I released a deep breath and my eyes flew open, instantly focused on the ceiling. It's weird when I first wake up in the morning. Because of all of our adventures, there's always this period of ‘where am I and what's happened' that I go through before I realize what's going on. I used to have a hard time at my home too, especially after Duo and I would go all out with any available liquor. There were some rooms in my home that I've never stayed in for more than a few minutes at a time, and being hung over in an unfamiliar room was an adventure all by itself. After one such binge, Duo was lost for three hours in one of my bathrooms that he thought was a swimming pool because of the size of the tub. At least he had enough sense not to drown himself and waited to move until Rashid found him.
Rashid. I didn't know if he had any idea where I was or what has happened to me. At the same time, I didn't want to know. Not only him, but Sophia as well. She's always been protective of me. I'm sure she has the national guard looking for us.
I heard something off to my side, a sniffle I want to say, and turned my head. Wufei was quietly sitting on the edge of the bed, eyes closed with tears running down his cheeks. I didn't say anything because in all honesty, I wanted to admire Wufei. He has been so strong for me. He's been strong for all of us. He was the backbone joining all of us together, especially Duo and myself. But his time was over. He's done more than his fair share. It's my turn now.
I reached out to him (using my good arm of course) and grabbed his hand, squeezing it for all I was worth. Immediately, he placed his hand on top of mine and squeezed back, not moving otherwise. I closed my eyes again and the two of us just remained as we were, squeezing the other's hand in the silence of the room.
That's what I love the most about being good friends and comrade in arms with Wufei. We didn't say anything because there was nothing to be said. It's like having the same friend since childbirth. After a while, you know everything about that person. That includes knowing whatever they're going to say, do, and think. I knew he was tired and that he was done. He couldn't go on like this anymore. He gave it his best and that was all I wanted from him. And he understood that I was going to take over now. I had to. Today was the day.
"Trowa sends his love."
I smiled in spite of myself. "I know he does."
"He's not going to come anywhere near you either. It's too dangerous for you."
I looked at Wufei through passive eyes. "How's that?"
He sighed as usual whenever he's telling me something I won't like. "He said he was warned, but that he didn't listen and it ended up hurting you. He's not going to make that mistake again."
"Here we go again," I said, mostly to myself. "How was he ‘warned' exactly? Hopefully not by bird crap strategically placed on the floor in a message."
Wufei had an expression that I couldn't quite place. I think it was a cross between being skeptical and trying not to laugh. "No, although that might've been interesting to say the least." He ended up smirking. "But Relena was given the message and she related it to Trowa, else the ghost said he would continue to sing the theme song to the Power Puff girls, and it's apparent that only she can hear him. I just don't understand why he's telling her this stuff."
I curled my lip. "Well, he can't get near you or Odin, Duo's purposely being kept out of reach, Dorothy's going to try and kill him--again for ruining her boot, so that only leaves Relena."
"Why not tell Trowa himself?"
I curled my lip again. "I...don't know."
"Maybe he's like me and Odin that the guy can't get anywhere near us."
I shrugged against the pillows. "I don't think so. Otherwise he wouldn't have been able to attack me like he did last night. Speaking of which--"
"Quatre, there's not much to tell because there's much we don't understand."
I sat up. "Then tell me what you DO understand. You knocked me out pretty quickly Wufei. You aren't that forceful with me, not even when we're sparring. What do you think happened?"
He shrugged and finally released my hand, patting it gently instead. "I don't know. You were just grabbing at your chest. I thought you might've had...I don't want to say what. It couldn't have been a heart attack because you wouldn't have recovered as quickly as you did, but--"
"But that's the only thing you can think of."
He slowly nodded. "Yeah, I just don't see how he could do that."
I scoffed. "Wu, if he can fix this house when it was blown to bits, do you honestly think he can't control my heart in a similar way? He did give me this condition after all."
"Don't remind me." It was his turn to curl his lip. "But if he can do that, why not heal your arm?"
I looked down to the arm in question, staring at it as if by sight it would heal. It definitely didn't hurt anymore, but that wasn't necessarily a good thing. It did feel a bit heavier, like added dead weight, but the coloring was still pinkish and my fingers moved okay. Stiffly, but still in what's considered acceptable. "I don't know, and I don't want him to heal it either if he can. I don't want anything from him, even if it's in my benefit."
"There you go being dramatic."
"I'm not being dramatic."
"Yes you are."
"No I'm--look, we'll argue about this later. Now's not the time." I finally let go of his hand and got out of bed, searching for some relatively clean clothes to put on. I had several missions in mind that I had to complete in order to set things right again. But there was something about me today that was different since the first day we came here. I had a sense of finality hanging about me, nearly choking me it was so strong. It was everywhere: on my hands, on my lips, in my blood, and clouding my eyes. It was over. This was over, and I knew I didn't win. What I also had was a sense of acceptance. I accepted the fact that it was over now, and that whatever happens, I can and will deal with it. I'm much stronger than I have been in a long time. I can do this. I'm nearly unbreakable.
Krahe, you can't hurt me anymore. I don't have anything left.
I had worn a bit of everybody's belongings to take with me. I had Duo's boots, Wufei's pants, Heero's thermal shirt and I was going to take Trowa's coat as soon as I got it from downstairs. I picked up the Bowie from the night stand and stared at it for a while, but I couldn't see any damage done to it. Duh. It's made of metal, not epithelial tissue. Of course I'm not going to hurt IT by driving it through my arm. Silly me.
"Quatre, what are you planning?" I walked over to Wufei and handed him my knife, which he reluctantly took. He kept switching his glance from the knife to me and back again, and I had to watch the confused look on his face as he did so. He's so cute like that. "Quatre?"
"I want you to protect the others as best as you can without killing yourself," I said seriously. He could be so irresponsible with his life that way. "You won't succeed by any means, but I know you'll give it all that you can." He didn't bat an eyelash, but he didn't say anything either. That man! "Wufei, promise me."
He gave me a curt nod. "I promise." Then he tilted his head to the side. "You know something I don't. What is it?" I turned my back to him and walked to the door, pausing a moment to look at him over my shoulder. Okay, I guess I was being dramatic, but from the seriousness of the situation it was also called for. I didn't want anyone to know what I was truly thinking. "Cat." I heard Wufei take a step forward. "What do you know?"
I faced forward as that feeling of finality solidified in me. "I know that time's up."
I stumbled on in silence, shoving my hands in Trowa's coat as Dorothy proceeded to give me a rant that Wufei wouldn't be able to do on his best day. So far it's primarily based on the fact that out of all of the others, it was her that I chose to make this trip with me. Right now it's below freezing, and we're going in the direction of Wiesbaden on foot. Need I say anything more?
After I left Wufei, I went downstairs and saw that Heero and Duo were just about finished packing what little things we had left. The girls were at the table, dressed and waiting as if a cab would come by any second to pick them up. I shook my head and turned to see Heero staring at me intensely. I swallowed in spite of myself. It's just his eyes you know, that shade of dark electric blue that made his gazes intimidating, whether he meant them to or not. I don't know if I'll ever get use to it. It's only that he knew I was up to something. He just didn't know what yet.
I didn't want to take Heero with me. His leg was broken, and even though he's moving around, he did have a slight limp in his walk. He didn't need to aggravate his condition more than he already was. Wufei, I wanted to stay here and look after everybody. Duo was out. Bringing him with me was asking for trouble, and Trowa's a liability. Guess that leaves two--er--one option.
"I'm taking Dorothy with me."
She jumped up so fast from the table that I thought her chair was on fire. "What?"
I turned my head to face her, and tried my best not to laugh at her distraught expression. "I'm leaving," I pointed to myself, "and you're," I pointed to her, "coming with me."
She started to say something but quickly shut her mouth, walked around the table and came to my side, nodding to me. I guess she decided that she'd rather be outside than here any longer. Anyway, I stood there for another minute as Heero did an once over on us to make sure we were wrapped up as well as we could be. As he was checking Dorothy, I saw Duo standing in the archway of the kitchen, watching us with little interest. When our eyes met, there was an unusual...something that passed between us. I didn't know what it was, but I knew right off that it wasn't caused by Krahe. I've not really spoken or paid much attention to Duo since that night he slept with Heero. It's not my place to judge and I understand that, but with the past being as complicated as it has been between him, Heero, and Relena and how it's becoming more complicated by the minute, I just couldn't believe he would be that irresponsible and that stupid.
I just wish someone could understand my predicament. Even Wufei has gotten on my case from time to time. Duo could have anyone, male or female in the palm of his hand, yet he chose the one person he couldn't have anymore. Heero stands to gain or lose a fortune, not to mention love and friendships, yet he didn't know and still doesn't know what he wants. Relena, coming out too late, might lose Heero, but will also lose me, Duo, possibly Hilde or Wufei, and who knows who else because she's going to be competing with Duo for Heero. It's not that this was Duo's or Heero's fault, but the event that night set off a domino effect that we might not be able to recover from, and that's another mess that I'm going to have to juggle if we want to get out of this place.
After our stare off, Dorothy and I immediately left, heading west towards the neighboring city. I noticed that when we passed the window, the crows still had my ring and the necklace laid out on the snow, as if offering it up to some god. I ignored them and continued on my way, remembering the details from the day before with my little trek with Heero.
It's been half an hour since then, and Dorothy's anger was still going strong, despite the fact that it was freezing, snowing, icy, and that we hadn't eaten anything since the night before. I'll tell you one thing about being in war; it will build your endurance level. Guaranteed.
"And another thing," Dorothy shouted as she changed her thread of ranting. "Why is it that the really weird shit happens when I'm around you? Early last night when you and I were at the attic door, that ghost ran through your body again. That's the second time that has happened and I have been there both times. I think there could be a connection and it might not be safe for me to be around you if you're near the attic."
I grinned in the face of the cold breeze. "No, I don't think so Dorothy. It's just a coincidence."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. It's coincidental. That's it."
"Alright," she said, a bit wanly. Not that I blame her. "As long as you're sure, then I won't let it bother me."
"Don't let it. Things will be over very shortly."
She stopped me by grabbing me by the shoulder. "It's almost over?"
I frowned a bit and nodded. "Yeah, it's just about over."
"And how do you know this?"
"I know it because I'm making it so." I started to walk again.
"Do you know what you're doing?" She asked behind me.
"Yes. I have this planned. Don't worry about it." She didn't respond to that. She only walked behind me, silent for the first time in half an hour. If I had known that would shut her up, I would've said something a while ago. "Thank you for coming with me Dorothy. I know you didn't want to but I need your help."
"I know you do." I could hear a slight smile in her voice. "And I said that I would help you. I just have to cover up my feelings by being a pain in the ass. I knew you'd figure that out by now."
"I did," I said, a little smile in my own voice. "I know you're a kind person, but if you don't want anyone to know, I won't tell anybody."
We continued to walk on in silence until she hustled to be a step ahead of me, kicking the snow in my path. "How did you do that?"
I kicked the snow back in her direction. "How did I do what?"
"Disappear like that. You vanished and then landed on the table. If you didn't look like you were in so much pain I would've ran away screaming."
I looked up to the sky as I thought about how I would explain it to her. "To be honest, I'm not entirely sure. But I could give you a rough draft of it."
I saw her shrug under her hair. "That's better than no explanation at all."
"True." I wiggled my hands more into Trowa's coat pockets, and looked down at Duo's boots, kicking the snow on the ground ahead of me. "When Krahe ran through me, he planted the knowledge in my head. It's much more permanent and effective than telling me its secrets, even though it hurts like you wouldn't believe."
She slowed her pace to match my own. "Then what?"
"Well, there are basically five...steps I guess you can say, to do it. First, you have to give up."
"Yeah. Give up, surrender, whatever you want to call it. You have to physically give yourself up. Let whatever wants your body and soul have it, whether it be good or evil."
"Ooookay. So far I don't like this. Then what?"
"Next, you have to forget your body." I paused so that I could help Dorothy down a slippery part of the sidewalk before I continued again. "By forgetting your body, you're acknowledging that your body can die and your soul can be freed from that confinement. The best way to separate the two would be by intense physical pain."
"Your knife had been impaled through your arm the first time. So if you give up, you won't be in that much pain and it's easier for your body to be taken. Am I right?"
"Yes you are." I smirked at her out of the corner of my eye. "That's exactly it."
"What's after that?"
"You have to not care anymore."
"Not care about what?"
I took a deep breath. "Whether you live or die. It has to be inconsequential to you."
"I know it's bad, but that's the way it is."
"Well, what's after that?"
"You have to set your target in mind. Either you want to go into a bedroom, in the kitchen or on top of a table. Just be sure that Duo's not around if you want to try it."
She laughed, a real genuine laugh in weeks. It was a good sound to hear. "What's the last step Quatre?"
I frowned a little at the answer. I was afraid she would pry too much into the last one. "Use the one thing you want to move you." Contrary to what I thought, she didn't pry at all. She was quiet for a while after that, absorbed in what I told her and turning the words over and over in her head. Dorothy was an extremely smart young woman, constantly analyzing things and looking at them through different eyes. Soon enough she shook her head, as if clearing away the information, and looked at me with such compassion on her face I could've sworn she was going to tell me my dog died or something. "Dorothy?"
"If you were able to do that you were very close to the edge Quatre. We're close to losing you." She slid her arm around mine as we walked. "Dangerously close. Do you know that?"
I didn't get the chance to answer, because a car was coming from ahead of us. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw what car it was. "I don't believe it!"
She looked at me, then the car, then me again. "Don't believe what?"
I wanted to laugh and run at the same time. "It's the same car from yesterday, the guy with the Bug! The one that had those hand cuffs by the passenger door. I can't believe it."
"Pull the hood over your face and be quiet," Dorothy instructed me. "I'll handle this." I did as I was told and watched with great amusement as Dorothy pulled down the zipper to her snowsuit to show ALL of her cleavage, where the driver of the car immediately stopped and backed up to get a better view. I couldn't help but laugh out loud. He had no idea who he was messing with.
"You know this isn't going to hold all of us Quatre. This will only last us until the day after tomorrow, if nothing else happens to destroy everything again."
"I know Dorothy, but it's better than nothing." We didn't get very much today. Maybe I should've brought Heero. I didn't know what happened between yesterday and today, but everyone was on alert. I guess word got around that the van was stolen by a couple of older kids, so when we went back to a village store, all eyes were on the two of us. The things we had now we had because we smuggled them out in our clothes. I didn't want to go back to the same places Heero and I went to yesterday because I was afraid I'd be recognized, but we didn't have much of a choice. Many of the roads were closed down, and we didn't want to have to walk further and possibly not find something. So we stuck to the few places I knew of from yesterday.
Needless to say things got interesting. Especially at the store that resembled Piggly Wiggly. The same cashier that was flirting with Heero was there and recognized me, so she shouted "thief!" across the entire store as I tried to calmly walk out of there (after I stole a half a rack of Doritos that is). I was just glad Dorothy and I were in such great shape.
That was in the past now. We were on our way back to the mansion to get the others and get out of there. How the seven of us were going to fit into a Bug was beyond me, but I'm sure we'll manage. If five teenagers were able to win two wars on their own, then we can make it out of there somehow.
The ride back was in silence, to the comfort of both of our ears. With all the garbage and fighting that has been going on, just to get some peace that didn't signal an attack from Krahe was very soothing to our nerves. Of course he could cause something to happen, but I'll chew that food when I have to.
"Shut up back there!" Dorothy yelled behind her as she went over a bump. Not only did the man stop and try to pick her up, he groped her as she was getting into the car. Dorothy, being the girl she is, tried her best to put his head through the steering wheel and nearly succeeded. In order to keep her from killing him, I had to put him into the trunk. The man was 5'11" and roughly two hundred and fifty pounds. All of that was smashed into the back of a trunk about the size of a suitcase. He wasn't happy to say the least.
"What do you think we should do with him?" I asked.
She frowned a bit. "I really don't know. I think killing him would be a bad idea though."
I rolled my eyes. "Gee, you think?"
"Well, you're supposed to be the one in control. You tell me what we should do with him then."
I wiggled my nose and stuck my feet on the dashboard, trying to come up with something. I watched the stars twinkle in the sky as I thought about my decision. The day flew by. Anyway, to get back on task, Dorothy was right. We didn't need to kill him, and I didn't want to do that in the first place. At the same time, we couldn't allow him to come back with us. We would be endangering him by bringing him to the mansion. I'd really hate to leave him in the middle of nowhere on a dark and lightless road like this one, but I didn't think we had much of a choice–
"Ah!" Dorothy screamed, and I looked up in time to see Krahe's translucent form in the middle of the road. She swerved, an automatic reaction, and ended up driving into a little ditch. It wasn't a ditch in the sense of the word, but it had two tiny hills of snow surrounding a hole big enough for the two front tires to get caught in. I'm grateful we had our seatbelts on. That's all I have to say.
Even though I was panting heavily, I at least managed to squeak, "Dorothy, are you alright?"
"No no no no no! This can't be." She turned off the car, turned it back on, and put it in reverse. The tires spun against the soft snow, but didn't move.
"Dorothy, I think the snow's too soft. I'll get out and push."
"No, wait, let me try again." This time she had the gas petal to the floor, but we didn't move. The sound of tires whirring filled the air, and the smell of heated rubber and oil wafted in my nose. After another moment of this I got out the car and went to the hood to push. I threw my entire body weight onto the car, gritting my teeth in frustration as the car rocked hard, but the wheels weren't freed. We kept this up for five minutes until Dorothy turned off the car and opened the door.
"Dorothy, what are you doing?"
She threw the car keys to me. "Get that guy out of the trunk. We'll have him push us out of the ditch. He's big enough."
"Then what are we doing to do? It's not like he'll let us leave with his car."
"I'll knock him back out." She placed her hands on her hips.
I shook my head, smirking in spite of myself, but started for the trunk nonetheless. She was right and I was sure she'd knock him out again. It was obvious I couldn't get it out by myself, not with my arm not being at one hundred percent.
I was in for another surprise though. As soon as I opened the trunk, the guy flew out of it, knocked me down on my injured arm (which he had to do of course), and ran into the darkness of the night. I laid there, clutching uselessly at my arm while Dorothy cursed him and his ancestry. Worse yet, I dropped the keys when I fell, so I didn't know where they were on the ground. The only light supplied was the car's headlights, and of course that wasn't doing me any good being behind the car. The tail lights weren't bright to begin with, and I didn't want to feel around in the snow all night looking for them. This wasn't going very well.
"Quatre, are you alright?" She asked as she helped me to my feet.
"I'll be okay, but I dropped the keys."
"Don't worry about it. We're close. We can walk and carry this and be there in thirty minutes if we hurry."
"Alright." We grabbed everything we had (which goes to show you how little we had in the first place) and started for the mansion. We managed to get thirty paces away when we heard the screeching of tires and both of us turned just in time to see a silver Bug do a U--turn and drive away. Dorothy and I stood there and watched passively as the rear lights disappeared from sight. It was a moment before either of us even moved.
"I don't think you dropped the keys Quatre. Maybe he snatched them out of your hand when he jumped out of the trunk?" I didn't say anything. I only gave her a blank look and started to walk again. She followed my example, letting the subject drop. We had what we needed for the time being.
Ten minutes later the mansion was in view, the lit candles creating eerie shadows against the windows. That's when I noticed that the house seemed to glow. It appeared to have a red sheen around its edges, which I thought was funny since everything associated with Krahe tended to be blue. But then I really thought about the house. It seemed to be a character all its own. It was a physical presence for Krahe and provided him a home, but it possibly had a personality. I don't doubt it. All of these bad things happened inside of its walls. It was a witness to two murders, a suicide, violence and the torture of animals, not to mention us wrecking havoc on it.
I stopped. "What is it?"
Her face looked so pale in the moonlight, but I could smell the fear off of her breath. "It's too quiet, but I hear something moving."
I started to walk again. "Yeah. It's the crows. Ignore them, they're just watching us."
She started to walk again also, matching her stride with mine. "Just ignore them? Are you crazy? They could tear us to pieces."
"They won't. They like to watch us. That's all." I continued on, ignoring the huge amount of disprovement I felt radiating from Dorothy. We were close to the house, I was freezing, and my arm was killing me. I wanted to eat, get undressed, get in front of the fireplace, and get under Trowa in that order.
Soon we were just a few yards from the house. Both of us sprinted as best as we could with our items in our arms and our feet burying themselves into the snow. I wanted this day to be over with and for us to be on a train, heading home. Mine and Trowa's home. Together.
My heart nearly stopped when we reached the door. It was cracked open. I could see the shadows of the fireplace's flame dancing along the far wall, but I didn't hear a sound.
"Oh God," Dorothy whispered. "Something is wrong."
Using my foot, I gently pushed the door open the rest of the way, and my eyes closed involuntarily at the sight before me.
I was thanking Allah that they weren't dead. It was obvious that there was an intense fight, and that they all fought as best as they could, but to no avail. Heero, the closest to the door, was flat on his back, bleeding profusely from the back of his head. Duo was crumpled in the corner near the fireplace, and it appeared as if he had been skinned alive. He was bleeding in rivulets all over his face and arms. Trowa, who was laying in the center of the room, looked as if he was used as a trampoline by a herd of elephants. Wufei was at the far corner of the room, near the window, leaned against the wall as if he had sat down and passed out. He was bleeding so much I couldn't see the source. And Relena...
"No. No no no. You can't do this."
Relena was near the center of the room, tied to the chair with the rope we used to get Duo back. She was conscious, looking at me with eyes so full of fear and confusion, and which obviously had spilt a lot of tears. Standing behind her, with my Bowie to her throat, was Krahe. There wasn't any humor in his eyes. He didn't have that cocky smirk either. The fun and games were over.
"I didn't do this. Your friends didn't lock the attic door as tightly as they thought the last time you went through the portal, and some other friends of yours tried to tear this place apart and them apart," he glanced at the four on the floor to accentuate his point, "to find you. Not soon enough they realized you weren't here and went back."
I thought about the night we got Duo back. Wufei had told me what passed through the portal after I got back, how they were crows but deformed, mutated, not of this world. "You son of a bitch."
"Now now Quatre. Let's not resort to name calling. She's still in one piece, but I will remove her head from her body if we can't arrange something." He brought the knife closer to her neck, and even though Relena didn't make a sound, a tiny stream of blood started to trickle down her throat.
"You bastard!" Dorothy yelled, and started to run for him when I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back. She looked at me, complete anger and desperation in her eyes, but all I could do was shake my head.
"No. You can't fight him. If you try, you'll end up like them." I swept my hand across the room to signal at our fallen friends. "Dorothy, let me handle this."
She turned to glare at Krahe, and in that second I moved to touch the pressure point at the back of her neck, rendering her unconscious just like Wufei taught me. I eased her body onto the floor, walked over her and Trowa to stand a foot before Relena and Krahe. Tears were flowing freely from Relena's eyes as she turned to me, hatred and anger written all over her face. I didn't spare her a glance. This was about all of us, not just Heero or Dorothy.
"Krahe, let's make a deal. I have an offer you won't refuse."