Author: Enchantress101
see part 1 for warnings, disclaimer

Shades of Obsession + Chapter 07
No Longer a Dream

The first thought that came to my head when I returned to the land of the living was, Oh man, Heero's gonna kill me. My head was throbbing and even though they weren't open and my eyes were aching from the light that filtered through my eyelids, not to mention that fact that I was trapped in an unknown location with a man who was freakishly obsessed with me. All I could think about was how stupid I'd been to go down to that office by myself.

I mean, I'd read and watched enough murder mysteries to know that it's always the person you least expect, or the quiet ones, right? Shoulda seen this one coming.

Oh well. The milk had already been spilled, so . . .

Now to focus on getting free. I was lying on a bed, I could tell. A pretty comfortable one at that, maybe one of those expensive feather things or something, and my head was propped up by a pillow and some soft, warm blankets pulled up to my chest. Well! At least my stalker knew how to take care of me.

I stayed still and listened, keeping my breathing as even as possible. The room was quiet, absolutely quiet. Good. If the psycho doc wasn't around, I could use the unsupervised time to try and find a way out of this prison and back home. Slowly opening my eyes, I flexed my wrists.

What? No handcuffs, no rope, no nothing holding me down to the bed?

I sat up quickly and rubbed my face. What about my legs?

Also free!

. . . And this guy was a doctor? What an idiot.

I kicked off the sheets and looked around, taking in every detail of the room carefully. It was pretty large, high ceilings, no windows, three doors, very clean, and the only other furniture besides the bed was a chest of drawers on the far wall.

Three doors. One of them had to be the way out.

I got off of the bed and--ohhh, cold floors! After hopping around on my toes for a while, I crossed the room as quietly as possible and reached for the doorknob to the first door, the one closest to me. Let's see what's behind door number one . . .

Nothing. Damn.

On to door number two. Tiptoeing over, I yanked it open. Please be an exit . . .

Oh hell! Ewww . . .

I covered my face with my hands. Just great. There was Peters with his mouth hanging open in a silent scream and his eyes bulging, hanging from the ceiling of the closet with a noose around his neck, a giant knife in his chest and a rather large dent in the side of his head.

Urk, talk about overkill.

Sure, I didn't like the guy, but that's just--

"You weren't supposed to see that."

I froze in place as Dr. David Rankin came up behind me, invading my personal space to slam the closet door shut. Why hadn't I heard him come in? C'mon, Duo, deep breaths, deeeeep breaths.

"I . . . uh," I stammered, turning to face him. He was standing there looking quite normal in kaki pants and a blue and white striped shirt, not at all like the crazy murderer-slash-stalker that he was. "Umm . . . he's dead."

Well, duh. What a stupid thing to say.

"Yes. You told me that he was bothering you, and I took care of it," he said as if he were commenting on the day's forecast.

Great. Another guy was dead because of me. "That really wasn't necessary, I--"

"I was more than happy to do it for you." He put his hands on my shoulders and pulled me close to him. His face got very close to mine as he whispered against my lips, "I'd do anything for you."

At this point my skin was seriously crawling. I removed myself from his grasp and took a huge step back until I was pressed against the closed door and said firmly, "I don't want you to hurt anyone else because of me. Okay?"

He was giving me a strange look, as if he couldn't believe what I'd just said. "As long as no one else hurts you."

Umm, okay. Not exactly the answer I'd been looking for, but I probably wouldn't be getting a better one. "Er, so . . ." I looked around the room once more, particularly at the exit that I hoped to be escaping through pretty soon. "Umm, where am I? What is this place?"

"This is my home," he said casually, eying me up and down.

Woah. Don't get any ideas, buddy! "Your home? Ah, in the city?"

"Of course not. That's the first place the police will look once they figure out what's happened."

Speaking of the cops . . . Ya know, it didn't sound like he was all too concerned with the fact that it would take the cops about two seconds to realize who'd taken me. I mean, the suck up intern would tell them that she led me to the infirmary, and the nurse would tell them that I'd gone straight back to the doc's office.

That bothered me. That bothered me a lot.

"Oh. Of course," I murmured suspiciously. It was never a good sign when a criminal didn't give a flying rat's ass about being caught. Those were the really dangerous ones. I had to get out, and fast . . .

"This looks like a beautiful house," I said amicably with a sweet smile. "Maybe you could show me around?"

He studied me for a while, and I struggled to remain calm and to keep that damn smile on my face. If he took me around, I'd get a layout for the house, maybe get a glimpse of my surroundings, take note of any weapons he may have . . . All the better for formulating my Grand Escape. I couldn't just make a mad dash for it--I had to be sure that the doctor was incapacitated and unable to follow me as I ran away. I'd probably have only one chance, and I couldn't screw it up.

Rankin took something from behind his back--a gleaming pair of handcuffs. Erm, I'll admit to you that the first thing I thought of was him handcuffing me to that bed and having his wicked way with me, but instead, he slapped one of the cuffs around my right wrist and the other around his left. Whew! Much better than my original thought, but . . .

"I will show you around. It is also your house," he said, dragging me over to the exit. With his free hand he took a ring of many keys from his belt and unlocked the door, and I was smart enough to get a good look at which key he used. "But don't get too attached, because we won't be here long." Rankin gave me a significant look before taking me out into the hallway.

And for some reason, I got the feeling that he didn'tmean what I thought he meant.

+

A cabin in the woods. That's where we were, a darn cabin in the darn woods. A nice cabin, by the way, all fancy and modern, shining hardwood floors throughout, pristine granite countertops in the kitchen . . . not exactly the home of a raving lunatic. Kind of reminded me of Q's place.

Then he led me down to the basement, which began to worry me a bit. As we walked down the wooden steps, I wondered what could be down there that I needed to--

Woah. WOAH! NO WAY!

Talk about obsessive.

"It took me years to complete, but finally . . ." Rankin trailed off, the pride evident in his voice.

As I walked further into the basement, I could only stare slack jawed and amazed at the furthest wall. It was covered--totally covered from the floor to the ceiling with pictures of me. The pictures were of various sizes, some clipped from newspapers or magazines, some taken with a camera, and a few close ups were blown up. "Y-y-years?" I managed to stumble out, still stunned.

"Yes." He stood there for a while, staring up at his work of art (snort) in amazement or something, which gave me a chance to formulate a plan. Up near the ceiling there was a window, too small for me to climb out of, but that's not what I really what I had in mind. If only I could get that window open . . .

Then I spotted it. There were some floor to wall shelves filled with emergency supplies on the adjacent wall, and not too high up was a dusty looking quilt. Pretending to look at the different pictures, I scooted my way over to the shelves, dragging Rankin along with me.

"What a nice quilt. May I?" I asked quite innocently, but without waiting for an answer, I got onto the tips of my toes and yanked on the quilt, and just as I'd hoped, dust and lint escaped into the air. Instantly I doubled over coughing. "S-sorry!" I managed to squeak out.

"Its fine," Rankin said, sounding unfazed, just standing there as the dust floated around us.

"C-could you--" I paused to add some really good sounding fake coughs for effect. "The window, please?"

Before the request was even out of my mouth completely, the window was open and a stool was placed beneath it. I hopped onto the stool and stuck my head out of the window, sucking in a deep breath of fresh air.

And then I listened.

I grinned to myself as I heard the rushing of what sounded like cars on a busy highway . . . well, that or a raging river. Which one? I could ask him--

Someone upstairs musta been on my side because just then a wailing car horn began to sound somewhere off in the distance. Yes! A highway was nearby, meaning that a gas station, convenience store or a rest stop would (hopefully) be somewhere nearby and in walking distance.

I hopped down and grabbed the blanket, wrapping it around my shoulders. Rankin closed the window and dragged me back up to the room I'd originally been in, where the handcuffs were thankfully removed, which meant that I could actually put some space between myself and the freak.

And you better believe that that was the first thing I did once I was free. I quickly sat on the edge of the bed and wrapped the quilt tightly around my body, watching warily as the doctor went over to the chest of drawers and took out his ring of keys. From where I was sitting, I couldn't see which key he used to open the second drawer, but my mind was on something else when I saw what he was removing from it.

A syringe and needle, along with a bottle of a clear liquid.

"What is that?" I asked, eyeing him cautiously as he proceeded to suck up some of the drug with the syringe.

"There are a few . . . final arrangements that I need to make. It will take several hours, and this is just something to calm you until I return," he replied, giving me a curious look. I must've had a strange look on my face because he said while looking slightly offended, "You think I'd hurt you?"

"I, well, I'm not too fond of drugs and all," I said quickly, watching him stare down at the needle. "I'm sure you know that during the war, a lot of drugs were used for torture . . ." I put on the best pained, angst-y face that I could muster, which turned out to be pretty good, I guess, because Rankin nodded once and shot the contents of the syringe harmlessly into the air.

Internally I let out a deep breath and smiled prettily. "Thanks."

The doctor nodded. "Very well. But the door will be locked tight, and trying to escape would be a waste of time."

"Of course."

The doctor returned to his drawer, and with his back turned I quickly reached up to feel my hair. Bingo! There were my trusty tools of escape safely hidden away in their usual place.

Now that I knew that my lock picks were at my side, I could come up with a better way of getting the hell out of this place. Once Rankin was gone, I'd give the psycho doc an hour to get as far away as possible before working on the door. When I was free of the room, if it was dark outside, I'd head down to the basement and grab a flashlight I'd spotted on the shelf and make my way towards the sound of the traffic. Unless there wasn't any. Darn. Well then I'd just have to--

Suddenly the bed dipped next to me and my planning was momentarily put to a halt as Rankin joined me on the bed. Protectively I pulled the quilt around my body tighter and leaned away from him. Behind his glasses, his gray eyes were shining with what was apparently lust and--

Then he grabbed the sides of my face and roughly kissed me.

This experience was decidedly worse than finding Peter's body hanging in that closet, okay? Yuck! My skin was crawling and I think I was about to hurl right into the dude's mouth (which would've serve him right, anyway) but instead of puking, I grabbed Rankin's wrists and squeezed on them hard as I brought my knees up and rammed them into his chest.

His only response was to shove me down onto the bed and jab not only his tongue, but a pill (!) into my mouth. Removing his lips from mine, Rankin straddled my waist and covered my mouth with one of his hands and pinched my nose with the other.

I knew what he was doing--the only way I'd be able to breathe was if I swallowed the drug.

"Swallow the pill," he ordered, clamping down on my mouth and nose even harder. I tried to struggle against him, but for a thin guy, he was pretty strong, and my attempts to fight him back only made my need for air greater.

So I did the only thing I could do--I swallowed it and gave him a death glare that would've made Heero proud. "Get off me!" I demanded angrily as I tried to buck against his weight.

Rankin ignored my command and grabbed my chin, forcing open my jaw so that he could get a good look inside my mouth. I guess he was satisfied with what he saw, because then he let go of my face and patted my cheek. Rat bastard.

I was tempted to spit on him, but the law of gravity told me that that idea wasn't a good one. So instead I grabbed the front of his shirt roughly and gave him a good jerk. "What did you just give me!"

Rankin looked unfazed. "A fast acting sedative."

I growled deep in my throat and gave him a dirty look. He only laughed softly and rolled over on the bed so that he was lying on his back, hugging me tightly to his chest so that I went with him. I felt Rankin's nose digging into the crown of my head, the warmth of his breath and the rumble of his chest as he spoke.

"I've watched you for years. I've seen you at your best and your worst, when you're happy, where you're sad, and when you're lonely . . ." He sighed almost euphorically into my hair. Damn, I knew that my shampoo smelled nice and all but . . .

"But by far, you are the most beautiful when you're filled with rage," he whispered in an . . . okay, I'll admit it, in a rather seductive voice. But this (thankfully) had no effect on me whatsoever because I was drugged half out of my mind, eyes drooping and mouth hanging open with a little trail of drool making its way down my face.

Not a pretty sight, I'm sure, even though at that moment, I was full of rage.

Rankin continued to speak. "Your eyes are stunning on their own, but when the look in them is fueled by fury, they sparkle . . . Your body tightens . . ." At this his one hand gripped him hip tightly and the other began a leisurely roam up my shirt, fingers dancing across my skin.

A sense of dread filled my body then. I didn't like the sound of his voice, nor the way his hands were toughing me, straying to the waist band of my pants . . .

I let out an inaudible protest, one final word before I slipped out of consciousness.

+

I had no time to think about the hours I'd lost and what may have happened during them because when I woke up from my drugged stupor, I decided that enough was enough and that I needed out. Warily and weakly I pushed away from the bed and stumbled over to the door that stood between me and freedom.

"All right, fucker," I grumbled, leaning against the wall adjacent to the door as I struggled to get by bearings straight. "You're gonna open if I have ta rip you ta shreds with my bare hands!"

Uh, that ripping-to-pieces thing would be plan B, because I had a hunch . . .

Yep! There they were.

I bent down and began to put my trusty lock picks to work. I jiggled, twisted and turned . . . but nothing. The lock wouldn't budge.

Fuck! FUCK!

I punched out at the door and kicked the chest of drawers, which rattled noisily . . .

Hmm . . . now that was a thought.

I licked my lips and used my picks on the dresser's lock, hands shaking slightly from a sense of urgency that was tickling the back of my neck. I had no idea how long I'd been out, whether Rankin was somewhere inside the house or still out on his errands.

Success! The lock gave way and I yanked the drawer open, removing the bottle of sedative I'd seen Rankin use and a syringe . . . scratch that, two syringes and needles. Carefully I filled them both to the max, replaced the bottle and closed the drawer. With one of my new weapons in each hand and each hand behind my back, I stood by the door and readied myself for a fight.

I'm not quite sure how long I stood there, my sense of time thrown severely out of whack by the drugs that'd been pumped into my system, but just as my legs felt like they were getting ready to turn to jelly I heard the sounds foot steps not too far away. I tensed as the sound came closer . . . closer . . . closer . . .

I took a deep breath as I heard the sound of a key slipping into the lock, the click as it turned and undid itself, the sound of Rankin turning the knob and pushing open the door . . .

He looked surprised to see me standing there, but stepped into the room and locked the door behind him, clipping the keys to his belt. Rankin turned back to me and before he could say a word, I slumped against this chest, feigning a weak moan.

He laughed softly and said, "I'm sorry, but the sedative was necessary--"

Necessary? I'd show him what was necessary!

I brought my right hand up behind his back slowly while Rankin was detracted with my incredible drugged-beauty and clenched one of the needles tightly in my fist. Another deep breath and . . .

Suddenly I shucked I brought the needle (rather roughly, I'll admit) into the side of his neck and relished in his outburst of surprise. Quickly I injected the drug into his body and pushed away from him.

He looked absolutely furious, and that's when he noticed the other needle in my hand. With a growl Rankin lunged for my left hand. I slipped out of his grasp and back away from him. All I had to do now was wait for him to succumb to the drug, and then I could make my get away.

Rankin stumbled over his own feet and leaned against the dresser for support. "You . . . how could you . . . why?"

"I don't want to be here. I want to go home." Simplified but true. At that moment I wanted nothing more to be back with Q and Tro at the mansion, in the jet tub with bubbly hot water whirling around my body and a damn fine guy feeding me grapes with his tongue. Okay, so maybe that last part wouldn't be happening anytime soon, but you get my drift.

"Your home is with me now!" he snarled. "After everything I've done for you . . . those people out there don't appreciate you! They're scared of you and what you can do! They take your sacrifice for granted! They don't understand you!"

Huh. And this guy did? Right.

Rankin took an unstable step forward, and I took one step back. Then he lunged for me again, this time getting me by my right shoulder and slamming me roughly into the wall. My head spun as stars shot up behind my eyes. There wasn't anytime to regain my focus, because the bastard was going for the other needle.

I couldn't let him have it. This was my one chance to escape.

We wrestled for it. I kicked and punched at him, and he attempted to shove my head into the wall. After minutes of fighting, I could feel the little bit of energy that I had draining. Out of desperation I brought out my knee, missing once, twice, three times before--contact!

Rankin grunted and grabbed my face with his free hand, clenching it tightly and pushing it to the side. "Don't make me hurt you, Duo! Don't make me!"

Blindly I brought down the needle and stumbled away as fast as I could, gasping for air as I leaned against the wall, still slightly unbalanced from the sedative.

Quick, ragged breaths were coming from Rankin, who was swaying from side to side and clutching at his face. I stared, and then realized exactly where the needle had made contact.

Directly into the guy's left eye. Eww!

And down he went, like a sack of potatoes onto the floor. I waited for a few seconds, watching him closely for any signs of life. Had I . . . killed him? Who could survive being injected with that much . . . er, stuff?

I cautiously bent over the man and felt for a pulse. There it was, weak and slow. He probably wouldn't live much longer.

I yanked the keys off of Rankin's belt and went for the door, but not before getting a bottle of the sedative. It was nighttime, I could see by looking out of the window in the living room, so first I made a stop down to the basement where I grabbed a couple of flash lights before hobbling up to the front door. To my frustration, there was a code box next to the door knob which I could probably figure out if I had the time, but I really didn't so . . .

Aha! I grabbed a stool from the kitchen and hurled it at the window next to the door. It shattered and out I crawled, grunting slightly as several shards of glass cut through my skin. I turned on one of the flashlights and stuck the other one in the waistband of my pants along with the bottle and followed a set of tire tracks to what I hoped would be the highway that I'd heard earlier.

I went as quickly as I could, tripping over logs and getting smacked in the face by tree branches. Yeah, thank you Mother Nature. Finally, after what seemed like an eternal trek in the dark, I made it to the road, which was indeed a highway. I looked up and down it, hoping to find a gas station or something near by. There was nothing but a lonely stretch of road.

But up ahead a bit was a sign . . . could a town be in the area?

I quickly made my way up to the road sign and shined the flashlight on it.

REST STOP

1 MILE

Score! A rest stop! Fresh water, food, drinks and a phone. Everything I needed at that moment.

So I quickly did the one mile and was gasping for breath by the time I got to the rest stop. The parking lot was deserted, probably because the DAMN THING WAS GATED UP! Just my freaking luck!

But the lights were still on inside, and I'd come this far . . . I went up to the gate, shook and kicked at it a bit before I saw the pad lock on the side. My picks, which hadn't seen this much action since the war by the way, went to work, and I was able to open the gate in no time. I went inside and snapped the lock back on.--I felt a hell of a lot safer that way.

I made a bee line for the pay phone and quickly dialed 911, dropping to the floor like a pile of bricks. As it rang I checked my injuries. I had nothing too serous, just a couple of cuts from the glass which I began to dig out of my skin, my ankle was throbbing from a particularly nasty fall I'd taken back in the woods and my head was still swimming from being slammed against the wall. Other than that, I was a-okay!

"911, what's your emergency?" a machine like woman was saying on the other end.

"My name is Duo Maxwell and--" I didn't even have a chance to say anything else--the woman on the other end gasped loudly.

"Duo Maxwell? The one that went missing?"

"Um, yep. I--"

"Do you know where you are?" the woman demanded, and I could hear some mighty furious typing going on in the background.

"I'm in a rest stop somewhere, I don't know exactly . . ."

"Okay, I've traced your call. We've got emergency crews dispatched to your location now."

I let out a relieved sigh. I was saved. Just as long as Rankin didn't pop up out of no where and haul my ass back to the cabin, I would be fine.

"Do you have any injuries, Mr. Maxwell?"

"Nothing serious. Minor abrasions, sore ankle. I'm okay," I said, eying the soda machine next to me. I began to bang on it with the foot that wasn't hurt, hoping to rattle free something to drink, because my mouth still felt like it was full of cotton balls.

"What's that noise?" the woman demanded quickly.

"Just trying to free something from one of these machines. I'm putting down the phone now." I set the phone on the floor and eyed the soda machine. It had a glass front, which would make this a lot easier. I grabbed the receiver on the other pay phone and banged it against the glass until it gave way and helped myself to a few bottles of Mountain Dew.

"Okay, I'm back," I said into the phone as I guzzled down one of the cold drinks. Ahh . . .

"Please don't step away from the phone again, Mr. Maxwell," the 911 lady said sternly.

"Sure thing."

She and I chatted for about twenty five minutes about various subjects including Heero and my (nonexistent) romantic relationship with Trowa (turns out she had a five year subscription to my fan club website) before I heard the wailing of sirens coming my way.

"Well, it was nice talkin ta ya, Sandra," I said as the sirens got closer. "You saved my butt."

She laughed. "My pleasure, Mr. Maxwell. Please do all of your fans a favor and stay out of trouble for a while, okay?"

"Will do." By now the cop cars had pulled into the parking lot and uniformed officers were pouring out of them, surrounding the place. "Bye. Thanks again."

I got up from the floor and went over to the gate, where several cops were gathering. I noticed one in particular--my old friend Detective Benito, who was currently picking the lock on the gate.

"Hello, Detective," I said with a friendly smile, relieved to see someone familiar.

He glanced up at me before returning to his work. "Are you hurt?"

"Not really. Give me that." I pushed his hands out of the way and jiggled the picks. The lock fell open in a second and the cops that were standing around began to laugh. "Hey, you're looking at the master here!"

The gate was pushed back and the cops came storming in, securing the perimeter. Benito came up to me and gave looked me over. I imagine that I looked particularly scruffy at that moment, twigs, dirt and other various woodsy muck stuck all over me, but I put on the best smile I could muster anyway.

"Bring a stretcher over here!" Benito called to some paramedics who were gapping in our direction, presumably at me. They snapped into action at his command and grabbed a stretcher out of the back of the ambulance and began wheeling it over to us.

"I don't need a stretcher," I said as it stopped next to me.

Benito didn't look too happy at that. "Get on the damn stretcher."

"No. I'm fine, really, just a couple of scrapes and--"

Benito scooped me up in his arms and plopped me down onto the stretcher. "Your friend Quatre Winner has been on the department's ass ever since you disappeared three days ago--"

Three days?

"--and if he hears that we didn't put you into the back of an ambulance to have you checked out I'm sure there will be even more hell to pay," Benito concluded as he climbed into the back of the ambulance with me. As the ambulance pulled away from the rest stop, Benito pulled a voice recorder and a pad from his pocket. "Tell me what the hell happened."

+

Benito stayed with me when I went into the emergency room to have my wounds taken care of. I was bandaged up pretty quickly as there were no serious injuries, as I'd said a million times, and the doctor assured me that the sedative wouldn't have any lasting effect on me.

"We're not really sure what it is, though," the doctor said as he looked at the clipboard in his hands. "Nothing like it has been approved by the Drug Administration, but from our preliminary analysis of it, it doesn't seem to be harmful. More work will have to be done on it to determine the drug's exact contents."

I scratched at one of my bandages and blushed as the doctor gave me a disapproving glare. "Not harmful? I pumped about two syringes full of that stuff into Rankin's system. He should be dead, right?"

The doctor nodded. "I meant, harmless in small doses, but that amount . . . probably fatal. More than likely fatal."

Well. I was torn between relief and sickness. It had been a while since I'd last killed a man, but at least the entire stalker thing was over. I relaxed and smiled slightly. "Good. Now I can go home, right?"

Benito and the doctor shared a look.

"Right?" I asked a little harshly. I didn't like that sneaky little glance.

"Mr. Maxwell," the doctor started gently. "I would like to do another . . . examination on you."

Something wasn't right with the man's tone. "What kind of examination?"

"A rape examination."

I stiffened up and blushed furiously. "I wasn't raped."

"Duo," Detective Benito said, stepping forward to take my hand. "You told me that there were several periods where you blacked out for long periods of time, and you blacked out once while Rankin was . . . touching you. I think it would be best if you let the doctor do the exam."

"I wasn't raped!" I screamed almost hysterically. "Don't you think I would know whether or not I'd been raped!"

"Mr. Maxwell, sometimes--"

"No," I said firmly. "No. I want to go home, take a shower and go to sleep. He didn't rape me, I don't want some guy I don't even know poking around down there to confirm something that I already know, no, no, no!"

The doctor sighed in defeat and said to the detective, "I can't make him do anything that he doesn't want to do."

Benito clenched my hand in his. "Alright Duo, if you'd rather not."

"Yeah, I'd rather not. Can I go home now?" I stared down at the floor.

Detective Benito personally drove me back to Quatre's mansion, and the ride back was silent. I was still a little upset about the suggestion of rape. I mean, I would know about it if it had happened to me, right? And even if Rankin had done that, would I really want to know? Would I really want to know that my first time had been like that?

But did I really not want to know? Did I want to have this question, the uncertainty eating away at me for the rest of my life?

I could see the turnoff to Quatre's neighborhood coming up ahead. I could let Benito turn and drop me off at Quatre's or I could--

"Can you take me to the hospital? I think I'd like to have that examination done."

+

I'm not even going to talk about the damn examination, alright? Let's just say that it was totally embarrassing and it proved what I'd though all along. That was aright I guess, because now I could go back to my life with a clear mind.

It was about four in the morning when I finally arrived at Q's place, and all of the guys were standing out on the front porch waiting for me. I'd barely gotten out of the car when Quatre came flying at me and wrapped me up in a bear hug. He was wailing loud enough to wake the neighbors five miles down the road, I swear.

"Why don't we move inside?" Benito asked with a smile.

Quatre attached himself to my side as we went into the house. The six of gathered into the living room where I was tossed down onto the couch and asked by Quatre, "Can I get you anything? Sprite? Mountain Dew? We have some doughnuts, the ones that you like--"

Trowa pulled Q into a chair, and I gave him a thankful smile. "Thanks, Q, but I'm fine. Tired, but fine."

"I'm sorry, Duo." That was Wufei, which surprised the hell out of me. He looked as if he hadn't slept in days . . . I looked around at my friends. In fact, it looked as if none of them had.

"For what?" I asked.

"This is all my fault. If I had gone down there with you like I should have--"

I shook my head. "Look, its no one's fault, okay? No one but Rankin's. I'm going up to bed, Detective Benito can fill you guys in on what happened." I was halfway up the stairs before I turned and stared the detective in the eye. "Just . . . only what is necessary, okay?"

I knew that he knew what I meant. Er . . . does that make sense? I think so.

I didn't want anyone to know about that stupid exam.

Once inside my room I yanked open my dresser and pulled out some clean night clothes and a fresh pair of boxers and headed for the shower. I turned the water on full blast and at the highest temperature. After undressing I dug around for a fresh bar of soap and a clean rag. Well, there was a rag and only that girly body wash stuff Quatre likes to use. It would have to do.

I squirted a mound of the stuff onto the rag and got underneath the spray of water, hissing softly as the steamy hot water hit my skin. The rag roughly met my skin as I scrubbed vigorously at my body. All I could think of was that doctor prodding at me, Rankin kissing me, touching me . . .

A broken sob left my throat as I squirted more of the soap onto the rag.

I had a lot to wash away.

+

I almost slept the day away. I woke up at about six in the afternoon to the sound of the doorbell ringing. I got out of bed and went into the bathroom to splash a little water onto my face before heading downstairs. Trowa was standing at the door, handing a pizza guy some cash and Quatre was setting the table in the kitchen.

"Duo, you're finally awake!" Quatre exclaimed, giving me a big smile. "We just ordered dinner, come sit down."

I sat at the kitchen table and watched as Quatre sat two cans of Mountain Dew in front of me and Trowa slap two giant slices of pepperoni and sausage pizza on my plate. They looked at me with laughter in their eyes when my stomach growled loudly.

"Sorry," I said sheepishly. "I don't know how long it's been since I last ate."

"Eat up then!" Quatre urged.

We ate in silence for a little while before Quatre couldn't hold back whatever he'd wanted to say since I got back.

"Duo, I want to apologize," Quatre said nervously.

I sighed. First Wufei and now Quatre. "It is not your fault! And besides, I'm fine--"

"No, it's not about that. I . . . I felt terrible when you came up missing and I felt as if I'd never really apologize properly for our stupid argument over Trowa earlier," Quatre rushed out, giving me an earnest look.

I gapped at him. "W-what? Look, I told you--"

"And I kept thinking about how awful it would be if . . . if . . . if something were to happen to you and you still thought that I hated you for that Trowa thing and--"

I laughed. "Quatre, you're totally forgiven! Just forget about it, okay?"

He looked sheepish. "Okay. No more fighting ever again. I'm glad to have you back."

I nibbled on a bit of crust and grinned. "I'm glad to be back."

"I'm glad that this whole stalker business is over," Trowa murmured, his one visible eye staring me down. It made me nervous. What did he want?

"So am I," I said, avoiding his gaze. "Now maybe Heero will back up off my ass."

Quatre made a strange strangled sound. "Oh, if only you could've seen Heero when he found out that you were gone!"

I leaned forward anxiously. "Really? What happened?"

"We were up in Une's office and Wufei had gone down to the infirmary to get you," Quatre said eyes wide and shiny with mirth. "And when Wufei returned without you, looking very pale and very scared, Heero knew immediately what had happened."

"He flipped," Trowa added with a wince.

"The desk," Quatre concluded rather dramatically.

I looked from Tro to Q. "Wait, what? He flipped the desk? Une's HUMONGEOUS monster of an oak desk!"

Quatre nodded. "He flipped the damn desk up into the air and now there's this big hole in the ceiling. Then e went tearing out of the office and Une had to alert the doctors and nurses in the infirmary to watch out for him. Luckily, one of them was armed with one of the special Super Heavy Duty Heero-darts and they were able to sedate him."

Ohh, the Heero-darts. The only ones strong enough to stop a raging Heero Yuy, specially formulated for Heero, commissioned by Une herself.

"Wow . . . and I missed that! Damn."

Quatre nodded sadly. "It was a pretty scary time. We really weren't sure what Rankin wanted to do with you."

"Yeah, I never figured that one out, either." Other than get freaky with me, I really had no idea what he'd been planning. "But whatever, because he's gone."

I really should have knocked on wood then. Me and my big mouth.

The doorbell rang and Quatre excused himself from the table to answer it. Trowa was still staring at me strangely with that inquisitive eye of his.

"What?" I demanded. "Do I have cheese hanging out of my nose or something?"

"No. I just wanted to make sure you're okay," he said, giving me a hard look.

"I'm fine."

"Did he touch you?"

My face turned bright red, I'm sure. Why on earth did everyone want to know that? Freaks. "No! Jeeze, he did not rape me, okay?"

"Okay."

"Good."

I glared down at the remainder of my pizza, embarrassed as hell. I didn't want to talk about anything that had happened back in that cabin, I just wanted to forget and get back to my life full of shopping and eating out and gossiping with my best friend while we were supposed to be doing work and getting paid pretty well for it.

"Duo, someone is here for you," Quatre said as he came into the kitchen with Detective Benito. He looked a little concerned, and to be honest, so was I. Even though he was one good looking dude, I was hoping that I wouldn't be seeing him any time soon.

"Bad news, detective?" I asked, repairing myself mentally for whatever he was about to say. I could tell that something was up by the strained look on his face.

"I'm afraid so," Benito said, sitting next to me. "We went back to the cabin, Duo. We didn't find Rankin."

Wait, I didn't hear him correctly, right? They hadn't found Rankin? "Impossible!" I exclaimed with a fake smile. "I shot the guy up with so much of that sedative that he should've been asleep. Permanently."

"I know. But his body wasn't there. We searched the entire house and everything within a ten mile radius," Benito said, and I could tell by the look of his face that he was just as perplexed as I was.

"So he could still be out there somewhere, and he could come back for Duo," Trowa said morbidly.

"I'm afraid so. No one is really sure where he could've gone, especially with that much of the sedative in his system. But we've put all of the hospitals in the area on alert," the detective said. "Being stabbed in the eye needs medical attention, and it doesn't seem likely that he can handle that himself."

Quatre immediately got up and began checking that the windows and doors were secure. Trowa went over to the phone, presumably to alert Heero and Wufei, leaving me sitting at the table in a daze.

"Duo, you might want to be even more careful than before," Benito was saying seriously. "He might be mad that you attacked him, betrayed him."

I nodded dumbly. The last thing I wanted was for Rankin to get his hands on me again, because now he probably wanted me dead for escaping. The fear raced up my spine and made my stomach lurch dangerously.

Benito looked very concerned. "Are you okay? Your face . . . turned a little green just then." When I didn't answer, he added, "I just bought these shoes, alligator skin, and if you're gonna hurl, well, I'll ask you to turn your head the other way."

I laughed. "No I won't hurl. I'm just a little unnerved," I admitted.

"I know. If there's anything I can do personally . . ."

I looked up at him, straight into his eyes and saw something in them. "Can you stay the night?"

+

Forty-five minutes later I was sitting on the toilet seat cover in my bathroom, watching as Detective Benito brushed his teeth in front of the mirror, shirtless (!) and slightly glistening from a recent shower. Damn good sight, let me tell you.

"Quatre's bringing up a cot," I said stupidly, stupidly because I'm sure that I'd already said that at least three times before.

He sent me an amused look through the mirror and spat. "Oh? Thanks for telling me . . . again."

I blushed. "Sorry. I'm just . . ."

"It's alright." He made a gesture for me to follow him, and I did as we went into the bedroom and sat on the end of the bed together.

I stared at the bedroom door. What was taking Quatre so long? I glanced up at the detective, who was smiling down at me with a glint in his eye. "What?" I asked almost defensively.

"Nothing."

Huh. Not likely. I tugged at the end of my t-shirt. "Say . . . what the hell is your first name anyway?"

He laughed. "Alex, its Alex. Hell, you might as well call me by my first name from now on, since we'll probably be seeing a lot of each other."

I grinned and looked up at him. "Yeah, probably."

We smiled at each other for a while, and then I saw that thing in his eyes again. I knew what he was going to do, and I let him do it anyway.

He leaned in and gently pressed his lips to mine, his arms snaking around my waist to pull me close. I squeezed my eyes shut and pushed my body against his. We kissed furiously, almost violently, and I had pushed him back against the bed before he removed his lips from mine.

"Duo, stop," he said sternly.

My eyes flew open and I said as I gasped for breath, "What? What's wrong?"

The concern in his eyes was obvious. "I don't think we should continue."

Had I mistaken what I'd seen in his eyes? My face caught on fire with humiliation. I slid away from him and hugged my knees to my chest. "Okay. Fine. I understand."

" . . . No, I don't think you do. I know why you really invited me to stay the night, and why you let me kiss you."

"Because I wanted you to!"

Alex shook his head and turned my face so that I was facing him. "No, you didn't."

"What makes you think that you can tell me what I do and do not want?"

"Your face was scrunched up so hard and your eyes were squeezed shut so tightly that you looked like some kind of virgin sacrifice," he said rather bluntly.

Okay, ouch.

"You are a virgin, aren't you," Alex stated. That wasn't a question.

"Oh, so my inexperience was that obvious?" I asked defensively.

" . . . I don't think you wanted me to sleep with me because you like me."

"But I do like you," I protested, my face still red.

"I know. But . . . I can see it in your face. You're scared. You're scared that Rankin could still be alive, still be after you, and you're afraid that he'll . . . rape you before you have a chance to be with anyone else."

Well. I guess he wasn't a detective for nothin'.

My stomach seemed to drop at that moment. Oh, God he was right. I didn't want that bastard Rankin to be my first, I didn't want that to be . . . How fucking embarrassing. I buried my face in my hands and struggled to keep back the tears of self-pity and frustration.

How could I face this man, knowing what I had been about to do? That I had been about to use him and his affection for me to calm my own fears?

"I'm so sorry," I mumbled into my palms.

I felt his hand on my back as it rubbed up and down and in circles in a soothing manner. His voice was soft and kind as he spoke. "Don't be. I understand. What you've been through in these past couple of days must have been hell."

I snorted and gave him a shaky smile. "Still, there's no excuse. You know, you're one great dude. Any other guy in your position probably woulda gone ahead and done it, you know? But you . . . you stopped. Thank you."

"Yeah, well, we both would've regretted it in the morning."

I nodded. Thankfully, I was spared from saying anything else because there was a knock on the door. I jumped up and threw it open, and Quatre and Trowa came in with a cot underneath their arms.

"Hi there, how is everything?" Quatre asked cheerfully as he glanced between me and Alex, I guess picking up on the tension in the room. The cot was placed onto the floor and a pillow and sheets were tossed onto it, and Quatre continued to look at us strangely.

I smiled artificially. "Just fine. I'm tired though."

Trowa looked a little worried. "Tired? You slept all day. Are you sure you're all right?"

"Yeah, yeah. I'm fine, just . . . tired." That was all I said. Hopefully the little . . . mishap between me and Alex could stay between us. "So, we'll just set the cot up and go to bed . . ."

Quatre gave us one last look before leaving, dragging Trowa, who seemed bent on figuring out what was wrong, out of the room.

Wordlessly we set up the cot and settled down in our respective beds. I turned out the light and tried my best to go to sleep. Surprisingly, sleep came easy, and before I knew it, I was lost to the world.

+

I woke up the next morning to someone shaking my shoulder gently. "Huzzat?" I mumbled, forcing my eyes open.

The detective--Alex, after what had happened last night, was leaning over me, smiling slightly. "You look like a baby when you sleep. Very peaceful."

I blushed and turned to hide my face in my pillow.

"I have to go. I'll call you if there are any developments. And you can call me if you need anything."

"Okay. Bye . . ."

Almost immediately after Alex was gone, Quatre came barreling into the room and tossed himself down onto the bed. He yanked the blankets away from me and grabbed my pillow from beneath my head. "Okay, tell me what happened!"

"What the hell are you talking about? Nothing happened." I sat up warily and stretched.

"So you two weren't looking strange when I came into the room last night?" Quatre asked slyly. "I saw your lips. They were PUFFY! They screamed `I've just been kissed.' I know, I've seen it before," he concluded in a know-it-all manner.

I sniggered and gave him a sideways look. "Yeah, on your own lips. Look, we kissed but that's about it! Nothing else happened."

"So . . . are you two going to go anywhere with it?" Quatre asked eagerly. The hopefulness in his face and voice was hard to take, knowing that I would have to tell him how I felt about my weird relationship with Alex.

"No. I don't think so." Not after last night, I couldn't . . . I wouldn't be able to. How the hell was I suppose to face him now? "But you know what? That's okay. There are plenty of other fish in the sea."

" . . . I guess. Too bad, because he's really cute and nice." Quatre hit me in the back with the pillow. "Now get your lazy butt up, Une wants to see us pronto."

"Oh, all of us this time? What did she want before?" I wondered.

"She wanted to talk to us about putting a guy on you . . . like a body guard or something," Quatre replied with a shake of his head. "I'm assuming that she wants to finish our discussion."

I made a face as I shuffled through the clothes in my closet. "A body guard? I don't need one, that's fucking ridiculous."

"I think that you're going to get one whether you like it or not. Hurry up, Une sounded pissed when I talked to her earlier."

Eep! Better hurry. I dressed quickly and grabbed a Mountain Dew and a doughnut from the kitchen before piling into the SUV with Tro and Q. Once we got to the Preventers headquarters, we joined up with Heero and Wufei outside of Une's conference room, where we took one giant collective breath before entering.

Une was sitting behind long desk, and she didn't look too pleased to see us. "Sit," she barked out. We all began to drop our behinds into a chair. "No! Duo I want you right here," she said, pointing to the second chair to her left. "The rest of you over there."

The others sat on the opposite side of the table facing Une. They looked very serious, and a little afraid. I don't think I had anything to worry about, though, since I was on this side . . . I sat back and prepared for the show. Hey, after the last couple of days, I deserved a damn good show.

"I cannot say how disappointed I am in the four of you," she began, giving Heero, Wufei, Trowa and Quatre each a dark look. "You're Gundam pilots, I thought that you all could handle a stalker, I thought that you could keep an eye on Duo, keep him out of trouble, but no! You four look away for a second and he's gone!"

Heero bristled, as if he wanted to say something, but he wisely kept his mouth shut.

"So I've taken the liberty of brining . . . ahem, someone else in for the job, since Rankin is still out there and all of you can't seem to handle this yourselves."

At this Heero really did say something. "Wait a minute, Une! I can do this. I can watch after Duo."

"How? You have work to do here, Yuy. Can you really do that and watch Duo at the same time?" Une asked, giving him a glare. Before he could say anything, she said sharply, "No, I didn't think so."

"But--"

"No buts! Besides, this . . . individual is already on his way. In fact, he should be here any moment now," Une said, glancing down at her watch.

Trowa snorted. "He's late. He's late and you think he'll be suitable for the job?"

Just then, in a super-dramatic fashion the door opened and--holy f-ing shit! My Dream Man--Zechs Peacecraft, Milliardo Merquise, WHATEVER--in the flesh stepped into the room, tall, broad shouldered and drop dead sexy, dressed in a sharp black suit, dark sunglasses and shiny black leather shoes. And when he took off those shades it was like I was seeing things in slow motion, the flick of his wrist as he took them off of his face, the shake of his head and the way he opened his eyes.

Wow.

Zech's icy blue eyes scanned the room before steeling on Une. "Sorry I'm late."

Suddenly an absolutely fantastic realization hit me. This man was going to be my body guard, this man would be at my side until Rankin was caught.

You know what?

Suddenly having a raving madman on the loose didn't sound like such a bad idea after all.

[chap. 6] [chap. 8] [back to Singles a - k]