do it. I'll cover us as long as I can." Seconds later, white feathers floated by his face, and he spoke to the God of Death without turning. "Don't move an inch, Shinigami, till you're healed. I'm not losing either of you."
There was a faint, pained snicker behind him. "Mission accepted, Hachiman. Don't even think of dying on me."
He nodded once, keeping his attention fixed on the demons. There were only six left, two of which were only still standing out of sheer determination as both were bleeding freely and profusely from missing limbs. Six left, but he was fighting on his own now - and he was starting to tire, not to mention the noise outside made it hard to -
A violent ripping sound drew his and the demons' attention overhead, in time to see both the ceiling and the roof above it rip away into the sky. A figure fell though the hole, landing in an undignified heap on the floor. Had it not had black hair and been dressed all in black, Heero might have thought it was Usagi from the sheer lack of grace alone. A second figure floated down to stand before him, impossibly long pale blonde hair hovering around her white-clad body. He might not be the best judge, but to him at least, it looked like her hair would drag a few feet behind her if gravity ever took hold of it.
As Thanatos started to struggle to his feet, Amaterasu focused a hard glare on the demons. What happened next Heero had seen occur once before but only on a couple empty cans of soda. The creatures lifted off the ground and, for lack of any other way he could think of to describe it, folded in on themselves in high speed till they were only about the size of a soccer ball. At that point, they exploded like popped balloons.
"Those are far from the last demons at my command," the dark god gloated as he regained his feet. "There are dozens more on the estate, and new ones are being created every minute. You can't destroy us all, Sun Goddess."
"I don't have to," she retorted. "I just have to finish you." She tilted her head slightly. "The Ginzuishou, please."
Heero opened his mouth to say... something, he wasn't sure what. After all, even housed in Usagi's body, Amaterasu couldn't use the jewel; she wasn't of the house of the moon, whatever that meant. Shinigami stopped him, though, by grabbing the back of his shirt and giving it a sharp tug. When he looked down, the winged God of Death grabbed his left arm and slapped the jewel down in his palm. "She's up to something, Ro," he whispered. "Let's just go with it."
He nodded once again and handed the jewel off to the woman. When their hands touched, though, a shock like a misplaced burst of electricity shot up his arm. "That's for Duo," she stated softly. "Please give it to him."
With a quick nod, he turned away, dropping once again to his knees beside the American. It was only when he reached out and grasped the other's hand that he realized what she'd said: Duo, not Shinigami. Amaterasu always called them by their god titles, almost like she knew no other name for any of them, but she'd said 'Duo' and in a voice that was unnervingly familiar. He looked up to meet Shinigami's eyes, surprise shining in those endless purple depths; he had caught it as well. He glanced over his shoulder to the woman before them, her name slipping softly from his lips, "Usagi."
A brilliant glow drew his attention back to their joined hands. Again, he looked up at Shinigami, only to see Duo in his place this time.
~ * ~ * ~
"How sweet," Thanatos sneered. "You healed him. You do, of course, realize that those two boys will be the first to die after you're gone."
"I'm not the one who'll be gone in the end here, demon," she replied simply.
"You are so self-assured, aren't you? You think just because you will it, everything will turn out all right. It's not going to play out that way this time. You and your godlings will be defeated, and -"
"I see you haven't tired of making speeches, Mamoru," she cut him off. A scowl on his face, he raised his hand and released a red stream of energy. In response, she lifted her free hand, the one without the jewel, watching impassively as it was absorbed into her. "And you still don't take well to interruptions to those speeches."
She clutched the Ginzuishou tightly in her palm, faintly feeling it cut into her flesh, but it was an almost reassuring pain as warmth began to spread from the jewel throughout her body. 'One more time, Holy Ginzuishou. One more time, I must borrow your power.' She felt only a slight reaction from it and again sent her plea. 'Please, Ginzuishou, Queen Serenity, I need this power to save the world, as well as the ones I love. Please don't deny me it because I am not wholly your daughter now.'
Brilliance exploded from the jewel, wrapping protectively around her before turning menacingly towards Thanatos. As the strands of light rushed around him, small sparks off them singed his skin and thin beams ripped through his flesh.
Gods, she'd almost forgotten how much energy it took to wield the Ginzuishou. She wasn't going to make her wish happen this way. It just wasn't enough power. With a sad sigh, she let her eyes slip closed as she gave the Crystal access to all her power. All her power, indeed: that of Selene, Hekate, Usagi, Sailormoon, Princess Serenity.
"You'll die if you keep this up," Thanatos choked out through the blood filling his mouth.
She barely heard herself answer, "As long as your evil dies also, I don't care what happens to me," before the world combusted around her and everything went silent and black.
~ * ~ * ~
He felt his blood run cold at those words. Surely, there couldn't be anything worse than "You'll die if you keep this up," excepting "If your evil dies with me, I don't care what happens to me," Duo decided. It froze everything inside him, and he decidedly did not like it. It was Usagi in thereafter all, and here he - they - might lose her just when it seemed they might get her back.
"No way," he thought aloud. "No fucking way. I'm not giving upon her that easy." He struggled to his feet. His wounds might have been healed, but apparently her power couldn't fix blood loss. He staggered a step or two then found a hand on his elbow to straighten him. "Heero?"
"Neither of us are giving her up," he stated.
Both their attentions turned to the dueling pair, and he had to fight the urge to sigh in frustration. All their sentiments about not losing her were all well and good, but just how were they supposed to save her? He was realistic enough to admit they were hopelessly outclassed by either of the two opponents. If they tried to intercede, likely as not they would end up part of the wallpaper.
As if to emphasize his thoughts, the room seemed to blow up around them. A near-blinding light flashed before their eyes, followed by an explosion and silence. He had all of a heartbeat to wonder if the warmth flowing down from his ears was blood or if his brains were finally dribbling out as Wufei had direly predicted so many times, then something heavy landed in his arms and toppled him over backwards.
'This just isn't my month,' he thought sourly.
Without warning, it lifted completely free of him. It was only then that he realized the white he'd been seeing wasn't the aftereffects of the explosion; it was the folds of Usagi's dress. It was like hearing underwater, but he could faintly hear Heero calling Usagi's name as he held her completely limp form. From the look on Heero's face, he was probably screaming; he looked as close to tears as Duo had ever seen him. 'Despondent' was the word that came to mind. Despondent and very, very angry.
He scrambled to his knees and hesitantly reached out touch two fingers to her wrist. There was nothing. Not even a flicker of a pulse. He shifted slightly - then promptly wished he hadn't. Sightless sapphire eyes stared at nothing.
He knew death. Knew it its many, often bloody forms. He'd seen it as a child on the streets, he'd seen it at the Maxwell Church, and he'd seen it during the wars. She may not have had a mark on her, but she was dead all the same. There wasn't even enough life left in her for Shinigami to bring her back.
His mind screaming 'No!' even before it slipped from his lips, he barely heard the resonant voice in his thoughts. It was a voice he recognized, yet didn't, as it was Amaterasu's but without the undertone it had always held that was purely Usagi.
"Shinigami, hear me," she spoke in his mind. Before him, Heero and Usagi's image faded as a new light appeared in front of his eyes, taking the vaguest shape of a human figure.
"I don't want to talk to you," he murmured.
"The day could not have been won had it not been for yourself and Hachiman. Your presence alone gave us the strength we needed to win the day."
"That doesn't mean that much." Even he could hear the bitterness in his voice. "Usagi's still dead."
"Selene died the minute Vritra put Kuzanagi through her. She's been dead for days, Shinigami."
He fixed the light-apparition with a Heero Yuy-worthy glare. "That wasn't all you just now with the Ginzuishou."
"No, it wasn't. Selene used the last of her soul's energy to finish off Vritra." He and the figure were silent a moment, then she spoke again. "Both the world and I owe the two of you a debt of gratitude. How can we repay you?"
He leaned to the side slightly to look past her to Heero and Usagi's... Usagi. "Even Shinigami can't give me what I want."
"You want Selene." He could have been imagining it, but he thought he heard approval in the Supreme Goddess' voice. "Is that your wish?"
"Yes, that's my wish," he stated firmly.
"Then it is a good thing I am a great deal more powerful than Shinigami."
Two things happened simultaneously in that moment: the apparition vanished, bringing the world back into focus - and Usagi drew in a gasping breath.
26 October 2004
Wheee! So was the climax of the story... ummm... climatic? *sweatdrops* All that's left is the closing action and at least two epilogues.
Now lemme close this up before Neechan starts channeling Moira. ^.^;;;