Author: Enchantress101
see part 1 for warnings, disclaimer

Shades of Obsession + Chapter 18
Of Mice and Men

Across from me at the long conference table sat two balding, overweight white guys, both looking around nervously and sweating stains into the armpits of their crisp polo shirts. Next to them, their lawyer was shuffling through a bunch of papers while doing his best not to look at me.

Ah, yes, they were literally squirming in their pants, and they had every reason to.

I grinned at the large fellows and said politely, "Can I get you gentlemen anything? Coffee? Water? Should I turn up the air conditioning?"

The heavier man, Charles I think he said his name was, pulled at his tie. "Ah, no. No need to do that."

"Are you sure? I just want you two to be comfortable." I sat back in my chair leisurely and began picking at my fingernails.

Before either Charles or his partner Gary could reply, the lawyer cleared his throat. "Where is Mr. Benito? We're ready to get started and he's late. This is very unprofessional--"

Alex came into the room just then, and I must say that he'd done well for himself. It was the first time I'd seen him since the Rankin case ended, and I was quite pleased to see that he was dressing snappy, and that he still looked good.

"Sorry I'm late, gentlemen," Alex said sternly, sitting next to me.

"Let's just get to business," the lawyer said. "My clients are willing to settle this matter with Mr. Maxwell out of court. How does seven million sound?"

I raised my eyebrow slowly, dramatically and watched Gary and Charles squirm even more. "Seven million? You have got to be kidding me."

"Duo is right," Alex said coolly. "Do you honestly expect him to accept such a low offer, considering the amount of money that your clients have made illegally using his name?"

"We'll go to twenty!" Charles exclaimed suddenly. Promptly, he received a death glare from his partner and his lawyer.

"That's better," I said, "but still not enough. Tell `em what I want, Alex."

Alex pulled a document out of his briefcase and slid across the table. "That is our offer to your clients."

Charles and Gary's lawyer took the papers and read it, then turned to his clients and began whispering. After a few minutes, Gary scowled at me and exclaimed, "You want us to give you the rights to the fan club! I don't think so!"

I looked around innocently. "Well . . . I am the one and only Duo, so shouldn't I have rights to something like that? Besides, you dudes were claiming to be official, and you're nothing of the sort. You used my name without my consent to make a profit. I could take you to court, shut you all down and take every cent you ever made from if I wanted to." I paused, giving them the evil eye. The pit stains nearly doubled in size.

"But I'm not. I'm going to let you keep the money you all made from the fan club . . . minus thirty million, and I want everything to do with That means any future profits will be mine."

I paused again for theatrical effect more than anything else. "So the choice is yours. Either I take everything you have, or I let you keep most of it, except for the fan club. Which will it be?"

Bwahaha! I could tell from the look on their faces that they knew that they were backed into a corner. After a few minutes of consulting with their lawyer (in which I whispered to Alex my eternal gratitude), the big guys were ready to take my deal and sign over the fan club and thirty mill to me!

Their signatures were on the dotted line in a flash.

If only Solo and the others could see me now.

I, Duo Maxwell, was rich!

+

After the successful meeting, Alex took me out for a celebratory lunch to a swanky and very exclusive little restaurant where I ordered the best they had, and together we popped open a bottle of (fake) champagne and began sipping.

We had a table near the window, and I had this lighter than air feeling in my chest. So I ended up sitting in the chair grinning at myself in the shiny glass. Life was getting better and better. I had a fine man, and now, a lot of cash. All I needed to do was clear up that, ah, minor issue of someone trying to off me . . . hmm.

"So," Alex said, sitting back in his chair and smiling, "what exactly are you going to do with all of your money?"

I turned away from the window and signed happily. "Oh, I dunno. Maybe get a better place to stay in?"

"Not the customary, I'm going to Disneyworld response?"

"Nah. I'm thinking the Bahamas."

He chuckled. "That would be nice. So, how are things going?"

I knew that wasn't the end of his question. "You mean, how are things going with Zechs?"

"Yes. That's what I meant."

"Things are going very well," I replied honestly. "Well, we're not living together for various reasons, but we have great sex and we have a good time. Did that sound shallow?"

Alex laughed. "Sort of."

"What I feel for him is hard to describe. It's not just sex, or having a good time. It's more. He makes me feel . . ." I gulped down some of the faux bubbly stuff and shrugged. It was not something that I could explain. "What about you? How ya been doing? Got a special man in your life?" I wiggled my eyebrows suggestively.

"There are a few . . . possibilities," Alex said evasively. "But I'm focusing on my career right now."

"Aww. You should get out, try to find someone. I'll help if you want."

"I'm fine! It's not a big . . . uh oh."

"Uh oh what?"

Alex slowly set down his glass. His eyes were focused on something over my shoulder. I turned a bit . . . uh oh indeed. Zechs was standing on the other side of the glass with a shopping bag from a fancy store in his hand, a furious look on his face.

Oh jeeze, he had the wrong idea! I barely had enough time to get out of my seat before he stalked away.

"Damn," Alex swore. "I'm sorry."

"No, it's fine." I sighed heavily. "I need to go--"

"Of course. Should I . . . do you need me to go with you or . . .?"

"I'm okay. Thanks, I'll call you later." I dropped a few credits on the table and rushed out of the restaurant. Out on the street, I didn't see Zechs anywhere, but seconds later I saw and heard his car speeding out of a parking garage on the next block over.

Oh shit, I thought as he almost ran over a little old lady. He was pissed.

+

About ten minutes later, I stood outside of Zechs' door with the key that he'd given me in my hand. I took a deep breath, steeled myself for . . . well, whatever. I opened the door and closed it quietly behind me. Zechs was standing, brooding in front of the wall of windows, his back to me.

"Um, hi," I said cautiously.

He didn't turn around, but pointed to the shopping bag that looked as if it had been tossed haphazardly on the couch. "I saw that shirt in the store and immediately thought of you. I thought you might like it."

Okay, ouch. Basically he was saying that he was the thoughtful lover and I was the two-timing bastard. I took two steps forward. He tensed up in response. "Thanks. I . . . look, it's not what you think."

He whirled around. "Not what I think? So I didn't see you in the restaurant, sipping champagne and laughing with that detective? Who was it then--your twin?"

"Let me explain--"

Zechs stalked over to me. "I thought that we shared some kind of trust, Duo. I believed that you weren't seeing him behind my back--"

"Will you just shut up for a minute so that I can explain! I was not at that restaurant with Alex because of some . . . some . . . some romantic liaison, okay? We were celebrating this really big case that he won for me, and that is all!"

The look on his face softened a bit. "What case?"

I walked around him and flopped down on the couch. "I wasn't going to tell you until I got some of the money in so that I could surprise you."

"What money?" Zechs sat across from me. "What the hell have you been up to?"

"I got full rights to my fan club, and tens of millions of bucks. I'm going to be a millionaire in a few months," I grunted. This was not the way that I'd envisioned telling Zechs that he no longer had to financially support me. I'd been thinking a party on a big ass yacht, a hot air balloon ride, a--

What was this? Why was Zechs looking so upset, so disappointed? "What's wrong? You're not happy about that?" I got to my feet. "You won't have to pay for my apartment anymore, you won't have to buy me fancy clothes or--"

"Did you ever stop to think that maybe I enjoyed doing those things for you?" He stared blankly at the wall for a moment before turning to face me.

I didn't know what to say. While I made this whole plan up in my head, the only outcome that I'd foreseen was Zechs being really happy. I hadn't known that he would be . . . pissed off about me wanting to take care of myself. "Actually, no I didn't. I hadn't realized that it was that important to you," I replied honestly. "But you have to understand where I'm coming from, Zechs. Living out on the street, hustling and stealing and starving sucked big time, and I don't ever want to go back to that life."

Blue eyes flashed at me dangerously. "You won't have to! I can--"

"Yeah, well, who the hell says that you're going to be around forever, huh?" I demanded. Why was my voice so tight? Why were my eyes burning? And was that snot threatening to fall from my nose! Okay, I was not going to cry. I was not. "What if something were to happen to you? Then what? I'm sorry that you don't like the fact that I'm doing my best to be self-sufficient, Zechs, but that's just the way I am!"

He didn't say anything.

"I'm . . . I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I--"

"No. I understand."

I sat next to him on the couch. "I want to be your equal, Zechs. I don't want people to go, oh look, Duo Maxwell, street trash using Zechs Merquise for his money . . . I just want you and everyone else to know that our relationship isn't about that." I paused and smiled. "Excuse my sappiness."

That got Zechs to chuckle. Just what I'd been going for. "You have every right to want to seek some security for yourself." He got to his feet and walked off into the kitchen. "I just like taking care of you. I don't think I will ever forget the look on your face when I put those car keys in your hand."

"Believe me, Daddy, the look on my face wasn't completely from the fact that I had a wickedly cool car. It was there just because you were thoughtful enough to get it for me."

That made Zechs smile as he reached into the wine chiller and took out a bottle, along with two glasses from the cabinet. "Shall we do some celebrating of our own, then?" he asked.

I laughed softly. "Why Mr. Merquise, are you trying to get me drunk so that you can have your wicked way with me?" I fluttered my lashes at him as I shook my hips up to the bar in the kitchen.

Zechs raised a blond brow at me. "Since when have I needed to get you drunk to do that?"

" . . . good point."

We sipped at our respective glasses for a while. After about five minutes, Zechs said, "Well, congratulations. What are you going to do with all of that money?"

"I dunno. Whatever it is that rich people do with their cash, I guess?" To be honest, I really had no idea. "But no matter what I choose to do with it, you'll always be at my side, right?"

Ohh, I guess I'd said the magic words, because then he smiled so beautifully at me.

"Of course. Now, how about we go try out number 35?"

+

It was late that night when I left Zechs' flat. I was sooo tired (we'd gone through a hell of a lot of numbers in that book), and I was just ready to get back to my place and hit the bed. So I sped all the way back while blasting rock music in an effort to keep my eyes open.

Scaling those flights of stairs was like murder.

Murder? Oh jeeze, what a bad choice of words there, I guess. Haha.

You see, I didn't even have time to turn on the lights--as soon as I stepped through the front door, I was tackled from the side. Surprised, the breath flew from my lungs as I hit the floor, and for a second there, I think I was out of it.

But, you know, a dangerously sharp kitchen knife gleaming in the moonlight would snap someone back to reality.

I rolled to the right just as the blade hit the hardwood floor. I stumbled to my feet and grabbed my attacker's wrist as the knife came at me again. I squeezed down hard on the person's wrist, weakening his grip on the weapon. It clattered to the floor, but I didn't have the chance to pick it up because I found myself being shoved into the edge of the kitchen countertop. I could only kick it away and hope that the thing went far out of my attacker's grasp.

Hands were at my throat now, pressing deep into the skin. I brought my legs up and wrapped them around the person's wrist. Then I pushed away from the counter, and we fell together down onto the floor--internally I rejoiced at the loud crack that I heard as his head hit the floor. The hands loosened, so I pried them off and got up, stumbling away and grabbing for the gun I had in a small, innocent chest that I had stored on a shelf in the living room. I only managed to get one shot out before my attacker tripped out of the open door and into the night.

I quickly locked the door and went into my room with gun in hand, where I locked myself in and immediately called the police on my house phone, Zechs on my cell.

The cops were there in ten minutes. Zechs was there in four.

And boy was he pissed! Apparently he'd gotten a glimpse of the bullet hole in the wall and had assumed that I'd been hit and just hadn't told him, but he was very relieved to see that I wasn't bleeding anywhere.

I answered the standard questions for Detective Walker (Did you see the person's face? No, was wearing a mask. Male or female? Coulda been either. Skin color? Was wearing a black sweat suit from head to toe. A voice? Didn't say squat), and then after they all determined that I had nothing useful to tell them, I went back to Zech's flat.

When we got inside, he had me strip down (to check for injuries, you pervs) and then promptly tucked me in for bed despite the fact that I had so much adrenaline running through my veins that I wasn't going to be sleeping any time soon.

He didn't leave the room. He just sat there in the dark on the end of the bed like some weirdo. I could feel the heat of his eyes on me, and it was kind of creepy.

"Hey," I said softly. "You're probably exhausted. Why don't you come and get some sleep?" When Zechs didn't move, I added, "I'm not going anywhere. I'll still be here when you wake up."

The got Zechs up on his feet. "I have some calls to make. I'll go to bed in a little while." Then he left.

Okay. It was three something in the morning--just who the fuck was he calling? I suspected that had just been an excuse

I waited up as long as I could for him--an hour and a half--but then, my high wore off and fatigue set in. I was asleep before I even knew it.

+

"That's right, Mr. Maxwell and I will not be in today due to extenuating circumstances," I heard Zechs say as I slowly woke. I'd been sleeping practically on top of him, and the soft rumbling of his chest had snapped me out of my slumber. Umm, what a nice place to be, especially after last night . . . ugh. Speaking of last night, my body was aching all over the place. Argh.

I sat up and rubbed the gunk out of my eyes. "Why are we skipping work?"

Zechs sat down the phone and gave me an "are you crazy" look. "Because someone tried to kill you last night. Remember?"

I blinked. "Oh yeah."

"Oh yeah?" His eyes drilled into mine. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine. Should I be hysterical, flipping out, crying or something?" I rested my head back against the pillows. My back felt like hell.

" . . . you don't seem to be feeling much of anything about this."

What was I supposed to say? I'd been attacked--wasn't the first time, that was for sure. The peace and tranquility of my life had been broken with that fucking note . . . I was feeling a little numb, like I didn't want to acknowledge that anything had happened at all.

"Sorry Daddy," I muttered. "I'm just tired of this. I don't . . ."

He dropped a soft kiss on the top of my head. "I understand. I've got this . . . appointment, but I'd rather not leave you. Will you come with me?"

What was up with him being all mysterious? "Ah, sure. Why not?"

After a soothing bath, we got into his car, and I was surprised to find myself back at my apartment, where several big guys were waiting for us. When I saw the name on their shirts--Alonz Security--I knew why they were there.

I was getting a state of the art alarm system, courtesy of Zechs . . . which, I suppose, would've been a good thing to have in the first place. Maybe that's why he was so angry last night?

So I just sat on the couch quietly as he directed the security guys, despite the fact that internally I was cringing at the amount of money . . . ah, his money being spent on this thing. I guess I would just have to accept the fact that Zechs was going to spend big bucks on me, at least until my settlement money came in.

Hours later the security men were gone. Zechs and I took our time inspecting everything--we liked to think that we learned something from the Rankin incident.

+

Needless to say, all of the others were quite angry when they heard of the latest attempt on my life over dinner that we were having the same night at my place. To shut them up I gave them a tour of my new security system and told funny stories about how Zechs and I had already tripped it ten times since it was installed earlier that day.

"So there we were," I whispered conspiratorially as I leaned over the table, making sure my eyes were big as could be, "minding our own business . . . in the bathroom . . . taking a very nice bubble bath . . . together . . ."

Wufei groaned loudly and covered his face. I kicked him under the table.

" . . . and all of a sudden the alarm goes off, scaring the bejezusout of us, and soapy water goes flying everywhere! As you can imagine, we're not doing a very good job of getting out of there with all of that slippery stuff covering everything--we're slipping and sliding . . . and there are these cops outside banging on the door, threatening to come in if we don't open the door right this instance--"

Quatre gasped. "They didn't come in, did they! Did they find you two--"

"Just in the nick of time, I managed to slide my bare ass across the bathroom floor, into my bedroom and out into the hallway. I did answer the door before they came in . . . but unfortunately, I'd forgotten to put a towel on, so I was standing there with only a few bubbles to cover my bits."

I paused as the guys tried to muffle their snickering, all except Heero, who was glaring off into the distance and Wufei, who's face was screwed up in his usual `I just sucked on a lemon' face. Then I continued.

"The two officers were beet red, and one of them threatened to take me into custody for indecent exposure or some crap! But then I reminded him that I was in my own home, so I could walk around butt naked any time I damn well pleased. And then I shut the door in their faces."

I grinned as Quatre began laughing. Heero did not look amused, and Trowa was trying not to smile.

"What set off the alarm?" Heero demanded, eyes narrow as he glared dangerously at the bullet hole. Oh man, how he freaked out when he saw that . . . whew.

Zechs shrugged his shoulders. "We're not sure. Each time, I checked everything and found nothing out of place."

"It's weird. We have no idea why it keeps--"

As if on cue, the shrill siren went off, and I found myself shoved under the table with Quatre guarding me as the others went off to find the intruder. Minutes later, the others were back, looking quite pissed. I got up and entered the security code and deactivated it.

"Merquise, I think someone ripped you off," Wufei said grumpily.

"I'm inclined to agree . . ."

We settled down after that. I turned the alarm back on, only activating it in places where we weren't going to be, and settled down with the group to watch a movie.

Only fifteen minutes into the film, the alarm went off again. We all spread out this time, taking various areas of the apartment. I went into the kitchen and began opening every space that I thought a human could probably fit into.

And then there came this high-pitched, girly scream (yes, girly, no matter how much he tries to deny it) from the back of the apartment.

I took off and followed Zechs, Quatre, Trowa and Heero into the bedroom to find Wufei standing on my bed, looking a bit sheepish now that we were all there.

"What is it!" I demanded, rushing forward, looking around. I didn't see an ax-wielding crazy guy, the boogie man, and Relena sure as hell wasn't here, so what the hell had all of that been about? When he didn't answer, I yanked him from on top of the bed and watched curiously as he danced out of the room and into the hallway on the tip of his toes.

"Something big and . . . and furry ran across my feet!" he declared. "It ran underneath the bed! You're infested with beasts, Maxwell!"

Immediately, Heero drew out his gun from his Black Hole of Weaponry (still haven't figured that one out), but I shoved it away and got onto my keens to peer under.

Laughing, I said, "Well, I see two furry somethings, but they sure as hell ain't big!" I reached under and caught the offending things in my grasp, clasping my hands together tightly. "Someone get me a vase or something deep, please?"

Zechs returned with a relatively deep bowl, and I gently emptied the contents of my hand into it--two small, frightened white mice. We'd found our culprits.

Quatre immediately began gushing. "Aww, look at them! They're so cute!"

"Yeah!" I agreed. "And you scared them Wufei! Shame on you, you big meanie!"

He mumbled underneath his breath, turned red and stalked away.

I took them into the living room and sat them on the counter and stared at them as they huddled together. "What do mice eat anyway?"

"Uh . . . cheese?" Quatre suggested.

"Good thinking!"

The night ended without any more incidences, and eventually they all left (Wufei sent the mice a dirty look on his way out . . . haha). Zechs was reluctant to leave, but was comforted by the fact that the alarm indeed did work, if a little too well. I wasn't about to let some nut job run me out of my own home, damn it. I'm a Gundam pilot!

Well, Gundam pilot or not, I locked the door very quickly behind him, inspected every nook and cranny of the apartment and then set the alarm. Hey, I may have kicked some mobile suit booty

As I got ready for bed, the total silence began to unnerve me. Call me a chicken if you want to, but I didn't like it one bit, so I dragged the television into my room, plugged it in and turned it on to the Weather Channel, leaving the volume up a little.

Bathed in the soft blue glow of the television, I slept with the mice on the table next to my bed and imagined that they were big guard dogs that would bite the hell out of any bad guys who dared to come after me. It helped. Just a bit.

[chap. 17] [chap. 19] [back to Singles a - k]