Brown sand didn't glow in the moonlight the way white sand would have, but there were lights on the fence, enough to illuminate the large yard. The metal
chain-link fencing was fifteen feet high and lined with barbed wire, five hundred volts of electricity preventing anyone from climbing in or out. But no one had
tried to escape since Duo had arrived, and he was sure the fence worked more to keep people out, rather than in. The yard didn't sport grass in the arid
climate, but there were tables set out, small shelters that reminded him of the ones in public parks. He sat on the table of one such shelter, his legs folded
under him as he faced the flat, dark expanse of desert. They really had picked a marvelously isolated place. It made him wonder what state they were in.
Raising an eyebrow, Duo cocked his head to the side, his arms tightening around himself. "Texas, maybe."
//This is Nevada.//
"Arizona," Duo continued, nodding his head sharply. "Yeah, that sounds about right."
//What are you playing? How long do you think this can last?//
The voice was soft, unconcerned, and carefully void of any threatening tone. Duo smirked. "To think I used to miss this, it's so pretty at night. The moon
really looks brighter without all of the streetlights." A low growl whispered in his ear, but it was almost too quiet for him to hear. If anything, it made him come
close to forgetting his anger. It wasn't often that he held the upper hand over the demon. But it knew better than to push him now. He was more awake than
he'd been in days; caffeine really was a wonderfully addictive drug. "What's the point in sleeping, anyway? So many hours wasted for nothing."
"Is this a better way to spend your time?" Wufei's lips twitched when the longhaired boy nearly fell off the table, turning so fast. But he didn't smile, lifting a
cup by way of greeting as he moved to sit beside Duo. "Coffee?"
"Don't mind if I do," Duo said lightly, flashing his friend a smile.
"Are you really planning to stay awake indefinitely? You'll just make yourself sick trying." Dark eyes flicked away from him and Wufei turned his gaze to the
desert visible outside the fence.
"Don't get me wrong," Duo muttered, pausing to take a drink from the mug. "I'm not stupid enough to think I can just stop sleeping. Just consider this a test."
"Quatre's worried." It was cooler than the daytime and Wufei leaned forward on his knees, his white shirt not keeping out the breeze. The boy was looking at
him again and he frowned at Duo's dark expression.
"So you're not the only one up." Duo turned toward the doors, glaring at the dark wall of the facility. "I can't stop Quatre from worrying, but I didn't expect the
rest of you to."
"What are you planning?" Wufei asked, his voice quiet. They were allowed to roam freely, but he remembered what the boy had said about cameras. It made
"What are you going to do about this?" Wufei qualified, frowning when the boy turned wide eyes on him.
"There isn't anything to *do* about it," Duo said, "don't you think I would have done something before now if there was? If you want to know what I'm planning
right now, I plan to drink a shit load of coffee and pay the bastard back for earlier. Then, I'm going to get myself a room and sleep for a few weeks."
"You already *have* a room," Wufei reminded him, his eyes narrow. "But what do you mean, pay it back?"
"Well, it doesn't have control when I'm focused, I'm stronger then." Duo smirked suddenly, clamping down on the voice that tried to argue with his words. "You
might say I'm giving it the silent treatment. Believe it or not, but it usually hates that. I may not be able to stay awake forever, but I figure a few days should be
"And then what? Won't that just make it angry?" Wufei glared when the boy shrugged and turned away from him. "So you're going to make it angry on
purpose. What do you think is going to happen when you're too weak to stay awake?"
"Don't worry," Duo said softly, grabbing the cup and hopping to his feet. "I told you guys earlier, it won't kill me. Lately what happens in my dreams is gone
when I wake up. And as long as I'm no where near you guys, there's no problem." He didn't glance back as he walked to the doors, but he heard Wufei jump
to his feet and he paused, waiting for the teenager to catch up.
"Nothing happened to *us* when you were dreaming," Wufei said quickly, catching Duo's arm. The boy tensed and he let go quickly, his hands curling into
fists. "You don't have to isolate yourself to protect us. And your idea of revenge on the thing is flawed, Duo. You have to realize that staying awake for so
long just means you'll sleep longer when you break. I admit, we haven't had any luck waking you from your nightmares before, but you *did* wake up this
time. If we're there, we can wake you up when things get bad."
"Do you know what happened when I woke up?" Duo asked, not looking to the boy standing behind him. "It stabbed me...and *twisted* the knife. Believe me,
I'd rather have kept sleeping."
"Then we won't wake you up! That still doesn't mean we're going to leave you to that thing by yourself. Duo, we're not going to let you move out."
There was something about the Chinese boy's voice, a ring of familiarity that sent a cold chill down Duo's back. His eyes narrowed and he could tell the
demon was paying close attention. But he couldn't help the feeling. "We...or *you*...?" He turned sharply, taking in Wufei's startled expression. Dark eyes
blinked at him and he moved away, grabbing the door. "Don't get attached to me, Wufei. Friends of mine...people close to me have a habit of changing...or
Wufei jerked when the boy stepped into the building. "Duo-"
"I'll be in the cafeteria," Duo called, not slowing as he walked down the hall. "Get some sleep. I'll see you guys in the morning."
* * *
The cafeteria stayed lit at all hours and Duo took his usual seat. They had access to the kitchen despite the fact that meals were prepared in a room
adjoining the main one. The door to that area was sealed, though, and they never saw the people who cooked for them. Not that he'd ever wondered about
it. As far as he was concerned, it didn't matter who cooked so long as it wasn't him. The coffee dispenser was constantly full, and that was all he cared
about. An hour passed as he sat, keeping an eye on the doorway that led to the dormitory. But it seemed Wufei had delivered his message. Hopefully he
wouldn't be getting any more concerned visitors.
//They're still awake, talking about you and your plan.//
Duo was half tempted to silence the thing, display his power over it, but he didn't want to do that. Then he'd be admitting he was listening. Instead, he leaned
comfortably against the table, sighing as his eyes slid over the wide room.
//You can't ignore me. Wufei is right, you don't want to make me angry, Duo.//
That didn't deserve a response even if he'd been willing to talk to it and Duo rested his chin in his folded hands. He was already tired, as if the caffeine had
reached its limit and was now having the opposite effect. But he'd never fallen asleep with his eyes open so he wasn't that worried.
//He isn't like Solo, Duo. I can read his thoughts the same as I can yours and you're wrong about that. You said you don't hate him, but I already knew that. It
isn't *his* attachment that worries you, it's your own. You're getting attached again. It makes things so much easier for me. Whether he acts on the thoughts
running through his head doesn't matter when I know your feelings. You're so desperate it's sickening. Your need for comfort, but it's more now. Do you
know? Solo never saw you as anything but the little brother he never had. You blame me for his death almost as much as you blame yourself, but it was his
choice. He thought I planned to kill you. Neither of you was supposed to die, certainly not him. Believe me, I would have rather he lived. I never thought I'd
have more people to use on you.//
Duo's eyes narrowed for a moment before he calmed his anger. He wouldn't let it affect him, not this time. It was quite talkative now that he refused to hold a
conversation with it. If it wanted to talk so badly, he'd let it. After all, it *would* help him pass the time.
//Pretend you aren't interested if you have to, but we both know differently. It's too late to try and push them away from you now. Trowa is the only one you
could try with and he would never ignore the pain of Quatre's friend. You do know about them, don't you? I thought so. If you hold out long enough, he'll form
his own bond, but Quatre already cares deeply about you.//
His mouth opened, but he clenched his teeth shut almost immediately, his eyes narrowing again. It wasn't telling him anything. Of course Quatre cared about
him, that was common knowledge. In which case, he shouldn't be bothered by it. Staring at his hands, Duo blinked a few times before relaxing again. He
*wasn't* bothered by it.
//Wufei, then. Do you know you might be his first friend? You aren't the only one who had a lonely childhood. He never had someone to talk to the way you
did, ungrateful as you are. He's been drawn to you since the first time you met, but he isn't like Solo, no, he's very different from Solo. I think I'll let him live.
Want to know why? Stubborn. But I'll tell you. He's more use to me alive. I might even use him after you give in. You think I'm just trying to anger you, I can
tell. You're wrong, though, you *will* give in eventually. You'll regret this when you fall asleep, Duo. It just gives me time to make my *own* plans. Wufei has
such potential. He thinks he's so good at hiding things, I like him as much as you do, though in a different way, of course. As old as I am, I still have much to
learn about you humans. If it weren't for him, I might have missed the changes in you.//
He didn't know what it was talking about, but his silence was hard to hold onto. Questions were trying to form in his mind and he was close to shutting it out.
Giving in wasn't something he worried about, he was confident in his own will power, but he couldn't fight the foreboding that bubbled up at its words. Wufei
*was* the optimum choice, though, he'd give it that much. Actually, he had expected that much sooner.
//And you'll get exactly what you'd expected, but so much more than that, Duo. You have no idea what I'm planning to do. I do so enjoy surprising you. You
may know the form, but not the method... Yes, you're right. You don't have to ask the question, Duo. I know you're determined not to speak to me, but I can
read it in your mind. Do you think you can hide *anything* from me? You're smarter than that. I *have* left one out. But that's because he doesn't matter. I'm
going to kill him.//
"Why?! He doesn't even *know* me!" His voice echoed in the room and Duo nearly winced to hear it. He hadn't meant to speak to the damned thing, but that
short phrase had shocked him with the pure ice in the tone.
//Why don't I play with him like the others? It doesn't matter why, Duo. I've already decided. He dies.//
Confusion widened his eyes and Duo stared at his hands. They were shaking. It had to be tormenting him, surely that was why it planned to kill Heero. There
was no other reason. The others were close to him so it would play with them, drawing out their pain to add to his. He barely knew the Japanese boy so the
best way to hurt him would be to add his new friend's death to his already overburdened conscience. Duo blinked when a growl sent shivers down his back.
//He isn't worth using to get to you. He'll die because I *want* to kill him, not to add to your ridiculous notion of guilt. I only tell you his fate because his name
was in your mind. Wipe it away. Don't bother getting to know him. Spare yourself that pain, I'll give you enough with the others. There's no need to make it
worse, believe me, what I plan is bad enough.//
He'd already broken his pledge not to speak to it and Duo glared at his hands, his voice cold. "The why *does* matter. Why him? If it isn't to hurt me, then
why? What makes you hate him so much? I thought you were beyond such *human* feelings."
//Make no mistake, Duo, I have no feelings such as yours. I don't hate him. I will peel the skin off his hand, strip by strip, break every bone, and extract the
shards through his flesh. His actual death will be even slower. Yes...shudder, Duo, it will be severe. Buy you see, don't you? I don't hate him. It is so much
more than hate. There is no comparison.//
//It doesn't matter. Accept it, and keep your distance.//
* * *