Author: Caroline
Disclaimers: don't own 'em. never will. 'nuff said.

After Image + Part 10

"So you're the little fortune teller who's gonna to help the cops catch me," the man laughed harshly into Duo's ear. "You must not be very good if you didn't see me coming."

The cold, sharp metal dug into his throat. Duo whimpered as he felt something warm and wet slide down his neck. He closed his eyes and tried hard not to move. The tiniest movement could cause the knife to dig deeper into his neck. He didn't even dare swallow.

The man breathed heavily into his ear. He rubbed himself suggestively against Duo's backside. "Damn kid, you're even prettier than your picture in the paper." He let go of Duo's mouth, moving his hand down to grope at the long-haired boy, keeping the knife pressed against his throat. "Scream and I'll kill you right now. Then I'll go after that pretty little nun that works at the orphanage."

`No! Sister Helen...' Duo thought, panicked. He suddenly felt nauseated as he realized the man must have been following him around for days if he knew about Sister Helen. And if he knew about Helen, he knew about Heero. He couldn't allow anything to happen to the people he loved.

The hand wandered lower, groping him through his clothes. He let out a soft whimper of protest, fighting the urge to scream. He heard the man inhale deeply, sticking his nose in Duo's hair.

"Damn you smell good. And such long, pretty hair. I may have to take that braid of yours home when I'm done so I'll always be able to remember you."

"Please," Duo whispered, unable to stay silent any longer. "Please, don't hurt me. Let me go."

"Whatsamatter, kid? We're going to have a fun time, me `n' you." He unbuttoned the top of Duo's jeans and slipped his hand inside.

"Oh yeah, baby. A real fun time."

"No, please," Duo begged, half-terrified out of his mind, sickened by the man's touch.

"Aww, don't say that kid. I drove all this way just to see you. You're a little out of my way, but when I saw your picture in the paper, I just had to have you."

The knife slipped a little as the man continued to fondle him. Duo gasped for air now that he was no longer in danger of being cut if he took a deep breath. His arms hung limp at his side. He knew he'd never be able to fight off his attacker - the man was surprisingly strong. He was scared and desperately wished Heero was there. Heero was strong too. Heero could save him.

He heard the man's breathing become excited. He could feel his state of arousal pressing against his buttocks. The man licked his ear again. Duo flinched, jerking his head away. The knife slipped even more as the man shifted his grip on his upper torso. Just a little lower and maybe he could force his attacker to drop the knife and get away. The other hand groping him squeezed him hard. Duo let out a cry of revulsion and futilely tried to squirm away.

"What's wrong kid?" the man rasped into his ear as he tried to stoke Duo's limp manhood into arousal. "Don't like my touch? I thought a little slut like you would enjoy this. I've seen you with that chink boyfriend of yours. I bet you spread for him every night." He popped the next button on Duo's jeans to give him more room. "Mmm, I bet you're tight. I can't wait to bury myself in that sweet little hole of yours."

The knife slipped just a little bit more. Duo took a deep breath, searching for courage he didn't know if he had. He elbowed the man in the ribs and pushed the arm holding the knife away from his body. He jerked away from the killer, stumbling forward in an effort to get away. He'd almost made it to the end of the alley when something heavy hit him from behind, sending him sprawling to the ground. His attacker immediately straddled his body, pinning him down on his stomach, and shoved his head to the pavement. Lights danced in front of his eyes as his head hit the ground.

"No! Let me go!" he cried out, struggling violently to get away. The man yanked on Duo's braid, causing his head to be pulled up, neck straining backwards at an unnatural angle. The knife found its way back to his throat.

"You stupid whore!" he spat at Duo, giving his braid a sharp tug. Duo gasped in pain. "I told you not to scream. Playtime's over."

He let go of Duo's hair, but kept the knife near his throat. Tears streamed silently down Duo's face as he felt the man yank his jeans down over his hips. He jumped as the crisp autumn air caressed his bare skin. He squeezed his eyes shut and prayed for help. `Help me, please. Heero...'

Heero may not have heard, but God seemed to be listening. A door near the other end of the alley swung open and a group of young people tumbled out, laughing and make a great deal of noise in general.

"Shit!" he heard the man swear above him. Duo felt him lean down and place his mouth near his ear. "Don't think this party's over, pretty. I'll find you again and we'll finish what we started."

And with that, he was gone. The man's weight disappeared from his back, the knife gone from his throat. Duo cautiously raised his head to see his attacker's feet vanish around the corner. Tired and sobbing tears of relief, he rolled onto his side, tugging his jeans back into place almost as an afterthought. The top two buttons on the fly were missing, but at that moment, Duo didn't care. Weakly he pushed himself up with arms shaking like jello. He struggled hard not to roll over and throw up. He wrapped his arms around his waist, his body trembling like a leaf.

Duo's unsuspecting saviors drew closer. One of the young men saw Duo huddled against the wall and hurried forward.

"Hey kid. Are you okay?" he asked, kneeling next to Duo.

The long-haired teen shook his head. "N...no."

"Jesus, you're bleeding." He turned to his friends gathered around them. "Isobel, go call for help."

Duo blocked everything else out. He buried his face in his knees. He could still feel that bastard's hands on him. He couldn't stop shaking, couldn't stop the tears from falling. He wanted to go home.

He wanted to see Heero.

`Heero. I need you.'

+


Treize sighed and sat back in his chair. "And you're sure about this. You all agree on this conclusion," he said, looking at each of them in turn.

Wufei nodded. "I asked Barton and Yuy to take a look at the case to see if they came to the same conclusions I saw. They did."

"The medical examiner finally finished his report as well. His conclusions match ours," Trowa added. "He also confirmed that Miss Peacecraft died several hours later than earlier estimated by the crime scene investigators. He placed her time of death around nine A.M. Sunday morning. Not that it makes much of a difference, but now we have a time frame to work with when questioning potential witnesses."

`It does make a difference to me. The time of death now concurs with Duo's vision,' Heero thought. `That's the only discrepancy I could find. But now, everything is falling into place.'

The captain leaned forward and pinched the bridge of his nose. "This puts us in a very delicate situation, gentlemen. If word leaks out about this..."

"It won't," Heero interrupted, throwing a glance at his partner. "You, Chang, Trowa and I are the only ones who know about this. And unless our leak has a listening device planted in your office, we won't be telling anyone."

"Not even my team," Wufei said.

"Not even Senator Peacecraft," added Trowa.

Treize nodded in agreement. "All right. That's probably for the best, at least until you gather more information. Yuy, Barton - you are officially and permanently reassigned to the Peacecraft case." He stood up. "Now is there anything else?"

Heero opened his mouth to add something but was interrupted when the door to Treize's office swung open. An older detective stepped inside.

"Yes, Otto? What is it?" Treize asked.

"Excuse me for interrupting, Captain. Detective Yuy, there's someone out here who wants to see you."

"Who is it?"

"I don't know. A kid with long hair. He's been here before."

Trowa rolled his eyes. "Your little psychic boyfriend following you to work now, Heero?"

The dark-haired detective shot a glare at his partner.

"I don't think he's here for a visit," Otto remarked. "He looks pretty shaken up. He's bleeding..."

Heero didn't stay to hear the rest. He shoved past the older cop, intent on finding Duo. His stomach had twisted in knots when Otto had said Duo was hurt. He scanned the room, eyes quickly seeking out the long-haired boy who had come to mean so much to him in such a short amount of time.

Duo was sitting near Heero's desk looking incredibly pale. A large white bandage adorned his throat, the center of which was stained with blood. Another smaller bandage was on his forehead. Heero felt his body tighten as he took in Duo's injuries and the blood stains on his shirt. He swore whoever had done this to him would pay. A uniformed police officer was standing next to Duo. Heero started forward, wanting nothing more than to touch Duo, make sure he was all right. At that moment, Duo looked up. With a cry, he launched himself out of the chair and flew into Heero's arms. He buried his face into Heero's chest, body shaking almost violently as he sobbed silently into Heero's shirt.

The Japanese detective wrapped his arms around Duo's body, hands lightly stroking his back in comfort. "Duo, shhh. It's okay. You're safe now." He turned questioning eyes to the officer who had accompanied his braided love.

The man shrugged. "He wouldn't tell me what happened. A group of college kids found him in an alley. They called the paramedics who managed to stop the bleeding. Even said it wasn't deep enough to need stitches. They also said he probably doesn't have a concussion. I arrived a few minutes later. He refused to speak except to insist I bring him here."

Heero nodded. "Thank you. You did the right thing."

The cop nodded back and turned to leave. Heero turned his attention to the boy in his arms. "Duo? Duo, you're safe now. I'm here. Can you tell me what happened?"

Duo sniffed then hiccuped, still clutching tightly to Heero's shirt as if it was his own private security blanket.

"It...it was him," he said, wiping his nose on his sleeve. "He... he had a knife. He was t...touching me. He said he was going to come after me again." He shivered violently. "Oh God! I was so scared!"

Heero was scared too. He'd come dangerously close to losing Duo without even knowing it - losing him to the bastard they were hunting. He swallowed hard. Duo was crying into his shirt again. He looked up to see Wufei standing nearby.

`Conference room,' the other detective mouthed then turned and walked through a nearby doorway.

Heero rubbed Duo's back with one hand, using the other to tilt his face up. "Duo, I know you're frightened. Jesus, I am too. But do you think you could tell us what happened?"

"Us?"

"Me, Trowa, and Detective Chang."

Duo winced. "Last time I talked to Chang he th...threw me in jail for the murders."

Heero gave him a small smile. "I doubt Chang will do that this time." His smile vanished. "He's still out there, Duo. I need you to help me catch him. I need to put him away so I'll know you're safe."

Duo didn't look happy, but he nodded. "All right. Where do we go?"

Heero led him to a small conference room. Wufei and Trowa were already inside. A tape recorder was sitting in the middle of the table ready to record the conversation. Heero maneuvered Duo onto a chair and took the one next to him.

"Okay Duo. I believe you know Trowa and Detective Chang."

"Yeah," Duo said, frowning at Wufei.

The Chinese cop gave him a sad half-smile. "Mr. Maxwell," he greeted with a nod of his head. "I never got a chance to apologize for before. I don't believe in this... psychic mumbo-jumbo, but I do regret putting an innocent in jail."

Duo shrugged. "It's okay. You were just doing your job."

"It's still no excuse. I locked you up without any hard evidence against you. I even hoped you were the killer - because then this would all be over and maybe I could get to sleep at night."

Duo stared at him sadly, understanding for the first time how hard cases like this could be for the police as well. He pitied Chang. He pitied them all.

"Duo," Heero asked, placing a comforting hand on his arm, "can you tell us exactly what happened to you?"

Duo nodded and licked his dried lips. "I was on my way home to get ready for our - for a date," he amended hastily, blushing as he shot Heero a glance out of the corner of his eye. "I was walking down Dixon Street..."

He told the story with a wavering voice. Heero turned a deathly shade of pale when Duo described how his attacker had pawed at him. He wanted to reach out and squeeze Duo's hand reassuringly, but did not. He allowed Duo to tell his story, knowing his presence alone would be comforting to the braided boy.

"Are you sure you didn't get a good look at him?" Wufei asked again, frustration edging his voice.

Duo shook his head regretfully. "No. I just saw his arms and hands and heard his voice. He kept his face hidden from my view the whole time."

"Did he have any distinguishing marks on his hands like scars or a tattoo?"

Duo shook his head. "They were rough, callused, but no scars. His fingers were... short though," he said, cocking his head in confusion.

Heero raised an eyebrow but didn't comment about the man in Duo's vision supposedly having long fingers.

"What about his voice?" Trowa asked.

"Rough, harsh - like he was stage whispering. Maybe he was disguising his voice?" He shrugged. "I didn't recognize it."

"And you say he saw your picture in the paper and tracked you down?"

Duo nodded, then cocked his head as if remembering something. "Actually, he did say that I was a little out of his way."

The three detectives glanced at each other.

"And you were on Dixon Street right?"

"Yeah." Duo swallowed nervously. "He said he was going to find me again - to finish what he started." His voice cracked, tears stinging his eyes.

"I think that's enough for now," Heero insisted, noticing the boy's distress. Wufei agreed. "We'll talk to those college kids and see if they got a look at him, though I doubt they did." He stood up and walked around to stand next to Duo. "Mr. Maxwell, go home. Get some rest. We'll place a unit at Maxwell Church and the orphanage. Try not to worry. We'll catch him."

Duo nodded his thanks, unable to speak for the moment. Trowa stood as well. "Take him home, Heero. We'll have a couple of guys watch over his apartment."

"No. I'm going to take him to my place... at least for tonight."

Trowa gave him a look. "Are you sure that's wise?" he asked snidely.

Heero sighed, tired of his partner's attitude towards Duo. He pulled him aside, out of Duo's earshot. "Look Trowa, I don't know what the hell your problem is, but I care a lot about that young man. He's just been through a very traumatic experience and I'm not going to leave him alone tonight." He shot a glance at Duo, eyes softening as he looked at his little would-be lover. "You don't have to like him, Trowa, but I ask that you treat him with respect. He's a wonderful person... and someone I hope will be a part of my life for a very long time."

Trowa looked at Heero reproachfully. "I'm sorry Heero. I didn't know you felt so strongly about that - about him." He placed his hand on Heero's shoulder and pushed him towards the braided teenager. "Take him home. I'll cover what's left of your shift."

"Thanks Trowa." Heero gave his partner a grateful look before turning back to Duo.

"Duo?" The young man looked up at him, eyes glazed over as the reality of what had happened finally began to sink in. Heero hurried over, wanting to get him home before shock set in. "Duo, I'm going to take you home now."

Duo nodded dumbly. He let Heero help him stand up, clutching desperately at his shirt sleeve. "Heero, please. I don't want to be alone right now."

Heero wrapped his arms around him. "You won't be, Duo. I'm here. I won't leave you."

+

Heero unlocked the door to his loft and swung it open. He placed one arm around Duo's shoulders and guided him inside. He took the coat he had draped around the boy and hung it up just inside the door. He glanced worriedly at his young love. Duo was standing completely still in the middle of the floor. He hadn't said a word since they'd left the precinct. And that worried Heero no end.

"Duo? Would you like something to eat or drink?"

Duo shook his head, his arms coming up to wrap around his body. Heero sighed and walked over to him. He eyed the bandage at Duo's throat and frowned. "You're bleeding again. Come over here and let me change the dressings." He led Duo to one of the bar stools and sat him down upon it. He hurried into his bathroom and gathered the necessary supplies, anxious to get back to Duo.

The braided teen was where he'd left him, perched precariously on the stool. He set the first aid supplies on the bar counter and tilted Duo's head up. Carefully he peeled away the soaked through bandages, wincing as he saw the cut on Duo's neck for the first time. The paramedics had been right - it wasn't deep enough to need stitches, but it was deep enough to bleed profusely as head wounds tended to do. He gently wiped away the blood with a damp cloth. He dabbed the cut carefully with some antiseptic before applying a fresh bandage to the injury.

He was just finishing applying medical tape to hold the bandage in place when Duo spoke. "I'm really tired, Heero," he said softly.

Heero smiled gently at him. "Let's get you into bed. Do you need to go to the bathroom first?"

Duo nodded. He let Heero help him down off the barstool then padded silently to the bathroom. Heero hurried to the curtained off bedroom area to turn down the sheets. He quickly changed out of his work clothes and into a comfortable pair of boxers and a cotton t-shirt. He laid out an oversized shirt for Duo to wear, then wandered out into the living room to make up the couch for himself. He heard the bathroom door open and Duo step out.

[cont]