Another Murder of Crows: Part 2
The ride back was in complete silence, not surprisingly. I wasn’t in any mood to talk, and Wufei never was, so we sat in a comfortable companionable silence. After leaving the cemetery we decided not to return to work, which was pretty bad since it was Monday. What a way to start the week. After the party stunt Zechs gave Duo this week off, which scared me since Duo was the squad leader for the Imperial Guard. Noin must be taking his place.
“Why were you two arguing?” The sudden question made me jump. Wufei always managed to catch me off guard.
“Heero and Duo.” That’s all I needed to say.
“Damnit!” His shout made me jump again. “So that means Sally started it. I don’t know what it is that she can’t leave things well enough alone. Did she tell you about the crazy idea of us going to some sort of resort?”
“Yes.” Here it comes.
“I told her it was a bad idea, and I told her that you would see it the same way. They don’t want to so much as give us a sick day, and now the entire executive office is supposed to leave for a week?!”
I shrugged. I knew a rhetorical question when I heard one.
“Quatre, I’m going to let you know right now. If you ever put your hands on Sally, I will dismember you and ship a part of you to every colony. Understand?”
Wufei continuously found ways to surprise me at every turn. I knew my head shot right around to face him. Of course he has made threats (who hasn’t?) but none have ever been directed towards me before. I knew how Sally could be, and it was my comment that upset the office.
By now we had pulled up in front of my estate, in the circular driveway. He put the car in park and turned to face me, the rims of his eyes pink and his cheeks tear-stained. He looked for all the world like a tired, over-worked young man that wanted to be done with it all.
I smiled weakly at him and placed my hand on his shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. “If I ever put my hands on Sally, I will pay for the postage.”
He let out a light-hearted laugh. It has been so long since he has genuinely laughed. It sounded good. “You should laugh more often,” I told him.
“Yeah, I should,” he finally admitted. “But it’s not often I have something to laugh about.” Suddenly, he sobered. “We all used to be so close.” He turned to look through the windshield. “What happened?”
“I don’t know.” It was hard to explain. The changes between us were so gradual that it went unnoticed. By the time the dinner party happened, it seemed to be too late. “Sally is right though,” I said out loud, looking at my reflection in the window. “They need to resolve this. The work environment is unacceptable.”
“You’re right. But it’s got nothing to do with Relena, no matter how much she thinks she can help. Honestly, I don’t know what Heero sees in her.” Wufei’s lip curled in a sour expression, and I had to hide my smirk. He didn’t talk about her often, but when he did it was only to me or Duo. He didn’t have anything against her, but he didn’t care for her either.
“Well,” I said, taking off my seatbelt, “I’m gonna let you go so you can go home and get some sleep. I know you’re tired.”
The times Wufei hesitated were few and far in between. My head snapped up, curiosity piqued. “Yes?”
“Can I stay here for a while?”
“Of course!” I almost shouted. “You’re always welcomed here! You don’t ever have to ask. You still have your old room, you know.” When the war with Mariemaia was over, Wufei didn’t have anywhere to go, so he stayed with me, Heero and Duo until he got the apartment with Sally. But he still had some of his old clothes here, and I made sure to keep his room the way he left it.
“Thank you. I appreciate it.”
I waved my hand, dismissing his gratitude. “It’s the honorable thing to do.”
He smiled at that. “I’m glad I’m rubbing off on you.” Both of us got out of the car, and Wufei handed the keys over to Rashid. I wanted to say that his car was a Mercedes, a polished silver. I wasn’t into cars, so that was as much as I knew.
As soon as we walked in, Wufei headed up the stairs to the rooms. The cook, Sophie, saw him and immediately headed towards the kitchen. She always liked it when I had company over. She missed the other pilots as much as I did.
I followed her into the kitchen to see Duo at the table on my laptop. Because of Heero, Duo has forever since hated laptops, and would never go near the things. This only meant trouble.
“Duo?” I asked, pulling up a chair beside him. “What’s wrong? You’re on a laptop and you’re being quiet.”
He blew air out of his nose and smirked. “I’m typing up my resignation.”
“Oh,” was all I could muster. Actually, I wasn’t surprised. He tried to quit before, but I talked him out of it. This time, though, I knew it was for the best.
“You agree with my decision, I see,” he commented, smiling a bit wryly. “I know you hate it Cat, but I can’t continue to be there with my feelings the way they are. If I truly loved Heero the way I claim I do, then I wouldn’t try to infringe upon his happiness. Making fun of Relena won’t bring him back to me either, so this is the next path I am taking.” He then nodded, seeming satisfied with his decision.
“I was thinking of resigning too,” I confessed. Duo’s hands quickly froze over the keyboard as he stared at me in disbelief.
“You got to be kidding! Did Sally give you that much shit over the party? If that’s the problem, then she should’ve attacked me more instead of you! Quatre.” He turned to me, leaning his elbows on his thighs. “What Relena hasn’t been able to accomplish, you did. Without your finances and, basically, who you are, the colonies would’ve gone to hell in a handbasket a long time ago. This is about the baby, isn’t it?”
Bingo. Duo nailed it. If Wufei didn’t surprise me, then Duo did. “Is it that obvious?”
“No,” he said tenderly, “but you forget that I know you better than you know yourself. Me and Wu will always be there to help you out, man. There’s no need for you to stop what you’re doing for my sake. You aren’t betraying me by staying there at the Preventers. It’s only part time for you anyway.”
He nailed it again. Sometimes, I hated that he knew me so well. This called for a change of subject. “I know, but that’s the way I feel about it. Speaking of Wu, he’s upstairs sleeping.”
“Really?!” Duo beamed, punching in something on the keyboard and jumped up fast enough to knock over the chair he was sitting in. “Ohhh, I’m gonna have fun tonight!” He then jumped over the table (my beautiful, handmade wooden oak kitchen table), and bounded up the stairs to Wufei’s room. After the end of his braid disappeared, I walked over and righted the chair, sat down, and printed out a copy of Duo’s letter. Sophie made a sandwich for me with tea, which was a very welcomed sight.
I took a few sips and leaned into the cushions, staring out of the window to the scenery of buildings. Taking a few more sips, I went over what Sally said. A vacation did sound good. I would love to go to Earth again. I missed Earth. Perhaps France again. That wouldn’t be too bad. Duo, Heero, Wufei and I had a blast the last time we went. Maybe Spain, or perhaps Rome this time. I would love to go to Egypt, but I’m sure the others wouldn’t be too happy about that. Speaking of which...
Three... two... one...
My smile was lost in my teacup. Simple pleasures, like torturing Wufei, were the best kind.
“Master Quatre, you should really come in. You might get sick.”
“Sure Rashid, I’m coming in.” I’ve been standing in the rain for the past two hours. My usual slacks, pink shirt and purple vest have long since soaked through, becoming a second skin on me. My hair was so slick that it stuck to my head. I looked like a wet dog and probably smelled like one too.
Duo and Wufei left right after he ‘woke up’ from Duo sticking his tongue in his ear. I believe they felt a trip to the mall was in order. Although the idea of Wufei in a mall was almost enough for me to monitor the incoming traffic at the nearest morgue every half hour.
The day-out was more for Duo than for Wufei. We worry about him. Ever since he and Heero broke up, he did a lot of self-destructive things. The boy has gone through more useless relationships than there were stars in outer space, trying to get a taste of what he had. I didn’t let the thought cross my mind of what could happen, if he felt he would never have that feeling again.
I opened my eyes to a crow sitting on my patio table, protected under my yellow and white umbrella. When he noticed me watching him, he flew off. There was only one problem though: crows didn’t exist on this colony. I must’ve been mistaken.
I finally left the patio for the house, where Sophie was waiting for me with a towel. I didn’t get the chance to even thank her before she attacked my head with the towel. “Master Quatre, are you ill?! You have been out there for two whole hours! You could get pneumonia, the flu or anything! What would Iria think?! How could I face her knowing I let you get sick?! How could you scare me that way? Do you need a doctor? I could call your sister, or someone else if you like.” By now she was starting to dry me off, all the while chattering as fast as Duo.
I finally managed to grab her flying hands and squeezed them a bit to get her attention. She looked at me like I suggested to burn down the house. “Sophie, I’m fine. Just enjoying the rain. Don’t worry. Are there any messages?”
She sighed. “Yes. Heero is on his way over to speak with you. Wufei called and said they would be home later this evening. They went to see a movie since they were kicked out of the mall.”
I shook my head slowly. Why was I not surprised? “Okay. Let me get changed. Get some coffee ready for Heero, you know how he is.”
She smiled happily and left me with my towel to start some sort of dinner. I raced upstairs to change out of my wet clothes. Heero was not the one to keep me waiting. If he called, he was twenty minutes away at the most. Thank goodness Duo and Wufei caught a movie. That would give Heero and I time to talk and see how things have been going.
I was wearing my gray jogging pants with a white thermal shirt. I had my black bugs bunny socks on that Duo and Heero gave me last Christmas. To keep my socks protected from the tile floor, I had on my purple house slippers. I was ‘stylin,’ as Duo has been known to call it.
I could hear Sophie laughing as I walked into the kitchen. Heero always saw Sophie as a mother figure. We all did. But seeing Heero out of the office and away from Relena was a shock. He looked good. He wore the black loose slacks I let him have because I never wore black anyway, and a white cotton shirt with short sleeves. The pants hung loosely but securely from his hips, and the white t-shirt greedily hung to every curve of muscle on his chest. No matter how good he looked, the best part was him laughing. He was trying to get a taste of the beef stew Sophie was cooking, and every time he tried to stick his finger in it, she would pop his knuckles with the wooden spoon. After the third pop, I cleared my throat to get his attention.
“Odin,” I said quietly.
He turned from Sophie and walked towards me, embracing me with a hug that left me breathless. Literally. You would think the guy’s grip wouldn’t be as strong after a year of doing paperwork. “Can’t... breathe...”
“Oh, sorry.” He released me, looking a little bit sheepish.
I smiled, shaking my head for the apology I know he didn’t mean. “No big deal. Please, have a seat.” Forever the host, that’s me.
He took the seat Duo sat in earlier, and I sat opposite of him. I had a flashback of those two fussing over the chair every time there was a meal, because it was the closest to the window. Actually, both the chair Heero sat in and the one I sat in were the closest to the window without having your back to it, but neither one of them wanted to sit separately from each other. Duo always won, because Heero did not want to see him unhappy. Why did things change?
He already had his coffee, and Sophie brought me my scotch along with the newspaper. Heero raised an eyebrow at me, his expression unreadable. I already knew the question running through his head. “Before we talked, I wanted to have a drink to help me relax.”
“So you think that what I want to talk about will upset you that much, that you’ll need a drink?” He smiled, clearly amused.
“Heavens no! Odin, what did I just say?” I said, also amused. It felt good to use his name. He told all of us his real name after Libra was destroyed. The only time any of us have used it was when we were sure that we were in safe company or privacy. It just seemed so... personal to us that he would even bother to tell us. Other than that, I wouldn’t dare breathe it in public, especially in front of Relena. I didn’t know if she knew his real name or not, but I wasn’t going to be the one to tell her. This was something between us pilots.
As much as I would like to reminisce with him, it was time to get down to business. “What did you want to talk to me about?”
The smile eased off of his face into a frown. Not good. “The party Duo threw for the recruits.”
“Oh, not again,” I groaned, and covered my face with my hands. I should’ve known. But I heard a soft chuckle, and spread my fingers to see a smirk..
“It’s not your fault, Quatre. Duo is old enough and smart enough to know right from wrong. At first, I didn’t know what to think. But now it’s not a big deal. The recruits see her as someone with a sense of humor, and respect her even more. No harm has been done. He can come to work tomorrow.”
I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I couldn’t help it. One less thing to worry about--wait, he could come to work tomorrow? Oh dear.
My face was too readable. Heero practically jumped in my lap. “What’s wrong, Quatre?”
I reached over to the side of the table where the laptop rested. Underneath it was Duo’s resignation letter, and I pulled it out to give to Heero. He took it and glanced over it, his trained eyes picking up everything at an inhuman speed. Within seconds he stood in front of me, red-faced. “He’s quitting?!”
“Yes,” was my reply.
“The letter’s in your hand, Odin. You tell me.”
“This is bullshit! Why would he quit because,” he held up the letter and read out loud, “I feel I won’t be able to complete my duties as the Vice Foreign Minister’s Elite Imperial Bodyguard?”
“If he makes a mistake then she will be the one to suffer for it, and peace may be threatened!”
“That’s bullshit Quatre! He is the best at his job! She can’t even catch a cold when he is by her side. Now he wants to leave?! What else is going on?”
I drank the glass in one gulp and walked to the counter to get a refill. Sophie was standing by the stove, trying to ignore our conversation. I touched her on the shoulder and excused her, feeling her discomfort. She turned to argue when I told her I would watch the stew, so she turned off the stove and reluctantly left. After downing another glass, I watched Heero pace the kitchen, glaring at the letter enough that a hole should’ve burned through it.
After another moment of pacing and glaring, he balled up the letter and threw it in the trash. “I will not accept it.”
I rolled my eyes and poured myself another glass. He still thought he could control everything. The more things change, the more they stayed the same. “It’s not up to you to accept it. If he wants to quit then he will do so, with or without your permission.”
He stopped pacing and fixed me with an intense glare. “You’re not going to stop him?”
I sighed. This was not going well at all. “I stopped him once before. This time I have to agree with his decision. The work environment is unacceptable. Everyone is going head over heels over this, Odin. Sally and I got into a fight today over you two! I can’t focus on my job, and nobody else can either. No one should have to walk on egg shells,” hopefully I got the expression right, “because they’re afraid of upsetting you, Duo or Relena.” I looked deeply into his eyes. “You can’t have them both, you know.”
The look he gave me would have curdled milk. I drank the whole glass with another gulp. The less I could feel my body, the better, since it appeared I might lose an arm tonight.
“You still didn’t answer my question. What else is going on?”
I shook my head, my longer, half dry hair tickling my ears. “You have to ask him. It’s not my place to say.”
He took two deliberate steps towards me. Well, at least I had the chance to experience what it was like to have two working legs. “You are his best friend. Hell, brother, whatever you two call yourselves! I don’t care if it isn’t your place. Tell me what I want to know.”
My eyes narrowed. If he felt he could threaten me, friend or not, he was about to have one hell of a surprise coming--
“He won’t tell you because I asked him not to.”
Both of us turned to see Duo, Sally and Wufei in the archway with bags from the mall. Duo walked over to the garbage can and pulled out the crumbled letter. Smoothing it out on the counter, he walked over to Heero to hand it to him. Heero promptly slapped it out of his hand. The letter floated briefly and landed on the floor. Duo picked it up and laid it on the counter.
“It doesn’t matter anymore. This would be your copy. I sent Relena’s and Zechs’ by email. They should’ve received theirs hours ago.”
“The Duo I know wouldn’t quit,” Heero said calmly. “He would stick it out.”
Duo shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. “Yeah well, this ain’t war. This is my life. I can’t stand by and watch you and her together. It hurts too much. I had you during the war, and the time here with Quatre, and that she can never take away from me. I will always have that. We could still be friends, if you want. That’s up to you. But I can’t pine after you for the rest of my life. I have to move on, and leaving the Preventers is the first step.”
I was so proud of Duo at that moment that I nearly cheered. The expression on Heero’s face said he acknowledged what Duo said, and slightly respected it. But then Duo threw a wrench into everything when he said, “Hell, even Quatre’s considering leaving.”
Heero snapped his head around so fast I was surprised he didn’t break his neck. He glared at me with the intensity of the sun. I wanted to grab my bottle of scotch and beat Duo repeatedly over the head. The man was already upset. Why make it worse?
“You might resign too.” Heero made it sound more like a statement than a question.
I shook my head, my hands up in surrender. “Look, this isn’t about me--”
“Like I said, what else is going on?”
“Just what are you implying, Heero?” Duo asked angrily. I flinched for Heero. Duo never used to call him that, ever since he learned his real name. Now, when he did use his codename, it was like a slap to the face. Heero once told me that the way Duo would say his name, his real name, was the most wonderful sound in the universe.
“I am implying that you and Quatre are sleeping together!”
“Not that it’s your business, but we’re not!” Duo and I said at nearly the same time. I ran my fingers through my hair as Duo paced. “Look, we’re all adults here. See?” I looked pointedly at Duo, Wufei and Sally. “No one needs you to be their father.”
Heero sneered. “I’m not the only one who thinks that.”
Trowa. That was who he meant. Anyone else outside of our Gundam group didn’t get the time of day from Heero. So that meant he has been talking about us to Trowa behind our backs.
I actually took a moment to deliberate having a hissy fit. It certainly would’ve felt good, and Heero did deserve a hard kick to the backside. But there was such a thing as going too far, and I was afraid we would cross that line if I allowed this to continue. “Go home Odin,” I said quietly. “Go home before we both say something we can’t take back.”
Heero stood there staring at me for a moment, before he closed his eyes and took a calming breath. When he opened them, he moved to collect his things, completely ignoring Duo and I. Nodding Wufei and Sally a solemn goodnight, he walked out of the kitchen. We followed his progress by sound as his shoes clicked against the tile. The door whined as it was opened and closed. In the distance a car started, then its engine roared as it went along its way.
As if snapping out of a daze, Duo dropped his bags and hurried to the door. Yanking it open, it slammed into the wall as he ran outside. Wufei started to go after him, but I held him back by his elbow. Shaking my head, I made my way to the door. Knowing how Duo often ran out after a fight with Heero, I knew it wouldn’t be long before he came back.
Promising Sally and Wufei that everything would be alright, I walked them out, watching as their car finally pulled from my driveway. Sighing, I closed the door and noticed a hole in the wall from the doorknob. Resisting another urge to hunt Duo down to beat him over the head with my scotch bottle, I went back to the kitchen and poured myself another glass. As I stood there staring at the amber liquid, I couldn’t help but feel disjointed from it all. This day has been such an up and down rollercoaster, that there were times where I thought that I had to have made some of this up. All of this couldn’t have possibly happened in one day.
A shadow appeared in my peripheral vision. Acting on instinct, I threw my glass as hard as I could, dropping to the floor and rolling behind the counter. I was about to grab a knife when I heard Duo’s voice calling me down.
“Duo! I’m so sorry! Are you alright?!”
“Yeah,” he said, eyes wide and almost smiling. He looked at the wall behind him. There was now a big brown splotch the size of a basketball on my white wall.
“Well don’t just stand there! Get away from the glass!”
He chuckled as he made his way towards me, gently shaking the alcohol off his clothes. I ran my hands along his hair, picking out any glass shards I found.
“You weren’t gone very long.”
“Yeah, I was,” he said, giving me a concerned look. “I’ve been gone nearly an hour.”
I was staring into space for an hour? Oh boy. “I didn’t hear you come in.”
“No kidding,” he said with a slight laugh. “I didn’t mean to go ‘stealth.’ You know I tend to do that when I’m thinking.”
“Yeah, I know. Sorry about that. I just saw a shadow and reacted.”
“No need to apologize. After all the time I’ve spent with Heero, I oughta know better.”
The mention of Heero killed the mood. In apology, Duo picked up what was left of the scotch and waved it in front of me. “Your room?”
I nodded. “I’ll be there in a sec.”
With a nod he was off, footsteps unheard on the tile. When his braid disappeared around the corner, I made my way over to the laptop still on the kitchen table. Booting it up, I opened the Word program and began a letter I thought I would never write.
I, Quatre Raberba Winner, hereby resign from my post...
*Authors Notes* I know there isn't any supporting evidence that Odin Lowe Jr. is Heero's real name, but I wanted to use it anyway to convey how close the pilots really are, that they know each other's pasts and true identities and stuff. Since this is my fic, I can do whatever I want. That's my reason, so no one will be mislead.