of Obsession + Chapter 25
Ohhh, my stomach!
The anxiety was getting to me so much that I was ready to barf all over Zech's nice floors. And it certainly didn't help that a certain baby was over for the night as well, because now there was no escaping it. I would be reminded of the paternity test with every whiff of baby powder that I smelled, and with every little goo-gah noise that I heard.
"Duo, are you alright?" Zechs asked as he came over to stare down at me as I lounged on the couch with my eyes squeezed close. The googly-eyed child was in his arms, and was also staring at me with those eyes that were so much like Zechs! I swallowed thickly and tried to smile.
"Gah. Yeah, I'm fine. Pro'lly just ate somethin' bad earlier today . . ." I turned over on my side--there, that was better.
"Would you like some tea? Or some medicine? I think I have some around here . . ." He wandered off and returned a short while later. "I couldn't find any. I can go out and buy some--"
And leave me here alone with the baby! I didn't think so! I sat up quickly. "No! No, that's fine. I'm just going to chill in bed, okay?" I shuffled away quickly, into the bedroom where the smell of baby wasn't as strong.
I was under the covers for only a few minutes when Zechs came into the room and quietly sat down next to me.
"Where's Mill?" I grumbled, rubbing my stomach.
"Taking a nap." The bed shifted as Zechs settled down next to me. "Is everything alright, Duo?"
"Absolutely peachy. Why do you ask?"
"Do you have a problem with Mill?"
I stiffened. What the hell was I supposed to say? That I did, that I suspected that Mill wasn't even his? "No," I replied almost defensively.
"Ever since you returned this afternoon, you haven't fed him, you haven't played with him, hell, you've barely even looked at him."
I didn't say anything.
"Are you worried--"
"I'm fine, I swear. Just . . . you two should spend some time together, ya know? Do father-son mumbo jumbo. I don't want to intrude."
That seemed the please him. He leaned over and kissed my forehead. "Don't worry about that. We will be a family, so we should all feel comfortable together."
"Duo, if you glare at her any harder, she'll spontaneously combust," Quatre grumbled over his grilled chicken sandwich the next day. The cafeteria in the Preventers building was just beginning to buzz as more and more people filed in for the noon lunch rush, and one of those people just happened to be Noin.
"And who says that'll be a bad thing?" I replied casually.
There she was, giggling and chatting with Sally and Relena as they made their way through the food line, a big smile on her face like she didn't have a care in the world.
Ha. You just wait, you lying, scheming . . . in three days you won't have anything to smile or laugh about when I prove that you are nothing but a manipulating--
"Alright, where the hell is my pudding?" I demanded, looking down at my tray.
Oh. Now, when had Tro, Wufei and Heero joined me and Q at the table?
Smirking, Trowa placed the missing pudding back on my tray. "I thought that would get your attention."
I sent him a dirty look as I jabbed my spork into the brown gooey mass. "What?"
"Someone's in a bad mood," Wufei observed lightly.
Quatre leaned forward conspiratorially, and everyone else did too. "Duo is giving Mill a paternity test!" He hissed, eyes wide.
"QUATRE!" What the hell! I whipped my head around frantically--Noin was still in the line, far, far away, and Zechs was no where to be seen. Good. If anyone had heard . . .
Wufei's face wrinkled up into a look of extreme distaste. Heh, as if I had expected anything else from him. "I cannot believe that you would stoop to such a level--"
"Aw, put a sock in it, will ya?" I grumbled. "If Relena popped up one day and declared that she was pregnant by Heero, what would you do?"
He blinked slowly. "Heero isn't bisexual, so I don't see how that is relevant."
I snorted--like I hadn't seen his upper lip twitching. "You wouldn't accept it without some sort of proof. I have a damn good reason to think what I think, so nya."
"Merquise will murder you if he finds out," Trowa said lightly, like it was no big deal.
"He won't. When I get those results, I'm gonna show them to Noin, and she'll high tail it out of here faster than I can blink, taking the baby with her."
"And Merquise will go after her, still thinking that the baby is his" Trowa muttered. "That, or you'll have to tell him that it isn't, and then he'll be pissed of at you--"
"Okay, okay, okay!" I cried, getting to my feet with my pudding in one hand. "I don't care what you all think! This is the solution to everything, I'm telling you." I snatched up my spork and stampede away, blood boiling.
How could my friends not support me when I was sooo obviously right? It was ridiculous! They'd see when those results came back in. Oh, yes, they'd see! And so would Noin, that--
I looked paused and looked over my shoulder. There was Zechs, smiling handsomely at me, with a slightly confused look on his face. "Huh?"
"You walked right past me." He came closer, mindful of the other people in the hallway. "Are you okay?"
"Um, yeah." I shoved a bunch of pudding into my mouth while I tried to think of something to say. "I'm just . . . uh, um, yeah."
He was on the verge of laughing, but then his face turned dark and his eyes narrowed at something just behind me. I casually turned around to see Alex coming towards us, face serious and his walk purposeful. My heart began slamming in my chest and my pudding cup almost hit the ground. Had the results come in already? Why was he looking like that? Did that mean bad news? Good news?
"What does he want?" Zechs demanded under his breath. He took a step forward, in between me and Alex as the other man grew closer.
"I need to talk to you in private," the ex-cop said sternly, ignoring Zechs' presence completely, which of course did not please my boyfriend.
Uh oh. If Alex showed up at my job and was willing to face Zechs, that probably meant that something was going down.
Zechs began to open his mouth, but I just shoved the pudding-covered spork into his mouth and the cup into his hand. "I'll only take a second, okay? Wait for me." I did my best to ignore the furious glare that Zechs was sending me, but this was so important . . .
Once Alex and I were a safe distance away, I hissed, "What happened? Do you have the results already? What--"
"No, I don't know anything yet," he said hastily. "But you might want to watch your back very carefully from now on."
Shivers raced down my back. "What the hell is that supposed to mean? Are you--"
"My lab buddy called me early this morning. It seems that after I passed the . . . materials off to him last night, he stopped at a gas station, and when he came out, he found someone in his car, going through the envelope."
I began choking on my own spit. "What? Someone tampered with the stuff!" I think I began hyperventilating at that point. There HAD been a van following me that day. Had it gone back, tailed Alex and been there when he exchanged the package with the lab technician? Had it been Noin? Did she know about the test? Holy sh--
"Are you listening to me?"
I blinked rapidly, snapping out of my daze. "What?"
"It doesn't look like anything is missing or different . . . your handwriting on the labels matches, none of the seals were broken, and everything was there," Alex said.
"But someone knows . . .' I whispered.
"Yes, someone knows."
"Shit. Look, could your buddy identify the person?"
"Unfortunately, no. It was dark." Alex sighed and rubbed at his face with his hands. "Be careful, do you understand me? I don't know what the hell this could mean, but just to be safe, you should take some extra precautions at least until this whole mess between you, Merquise and Lucrezia Noin is settled."
"Right. Okay. Thanks for the heads up."
He must've seen that I was ready to crap all over myself, because he smiled lightly and said in a tone that didn't fit the seriousness of our conversation, "You think you can keep your ass out of trouble for three days, Maxwell?"
I grinned back. "I'll do my best, kay?"
He shrugged. "That's all I can ask for, I suppose. Well, I'd better let you go. Merquise looks ready to strangle someone, probably me."
"Thanks Alex. You stay safe too, okay?"
"Will do." He began weaving in and out of the large groups of personnel moving towards the cafeteria. I watched him until he was gone, and barely had time to digest the information before I felt Zech's presence at my back. I turned around--I didn't even need to look up at his face to know that he was not happy.
"What was that all about?"
"Just . . . its nothing."
Zechs wasn't a lot of things, dumb being one of them. I guess I needed to work on my fibbing. "You're up to something, aren't you? What's going on?"
Ignoring the other people in the hallway, I quickly kissed the corner of his mouth. He was taken by surprise and unable to talk--I took my pudding and spork from his hands and smiled. "You had some chocolate on your mouth. Right. There. I took care of it for you." I took my chance and shuffled away, contemplating the possible meaning of all of this. I dashed into an empty elevator--
Ah, nope. Not as empty as I thought.
There was Noin standing in the corner, leaning against the back wall of the elevator with her arms crossed, staring blankly ahead as if there was something really important on her mind. I narrowed my eyes at her. Could I possibly melt into the side wall of the elevator and maybe she wouldn't see me?
"What?" she asked, turned to look at me.
I grinned stupidly. "Was I? Sorry." Holy crap, get me outta here! "You look . . . ah, preoccupied."
She eyed me carefully, slowly. Alright, damn it what was taking this elevator so long! I wanted off! "So do you."
"Are you too preoccupied to take Mill tonight for me?"
Hmm. She wanted me to take Mill? What was she up to?
"Zechs would love to see him again," I replied pleasantly, twisting the end of my braid around my finger. It was a nervous habit, and Noin's eyes fell down to my busy hand, eying it curiously. "So, uh, bring him by any time."
There was a soft ding and the elevator door slid open. Noin stepped out, gave me a parting glance and went off to do . . . whatever it was that she did around the office besides annoy me. My eyes rolled up to the ceiling as I willed my heart to slow the fuck down before I died a very premature death.
"You think you can keep your ass out of trouble for three days, Maxwell?"
Heh. Knowing my luck, probably not.
The next day came and my anxiety increased. Work was hell--I was constantly looking over my shoulder, snapping at my friends and I didn't even eat anything for lunch! I know, how horrible, right? But I managed to escape the day without an encounter from Noin, and Mill wouldn't be staying the night, so it would just be me and Zechs, and I had a lot of stress to work off, if you know what I mean.
Zechs took me out to dinner that night, some upscale fancy smancy place where we sat in a booth as close as possible and stared at each other over the candlelight while holding hands under the table.
Yeah, right. I wish.
Things were strangely tense that night. He seemed a little preoccupied with something, and a little nervous. This wasn't a good start to what I'd hoped would be a night of tossing and tumbling around in the bed. I put up with it for a little while, but once the main course arrived and Zechs almost drank out of the vinegar bottle, I decided to speak up.
After rescuing him from a vinegar nightmare, I leaned in close to look into his eyes. Did he know about the DNA test? Is that what was going on? Calm down, Duo, don't jump to conclusions. "What's wrong?"
Zechs pushed away his plate with a sigh. "You've been really great about Mill and Lu."
Would you be saying that if you knew what I've done? "Yeah, well, I love you and all that jazz. You know."
"I do know. But I think its time we talk about our future."
Er, okay. I blinked rapidly several times. "Are you breaking up with me?"
"No!" was his adamant reply. He gripped my hand almost desperately and a warm fuzzy feeling rushed through my body. It was nice knowing that you were loved. "That's not what this is about."
"Oh, good," I said lightheartedly. "Cuz if that's what you were tying to do, I would've forced that vinegar down your throat."
He chuckled, but I think he saw the glint in my eye that indicated that I was totally serious. "I meant our future with the baby, and how all of this is going to be. I know it's awkward right now with Noin, but I'm hoping that we can work it out. I want to be a father. I'm ready to be a father."
My mouth moved but no words came out.
"But I want to know if you are. It wouldn't be fair to you to keep you in this relationship when you're still young and getting a feel for life and--"
I didn't like where this conversation was going. Sounded like a breakup speech to me. "You're making it sound like you're ten years older than me or something. C'mon, Zechs, we've both had hard lives and we're both screwed up. I know I act like an idiot sometimes but I'm not a child. I can handle this. I really can."
"I'm just concerned that you'll put up with not being completely happy just to be with me."
I stared at him. "That's what people in love do, Zechs. They don't just get up and leave at every bump in the road. And I'm not 'putting up with anything,' okay? The little squirt is . . . kinda cute. He's growing on me. Just give it some time, please."
He was still frowning at me, those sharp blue eyes boring into mine. "If you feel like you need a break, I understand."
My heart seized up and I momentarily stopped breathing. "What are you trying to do? Are you trying to make me break up with you? What, do you want to get back with Noin? You want to make a perfect little family with her, huh? Is that what it is? Do you--"
Zechs stopped me in mid-tirade by placing firm hands on my shoulders. "Listen to me. I love you. I don't want Noin. Nothing could make me want Noin again, not even a son with her, do you understand?"
Actually no, I didn't. I really didn't. "Why don't you believe me when I say that I'm okay with this?"
"You don't think I notice how you act around Mill?"
Ouch. He had me there. My shoulders slumped. "Zechs, I--"
"It's not your fault. Maybe you just aren't ready to handle this."
"What do you want me to do?" I asked quietly. I'd do anything for him. Anything at all.
"I just want you to think. I want you to be sure that this is what you want. I'm not giving up my son, Duo. I don't want to have to give you up either, but I want you to be happy . . ."
Then it hit me how ridiculous this conversation was. Right then I wanted to yell, scream, shout that Mill was not his son! All of this nonsense wouldn't mean a damn thing once the truth came out, so what the hell was I worrying about? I smiled weakly at him. "I'll think about it, okay? I promise."
This seemed to please him. "Good. Thank you."
The rest of dinner was pretty silent. And do I even need to say that the only thing I was doing later that night was sleeping? Yeah, life sucks.
I couldn't bring myself to go to work on Day Three, so I stayed home, lying on my ass watching television and eating junk food.
Which probably wasn't a good idea because when it came time for me to pick up the results, I felt ready to hurl my cookies and ice cream all over Zechs' expensive leather sofa. I made myself get up from the couch and get dressed when the time neared, and I was just about to head out of the door when I suddenly turned back and decided to leave Zechs a note by the telephone--
3:30 Went to the mall to pick something up. Be back soon! Don't have a party without me.
Love you pieces, Duo
Fifteen minutes later I sat nervously in the crowded food court, sipping on a milk shake and trying to look cool and collected. The more and more I waited, the more paranoid I got, until it came to the point where I was looking over my shoulder every five seconds, waiting for someone (Noin) to jump out at me.
And then I saw a frazzled looking young man headed my way with a shopping bag in his hand. It was him, the lab researcher technician dude. I sat up straight in my seat and gave him a friendly smile as he sat across from me. He sat the bag on the table and pushed it at me.
"Aw, you got me something from Macy's? You shouldn't have," I replied nervously as I peeked into the bag--the only thing there was a large manila envelope. Without removing it from the bag, I opened the folder and flipped past the technical mumbo jumbo that I had no hopes of understanding and straight to the page that had the results in plain old English and--
Well damn. I had been right.
Zechs was NOT Mill's father, no way in hell.
That should've made me the happiest man on earth, but for some reason it didn't. For some reason my heart was aching terribly, and I rubbed at my chest to make it go away. "T-thanks man," I said to the lab guy with a shaky smile. "I appreciate it. Be careful, alright?"
The young man nodded and rushed away, disappearing into the crowd.
I stared back down at the results one more time and was flooded with mixed emotions. First it was relief that I had been right, that the threat of Noin would finally be gone from our lives; then it was sadness for Zechs, who had in such a short time come so close to the child, so eager to be a father. And lastly I felt a red hot anger at the bitch who had caused that pain, who had tricked my man . . . I snapped the folder shut and grabbed the bag and stomped off to my car.
Oh, it was on now. We were going to have this out, Noin was going down in a ball of flames, that sneaky little skank. I was going to kick her ass all the way to Mars and back again, she would never have anything to do with Zechs or Mill for that matter. She was going to pay and I mean big time--
With all of my internal ranting I'd barely even realized that I'd made it outside and to the parking lot. It was a little deserted--it wasn't the weekend after all, and it was in the middle of the day, so hastily I grabbed my keys and headed for my car. When I got there I was surprised to see Detective Walker standing there waiting for me. Hmm, a police escort at this time wouldn't be a bad idea. It certainly wouldn't be a bad idea to have a cop around when I confronted Noin . . .
"Hey there Walker, what's up?" I asked as I began to lock the car door.
"Just came to check up on you," he said, coming a little closer.
"Yeah. I got a call from Merquise. Said that he was a little worried about you, he didn't know where you were."
Wait a minute, hadn't I left Zechs a note? Surely he would've found it when he came home and checked the answering machine like he always does.
"Are you sure?" I asked hesitantly, taking my key out of the lock and turning to face him.
"That's what he said."
Now little warning bells were going off in my head. I didn't like the feel of this at all. I'd left a note, damn it, and if he really was that concerned then why hadn't he called my cell phone? Did Walker really think that I was going to fall for this lame ass story? What the hell was he up to?
"I'll call him on my cell phone. But you know what, I forgot to get something, I have to run back into the mall--" I moved to step around him, and froze in surprise when I felt his cold, gloved hand gripping my arm tightly. I stared up at him incredulously--what was he doing?
His face was calm, as if what he was doing was okay. When I tried to yank my arm away he retaliated by gripping my other arm, pulling me closer and shoving me back against the car.
"What's in the bag?" he asked. The nosy bastard didn't even wait for me to reply as he dug into it and pulled out the folder. With one hand he kept me pinned, with the other he flipped through the pages.
My heart was slamming against my rib cage wildly. What was going on? Why was Walker asking like this? Why did he care so much about what was inside of that folder?
Apparently he had reached the last page, because he chuckled and said, "Perfect, absolutely perfect. You know, maybe you're not as dumb as I thought you were."
"Thank you," I replied flippantly. "And maybe you really are the pompous jackass I thought you were."
Finally his calm façade snapped. He snatched the car keys from my hand and unlocked the door. "Get in and go all the way to the passenger side."
Um, excuse me? "No." Now I began struggling against him, but he was pretty damn strong. I opened my mouth to scream for help, only to have the man's mouth rammed down on mine, cutting off my yell before it could be heard. Eww, we were kissing! The horror!
"Well, now, what do we have here?" said a familiar voice icily. "I'm sure Zechs will be pleased to hear about this."
Oh my lord. Could this possibly get any worse than it already was?
Walker finally moved his face away from mine, and now Noin was in plain view, standing not too far away with her arms crossed over her chest. Oh yeah, just the person I needed to see. Of all of the people to stumble by us, why HER? Ironic, huh?
"Noin, please, it's not what you think! This guy is trying to kidnap me, I swear--"
Something began to poke sharply at my stomach as Walker said, "Shut up now."
Eep! Shutting up. Maybe if I kept quiet he'd take that gun away from my belly?
Noin's eyes flickered down--she must've seen it, because the look on her face turned from pissed off to concerned as she stepped forward, reaching for what must've been a weapon of her own.
"Ah, I don't think you want to do that." Walker tossed the folder at Noin with a nasty little smirk, and then I knew that I was pretty much screwed.
Yep. No longer concerned for my safety, Noin went pale as she looked at the folder's contents. After taking in a deep breath, she controlled herself, going stoic and cold. Our eyes met, mine pleading and hers totally blank. I couldn't tell what she would do next. Would it be too much to hope that she would help me out, even though she was scheming to get Zechs back?
"So you see," Walker said calmly, "if you stop me now, he'll go running back to Merquise and tell him your dirty little secret about how you faked having his child. Do you really think the man would want you then? Do you really think that he wouldn't do everything in his power to take that child away from you? You'd never have him then."
"Noin please--" I began desperately.
"Or you can walk away from this and forget you ever saw anything. Maxwell won't be coming back, and eventually Merquise will get over it and you can be the family you always wanted to be with him." Walker's voice was dark, hypnotic and seductive, and as I frantically glanced over at Noin I could see that she was starting to buy into his spiel.
"Make your choice. What's it going to be?"
Noin stared down at the damning evidence in her hands. "Can I keep this?"
Walker snickered. "Do you think I'm that dumb? Once you destroy those papers, what will stop you from telling people that I was the last one to see Duo Maxwell alive? I'll take those, thank you very much. Now, do we have a deal?"
Noin stepped forward cautiously and placed the folder on the roof of the car. Her tone was brisk and ice cold as she said, "Yes, we have a deal."
And without another glance in my direction, she turned on her heels and walked away.
Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, was my mantra as I stared dumbfounded at her retreating back. Why the hell had I hoped that she would save me? Had I really grown that naive since the end of the war? Che. Yeah right.
There wasn't much time for me to lament about my really bad luck, because Walker was now trying to shove me into the back of the car. Early on in the scuffle I lost my footing and tumbled inside. He shoved me not to gently over to the passenger side and closed the door behind him. I reached for the door handle in vain--before I knew it, the bastard brought the handle of the gun down on my head three times, and I was out like a light.
How much time had passed was the furthest thing from my mind when I opened my eyes again, because all I could do was wonder why in the hell I was being dragged across piles of dirt and over mounds of old crunch leaves--and this is the worst part--by my hair! I was going to make him pay for that one.
I tried to free myself, but that blow to the head was still kicking my ass. I was so weak and disoriented that I could hardly see straight. I had to stall until I got myself together, but the painful tugging on my scalp didn't really help. "So--ow Damn stick!--so, Walker, mind telling me what the fuck is going on?" I demanded, trying to scurry onto my hands and knees and follow closely behind him to reduce some of the tension on my scalp. Somewhere in the back of my head I was wondering how dumb we must've looked, but it really was not the time for jokes.
"You should know," was all he said.
I sighed exasperatedly, trying to keep up with his pace. What was I, a mind reader? I hadn't done anything to this guy! I was pretty darn sure about that one! "What is with you crazy people? You always think that I should know--whatever, dude. You're just wacko."
"Wacko?" he sneered, stopping and turning to face me. His grip was still tight on my braid, but at least we weren't moving, and I could try and get under control. "Wacko? I spent years and years and years with Alex! I was there for him through middle school, through high school, college, the academy! Since we were young we planned on getting into law enforcement together.
"And then you--you, what are you? Just a pretty piece of ass, big hair, big eyes, so what?" The contempt he held for me was quite plain on his face. Now why hadn't I noticed this before? "And then you waltz in, batting your eyelashes and shaking your butt and all of a sudden he's a different person. Suddenly police work isn't good enough for him, suddenly I'm not good enough for him! We rarely ever get to see each other anymore, and you know why? It's because of you. He's trying to make himself better for you. He's trying to compete with Merquise's status and wealth any way he can, just to impress you. You took him away from me! And if you're gone, he'll quit his job, come back to the force and be my partner again."
My mouth was hanging open by now as I sat there on my butt starting up at him. And then I started giggling, because I couldn't help it. "Oh my god that is so lame. You have got to be the wackest villain I have ever seen. Disney villains are better than you! Even Rankin was better than you! That's why you want to kill me, because you miss your best bud? You're out of your mind, he isn't doing anything to impress me--"
"Yes, he is." One rough tug on my hair and we were moving again.
This was so dumb. He was mad at me because Alex didn't hang around him anymore? Did he ever stop and think that maybe it's because he's a lame-wad crazy ass fucker?
"So if I'm dead, you think he'll, er, come back to you?" I asked, looking around. Aw, damn, there were nothing but trees, trees and more trees from what I could see. Oh, and the occasional really big rock, but mostly just damn trees. We were in the woods--miles away from civilization? Perfect, just perfect . . .
"Of course. Eventually he'll forget all about you and we can be like we were. Inseparable."
You are so pathetic. "Yeah, right. Where are you taking me?"
"Does it matter? You're going to die anyway. Get on your feet. Now that you're awake dragging you around by this ridiculous thing isn't fun anymore."
Fun? The dumb sadistic bastard. I stood up and eyed the gun in his hand warily. I held my hands up and continued walking. We continued on in silence for five minutes before I realized something.
"You're going to try and pin this on Noin, aren't you?"
" . . . maybe you aren't--"
"As dumb as you look, right, right, we already established that back at the mall. Her fingerprints are all over that DNA test--but you were wearing gloves. Whatcha gonna do, plant the folder in her house when you investigate my death?"
"Of course. It'll be easy for people to assume that she was the one who killed you. She saw those results and felt threatened. Anyone would come to that conclusion. No one would suspect me, and no one would believe her if she ratted me out. After all, she was the one lying about something as serious as a baby, right?"
Dumb bitch. Serves her right! Hahahahaha . . . but wait, that would only work if I were dead . . . never mind. It wasn't such a good idea at all.
"Where are you taking me?" I demanded again.
"Don't you hear it?"
Indeed I did. Rushing water . . . oh boy. This wasn't good.
"I will shoot you and you will fall down into the water. It could be weeks or months before we find your body, if we ever do. It will give me plenty of time to make sure that Noin is properly implicated for the crime."
Oh jeeze. This was not the way I wanted to go.
Five minutes later we reached our destination--a cliff overlooking a pretty angry river. I turned to face Walker, frantically calculating whether or not I would survive if I jumped . . . if he shot me and pushed me into the river, it would be all over. But if I went for it . . . it didn't look that high . . . was the water deep enough?
I didn't have any more time to speculate. Walker was raising the gun.
If there ever was a time that I wished I was Heero, it would be now.
The gun went off.
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