Angst. That shouldn't be a surprise. Did I spell 'angst' right? It looks weird....
The Final Murder: Part 9
The next day my house was filled with nothing but insanity. Imagine having a tornado, tsunami, volcanic eruption and earthquake happening simultaneously in your city. That's how much chaos I was having to deal with. For some reason, Trowa didn't go out with Zechs to find the drivers of the truck (not that they'll turn up or anything, but he didn't know that), so he was sticking to my side like static cling. Everything I tried to do was supervised by him, whether I was reading one of my memos or going to the bathroom. This made things especially difficult when Duo and I made readjustments to our plan. So far, we've only changed it twenty four times. I expect we'll change it another hundred or so before we get to L2 and decide to wing it.
All of our pets decided to go rabid, so there was plenty of snapping, biting, clawing, whining, running and everything else animals did when they were feeling threatened. It was a damn circus. Kitty, my sweet, angelic son, decided to try the other side and tested my patience to the end of my reserves. He was cranky and snobby, coloring on the walls when he wasn't breaking stuff, and disobeying me at every turn. I just placed him in his seventh time-out. I wonder how long it'll last this time.
Not only that, I was ready to kill my neighbors because of their kindness. All of them, and I mean ALL of them decided to drop by, at the SAME time, to wish me well. They brought food, none of which that could fit in my fridge, and tromped all over my new rug while the hamsters left a little brown trail wherever they went because they were being chased by the rabbits who left yellow trails that scared the birds so that they crapped on my TV as Trowa made sure I wrapped the bowl of potato salad with saran wrap instead of tin foil while Kitty ran screaming through the house wearing nothing but his Batman underwear and cowboy boots and the women shrieked and stood on my good furniture to get away from whichever ‘Bob' was under the couch which was accompanied by the phone continuously ringing because Duo was calling with another modification to the plan--
Everything, including the phone, stopped.
"Please, excuse me." Without another word to anyone I picked up my son, tossed him over my shoulder and went upstairs to my room, all the while ignoring his kicking and whining. At my room, I closed the door and locked it. I sat my son on my bed and put one of my nightshirts and boxers on him. He remained silent the entire time, watching my face with a wary expression. It was a rare thing for me to be upset with him, and he knew that. "Watch TV if you want to or color in one of your books," I told him in a low voice, "but you are not to leave this room until I say you can." Instead, he crawled under the blankets and closed his eyes, pretending to take a nap. That's right Quatre. Daddy's not happy.
I then flopped face down on the bed and proceeded to ignore everything else going on around me. It wasn't too long after that before I unintentionally fell asleep.
"Hmmm?" It took a couple of tries, but I finally opened my eyes to see Trowa looming over me, gently caressing my cheek to wake me up.
"Duo's on the phone."
"Oh, okay. Thank you," I said, taking the phone from him. I saw then that Kitty was snuggled next to me, asleep. Trowa gently scooped him up and balanced his precious bundle carefully before leaving the room. That's when I noticed the door was open. I wasn't entirely awake but I was at least aware of what was going on. I knew I locked that door earlier. He must've picked it. Great plus about having an infiltrator for a husband. You never have to worry about losing your keys or sticking out in a crowd. "Yeah Duo?"
"Damn Cat, what happened?! You sound like you're trying to talk and swallow the phone."
"I was asleep you jerk. What is it?"
"We leave tomorrow afternoon at two. We should arrive on L2, six in the morning, their time."
"Ugh, that's going to hurt."
"You've suffered from jet lag before."
"Doesn't mean I want to do it again."
"I hope so."
"What time does Kitty, Iria and the bitch leave?" he finally asked.
I almost laughed. "Kitty, Iria and Cathy will leave tomorrow morning at ten. The cruise around Saturn is usually a week and a half. But Neptune is currently on this side of the galaxy, so the captain told me they will make a special trip around that planet as well, pushing the time frame to two weeks. So they should be home the day before Halloween."
"Good. They'll be safe there."
"But do you really think leaving him with Cathy is a good idea?" he asked, genuinely concerned. "I mean, Iria I know can handle herself. But Cathy--"
"Can also handle herself. Nothing will happen to Kitty with those two around."
"Still, I'd feel better if Dorothy went along."
"No Duo. I won't be in the mood to deal with the repercussions from her taking over the ship."
"Yeah, but Kitty would have a blast!"
I paused. "Goodbye Duo," I said dryly, then hung up the phone. The people I picked for friends.
I sat up, arching my back to make all the bones pop (ah, that felt good!) and glanced at the clock. It was eight thirty at night. Oh goody, I've been asleep for about five hours. Great. So that means I won't be able to sleep tonight. Tomorrow I'll be too excited to sleep on the plane, plus I'll have jet lag. Perfect.
Trowa came in just then, and I could see in the darkened light that he only wore some sleeping pants. He gracefully slid into the spot Kitty was in moments before, and we easily wrapped our arms around each other in our comfortable ways from years of practice. My lips were lightly pressed against the skin of his neck, and his hand was threaded in my hair, absently combing through it. There have been mornings where I've woken up and found his hand so tangled in my hair we've had to cut it free. I bet that was his way of getting even with me when I drooled too much in one night. I guess he didn't see my pool of spit in his collarbone as a sign of true love.
"Hmmm?" I breathed against his neck.
"What's going on with you? Really."
I kept my eyes closed and tried to snuggle closer. "What do you mean?"
"Don't." His voice was soft, but clipped. He started to massage my scalp.
"Trowa, I don't know what you mean--"
"Don't. Even. Go there."
I kept quiet, thinking of what to do.
"Don't bother trying. I'm not going to buy whatever excuse you have, okay?" He kissed my forehead, then sighed into my hair. "Yes, you go off without a second's notice anywhere in the universe because of WEI, but you've never kept anything you would be doing from me."
"Then, on a whim," he continued, breath warming my scalp, "you treated Cathy and Iria to a cruise with our son, without asking me if it was okay that he go, while you run off to L1 for no apparent reason."
"Something suddenly came up."
"Nothing suddenly comes up like that without warning. And it can't be so important that Duo would break a story over it. It's obvious you two are in this together."
I kissed his neck. He held me closer.
"Do you trust me?" he asked gently.
I couldn't keep the cautiousness out of my voice. "Yes I do."
"Then why is Duo helping you and not me?"
"Duo is part of the problem, as I am."
"Do you think me stupid?"
"No, of course I don't."
"Then why are you trying to play me for a fool?"
"You're lying to me, Quatre. You must think I'm stupid enough to believe your lies."
"I'm trying to protect you."
"I don't need your protection. I can protect myself."
"Not this time you can't."
He rolled to his side, bringing me chest to chest with him. My face was still in the crook of his neck, but now his mouth was right next to my ear. His lips brushed against the outer shell when he talked. "What do you feel Quatre?"
I decided to finally tell some of the problem. "Krahe's back."
I felt him stiffen. He was surprised. "I should've expected that, but I didn't. It's been a long time."
"Yeah, it has."
"That can't be all of the problem though. There's further places away from here than L1 if you were running from him. And you wouldn't run with Duo."
"That, I can't tell you. It's safer if you don't know."
"Not when someone is breaking into our house to strangle you or trying to run our car off the road with a six year old child in the back seat. That's too much of a coincidence, Quatre."
Well, so much for that being considered isolated incidents. Yes, it was wishful thinking. No, that didn't change my hope that Trowa would take it as such and let it be.
"See, you do think I'm stupid," he said, before rolling away from me to the other side of the bed, leaving his back to me.
I remained on my side and stared at his broad, smooth, nail-digging back, willing him to just trust me on this and let me handle it. But I realized I was being hypocritical, wanting him to trust me when I didn't trust that he would keep himself safe once he knew about the problem.
I went back and forth with this for a while before I decided to go outside. "I'm going out," I said as I got out of bed and made my way downstairs. Along the way, I observed that the house was clean. Whatever little droppings the pets left had obviously been cleared away, and my furniture didn't look any worse for wear. It was also quiet, and quiet to the point where it almost made me nervous. Either my son's pets were now occupants in my backyard, about six feet down, or they were also sleeping. I knew Trowa wouldn't dare kill an animal, so option two seemed the correct guess. I guess he slipped a little Valium into their drinking water, which was fine with me.
I slipped into some tennis shoes I had by the door and went outside, already feeling better from the cool breeze blowing against my face. With a deep breath I marched off the doorstep, to the end of my driveway, veered left and then down the street. The moonlight was especially bright tonight, gently pushing me on the back as I strolled down the road, humming to myself in my little bubble of peace. I still had on my clothes from this morning, a loose gray shirt and some comfortable black knit pants that flowed around me. I felt better to the point where I started to sing, even though I couldn't carry a tune to save my life. So I bellowed into the night, my voice cracking at every semi-high or semi-low note, when I wasn't mumbling lyrics I didn't know.
When I made it about two miles away, I turned and started to head back. As I walked, I felt another presence behind me, but when I turned no one was there. I continued on, stopping every fifty feet or so to find that I was in the middle of an open area by myself, surrounded only by sand, yet having something just about breathing down my neck. I made another couple hundred feet or so before I turned back a final time, irritated, and just waited.
After about ten minutes it emerged. A lone crow was walking, almost invisible, up the path I had just taken. Its feathers were shimmering a slight gold from all of the sand it picked up, and it wasn't flying but walking in its bird-like way. I remained in my spot, waiting and dreading to see what would happen next. Crows just did not exist on my colony, so there was only one explanation as to why this one was here, and I was waiting for what he had to say.
He stopped half a foot in front of me and just stared. His beady little eyes looked washed-out in the moonlight. That, on top of his sand-kissed feathers made him look like he was some sort of apparition. It was interesting to see, but it was one of those things you'd rather read about in a horror book than see for yourself. Definitely had a Stephen King feel to it.
"Enough Krahe," I said, not having to fake the animosity in my voice. "I'm not going through this with you again. Not anymore. Go back to Frankfurt."
He smirked at me, I'm not kidding. It was the most...unnerving thing I think I'll ever see.
I turned and started to walk back.
/Don't you turn your back on me/, he mentally said.
I stopped in my tracks. He and I have been through a lot together, but I've never heard that growl in his voice before. It was how I imagined the devil would sound when he knew he had your soul and was about to take it away.
I turned the left side of my body towards him, putting myself into the position where I could either kick him into the air or take off running. "Krahe, this has to stop! You're DEAD! I have a life. This can't go on--"
The rest of my sentence was cut off as I dropped to my knees, uselessly clutching at my chest from the burning pain radiating from my heart. I began to cry out as wave after agonizing wave ripped through me, tearing me up from the inside out. The crow--Krahe--stood there and watched impassively as if he was just an ordinary crow watching the activity of a human. I could feel bile rising up in my throat and my eyes watered from the excruciating pain. My tongue felt dry and too big for my mouth and my throat constricted. He didn't want to kill me, but wanted me to wish that I would just die to end all this....
With strength I didn't know I still possessed, I brought my foot around and up and kicked him in the beak. Hard. His scream started out as a crow's caw, before it turned into a recognizable human scream as he landed flat on his back, in the sand, in human form.
The pain stopped.
I leapt to my feet and shot away from him like a bat out of hell. I could feel the blood pulsing in my neck and the strain through my arms and legs as I pushed myself to run as fast as any car could drive. However, I was now tired from the pain and was still at least a good mile from my house. He could easily follow me there and that would put my son and Trowa in danger. But I didn't have any cash on me to check into a motel, so I would still have to stop by the house!
/Quatre, you fucker!/
I pushed myself even harder, afraid that he was on the heels of my shoes, ready to pounce on me at any second. I was moving so fast the breeze sounded like a windstorm in my ears, stinging the cheeks of my face. And the road seemed to stretch on without end; my surroundings did not look like they had changed. I felt like I was running in place.
Soon enough I was half a mile from my home, and I still hadn't made up my mind whether I wanted to go there or just find a cactus to sleep under for the night. I was completely wired and it was taking a lot of concentration to focus what little attention I did have. So I stopped in the middle of the road and stood hunched over, trying to breathe air into my balled-up lungs. My hands felt too full of blood and my legs were shaking so badly I was afraid I'd collapse and not be able to get back up.
Plus I didn't see Krahe.
In fact, I didn't know where he was. Did he get up? Was he still lying back there?
Okay, I have my house key. With my house key are the car keys. House it is.
Decision made, I took off again, although not nearly as intense this time. It didn't feel as though I was being watched. But as I made my way back home, I thought about my encounter with the crow. I didn't feel like I was being followed when I left home, just on my way back. Hmm...was there a portal nearby? I seriously doubted it. This place was manmade, not natural. Huh. Was he keeping some distance to make sure he was not detected by Duo, should he come by? Yeeeah.... That made more sense. A lot more, actually.
In other words, this butt--kicking was entirely my fault.
I had just gotten to the edge of the driveway when Trowa stormed out of the house with Kitty, still asleep, cradled in one arm. He was just about to place our son in the back seat when I limped (I was ready to drop dead by now) to his side. Even if the porch light wasn't on, I would've been able to see that he was livid.
"What the hell took you so long?!" he whispered harshly. "I was about to look for you--"
"I...leave," I panted, limping to the Firebird. As much as I wanted to take an inconspicuous car (it was a Firebird AND red), I needed one that was fast. "Not...safe...Krahe."
Those were the magic words. "Let's go," he said, running to the other door and hopping in, shifting Kitty to his lap. I started the car, backed out of the driveway then flew down the street. It was silent for a while as I drove, quickly putting some distance between us, my home, and danger. Plus I was able to get my breath back. Hoo! Somebody needed to visit the gym.
"What happens now?" he asked.
I took a glance back. So far so good. "You can dump me off somewhere. Then you and Kitty can stay at a motel. I bet it will be okay to go back tomorrow to pick up his stuff for the trip."
"What about you?"
"I'll be fine."
"Meaning you don't have a plan. How much money do you have?"
"I don't need any."
"Meaning you don't have your wallet." He squirmed around for something. "Here, take mine."
"But what will you use?"
"I have my credit cards. We'll be fine."
"Don't argue with me. I've already had it up to my chin with you."
Silence reigned again in the car until we were about ten seconds away from a cheap motel. I was the one to break it. "Okay. We can do this." I pulled in front of the motel's office. Trowa looked steadfastly out the windshield. "I'll stay here. You two can stay at the mansion. It's empty this time of year, and both of you have some clothes and other stuff there."
I ran my fingers through my hair. "Duo and I won't take long, I promise."
"Then I'll explain everything when we get back. That's also a promise."
The atmosphere of the car dropped a couple of degrees.
I gave up. Leaning over, I kissed my son on the forehead and whispered how much I loved him in his ear. Straightening, I stared at Trowa's profile as he continued to stare out the window. I was wasting time. They needed to get out of here.
"I love you," I said, and got out of the car. If I died trying to take out Hrncir, I wanted those to be my last words to Trowa.
Trowa didn't respond. Once he was in the driver's seat, he shot out of my makeshift parking spot and flew away, becoming a speck of lights in the distance. I made my way into the entrance of the office to book a room. When I took the money out, I was shocked to see a little three by four picture of us clipped on top of the cash. It was one of those pictures that were taken at the picture booths. It was me and Trowa. I had a clown nose on for a reason I can't remember, with my hair sticking up in all directions, and he was looking at me with a gentle expression on his face. This was taken years ago. I can't believe he kept it all this time. I couldn't tell you what happened to the other copies.
Then again, there was no way this could've accidentally gotten lumped together with the money.
As I paid for the room, I turned the picture over and nearly cried at what was written in his perfect handwriting.
‘The love of my life' it said.
It was dated today.