Blood or Chocolate?
Chapter 3: Trouble Is A Redhead

I woke up Friday afternoon around one o’clock, and felt just as bad as I did the night before. I had a raging headache, my nose hurt and my breath was rancid enough to melt my teeth. Not to mention I felt like someone kicked my ass. And with the thought of last night came all the memories to accompany it: Quatre and Heero. Their weird ass behavior. That gorgeous car. All those people hiding in the dark around the gas station. Well, I wanted my bit of excitement. Looked like I was going to get it.

I got out of bed, showered before I killed someone with my body odor, dressed, and made coffee. Once I was done with my hair, I decided to do nothing but lay on the couch all day. I really should open up the gas station. After all, it was Friday and people tended to get gas on Fridays because they were leaving town or going out. I really should... but I wasn’t. Hell, they could take the gas for all I cared. It wasn’t going to be worth suffering in this heat with this headache for half a handful of customers, if I even get any in the first place.

It wasn’t too long after I decided ‘hell no, I won’t go’ when Hilde rose from the dead. I loved my sister, really I did, but she was a scary sight when she first woke up (and before coffee). She had the hair of a porcupine, skin the color of the moon’s rays, and her eyes were glued shut. She would not walk, but shuffle from one end of the house to the other, holding her pink robe closed with her hands. I watched, fascinated, as she transformed with each sip of caffeine ingestion. I entertained the thought of videotaping this. Maybe I could sell it to the Discovery Channel.

Once she was human again, I separated the laundry while she cooked breakfast. Hey, I knew that it was lunchtime, but since our work schedules were at night instead of during the day, this technically was morning for us. So anyway, once we finished breakfast, I cleaned the dishes as she wiped down the table and stove. After that bit of fun Hilde abandoned me for Sylvia, saying they were going to have a ‘girls day out,’ whatever the hell that meant.

For the next two hours I hemmed, hawed, and whined because I had nothing to do, which was funny since my ass was supposed to be at work in the first place. I tried to read but I didn’t feel like it. I wanted to draw but all of my pencil leads were dull. I couldn’t find my sharpener to sharpen my pencils, and I was agitated for a reason I couldn’t put my finger on. Ready to go absolutely bonkers because Dracula was on again, I slipped into some tennis shoes and decided that I’d either had to go for a walk or bounce off the walls.

It was beautiful out. The sky was so bright blue it was almost blinding, there weren’t any clouds, and the breeze was gentle and cool. I couldn’t help the pep in my step as I walked, or the stupid smile that was on my face. It was just a pleasure to be by myself, out in the beautiful country with rolling green hills and the air full of life. La la la la la-

/ Somebody help me! /

I turned around, confused. Carefully, I looked around the area, trying to pick out anything that resembled a person that could need help. There were none. Still a bit sore, I let my guard down and reached out with my mind to see if someone was probably dumped under a bush and left for dead. There wasn’t. Puzzled, I continued to walk, simultaneously scanning the area for any sign of life that didn’t use photosynthesis. I didn’t find anything.

After some time of walking without another occurrence, I continued to bumble my way along. I was maybe thirty minutes from where I lived, but I wasn’t ready to turn back. I was in my own world, outside in the warm weather, enjoying ‘taking’ a day off-

/ Ah! He’s got a gun! /

Just as the thought crossed my mind, I heard a gunshot. It sounded like it came from the north. The birds flying away in a large black cloud confirmed my suspicions. I slowly started to make my way there, singing a song I didn’t realize I knew the words to, and made human noise to avoid being shot. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to have to shoot a gun around here. We were out in the country where wild animals roamed, sometimes to your front door. I’ve shot rabid deer from time to time myself. But this screamed wrongness to me, all the way down to my toes.

/ No! Uncle Trowa! /

The voice sounded young. A little girl?

I heard another shot. More birds scattered. Throwing caution to the wind, I raced in the direction of the shooting, hollering ‘hey!’ at the top of my lungs. The field was open, but it was hilly, so running up and down the hills had me winded in no time. But from the sheer number of birds flying away, I guessed that the shooting came from the trees that lined the top of the biggest hill. I headed for that.

Unfortunately, it was a good distance away. I was running at my top speed and it still took me four minutes to get to the last hill before the tree-line. Just as I started on the downslope, another shot fired, more birds flew away, and I saw a little girl burst from the trees, her left leg slightly swollen and badly scraped. I could hear her sobbing as she ran in complete terror, and I couldn’t help holding my arms out to her as she ran towards me. Without thinking I scooped her up in my arms, turned and ran in the direction I came from. Just as I got over the hill I heard someone else burst from the tree-line, and that propelled me even faster. I was so distracted by the little girl and getting away that my shields were completely down. Thankfully, the other person was distracted too, so the only thing I heard was a slight buzzing from his mind.

It took longer than before, but finally we were in the clearing again. That made things easier. However, I was at the point where I was too tired to keep going. I couldn’t tell what my foot caught on, but I tripped, and twisted my body to avoid falling on the girl. I went down so hard I bounced. I was in shock for only a second before I rolled myself on top of her. She clung to me, her bright eyes dilated in fear. I turned my head to see who we were running from and saw that it was- “Septem!”

Septem stood a few feet from us, reloading his gun. He gave me a cold, hard look, and spoke in that annoyingly ‘talking duck on crack’ voice. “Maxwell? What are you doing on my property? You know I don’t want you on my property!”

“Have you lost your damn mind?!” I screamed, nearly in hysterics. “What the HELL are you doing shooting at a little GIRL?!”

“What?” God, I hated his voice. “I wasn’t shooting at a girl. There was a large dog in my field.”

“Bullshit!” I stood, wobbling a bit, and picked her up again, cradling her tightly to my chest. “I heard gunshots and ran to see what was going on, and I see HER burst from the trees! Does this look like a dog to you?!” I held her up a bit to emphasize my point.

He was stunned for a moment. “I know what I saw!” was all he said.

If it weren’t for the fact that the girl would’ve been an eyewitness, I would’ve killed him.

Just then a squad car pulled up, and the man I despise the most in the entire world got out of the car. He strutted up to us in his too-tight uniform, and pushed his stupid Blueblockers up his nose, trying to act all high and mighty because he was a cop. When will these people learn that I could give a damn?

“What’s going on here?” Alex boomed.

“Your uncle is trying to shoot a little girl, that’s what’s going on,” I said nastily. “I knew you all were rat-bastards, but I didn’t think you were going to be so open about it.”

“Can it, Maxwell!” Mueller said, scurrying up to stand next to his partner. “Or maybe you’d like to take a ride to the station?!”

“As much as I would enjoy seeing you and your girlfriend make out,” I nodded towards Alex, “I think I’d rather stay here. Thanks though!” I added cheerfully. I heard the little girl giggling against my collarbone. Whoops. I guess I better start watching my language.

“Why you little...” Alex growled before Mueller and Septem grabbed his arms, both men exaggerating how hard it was to hold Alex back. At least Septem had the sense to put the gun down. Drama queens.

“Let’s go sweetie,” I said, turning around and letting the three idiots have their fun. “I’m gonna take you to my place where we can clean up your leg and have ice cream. How’s that sound?”

“Okay,” she said in a happy, sweet voice.

“Where are you going, Maxwell?” Alex shouted. I could hear him stomping after me. “We’re not finished with you!”

“But I’m finished with you!” I shouted over my shoulder. “Unlike you, I actually have things to do.” Before he could retort, another squad car pulled up. (Was this convenient or what?) I relaxed immediately when I saw who it was. Hot dog! This was the only other person I trusted besides my family. “Meizer.”

Meizer got out of his car, looked the scene over as he walked towards me, and gave me a concerned look. “Duo, what’s going on?”

“He’s crazy, that’s what!” Septem shouted, shaking his gun in the air. Um... yeah. And that answered Meizer’s question, how? “I know what I saw. I was trying to shoot the dog, not some kid. But thanks to you and the brat, that dog is still running around attacking the deer!”

“There was no dog asshole!” I shouted, my temper getting the better of me. Now who was the crazy one?

“Enough!” Meizer shouted, sounding superior and sexy at the same time. I had to shake my head to keep my thoughts out of the gutter, where they had a habit of going when it concerned him. “Duo,” he said, and the timbre in his voice had my hackles rise. And we’re talking in a fun way.


“I’ll drive you home. It’s a long walk from here.”

“Thanks man.”

I walked around to the passenger’s side, and he opened the door so the little girl and I could get in. I was going to have her sit in the back, but her grip was tight around my neck, and I was reluctant to let her go too. Meizer didn’t comment. He just buckled both of us in and closed the door. Just as he was getting in, Septem grew a backbone. Stepping forward, he grabbed the door and held it open. “Too bad you didn’t die with your parents,” he said to me.

“Septem!” Meizer shouted, causing everyone, including Septem, to jump. “You and I are going to have a talk as soon as I’m finished here,” he said coldly. “It would be in your best interest that you are not seen or heard from until that time.”

“I will be there with him,” Alex said, stepping next to his uncle.

“I am your Captain, Alex. You will be where *I* say you will be, and nowhere else.” He pulled the door out of Septem’s grasp to close it. He started the car. “It would be in your best interest, Alex, to remember that,” he said through the open window, then pulled away.

Damn, how cool was that?


Thankfully, Meizer had a first aid kit in the squad car. As he drove I cleaned her leg up as best as I could. She had a lot of angry red welts, but the scraps weren’t bad at all. She said she started to run when she heard shooting, and tripped over a tree limb, scraping her leg as she fell. I was doubly pissed at Septem then. That was just plain irresponsible.

“What’s your name, sweetheart?” Meizer asked. She didn’t answer. She only looked at me with those big blue eyes of hers.

Meizer then gave me a glance. My turn I guess. “Tell me your name, sugar dumplin’.”

She giggled her little-girl giggle. “Why?”

I made a big show of being surprised. “So we can get married, of course!”

She giggled again. “My name’s Mariemaia Barton.”

“Well Mariemaia, I’m Duo. And this here is a good friend of mine,” although I wouldn’t mind more, “Meizer. Or you can call him ‘Cob,’ which is short for ‘corn on the cob.’ I used to call him that all the time when we were kids.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because that’s all he would eat,” I explained. “The town would throw barbeques all the time. Everyone would fill their plates with ribs, potato salad, ranch beans...”


“Yeah,” I said, grinning as I saw his glare out of the corner of my eye. “But he would fill his plate with five or six corns on the cob, and nothing else.”

“You’re weird,” she said directly to him.

“Honey, he isn’t anywhere near as weird as some of the people in this town,” I said, thinking inwardly of myself. But then I shook myself out of the memories and got back on track. I liked the kid, but she couldn’t stay at my place all day. “Marie, where are your parents?”

“Oh no,” she said, shaking her red head. “I don’t have parents. They died when I was a baby.”

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that,” I said as my heart sank. At least I got to know my parents.

“Don’t be sad.” She reached up and put her little hand on my cheek. It was very warm. I placed the back of my hand on her forehead to check for a temperature. She did feel warmer than she should have, even in this heat. Then she giggled. “I’m fine. I don’t have a fever. I’m just hot.”

Well, she wasn’t stupid. “Alright then. Who takes care of you?”

“My Auntie Catherine and my Uncle Trowa take care of me.”

Trowa. Where have I heard that name before? “Do you know your phone number sweetie?”

“No,” she said sadly, then perked up. “But I know where I live!”

“Hot dog!” I said, and gave her a high five. “Where do you live babycakes?”

She giggled. “I live past a ce-me-ter-e,” she said, sounding the word out. “It’s for dead pets.”

Oh my god... “Mariemaia.” I swallowed, hard. “Is there... is there a headstone that’s shaped like Garfield, way to the left?”


Shit on me. Shit all over me. “Do you know... uh... Quatre and Heero?”

“Yeah! They’re my play-uncles,” she said cheerfully. “You know them?”

All of a sudden I felt extremely tired. “Yeah.” I ran my hand over my face. “Yeah.” That’s when I remembered where I heard that name. Trowa. That’s who they mentioned last night.

“You okay Mr. Duo?”

“Yeah puddin’ pop. I’m okay.”

The last few minutes of the trip were quiet. When we pulled onto High Creek Rd., I remembered to ask an important question. Well, it was important to me. “Marie, how did you get in Septem’s field? That’s a good way from here.”

“Oh... I... uh...” Strangely, she seemed at a complete loss of words. “I was out explorin’. We just moved here and I don’t know the area yet. It looked pretty neat. But when I was ready to go home, I lost my scent--I mean, my way back.” I raised an eyebrow. That was an odd mix-up of words, but remembering her ‘play-uncles’ weird behavior last night, I dismissed it. Sort of. Still, that was a hell of a way for a little girl.

All thoughts vanished when Meizer shut the car off. I wasted no time unbuckling her and carrying her up the stairs to the house. Meizer was a step behind me. We made it to the porch and I held her up to the doorbell. She rang it. While we waited I looked around. The house was a typical old Texas southern home. It was two stories, although because of the high ceilings it looked like three. The light yellow paint was peeling and dirty, looking like a cheerful haunted house. I knew the owners died when I was a kid, so it’s been empty for quite a few years.

The door was opened by a lovely curly-haired lady. She immediately zoomed in on Mariemaia. She snatched her out of my arms so fast, I was standing there with my arms out like I was still holding her. The woman’s sharp grey eyes briefly assessed Meizer but stopped on me, going over every physical detail. She sniffed, then gave me a blank look. She was hiding something.

“They didn’t hurt me Auntie Cathy,” Mariemaia reported proudly. “A mean old man did. He had a gun.” Catherine (I’m assuming that was her) gasped, and fixed Meizer with a glare that had me scared for him. “But he saved me.” She pointed at me. “And he called that man a rat-bastard and an asshole.”

I wanted to die. That’s what every parent or guardian wanted; a strange man teaching their children bad language.

She chuckled, and it seemed enough to calm her down. “I’m sure he deserved it,” she said in a sly, almost seductive voice. “We owe you our thanks, and then some.” She looked me over one more time and then turned to Meizer. “How did this happen?”

“I don’t know the whole story yet. But I will get to the bottom of this, and inform you of what actions can be taken.”

“Yes, you will,” she said in a voice that really said ‘you damn well better.’ The phone number wasn’t working yet, so as he got the necessary information from her, I walked off the porch and got into the car. I felt that same feeling I did last night when I left from work. There were dozens of people in that deceptively small house, all watching me with unveiled interest. I saw the Toyota MRS to one side, along with other cars that cost more than what I would make in a lifetime. Who the hell were these people?

When Meizer was done, he hopped in and started the car up, making his way to my house. Just as we were leaving, four figures emerged on the road. They were roughly in a triangle formation. Unfortunately, they were on my side of the car, so I was able to get a very close and delicious look at them. And I was ready to shit all over myself when I saw that one of them was the black-haired man from Howard’s that night. He was wearing a white outfit with a dark blue shirt.

We made eye contact. I saw his black, bottomless eyes, his straight eyebrows, and his slanted lids. He was Chinese. My fuckin’ god. He was gorgeous.

On his right was Heero, dressed in tight jeans and a green tank. To the Chinese man’s left was the tall one with his hair over his face, dressed in tight jeans also with a white tank. Quatre was next to him, wearing only tan linen pants. All of them were barefoot.

“Okaaaay,” Meizer said as we drove by. “I see right now I’m gonna have to keep an eye on these people.”

“You and me both,” I said to him, then turned back to the road to find no one there.