Amelia Notes: Very sorry this took so long! Unfortunately, the next chapter may take even longer! I work far too much. Anyway, enjoy!
The party was in full swing by the time I arrived with the girls. We were what Hilde called 'fashionably late' because she couldn't decide what to wear. Even Noin had fussed with her hair, I assumed because of the presence of the mysterious Zechs. I had actually taken longer to get ready than either of them, but I started earlier.
The house of Dorothy Catalonia was quite large and very modern. It was also packed with what I assumed must be every teenager in the county. The large steel and glass rooms, decorated with black matte furniture, held so many dancing bodies that it was nearly impossible to move. The music blasted from recessed speakers in the walls and ceiling. There was even a bar-with alcohol-back against the far wall, with plenty of people crowded around.
My nose wrinkled automatically at the smell of beer and sweat. Immediately I split away from the girls in an effort to locate Quatre or Trowa. My best bet was the large patio just past the bar. I doubted Quatre would be one of the sweating, gyrating bodies on the makeshift dance floor.
"There you are!" A hand wrapped around my upper arm as soon as I stepped out onto the patio. I turned to see Quatre's megawatt smile. "I thought you'd never show up!" It was necessary for him to shout to be heard.
"Sorry," I shouted back. "Noin and Hilde took too long primping."
Quatre gave me another blinding smile. "I was just going in search of Trowa. He went to grab us some drinks and disappeared. He was probably accosted by Dorothy. Come on."
He grabbed my arm and started winding through the crowd, dragging me along behind him. I caught snatches of conversation as we pushed our way through.
"Is that the new guy?"
"Look at his hair!"
"What's he hanging around Winner for?"
I frowned slightly and examined my friend. Nothing wrong with him. Seemed like a normal guy so far. Guess I was just used to things in New York. Maybe Quatre wasn't popular around here, but I liked him well enough. Besides, it wouldn't take my new town long to figure out that I was weird with a capital 'W'. When you're known for talking to yourself and being caught in places you shouldn't be, you tend to be grateful for whatever friends you can get.
I spotted Trowa at the same time Quatre did. He was standing in a large group of people, seemingly held in place by a hand with wickedly long red fingernails. The hand belonged to the evilest looking girl imaginable. And I'm not kidding. Scary eyebrows, scary eyes, scary platinum-blonde hair. Even the look on her face is terrifying; she's wearing this big, simpering smile and staring at Trowa like he's the greatest thing since sliced bread.
Quatre stood on his tiptoes to shout into my ear. "That's Dorothy Catalonia-"
Ahh, the mysterious hostess.
"-and then there's Heather Rowlin, Annabelle Steeling and Courtney Byrne."
"It looks as though Trowa needs rescued."
Quatre grimaced. "Trowa is so shy and polite; he'll never just tell her to leave him alone." He seemed very hesitant. "Maybe, you know, we should just go back outside. He'll find us when he escapes."
I stared at Quatre in amazement. "No way, you said he doesn't like the girl, right?" Quatre nodded reluctantly. "Then let's mount a rescue operation!" I grabbed Quatre's hand and started dragging him over to the group.
They all stopped talking very suddenly.
I smiled a big, bright smile and waded in. "Hey there Tro! We've been looking for you!"
Trowa smiled faintly, but everyone else cast me looks that made me think I had a booger hanging out my nose or something. They were looking pointedly at mine and Quatre's hands, which were still linked. Quatre was surreptitiously trying to tug his hand free of mine. I ignored his tugging; pretty sure I had just figured out precisely what all the fuss was about. But, I'm from New York City. I've been to Pride like three times (okay, once was just to exorcise this really scary power-lesbian that was haunting her lover) and I have a shirt that says 'Some dudes marry dudes, get over it!'
I'm not the least bit concerned if these small town idiots don't like me because I'm gay. And I'm certainly not going to ditch one of two friends I have here just because he is too. That'd be stupid.
"Oh sorry!" I pretended like I just noticed the girls that were surrounding Trowa. "I'm Duo Maxwell, just moved in and all that. Great party Dorothy, I love to get drunk and pretend to be cool. Back in New York we never got to do this, we just vandalized things and sold drugs for fun!"
Ha, I think they believed that. Their expressions are priceless. While they're stunned by my excessive wit and sarcasm, I snake a hand in to grab Trowa and pull him away. Giving the girls a jaunty wink, I drag my friends away and back outside to the patio and down into the yard.
"What are you doing?" Quatre asks me blankly as soon as we are out of speaker range and able to speak in normal tones.
I shrug. "Saving Trowa from the evils of popular people."
"Shhh," I whisper, "don't speak, you'll ruin the mood."
Quatre stared at him with a look of pure horror. "Duo just committed social suicide and you're laughing?"
I opened my mouth to tell Quatre to chill out, that the popular kids were going to hate me eventually no matter what I said or did. I didn't even get a squeak out before my train of thought was interrupted by a blood curdling scream. I turned in surprise to stare at the house, where the scream had originated from.
"What the hell?" Trowa asked.
"Dorothy probably broke a nail." I shrugged, turning my back on the house.
Several more screams rent through the air. Trowa grimaced and took off running, as did Quatre. What else was I supposed to do but follow? Granted, when I reached the sliding glass doors I seriously regretted it. Everyone was running out of the house like maniacs, screaming and scrambling over each other. I was being buffeted by teenagers on all sides as they tried to escape. I expected a fire or a crazy guy with a gun or Jason and Freddy.
"Fucking hell!" I shouted when I managed to get a look inside. The place was filled with bugs. All sorts too, most that I couldn't identify (which isn't saying much, I mean, I knew what the roaches and spiders were, but that was about it).
Trowa, who was standing right beside me, just shook his head. "Where did they come from?"
"You mean this isn't normal bug behavior?" I tried to sound like I was joking.
"Of course not!" Quatre wrinkled his nose at the mess. "One or two bugs inside is normal, and of course, the ladybugs tend to swarm in the spring, but this isn't even all the same bug!" He leaned down to examine some of the creepy-crawlies nearest us. "And that is a brown recluse." He grabbed my arm and drew me back several feet. Trowa backed up as well.
"A very venomous spider." A deep voice answered.
I spun around to identify the new voice. He was very tall, very blonde and excessively attractive. His hair was nearly as long as mine, but it was down and flowing around his shoulders. Slightly tan, athletic and absolutely gorgeous. I gaped in wonder.
"Zechs, we should probably send everyone home." Trowa addressed the Adonis. "We also need to make sure no one got bitten or stung."
While Trowa and Zechs (oh my God, Lu-Lu, you aim high!) were discussing what to do I started looking around at the party-goers who were amassed on the patio and in the yard. Dorothy and her gaggle of friends were clustered together on the patio chairs. Hilde was standing with a petite girl that looked vaguely familiar. Noin and some red-head-I assumed Trowa's sister-were sitting on the railings. Trieze was near them, and near Trieze was Beth who was laughing her head off.
Hmm, house mysteriously filled with creepy-crawly bugs...vengeful ghost laughing her head off nearby. Can you say 'supernatural phenomena' three times fast?
Yeah, I can't either, but I know it when I see it. Unfortunately, I can't confront her in front of everyone.
"I told you she was dangerous."
I was very proud that I did not jump out of my skin when Heero materialized right next to me. Beth stopped laughing and fixed her attention on Heero. My roommate, for his part, just sent her a glare that would peel paint and wilt daisies. Beth smirked and dematerialized.
Heero focused his attention back on me. "She might be young, but she is learning quickly. The insects were just a start; you must see how powerful she's getting? And she's only been dead a few months. Duo, are you listening to me?"
I was, but I couldn't exactly start having a conversation with Heero in the middle of the crowded patio. What, oh yes, I was just talking to my dead roommate about the girl who died recently. Beth Une, yeah, her. He's saying she's bad news. What do you think? Why are you getting out that straight jacket?
I settled for nodding once. Heero scowled a little bit, but seemed content. Oddly though, he didn't dematerialize. He just lurked nearby me, occasionally lurking right through Quatre, who was also standing close by.
Quatre shivered after about the fourth time Heero did that. "Shoot, my jacket is inside."
Trowa-who had given no indication he was paying attention-shucked his hoodie and handed it to Quatre. He went right on talking to Milliardo about getting everyone home safe and clearing out the house. Quatre gave him a grateful smile and pulled the hoodie on.
"Yes, Lu-Lu?" I half-turned towards my stepsister.
"Don't call me that. You okay?"
Surprised, I turned to face her fully. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but concern certainly wasn't it. "Yeah, I'm okay. I was down in the yard with Trowa and Quatre when the shit hit the fan." I walked over to her, dragging Quatre with me (my ghost-shadow followed). "You cool? What about Hilde?" I craned my neck over the crowd to find the other girl, but couldn't locate her.
Noin just shrugged. "She probably left already with Mindy. We got a few hours before curfew. A couple of people are going down to the bridge, want to come?"
I glanced at Quatre. He was staring off into space, rubbing his chest. I snapped my fingers in front of his face. "Earth to Q, come in Q."
He jumped about a mile in the air. "Oh! I'm sorry Duo, I must have spaced-out. What did you say?"
"Didn't say anything. Noin was asking if we wanted to go to the bridge-whatever that means."
Noin coughed. "Actually, Duo, I asked you."
I pretended I didn't catch her unsubtle insinuation that Quatre wasn't invited. "Well yeah, but Quatre would be coming too, so his opinion counts here."
Quatre turned faintly pink. "No, it's okay, go have fun Duo. I should probably call one of my sisters to come get me..." He trailed off.
I shook my head. "Hey, how 'bout this? We head back to mine, raid Howard's kitchen for goodies and watch a movie? Noin can drop us off before she heads to the bridge."
Trowa joined out little group. "Or I could drive us and Noin can take Cathy." He held out his hand to the red-head.
"Sounds like a plan!" She smiled sort-of apologetically at Trowa. "You guys can come to the bridge if you want." She handed him a set of keys.
Trowa just shook his head. "We'll be fine. Stop mothering."
Cathy just shrugged and tilted her head to the side. "Well be careful, don't do anything I would do and make sure Quatre gets back by his curfew." She grabbed Noin's arm and hopped off the railing, sashaying off.
No seriously, she was sashaying. "Don't do anything she would do?" I asked Trowa.
Trowa wasn't really paying me attention, he was looking at Quatre. He seemed to be asking the blond a question without even speaking.
Quatre, for his part, did answer verbally. "Let's go guys. I wanna check out Duo's movie collection!" He then turned his megawatt smile back on.
We bid farewell to people and started walking away from the party and to Trowa's truck. It was fairly dark, so if I happened to catch Trowa reach out and discreetly squeeze Quatre's hand, I wasn't going to mention it.