"So you're the little fortune teller who's gonna to help the cops catch me," the man laughed harshly into Duo's ear. "Youmust not be very good if you didn't see me coming."
The cold, sharp metal dug into his throat. Duo whimpered as he felt something warm and wet slide down his neck. He closed his eyes and tried hard not to move. The tiniest movement could cause the knife to dig deeper into his neck. He didn't even dare swallow.
The man breathed heavily into his ear. He rubbed himself suggestively against Duo's backside. "Damn kid, you're even prettierthan your picture in the paper." He let go of Duo's mouth, moving hishand down to grope at the long-haired boy, keeping the knife pressed against his throat. "Scream and I'll kill you right now. ThenI'll go after that pretty little nun that works at the orphanage."
`No! Sister Helen…' Duo thought, panicked. He suddenly feltnauseated as he realized the man must have been following him around for days if he knew about Sister Helen. And if he knew about Helen, he knew about Heero. He couldn't allow anything to happen to the peoplehe loved.
The hand wandered lower, groping him through his clothes. He let out a soft whimper of protest, fighting the urge to scream. He heard the man inhale deeply, sticking his nose in Duo's hair.
"Damn you smell good. And such long, pretty hair. I may have totake that braid of yours home when I'm done so I'll always be ableto remember you."
"Please," Duo whispered, unable to stay silent any longer."Please, don't hurt me. Let me go."
"Whatsamatter, kid? We're going to have a fun time, me`n' you." He unbuttoned the top of Duo's jeans and slipped his hand inside."Oh yeah, baby. A *real* fun time."
"No, please," Duo begged, half-terrified out of his mind,sickened by the man's touch.
"Aww, don't say that kid. I drove all this way just to seeyou. You're a little out of my way, but when I saw your picture in the paper, I just had to have you."
The knife slipped a little as the man continued to fondle him. Duo gasped for air now that he was no longer in danger of being cut if he took a deep breath. His arms hung limp at his side. He knew he'd never be able to fight off his attacker - the man was surprisingly strong. He was scared and desperately wished Heero was there. Heero was strong too. Heero could save him.
He heard the man's breathing become excited. He could feel hisstate of arousal pressing against his buttocks. The man licked his ear again. Duo flinched, jerking his head away. The knife slipped even more as the man shifted his grip on his upper torso. Just a little lower and maybe he could force his attacker to drop the knife and get away.
The other hand groping him squeezed him hard. Duo let out a cry of revulsion and futilely tried to squirm away.
"What's wrong kid?" the man rasped into his ear as hetried to stoke Duo's limp manhood into arousal. "Don't like my touch? I thought a little slut like you would enjoy this. I've seen you with that chink boyfriend of yours. I bet you spread for him every night." He popped the next button on Duo's jeans to give him more room. "Mmm, I bet you're tight. I can't wait to bury myself in that sweet little hole of yours."
The knife slipped just a little bit more. Duo took a deep breath, searching for courage he didn't know if he had. He elbowed theman in the ribs and pushed the arm holding the knife away from his body. He jerked away from the killer, stumbling forward in an effort to get away. He'd almost made it to the end of the alley when something heavy hit him from behind, sending him sprawling to the ground. His attacker immediately straddled his body, pinning him down on his stomach, and shoved his head to the pavement. Lights danced in front of his eyes as his head hit the ground.
"No! Let me go!" he cried out, struggling violently to getaway.
The man yanked on Duo's braid, causing his head to be pulled up,neck straining backwards at an unnatural angle. The knife found its way back to his throat.
"You stupid whore!" he spat at Duo, giving his braid a sharp tug. Duo gasped in pain. "I told you not to scream. Playtime's over."
He let go of Duo's hair, but kept the knife near his throat. Tears streamed silently down Duo's face as he felt the man yank his jeans down over his hips. He jumped as the crisp autumn air caressed his bare skin. He squeezed his eyes shut and prayed for help.
`Help me, please. Heero…'
Heero may not have heard, but God seemed to be listening. A door near the other end of the alley swung open and a group of young people tumbled out, laughing and make a great deal of noise in general.
"Shit!" he heard the man swear above him. Duo felt him leandown and place his mouth near his ear. "Don't think this party'sover, pretty. I'll find you again and we'll finish what we started."
And with that, he was gone. The man's weight disappeared from his back, the knife gone from his throat. Duo cautiously raised his head to see his attacker's feet vanish around the corner. Tired and sobbing tears of relief, he rolled onto his side, tugging his jeans back into place almost as an afterthought. The top two buttons on the fly were missing, but at that moment, Duo didn't care. Weakly he pushed himself up with arms shaking like jello. He struggled hard not to roll over and throw up. He wrapped his arms around his waist, his body trembling like a leaf.
Duo's unsuspecting saviors drew closer. One of the young men sawDuo huddled against the wall and hurried forward.
"Hey kid. Are you okay?" he asked, kneeling next to Duo.
The long-haired teen shook his head. "N…no."
"Jesus, you're bleeding." He turned to his friends gathered around them. "Isobel, go call for help."
Duo blocked everything else out. He buried his face in his knees. He could still feel that bastard's hands on him. He couldn't stop shaking, couldn't stop the tears from falling. He wanted to go home. He wanted to see Heero.
`Heero. I need you.'
Treize sighed and sat back in his chair. "And you're sure about this. You all agree on this conclusion," he said, looking at each of them in turn.
Wufei nodded. "I asked Barton and Yuy to take a look at the case to see if they came to the same conclusions I saw. They did."
"The medical examiner *finally* finished his report as well. His conclusions match ours," Trowa added. "He also confirmed that Miss Peacecraft died several hours later than earlier estimated by the crime scene investigators. He placed her time of death around nine A.M. Sunday morning. Not that it makes much of a difference, but now we have a time frame to work with when questioning potential witnesses."
`It *does* make a difference to me. The time of death now concurs with Duo's vision,' Heero thought. `That's the only discrepancy I could find. But now, everything is falling into place.'
The captain leaned forward and pinched the bridge of his nose."This puts us in a very delicate situation, gentlemen. If word leaks out about this…"
"It won't," Heero interrupted, throwing a glance at his partner. "You, Chang, Trowa and I are the only ones who know about this. And unless our leak has a listening device planted in your office, we won't be telling anyone."
"Not even my team," Wufei said.
"Not even Senator Peacecraft," added Trowa.
Treize nodded in agreement. "All right. That's probably for the best, at least until you gather more information. Yuy, Barton - you are officially and permanently reassigned to the Peacecraft case." He stood up. "Now is there anything else?"
Heero opened his mouth to add something but was interrupted when the door to Treize's office swung open. An older detective stepped inside.
"Yes, Otto? What is it?" Treize asked.
"Excuse me for interrupting, Captain. Detective Yuy, there's someone out here who wants to see you."
"Who is it?"
"I don't know. A kid with long hair. He's been here before."
Trowa rolled his eyes. "Your little psychic boyfriend following you to work now, Heero?"
The dark-haired detective shot a glare at his partner.
"I don't think he's here for a visit," Otto remarked. "He looks pretty shaken up. He's bleeding…"
Heero didn't stay to hear the rest. He shoved past the older cop, intent on finding Duo. His stomach had twisted in knots when Otto had said Duo was hurt. He scanned the room, eyes quickly seeking out the long-haired boy who had come to mean so much to him in such a short amount of time.
Duo was sitting near Heero's desk looking incredibly pale. A large white bandage adorned his throat, the center of which was stained with blood. Another smaller bandage was on his forehead. Heero felt his body tighten as he took in Duo's injuries and the blood stains on his shirt. He swore whoever had done this to him would pay.
A uniformed police officer was standing next to Duo. Heero started forward, wanting nothing more than to touch Duo, make sure he was all right. At that moment, Duo looked up. With a cry, he launched himself out of the chair and flew into Heero's arms. He buried his face into Heero's chest, body shaking almost violently as he sobbed silently into Heero's shirt.
The Japanese detective wrapped his arms around Duo's body, hands lightly stroking his back in comfort. "Duo, shhh. It's okay. You're safe now." He turned questioning eyes to the officer who had accompanied his braided love.
The man shrugged. "He wouldn't tell me what happened. A group of college kids found him in an alley. They called the paramedics who managed to stop the bleeding. Even said it wasn't deep enough to need stitches. They also said he probably doesn't have a concussion. I arrived a few minutes later. He refused to speak except to insist I bring him here."
Heero nodded. "Thank you. You did the right thing."
The cop nodded back and turned to leave. Heero turned his attention to the boy in his arms. "Duo? Duo, you're safe now. I'm here. Can you tell me what happened?"
Duo sniffed then hiccuped, still clutching tightly to Heero'sshirt as if it was his own private security blanket.
"It…it was *him*," he said, wiping his nose on his sleeve. "He… he had a knife. He was t…touching me. He said he was going to come after me again." He shivered violently. "Oh God! I was so *scared*!"
Heero was scared too. He'd come dangerously close to losing Duo without even knowing it - losing him to the bastard they were hunting. He swallowed hard. Duo was crying into his shirt again. He looked up to see Wufei standing nearby.
`Conference room,' the other detective mouthed then turned and walked through a nearby doorway.
Heero rubbed Duo's back with one hand, using the other to tilt his face up. "Duo, I know you're frightened. Jesus, I am too. But do you think you could tell us what happened?"
"Me, Trowa, and Detective Chang."
Duo winced. "Last time I talked to Chang he th…threw me in jail for the murders."
Heero gave him a small smile. "I doubt Chang will do that this time." His smile vanished. "He's still out there, Duo. I need you to help me catch him. I need to put him away so I'll know you're safe."
Duo didn't look happy, but he nodded. "All right. Where do we go?"
Heero led him to a small conference room. Wufei and Trowa were already inside. A tape recorder was sitting in the middle of the table ready to record the conversation. Heero maneuvered Duo onto a chair and took the one next to him.
"Okay Duo. I believe you know Trowa and Detective Chang."
"Yeah," Duo said, frowning at Wufei.
The Chinese cop gave him a sad half-smile. "Mr. Maxwell," he greeted with a nod of his head. "I never got a chance to apologize for before. I don't believe in this… psychic mumbo-jumbo, but I do regret putting an innocent in jail."
Duo shrugged. "It's okay. You were just doing your job."
"It's still no excuse. I locked you up without any hard evidence against you. I even hoped you *were* the killer - because then this would all be over and maybe I could get to sleep at night."
Duo stared at him sadly, understanding for the first time how hard cases like this could be for the police as well. He pitied Chang. He pitied them all.
"Duo," Heero asked, placing a comforting hand on his arm, "can you tell us exactly what happened to you?"
Duo nodded and licked his dried lips. "I was on my way home to get ready for our - for a date," he amended hastily, blushing as he shot Heero a glance out of the corner of his eye. "I was walking down Dixon Street…"
He told the story with a wavering voice. Heero turned a deathly shade of pale when Duo described how his attacker had pawed at him. He wanted to reach out and squeeze Duo's hand reassuringly, but did not. He allowed Duo to tell his story, knowing his presence alone would be comforting to the braided boy.
"Are you sure you didn't get a good look at him?" Wufei asked again, frustration edging his voice.
Duo shook his head regretfully. "No. I just saw his arms and hands and heard his voice. He kept his face hidden from my view the whole time."
"Did he have any distinguishing marks on his hands like scars or a tattoo?"
Duo shook his head. "They were rough, callused, but no scars. His fingers were… short though," he said, cocking his head in confusion. Heero raised an eyebrow but didn't comment about the man in Duo's vision supposedly having long fingers.
"What about his voice?" Trowa asked.
"Rough, harsh - like he was stage whispering. Maybe he was disguising his voice?" He shrugged. "I didn't recognize it."
"And you say he saw your picture in the paper and tracked you down?"
Duo nodded, then cocked his head as if remembering something. "Actually, he *did* say that I was a little out of his way."
The three detectives glanced at each other.
"And you were on Dixon Street right?"
"Yeah." Duo swallowed nervously. "He said he was going to find me again - to finish what he started." His voice cracked, tears stinging his eyes.
"I think that's enough for now," Heero insisted, noticing the boy's distress.
Wufei agreed. "We'll talk to those college kids and see if they got a look at him, though I doubt they did." He stood up and walked around to stand next to Duo. "Mr. Maxwell, go home. Get some rest. We'll place a unit at Maxwell Church and the orphanage. Try not to worry. We'll catch him."
Duo nodded his thanks, unable to speak for the moment. Trowa stood as well.
"Take him home, Heero. We'll have a couple of guys watch over his apartment."
"No. I'm going to take him to my place… at least for tonight."
Trowa gave him a look. "Are you sure that's wise?" he asked snidely.
Heero sighed, tired of his partner's attitude towards Duo. He pulled him aside, out of Duo's earshot. "Look Trowa, I don't know what the hell your problem is, but I care a lot about that young man. He's just been through a very traumatic experience and I'm not going to leave him alone tonight." He shot a glance at Duo, eyes softening as he looked at his little would-be lover. "You don't have to like him, Trowa, but I ask that you treat him with respect. He's a wonderful person… and someone I hope will be a part of my life for a very long time."
Trowa looked at Heero reproachfully. "I'm sorry Heero. I didn't know you felt so strongly about that - about him." He placed his hand on Heero's shoulder and pushed him towards the braided teenager. "Take him home. I'll cover what's left of your shift."
"Thanks Trowa." Heero gave his partner a grateful look before turning back to Duo.
"Duo?" The young man looked up at him, eyes glazed over as the reality of what had happened finally began to sink in. Heero hurried over, wanting to get him home before shock set in. "Duo, I'm going to take you home now."
Duo nodded dumbly. He let Heero help him stand up, clutching desperately at his shirt sleeve. "Heero, please. I don't want to be alone right now."
Heero wrapped his arms around him. "You won't be, Duo. I'm here. I won't leave you."
Heero unlocked the door to his loft and swung it open. He placed one arm around Duo's shoulders and guided him inside. He took the coat he had draped around the boy and hung it up just inside the door. He glanced worriedly at his young love. Duo was standing completely still in the middle of the floor. He hadn't said a word since they'd left the precinct. And that worried Heero no end.
"Duo? Would you like something to eat or drink?"
Duo shook his head, his arms coming up to wrap around his body. Heero sighed and walked over to him. He eyed the bandage at Duo's throat and frowned. "You're bleeding again. Come over here and let me change the dressings." He led Duo to one of the bar stools and sat him down upon it. He hurried into his bathroom and gathered the necessary supplies, anxious to get back to Duo.
The braided teen was where he'd left him, perched precariously on the stool. He set the first aid supplies on the bar counter and tilted Duo's head up. Carefully he peeled away the soaked through bandages, wincing as he saw the cut on Duo's neck for the first time. The paramedics had been right - it wasn't deep enough to need stitches, but it *was* deep enough to bleed profusely as head wounds tended to do. He gently wiped away the blood with a damp cloth. He dabbed the cut carefully with some antiseptic before applying a fresh bandage to the injury.
He was just finishing applying medical tape to hold the bandage in place when Duo spoke. "I'm really tired, Heero," he said softly.
Heero smiled gently at him. "Let's get you into bed. Do you need to go to the bathroom first?"
Duo nodded. He let Heero help him down off the barstool then padded silently to the bathroom. Heero hurried to the curtained off bedroom area to turn down the sheets. He quickly changed out of his work clothes and into a comfortable pair of boxers and a cotton t-shirt. He laid out an oversized shirt for Duo to wear, then wandered out into the living room to make up the couch for himself. He heard the bathroom door open and Duo step out.
"There's a shirt on the bed you can wear tonight if you want to get out of those clothes," he called out as he arranged a sheet on the couch.
Duo didn't say anything but shuffled over to the bed. Heero gave him enough time to change before he ventured over to the shoji screens.
"Duo? Did you get changed?" he asked before sticking his head inside.
"Yeah," he heard the braided boy mumble. Heero poked his head around the screen to see Duo sitting on the edge of the bed, looking very small in the oversized shirt. Heero walked over and sat down next to him, drawing the young man into his embrace.
They sat in silence for a long while, Duo nestled in Heero's arms. Heero never wanted to let go. He'd come to care about Duo so much in such a short while - and he'd almost lost him. His gut tightened in anger over the thought of another man laying his hands on Duo. He momentarily went blind with rage as he remembered the ugly cut on Duo's neck. He wanted to find that bastard and make him pay. He took a deep breath. He needed to calm down. There was nothing he could do about that right now. He had to be calm for Duo's sake. Duo needed him more at the moment.
He placed a kiss on the top of Duo's head. "You need to rest, koi. Let's get you tucked in."
Duo allowed Heero to maneuver his body into the bed. But when the older man went to draw up the covers, Duo latched on to his arm.
"Stay with me."
Heero hesitated. "Duo, you need rest. And I don't think…"
"Please?" the braided boy interrupted, violet eyes pleading with him to stay. "I don't want to be along. I just need you to hold me."
Heero's eyes softened. He could not deny the young man anything - he knew that now. Wordlessly he nodded, gesturing for Duo to scoot over. He left the bed long enough to turn out all the lights in the apartment, then hurried back to where Duo was waiting for him. He climbed into bed next to the braided boy, wrapping his arms around him once more, drawing him close.
"Thank you," he heard Duo murmur in the dark. Heero kissed him gently on the lips.
"Sleep now, love. I've got you," he whispered back. Duo didn't reply. Gradually Heero felt Duo's body relax, his breath evening out as he slipped into an uneasy sleep. He held Duo close, rubbing soothing circles along his back. Duo was so very precious to him - and he vowed to keep him safe, no matter what it took.
`I'll protect you, Duo. I promise.'
"No. Absolutely not," Duo glared at him from across the bar counter, clutching at his mug of coffee so hard his knuckles were turning white.
"Duo, it's for your own good…" Heero tried to reason but was cut off.
"I said no! I'm not going to move out of my apartment because some psycho with a knife is after me," he said, glaring defiantly at the dark-haired man across from him. He gripped his mug again but refused to let Heero see how nervous he was.
He'd woken up alone that morning, feeling much better but extremely embarrassed over his behavior the night before. It wasn't like him to just fall apart like that. And now, he'd done it twice with Heero. His face burned with the memory. Heero must think he was so weak.
Heero had been making a fresh pot of coffee when Duo awoke. The older man had smiled at him when he'd padded over to one of the bar stools, poured him a cup - and dropped his bombshell. He wanted Duo to move out of his apartment until the killer had been caught.
"Duo, if he's been following you, he knows where you live."
"And I know that. But I live above the clinic. There's a really good alarm system in the building. I'll be safe there."
"Heero, please." He looked down, idly fingering the bandage on his neck. "I *am* scared. But I refuse to let him drive me out of my home." Heero didn't look convinced. "Please try to understand."
Heero sighed. "All right. Fine. But I'm placing a unit outside of your building at all times. I don't want you to go anywhere alone. And… I want you to keep a gun in your apartment."
Duo stared at him, then shook his head vehemently. "No way. I don't even know how to fire a gun."
"I'll take you to the firing range later and show you."
"Heero, I really, *really* don't want a gun. I don't think I could ever use one against another person."
"I'm not going to leave you unprotected. Take the gun, use it as a last resort." He grabbed a piece of paper from a notepad hanging on the refrigerator and scribbled something down on it. "Here's my pager number. If anything happens, anything at all, dial this number and hit `911'. I'll be at your place within minutes." He held out the paper, giving Duo a hard look. "It's either the gun or move out Duo. I just want to keep you safe."
Duo took the paper and sighed. "All right. I'll let you show me how to use a gun, but I doubt I'll be able to actually use it against another person."
"I'll feel better just knowing you have it," Heero said. "Now go get dressed. I'll take you to the firing range, then I'll take you home."
A week passed with not so much as a whisper from his stalker. Another body had been found - an older one this time. It had been found under one of the docks at the shipyard and had apparently been there a while before anyone found it - her. But this one was different. This time, someone remembered the young woman talking to a dark-haired stranger just before she disappeared. The details were sketchy, but at last they had a solid lead. The subsequent investigations kept Heero very busy, but he managed to find time everyday to stop in and check on Duo.
Duo resumed his work at the clinic. Quatre and Iria kept strict watch on him as did the plainclothes police permanently camped outside the building. He had done what Heero had asked - he hadn't ventured out alone. He'd even gone so far as to stay home Saturday night instead of going to the orphanage like he always did. He hadn't wanted to, but Father Maxwell and Sister Helen had insisted he stay home for his own safety. Duo had reluctantly agreed, but he was getting real tired of being confined to his apartment when no one else was around. But Heero had been adamant. Still, the evening hadn't been a total loss. Heero had come over and they spent the night watching old movies and cuddling on the couch. Duo could only wish for more evenings like that - only without the price of giving up his freedom.
The only thing Duo didn't do was carry the gun Heero had given him around with him. He kept it unloaded in the top drawer of his night stand and absolutely refused to take it out. He hated guns and didn't want it around.
The door to the clinic opened, startling Duo out of his reverie. He looked up to see a familiar figure walk through.
"Hello, Zechs," Duo said, giving the man a small smile."What brings you here?"
"Good evening, Duo," the platinum-haired man replied, giving the teen a warm smile. "I'm on guard duty tonight."
Duo blinked. "You? But I thought you worked in narcotics."
"I do, but I owed someone a favor and since the department is a little short-handed at the moment, here I am." He sidled up to the reception counter to lean closer to the braided teen. "And how are you doing? I see your wound is healing nicely."
Duo involuntarily reached up to trace the scarred ridge on his throat. In a few more days, it would be healed completely. Quatre thought it wouldn't even leave a permanent scar behind.
"Thanks. And I'm fine. I'm a little frustrated about being cooped up all the time, but I'm otherwise okay."
"Ah. That is good to hear."
"Duo?" Both men looked up to see Quatre come through the waiting room door looking concerned. "I thought I heard you talking to someone out here. Who's this?" he asked coolly, looking Zechs up and down with a critical eye.
"This is Officer Zechs Merquise. Zechs, this is my friend and my boss, Dr. Quatre Winner," Duo introduced. "Zechs works at the same precinct as Heero and is playing guard duty on me tonight."
Quatre stuck out his hand. "Nice to meet you, officer. Sorry for acting so suspicious - it's been a trying time for all of us."
"I understand," Zechs replied. He reached out to brush an errant lock of hair away from Duo's face. "But if it's to protect something so precious, it must be done."
Duo blushed furiously, drawing away from the older man's hand. "Um, thanks." He shook his head to clear his mind. "Anyway, what are you doing here now? I thought Mark and José were out there at the moment," he said, nodding at the window through which an unmarked car could be seen sitting across the street.
"On a first name basis with your watchers?" Zechs teased.
Duo blushed. "Well, they *are* sort of risking their lives for me should anything happen. They've been here nearly everyday since this whole mess began."
"I understand. Anyway, another officer and I are supposed to be relieving them in about twenty minutes to take the night shift. I came in early to see how you were doing - and to see if I could get your doctor friend to spare a moment of his time."
"Of course," Quatre replied, "what did you need?"
"I've been having some sinus trouble lately. It always happens this time of year - I get this nasty drainage that makes my throat all sore and raspy. I wonder if you could take a look at my throat and maybe recommend something I could take because the over-the-counter stuff just isn't doing the trick."
"Certainly. Why don't you come into one of the exam rooms in the back and I'll have a look at you. Duo, I know it's about time for you to get off, but don't go anywhere yet. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes."
Duo nodded, watching as Quatre led Zechs into the back. He sighed and busied himself with tidying up the waiting room. Zechs was nice - but there was something about him that made him squirm - and not in a good way. Though maybe it was just because he came on so heavily. Had he not been with Heero, he probably would have been flattered by the attention.
Quatre had been correct. The exam did not take longer than a few minutes. Zechs walked back into the waiting room, followed a moment later by Quatre who had been turning out the lights to the exam rooms.
"Just give me a moment to lock up, Duo, then I'll walk you up to your apartment."
"I can escort Duo to his door if you'd like, Dr. Winner," Zechs offered smoothly, moving to stand closer to Duo. A little too close. Duo took a step back.
Quatre looked at the braided teen. "Do you mind?"
`Yes! I mind!' Duo wanted to shout, but shook his head instead. Zechs had been nothing but nice to him. He didn't want to be rude in return. "No, I don't mind."
"Great! I'll see you tomorrow then."
Duo nodded. He turned to Zechs. "Shall we go?"
"Lead the way."
Duo led Zechs out the front door of the clinic and around the building to a side entrance. Zechs stood behind him as he punched in the code on the security pad to open the door. A flight of stairs immediately inside the door led to the upstairs apartments. Though there were several apartments above the clinic, Duo was currently the only occupant.
"How did that relationship you were telling me about at the pub work out?" Zechs asked from behind him as they mounted the stairs.
"It's working out rather nicely," Duo replied, not wanting to mention Heero by name for some reason.
"Ah. That's too bad - for me that is." They reached the landing and Zechs opened the door to the hallway for him. "Hm, this hall needs better lighting," he remarked as Duo led the way to his apartment door.
The younger man shrugged. "I'm the only one who lives up here at the moment. I don't mind."
"The only one? Why?"
"Quatre's having the other apartments completely renovated. He owns the whole building. My place was the only one fit to live in when he bought it to open up the clinic downstairs a couple of years ago. He wants to rent them all out eventually."
"I see." They reached Duo's door. "Would you like me to come in with you?"
"Um, no. I don't think that'll be necessary," Duo replied hastily. "But thanks for walking up here with me. It can feel a little scary sometimes all by myself."
"I can imagine." He brushed his fingers along Duo's cheek. Duo fought the urge to flinch. "My partner should be here by now. I'm going to check out all the entrances and exits in the building. Call downstairs if you need anything. I'm assuming they gave you the cell phone number?"
Duo nodded as he unlocked his door. "Thanks Zechs. See you around."
"Pleasant dreams, Duo."
The braided boy hurried into his apartment, quickly closing the door behind him. Something about Zechs's attitude was giving him the willies. He heaved a sigh of relief, then looked at the clock. Heero would probably be stopping by in about half an hour. That should leave him enough time to grab a quick shower.
He moved through his apartment, switching on the lights as he went since the sun was in the last stages of setting over the city, casting deep shadows around the rooms. He grabbed a robe from his closet and headed for the bathroom. Shedding his clothes, he turned on the water and stepped underneath, allowing the warm water to wash over him, relieving him of some of his tension. He'd been a lot more stressed out lately, murderous stalking psychos aside. It had been nearly two weeks since the article about him had been in the paper. Since then he'd had to have his phone number changed to an unlisted number as reporters and other curious people had kept his old number ringing off the hook. The patients in Quatre's clinic still asked him questions but fortunately, most of the odd and suspicious looks had stopped as most of them had known Duo for years and knew what a good kid he was. But the hounding attention had gotten to him - he was just thankful people seemed to be losing interest.
He quickly washed and rinsed his hair and body. With a reluctant sigh, he turned off the water and stepped out of the tub. He dried off and slipped the robe on, tying the belt loosely around his waist. As he began brushing and drying his long chestnut hair, he idly pondered what clothes to put on. He wanted to look good for Heero's visit, even if the older man only stayed a few minutes.
Flipping off the hairdryer, he heard a noise from somewhere in the apartment beyond the closed bathroom door. Smiling to himself, he realized Heero must have let himself in. He'd given the detective a spare key a few days before. He liked the idea of Heero being able to come and go as he pleased. Of course, it would be better if they actually lived together, but as they were still getting used to the relationship, giving one another a spare key was the next best thing.
He finished tying off his braid and reached for the doorknob. Warm light spilled out of the bathroom as he opened it and stepped outside into the darkened bedroom.
"Heero, how was your…" His words trailed off as he looked around the dark room. Funny - he could have sworn he'd turned the lights on before he'd gotten into the shower.
An eerie feeling crept up his spine. He shivered, all of a sudden feeling scared to be in his own apartment. His instincts were screaming at him to get out. A movement from the far side of the room startled him. He bolted for the door only to have a familiar pair of strong arms wrap around his body.
"Hello again, pretty. I told you I'd come back for you," the gravely voice that had been haunting his dreams whispered into his ear. "I've been thinking about you all week. Ready for some fun?"
Before Duo could struggle, or even scream, he found himself being launched into the air to land on his bed. In a flash, the man was upon him, straddling his hips and pinning his arms above his head.
"Remember - scream and I go after the nun and all those kids at the orphanage," he attacker rasped, pressing his body against Duo's.
Duo wasn't even sure he *could* scream. His whole body seemed to be paralyzed with fear. Even if he did manage to scream, he doubted anyone would be able to hear him. He was all alone in the building and the two cops were outside… Duo blinked. How had the man gotten past his guards? He suddenly feared for Zechs and his partner's safety.
The man held his wrists to the bed with one hand while he moved the other to yank at the belt of Duo's robe, untying it. He pushed the material out of the way, exposing the boy to his gaze. Duo stared up at him, frozen. He still couldn't see the man's features clearly in the near darkness. The only light came from the bathroom; Duo's attacker was silhouetted against the light, masking his features.
Wandering hands groped at him. Duo whimpered and turned his head away. The killer grabbed his chin and forced his head back up. He swooped down and attacked Duo's mouth, forcing his tongue inside.Duo sucked in his breath, gagging at the putrid taste of him. He lay frozen for a moment before regaining his courage and desperate need to get away. He bit down hard on his attacker's tongue.
The man reared up, roaring in anger and pain. The moment Duo's hands were free, he rose up, shoving the man on top of him hard enough to knock him off the far side of the bed. Duo scrambled up and ran full tilt for the living room and the phone.
He grabbed the phone off the cradle, almost knocking the whole unit off the wall. With shaking fingers he punched in the number to Heero's pager.
"Come on, come on!" he whispered impatiently as he waited for the beep to continue. As soon as the electronic noise sounded in his ear, he hit `911'.
Just as he completed dialing, a hand slammed down onto the cradle, breaking the connection.
"You little whore!" the raspy voice hissed angrily into his ear. "You're all alike, always running to someone else. Well guess what? Playtime's over." He grabbed Duo's wrist with one hand and yanked the belt off his robe with the other. "It's time for the real fun to begin."
"So what do you want to do for dinner tonight?" Trowa asked as he slid behind the wheel of his car. "I'm thinking Thai."
"Isn't Marie expecting you at home for dinner tonight?" Heero asked, settling himself in the passenger's side.
"No. She's got parent-teacher conferences until eight which means I have to fend for myself this evening." He started the ignition and pulled out of the space. "So there's this new Thai place downtown…"
"As much as I would like to burn a whole in my stomach with your spicy Thai food," Heero interrupted, "I can't. I need to get home and get some paperwork done."
"You are no fun, Yuy."
"So I've been told," he replied dryly. "I need to swing by Duo's place first to check on him." His request was met with stony silence. "Trowa? Did you hear me?"
"Why can't you just call him?" his partner asked tersely.
Heero resisted the urge to sigh. He thought they were over this. "I just want to check on him, Trowa."
"You do too much `checking' on him." Heero could hear the sarcasm and bitter resentment oozing from his voice.
"I can't help it, Trowa. I lo-" The buzzing of his beeper interrupted him. Heero dug it out of his pocket, turning pale as he saw Duo's number followed by the `911' code.
"Shit!" He reached down for the flashing police light and stuck it on Trowa's dashboard.
"It's Duo. He's in trouble. I have to get over there. Now!"
Trowa was wise enough not to say anything as he stepped on the gas.
"No! Let go!" Duo screamed, struggling as the man tied the terry cloth belt to his wrist. He kicked and screamed as he was dragged across the room back to the bedroom. He had to get away. He had no idea if his page had gone through or not. He might very well be on his own.
"Quit struggling, kid!" the man yelled as he attempted to bind Duo's wrists together. Duo leaned down and bit the man's hand. The killer screamed again, shoving Duo away. The braided teen scrambled up and rushed into the bedroom, the belt still tied to one wrist.
He dove for the night stand, sliding on the floor, and yanked open the drawer. He pulled out the gun and a box of bullets. As he tried to shove the shells into the gun with shaking hands, he cursed his `brilliant idea' to keep the weapon unloaded. Never again would he make that mistake - if he lived through this one.
More shells ended up on the floor than in the gun, but at last the weapon was ready. He raised it and pointed it at the door just as the man staggered through.
"Don't come any closer! I have a gun," he called out from the floor, trying to aim with unsteady hands.
The man froze, watching him warily in the dim light. Then he grinned and took a step forward.
"Ah, pretty. There's no need to be like that."
"I mean it! One more step…" Duo warned with a trembling voice.
"Or you'll what? Shoot me?" He took another step forward, then another. "You can't even hold that gun steady."
Duo swallowed nervously, shifting his grip on the gun. His palms were sweating so much he could barely hold onto it.
The man took another step forward. "Give me the gun, pretty - before someone gets hurt."
"I-I'll shoot," Duo said feebly, not sure if he could actually pull the trigger. His hands trembled, his fingers twitched. The man took yet another step toward him. Duo pressed his lips together, closed his eyes, tried to pull the trigger - and failed.
The gun was ripped from his grasp and flung into the shadows. A hand reached down and yanked him off the floor. His wrists were bound in front of him, but Duo didn't struggle. He was too numb. He hadn't even been able to pull the trigger, hadn't been able to save himself.
`Heero. I'm sorry. I couldn't do it.'
Heero jumped out of the car before Trowa was able to come to a complete stop.
"Trowa, go around to the back entrance. I'll take the side."
Heero dashed to the side entrance of Duo's building. He swallowed hard as he realized the security pad hadn't been activated and the door was unlocked. He pulled open the door and rushed inside, nearly tripping over a body on the stairs. His eyes widened as he recognized the shock of platinum hair on the man.
"Zechs!" He knelt down to check for a pulse, relieved when he felt one beating fast and strong. He shook the other man's shoulder. "Zechs! Wake up."
The silver-haired cop groggily opened his eyes. "Wha-? Yuy?"
"Try not to move. We've already called for back-up. They'll be here soon," Heero said, anxious to get upstairs.
"Be…careful," Zechs said weakly as Heero turned to run up the stairs.
`Duo. I'm coming.'
The man threw Duo back down on the bed. The braided boy landed on his back, robe hanging almost completely off his body. The killer pounced on him, stretching Duo's arms above his head to fasten them to one of the spokes of the headboard. His legs were forced apart roughly. Duo turned his head away, tears streaming down his face. He heard the man pull down the zipper of his pants. Duo bit his lip, feebly attempting to brace himself for what he knew was going to happen.
"Police! Freeze!" Duo's eyes flew open. He knew that voice - Heero's partner, Trowa. Heero must have gotten his page! He *had* to be nearby! The man above him froze. "Get your hands up!"
"Don't shoot, officer," the killer said, complying with the order and raising his hands. "I'm unarmed."
"Move away from the boy. Slowly."
As the man obeyed, climbing off his body, Duo's fingers went to work picking at the knot in the terry cloth belt.
"Turn around, get down on your knees, and place your hands behind your head," Trowa ordered.
Again the man did as he was told. Trowa approached him carefully from behind, pulling out a pair of handcuffs.
"You don't want to do this," the man said, still notmoving.
"Shut up." Trowa hooked one of the cuffs onto the man's wrist. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will…"
Trowa never got to finish. The man spun around, knocking him to the ground. Duo managed to get one hand free as the two struggled on the floor. He was frantically working on the other hand when the loud *bang* of a gun being discharged startled him out of his skin, nearly deafening him.
Trowa lay on the floor, dazed, eyes half-closed, bleeding a shoulder wound. The killer stood over him with the detective's gun in his hand.
"I've never killed a cop before," the man drawled over his shoulder at Duo, "unless that one I clubbed downstairs managed to die. This might be fun." He cocked the gun and aimed it at Trowa's head.
His finger twitched. Duo didn't hesitate - he flung himself at the man, knocking the gun away as it went off, narrowly missing Trowa. The gun sailed to the floor as the two went tumbling to the ground. Duo's limbs got tangled in his robe. He tripped, landing flat on his back, giving the man time enough to climb on top of him and wrap his fingers around Duo's throat.
"Damn kid!" he yelled as his fingers tightened, cutting off Duo's air supply. The boy clawed at his hands, desperate for air."You're more trouble than you're worth, pretty. Say goodnight."
"Goodnight," a familiar nasally voice intoned from the doorway of the bedroom before the sound of gunfire reverberated through the air.
For a moment, everything appeared to happen in slow motion. The man's body twitched above him, fingers loosening their grip as he fell forward. Duo lay still, unable to think, unable to move, gasping for air, until time resumed its normal course and the man's dead weight began to crush him. He pushed weakly, unable to roll him off.
"Heero? Heero! Help me. Get him off me!" he cried out, panicked. He could feel his attacker's blood seeping onto his skin. He wanted out, wanted to get away. It was too much… too much. "Heero!"
Heero knelt briefly at Trowa's side to make sure his partner was all right. "Trowa?"
"I'm okay," his partner said in a pained voice. "Clean shot I think. That kid - he saved me."
Heero nodded gratefully before Duo's startled cries drew him away to the boy's side. He pushed the now dead body off his young love. He gathered Duo in his arms, helping him to stand. He could feel Duo trembling - or was that himself? He'd almost lost Duo. Again. He glared down at the dead man. At least now, it was over. In the distance sirens could be heard blaring down the streets towards their location.
"Help is on the way, Duo," Heero said, pulling the boy's robe closed. "Are you hurt?"
Duo shook his head mournfully. "I'm sorry. I couldn't shoot him." He peeked over Heero's shoulder to look at Trowa. "Your partner - is he… is he going to be okay?"
"Aa. Looks like a clean shot. He'll be fine."
Heero moved back to his partner, keeping Duo close. He grabbed a sheet off the floor and wadded it up, pressing it to Trowa's shoulder to staunch the bleeding. No one spoke a word until the back-up police units and EMT personnel arrived. Duo was relieved to hear that Zechs would be all right, as would the other officer who had been found slumped over the steering wheel of the unmarked patrol car, rendered unconscious by a blow to the head. Trowa's injury was the most serious, but he had been right. The bullet had passed cleanly through, missing everything vital. The EMTs looked Duo over, and aside from some bruising, they pronounced him fit. Heero nearly sagged to the floor in relief when he heard that. His Duo was going to be all right.
Wufei showed up at some point, followed closely by the coroner who had come to collect the body. Heero let go of Duo, who was now wrapped in one of the paramedic's blankets to keep him warm in case shock set in, and walked over to his fellow detective.
"Heero? Is it true?" Wufei asked. "Did you get him?"
"We won't know for sure until all the investigations are complete but - yes, I think we got him."
Wufei closed his eyes, shoulders sagging with relief for a moment. He took a deep breath, then righted his posture. "Where is he? I want to see him."
"In the bedroom." Heero led the way, Duo shuffling along behind everyone, not wanting to be left alone.
All the lights in the apartment had been turned on. They crowded into Duo's room, mindful not to step in any of the pools of blood on the floor. The coroner and crime scene investigators were just finishing up their preliminary reports.
"Is he really dead?" Duo asked in a small voice, averting his eyes.
Heero moved closer and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, drawing him near. "Aa. He can't hurt you anymore."
"Turn him over," Wufei ordered when the coroner was done. Two officers reached down and rolled the body onto its back. The body hit the ground with a squishy thud. Heero felt Duo tremble against him, eyes still averted.
No one spoke for a long moment as they all stared down at the face that had held a city in terror for months. Heero shot a questioning look at Wufei who shrugged and shook his head. The Japanese cop gave Duo a tight squeeze.
"Duo? I need you to look at him."
Duo shook his head and buried his face against Heero's chest. "I don't want to."
"Please, Duo. I need to see if you recognize him."
Duo swallowed. Slowly he turned his head and looked down. For the first time, the long-haired boy got a good look at his attacker. The man was tall, or would have been had he not been lying in a pool of his own blood. He had short, dark hair and nondescript facial features. His upper body was built, as if he lifted weights and had done so for an extended period of time. His hands were surprisingly small for the body type. Overall he looked like an average guy - almost attractive even.
Duo felt like he was going to be sick.
"Do you recognize him, Duo?" Heero asked.
Duo shook his head. "No. I've never seen him before in my life."