I saw Heero flying down the stairs as soon as my foot stepped over the threshold. If I wasn't so hurt and angry, I would've been surprised by the look of hope that completely dominated his face. He was also very jittery. His hands were shaking, and his breathing was pretty unstable from just running down the stairs. I was afraid that if I didn't tell him something he'd jump through the window. "It's okay Odin. I know how to get Duo. We're going to get him now."
Heero calmed down immediately. In fact, that little spark that's usually associated with a mission suddenly flared into being in his eye. He let out a slow breath and just stood there, waiting for instructions. At least one of us was back to normal.
Wufei came down the stairs next, with the rope still thrown over his shoulders. He was followed by the girls. I heard Trowa come in then, as he closed the door and stood next to me, waiting for my plan as well. At that moment, I wanted to hit him over the head with the dining room table and throw his body into the fireplace. I wanted to do whatever it took to get Duo back, but my mind kept straying over to Trowa. It's frustrating for me because he's such a major distraction from what I'm trying to do. No matter how hard I've tried, my personal feelings kept interfering.
"Wufei, do you have the key again?" He gave me a curt nod. "Good. I need you to go get it." He started to charge up the stairs as I turned to Heero. "Heero, please listen to me. I don't care how scary or hurtful things may seem, but whatever you do, don't come after me. Understand?" He didn't say anything, only continued to stare at me. Why did everything have to be a contest? "Heero, if you come after me, you will die and possibly kill Duo. Now do you understand?" He took a sharp breath when I said that he could possibly kill Duo, but gave me a nod in agreement. Okay. So far so good.
Wufei came down then and held out the key for me to take. I quickly snatched it from him and stuck it in my pocket before he had the urge to take it back. I wouldn't put it past him, that's for sure. "Okay. This is what we're going to have to do. Relena, Dorothy, I'll need for you two to have a hot bath going, as hot as possible for when Duo and I get back. He's been there for a while and I know he's going to be in bad shape. I'm going to keep this coat on, so I shouldn't be too bad but who knows." I shrugged underneath the mentioned coat. "In any case, keep the fireplace going for me if you would."
"Alright. I'll go get the wood from the kitchen." Dorothy immediately darted off to do what she volunteered.
Relena quickly grabbed the large pot to fill with the water. "Be careful Quatre," she whispered to me before turning to Heero and planting a quick kiss on his lips. He didn't respond at all, even as she ran upstairs for water. I didn't say anything. I'm just going to mind my own business from now on. I have my own romance problems to deal with.
"Well screw the rest of us," Wufei murmured as the four of us started for the stairs. "She told Quatre to be careful and Odin got a kiss. Trowa, you and I basically got a ‘fuck you'."
"She didn't say that Wufei," I replied, trying my best to not laugh. Dorothy flew by us with some logs in her arms, but I was certain she heard us.
"She didn't have to say it. It was pretty damn obvious just by her ignoring us."
"If you say so," was all I said as we started for the top of the stairs.
"Yes, I say so."As we walked up the stairs, the butterflies in my stomach started to tumble around more violently. I stuck my hand in my pocket and palmed the key, twirling it between my fingers. I was nervous to the point that if anything happened right then and there, I would've thrown up all over the place. I was terrified beyond belief. This entire situation didn't make sense, and to figure it out would take a lifetime; Duo's lifetime, if I didn't do something soon. I mean, the first time I went through the portal, it was just me, Krahe and an expanse of space. When I went the second time to get Duo and saw all those arms surrounding him...I didn't know what to do. What could be there this time?
We were finally standing in front of the door. I slowly released a deep breath that I was holding in an attempt to gather myself. I couldn't fall apart when Duo needed me most. I won't let him down. I already have, and I refuse to allow it again.
"Rope," I commanded as I held out my hand and waited until I felt the scratchy prick of the thread across my palm. It wasn't extremely long, about thirty feet at best, but it was more for their comfort than mine. There's no way a rope was going to hold me into this world if Krahe truly wished it otherwise. But it might be able to help Duo.
I tied one end around my waist with the help of the others as we finally got it unwound and untangled. Once they were satisfied that the knot would hold, I took the key out of my pocket and held it tightly in my hand, staring at the door. I could hear it calling me almost. It was trying to be friendly and calm, beckoning me with a non-existent voice. It wanted me, and in the pit of my stomach, I wanted it too.
"I'll go." I heard Wufei's voice growl with impatience and a bit of fear, but I wouldn't let him go in my place. Krahe told me straight out that it would kill them.
"No, you can't go. Only I can. I just...I needed a minute to get myself together."
"Quatre–" There was a slight pause before I heard Wufei's strained sigh. "Fine, but how is this suppose to work anyway? We've opened the door several times already and it's never done anything to make me think it's a portal."
I opened my mouth to say something when I realized that he was right. I've opened it all those other times and nothing happened. But the wood did respond to our touch that last time. It stung the others but welcomed mine. Yes, I remember now. It did act like some sort of doorway when it opened up for Krahe that night....
"Step back everybody," I said as if I was a million miles away. "Don't stand too closely. I don't know how this is going to happen." I heard the three of them take a step back. Alright. Everything was ready to go.
I took the half step I needed to be nearly nose to nose with the smelly, waxy wood. Almost as if this was a sexual game, I lightly traced my fingertips along the wood, creating a nonsense pattern. I did feel a slight tremor beneath my touch, but it wasn't strong enough for me to think anything of it. I made my way down to the keyhole, where I slowly inserted the key. As it slid in and stopped, I began to turn it, ignoring the screech it seemed to make from the lack of oil. Then I stopped.
I took a step back when I was done, admiring the door as if it had just transformed into some majestical being. It didn't. It was still the same old door. I'm happy about that. I didn't know what I would've done if it decided to grow eyes or teeth. Drop dead probably.
"Quatre," Wufei whispered, slightly confused. "What are you doing? You only turned the key halfway, it's not fully unlocked–"
As soon as he said that, a pale blue light emitted itself from behind the door. It started out dim though, but worked its way to being almost painful. The four of us stood there and covered our eyes, waiting in both awe and fear to see what would happen next. We didn't have to wait long though. I held my breath as the blue light started to shine brighter and stronger until the next thing did happen.
The door opened.
It swung slowly open as it did for Krahe, allowing that blue light to spill over us and down the stairs. My jaw clenched as I felt a wave of...feathers? brush across my skin. After I forced my muscles to relax, I took a step forward when another obstacle threatened to hold me back. I sighed irritably and rolled my eyes without needing to look behind me. The times they decide to be protective. "Trowa, let go of the rope."
Trowa had grabbed the rope when I started to move and was pulling on it to prevent me from moving further. "No."
"Trowa, Duo's in there. You held me back once before and I'm not going to let you do that again." I could feel his eyes focusing into the center of my back, truly intending not to let me go. Wufei and Heero were so shocked at the turn of events that they didn't know whether to agree with him or let me have my way. Guess I'll make that decision for them. I stared into the light that called to me, to channel its energy as my own. "Make him let me go, but don't hurt him."
As I recited these words, a bright flash of blue flame shot out and licked Trowa, knocking him back and forcing him to release me. I took the opportunity to walk into the light with only one thing on my mind. Despite what Krahe wanted, I was here to save Duo, not to spend my eternity as something that couldn't possibly exist. Either that or I was about to die trying.
So I stepped through the door, where the bright light hurt so badly that I had to close my eyes. As I felt the searing pain of cold leave me, I saw up ahead that I wasn't on the stairs anymore, but through the portal and into another plane of existence. Duo's soul was so bright that it gave off its own illumination. In fact, it wasn't Duo anymore. He was just a bright, big ball of white light, suspended easily in the air. But something was even more distracting than him. Something was even brighter than he was, to the point where it lit the entire plane, not just itself.
I was startled to find that that illumination was me.
More out of excitement that Duo was only a few feet away, I moved as quickly as I could to reach him. That's when they came back. The black arms rose from the abyss and surrounded him so tightly that they nearly blocked all of his light.
/Duo!/ I screamed mentally as I raced to him. When I came upon him, that's when I was able to see what the arms really were.
They weren't arms at all, but feathers. The feathers were engorged so much that they were deformed, each feather shaped like the bark of a tree. The crows themselves were just as bad. They were enlarged to the point of being the size of a large dog, with sharp but brittle looking beaks, eyes black and clear, one substantially larger than the other. Their claws were also large, long and sharpened so much that I wouldn't be surprised if it could cut through gundanium.
And the screaming. For everything that was holy, the screaming was too much. Duo cried for me so hard that the echoing caused thunder. Heero was right. He was hurting, slowly being tortured until his light would stop shining. I couldn't let that happen.
I don't know how I did it, but somehow I was there, tearing away the feathers that threatened to kill him. I scraped at their eyes, kicked at their feet, did anything to get them away as I got closer. Soon, that light was forming into my own, and I held on as hard as I could as the feathers started to surround both of us. It was impossible. I couldn't get free trying to hold onto Duo and fight back. No matter how much I cursed them, or how much I thought I hurt them, they continued to hold me down until I was sure I wouldn't be able to get us out of here. There was nothing else I could do.
/Trowa! Trowa!/ I screamed again as I tried to fight back with arms I couldn't use and legs I didn't have. It was impossible to call for help with a voice that couldn't be heard from where I was. A weight that wasn't physical pressed down on us, crushing us with an intangible ceiling as it got heavier and heavier...
Then it was gone. I was being pulled, I don't know from where or who, but I was being pulled away from the feathers until the pain came and I felt myself land hard on a surface. I tried to curl myself into a little ball when I realized that something was frozen in my arms, preventing me from doing so. I managed to crack one eye open and saw the top of what looked like a head. The hair on the head appeared to be brown, but a thick layer of frost covered it, distorting it. But I did manage to see a long braid frozen over a shoulder before I passed out.
My throat was sore as I whimpered, slowly waking up. I could feel the heat from the fire against my face, nearly burning me from the intensity, but it was welcomed believe it or not. After all that has happened, I'd rather be on fire than cold.
I was tightly wrapped up again, in blankets no less, and laying on the floor but the surface under me wasn't rough. In fact it was kind of...slippery. I wiggled some. Yep, slippery. Now I'm curious.
I cracked one eye open. My vision was blurry, but whatever it was, it wasn't a blanket and it was green. I cracked the other eye open and blinked a few times in order to get my eyes to focus. As my vision cleared, I noticed that it was a parachute. I growled slightly, sighing to myself. I woke up over a parachute.
I could hear Wufei, but I couldn't get myself to sit up. "W–Wu?"
"Yeah, it's me. Don't try to move, just stay how you are."
Guess that solved my problem. "How long was I out?" By now, I could see him clearly. He had on black sweat pants and my ‘I Love Sandrock' t–shirt. If I was up to it I would've laughed. Especially at how the pink heart was square in the middle of his chest.
"You weren't out long. About an hour at most."
"How long was I gone?"
He sighed. "You weren't gone long either. Maybe about an hour and a half at most."
I allowed the events to replay themselves in my mind. How did they know I was in trouble? "Wufei, can I ask you something?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Since when do you need to get permission from me?"
"I know I don't. Just...how did you know I was in trouble?"
He dropped his chin to his chest. "I didn't know. The three of us were just lounging around, waiting for you to come back when Trowa jumped up and screamed that you were in trouble. Odin and I tried to stop him from pulling on the rope. We thought he was just being overprotective again. Then, when he pulled on the rope, you crash landed on the floor out of thin air with Duo in your arms. Then..."
He started to shake his head, but he wouldn't look at me. "Wufei?"
"I've never seen anything like them."
Now I was able to move more comfortably, so I raised myself up on my elbow. "Wufei?"
"These things...monsters, came out of the portal after you did." He furrowed his eyebrows and stared at the floor, as if the floor was replaying the event. "They were crows I know...but, they were deformed. They were monsters." He finally looked at me. "They started to go after you. I had the gun on me so I pulled it out and started to shoot them while Odin and Trowa started to pull you and Duo out of the crows' reach. But it was useless. The bullets didn't work. Trowa was able to do some weird tumble jump kick in the air to kick the door close, knocking them back through the portal. It took all three of us to turn the key."
I frowned. "Why all three of you?"
He let out a long breath. "Because of the pain. The stinging that it did before was an insect bite compared to this. Even Odin couldn't tolerate it. Not only that, the crows were trying to come through still, so that complicated things further. But we got it and were able to lock it, so we're safe from them...for the time being," he added dryly.
I chuckled weakly and started to scratch my chest when I realized that I was able to do it too easily. I lifted the covers and glanced over myself before tucking them around me and giving Wufei a questioning look. "Wufei, why am I naked?"
He laughed quietly to himself. "Well, you weren't too bad when we got you back, but Duo was frozen stiff. He was so cold that he was actually frozen to your clothes. So we had to take the clothes off of you in order to separate you two, else you would've been in the tub with him until he thawed out."
"Oh. Yeah. That would suck."
I sat up completely then, and folded my hands tightly together as if I was praying. "How is he doing?"
Wufei shrugged. "I don't know. It's too soon. It's only been an hour. When you were in that shape, it was around two hours before you even moved. But don't worry. Odin is up there with him, and Trowa is watching over them both, so they should be fine.
"I know. Just worried that's all. In any case, thanks Wufei for taking my clothes off so that Duo and I wouldn't be stuck together."
He almost fell out laughing. "Well, if you say it that way, it does sound kind of...peculiar."
"Hey Quatre, can I ask you something?"
I smirked at him. "Since when do you need to get permission from me?"
"Shut up." He smirked back, then turned solemn. "Quatre, what's it like?"
I frowned at him. "What's what like?"
"You know, being there. Going through the portal. What's it like being alive in a place reserved for death?"
I sighed loudly, thinking about the first time I was there. "To be honest, it's amazing. It's like," I looked up to the ceiling but closed my eyes, mentally seeing the plane. "It's like every contradiction in the world put together. There's this blue haze that extends in every direction, never seeming to end, and I don't think it does. But while you're there, it's...astounding."
During my explanation, I heard him inch closer to me. "How?"
Still faced toward the ceiling, I continued my little litany. "It's like you're nothing and everything at the same time. The world doesn't revolve around you because you are the world. You don't have arms and legs to move, but then they aren't needed. Everything is done by conscious thought. I honestly think that's what it's like to be," I opened my eyes and faced Wufei, "God."
He scooted back against the fireplace and sighed. I could tell something was wrong. That boy has more mood swings than an infant. "What's wrong Wufei?"
He gave me the most heartbroken look possible. "What you experienced Quatre is truly a gift. I don't think you realize that."
I felt my eyes widen. "What are you saying?"
He paused momentarily, searching my eyes. What he searched for I really don't know, but whatever it was I don't think he found it. "What I'm saying is that you experienced something that shouldn't be allowed for anyone to experience. The fact that you did was a gift Quatre. But the thing is, what's the price of it? As far as I know, you haven't paid for it."
"I see," was all I could say as I stared into the fire. Wufei moved from his spot and sat beside me, slowly snaking his hand around to hold mine. We just sat there in silence as the flames flickered back and forth, waiting for it to present us with an answer.
"I'm scared Quatre," he whispered under his breath. I squeezed his hand in encouragement.
And for the rest of the night, we held hands and watched the fire.