Author: Enchantress101
see part 1 for warnings, disclaimer

Author’s Note: Oops. Looks like I confused some people as to whether chapter 16 was the last one or not. Guess I should’ve left you all a note. Well, as you can see, it wasn’t. Um, April Fools? Hehehe . . .

Shades of Obsession + Chapter 17
April Fool

It happened on a work, sorry, play day, one fine, cold, and snowy December morning. Quatre and I were watching old Japanese flicks with subtitles on my computer when a voice called, "Duo! Duo Maxwell?"

I looked up from the computer screen, and my heart nearly stopped. It was like déjà vu or something, and I really hate déjà vu. A young man with a large vase of roses was wondering around the office. "Oh jeeze," I muttered. "Over here!"

As the guy placed the vase on my desk, Quatre's eyes grew big and round. "Do you think . . . Zechs maybe?"

I shook my head and slipped the delivery man a couple of credits, and waited until he was gone to say, "Hell no. He knows better than to send roses."

Quatre visibly gulped. "Duo, there's a card."

Cue the scary, suspenseful music.

I yanked it from its place among the flowers and flipped it open.

I'm still watching . . .

Yeah, I know, something straight out of a bad horror flick, right? Nothing to be scared of? Well, not really.

The terrifying part was that I recognized the handwriting.

It was Rankin's.

I stared down at it, totally dumbstruck and frozen in place. Quatre ripped it from my tight, sweaty grasp and frowned. "What is it, Duo? Why are you looking like that?"

Was the fear that evident on my face? Apparently so, because now Quatre was gently pushing me down into my office chair, which I narrowly missed and almost hit the floor. "Rankin . . ."

"What about him?" Quatre demanded.

"That's his handwriting!" I managed to get out.

" . . . Duo, that's impossible. Rankin is dead--"

I leapt up and took the note from Quatre and waved it in front of his face. "Don't you think I know that? I'm the one that put the freaking bullet between his freaking forehead! And since he was the one stalking me, don't you think I'd know what his freaking handwriting freaking looked like?"

Quatre clamped a hand over my mouth--we were getting strange looks from people in neighboring hell pits. "Calm down! Now, are you sure that this is his handwriting?"

"Yes! Yes, I'm positive!" And I was. It was that same crazy man chicken scrawl that I'd seen before. I knew it.

"What's going on?" Heero came by the desk, and began glaring at the roses. "Will you move those? They're making me sick."

Okay, déjà vu all over again. Didn't I already say that I hated that? I shoved the note under Heero's nose. "Look. It's from Rankin."

Heero didn't even look at it, he just scowled at me. "Impossible. The man is dead. He is no longer capable of thinking, writing, walking into a store and ordering you flowers. Rankin sending you a note defies all laws of science and logic as we know it--"

"Thank you, Bill Nye," I muttered. "Then how can you explain the fact that this is his handwriting?"

Heero took a closer look at it. "Are you sure?"

Oh my god. What was wrong with them? "Yes! You know what, never mind. I'm going to call Alex, he'll know what to do with this." I turned my back to them and began rummaging through my desk. I was sure that I had one of his cards in there some where, even though I hadn't called him since the Rankin case closed months ago.

I heard Heero mutter, "Go find Merquise and the others," to Quatre, who quickly went off to do just that.

Damn, damn, damn. Where the hell was that card? I continued to shuffle until Heero picked up the phone and gave it to me, reciting the number that I needed from memory. I glared at him and dialed.

"Hello, this is Detective Walker. How can I help you?"

I hesitated for a minute. "Walker? Is this . . . I thought this was Alex's number."

" . . . Duo? Is that you?"

"Yes, it's me."

"Oh. Well, after Rankin, Alex quit the force." He gave me a dry laugh. "Turns out he had a law degree hidden in the back of his closet. He traded his badge for a corner office, a six figure salary and a snappy suit. He's a lawyer now."

Wow. Okay, that came as a surprise. "Ah."

"Is there something you need?"

"Yes. Unfortunately, I think I have another problem. I just got a delivery of roses at the office with a note. Written in Rankin's handwriting."

"Are you sure?"

What the hell? "Yes!"

"Alright, alright. I'll be over as soon as possible. Stay calm, and don't leave, okay?"

"Okay. Bye." With a heavy sigh, I sat back in my chair and rubbed my face warily.

I didn't see Zechs approach, but I heard his deep demand, "What's all this about Rankin?" He stooped down at my side and took my chin in his soft grasp. "What's going on?"

I told him, he looked at the note, and then sighed heavily. "Did you call for someone?"

"Yes. Detective Walker."

Zechs raised an eyebrow. "Not that Benito man?" he asked. Did I detect a hint of relief in his voice?

"No. He's not a cop anymore. He's a lawyer."

Quatre, Trowa and Wufei joined us, and now it was like we were having a Gundam Pilot convention. I had to fill the newcomers in once again, and of course no one believed that the note was from Rankin. But it was in his handwriting, no one could deny that.

Not even Detective Walker, whose face went a little white as he took in the message. Obviously, he recognized it too. He slipped the note into a plastic bag and said, "Well, I'll get this down to the lab right away and have someone take a look at it. Rankin couldn't have possibly written this, but someone did a pretty damn good imitation. I'll call you all with what I find out right away." He handed me a card and was about to walk away when I called him back.

"Hey! Do you have Alex's number? I'd like to talk to him." Next to me, Zechs stiffened. It wasn't what he thought. Seriously. Walker flipped the card that he'd given me over, wrote a number on the back and left.

Needless to say, none of us felt like sticking around much after that, so we all left, except for Zechs, who stayed behind because he had real work to do since he was of-age. I went to Quatre's new mansion where we sprawled out in the living room and lazed about.

Quatre and I were on our laptops, making the arrangements for our special Christmas getaway that was coming up in a few weeks, which conveniently took my mind off of the note. Quatre had this fantastic cabin up in the woods that we'd be staying at for the holidays. All of us would be going--yes, even Heero and Wufei. I know! Can you imagine how difficult it was to get them to say yes? Basically I called them every five minutes asking them to come, and eventually they gave in. Haha.

I was really excited about this trip. Zechs and I would be free to be ourselves, we'd share a bed again, and no one would care if we sucked face all over the place. Well, okay, maybe Wufei, but so what? He needed to liven up a bit.

I was all done ordering stuff off of the internet, and now there was something else I had to take care of. I took my cell phone, hid in the corner of the room and dialed Alex's number. I had a hunch about something, and if this hunch paid off, then I would be one lucky bastard . . .

+

The next day, by the time our work day ended, we still hadn't heard anything from Walker. I headed over to Zech's place and after an enthusiastic romp in the gigantic bed followed by a steamy shower, we decided to order some Chinese. Only ten minutes after we called the restaurant, there was a knock on the door.

I checked out the little hole in the door. Oh damn. Relena!

I must've forgotten to mention that Miss Pink Princess was still around. I didn't get it. Surely she had other places to be and other things to do, you know, like babies to kiss and old white men to pass legislation with or something, but here she was, renting a place somewhere near the city. I'm not sure what she wanted, or what she was trying to do, but it was annoying. I opened the door and plastered a fake smile on my face. "Hello. How are you?"

"Just fine," she replied, stepping into the living room.

This was not the first time that we'd met like this. She was probably getting suspicious as to why I was always at her brother's place, but we always blamed it on work. I couldn't tell if she bought it or not.

Zechs came from the back of the flat, and thankfully his hair was dry, because mine certainly wasn't. "Relena, what are you doing here?"

She started to open her mouth, but then she glanced over at me. "Can I have a moment with Zechs please?"

"Ah, sure." I went into the kitchen and turned on the small flat screen TV there. I pretended to watch it, but out of the corner of my eye, I sneaked peeks at the two. Yeah, I'm a sneaky, suspicious bastard. So sue me.

Relena took something--a baby blue envelope--out of her black handbag and handed it to Zechs without saying a word. He took it and stared down it warily.

"Tell me you'll read it," Relena pleaded.

Zechs sighed. "I don't know. There isn't anything that could be said to change my mind about this. I've moved on."

Relena hesitated at that. "Moved on? You mean you've found someone else?"

"Relena . . ."

"Read it, please. Promise me you'll read it."

"I will. But as to what will happen after I do, I make no promises. Is that understood?"

She sighed with relief. "Oh, yes, of course. Just consider it, please?"

"Of course." Zechs tucked the letter into his pocket and then artfully changed the subject. "Duo and I ordered Chinese. Would you like to have some?"

"Sure!"

Oh jeeze. This was bad. I knew that she was up to something, and it just had to be that she was trying to get someone to come in between me and my boyfriend! Of course, she didn't know this, but still! Back off! Zechs was mine, damn it, and no other man was going to break us apart. I would see to that.

Dinner wasn't all that great. I was itching to look at the envelope that was folded up in Zech's back pocket, but I very well couldn't feel him up to cover my pick pocketing it because his sister was sitting right there! I never got my hands on the thing, because Relena and I left at the same time. Darn!

I didn't like it that my man was getting strange letters from an ex. I didn't like it one bit.

+

You know what was great about Zechs being older than me? No, it's not that he can buy beer, but that he doesn't sit in a cubicle--he has his own office! Une put him in charge of training a group of new members, and he's got his own office with a window, a rolling chair and a big desk. The best part is the desk, of course, because unlike Q and Tro who are forced to go into the public restroom if they ever got that . . . ahem, urge, Zechs and I can easy duck into his office and make use of that wonderful desk. And we have, plenty of times, I can assure you.

We were just about get busy on it, I was lying back on the desk and I had his shirt pulled out of his pants when someone knocked on the door. Zechs growled into my neck.

"Who is it?" he demanded gruffly. Oh, he sounded so hot when he was angry.

"It's Quatre! Detective Walker is here to talk to you, Duo," Q called from the other side of the door.

We were up, our clothes straightened out in seconds, and we were back out in the main office where Trowa, Quatre, Heero and Wufei were waiting with the detective. As we joined the group, my hands began to sweat like crazy and my heart raced.

"What's up, Detective?" I asked cautiously.

"I've got some good news for you, I think. We had the note analyzed," Walker said with a small smile. "It is Rankin's handwriting, but then again, its not."

I scratched my head. "Wait, what?"

"Let me explain. Apparently, someone checked out several pieces of evidence from our storeroom a few days ago," Walker said. "Among this evidence were several of Rankin's journals taken from his cabin, along with other things that he wrote. With those, it would be fairly easy for someone to scan in the materials, do a little cutting and pasting and cleaning up, and they'd be able to make a pretty good imitation of his hand writing."

I let out this huge breath that I hadn't realized that I'd been holding. "So . . . it's not real?"

"No. The lab analyzed the note--the paper is standard printer paper and the ink is from a normal printer."

Of course it couldn't have been Rankin. I'd gone to the morgue, I'd seen him lying there on that table, it was me who but the bullet in his head. Of course.

Quatre looked very disturbed. "Why would someone do that? I don't understand."

"The police never did track down that person who was supposedly helping Rankin," Trowa muttered.

Walker nodded. "That's what we think. We suspect that the same person is responsible for the note. Unfortunately, who ever this was used fraudulent identification to check the evidence out, so the chances of us tracking this person down are slim at best."

So. Someone wanted to scare the hell out of me . . . before they came to hack me to death? Whoever the heck this was had to want me dead--because that had been Rankin's ultimate goal too. And here I was, just getting comfortable with my life again, and now this . . . Damn.

"I'll advise you to be careful," Walker said to me.

I nodded. "Yeah. Thanks."

After a few parting words, I wandered back to my cubicle and stared blankly at the computer screen. Zechs followed me, concern obvious on his face.

"Are you okay?" he asked softly, glaring slightly at two women who were leering at us out of the corner of their eyes.

"Oh, yeah, I'm fine. I should've known that--" My cell phone suddenly began to ring, and when I looked at the caller ID, I knew that I had to take this call. I flipped it open. "Yeah?"

"Duo?"

"Hi Al . . ." I glanced at Zechs quickly. He looked very curious as to who was calling, but if I told him that it was Alex, he just might flip. "Alexandria," I said neatly. "How are you doing?"

There was a small cough from the other end. "Alexandria? Oh, let me guess, Merquise is around."

"Uh, yeah."

"Hmm. Well, I got your message. You sure you want to do this?"

"I'm positive. You can help me? I mean, do I have a chance?"

Alex laughed. "Hell yes. This is going to be the easiest case I've had yet. No problem."

Well, that was certainly good news. "Ah. So, what'll be your fee?"

"Nothing."

"Ha. Very funny. How much?"

"Nothing! I don't charge for favors. Besides, I'll barely have to do any work. I'd feel really wrong for charging you."

". . . If you insist."

"I do."

"Okay. So when can we do this?"

"How about next Friday, nine a.m.? I'll set it all up if you can make it to my office."

"That's fine. I'll be there. Thanks for doing this."

"No problem. I'll see you then."

"Bye." I hung up the phone and sat back in my chair. Great. Things were going just as planned . . .

Zechs cleared his throat loudly. "What was all of that about?"

I turned to face him and smiled. "It's a surprise, Daddy. You'll just have to wait and see."

He looked skeptical. "Is that so?"

"Yep."

". . . alright," he replied casually, turning away and walking towards his office. Then he paused and said over his shoulder, "I trust you, Duo, so that means that I have faith that you and Alex won't be doing anything you shouldn't be at your little meeting."

I gapped at his retreating back. How the hell had he known that?!

+

Zechs was trying to be very cool about my not-so-secret meeting with Alex, but I could tell that it was bothering him a little bit. He was a tad bit grumpy, even after I explained to him that it wasn't a romantic meeting--we weren't going to a Motel 6 with a box load of condoms and chocolate covered strawberries or something. He didn't understand why I wouldn't tell him what it was about, but I didn't think that was all that fair. I mean, when I tried to ask him about past lovers in an attempt to find out who the hell was sending my man love letters (!!), he just shrugged it off and danced around the topic. Well, buddy, two could play that game, so there.

But didn't I mention that I was a sneaky little bastard? Yep, yep, there's no shame in my game--I didn't mind doing a little digging to try to find out what the hell was going on. While Zechs was conversing with his sister on the phone in the kitchen, I wandered into the back of his study, looking for that damn letter. I know what you're thinking, but I just couldn't leave it alone. I had to know who that letter was from.

The drawers in his desk revealed nada, and I was just about to head to the book shelf when something blue caught my attention. There, jammed in the paper shredder, was a bit of blue something or other. The envelope that Relena had given Zechs had been blue, right?

I was over there in a quick second. Sure enough, a bit of the envelope was stuck in the gears. Carefully I yanked it out, and was disappointed to see that the piece that I'd managed to find didn't contain anything on the outside that would help me identify the jerk. Damn. I peeled away the mangled bit of envelope and took out a piece of the letter. Only the blank margin remained. No help there.

The rest of the envelope was shredded beyond hope, so I stuck the bits back in their original position just in time. I heard Zechs coming and dashed over to the bookshelf, grabbing the first book that I saw.

Zechs stood in the door frame. "What are you reading?"

"Ah . . ." I stared down at the cover of the book. Oh hell. My face caught on fire. "Um, 50 Pleasing Positions. Yeah, real informative stuff here."

Zechs laughed. "Feeling adventurous?"

"Maybe. Or maybe I'm just wondering why the hell you have this on your shelf."

"To use with you, of course." The smile on his face was devastatingly handsome and my knees almost turned to mush.

I sashayed up to him with the book close to my chest. "Then what are we waiting for? Let's get to it--fifty is a lot."

Well, I hadn't found out the identity of that mystery writer, but you know, I did learn some things--I was a lot more flexible than I'd thought . . . and number 48 was pretty damn good.

[chap. 16] [chap. 18] [back to Singles a - k]