Author: Enchantress101
see part 1 for warnings, disclaimer

Shades of Obsession + Chapter 19
Christmas in Spring Time

It had been a while since Quatre and I had gone on a decent shopping trip together, and now that Christmas was rolling around, it was time to get into our usual last-minute gift buying frenzy. We weren't the only ones with the idea--the mall's parking lot was so full that we drove around in circles for fifteen minutes before managing to sneak into an empty space ahead of a line of cars waiting. Haha.

I could tell from the start that something was wrong with Quatre. He opted out of going into the lingerie store and was really quiet the entire time. I watched him out of the corner of my eyes as he picked up a shirt, gave it a half hearted evaluation and tossed it back down.

After a half an hour of shoving our way through crowds of other like-minded shoppers, I pulled Quatre over to the food court and bought two smoothies. Then I sat him down and gave him a once over. Miserable looking, just miserable.

"Okay, what's going on?" I demanded. "Usually, I can't get you to stop smiling for a second during the Christmas season, but now . . ."

Quatre took a looong sip from his smoothie. "I . . . it's nothing. I'm sure we'll get over it eventually."

"We? Get over what?"

The look on his face told me that I'd asked the right questions, because his face collapsed and immediately he blurted out, "I think that Trowa is getting bored with me. Our . . . spark just isn't there anymore, you know? I mean, you and Zechs are just so great together, and Trowa and I have been together for a while now, and I'm afraid that I won't be able to keep him happy and--"

Information overload! "Woah, woah! What the hell!" I exclaimed, eyes getting big. "Where on earth is this coming from? What makes you think this?"

Quatre pouted. "Yesterday I was . . . I was sneaking around the house, looking for the Christmas gifts that Trowa had bought the day before, and you'll never guess what I found."

Um, presents? "What?"

He looked as if he were on the verge of tears. "Duo . . ." Quatre leaned over the table and so did I. "I found a bag full of gay porn DVDs!"

I chocked on a bit of my smoothie. "What? Porno flicks?!"

"Yes! I found them hidden way in the back of a closet in one of the spare bedrooms. I can't believe it! Trowa bought porn! And worse, all of them of brunets! In case you haven't noticed, I'm not a brunet!"

My mouth fell open. Brunets? Porn? Trowa? Huh? "Well . . . I . . . I don't know, c'mon, that doesn't mean that he's bored or anything. I mean, maybe he wants to . . . watch them with you?"

"But why would he hide them, Duo, if that's what he wants to do? I mean, this room was way out of the way and everything. He was hiding them from me!"

"Er . . . maybe they were for a Christmas gift?"

He glared at me. "I found the presents. The DVDs were somewhere else entirely."

"Oh."

"Yeah, oh. I don't know what to do! If he's getting bored . . . What do you and Zechs do? You two look so happy--"

I shook my head. "Look, our relationship is new and besides, it isn't all flowers and puppies and sunshine. We have our fights."

Quatre frowned. "About what?"

"Well . . . see, not too long ago I had Alex work this case for me--a settlement to keep the whole mess out of the papers. I've been getting enough attention with Rankin and stuff. Basically, I got control over Duo.Com and a few million--"

"What?! You what? And you're just now telling me?! Way to go!" Quatre smiled, momentarily distracted from his romantic troubles. "So you're going to be rich?"

"Not as rich as you or Zechs, but yeah, I'll be pretty well off."

"That's great!"

"Well, yeah, I thought so too, but Zechs was angry. Apparently he likes being my sugar daddy. Makes him feel good."

"You two fought over that?"

"Yep. I'm just saying that every relationship goes through its ups and downs. You and Trowa have been on a pretty long 'good' streak, so you're bound to come across some issues once and a while. But I don't think you've got a damn thing to worry about," I replied honestly. He didn't look convinced, so I added, "But if it still bothers you, maybe you should just ask him?"

Quatre blushed. "Could you imagine? Trowa, can I talk to you about that porn that you have tucked away in the closet? Jeeze . . ." He sighed and tugged at his shiny blond locks a little too roughly. "You think I should dye my hair brown like yours?"

Quatre R. Winner with brown hair? That was just wrong. "No! Look, just . . . play it cool. Talk to him after the holidays, okay? Just be straight with him, be calm and try to understand where he's coming from."

"Right. You're right." We got up to continue our shopping with seemingly renewed sprits.

Quatre's not as slick as he thinks he is. I saw him buy that box of chestnut brown hair dye.

+

"JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE BELLS, JINGLE ALL THE WAAAAY!! OOH . . . SOMETHING BLAH, SOMETHING-SOMETHING BLAH--!"

Wufei brought his duffle bag up to smack me in the head with it, but I dodged swiftly and laughed. "Will you shut up?!"

I laughed even more, licking at a snowflake that landed on my nose. It was as cold as hell outside, but I really didn't mind because I was so excited!! The time had finally come--we were at Quatre's place, packing our bags into our cars, and in a few minutes, we'd be on our way to the cabin for a holiday full of eggnog, cider, mistletoe and gingerbread men! Oh yeah!

Quatre rolled a giant suitcase from the house and out to his car, where I helped to heft it into the back. "What's wrong, Fei?" he asked with a grin on his face. "Someone's being grouchy today . . . Where's your holiday spirit?"

He scowled at the two of us, and then at Shinigami and Lightning (my two mice companions who apparently were to become test animals for the scientist guy next door) as Zechs loaded their cage into the back seat of our car. "If Maxwell could actually sing and knew the words, then I wouldn't have a problem." Wufei turned on his heel and stalked up towards the house, calling over his shoulder, "And you better keep those beasts away from me during this trip or else!"

"Yes sir!" I called out and then rolled my eyes at Quatre.

He threw his arm around me and pulled me close. "I am really looking forward to this trip. We can get away from it all, forget all of our problems . . ."

Like someone trying to hack me into tiny pieces or your boyfriend sneaking porno into the house? I'm game. "I know. This is going to be the best."

Finally all of our things were packed away and we hit the road. Zechs let me play all of the Christmas carols I wanted--he seemed to enjoy the fact that I made up words as I went along, unlike some uptight jerk that I am not going to mention. The ride up to the mountains was two hours, with one small stop for breakfast, and by the time we arrived, the sun was just beginning to reveal itself as the sky showed a hint of pink.

I was out of the car even before it came to a stop and gapped up at the majesty that was Quatre's "quaint" cabin in the woods. It was one of those real log ones and boy it was huge, with a triangular roof and everything. In seconds I was up on the porch and pressing my face against one of the windows.

"Maxwell," Wufei growled. "Come and get your bags, damn it!"

I stuck my tongue out at him. "Forget the bags for now! I want to get inside!"

Quatre left his stuff and joined me, unlocking the door and rushing inside. We both shrieked--it was freaking cold! Quatre began searching for the thermostat and I flicked on the humongous gas fireplace in the living room, going "oooh" as a flame shot up from nothing.

Once all of our junk was in the middle of the foyer, Quatre and I sprinted off in a hunt to claim the best room for ourselves. I didn't know a thing about the house, but I figured that Quatre did, and as he headed towards a room, I followed and eventually shoved him into a closet before he could get into the room of his choice.

Yes! This was obviously the master bedroom, because it had the tall triangular windows and a balcony that allowed for a spectacular view of the mountains and stuff . . . ohhh, a fireplace and woah, was that bed BIG! Jackpot baby, yeah!

"Okay, that was not fair," Quatre grumbled, entering the room with a huff.

I made a face at him. "No one said anything about being fair."

Quatre shrugged and poked me in the shoulder. "Fine, fine, take it. Enjoy."

But then I remembered Quatre's complaints about the declining amount of spark in his relationship with Trowa, and decided that they could use the romantic setting more than Zechs and I could. So, being the good friend that I am, I selflessly relinquished it to Quatre. The things I do for him, sheesh . . .

After all of the unpacking was done, Quatre and I decided that it was a fine time to go into town to get some supplies. Our main goal was to score some really cool decorations--secretly we had a night long decoration marathon planned . . . all we had to do was get Wufei and Heero on board. We'd figure that part out later. Coercion and blackmail was not out of the question.

We packed into Quatre's SUV (where I belted out more carols, much to Wufei's agitation) and headed down the mountain a bit and into the bustling winter town. I was amazed to find that the place looked as if it had been snipped out of a magazine or something--old fashioned lampposts with garland and white lights winding up them, blinding white snow covering the roofs and the store fronts with immaculate decorations. Wow, talk about a Winter Wonderland!

Trowa parked in front outside of a grocery store which, given the time of day, was unusually crowed with kids and parents. Once we were inside, I knew why.

I turned to Quatre and grinned. "Oh, look, its Santa! Wanna go sit in his lap?"

Heero grunted and gave me a dirty look. "There is no such thing as Santa. I've been to the North Pole, and there is no such man, there are no elves, and no flying Reindeer, and certainly not ones with glowing red noses. None of it is real."

I winced as several children within hearing range started to cry while their scandalized parents began shuffling them away from us. Rolling my eyes, I said, "I know that, Heero! Jeeze, I was just joking. Come on, let's get to shopping."

We began to move past the Santa set-up and all of the kids, but stopped when "Santa" suddenly said, "Ho ho ho! Wait a minute there young man with the braid! Come up here, Santa wants to have a word with you!"

The crowd turned to look at me expectantly, and all of the children with bright faces and smiles and snotty noses who were looking at me made me a little nervous. "W-who, me?" I squeaked out.

"Yes, you! Come up here, young man!" As an after thought, Santa added, "Ho ho!"

Trowa snickered and pushed me forward. "Go on, Duo. You don't want to disappoint all of the kids, do you?"

Oh jeeze. I began slowly approaching the big Santa throne, and on my way, I heard one girl whisper to her buddies, "He must be very special for Santa to ask for him!"

Someone Up There was having a grand time at the expense of my dignity. I vowed to suck it up . . . for the kids.

An elderly woman posing as an elf forced me to sit on Santa's lap. I was red, I'm sure, and I looked at everything but the faces of my friends because more likely than not they were laughing at me. I turned to face the Santa guy and smiled. His belly was obviously fake, made of pillows or some junk, and his beard was coming off in the corner a bit. His glasses were missing the glass and his face actually looked quite young.

Man, kids actually believed this stuff?

"Well, young man," he said loudly, "what is your name?"

"Ah, my name is Duo." Erk, what the hell? Was that Santa's hand snaking around my waist? Oh, yes it was. His gloved hand rested on my hip, pulling me a little closer.

"Duo? What a nice name. Pleasure meeting you."

"Uh, likewise big guy."

Santa gave me a look that was most certainly not appropriate for kids, but it was gone before he turned back to the crowd. "See kids, Christmas is for people of all ages. Remember that as you get older, you can still enjoy the Christmas spirit! Right, Duo?"

"Erm, sure!"

The crowd began to clap, and I noticed that Quatre was one of the loudest.

"Now, Duo," Santa whispered to me, his voice husky. "Have you been a . . . good boy this year?"

That sounded really, really dirty coming from this guy. "Oh no, I've been horrible, absolutely terrible. I took candy from babies, stole from the old, the poor and the blind. You know, all that jazz. With that said, uh, don't you think you should get back to the kids?" I tried to stand up, but he pulled me right back into his lap.

"Now hold it, Santa has to know what you want for Christmas." He leered at me and licked his lips.

Oh, yuck. Santa was hitting on me! "Nothing. I have everything that I could ever want. Yep."

"Well, that's too bad. I'm sure that there's something that I could do for you. How about--"

Thankfully, the old woman swooped down and declared that it was time for me to move on and handed me a candy cane. When she turned her back to us to pick the next child out of the crowd, Santa did the unthinkable.

He pinched me on the ass.

That candy cane nearly slipped down my throat as I let out a soft squeal of surprise. I was out of his lap and back at Zechs' side in a flash. I jabbed the other end of my candy cane into Wufei's gut as he laughed loudly at me. "Shut up, you."

Then we began shopping for groceries. Periodically Quatre asked me if I was alright, because apparently, my face was as red as a tomato, but I denied that anything was wrong until he questioned me for the umpteenth time as I was reaching for a turkey.

"Alright, damn it, alright! That freaking Santa pinched my ass back there!" I cried as I waved the frozen poultry around dangerously in the air. "Okay?! That's what happened! Santa tried to hit on me!"

The guys just gapped. Well, Wufei was trying his best to stay on his feet as he burst out laughing, but the others had a totally surprised look on their faces.

"Look, can we just get this stuff and go?" I dropped the bird into the shopping basket and pushed it down the isle fiercely.

No one said anything about it as we checked out and bagged our food, but just as we were exiting, "Santa" minus his beard approached us, or more specifically, me.

"Say," he said with a grin. "How about we meet up somewhere sometime soon? What do you say?"

Without that beard, I could tell that he was indeed quite young, maybe our age. But still, you shouldn't try to feel someone up while you're playing Santa. That's just pathetic! Thankfully, I was saved from having to say anything by Zechs, who stepped forward and grabbed the man by the fluffy white color of his Santa suit.

"Look, Santa," he growled, "why don't you get lost before I shove that hat so far up your ass that you'll be eating the white pom pom on the end, alright?" Then he shoved the man back roughly.

"Oh! Dude, sorry! All you had to say was that he's taken," the young man said, putting up his hands. Then he turned to Quatre and said, "So, what about you? Are you--"

Trowa leveled Santa with an evil glare and a growl, which sent him running back into the store.

Heero nodded approvingly. "Good work, Merquise."

Zechs grunted and began moving towards the SUV. We followed, putting all of our stuff into the back. Just as the others began getting in, Quatre and I dragged them down the street to a little store that sold Christmas decorations that we'd read about online, which was supposedly one of the best around.

Some intensive shopping was done there, much to Wufei's annoyance. (Maybe we should've left him at the cabin--all he did was bitch.) And Heero was pretty much the same, especially when Quatre and I tried to put a star that we were thinking about buying on the top of his head, just to see how it would look. Spoil sport. Luckily, Zechs was willing to be our stand in tree, and we ended up getting it.

Next, we drove down a little ways to a tree place and bought a real one. Quatre and I just sat back and sipped on hot chocolate as we watched the others struggle to strap it down to the roof of the SUV. After that, we headed back up to the cabin.

We were all hungry and the day was already almost over, but unfortunately, there were no Chinese, Italian or pizza joints that would deliver to our location, so it was up to us to make something to eat. I figured that it would be good practice for the Christmas dinner that we would have to make in a couple of days, so Quatre and I, under the watchful eye of Zechs, cooked a chicken that we'd bought at the store, along with some side stuff. When it was time to eat, everyone was a little nervous.

Quatre and I began loading the dishes onto the table in the dining room at which the others were sitting, anxiously (fearfully?) awaiting the feast. When I brought out the chicken (which I was very pleased with, thank you very much), their jaws nearly hit the floor. It was a perfect golden brown and honestly smelled quite good. As I began slicing away at the breast, Wufei sighed.

"Alright Maxwell, how the hell did you get someone to deliver that up here?" he demanded suspiciously.

"Wuffers, I am so offended," I said easily, shoveling a bit of the meat onto a plate and passing it down. "You have that little faith in me?"

"Actually," Zechs commented, "Duo and Quatre did cook that. They're not that bad, as long as someone is there to make sure that they don't get distracted from their task."

Dinner was a pleasant affair. The food was surprisingly good--score one for me and Quatre!

We completed the lovely day by setting up the Christmas tree. Quatre and I made sure that it was a group affair and that everyone (yes, Fei and Heero too) got in on the action, and together we put the star on the top. Then the lights went out and the tree lit up, and I was very proud of our hard work. Zechs took me into his arms and I sighed happily.

Christmas morning was beautiful. Fresh snow was falling, Quatre and I had gotten up early to make not only breakfast, but some gingerbread cookies as well to get that full holiday feeling and carols were blasting from the surround sound system.

I could barely keep myself from ripping at my presents as we sat down for breakfast, but Q and I were done with our food in ten minutes and were on our knees with several gifts in our lap as soon as we were done.

I was a little surprised to find that Heero had done some shopping a) alone and b) even for Zechs. Wufei had as well. It was so nice, now he was really part of our group. It left me with a fuzzy feeling inside.

The best part was when Wufei opened his gift from Trowa. After stripping away the silver wrapping paper, he was greeted with a plain cardboard box. "What's this?" he asked Trowa.

I rolled my eyes. "You have to open it, duh!"

He pried the top opened and then his face became redder than a Christmas light as he saw what was inside. "What is this, Barton?!"

Quatre and I tried to peek inside the box. "What's in it? What's in it?" we chanted over and over again until Heero snatched the box from his lover's tight grasp and dumped the contents onto the floor.

The gay porn DVDs featuring hot brunets that Quatre had been worried over, still wrapped up in their shiny plastic covering, stared up at us. I snuck a glace at my friend--he was just as red as Wufei. Ah, yes. Heero had brown hair, didn't he? Bet he's glad that he didn't use that hair dye now.

Trowa grinned slowly. "I kept thinking of that day at the restaurant, where we were talking about X rated things when I was shopping for you, Wufei, for some strange reason. I just thought that you could introduce Heero to the fine art that is porno."

Wufei pressed his lips together, gathered his videos and threw them back into the box, vowing under his breath that they would never see the light of day. Yeah, right.

I was quite pleased with the loot that I came away with, some of my favorites being a super cool leather jacket from Trowa and the plasma television, which was one of the many, many, many gifts that I go from Zechs. I swear that the man went way overboard, but there wasn't anything that I could do to kill his sugar daddy obsession, so I just went along with it.

Later that night as Q and I began introducing Shinigami and Lightning to their new habitat, a gift from Wufei of all people, there was a knock at the door. We exchanged a look--who knew that we were out here? Not very many people . . .

Zechs beat me to the door, and in stepped Detective Walker with a very serious look on his face. I shivered slightly as a rush of cold air followed the man in. Uh oh. What was it now?

"I'm sorry that I have to bother you all with this on Christmas," he said, looking around at us, "but it is rather important."

"Good news or bad news?" I asked hesitantly. Knowing my luck, it was going to be--

"Bad, I'm afraid. Duo . . ." Walker sighed. "There's no easy way to tell you this, so I'll just say it. Your apartment building caught fire early this morning. There's no hope of salvaging anything."

Um, haha? This had to be a joke. Some silly, way-before-Aril-Fools-Day, totally evil prank? Right? "Are you serious?" I demanded, getting to my feet.

"Unfortunately, yes."

The room was silent for a few minutes.

"Was anyone hurt?" Quatre asked, his brow wrinkled into a frown.

Walker gave him a careful look before answering. "No. No one was hurt."

"Well, that's good," I mumbled. "What happened? I mean, have you all figured it out yet?"

Walker nodded, slowly looking around again. "The building, thankfully, was stable enough for us to go into and take a look around. We were able to determine from witnesses and our preliminary investigation that the fire originated in your apartment."

Oh, shit. What the hell had I done to start a fire? Had I left the stove or the oven on? I had left something plugged in? Maybe it was that damn blender--

"We're one hundred percent positive that it was arson."

Erm. I needed to sit down. I plopped my butt down on the floor and stared up at the detective in a daze. Zechs came to my side and gave me a supportive squeeze on the shoulder. "Arson?" I squeaked. "You're sure?"

"Yes. Whoever the culprit was didn't try to hide the fact," Walker said with a shake of his head. "We were immediately suspicious when we stumbled over several kerosene cans on our way in."

"What could have been the possible motive though?" Wufei demanded angrily. "Duo was not there, a simple search would've shown that. What was this person trying to do?"

"Scare the shit out of him," Trowa mumbled. "Same with the note."

I blinked rapidly. "Oh jeeze. I . . . I . . . is there anything else?"

"No. Just be really careful, okay? Report anything suspicious to the authorities immediately." After a few parting words, he was gone, and we were all very quiet.

I stumbled to my feet and picked up the mice's cage from the floor, setting it gently on the table. "Well, so much for the best Christmas ever," I mumbled grudgingly.

"Duo . . ." mumbled Quatre sympathetically.

"At least I'm alive, right? And I've got Zechs, and you all, and Shini and Lightning and . . ." But then I thought of all of the things that I'd lost--all of the personal mementos and photos that were now nothing more than piles of ash. All of those things, those memories of my friends and my life since the war--gone. I could buy a new bed, a new sofa, a new blender, but those things were gone forever.

"Excuse me," I muttered, stomping through the cabin into the room Zechs and I were sharing where I violently began kicking at the large oak dresser. "Fucking! Sicko! If I ever get my hands! On! That looser, I swear! His balls! Are! Mine!" I declared, punctuating my speech with an occasional kick.

Zechs came in and gently steered me away from the poor, beat up piece of furniture and sat me down on the bed. "Calm down, just calm down . . ."

I took in deeeeep breaths. "I'm calm. I swear."

"Now, there are some very important things that we should be doing, alright?" he said gently. "Who's your insurance company? We need to give them a call so that we can file a claim, okay?"

"Right. Insurance company. Claim. Calm. Sure. What else?"

Zechs looked deadly serious. "And then I have to call and get your name put on the security list as a permanent resident at my building. You're moving in with me."

Oh. Well. Okay.

"I was stupid to leave you in that apartment on your own after the attack. What if you'd been in there, sleeping? What if you'd been trapped? So now you're going to move in with me, where I can keep a better eye on you."

"Yes Daddy."

"Good. Let's get to business."

I decided to let Zechs handle everything. I figured that he had some kind of clout and could get things moving a little faster for me . . . that, and the fact that my brain was still fried from learning that my apartment had been torched on purpose. So I sat on the floor staring into the cage as Shinigami and Lightning ran around together, kinda sorta listening to Zechs deal with the insurance company on my behalf, but mostly not.

I was looking into that cage, but I wasn't seeing at thing. I was still so angry at the whole thing--I hadn't been the only victim. There were other people, innocent people, who had nothing to do with Rankin or anything, who were now homeless with nothing to their names other than the clothes on their backs. I felt at fault somehow. If I'd never moved in there, these people would still have a roof to sleep under and all of their things . . .

"Duo. Duo!"

I looked up. Zechs was towering above me, a very worried look on his face. "Are you alright?"

"Oh, yeah. Yeah. Is everything okay now?"

"Yes, the claim has been filed, but it will be some time before you get a check from them," Zechs muttered. He rubbed his face and helped me off of the floor. "Come on, let's get to bed."

After checking in on the mice one last time, I followed Zechs to the bedroom where we go ready in silence.

Sleep did not come easy at all, but when it finally arrived, my dreams were full of smoky and fiery terror.

+

It probably goes without saying, but the next morning, no one was really in the holiday mood anymore, so we cut our trip short and returned to the city. It was probably for the best, a lot safer for me and stuff. We all parted ways once we hit the city limits, and I begged Zechs to swing by the apartment complex. I had to see the damage for myself.

He protested at first, but eventually relented. Slowly we drove by, my face pressed against the car window.

Oh wow. The place was charred--still standing, but barely. My heart clenched up at the sight of it, a strange sense of terror flooding my body. Now it was real. And someone meant business.

The ride to Zech's flat was pretty quiet, and once we were inside and Zechs began putting away his things, it hit me. All I had left to my name was what was in the small suitcase that I'd packed earlier that week. That and my Christmas gifts. Oh jeeze . . .

I sat down on the couch and rubbed furiously at my face. Okay, so now what? It would be a while before the insurance money came in, and I wouldn't be getting any money from my case settlement for months . . . I would have to charge up my cards. Those interest rates would be kicking my ass! And--

"Hey, what are you thinking?" Zechs asked softly, leaning over the back of the couch to kiss me on the top of the head.

I laughed a bit to make him feel better. "Oh, just that if I don't wash the little bit of drawers that I have left sometime soon that things will be getting a bit unpleasant around here in a little while."

Uh, he didn't really see the humor in that, I guess, because he stalked away into his study and shut the door. Sometimes, I swear . . . that dude has some major PMS issues.

I gave Shinigami and Lightning some fresh food and water, and them began going through the things that I had left, and then began compiling a list of things that I would need to buy . . . that list was much bigger.

Depression was setting in a little bit--I was drowning in all of this. I took a deep breath and sat on the couch. Okay, no more thinking about it. I was going to watch my favorite crazy-people soap, pig out on some popcorn, go to sleep and then get into work the next morning, where I would actually try to work to earn the money that I needed to buy my things back. Real work. Yuck.

When Zechs and I got into the office, I was bombarded with concerned (nosy) coworkers who I'd never spoken to or even seen before in my life asking me a million questions about the fire--apparently the tabloids were printing that I had actually been there and had nearly died, if not for the fact that I'd leapt out of a window on the (nonexistent) twentieth floor. Um, yeah. I'm not Heero.

So things went like that until New Year's Eve. Zechs hosted a bash for us at his flat, where we would have a perfect view of the fireworks from his wall o' windows. Quatre and I forced party hats onto the heads of Wufei and Heero as they came through the door, cranked up the music, and then proceeded to have a damn good time. There was champagne and snacks and so we broke them out and . . . well, as you can imagine, by the time that midnight rolled around, we were pretty sloshed. But hey, I'd had one hell of a year, so I think I deserved it! Don't you? Exactly.

As the countdown began, I stood in Zechs' arms, hoping . . . wishing . . . praying that this year would be better than the last.

+

After New Years Day, we all went into work as usual. We had no reason to suspect that anything was different--the work was as boring and pointless as it had always been, some jerk was still hording all of the sprinkle-covered donuts for himself from the break room and the cubicle was just as hellish as ever.

Around lunch time, a low buzz of whispering started to fill the office and I looked up from my work to see Detective Walker and a few other cops walking towards me. Oh, wait, no . . . they were going past me, and it was the really serious look on Walker that caused me to get out of my seat and follow them.

They stopped at Quatre's cubicle. He looked totally surprised and stood up. "What's this all about?"

Walker stepped forward. "Mr. Winner, can you turn around and place your hands behind your back please?"

The alarm on Quatre's face was apparent. "Wait, what is going on? I--"

My heart stopped as Walker took out his cuffs, and then said, "Quatre Winner, you are hereby under arrest--"

And as if that wasn't bad enough, he added, "--for soliciting the murder of Duo Maxwell."

Well, it was official--this year sucked big time.

[chap. 18] [chap. 20] [back to Singles a - k]