The first thing I was aware of was the fact that I wasn't dead. That was a huge plus. The next thing I was aware of was that I could see, but my eyes weren't open. I could breathe, but my lungs weren't inhaling and exhaling the air like they're supposed to do. I knew that I was standing but I felt totally weightless. Everything in this plain of existence defied every proven law on Earth. It was, strangely, frightening and awe inspiring. It was like a lie and the truth were the same thing. There was both nothing here and everything here, joined together and existing in the exact same space. Fact and theory weren't indiscernible. All that expanded before me was a bright blue haze that didn't have a ceiling or a floor. It stretched out in every direction into forever.
"That's not needed here," his voice said in my head.
"What's not needed here?" I asked back, amazed that I knew how.
"That. Thought. Don't try to make sense of this. Just accept it."
"I can't. This shouldn't be possible..."
"It's all in your head," his voice said, a bit of humor in it. "If you don't think about it, it will make sense to you."
"There is no ‘why' in this place. Things are the way they are because they are. That's all."
"How do I get out of here?" I asked, my voice a bit frantic.
He smirked. I don't know how I knew, I just did. "Why would you want to leave? Stay here with me. There aren't any limitations to what you can do here."
"I don't belong here."
"Yes, you do."
"This is not my place."
"Your place is with me. Don't you see what I'm trying to offer to you? An afterlife without death. You can live forever."
"I'm not afraid of dying," I shot back as I felt my surroundings change. The light seemed to have gotten dimmer, and the space around me appeared to have more substance. "I am not afraid to die. That, you should know better than almost anyone, and I will not stay with you. I refuse your offer Krahe. My answer was and will always be no."
"You will change your mind and come to me," he retorted, his voice muffled as I felt myself being pulled away from him. "Or someone else will. I'll get what I want, one way or another..."
The next thing I was aware of was something extremely hard underneath me. I realized immediately that that something was actually the staircase I was currently falling down. When I reached the base of the stairs and hit the floor, I took what felt like my first gasp of air in a thousand years, and felt my heart start to pound violently in my chest.
I could also tell, very faintly, that I was curled up in a fetal position. My hands were closed tightly into tiny fists, and my arms were locked, criss crossed on my chest. My back was arched so much that I thought my spine would snap at any second. My knees seemed to be acquainted with my chin, and the cold that was rolling off of my body made me think that if I didn't return to Krahe, I would melt.
Other than that, I really couldn't say what else was going on. There was a lot of activity around me, I could tell that much, but not who or what it was. All I wanted was something to warm me up. A blanket, a cup of tea, and a book and I would've been a very happy camper. Guess I'll take a nap instead.
The tickling on my nose wouldn't stop. I was grateful for it though. That dream where I fell through the ice while the others watched was about to replay itself for the fourth time. It's been two weeks since I've had that dream, and I didn't want to ever have it again. I think I aim too high. Maybe if I tried to go a month or two without it, then build from there, I would be more successful. Who knows. After all that I've been through, even the hypnotism, I still couldn't get rid of it. I guess it's a part of me now that I'll have to accept, just like the nightmares from the war.
That did it. Whatever was trying to crawl up my nose had gone too far. When I sneezed, I was pulled completely into consciousness. Well, I couldn't help it. For one, when I sneezed, it made my stomach muscles ache because they were contracted for so long. Then again, I really couldn't help it, because my nose was pressed against something, so when I did sneeze, some of it was sprayed back into my face.
Wasn't THAT a pleasant awakening.
I cracked one eye open, the dot of mucous on my eyelid not bothering me much, and stared at something smooth. Not knowing what it was, I cracked my other eye open and sat up, but rested the weight of my upper body on my elbow. Oh no.
It was Dorothy. She was sleeping next to me, but wore a sleeveless night shirt. I guess during the time that I was asleep, she must've laid down next to me and fell asleep also, where I rolled over and accidentally pressed my nose against her shoulder. It was her hair that was tickling my nose. Worse yet, there was a huge, round, shiny, bright green booger glued to her shoulder.
"Shit," I whispered very, very softly.
I felt something shift behind me and turned my head to see Wufei, who looked at me with a great deal of disgust. I quickly wiped my face off with the back of my sleeve (oh, like you've never done that before!) and glared right back at him. I refused to be embarrassed. Besides, I can't be intimidated by the man who was caught with a tootsie roll stuck up his nose and then ate it afterwards anyway.
Wufei glared at me a final time before his eyes widened to the point where I thought they would burst. That booger was so big, HE could see it and he was on the other side of ME.
"Oh shit," he whispered also.
"Yeah, no kidding."
"We better go." Wufei carefully slid off the bed, and not giving me a chance to react, grabbed my arm and started to drag me across the sheets. I landed on cat feet and both of us started to sneak our way out of the room. I felt like I was Scooby Doo and Wufei was Shaggy, the way we were tip toeing to safety, completely synchronized in our movements, which were almost too slow to be physically possible to stay upright.
Once the door was closed, Wufei reached for my shoulder and propelled me a few feet down the hall into what was his room those years ago. I caught a glimpse of the sunlight coming in from the windows downstairs, and I could tell that dusk was approaching. I also noticed that we were the only ones resting; I could make out Heero's voice in the room at the far end, along with Relena's, and Trowa was downstairs with Duo. I caught a glimpse of them standing next to the window. They were staring outside, looking for Krahe I assume.
Wufei gave me a gentle push into the room, and I flopped down on the bed. I've never really paid attention to this room before. It had a window above the headboard, about the size of a pizza box, the bed and that was it. Scarcely furnished at all. No wonder he liked this room. It gave him plenty of space to practice.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, settling himself comfortably on the bed. He laid on his side, and bent one arm at the elbow so that he could rest his head easily on his hand. He stretched the other arm out in front of him to keep his balance, and that was that. I sat with my legs crossed, fidgeting with my fingers. I really missed my ring, and regretted somewhat that Duo had it. I missed the comfort that touching it brought me.
"I'm fine. I just feel...off somehow."
I shrugged. "I don't know. It's hard to explain. I feel like nothing about me has changed, but at the same time, something has been added without me knowing."
"I see," he said after a moment's deliberation, then looked at me. "Do you remember anything?"
I leaned forward. "Remember anything about what?" Something was obviously wrong. Usually, Wufei is fast to lose his temper. But right now, he's as cool as a cucumber. I'm starting to wonder if he got into Duo's secret herb stash...
"Do you remember what happened to you when you jumped out the window?" he rephrased.
Then it clicked. My memory was certainly running for the hills. "Yes! I'm sorry Wu, I wasn't really thinking." I started to talk immediately before he could say something smart. "Well, I'm not sure how I can describe it without sounding like I'm crazy."
"Go ahead and do your best. I'm not here to judge."
I smiled. I should've known better. Wufei was the most sensible one in our group. "Okay. You see, when I jumped, I didn't think that it would work. I thought that I would die." We were facing each other, so I caught a slight twitch in his features when I said that. "But then, at the same time I thought I had hit the ground, I saw this amazing blue...haze. That's all it was. It wasn't tangible, but it was all around me. I could see things without using my eyes, and I could touch things without physically reaching out. There's no way to truly describe it. It was like being a star in outer space."
He nodded. "Was...he there?"
I replied instantly. I already knew he was going to ask that. "Yes."
"What did he say?" He raised himself up on his elbow.
"Oh, you know, the usual stuff. You belong to me, come with me, Luke, I am your father."
"Very funny. What happened next?"
I had to think about this a bit. "I'm not totally sure. I was being pulled away from him, that much I remember, but then I felt like I was falling down some stairs while freezing to death. After that, I woke up and....woke you up."
Wufei snickered a bit but didn't comment. "Okay, that sounds pretty good and consistent to what happened from my point of view."
"Speaking of which, why were you all outside? And what do you mean ‘from your point of view?' Wufei, tell me."
Wufei had his denial ‘gundam, what gundam' face on. "It's irrelevant now."
I crossed my arms firmly. "That may be true, but I still want to know why. That's your opinion on the matter, but don't hold things from me Fei. I thought we were better than that."
He sat up completely then. "We are, and don't go there with me."
"Well what do you expect for me to do? You all are keeping everything from me, and I don't know who or what to believe anymore." I really didn't feel this way, but believe it or not, Wufei's a real sucker for pity. All I needed now was a trembling lip, two sniffs, and a glistening teardrop and I would get the story.
He didn't last five seconds. "Fine. We were outside because...they were trying to stop me from leaving."
For all that was holy, I never expected that answer. "What? Leave? Why? I mean, I know why but why?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "That was my limit. I mean, you have no idea what's been going on when you're not around."
"Then tell me! How am I suppose to know if no one says anything?!"
He sighed. "Quatre, while you were outside at the plane, I, well, okay. All I know is that Duo and Trowa were sitting on the couch, glaring at each other to the point where I think it would've frightened Yuy. Anyway, Duo suddenly breaks the stare and turns to me, saying that something was wrong. I told him not to be silly and to stop it. Then, Trowa jumps up and screams your name. He grabs his coat and flies out the door like that god damn Tasmanian devil. Duo turns to me and says something's wrong with Odin and for me to get my ass out there."
I nodded. "How did they know? Duo I can understand. But Trowa?"
"I don't know! That's the thing! I get there and find out that all three of you were in danger. Worse yet, Krahe," he bit the name short, "had nothing to do with what happened. It was just an accident, and that's what pisses me off the most. It's hard enough not knowing what to do about him, then this shit happens. And when you told me about what he said about the portal, that did it. I was through. You don't know how...lost you looked when Odin explained what a portal was, and the look of betrayal on your face."
"Wu, don't worry about it. I was just hurt. I got over it–"
"That's not the point. Everything I have done when it came to...this ghost business has been against everything that I stand for. I went against it all, and it still hadn't helped you in the slightest. So I was going to leave. I wasn't of help either way."
"I'm not finished. There's more." Needless to say, I shut my mouth. "When you jumped...I can't explain it, just like you couldn't explain it to me, but I'll try." He smirked. I smiled. "Duo screamed like someone had just ripped his heart out. I turned around and saw you falling. Trowa and Heero took off towards you like an OZ troop was chasing them. But all I could do was stare, Quatre. One second, you were falling, then...you weren't there anymore. There wasn't any bright, flashing lights or loud noise to signal that something actually happened. You just disappeared." He waved his hand lazily in the air. "That was it. Gone. Duo was an absolute mess. I've never seen him that hurt or upset." He shook his head. "I hope, for the rest of my life, that I never see him cry like that again."
I shut my eyes tightly and turned my head away from Wufei. I didn't want to think about it. I still remember the defeated look in his eyes when he heard that Heero was going to propose to Relena. I didn't want to think about it. Not now. "How is he now?"
"He was asleep downstairs with Trowa the last time I checked. He should be up by now."
"Ah. What sedatives did you give him?"
Wufei blew out a long, slow breath. "We don't have any more sedatives."
My closed eyes tightened more and my fingernails dug into my palms. "Did you really have to–"
"Yes," he cut in shortly, "we did. He was out of control. He tried to jump after you, but Odin and I stopped him the best way we could. Otherwise, you know I wouldn't hurt him."
I sighed wearily. That was true. Wufei would never hurt another soul if he didn't have to. Duo had to have been completely wrecked. "Yes, of course Wu. I shouldn't have doubted you."
"And fuckin' Barton wasn't any help either."
I'm afraid my next question was more out of curiosity than concern. "What?"
He snorted. "That dick acted like he was a five year old who didn't get their toy or something. After Duo was taken care of, he stalked around for a while, not talking to anybody before locking himself in one of the rooms. Odin and I were on our way up the stairs to get him out when you...appeared." He held his hands up in a sign or bewilderment. I understand completely. How else do you describe something like that? "Odin was maybe five steps ahead of me. I was just about halfway up the stairs when you...just, rolled out of the step and started to tumble the rest of the way down. I was so close to you when it happened that I had to jump out of the way or else you would've rolled into me and knocked me down also."
I rubbed my sore back, not exactly agreeing with his decision. "Thanks a lot for your concern."
He smirked a bit at my sarcasm, but the smirk died immediately afterwards. "I'm glad I did move. When you hit the floor, the sound it made was sickening. It sounded as if a butcher dropped a dead cow on the floor. Relena and Dorothy were at the bottom, so you actually stopped against their feet. Odin and I ran to you and they went and got Trowa." He reached forward then and touched my face, outlining my cheek with his index finger.
"You felt like a block of ice," he said distractedly. "You took one deep gasp of air and that was it. Your arms were frozen to your chest and your legs were curled up to your chin. We couldn't pull you apart for anything. We started a fire and put you in front of it to thaw you out, literally. Then we put you in bed, and Dorothy and I stayed on both sides of you to keep you warm with our body heat."
I was amazed. "All of that happened in fifteen minutes?"
He looked back at me, half in shock and half in anger. "What are you talking about? You were gone for over four hours!"
"No way Wufei. Fifteen minutes max..." I stopped in mid--sentence. "Is this argument a case of deja vu, or is it just me?"
"Holy shit." Wufei hopped off the bed, and I followed after him. "We gotta tell the others."
"But that doesn't explain the idea of a portal. Why would one be in Oslo?" We skidded around the door and out into the hallway.
"There probably isn't one in Oslo. He travels that way by a different means." Wufei banged on the door to Heero's room, then we both started down the stairs.
"Like the crows for instance?"
Wufei paused briefly on the stairs. "Yes."
My foot barely touched the wooden floor before something with bright violet eyes and a long braid launched itself at me. "Quatre!"
I held him back as tightly as he held me and allowed him to cry quietly against my neck. Tears flowed down my face also. Duo's inexplicable happiness overwhelmed me. I did eventually open my eyes to see Trowa a few feet away, gazing at me like he'd never seen me before. When he realized that I was watching him watching me, he turned and walked away. I didn't have a chance to call to him, because someone else dug their hand in my hair and I felt his hot breath as he sighed into my hair. Heero.
"Are you alright?" he asked, his voice very deep and tired.
"I am now," I replied when I was able to speak. The fact that they were all worried about me caused me to choke on my sobs a bit. It's one thing to know it, but to actually see it happen in front of me was totally comforting. There was so much love for me in this room, I might pass out from the weight of it all.
"Quatre and I have something to explain to you all....what the hell is that?"
I followed Wufei's gaze out the window and could see that the storm was just as strong as it was earlier. However, that's not what he was talking about. I could see the plane a short distance ahead, and noticed that it was a little...orange over there. "Is that a fire in there?" I asked incredulously.
Duo eyes opened impossibly wide. "God damnit Relena!" He and Trowa simultaneously ran for their coats and shoes. I was a heartbeat behind them, getting suited up as well. "What's going on?"
"Relena," Duo spat bitterly, "told us that she thought she heard a plane. Trowa and I told her she was imaging things cause we didn't hear jack shit! She whines about going outside, so we let her. I'm guessing she's setting the freakin' plane on fire to get their attention, except there is no plane!"
"Shit shit shit!" Wufei shouted as he was the first one out the door, followed by Heero. I was a hair's breath behind them and could hear Duo and Trowa behind me. They caught up quickly to me though; I still wasn't in the best of shape to do anything that required a great deal of movement. Duo was fairing much better than I was. I guess he's just about recovered. Trowa slowed his pace to match mine, but that upset me. He needed to help Relena, not babysit me.
It's not that Relena's burning things in the plane. That's fine, because we did that the first three days here. It's that the fire looked WAY too big for it to be contained. There was aluminum from cans and things on there, and aluminum is extremely flammable. She lets that fire get any bigger and there won't BE a plane.
"Relena!" I screamed when I saw the exit door open and she jumped out, landing face down in the snow. A huge ball of flame flickered out right behind her and caused the rest of us to hit the ground. I continued to move forward though, slithering on my knees and elbows. I could see the others doing the same. Once a soldier, always a soldier.
Relena started towards us, but stopped and covered her head when another ball of fire erupted behind her. That gave Duo the few seconds he needed to reach her first. He pulled her towards him and started to crawl back towards us using his body as a shield over her. He got a good five feet away before he stood up and pulled her to her feet, waiting for Heero to tell him what he wanted him to do.
"Take her in and check her for burns!" he shouted to Duo over the wind. The storm started to pick up, making it more difficult for us to hear and breathe. Worse yet, it wasn't blowing in the direction of the fire to put it out. Of course. We couldn't be that lucky, now could we?
I quickly jumped to my feet and ran inside the plane to see the damage so far. The fire was towards the front of the plane in the passengers' seats. It didn't take up a lot of space, it was just that the flame was very high. "Wufei!"
His head came around the corner. "Yeah!"
"You can help Duo and Odin with Relena. Trowa and I can take of this!"
He nodded once and darted off. I can't believe he actually did what he was told. But that's irrelevant now. Trowa and I stormed in and took off one of our shirts, and whipped the fire fiercely with them. It looked like she used my six-pack of Busch to start it: the cans were crushed and littered the seats, and the beer itself was poured liberally on the seats and the floor. She was making sure it wouldn't blow out easily. But how on Earth did she start this?
While moving around, my foot hit something and a lit flare rolled out from under the seat and into a puddle of beer. I started to reach for it when I was grabbed by my collar and yanked out of the plane. I was thrown to the snowy ground and something heavy was on top of me before a small explosion erupted, temporarily deafening me.
"Ah!" I squeaked as I was roughly pulled to my feet. I lashed back briefly, knocking the hands off of my shoulders when I turned to see that Trowa was the one that did this. Should've known.
"We gotta go! There's nothing more we can do!" He grabbed my wrist and started running for the mansion, tugging me along for the ride. I could faintly see Duo, Relena, Heero and Wufei up ahead, but not as far as they should be. The wind had picked up, but I at least expected them to be almost there by now, not a few feet in front of me.
Then suddenly, the wind increased ten fold and knocked us all on our backs. It looked like something punched Trowa in the chest by the way he went down. The other four fell and slid away from each other; Heero landed on his back to the left of me, Relena and Wufei fell together, where she landed on top of him to my right, and Duo was the furthest in front of us, where he fell face down in the snow. I just landed on my rear. Nothing too bad.
Then I saw him. Krahe appeared out of the mist of the snow. I was afraid that he was going to get Relena, since she's the most important one with us. But he didn't. Instead, he made an abrupt turn and walked to Duo, where he tangled his fingers at the root of Duo's hair and pulled him up to his feet.
"DUO!" I screamed hoarsely and flew to my feet, intent to rip out Krahe's heart and lungs, whether he had them or not. He only smiled back at me, sweetly, while Duo wrapped his hands around Krahe's wrist as he tried to free his hair from his hold. It didn't help though. We were no match for him in the strength department.
"Quatre, stay away!" Duo yelled back at me as he tried to wiggle his way out of the grasp. I think that Duo would've shaved himself bald to get away at this point.
"Let him go!" I yelled at Krahe. He only laughed.
"I told you I'll get my way Quatre. You chose this, not me." What he did next guaranteed his suffering. He jerked Duo's head back hard, and kissed him full on the lips. I vow that I will not rest until I gut him.
There was an animalistic growl beside me. I saw Heero out of the corner of my eye as he leaped to his feet and started to charge at him. I ran right after him, determined to beat him there. If Heero gets to them before I do, he's not going to leave much for me. Krahe pulled back and smiled at us as another gust of wind blew Heero on his back a foot away. I dropped to my knees to avoid being blown away. "You bastard!"
He released Duo's hair and wrapped his arm around his neck, forcing Duo to hold onto his arm to allow some room for breathing. I made it to my feet again and started to run when something wrapped its arm around my chest, pinning my arms down, and around my waist. I looked back, startled, to see that it was Trowa holding me.
"Trowa, let me go!" I was in complete and utter shock. I couldn't believe he was trying to stop me from helping him. "Damnit Trowa, let go!" He didn't say anything though, just stared at me and refused to release me. I looked back in horror at Krahe and Duo. He was still struggling to get free and Krahe still looked on me with sweetness. He winked at me, once, then a whirlwind of snow rose up and surrounded them. The last thing I saw was Duo screaming out my name and holding out one hand to me before they both vanished.
The wind died instantly, becoming nothing more than a slight breeze. Everyone was in shock. Wufei held Relena in his arms as she wept, but he stared directly at me. I could feel his eyes on me. Heero was sitting on the ground, his mind totally blown. Trowa still held on to me even though my struggling ceased. And I stared at the spot they were in, absolutely stunned. All I could hear was my harsh breathing as the enormity of what happened hit me.
He took him. He took Duo.
"No," I whispered, and started to struggle against Trowa once again. He still didn't let me go. "No!" I shouted again, and started to elbow him in the stomach. "No, no, NO!"
"Quatre, stop it!" Trowa yelled as I continued to fight him.
A well placed hit to the ribs caused him to lax his hold on me and I broke free, running to where they last stood. I dropped to my knees when I saw my ring and Duo's cross on the ground, slightly covered with snow. I held them between my hands, squeezing so hard the edges of the cross cut into my palms. I didn't care though. I needed the pain. I deserved it. He was right. I chose this. This was my fault totally.
I doubled over, letting my forehead rest against the snow, and cried so hard that every angel in heaven covered their ears when they heard me.