Steve: Chapter Nine
  Here's the warning. If you're not 18 or your parents are in the room, don't read this story. If you don't like the thought of two guys doing it until the windows shake, don't read this story. If you're a dumbass, don't read this story. If your first name isn't Pat, don't bother to read the following. For the last time, Mr. Buchanan, I will not give you a blowjob for $20. Otherwise, go ahead and read the story.

This chapter of the story is narrated by Mike. This is the first story I've ever posted, so be gentle.

I suppose, in hindsight, it was avoidable. I mean, she was almost killed, then Steve, and no guards were placed around either of them. The insane madman with a vendetta against both of them was still on the loose, too. Now there was a casualty-or at least that was the worst-case scenario.

Steve and I were, once again, sitting in the waiting room of the hospital. On "our couch," too. We were waiting for Mr. Lanford to come out of surgery. They hadn't told us much, but we knew that there was at least one bullet somewhere in his chest. They weren't sure whether it had pierced any organs when they briefed us, but it didn't look good.

Rachel was missing. Jeff broke into her house, took her, and shot her father when he tried to stop him. There was no security around and it took the police over ten minutes to get to the house. Jeff was long gone. There was nothing we could do but wait and just hope she was okay and not... well... we didn't even say that part.

Steve's head was on my shoulder. He wasn't asleep, at least not yet, but we both needed some form of comforting contact with each other. We didn't even give a damn about who saw us anymore; it just didn't matter. I felt him sigh and felt compelled to do the same.

"Jeff's got to be stopped," he said. I just nodded. There really wasn't that much else to say. Whether it was by the police, by us, or by someone else, he needed to be stopped, to be brought into custody, to spend a few years in the psych ward, to... hell, I dunno. He was insane and needed to be dealt with.

We didn't say anything or move for a while. Susan came in and sat down on the other side of me, distributing coffee. Rachel's mother came in a few minutes later, her eyes all puffy and red from crying, but still as dapper and ladylike as ever.

Rachel's family (well, her dad) owned a controlling share in some company. I have no idea which one, but they were pretty successful. Still, Rachel lived in Indiana and went to public school just like her father did. It was something about character building, I think. I never bothered to ask.

Nobody said anything. What was there to say? "Oh, yeah, Jeff tried to kill me, too. We're thinking of starting a support group." My tension-breaking humor wasn't really appropriate at the moment, either, so we all just sat and drank our coffee. Well, all of us except Steve. He actually was starting to fall asleep. Not that I minded.

The silence filled the room. It seemed like all of the normal hospital noises stopped, too. There weren't any sounds coming from the nurses' desk and there were no patients in the halls. I looked around and the only thing I saw were a few police officers, watching from a distance to make sure nothing happened. I handed my cup to Susan and leaned my head back. I could see Steve looking up at me in the corner of my eye. He looked scared, something I hadn't seen on him in a long time.

Time passed slowly. It was maybe 20 minutes until the doctor came out to see us, but it literally felt like hours. I nudged Steve, but he didn't move, so I didn't push him. It had to be hard for him.

"Mr. Lanford is going to be fine," the doctor said. We all breathed a sigh of relief. "There were no damaged organs and there's only a flesh wound. It looks nasty, but it'll heal up nicely. Mrs. Lanford, you can see your husband now. The rest of you are going to have to wait out here for a little while longer."

Steve, Susan, and I all nodded while the doctor led Rachel's mom off to the room. Steve reached an arm around me and hugged me, despite the fact that it probably hurt him.

"Well, that's one down. Now all we have to do is get Rachel back safely and we'll be all set." Susan got up and tossed her empty cup into the trash. "I wonder how the police are doing."

"Not too well, I'm afraid," George said as he came into the waiting area. We all nodded our hellos. "We haven't been able to find anything yet. If any of you have any idea where he might take her, I'm open for suggestions."

None of us did. Really, none of us had been in contact with Jeff for a while. I felt Steve get closer to me, if that was possible, and wrap his arm tighter around me. He was really upset, and with good reason.

"I didn't really know the guy. I mean, I might have talked to him once or twice, but I haven't even seen him since we graduated," Susan said. "I always thought he was kinda weird in the first place."

"You got that right," Steve said. "I can't believe I used to date that freak."

George shook his head. "Neither can I. Looks like your taste has greatly improved, though."

I batted my eyelashes. "Why, Mr. Davis, I do believe that's the best compliment I have ever been paid!" My Southern belle impression needed work, but it sufficed. Everybody smiled, if only for a moment or two.

"Then you've led a very sad life, boy," George said. "Anyway, my suggestion is that you all go home and get some rest after you see Mr. Lanford. Especially you, Steve, you look like you could use a nap or three."

Steve shook his head. Well, as best as he could with it on my shoulder, anyway. "I'm fine. Just a little tired, but I'm fine. I think I will do that, though."

We all talked for a few more minutes about nothing consequential. The doctor and Rachel's mom came down the hallway and told us that we could see Rachel's dad if we wanted. We all went to go say hello, but nothing beyond that. The pain killers they had given him were starting to set in, so he was very drowsy and more than a little high.

Steve, Susan, and I had all gotten a ride to the hospital with George, so he took us all home. We waved goodbye as they pulled out of the driveway and headed inside, where we crashed (literally) on the couch. Mom put the remainder of what she had cooked into the microwave for us, but we weren't very hungry. We nibbled a bit, then went to bed.

We got undressed and slipped under the covers together. For the first time since we had started sleeping together, he was the one holding on to me. Usually, I slept on my side with my legs curled up a little, resting my head on his shoulder while he was on his back with one arm underneath me. It was amazing that his arm never feel asleep; if it did, he never told me. It was (and still is) comforting, plus he could put his other arm around me and pull me closer any time he wanted. We were reversed that night, and it made me feel incredible. I could see why he liked it so much.

It wasn't very long before we were both asleep. The feeling of his warm skin pressed against mine was (and, again, still is) the most relaxing thing in the world. I could also feel his soft, shallow breath on my chest, which didn't feel all that bad in itself. I kissed the top of his head and I was out.

About an hour later, I was woken up by Steve mumbling and pulling away from me. He was having a nightmare. I reached down and shook him. He woke up with a start, his eyes popping open and sitting up. When he realized that he was still in bed with me, he rested his head back on my shoulder and sighed.

"Fuck, I was having the worst dream," he said. I reached down and put my arm around him, drawing him closer to me.

"I noticed," I said, smiling. He cuddled up tighter.

"Did I wake you up? Sorry." He rubbed his face against my shoulder, lightly scratching me with his day's growth of a beard that I found incredibly cute. One day, I'd have to have him grow one for me. "I don't even remember most of it now, but it was awful."

"It's alright." I laid my head back, closing my eyes. "You can tell me what you do remember, if you want."

Steve yawned. "Nah, I'm fine. I couldn't even describe it if I wanted to. I know it was something about Jeff doing something to you, I don't know what. It was icky, I'll tell ya that."

I smiled, kissed him again, and we both drifted back to sleep.

Staying asleep that night wasn't very easy. I remember waking up a few times myself, checking to make sure that Steve was okay. Every time I did, he was fine. He looked peaceful and content, if those words even come close to describing it. There was more to it than that. It was like my presence did something that made him feel able to sleep soundly. The almost complete role reversal we had going on was surreal in a way, but it fit perfectly in another. That describes a lot of the aspects of our relationship, now that I think about it.

I woke up for good at around 9 in the morning. I just lay there and watched Steve sleep. I had been doing it for about an hour and a half when he finally woke up. Well, I was doing more thinking than just plain Steve-watching, but I got nothing accomplished. My mind continued to run in the same circle it had been for the past few days.

I felt him stir, then his eyes opened. He looked up at me and smiled a little. I bent down and lazily kissed the top of his head. "Morning, babe."

"Mmm," he said, rubbing his cheek against me. "Damn, tell me last night didn't really happen."

I sighed. "It did."

Steve rolled over onto his back and started staring at the ceiling. "I wonder if the police have had any luck."

"We can go check later today, after breakfast, if you want." I pulled my arm out from underneath him. Contrary to what I had expected, it hadn't fallen asleep. There's this perfect little curve in his back (mine too, I guess) that my arm fit into so it had enough room for the blood to flow through it. "Speaking of which, come on, I'm hungry."

"Is your cereal cabinet still a sugar-free wasteland? 'Cause if that's the case, I'm going for a shower before breakfast, since I won't have any marshmallow goodness to wake me up." Steve leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, then sat up. He stayed there for a minute and I took the opportunity to admire his form. He even had a cute back. There was around the same amount of muscle definition as on his chest and stomach, which meant that it was well-proportioned and slightly toned, but still soft to the touch. It was one of the many things I enjoyed about him.

"Nope, no dancing birds or leprechauns on the box." I reached over and traced a finger along his back. "I think there's a picture of a constipated guy on the box of Fiber-Os, though."

He chuckled and stood up, at which point my hand immediately strayed down to his ass. There was no chance of anything happening that morning, but it was still fun to touch. He playfully slapped my hand away, grabbed a towel, and made his way for the bathroom.

I slipped on a pair of his boxers (scarily enough, I was actually starting to like the things) and a t-shirt, then went out to the kitchen to get some breakfast. There was nothing. I was eventually reduced to making some muffins (the kind that come in the envelope that you have to add a half cup of milk to). Cinnamon, I think. I was having my second one and finishing off a glass of milk when Steve came into the kitchen wearing only a pair of boxers.

"Aren't we a bit scantily clad?" I asked, smiling.

"It's better than being dressed for skiing, like you over there," he smirked back. He grabbed a muffin and sat down next to me. "You've gotta learn to be more proud of your body. I know I'm very proud of it."

I blushed involuntarily and mumbled something even I didn't understand. He just laughed. I finished my milk and went to do my morning routine in the bathroom. After my shower, I decided that I'd have to get a haircut sometime in the next few days, since it was getting just past the "it's cute and I can gel it" phase and into the "spray gel doesn't work unless you let it dry and comb it out" phase. Granted, that wasn't paramount among my problems, but I had that thought anyway.

I came back out to the kitchen all dressed up in jeans and a long-sleeved knit shirt. Steve went to go get dressed. When he came back, I had moved onto the couch and left a seat open for him right next to me. He took the hint and I cuddled up to him.

"This isn't helping us leave, ya know," he said. I could hear the smile in his voice, though. I just leaned my head against his shoulder. We stayed like that for a few minutes until we decided it would probably be in our best interests to leave soon, so we left.

The drive was uneventful. We were better than the night before, but the mood was still way more somber than usual. But we'd get to the police station, find out that Rachel was okay, and be back to our normal selves. At least that was the plan. We got to the station, checked in with the door-guard-secretary guy, and headed toward the waiting area where we would wait for George to fill us in on everything. Susan was there when we showed up.

"Hey, guys." She patted the seat next to her and we sat down. "I was wondering when you'd get here."

"We couldn't miss this, it's gonna be the party of the year," I said, rolling my eyes. "I hope they found her and put a bullet in Jeff's head."

"I'm sure she's fine, I don't think Jeff's a killer," Steve said.

Susan raised her eyebrow. "Yeah, except for the time he tried to kill her. And the time he tried to kill you. And the time he tried to kill Rachel's dad. And the fact that he's a raving lunatic. Nah, he's not a killer."

"Waxing a little bitter there, eh, Suse?" I asked. She grimaced and shook her head.

"It's just that I didn't sleep that well last night and I'm a little bit cranky at the moment." She yawned and rested her head against Steve's shoulder. "I'm probably going to crash on the couch when I get home."

"Eew, you've got a girl on you." I gave a really exaggerated disgusted look. "You're gonna have to shower again before I'll even think about touching you."

"Go to hell, Mikey," Susan said in a half-asleep tone. I grunted something at her and rested my head against the wall. It was quiet for a while until George came by and had us follow him to his desk.

"Sorry to tell you guys this, but we don't have any new information. We haven't been able to find Jeff. Hell, we haven't even been able to find his car. His parents said they hadn't seen him in about a week and had no idea what was going on." He stopped and looked us over for a minute. "The only thing I can say is that I want you all to be really careful. I'm going to come by and check up on you tonight, but in the mean time, he's still out there and he's dangerous. We're doing all we can to get Rachel back safely, but we don't know."

"We understand," I said. "Hey, when you come by, want to stay for dinner?"

"Yeah, sure. It'll give me a chance to talk to you guys on more friendly terms." He looked down at his uniform. "Haven't gotten to do that much lately."

I looked over at Susan. "You wanna come too? Free food and a cute cop, how can you resist?"

She grinned. "If I can stay awake through dinner, sure."

"Then it's settled," I said. "Tonight, we'll all have a big 'hooray that we found Rachel' party."

"Sounds good to me." George smiled. The rest of us nodded. After a few more questions (things like "When was the last time you saw Jeff?" and "Do you know of anybody Jeff might have contacted?") we all left and headed back to my house. I figured Susan would go home, but she followed us and we all wound up on the couch, not really sure of how to act.

"This is too awkward." I had shifted in my seat one too many times for my liking. "I mean, yeah, it's not going to be a big party atmosphere, but we shouldn't be moping around and just feeling scared and sorry. That's exactly what Jeff wants, and I'm not going to give in that easily."

"Well said." Steve patted me on the back. "You've overlooked one thing, though. In order for us to not be all somber and moody, we have to not feel all somber and moody. I dunno about you, but I have a pretty hard time doing that when the guy who's tried to kill me is on the loose and apparently on a rampage."

I shook my head and half-grinned. "Well you just shot my little speech out of the water there, thanks."

"If you two don't keep it down, how do you expect me to sleep?" Susan had her legs drawn up onto the couch and was leaning against Steve again. "You're so impolite, I swear."

"Hey, if you want to sleep, find yourself a better pillow than my man." I tossed a throw pillow at her (I believe I've said it before, but that's what I use them for...). She laughed a little and threw it back at me.

"I'm not going to get any sleep today, anyway." She stopped for a minute and looked around. "And apparently no food, either, since we're at Mike's. Who wants takeout?"

"Hey," I said, "we have muffins. And ramen. We can have muffins with ramen!"

"I'm all for takeout, yes." Steve grinned down at me. "Not that I don't love your muffins with ramen or anything."

"I'll go and get some Chinese. I don't know why, but eggrolls sound really good now." Susan stood up. "What can I get you two?"

"I'll have the Happy Family." I looked over at Steve. "And you, sexy?"

"Subgum Wanton for me, thanks," he said. "How sad is it that we have the menu memorized?"

Susan shook her head and grabbed her keys off of the desk in the corner of the room. "I'll be back in about a half-hour. No nudity while I'm gone, you two."

"We don't necessarily have to be naked..." I started. Susan gave me a very disgusted look.

"Don't tell me about it or I'll get a picture in my head and go blind. Is that what you want? If I go blind, there'll be no crispy fried wantons for you." She grinned and turned to leave. "30 minutes or less, or it's on me. Not that it wasn't before, of course."

I cuddled up to Steve on the couch once she left. It always felt so right, like I was meant to be there. I fit so perfectly into his arms that it seemed like such a waste that I had only started being there... a week ago? Two weeks? I had lost track with all of the amazing and bizarre things that were happening around us. It seemed to be just one huge trauma after another, but I still wouldn't have traded it for anything. There was just something fulfilling about being with him.

My reverie was interrupted by the doorbell. I went to get up, but Steve stopped me. He was at the door and I was cuddling up to a couch cushion before I knew it. He answered the door and I heard a sharp intake of breath.

"D-dad? What are you doing here?" Steve stepped back to let his father into the house. I sat up, ready to defend him if I needed to. As if there was anything I could do against his behemoth of a father.

"I just came by to talk. Hear me out?" His father sounded a little bit nervous. That was understandable, I guess, seeing how their last meeting went.

"Alright," Steve said. He sat back down on the couch next to me. We kept our distance, though. Didn't need to make things more uncomfortable than they already were.

"Look, your mother and I want you to come home." Steve's dad looked around the room. "We both miss you. When you come home, maybe we can get you into counseling or something so you'll be normal again."

That did it. Steve's eyes closed for a second and I could sense something snap inside him. He stood up, grabbed his father by the shirt collar, and pushed him against the front door.

"You have no fucking idea what the hell is going on in my life right now. My ex-boyfriend tried to kill me; you didn't even show up to make sure I wasn't dead. That same guy tried to kill one of my best friends; you didn't even ask why I was so upset that night. Now, he's got her somewhere and we can only hope that she's alive. I'm living every moment in constant fear that I could be next, that he could come after me and finish what he started a few days ago." Steve's grip on his father tightened. His dad looked scared; he was actually looking at me for help. "Now, you come by and try to pull this shit? How much do I not need this right now? Guess what, Dad: I am normal."

Steve's father managed to get out of the grip and backed further away from his son. "Look, Steve, I didn't mean-"

"I don't give a fuck what you meant," Steve spat at him. "What you said and what you've done lately told me all I need to know. I never want to see you again. As far as I'm concerned, the parents I always thought I had - you know, the loving and supporting ones - are dead." He reached behind his father and opened the door. "Now get the fuck out."

For a second, it looked like Steve's dad was going to say something else, but he apparently decided against it and left, looking more than a little beaten. Steve came and sat down beside me again.

"Babe, I'm..." I trailed off. Instead of finishing my sentence, I reached over and hugged him. He hugged me back, clinging to me as tight as he could.

"Yeah, I know." He sniffed a bit. "It's alright, though. I-I really do feel okay." Steve took in a deep breath, trying to compose himself. "Damn, what the hell just happened? Like we need more of this wacky drama in our lives."

"I know it. Everything will work out sooner or later, I guess." I broke off the hug, but continued to be cuddled up to him. "Fate certainly is a cruel mistress. Or something to that effect."

"I think you've got your metaphors crossed." Steve smiled, if only just a little. "How come all of the abstract notions like justice and fate and luck are all women?"

"Drunken sailors, mostly." That got another smile out of him. We just sat there thinking for a little bit. The doorbell rang again.

"Oh, fuck. Is he back again?" Steve rested his head against the back of the couch. "I'm not sure I could handle another round with him."

"Want me to get it?" I asked. Steve shook his head and stood up. When he opened the door again, I heard that same sharp intake of breath, only louder and more shocked. When he moved out of the way, I could see the reason. Jeff was standing there, and he had a gun trained on Steve.

"Well, isn't this a touching little scene?" Jeff motioned for Steve to back up until he was on the couch. All I could think about was hoping that Susan wouldn't walk in with this happening. "I had to wait for your old man to leave, Stevie. He just sat there in his car for the longest time. What exactly did you talk about with him?" Neither of us answered. "Well, I guess it's not really important. Come on, we're going for a little ride."

"No. He stays." Steve nodded toward me. I started to shake my head, but Steve dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

"And exactly how are you going to stop me from taking you both?" Jeff got a little sneer on his face. "It's not like you're the one with any power here."

"You're not going to shoot us here. The neighbors will hear, and gunshots aren't really that common in this neighborhood. If we both jump you right here, you'll get off maybe one shot before we take you down." Steve looked over at me. "He stays."

"Fine," Jeff said, "but he's not going to be making any phone calls."

Before I knew what was happening, I heard a sort of whistling noise and felt myself being hit in the head with the gun. I was out.

"Mike! Mike! Wake up!" I felt myself being shaken. Susan was standing over me when I opened my eyes. There was cold water all over my face and the top half of my shirt. "Mike! Fuck, I was starting to think you wouldn't wake up." Susan reached down and hugged me.

"Oww, fuck." I reached up and touched the side of my head. My fingertips came back covered in blood. My eyes bolted open. "S-Steve! Jeff came... aah... call the police."

"I already did." Susan grabbed a warm, wet washcloth and started cleaning the blood from my head. "They should be here any minute. What happened?"

"Jeff came," I said, wincing in pain. "It was after Steve's dad came and we thought it was him. But... aah... Jeff came in and wanted to take us both. Steve made him leave me here. Fuck, remind me to never get pistol whipped again."

I couldn't tell whether she was laughing or crying. It was probably a mixture of both. She bent down and hugged me again. "Dammit, Mike, when I first got in, I thought-" she stopped herself. "I saw you lying there on the floor with blood all around you and Steve was gone."

There was a knock at the slightly-open door and George walked in. Two paramedics followed him. They took over for Susan in looking after my wound. Susan walked over to George and hugged him. He let her cry against him.

"How long ago did this happen, Mike?" George asked.

I looked over at the clock. "Umm, less than ten minutes ago. Fuck, it was about fifteen minutes after you left, Suse."

She nodded. "Yeah, I was gone about 25 minutes or so. I made it in under 30 minutes, Mike." She smiled at me, then almost immediately burst back into tears. She hugged herself against George again, burying her face in his chest.

"We've got units out looking for Jeff as we speak, but he's pretty good at hiding." George was comforting Susan as best he could while still asking me questions. "Did he say or do anything to let you know where he was going?"

"No," I said as the paramedics put a bandage around my head and declared me safe for transport. "He didn't really say that much before he did this."

George just nodded. "The paramedics are going to take you to the hospital, I'll meet you there after they've checked you out and you can answer some more questions for me." He looked down at Susan. "You're coming, too, and I'm putting both of you under guard."

She nodded and followed him out to his car. The paramedics made me ride on a stretcher, even though I was perfectly capable of walking. Apparently they had to do that with head-wound people. The ride took about ten minutes, since we went to the local hospital (there wasn't any chance of me dying, so they took me there). All major injuries and cases had to go to the one in Columbus, but the local one was fine for just making sure I didn't have a concussion or anything.

I got all checked in at the ER. They rechecked my head, took off the bandage, cleaned the wound again, put on another bandage, and got to making sure that I wouldn't pass out later or anything. The entire time, my mind was blank. I didn't let myself think about anything because I knew what would happen if I did. I'd get into this whole "worst-case scenario" thing and that wasn't what I needed.

The put me into one of those little curtained-off areas that were supposed to serve as rooms. A few minutes after the nurse left, George and Susan came in. She looked better, but it was still obvious that she had been crying a lot.

"I'm sorry, I should have had someone go back with you this morning," George said. He had sat down in a chair next to the bed with Susan right next to him, almost clinging to him. I don't think she ever stopped hugging him the entire time we were in the hospital.

"No, that's alright." I shook my head. "Nobody knew this was going to happen. But now we know that Jeff is somewhere in town... or at least he was a half-hour ago."

"So I take it our little party for tonight is off." George half-grinned at me.

"Nope, we're still having it." I sat up with my back against the head of the bed. "You guys will catch up to Jeff, you'll put a little bit of that famous police brutality to work, and we'll all party because everybody's back."

"I'm glad you believe that." George smiled. "It's good to know somebody does."

I sighed. "Right now, I have to."

I was asked a few more questions, then George took Susan home. She'd be safer there. Besides, she wasn't a target, I was. It was so fucking weird to think in that context, but I was a target. I tried to get to sleep, but I couldn't. That was strange, too. Before I had my head taken care of, the only thing I wanted to do was get to sleep, but afterwards, I had a ton of energy and nowhere to put it.

The one thing I didn't let myself do was get lost in thought. That was very hard for me, as anybody who knows me can probably imagine. I had to avoid thinking about all of the bad things that could have happened to Steve, just like I did when he was in the hospital, only different. I could tell there were all these conflicting things bubbling just beneath the surface, but I wouldn't let them out. I eventually did drift off to sleep simply because I was tired of fighting myself.

An hour or so later, my mother woke me up. She and my dad were standing there, looking far more worried than I had thought they would for some reason. Hell, I never really thought about how they'd react. But there they were.

"Any news?" I didn't even bother to say hello; all I cared about was finding out if anything had happened. Dad just shook his head. I leaned back against the bed, looking a little defeated.

"Don't worry, though," Mom said, "I'm sure they'll have something soon." She wasn't very convincing.

"George told us everything. The hospital said they'd let you come home, too." Dad held up a bag. "I've even got pain killers."

I forced myself to chuckle, which made the throbbing pain in my head all the more noticeable. I winced.

"Come on, we'll head home." Dad reached a hand down to help me up. "Unless you'd rather go somewhere else?"

"No, home's fine. It'll be fine." I stood up. They hadn't made me put on one of those evil little gowns, so I was good to go. Mom and dad had already checked me out, so we all just left. The car ride home was very quiet. I had taken one of the pills before we left and was starting to feel the effect. I was getting drowsy again and I think I nodded off a little in the car, but it was only a ten minute drive.

When we got home, I headed straight for bed. I was out for another two hours before a nightmare woke me up. I have no idea what it was about, but I could make a pretty good guess. I had the feeling that I'd be having a lot of those over the next few weeks. I got up and went out to the kitchen to find something to eat. I found the food Susan had brought over in the refrigerator and started nibbling at my Happy Family. It was better hot, but it was okay cold, too.

Mom sat down at the table with me. Neither one of us said anything for a few moments, but she finally broke the ice.

"Mike, I'm sorry. I don't know if that means anything to you now, but I am." She reached over and stole a piece of lobster. "When he comes back, I promise that I'm going to do everything I can to make him feel welcome again."

I had to smile at that. What was this? My mother, being nice to Steve? How weird. Still, I got up and hugged her. "Thanks, Mom. Now leave my lobster alone."

She chuckled and got up. I felt... well... it wasn't "good," but it was a whole lot better than I did before. I sat back down and started eating again. I didn't get all that far, though, since I wasn't all that hungry and the portions from the restaurant were huge (it's rare that I can't finish a meal and it happens regularly from the Chinese place). I covered the tray back up and put it in the refrigerator again, then went out to the living room.

I curled myself up on the couch and started channel surfing, but there wasn't anything that caught my interest. I don't think anything could have, actually. It was just so weird to be sitting there and not be cuddled up to Steve. I didn't like it. I turned off the TV and sat there in silence for a little while, since my parents were watching TV in their bedroom. They figured it was best to give me a little space, I guess. The room felt constricting. It was almost like the walls were starting to cave in, and it got incredibly hot. I put on my shoes and decided to go out for a walk.

The night air was cool. It felt incredibly good to be out in the open where I could finally breathe. I don't know what happened in there, but I suddenly needed to get out. I started walking, not really knowing where I was going, but still going there. I eventually wound up out in the woods. It was around the same spot that Steve had shown me the other night. I think I even passed that tree. I kept walking and soon I was in the backyard with the pool. I heard voices, so I ducked out of sight, but then I realized that they were coming from inside the pool.

I crept forward, thinking that I knew the voice I heard. When I got close enough, I saw that I was right: Jeff was at the bottom of the pool. Steve was tied up and gagged in the corner, and someone who looked to be a brown-haired girl was lying in a heap close to him. I was pretty sure it was Rachel. My heart started beating faster; I had found them.

"You never did let me fuck you." I could just barely hear Jeff's voice. "You know, I considered doing it right now, but there just wouldn't be any magic there. And, of course, once you and that stupid bitch are gone, all I'll need to do is get rid of that annoying little prick of yours and I'll have my guy back." Jeff leaned over and kicked Steve in the ribs. "I always thought he was annoying. Mike, I mean. What you see in him, I'll never know. Mainly because I'm not going to give you a chance to tell me."

I turned away. I needed to think of a way to save them. It was too late to go running for a phone; Jeff might do something while I was gone. I peeked over the edge again. Steve was still conscious. He was tied up with a rope, but he seemed to be able to move his hands just a little. I dug around in my pocket and-yes! The one good thing to come out of my 4-month stint with the Boy Scouts in Massachusetts, my Swiss Army knife, was in my pocket. Now I just needed a way to get it to him.

I crawled around the pool so that Jeff was facing away from me. I reached up and waved until Steve saw me. When he did, I could almost feel the relief coming from him. His eyes lit up and he sat up straighter. I held up the knife so he could see it. He nodded slightly.

Jeff hadn't noticed me yet. I crawled around the edge of the pool until I was near the corner where Steve was. Jeff couldn't see me, but I could see him. I pulled out the long blade and waited for a chance to drop the knife down to Steve. That didn't take long. While Jeff was talking (still more things about his and Steve's screwed up relationship), he started to pace back and forth. As soon as he started pacing away from Steve and me, I dropped the knife down.

It hit almost perfectly, except his hand was nicked and started bleeding. Still, if that was the worst of his injuries that night, I'd be glad. From then on, all I had to do was wait. Eventually, after a few trials and errors, Steve managed to cut the ropes binding his hands. It wasn't exactly easy, seeing as how his hands were tied in the back, but he managed. Now I needed to think of the second part of my plan.

I looked over at Jeff again and noticed that he didn't have a very firm grip on his gun. I took a deep breath and moved further down the side of the pool. As soon as Jeff was right beneath me, I jumped down and tackled him. He was so surprised that he dropped the gun and it went skidding across the bottom of the pool. Steve immediately jumped up and grabbed it, then pointed it at Jeff.

With Jeff down on the ground, I kicked him in the ribs as hard as I could. Steve walked over to me, the gun still pointed at Jeff. He was lying there, almost curled up into the fetal position. I really wanted to kick him again, but Steve stopped me. I took the gun from him and kept it pointed at Jeff.

"Get Rachel," I said. Steve grabbed my knife and cut off her ropes. She was unconscious and covered with blood that looked almost a day old. Steve bent down and started to check for a pulse. I heard him breathe a sigh of relief.

"She's got a pulse. It's weak, but she has one." He stood up and came over to me. It wasn't over yet, though.

"Go. Call the police. I'll keep him here." I motioned my head toward the stairs on the shallow end. "Everything's going to be fine now."

Steve kissed me quickly on the cheek before he left. I went over to see if there was anything I could do for Rachel. Jeff hadn't moved since I jumped him, but I kept the gun on him anyway. Rachel had cuts and bruises all over her, but there wasn't anything serious. The blood made it look a lot worse than it was. I got so mad when I saw it, though.

"Is this what you wanted?" I asked as I got closer to Jeff. He looked up at me. "You terrify and beat some girl until she's almost dead? Is that what makes you a big strong man?"

"No, that's not what I wanted," he said as he raised his head. "I wanted her dead."

I lost it then. I ran toward him full speed and kicked him in the ribs again. I heard a crack, but I didn't care. He rolled over to get away from me, but I kicked him again in the back. I would have done it again if I hadn't heard Rachel begging me to stop.

"Mike, no, don't. He's not worth it." She managed to sit up, but that was all she could do. "You're better than him. Don't lose that."

"Rachel?!" I ran back over to her and hugged her, then turned back to Jeff. He had managed to stand up, but still looked hurt. I held the gun up and aimed at him. "Don't move."

"You don't scare me." Jeff sneered again. "You're too much of a pussy to do anything with that."

He started charging toward me. I aimed the gun at him, or at least in his general direction, and fired. Fuck, that thing had a lot of recoil for such a small gun-more than I was expecting. He fell backwards onto the ground and I dropped the gun. I kicked it over to the far side of the pool where he couldn't reach it if he tried.

"You fucking shot me," he said in disbelief. "You actually fucking shot me."

I heard a siren from out on the street. Almost immediately the pool was surrounded by four or five cops. They all had their guns aimed at Jeff. Rachel and I raised our hands, anyway, just to be sure.

A paramedic came running into the pool and started checking on Jeff. Another one joined him, and they loaded Jeff onto a stretcher and carried him off. Under guard, of course. George and Steve came down next, followed by more paramedics. Strangely enough, they were the same ones who had come to the house earlier. Steve grabbed me and gave me the tightest, strongest hug he ever had. The paramedics were tending to Rachel. George just stood back and watched. It was over.

"That was so fucking stupid of you," Steve said to me before he kissed me again. He had to spend the night in the hospital again so they could observe him. "Thank you."

"He shouldn't have smacked me in the head with that pistol." I grinned and kissed him back. "I'm so damn glad to have you back. Both of you. Hell, all of you. Now maybe things can quiet down again."

"It was too bad we had to postpone our 'hooray we found Rachel' party for a few days, but I think it was worth it." Steve reached over and pulled me closer to him. We were both sitting on the edge of his bed. "You're a stupid, rash, hasty, and completely dangerous person. And I love you."

I rested my head on his shoulder. "I know. I love you, too. When I thought about what might have happened to you... well, let's not go there again." He smiled and kissed me again.

There was a quick knock at the door, so we separated and Steve told the person to come in. It was his parents. Both of them.

"Hi," he said without much enthusiasm. His parents sat in a pair of chairs across from us.

"Steve, we need to talk," his dad said. He looked at me. "All of us."

"Yeah, I figured." Steve scooted back close to me. "I don't think I have the energy for it tonight, though. Do you mind if we postpone it for a while?"

"That'll be fine, honey," his mother said. "We understand that you've had a very... umm... interesting day."

"Even after we do talk, I think I'm going to keep living with Mike for a while, though." He leaned over and kissed my cheek. "It'd just be better for all of us that way."

"I thought as much." Steve's father stood up. "I hate to have to cut our visit short, but you should be getting some rest and we figured you'd want to say goodbye to Mike alone." He looked at the two of us for a second. "This doesn't mean that I agree with this or anything, but I've recently realized that you're more than capable of making your own decisions. I just hope that you'll let us be a part of them."

"Bye, Dad. We'll talk more later." Steve looked over at his mom. "You, too, Mom. And despite what I might say, I still do love you both."

"Bye, honey." Steve's mom left, dragging his dad along. Once they were gone, he turned to face me again.

"They're right, you know. I'm going to have to get some rest soon." He smiled to himself. "Who knew that being kidnapped would take so much out of you?"

I chuckled along with him, then gave him another long, passionate kiss.

"I wish you could come with me," I said, "but you'll be back tomorrow and we can get back to our normal non-evil-ex-boyfriend-involving lives."

"Believe me," Steve said as I turned to leave, "I'm looking forward to it."

Hey, I got this one out in under a month! Maybe I'm becoming less of a slacker. Anyway, this chapter concludes this section of Steve and Mike's story. The next section (I'm not sure whether it's going to be chapter 10 or it's going to be subtitled) will deal with the boys in college and all of the other (non-evil-ex-boyfriend related) things that happen to them. I've loved working on this story and I don't have any plans to stop.

In other news, I've gotten myself a website at The mere fact that I coded the message board by hand should tell how how huge of a geek I actually am. There's also a bonus story there (though I can safely say it's nothing like this one). I've got ideas for other stories other than Steve, but you'll just have to join my mailing list to find out when they're released. So nyaah.

Send constructive feedback (or maybe not so constructive, just don't be mean) on this story to Billy Bunny ( Flamers will... umm... be lit on fire?