Acherontia Atropos IV

The next several days were a complete blur to me. I suppose that I must
have been more badly hurt than Heero had told me, because normally
injuries won't keep me down that long. It was all fevered flashes of pain
followed by dreamy, floaty periods that meant that someone had taken pity
on me and given me one of the pills out of those happy little medicine
bottles that Wufei had been kind enough to steal for me.

I don't know if it was the happy pills, the head injury, or the fact that I'd
been attacked by my first vampire, but I had some majorly weird dreams.
Memories of the attack were the most prominent, but that was to be
expected. Older memories of fights weren't all that abnormal either. What
got me, though, were the other dreams, the ones that I'd never had before. I
had one of Trowa and Quatre in each other's arms, both of them looking at
me like they could see right through me. There was another one of Wufei
caught in the coils of a five clawed dragon.

The one that got me the most, though, was the dream that I had of Heero.
He was sitting at one of the tables in the school cafeteria all by himself,
eating a bowl of rice. He looked up at me for a long moment without saying
anything, and the bowl of rice started smoking, then burst into flame. I don't
mean the cheerful orange log-fire flames. I mean those deceptively cold
looking blue flames, the ones that are so hot that you almost get burned just
by looking at them. And Heero just kept eating the rice with no expression
on his face.

Because I had a concussion, the guys had to wake me up every hour for the
first day, which wasn't fun for any of us. I don't wake up happily on a
normal day, and when I'm injured, I'm even worse. I yelled, I shouted, I
threw things, I whined and was completely unpleasant in general to
whoever had the misfortune to be the one to wake me. For the most part, it
was Heero, and he didn't really seem to care. The other guys took their
turns, though, I guess when Heero was in class, and I know for a fact that I
managed to hit Trowa in the head with a paper cup when it was his turn to
wake me up. I'm a sucky patient. So sue me.

Like I said, though, I was out of it most of the time. I know that one of the
guys was always watching me. I'm pretty sure that I felt Heero's hand
lightly touching my forehead a couple of times, though I could have been
imagining it. Even if it was all in my head, it felt kind of nice. Once, I half
woke to the aromatic smell of tea with lemon in it, and a very gentle voice
telling me to go back to sleep...probably Quatre. Another time, I was almost
certain that someone was reading something to me in Chinese, which could
only mean that it was Wufei.

When I finally woke up for good, it was late afternoon, and I felt
surprisingly good, considering how crappy I'd been feeling right before
things got incoherent. I sat up in my bed, and even though my head hurt, it
was just the kind of dull ache that bruises get after you've had them for a
couple of days, and my stomach stayed firmly in place. All in all, a major
improvement.

"How are you feeling?"

I looked over. The room stayed on the level. Hot damn. Wufei was sitting
on Heero's bed with an open book in his lap. He looked like he'd been
relaxing there for a while; his tie was loosened, and he'd taken his jacket
off. For Wufei, that's as sloppy as it gets. "I'm feeling pretty good." I said,
cautiously. My mouth was kind of dry, but I found a glass of water on the
chair next to my bed, so that took care of that. "How long have I been out?"

"Three days. I decided that we should keep you out that long so you could
have some down time." The corner of Wufei's mouth quirked. "I know that
you won't stay down otherwise, no matter how badly you're hurt. Besides,
that way, none of us had to hear you whine outside of the times we woke
you up."

I stuck my tongue out at him. My face felt all stiff, and I reached up and felt
around. I could feel the roughness of scabs all over my cheeks and my
forehead, and I grimaced, kind of fascinated by how weird it felt. "Oh man,
my face..." I moaned.

"You look like you got hit by a car." Wufei said, helpful guy that he is. "It
shouldn't scar, though."

"Well, there's some good news." I sighed. "Three days, huh? What am I
going to do about class?"

Wufei shrugged. "Heero covered for you, don't ask me how. I think the
story is that you went off to visit some relatives. How you're going to
explain why you look like you were attacked is your own problem."

"No problem." I grinned. "I'm good at that kind of stuff." Me, bend the
truth? Just a little. I prefer to call it an exercise in creativity, though. It
sounds better that way.

"I noticed."

"You're so nice." I crossed my arms. Someone had been kind enough to put
me in a pair of my pajamas. They were soft and so big that I had to roll up
the legs and the sleeves so that I wasn't toally lost in them. Constant
washing had turned them from black to a kind of fuzzy grey. I had to admit,
though, I kind wondered who had put me in my PJs. The thought of anyone
undressing me while I was unconscious, even if it was for the benign
purpose of changing me out of my ripped up, bloody clothes made me kind
of nervous. Scratch that, very nervous. I eyed Wufei for a moment,
wondering if he was the one that had done it. He's probably the best friend I
have and everything, but I didn't think he was that close of a friend.

He could tell what I was wondering. "Not me. Heero."

Great. That made me feel a whole lot better. Sure. The man of my dreams
finally undresses me, and I'm not even awake to enjoy it. Life sucks.

Wufei coughed dryly, and I realized that I'd been glaring at him like it was
his fault or something. Maybe I was getting better at the glaring thing if I
was able to make Wufei uncomfortable. But I stopped and shrugged
apologetically. "Anything else interesting happen?"

"What, since the Vampire Hunter pulled her disappearing act?" Wufei
raised on eyebrow eloquently. I have to admit, I was with him on that one. I
don't think it was possible for anything to beat that. But I shrugged, and he
continued. "Another student has disappeared. That brings the body count up
to five, if he was taken by them."

"Damn." I rubbed my face with my hands, but very, very carefully.
"Anyone see anything?"

"No."

"Great. How the hell are we supposed to kill something when we have no
idea how to find it, when itís going to attack, or who itís going to kill?" I
sighed.

Wufei shrugged. He knew a rhetorical question when he heard one.
"Heero's going to be back soon." He commented. "He'll be happy to know
that you're awake now."

"Really?" Shit, I was starting to sound like a love-struck schoolgirl.

Well, except for the girl part...

"I believe so. The only time he let one of us take over watching you was
when he had class."

I couldn't help myself. I grinned. "Is he going to be back soon?"

Wufei glanced over at the cheap little clock radio that I'd put on the desk.
"Yes."

I bounced quickly out of my bed and stood. I guess it was a little too
quickly, because the room spun for a moment, and only a quick clutch at the
chair saved me from falling on my nose. Wufei was suddenly on his feet,
and he grabbed my arm, too. As soon as everything had stabilized, I looked
up and flashed Wufei a grin. "Ne, Wu-man, no worries. Just stood up a little
too fast."

"Fine." He let go of my arm, a small smile quirking his lips.

"I'm going to take a shower now, before Heero gets back." I bounded off
toward the room's bathroom.

Wufei sat back down on the bed and picked his book up again. "Just don't
fall down when you're in the shower."

***

It felt good to be up and about, and I hadn't even noticed how sick I was of
laying down, possibly because I'd been asleep for most of it. It felt even
better to get clean. Someone had done a half-assed job of cleaning me up
when I was unconscious, but really, for as much of a mess as I'd been, an
actual shower was the only way to get clean.

Especially for my poor hair. I had to stop myself from wailing when I saw
how bad it looked in the mirror. My braid was crusty with dried blood, and
my bangs stuck out in weird angles.

I've always liked showers, though, which was a good thing considering how

long this one took. I used up the last little bit in the bottom of my bottle of
shampoo, which was this nice red stuff I'd stolen from a Body and Bath
Works store that smelled like raspberries. My hair still wasn't clean, though,
considering I'd only had a little bit left, so I moved on to Heero's bottle of
shampoo. Hopefully, he wouldn't be too upset. I don't know where he got
his from, but it was nicer than mine had been. It smelled kind of like Oreo
centers and a little bit like strawberries, but not in a girly way.

Or maybe I just liked it because it smelled like Heero. I closed my eyes and
let myself bask in it for a moment. Sappy? Me? Naw.

After I got my hair clean, I worked on the rest of me. I still had little flecks
of dried blood on my shoulders, and I thought I probably had some on my
back too, the way my skin was pulling. The one nice thing about dried
blood, though, is that you don't even really have to scrub at it. A couple
minutes under the hot, pounding spray of the water and it comes right off.

After I was clean, I just stood in the spray for a while and let it beat my sore
muscles back into a semblance of normalcy, and luxuriated in the nice
warm feeling of being clean.

I got out of the shower when the hot water ran out and my skin was starting
to prune anyway. The pajamas I had been wearing were dirty, so I didn't
want to put them back on. I wrapped a towel around myself instead. It was
one of the towels that I'd stolen from a hotel that I'd raided one night. Hey,
they'd left their doors unlocked. And one of the maids had left her little cart
sitting out in the middle of the hall. It was like an invitation. That particular
little expedition had kept me supplied with soap and shampoo for quite
some time, as well as providing all my towels.

The one thing about hotel towels, though, is that they're never big enough.
They're plenty thick, but they're always, always too small, like the hotel is
making towels for midgets instead of real people. Despite the fact that I'm
pretty small, the towel barely wrapped all the way around my waist, and
whenever I walked, on of my legs flashed a bit. The hula girl look. Yeah.

So I wandered out into my room, mostly undressed and with my damp hair
hanging around my face. The room was filled with the familiar, swift
clacking of that damn computer's keyboard, and I could vaguely see Heero
through the curtain of my hair, sitting at the desk with perfect posture, as
always. Wufei wasn't on Heero's bed any more, and the covers had been
straightened so there wasn't even an indentation where he'd been sitting.

Damn if it didn't look like the set up for a porno movie or something. I only
wish.

"Glad to see you too, Heero." I muttered when he didn't even turn around to
look at me

"Wufei said you were feeling better." Was his answer.

"Yeah." I dug around in the drawers under my bed until I found a pair of
black pants and one of my usual shirts to put on.

"That's good."

I couldn't think of anything to say, so I said "Yeah." again.

Suddenly, Heero was up out of his chair and standing behind me. He
grabbed me, and his hands were very cold on my water warmed upper arms.
He was holding me pretty tightly, but at least he'd grabbed my arms instead
of my shoulders, so he wasn't grabbing the bruises.

But I wasn't thinking about that, not really. All I could think of was the fact
that Heero was grabbing me pretty hard, and I remembered how pissed he'd
looked when I came to three nights ago. Maybe the look had been directed
at me, after all, and he was going to follow up on all of his threats and kill
me.

So I started babbling. "Heero, I'm sorry! Don't kill me, I'm really sorry
about whatever I did..." and on and on and on.

Heero let me babble for a few minutes, and then he shook me sharply, just
once. "Urusai." he said.

I did the smart thing and shut up.

There was a long, long pause, and Heero abruptly let go of my arms and
walked away. "I'm glad you're feeling better. I was...worried."

For once, I didn't know what to say. I just stood there with water dripping
out of my hair and onto the floor. I could still feel the cold of Heero's hands
on my arms. My brain was running in an endless, happy little circle that
kept repeating /Heero was worried Heero was worried Heero was worried.../
over and over again.

Heero, of course, couldn't leave well enough alone. "We have a mission
tomorrow. We need Deathscythe." He said a little too quickly.

My thoughts ground to a screeching halt. Shit. "I see." I said. Shit shit shit
shit shit. I sighed quietly, anything to keep from throwing myself at Heero
and attempting to kill him, and pulled my shirt and pants on.

***

"You bastard! You scratched Deathcythe's paint! You're going to DIE!!!!" I
shrieked at the top of my lungs, right before I sliced the offending Leo and
one of its buddies in half with a single slash of my thermal scythe.

Ok, so maybe I had a little hostility that still needed to be worked out of my
system.

What better to take it out on than some hapless Leos, though. They're kind
of like the red shirts from that old show...Star Trek, I think it was.
Completely expendable, or else Oz would send something a little better
against us. So in my eyes, they're just begging to be killed, and I was more
than happy to oblige, especially considering the pissed off mood I was in.

Maniacal laughter bubbled up between my lips and I reversed the course of
the scythe, cutting a Leo that had been trying to shoot me in the back off at
the knees. It hit the ground and exploded in a most satisfying manner. I
could almost feel waves of disapproval coming through my com link to
Heero as I let off another round of semi-hysterical yelling.

Not that I cared what he thought, though. After giving me the brush off the
night before, Heero had proceeded to ignore me until it was time to go to
bed. I would have liked to stay up and pursue the vampire problem, but
missions had to take precedence over playing with vampires. Besides...I
hadn't had any idea of what to do anyway. I really needed to find someone
that could give me a little more to go on about vampires.

"Three behind you, Duo." Heero said calmly.

"Haiiii!" I caroled, abruptly engaging my thrusters for a high jump, then
crashing down on the Leos. One of them was completely crushed under me.
I cut the other two down.

It had been a /VERY/ frustrating day.

I was trapped in a truck with Heero all the way to the staging area for the
mission. He ignored me the entire time, and so I had to talk the entire time
to keep the absolute silence from getting to me. Not that I would have kept
quiet otherwise, but...anyway. The one time I'd turned the radio on, he'd
turned it off and yanked the knob off. We'd met up with Quatre and Trowa,
and I must have had that maniacal gleam in my eye, because Quatre looked
worried when he saw me. We (or rather, Heero) decided that Quatre and
Trowa would take the main job, which was to blow up the base we were
attacking, and Heero and I would run interference and act as a diversion.
Wufei was off on a mission of his own; he'd left before us and had said he
wouldn't be back for several days.

A sudden blast rocked Deathscythe, and I abruptly started concentrating on
the fight again. There was a heavy cannon behind me. It must have gotten
there while I was dwelling on what an insensitive /jerk/ that bastard Heero
was...

/Stop that./ I said to myself.

Abruptly, Wing was between the cannon and I, as it fired again. Heero's
Gundam was enveloped completely in the blast, and for one heart stopping
moment, I thought that something might have happened...but no. A glance
at the com link showed that Heero was still there. Of course. I wasn't sure
he even knew how to give up, let alone die.

There was a second blast as the cannon blew up. Obviously, getting shot
with a vulcan cannon didn't agree with it.

I know it certainly didn't agree with me.

Almost negligently, I half turned and reduced the Leo that had been trying
to shoot me with its pathetic excuse for a gun into a small pile of slag. "Ne,
Heero, how many left?"

"As many as there are until Trowa and Quatre blow the base."

Unhelpful jerk.

I went back to destroying the Leos and few isolated Tauruses until the entire
eastern part of the sky lit up. It wasn't time for dawn, yet, and the sun
doesn't rise all that fast, so that was our signal. Heero immediately took to
the air and grabbed Deathscythe, while I continued to yell at the few
remaining mobile suits on the field that we were rapidly leaving behind.

It was immature, I know, but god, it felt good.

***

Later, when we got back to the room, it was still nicely dark, promising at
least a few hours of sleep before I had to haul my sorry, dragging ass out of
bed for school. I couldn't wait to hear what all the girls would have to say
about the state of my face. The hot shower and being slammed around in
Deathscythe's cockpit hadn't helped things. I had crusty scabs all over my
cheeks and forehead, and I was a mass of bruises that were that nasty
yellow-green that really bad bruises turn when they're just starting to heal.

Someone had picked the lock on our room, which upset Heero, quite a bit, I
think, and had left a little present on my bed for me. He made me sit outside
while he swept the room for bugs, explosives, banana splits (ok, well,
maybe not that) and the like. Of course, he found nothing.

Except for the box on my bed, that is. After taking one look at the box, I
had a feeling that it was a present from Tamlin. Or at least I hoped so. It
was plain, white, and looked like a box that you'd get long stemmed roses in
or something. Really long stemmed roses. I opened it and was pleasantly
surprised by the contents. There was a sawed off shotgun like the one
Tamlin had, and a smaller box that had ammunition in it that seemed to be
made of silver. There were also three hand guns, a Beretta 9mm Cougar F
and two Browning .40 Hi Power IIIs, with silver ammo to go with them,
too. Nice stuff. Heero immediately took the guns apart and put them back
together, just to make sure that they were ordinary guns and would work,
etc. They were.

After we got the weapons divided up (one of the Brownings for me, the
Beretta for Heero, and the other Browning and the shot gun squirreled away
with the other guns that Heero had hidden in our room when we first got to
the school) and the excitement was over, I went back to my bed, intending
to sleep. There was a little white business card on my pillow. I guess it must
have fallen out of the box when I was taking the guns out. The card was
completely blank except for a phone number that had been written on it
lightly with pencil.

I sighed and put the card down on the chair that was still sitting beside my
bed. I supposed that I'd have to try the number tomorrow. It would seem
kind of rude not to, after Tamlin or whoever had gone to all the trouble of
getting us the new toys.

The mysterious shit was really starting to get on my nerves, though.