I didn't even get the door a fraction of the way open before Heero's hand shot from his side and forced it closed again. But he jerked his hand back like I did before, and the wood shied away from his touch before returning into its previous place. He saw that and then stared at me in surprise. "What the hell was that?"
"The door," I said, as if it was nothing. "It doesn't like you." I shrugged. To have an idea of what we were talking about, Trowa and Wufei touched the door. They both had the same reaction. Actually, it appeared that the stinging hurt them more than it hurt me. I wasn't surprised. But at the same time, how did it distinguish my touch from the others?
"Quatre," Wufei started, still staring at the door. "It...moved."
"Yeah, I know. It doesn't like you either."
"Well, apparently, only Quatre can open it," Trowa said thoughtfully.
"Yeah, I'm sure you're right. So go ahead Quatre," Wufei encouraged, "open it."
"You can't be serious!" I flinched at Relena's piercing voice. I don't know if it was the hour of the evening or what, but my eardrums seemed to be more sensitive all of a sudden. Wufei, as tactfully as he could, covered his ears and glared at her.
"I agree with Relena," Heero began with that nasal voice of his. "It's a bad idea. Lock it. We don't know what we're up against."
"But O--Heero," I started, almost calling him ‘Odin'. Whoops, that would've been bad. "We can't learn about him if we run away from things like this. We know he doesn't like fire. That doesn't do a whole lot of good if for some reason we can't make a fire. He was trying to show me something. I want to see what it is. It could possibly help."
I started to reach for the knob when once again, someone grabbed my wrist. I looked at him, completely spent on patience, and was not fazed by his death glare. He is so stubborn. "You're not going."
"Heero, this is not a democracy. If you don't like it, don't follow us."
"Quatre, I'm going to–"
"Heero, go with them, I'll take the girls downstairs." Duo eloquently slid between Heero and myself, thereby removing his hand from my wrist. He smiled lopsided at me before removing himself from between us and closing his hand around Relena's arm, gesturing towards Dorothy. "Come on Relena, let's wait downstairs."
She, of course, didn't like that idea. "No Duo, I'm staying right here!" She stamped her foot and crossed her arms. "I'm not moving until you all come to your senses!" The one thing I know about Duo is that he doesn't like to give orders. It's just not his style. But when he does, they are meant to be obeyed. Period. I don't think anybody explained that to Relena, and I will never forget the look on her face. Duo, I don't know how he did this with his body still injured, shrugged his shoulders at the rest of us, bent forward, grabbed Relena by her arm and behind her legs, and hoisted her up and over his shoulder like a bag. I'm serious. She was shocked speechless. Her face was nothing but two enormous eyes and her mouth in the shape of an ‘O'. Under any other circumstances, I would've died laughing.
Anyway, nothing else was said. He started walking down the stairs with her over his shoulder as if it was an everyday thing, and Dorothy followed right behind them out into the kitchen. She didn't make so much as a peep the whole night.
I heard the metallic hiss of a sword being drawn and the safety of a gun come undone as I turned back to face Heero. He had opened his mouth and was about to say something about Duo, no doubt, when Wufei interrupted him.
"Don't start. He did what needed to be done. We don't have time for her princess shit." I went ahead and reached for the door as quickly as I could to avoid another fight. I don't know what it is about us, that when we are in life threatening situations, we have to argue.
I easily, this time without any pain whatsoever, opened the door and let it stop itself against the wall. The sight that greeted us was nothing new from what I remember. Involuntarily, all of us pulled our various shirts up to the bottom of our eyelids. I can't explain the smell of something that not only is dead, but decayed to a certain extent. It's just indescribable. I could still see him too. The way the maggots gathered in the corner of his eye sockets, the way his jaw laid haphazardly against his skeletal neck, the way his skin appeared dried and stretched like leather. I think I'm about to throw up.
I was nudged from the back by a sharp point–meaning Wufei's sword–and stepped forward into the attic. Everything was still as we had left it: the shelf was standing from when I knocked it over, but the books were scattered along the floor. The various desks and table tops that we rummaged through had our hand prints on it, just glazed over with a new layer of dust.
Trowa, with his gun, carefully started down an aisle. Wufei went down the one next to him. Heero, with a lighter, lit the candle that sat near the door on a small desk. That illuminated the room a great deal. This time I noticed that there weren't any windows, just stacks and stacks of books that tried to reach the ceiling. I moved over to a corner where I could still see the remains from when Duo lost his lunch those years ago. I couldn't see it from where I was standing, but I remember that at the back, that's where Trowa found the jugs of embalming fluid and kerosine, and to my right towards the back, I could faintly see the edge of the freezer where Dr. Corvidophilia was kept. I must admit, when Krahe gave me back my memory, he wasn't selective. He let me remember everything.
"There's nothing here," Wufei complained with a muffled voice when he met Heero and I in the center of the room. Trowa was a half step behind him. "There is nothing else here that we don't know about. I don't understand."
I shrugged, though it was difficult to see through my raised shirt. "I told you. He wants to show only me. Of course we're not going to find anything, not with you guys here. I'll have to do it."
"Quatre, you are not coming up here by yourself," Heero said through his hand. "It's too dangerous since you seem to be a target."
"I'm getting out of here. This place gives me the creeps." Wufei shoved right between Heero and I on his way out. Heero followed right behind him, then Trowa, and I was last. But before I walked through the door, I turned back and looked around one last time, then blew out the candle. I closed the door behind me, and before I had a chance to even exhale, Heero yanked the key off my wrist, almost snapping the chain, and tried to lock the door. Every time he put his hand on the knob, it stung him. After his third try, I got tired of watching him flinch and took the key, locking it for him. "There, happy now?"
He peered at me strangely. "Why is it that it hurts us and not you?"
The other two stopped in their tracks and turned to face us. "Yeah Quatre, you don't seem affected, unless you have a hell of a pain tolerance."
"Well Wu, it did the first two times, then it stopped. Plus, like I said before, it doesn't like you."
Wufei made a face that I couldn't quite put into words. "Quatre, when you say stuff like ‘he wants to show only me' and ‘the door doesn't like you,' it makes me nervous. Besides, did it do that before?"
I thought back to the day I found the key. It was only Trowa and Duo with me the first time I opened it. Wait– "I opened it the first time. Remember Trowa?" He looked at me curiously. "You had the gun and Duo had the machete, and I had the key. I opened it the first time." He nodded, so I turned to Wufei. "And no, nothing like this happened. But then I passed out. Yeah, because I saw...the corpse. And Wu, you kept me from being squashed from the shelf. But I didn't close it, so who did?"
"Duo did," Heero supplied. "But he didn't touch it with his bare hands, I don't think. He used the ends of the sweatshirt he was wearing. Then we burned them all because of the smell." He made a face and glared at the door. On an unconscious cue, all of us sniffed our clothes, then looked up at each other, disgusted.
"We're not burning them this time, especially with our supplies getting low and the weather being what it is," Wufei said with a frown.
"I'm with you on that Wu," I commented, lagging behind him down the stairs. I don't care. If I have to choose between being a frozen ice cube and just smelling bad, then I guess I'll have to be a walking stink bomb. The girls will just have to deal. Who knows, maybe Dorothy's perfume could cover it up, then it won't be so bad.
That was another adventure. When we finally made it down the stairs, Dorothy and Duo were on the Victorian couch, quietly sitting, and Relena sat in one of the dining room chairs, and the only way to describe her mood was to say that she was pissed. Royally. Her eyes seemed to burn a hole in the middle of Duo's forehead. And he stared back at her, completely impassive. I don't blame him either. Nobody could, not even Heero. In my experience of war, I learned that you do what's smart, and that you do what you're told, especially if the person giving orders was more experienced than you. But in my case, I'm usually the one ordering people around, so I couldn't complain. But she's the civilian, and we're the soldiers. No contest. Of course, I don't think anyone explained that to her either.
"Heero!" She flew from her seat and almost plowed right into him. "That was totally uncalled for! You," she turned and glared at Duo, "do not pick up a lady in such a manner." She turned back to Heero. "And I can not believe you let that happen!"
"Relena, I AM the head of your bodyguard. There is nothing Heero can actually do to control me. He's not my boss, your brother is."
"Well, I'll just have to talk to him about that, won't I?"
He barked a laugh. "By the time we get back, my two weeks will be up anyway. No need to waste your breath ‘oh she who raiseth much hell'." He laughed at his own joke, then started up the stairs.
The rest of us followed behind him, and I held out my hand for Dorothy to take. I could see in her face how absolutely tired and frightened she was. Anyway, we headed up the stairs, minus Relena and Heero of course, and headed for our designated rooms. I actually saw that Duo was heading towards the unoccupied room instead of Heero's (not that I blame him), and decided then to ask what was on my mind. "Duo, did I do something to upset you? You've been ignoring me." I tried to hurry after him, but Wufei caught the back of my shirt, stopping me.
Duo paused in his step, and with his back facing me, called to me over his shoulder. "Quatre, do you trust me?"
I couldn't help but be taken back to the time when I asked Duo the same question in Wufei's apartment right before I kissed him. If he could trust me so openly, I could trust him. "Yes, I do."
"Then believe me when I say that I'm doing this for your own benefit." With no more explanation than that, he briskly entered his room and closed the door behind him. I gaped.
"Come on Quatre." Wufei continued to tug on my shirt, and I allowed myself to be pulled into the room as I thought about Duo and vaguely heard Relena and Heero's angry shouts in the air.
I watched the ant dive back in between the wooden planks. In another minute, he'll come up to see if I'm still here, run around in a little circle, and dive right back down again. I laid on the floor in my pajamas, regarding the ant and its habits while mentally trying to shut myself down. I want to sleep but I'm not tired. I want to know what's going on but I don't want to get off my tail to go find out. Blah.
Annoyed and wide awake, I sat up on the floor and peered over the bedspread to see Wufei sound asleep. Good. I got up as stealthily as I could and tip toed out into the hallway, leaving the door cracked. Glancing around to make sure that Dorothy wasn't in the hallway again, which I seriously doubt, I made my way down the stairs and through the kitchen to the base of the attic stairs.
I didn't have any shoes on, so I tried to be mindful of anything on the staircase as I ascended it. Taking the key off of my wrist, I unlocked the door. "Okay, here we go," I said to myself as I cracked it open.
My first surprise was the candle. It was lit. I thought I blew it out, but then again, I'm glad it was lit because I forgot to get a lighter or a flashlight. That works for me. Opening the door further, I didn't see anything flying around or floating in the air. Thank Allah. I carefully entered the attic, but stood near the doorway because I didn't know what to do next. What could I find out that we all didn't already know?
I did my best not to turn around and run screaming for all I was worth. But I can do this. I can do this, right? Right. I'm a gundam pilot. I can do anything.
Walking by, I went to the desk where I first found the journal and touched the surface to move some papers around. A jolt of who knows what ran up my arm and I yelped at the contact. It didn't hurt me at all, it just...surprised me. This didn't happen before. What the...?
I reached forward and touched it again, and I could understand more clearly. It was whispering to me. I couldn't catch all of what it was saying. It was mostly facts though. Wingspans, beak sizes, scientific terms, Latin names, things like that. So I went around and touched each table and pretty much got the same kind of thing. All he and his father did was research in this room, except when I touched the main table and Krahe's desk.
The main table, a silver table where the birds were dissected and studied, was filled with anguish screams, torture, and pain. I'm not sure if the crows were dead when this happened to them. There was also a lot of anger on this table from the father. He was upset that he couldn't find the answer to what made crows so special. How were they the chosen birds of souls?
Lastly, I went to Krahe's desk. I seated myself, staring at the candle that sat in the corner of the desk, and touched the surfaced lightly with my fingertips. I flinched hard at the stinging contact, this one being the only painful one, but I wouldn't remove my hands.
Krahe shed many tears here. He would cry, when he was younger, when his father made him stay and study this fact or that, and learn the organs and their functions by several different names. He would write until his fingers were bruised or sometimes bled. He was sitting here when he was told that his mother was dead, and when his father admitted that he was the one who killed her. He was beaten here too. His father stretched him over this very desk, and whipped him until he couldn't stand up straight because he never said a word about her infidelity, or his attachment to other boys...
I stood up and knocked the chair away from me, drenched with sweat and breathing rapidly. My heart felt like it would burst from my chest. I stared at the candle, unable to look at anything else. I remembered a detail about another candle, and testing that theory, I slowly ran my hand over the flame.
It was cold.
I drew my hand back and stared at it for another second before I scurried to the door, closed it behind me, and locked it. All of a sudden I was terribly afraid. I was afraid to look behind me in case he was there. I was afraid to open the door because he might be there, or something worse. I was just afraid of everything.
So I sat down on the floor with the key in my hand, crossed my arms and legs, closed my eyes, and refused to move.