A Murder of Crows

"Damn, it's cold out here!"

Duo was whining, as usual, as we made our way into the deserted house. To my surprise, the mansion wasn't too chilly inside. That didn't say much though, since we were coming in from sub-zero temperatures, but it was safe to say that we could take our coats and shoes off without worrying about hypothermia. The windows, which were about the size of the wall, seemed to be incredibly thick--well--they would have to be, in order to shield the inside from the violent snowstorm that seemed to be following us. The room we were in had extremely large cobwebs, some of which that stretched from the ceiling to the floor. Of course, for a web of that size, this place had to have been abandoned for quite some time.

Besides the collection of dust that I presumed to be decades old, the air also smelled old. It held a light musk odor that was somewhat pleasant, and probably due to the lack of circulating air. But I had a bad taste of something at the back of my tongue. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I hated that feeling. Something was off balance, and it was making me feel very uneasy. It was hard to settle down after a battle, and the traveling we've been doing has left us on constant alert. Right now, all of my nerves were firing simultaneously, ready for anything and everything. It's even worse when I'm tired, and right now I felt like I had my gundam sitting on my shoulders.

Wait, let me back up.

The day before, we were at one of OZ's bases in Moscow, trying our best to turn it into 'a big pile of dung heap,' as Duo so eloquently put it. Heero and Duo were trying to take out a major generator that supplied energy for the creation of the unmanned mobile suits, Trowa and I were a distraction, and Wufei was destroying what mobile suits were being built. Everything went according to plan: the generator was destroyed, the only trace of the mobile suits left were a couple of fingers and glass, and Trowa and I didn't get killed.

That part's my favorite. Anyway, we ended up driving out of Moscow, because the snowstorm was so bad, there wasn't any way for us to fly out of there. OZ was close on our trail (for once), which made our escape even harder. So we hot-wired one of OZ's jeeps, and tried to drive someplace safe. We couldn't get back to England because the carriers were grounded, so we were waiting for the weather to slow down. Thank goodness we were on break at school. For what reason, I didn't know.

I must tell you that driving around in sub-zero temperatures is not the ideal escape route. It was very grueling, especially listening to Duo whine for twenty-two hours straight. But there was nothing else that could be done. All of our contingency plans failed, and the only other option was to freeze to death. We couldn't die yet. It wasn't our time.

So we just kept driving.

After maybe ten hours of arguing over where to go, Trowa started driving, Wufei sat in the passenger seat, and Heero squeezed in the back with Duo and I. He had his laptop out, trying to find someplace for us to stay. So far, we have driven through Ukraine and Poland, with our last stop being in Prague [1] to steal another car. It ended up being an old, beat up stationwagon. Nice going, Duo.

It was some time before Heero came across something. It turned out to be a quarantined house far out in the country, in Frankfurt, Germany. The next city was two hours away. Plus, we were a day's drive from the carriers that had our gundams. It wasn't one of the smartest things we ever did, but truthfully, it was the best we could do at the time. As for our carriers, we had time to figure that out. Our gundams were on self-detonation mode.

The roads weren't too bad, until we came upon the road that the house was on. You could tell no one lived there anymore. The snow was about as high as we were tall. And since we figured no one would be out here, (who would be driving around in the middle of nowhere in freezing temperatures?) we opted to leave the stationwagon where it was. The snow was as hard as cement, so we were able to scramble, with containers and duffelbags of provisions, across the snow, to the house. As I got closer, I could see that it wasn't a house. In its time, it was a mansion.

We all ran in, throwing whatever we were carrying on the floor. Trowa and I quickly swung around and slammed the door shut. The boom from the doors echoed in the silence, seeming to bounce off of the walls in all directions.

Oh yeah, that really made me feel better.

Slowly, we surveyed the room. It was HUGE. It kind of looked like one of those houses in the haunted house movies. I guess the front room was a sitting and dining room, because it had a couch, a large dining table (the type in Bugs Bunny cartoons that was so long, you had to shout), and chairs. The couch was very long, maybe Victorian. It was black, but the legs and arms were gold, and there was a single, red rose design in the middle. It was beautiful. The two chairs with it were designed the same.

Surprisingly, and much to my delight, there was a large fireplace. The fireplace was black, with gold outlining where the fireplace met the wall. The wall was maroon. Despite its age, deterioration, and cobwebs the size of my entire being, it was still pleasant looking.

Heero walked forward, telling us to wait until he checked everything out. Once he was out of earshot, Duo snorted. "He acts as if OZ would plant a bomb here. Like they had a clue where we were going, even though we had no idea we would be here." He had a point, but I didn't want to argue. So I just shrugged.

In front of Heero were two high black staircases. One was to the left of him, and the other to the right. The staircases lead to the second floor, which appeared to be bedrooms. Five bedrooms. Perfect. Things were looking up for us. Heero won't be as tempted to kill Duo, and vice versa. They've been sharing a room for so long, this would give them a chance to miss each other. I hoped.

Next was the kitchen. It looked like a kitchen. I wouldn't necessarily call it a refrigerator, but something like a huge freezer sat in the corner of the wall, across from a window. The window itself was about the size of a car. There was a sink, which seemed to be made out of marble, and an island in the center of the room. I wanted to say it was made of cement, but I could be wrong. Other than a table and some chairs, that was it for the kitchen. No cabinets or anything.

After we checked the rest of the house, we (meaning Heero) decided that it was suitable for us to stay in for a couple of days. But the strangest thing was that in the kitchen, beside the refrigerator, was another staircase that led to the third floor. First, the stairway was completely clean. Very odd. Second, the stairway was made of wood that rotted, whereas other wood in the house wasn't. The walls were a very cold grey stone, and had the feel of a dungeon. Third, at the top of the stairs, was a well-preserved, light tan wooden door. If it didn't smell like mold, I would've guessed it was new. But the door wouldn't open. It was locked!


Of course, Heero did that all the time, but there was something behind that 'hn' that made me really, really uncomfortable. Not like I was comfortable all the time, between hiding underground or in Sandrock, but a mental uncomfortable. I was nervous.

After we all settled down, unpacked and ate, it was dark. All of us decided on a room. I got the one in the center. Duo was to my right, with Wufei to my left. Trowa and Heero had the ends.

I was lying in bed. My upper back and head were on a pillow, resting against the headboard. I vaguely watched the candlelight in my room flicker with every exhale, as I twirled the ends of the blanket with my fingers. I was enjoying the fantasy I was allowing myself to have about a certain green-eyed boy. The candle illuminated my room enough for me to see a figure close my door. Said figure then quietly tip-toed his way to the whale-sized bed, with his braid over his shoulder.

"Hey Cat, can I stay in here for a while?"

"Sure Duo. You know you're always welcome."

With that he jumped on my bed, causing me to fly up in the air. I landed with a light 'thump,' as the back of my head hit the headboard.

"Oops! Sorry Cat."

"Don't worry about it," I said, rubbing the back of my head. "What happened, another nightmare?"

"No. Just annoyed and feeling... weird."

One of my eyebrows rose to my hairline. "Feeling... weird?"

"Yeah," he continued, fussing with the end of his braid. "Something about this place is not hitting my spot. I don't know what it is, but I got this feeling that we should get the hell out of here, ASAP."

Since we all found out about each other, Duo and I have become best friends. During the time Duo and I were hiding in the desert, after Heero self-destructed, we formed an unbreakable bond. Since then, we've talked about everything. When I told him about my feelings for Trowa, he told me about his feelings for Heero. Sometimes, I felt we had too much in common. But it was great that I had him, and he had me, to lean on.

"Well, Trowa told me that he and Heero were leaving tomorrow morning to go get the carriers," I said. "What they plan to do after that is a mystery to me."

"What about Wufei and us?"

"Just keep everything going until they get into contact with us, I suppose."

"All of us should go."

I agreed. But just as there were reasons to go, there were reasons to stay. We had a hard enough time getting here. I was in no hurry to run back out. "No. Don't worry Duo, they'll be fine. It would be better if you or I went along, but I have a feeling that we would just get in their way."

"You're probably right. I just don't want to be stuck here. As much as I hate school, I'd rather be there than here at Adam's Family Manor."

I laughed. He could always make me laugh. He cracked a smile, but it was something in that smile that made me stop laughing. Worry. He was worried about us. As if he read my mind, he answered. "I just feel like it would be better if we all left, Cat. I do. Something is hovering over this house and it's driving me bonkers. Worst yet, I can't put my finger on it."

I hated it when the others felt pain or sorrow. If I could take it from them, I would. I would do anything right now to make Duo feel better, to make him smile. So I did the only thing I could do. Looking him dead in the eye, I started. "I'm a little tea cup..."

"No Cat, don't."

"Short and stout. This is my handle, this is my spout..."

Okay, the story is this; one night, after a huge success in a mission, Duo brought out a couple of bottles of wine, made from honey. *I* do not drink. But, with much pleading and begging on Duo's part, I had a couple of little bitty sips, to the point where I was completely out of my mind. Then I started singing this, for what reason only Allah knows. But, I wasn't so out of it that I couldn't remember. Duo doesn't let me forget, either. So, standing on top of my bed, I re-enacting the whole ordeal. It had the desired effect.

"Stop, Quatre, STOP! You're ah ha a ha ha, killing ah ha ha haha, me!" He fell off of the bed and onto the floor. He rolled around, holding his stomach, as he laughed his heart out. I plopped down on the bed, laughing also.

"What the hell is so funny?" Wufei stood at my door, hair loose about his shoulders, wearing nothing but some loose white pants. He looked at me, then at Duo, then at me again. We didn't say anything. With one eyebrow raised, he just shook his head, muttered something, and closed the door.

Duo, with tears in his eyes, covered his mouth like a child. I did the same. Both of us were trying to stifle our laughter, so that Wufei wouldn't come back in here to kill us. Scooting over, I made room for Duo. He quickly jumped into bed, and we raced each other under the sheets. Then I turned over to blow the candle out, and we laughed ourselves to sleep.


"This is boring, Quatre! I don't want to clean."

Trowa and Heero were already gone by the time I woke up. That was kind of strange. Usually, I was the one that got the sun up. But with the exertions from yesterday, or last night with Duo keeping me up, or the time zones, I didn't know. Right now we were cleaning--well--I was cleaning. Duo was complaining. That's how it worked, mostly. "Quatre, are you listening to me?!"

"I can't help but listen to you. You're screaming in my ear." Spending enough time with Duo, I've unfortunately picked up a few of his habits, like quirky responses or choice words every now and then. I've also picked up a few of Heero's death glares, if you could believe that. "You know, you could actually clean, or help Wufei with the firewood."

"No way man! Then I'd be 'Duo, the human popsicle.' I'm skinny, ya know? No fat here of any kind. I swear, my butt would freeze first, followed by my braid."

"Okay." I just laughed it off. Of course, I could see Duo frozen in the middle of saying something. He wouldn't be caught frozen carrying any firewood, that's for sure.

I looked outside and noticed that the wind was picking up. I knew that Heero and Trowa would have to come back soon. Hopefully, no later than nightfall. It would be too dangerous for them to keep going. There wasn't any electricity in the house, so we didn't have a radio, a TV (which was brutal for Duo), and other modern appliances. Heero's laptop battery was going to give out eventually, so we were all anxious to get back to school. At least there weren't any missions for the time being. The weather was too bad even for OZ to try something.

I was brought out of my reverie when the back door to the kitchen slammed shut. Probably due to the wind. I ran back to see if Wufei needed some help, but he was just finishing up with four logs in his arms. The logs were frozen together, along with about twelve other pairs.

"This should last us until tomorrow morning. Hopefully by then, we will be on our way back."

"I hope so." I really did.

"There's not much snow on here, so the logs should thaw without leaving too much water on the floor. That's all we need is to slip and break our necks."

I smiled. Wufei may come off as a stubborn, ignorant, chauvinistic type, but he was actually a very nice and considerable person. He was showing himself more and more, at least around me.

Then I heard the most familiar sound since we've been in the mansion. I could hear his back grinding against the stairs, his fingers clawing at the wall, a few choice words on the way down, and finally, a loud 'thud' as his head hit the floor, causing the rest of his body to hang over his head. The slight moan that escaped his lips let me know he was still conscious, and that he still didn't get the door open.

"Duo, what the hell are you doing?" I couldn't tell if Wufei was concerned for his well-being, or if he was annoyed by all of the noise Duo was making.

"He has been trying to get the door open to the attic all morning. He's curious about what could be up there."

"Really?" Now Wufei had that 'Curious George' look in his eye. This was going to be a looong day.

As if there was a psychic connection between the two, Duo bolted right off his back and up the stairs, followed closely by Wufei. I turned to leave the kitchen, the last remnants of noise being Wufei trying to kick the door down, screaming in Chinese, with Duo yanking at the knob.

Just another day.


[1] Prague is the capitol of the Czech Republic.