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Private Eye of Affection

Chapter Text

The ticks of the clock, a hot, hot temperature of the room and the noise of the teacher's shoes tapping the floor, all of it was uncomfortable. Students' eyes would avert the others' if they met, and no one could hear it, but every single one of their hearts were beating at radical paces. This was what made a classroom during an exam. Or, at least to May, it did.

Her oceanic eyes were bloodshot, bloodshot from the lack of sleep and stress. The near end of her throat happened to be dry, so dry that the saliva would stick and occasionally prevent her from delivering words. She disregarded breakfast and lunch in order to have added time for studying; therefore her stomach caved in with hunger. The tips of her small fingers rubbed against the wooden table with restlessness. May wasn't smart, or at least in her own opinion she wasn't, she liked to believe herself to be "hard-working."

As she sucked the inside of her cheek, the white door slowly opened, a young man's head steadily peeked through it. His eyes scanned the room and abruptly stopped when he found May's cinnamon hair. The student tip-toed to the young woman and gently tapped her shoulder, she jumped.

"What do you want, Brendan?!" Her voice was raspy, and since she whispered, it was almost as if sound didn't even come out of her lips, she just mouthed the words.

"You need to come with me. Now." His voice was placid, his eyes told more than his words.

The young woman's eyes calmed once she understood the seriousness of his tone; and she slowly arose, picked up her books, and left the room with Brendan. Once the two were in the silence of the hallway, May beckoned her friend to speak. Her heart had beat faster with every passing second, her eyes felt as if they were on fire. Then, Brendan said five words which swirled her body into utter fraught.

"You need to go home."

"Why?"

"You… I don't think you would want to hear this kind of news from me."

The brunette released an agnostic laugh. "What would it be that I wouldn't want to hear from one of my best friends?"

Brendan swallowed and his eyes went to the floor, his angular hands planted themselves on her shoulders. May had never seen her friend so serious, throughout the three years they had been friends, he would only show this side of himself when times were crucial. She brought in a deep breath and nodded to her friend, taking his hands off her shoulders and walking away. Brendan's blue orbs watched her leave, a small, strange smile curving across his lips.

May barged through her dormitory room door, clutching a duffel bag. She shoved any clean clothes she could find in the bag, frantically she tucked her phone into her pocket. Finishing her "packing," (it was actually an awful job in her mind), the young woman ran out the door and down the hallways. Once she exited the building, all left was to drive home. May only had to endure a three-hour ride.

Those three hours antagonized the girl's mind, she wondered, did something happen to her parents? Maybe her father had another heart attack, maybe her mother relapsed? She wasn't sure; and she was upset since the last time she saw them there were issues unresolved. The poor girl had become scared out of her mind, her breath was caught in her throat.

However, she had assured herself of one thing: whatever it was, it wasn't as if her parents disappeared off the globe. The drive tired her mind, restless from over thinking, and she wanted to stop and tell herself, "pull yourself together you idiot." But she couldn't, she had to keep going, unfortunately unraveling every mile of the way. The sun had slowly began to decline behind the hills, and the brunette sipped on her coffee now and then.

She eventually arrived in her hometown, her blue eyes scattered left and right searching for a sigh of relief. At this point, she would take seeing her old, fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Turp, at the nearest convenience store would help her relax. But she laughed to herself in pity, "now why on earth would that old lady be out at 9:00 PM?"

She passed the police station, which strangely had all of its lights on—she noted that the station never has all of its lights on meaning something had happened and the police were working late. Although, May's mind did not make the connection that this something involved her parents; and she continued onto her neighborhood.

Now, even though all the lights at the station were lit, not a house showed even a glint of gold. This perplexed the girl, she decelerated her car, presently searching for a home with lights. To her distress, she could not spot a single house: May began creeping throughout the streets in uneasiness.

She summoned the courage and decided to drive to her home already, her heart thumped. She slowly pulled up and parked with a soft screech, May exhaled and inhaled heavy breaths. Her eyes widened in confusion as there was yellow police tape in a cross on her front door. Her brown loafers stepped out onto the gravel and proceeded up to her white house, she felt numb now. May couldn't hear anything besides the sound of her racing heart, specifically as her fingertips reached for the yellow tape.

It was cold out, breezes of bone chilling air swept underneath her nose; and her fingers became pink. She swallowed, but merely before she could touch the yellow plastic, she became conscious of a large body behind herself. This body was taller than her, shoulders broader than her, she hadn't known wether she should be scared. But it was too late to know right or wrong—because this person struck her skull with a sharp pressure, her last sight happened to be her front door then everything seemed to fade to black…

chapter 1, end.

Chapter Text

 

May's eyes lagged open, it took a few moments for them to focus—the room coiled around, and around, and around. She was dizzy. It was to be expected, what she did not expect was the excruciating headache and knot in her neck. Therefore, she stretched her neck with a groan and rolled her eyes ending with a sigh, then noticed the pressure on her ankles and wrists.

She was bound to the chair. Arms were behind the back, ankles tied to the chair's legs. May pursed her lips. What the hell? She released an exasperated grumble, cursing to herself underneath her breath. Saying how, when she frees herself of this mess, she will roundhouse kick the perp responsible so hard in his intestines he would not be able to stand up. Seems reasonable, she thought.

The brunette glanced around the room, noticing its small, plain features. If she was to escape her current environment, she has to learn about it first. The room was dim, the only light was a lamp in the far corner, which gave off a soft, yellow brightness. A few brown cardboard boxes were scattered about, obviously the individual occupying it had just recently moved it. Very recently, she noted. There was a small, black desk near the window to the left side; and on this desk was a school notepad and a digital alarm clock which read 2:13 AM. Now she didn't wonder why she felt so drained.

May had spent the last few days with excessive studying, she didn't sleep a restful wink either; then with Brendan interrupting her during her exam she didn't have time to pause and breathe. She rolled her eyes. The present moment wasn't so promising as well, her lips pursed, life couldn't become more stressful.

However she swallowed and exhaled a large breath. "Alright, May." The young woman stretched her neck once again in a circular motion. "Remember what mom and dad taught you about things like these."

What she needed to do was relax, breathe, and observe her surroundings. Once she had done all three, she could figure out a game plan.

Since it was past midnight, people would be asleep, she shouldn't make too much noise. The plastic bands around her wrists and ankles turned out to be quite the challenge. She could not maneuver her way out of them no matter what she did, unless she had brute strength which she did not. Her squirming and shimmying only caused the chair to budge. Then, like the mindless girl in frustration she was, May summoned all of the unused strength she had left to try one last yank. That didn't work. What did work was that she successfully knocked herself and the chair onto the ground. Her left cheek and lips were rubbed into the gruff carpet. Although it was carpet she had fallen onto, a moderately loud bumping noise came from the plummet. She swallowed in anguish and squirmed her body, still no avail.

However, her body instantaneously came to a halt when she heard footsteps and a knob turn from behind the blood-red door. Her heart thumped rapidly as the door moved forward, she could only see the person's feet as they walked into the room since her face was sideways onto the ground. Their black leather shoes stopped right in front of her nose, no matter how much May had her right eye look up, she could only see black dress pants. This was obviously a man who held her captive. Either that, or it was a woman with very masculine legs; and her suspicions of a man were right on the money when he cleared his throat. That was her cue to demand an explanation.

"Care to tell me why I'm here?" She said, her voice half-muffled since half of her mouth was in the carpet.

Her captor clicked his lip and put a hand on the right side of her chair, then put his other arm around her left side and picked her up. He straightened her chair so she could see him clearly. May blinked seeing her kidnapper, he was so…

"You made quite a large noise with your fall in the chair," he said with a straight face. The young woman gulped. His voice as well, that was also…

"Struggling to get free?" the man asked.

May licked her dry lips, her voice started out with a croak in her following sentences. "And what if I was? You can't blame me."

Her captor gave her a thumbs up, raising his brows and nodding in agreement. "Your argument is justified."

And the way he moved, too was…

"Well, are you going to explain?" She complained.

…Handsome? Was that it? Handsome? Maybe it was. But a kidnapper who's handsome?

"Only if you will," he shrugged.

The young girl's brows furrowed and she tilted her head. "What exactly do you mean?"

"I mean why were you outside the Sebastians home at 9:05 PM in the dark?"

"Creep!" May cried out. "You're a creep! Creep! Someone! Help, I'm being held by a creep!"

The man's eyes widened and he shushed her as loud as he could but she was louder, so he moved close and put a hand over her mouth. She shook and squirmed while her voice was muffled underneath his palm.

"Shhh! Calm down! Why would you say such a thing?!" he yelled at her under a harsh whisper. He moved his hand a little bit off her mouth so she could reply.

"Because! How else would you know precisely what time I was outside my parents home?! Unless you were a stalker! You creep!" she whispered back violently in his face, so close she must have spit on him.

Her kidnapper paused for a second, putting a balled fist to his mouth in thought. "Wait, you're the Sebastians child?"

May nodded.

"This… This can't be I wasn't given information that they…" he trailed off and walked towards the desk with the notepad. He grabbed it and quickly jotted down some words, drew arrows, grew frustrated and ended up ripping the piece of paper off and crumpling it up into a ball. He paced for a moment then turned to his abductee.

"Excuse me for a moment, I need to make a phone call."

He left the room. May sat there confused, but honestly could've cared less since confusion became a regular thing for her now. She sorted through today's events in her head. First, she starved herself for exams' sake. Second, she was told to go home for some emergency. Third, there was yellow police tape on her house's front door. Fourth, she became this strangely haired man's prisoner and she has no idea where she has been taken. All of this was too wild for her to begin with, she just wanted to go back to college already.

The young woman waited another five or six minutes before he came back, his face expressed quite the amount of worry and sympathy. May wondered why he looked so upset, but was not going to ask. She didn't even know this man, there was no need to extend her help to him.

However, it wasn't him who was going to need the help. "So, you're Norman's daughter, correct?"

For some reason there was an underlying sorrow behind her father's name when he said it.

"Yes."

It almost seems as though something happened.

"When was the last time you spoke with your parents?"

What was this? There was so much tension gathering in the air.

"Three months ago."

Her voice was beginning to crack.

"So you haven't heard."

It was becoming harder for her to breathe.

"Heard what?"

She could only hear her racing heart.

"Ms. Sebastian, I'm sorry to tell you this—"

Thump… Thump… Thump…

"Your father was found dead three days ago."

Her world stopped.

"There appeared to be foul play," he continued, "I'm terribly sorry."

"W-Wh… What about m-mom…" the young girl's voice shook.

"We have no clue."

"We?"

The man moved closer towards the girl, bending down beside her. "That's why I'm here. I'm an investigator working for the government, this is my case."

May's face stared into space, emotionless, and her head hung down. The investigator's eyes widened as tears dripped down onto her lap. His frown became more grim. The man looked as though he was about to say something, but then he turned his head away. He gently cut off the plastic around her wrists and ankles.

"There we go, you can leave if you like," he breathed.

The woman sat there dejected, she was still crying. She sniffled and wiped her tears halfheartedly. "W-Where am I going to go?" she hiccuped.

"I'm not sure… You should probably go back to your university, it's better that way."

There was silence for a few moments while May thought. She couldn't go back home now, her father was dead and her mother was missing! The brunette shook her head.

"No, I won't go home." She began. "Let me help you with the investigation."

"I can't allow that, you have nothing to do with the investigation at the moment," he disapproved.

"I'm—"

"You're the victim's child, and only the child. That doesn't give you right to interfere."

Muted by his words, she couldn't say anything else. He glanced at her then sighed.

"But I don't suggest driving back right at this moment," he said, standing up from his crouching position. "Do you have anywhere to spend the night?"

She shook her head.

"Alright then, you can spend the night in here. I'll bring you some things."

The investigator started for the door, when he was halfway through it May stopped him. "Wait…" she said softly. "What's… your name? I don't have anything to call you. You can call me May…"

The silver-haired man frowned for some odd reason, pursing his lips before answering. "Steven Stone."

chapter 2, end.

Chapter Text

Dawn didn't have the chance to set in before May's eyes snapped open. Her body was sore, her shoulders and fingers ached. With a heavy chest, she glanced around the room—last night was regrettably not a dream. It screamed reality, especially when she gazed down at her clothes. The red blouse and denim slacks she wore during the exam still dressed her. She turned her head to the window, the sun slowly appeared to rise. May sat there, feeling as though time had stopped and began at once—when sunlight completely illuminated the room, it seemed no time had passed at all. But that wasn't true, no—she just could not move.

She couldn't or she didn't want to? May had to ask herself that question, because if she moved, it meant she would have to figure out what to do next. It meant she would have to face that silver haired man named Steven, it meant she would have to tell him she couldn't possibly return back to college. No, not with everything that went on at the moment. So many things were wrong, including herself, May wouldn't convince herself to leave it. That was just the kind of person she happened to be, but she was scared. She was timid. A parent dead, another missing, she feared many more bits and pieces. Namely, what if this person came for her as well? What if her life was in danger? Why were her parents targeted anyway? The thoughts frightened her more, and more, so why bother to move? Why bother to go forward?

May couldn't bear the idea of it, therefore she sat there, frozen, similar to the likeness of a statue. However, soon enough, it wasn't going to be her choice to move forward or not. As the knob on the door turned, he steadily peeked in to see if the victim's child had awoken. Even now, she sat motionless, looking at the window. May neither flinched nor dared to meet the man's stare, she could feel his eyes on her. His grey eyes wouldn't leave her, for some odd reason he halted seeing her frame. He honestly believed the scene before him was that of a painted portrait—her oceanic eyes looked effervescent with the sunlight shining on her face.

Steven stepped into the room, not breaking his gaze on the girl. It was silent. Silent longer than May had liked it to be. She stayed incredibly still, and she figured her body did so because she had no guess of what to say. Therefore he broke the quietude.

"I came to see if you were still here." His face appeared blank, showing no interest whatsoever. "I had thought you would've left by now."

May pursed her dry lips, then swallowed. "I'm sorry but I didn't get enough sleep last night." She glanced at the digital alarm clock. It was only 8AM and this man, as stiff as a wooden board, already wanted her gone? "I did receive awful news last night," she croaked scornfully, rolling her eyes.

What was this? Why was she acting so ugly with such contempt? The investigator inhaled sharply, his chest rose with his breath. "Fair enough, your car is at your home, you can walk with me there to retrieve it."

"Alright," was all she could say. She peered at the floor as she stood up, slipping her feet into her flats. She followed the broad shouldered man, studying his back. She sighed, his demeanor really did seem hard, stiff, and distant. I wonder if he has a gir—

May inwardly slapped herself. Why should she bother herself with this standoffish man's relations? He probably has bad luck with women, anyway. But who was she to say that? Who was she wanting to pry into his affairs? She shook her head, she had more important things to focus on. That was right, her father… Her father was dead, never to come back. However, May didn't want to focus on that, every time she did, her body became numb and tears instantly rushed. She felt nauseous. She felt disgusted. Disgusted with herself, she thought about this Steven's private concerns while she should have been about her own.

Hence, May faced only the negative traits of this man. She winced, remembering that she had quite the bruise on her skull, it gave her a headache full of shooting pain. Oh, right, and where did I get that bruise again?! It was his fault! It was this aloof detective who slugged her upside the head and knocked her cold! Why… Why if he wasn't so—!

"Here, this should help any head pain you're having." Steven handed her a coffee with aspirin. "Pain that I might have or might not have caused last night," he uttered frankly.

If he wasn't so charming I'd clobber him! She brusquely took the medicine and drink from his hands, her face displayed a frown in choleric manners. May could feel the phlegm stuck in her throat, reflecting on that last thought. She glanced at the man briefly, her scowl tightened. He's not charming, he's an inflexible, bluenosed fink!

She just could not wait until they arrived at her house, she just could not wait to say goodbye to his sorry face, she just could not wait to drive so far away! She would drive so far away no one would find her, drive to somewhere no one knows her. And she would attempt to forget anyone who had ever come into her life, because what was the point in trying to move forward when she had no idea where to start? May didn't want anything to do with this town, or anyone related to it, she had to run away from it. Run away? Had to? No, she didn't have to do any of that, she was too scared to face it. She just wanted to run away.

 

Their walk was a quiet one, the young man figured it couldn't have been any other way. He wasn't exactly Mr. Extrovert and Sunshine. And how could he be? He didn't know this young woman, he didn't know anything about her—only the fact she was coping with the loss of a parent. He couldn't do much about that either, but he would promise to himself, and the girl, in his mind to solve this case.

First things first, the girl needed to go back to college. That was right, that was where she would be safest, and he hadn't known wether she would be targeted like her parents. But why would she? The only reason her parents were targets was because—

"When we reach my house," May began cutting into his thoughts, her words almost in a whisper, "may I come inside with you?"

She avoided looking him in the face, her eyes averted to the ground. He swallowed, keeping his gaze on her. "If you'd like."

He grimaced, regretting his words immediately. Was that such a good idea? To let this young girl see such a travesty of her home, the place she grew up? Steven pursed his lips, stuffing his hands into his coat pockets. The rest of their walk resulted in silence, not one of them glanced at the other once. Once they arrived at the Sebastian residence, May's feet had stopped. They wouldn't move.

The investigator walked back to her side, facing her. "Are you coming? If not, you can leave," he earnestly told her. His grey eyes and chin pointed towards her car, that was the only reason she walked with him.

Yet, Steven noticed the longing in her eyes, he could see it. She wanted to go inside, badly. The young woman didn't move though, and the winter air swept underneath their noses. The tension would not resign from the atmosphere; but neither would he leave her standing like a statue nor would he force her. He couldn't understand this sensation as much as he'd like to.

That's why he nodded to her, giving her reassurance he'd be inside the house. "You can let me know if you're leaving, I'll just be inside."

Steven walked away slowly, when he arrived at the porch door, he unlocked it with the key the police station had given him. He lifted up the yellow tape and went underneath it, entering the house. May no longer was with him, and he glanced around the living room. It was time to begin work.

The television in the living room was untouched, as was all the other furniture. Nothing seemed to be out of place or missing, therefore he could clear out this was not a robbery. The murder scene happened to be right there in the living room—in front of the couch—on the pure white carpet. Steven's face became grim at the sight, perhaps it was best May didn't come inside after all.

He ventured into the kitchen, nothing out of place. Then down the halls, the bathroom, the closets, guest room, Dr. and Dr. Sebastian's bedroom, and… May's bedroom. Terrifying as it was, her room felt as if it was recently occupied. It seemed as though it had more breath in it than the rest of the house. Every other room appeared untouched, yet hers gave off the impression of invisible hands all over. Chills ran down his spine as he closed her bedroom door and walked down the hallway into the living room. He halted straightaway and his heart dropped to his stomach the second he saw the front door open.

The front door open and May, who stood there, stared with eyes agape on the dark red before her. Her face paled, all life sucked from her, focusing on the large stain in white. Red, red, red. She looked inanimate, her body didn't move an inch, and it hadn't looked like she was breathing either. Steven clenched his fists and walked toward her, putting his hands on her shoulders and leading her off the porch.

May didn't blink and she still held no expression on her pale face. "I—"

"It's alright," he whispered remorsefully, "I shouldn't have let you see that."

His hands still rested upon her shoulders, his eyes said he was apologetic, his lips said he regretted it wholly. The brunette put her hands atop his, taking them off her. She began for her car, bit by bit with slow steps. Steven followed, he stood by her vehicle as she climbed in, she shut the door. He still gazed through the window as she sat there. May started her car, then unrolled the glass. Her face turned to him.

Steven didn't say a word as she stared, her cheeks flushed and her eyes watered. But he couldn't just let her leave without at least warning her, yet none of that would come out. Nothing except: "say you'll go back to your college and stay there."

Her mouth opened, but she could say nothing, she only nodded. May looked at him one last time and blinked, her lips tightening into a somber line. She rolled up the window and started to drive away. Steven watched the car go down the street, he swallowed. Was that the best choice? Her car vanished from his sight. Would she be alright by herself? His insides turned cold and hot at once. He wasn't sure, but as he turned back to the house, something told him he'd better stay in town. The investigator shoved his hands into his pockets, his eyes were foreboding.

The thought disturbed him, the young woman who just drove away—without a doubt someone was going to come after her. The only question would be: could he catch them before they caught her?

chapter 3, end.

 

Chapter Text

 

That December drive home became a blur within May's head. She begged for those thoughts to escape her mind that entire week—and she lived on campus during break trying to return to a normal life. She found denial to be the only lifestyle she could live at the moment. She would wake up with a headache every morning, telling herself she did not know where on earth it came from… The student tried so hard to trick herself. Yet, she knew. She understood all too well where her migraines originated.

May wasn't sure if she could return to who she was before and the life she had. Her life had been full of fake smiles for the past few days, and while they were fake, that action still felt wrong. She never saw people frequently, as it had been break and most of the campus closed for the holidays. However, she lived in the university's apartment complex and was therefore automatically granted stay during breaks. The only places that ever breathed a soul were the streets, the radio station, and the library.

May awoke from an afternoon nap, hoping the rest would alleviate the pain behind her temple. Her eyes stared at the ceiling for a few moments before stirring and sitting up. She took a deep breath as she brought her bare feet to the carpeted floor, and she sat on the edge of her bed hunched over. Her short hair covered the sides of her round face while she looked down at her lap. Everything around her remained a soft silence, and she knew she needed to go outside to breathe fresh air.

She slugged over to her closet after rising from her bed, and then pulled a sweatshirt over her body. May passed her stuffed animal collection to fetch her sneakers with a pair of socks to put them on. She looked at them in bittersweetness, so many of them had come from her parents, although her favorite had come from Brendan and Zinnia. It was a white teddy bear with a red ribbon tied around the neck. They gave it to her as a cheer-up present three months ago, right after… She snapped out of her thoughts and returned to putting on her shoes. Her chest began to feel heavy and well up with anxiety—as it had been every time before she left her room. May locked her door behind her and looked out at the space in front of her.

Her walk across campus was quiet, as it neared the appearance of a ghost town, and she decided to visit the library. It had occurred to her she hadn't picked up a book in a while, as it had been break.

When the young girl entered the library, she saw the front desk empty and Roxanne in the back office sorting books. Poor Roxanne, she thought. Although she knew her friend to be one to love books, being stuck working at the library during the holidays must have really blown. May breathed in and out. Her blue eyes overlooked the library, much of it had been dimmed. It seemed lonely, and almost haunted—very unlike its usual atmosphere during the school year—where its study desks and computers overflowed with occupied students.

She browsed the aisles, and the further she went into the bookshelves, the more dim the lighting became. May had come into an area that was deepest of the building, where no windows could be found on the walls. And suddenly, an odd and eerie feeling crawled up her back and shoulders. She hadn't been sure if the air conditioning had turned on or what, and it suddenly felt cooler. She then realized it was just her nerves, and her hands were sweaty.

Yet, the student could not shake this tormenting sensation. She felt as though eyes watched her every moment inside this dim area of the library, and she swore she could hear someone else's breathing. She swallowed, feeling phlegm stuck in her throat. May thought for a moment, should she dare say anything? She swore to herself she was not crazy, and she definitely felt someone else near her.

"…I-Is someone there?" Her voice cracked on the first word.

There was nothing but silence. No answer, and then she heard a swift move. May turned her head quickly, hearing the creak of a bookshelf beginning to fall. She ran out just in the nick of time before it crushed her body. Scared out of her mind, she began to run towards the front of the library where hopefully Roxanne was.

Her heart pounded so rapidly and so heavily as she looked behind herself frantically to make sure she was not being chased. May felt tears well up to her eyelids, and then as she began to turn her face forward, she ran into something sturdy.

This something sturdy took her by surprise, with hands gripping her upper arms. She stared up in immediate relief, the tears rolled. It was Steven Stone, that detective guy from before. He looked down at her in surprise, as he could not perceive as to why she was crying. She sniffled while he let go of her.

"Ms. Sebastian… What is the matter?" His face studied hers in perplexity.

May pulled up her sleeve into her palm and wiped her face with it. "Ah, it's just…"

"It is just what?" he asked her with severity. Steven was sure something was not right, and he could sense it. She moved closer to him, fear masking her face.

"I thought someone was watching me, and then the bookshelf… I guess it fell over… In my direction…" she told him in a low voice.

The detective's lips pressed into a thin line, and he took a quick breath through his nose. He put a hand on her shoulder, a gesture he hoped would relieve her. "All right, come with me, we will check this out," he said.

His hand slid down from her shoulder to her wrist, and he grasped it as he tugged her along. Steven could feel the poor girl shaking. This was his fault for not acting sooner. As they approached the area deep within the building, they came upon the tipped over bookshelf. Books were sprawled over the floor and Steven grabbed his car keys from his pocket. On the keys he had a small flashlight attached, and he glanced around the room with it. The man made no mistake of it, he felt the same disturbing presence that overcame him when he observed May's room at the Sebastian residence. It seemed, once again, that invisible hands had been everywhere.

May stayed close to him, her heart still beat fast. Now that she was with someone she at least knew, she relaxed somewhat. Steven turned off his flashlight and ushered her out of the library. May waved to her friend Roxanne, who had no idea May had been in the building, and Roxanne took out her earbuds and waved back from the office when she noticed May. By this time, evening had settled into place and the sun set.

Steven looked at his watch, examined the area, and then scratched his neck. He turned to the college student. "Ms. Sebastian, would you like to join me for dinner? Perhaps we could talk, and having company might prove a comfort to you."

She nodded to him and followed him to his car. May helped him find a local diner, which was a favorite of everyone's at the university. They sat opposite each other in the booth, and she stared at his face which critically studied the menu. She observed how his jawline was very pronounced, his silver hair well kept, and not a single blemish to his face except a small hairline scar near his ear. The scar was so thin, and so small, she almost didn't notice it. However, she had been watching his face closely.

He finally noticed her gaze and his eyes flickered up from the menu to her. "Are you not going to find something to order, Ms. Sebastian?"

"I thought you and I were on first names, Mr. Stone," she mocked him, as he had called her by her surname the past few times he addressed her.

"Oh," he began with blinking eyes. "Did we agree on that?"

"I'm pretty sure."

"Then, forgive me, May," he said as the waitress approached the table. May had slumped into the booth, it came upon her that she was lazily dressed and most likely looked awful.

"Hi, my name is Wanda, what can I get you to drink?" The waitress eyed Steven, and noticed he was rather handsome, so she blushed.

"A coffee and a water please," the man requested. "And I'll have a number 5."

Wanda scribbled onto her notepad cheerily, and then turned to May. "And what'll it be for you today?"

"The number 2 and iced tea please," May replied blankly.

"All right then, I'll get you those drinks and those orders in as soon as possible!"

Steven handed her the menus and she scurried off abashed by his good looks. Unbeknownst to May, she wore a displeased and bitter expression on her face, one that the silver-haired man caught onto with caution. She stared down at the table, still slouched in the red booth.

"Is there something wrong with this place? I thought it'd be best to come here since you suggested it," he said. "Though it appears you come here often since you didn't need to look at the menu to decide your meal… Perhaps you're tired of this place and would prefer somewhere else?"

"Steven, this is fine," she started, straightening her posture and sitting up right. "I haven't been the happiest person the past week, you know."

"Ah."

But that wasn't right. It hadn't been because of her parents her current mood was a sour one. She didn't understand why that waitress bothered her, she'd seen her multiple times. Why did she irritate May now? Her oceanic eyes found the man across from her again, and to her surprise, she also found his grey eyes stared back into hers. His intense gaze confused her, he watched her so intently.

For what purpose was he looking at her the way he did? Nevertheless, her own fixed stare did not relent either, and the longer they kept contact the more comfortable May actually came to feel. Something about the grey in his eyes made her feel safe, made her feel as if she'd already known him for a long time…

Their staring contest had been broken by Wanda, as she set the drinks onto the table. Steven thanked her and pulled his coffee near him. He ripped open one small packet of sugar, stirred it in, and then drank it the way it was. Soon their meal arrived, and it became a quiet one. May would ask an occasional question—how old he was, where he went to school, did he have a wife or girlfriend—the last one she wanted to linger on more than the others. The answer to it had been 'no'. How could it have been so that there really was no woman in his life when he was so attractive? As she moved her fork back and forth in the mashed potatoes, she realized none of that should matter at the moment. What mattered was his presence, and what happened for him to arrive and speak with her.

"So do you want to finally tell me what you're doing here?" she asked him, taking a sip of her iced tea.

"Ah, right," he began. "So over the course of the past week, I have been investigating as you well know. At first I had not been informed the Sebastians' daughter did not know of the current events, so when you appeared at the house that night, naturally I thought you were a suspicious person. Once again, I apologize. After you left, I had done more research into the house and realized something… But first, I must ask you something. Depending upon your answer, my whole hunch may be wrong. May, when was the last time you were home?"

"I was 'home' 3 months ago…" May answered him quietly. "And by that I mean I was in the house for two hours and then left."

"I see. So you went back into your room?"

"No, I didn't actually. Why?"

Steven paused, while a melting ice cube in May's tea clinked against the glass. His silver brows knotted. "I noticed that your room seemed more particularly used than all the others. At first I thought I had been mistaken, but after more searching I found things that seemed out of place, and your own bedding was messy. Do you know if your parents had been letting anyone stay in your room?"

An expression of disarray contorted May's face, and she shook her head. Her parents rarely had company spend the night, and when they did, they would have offered the guest room. Who on earth could have possibly been staying in her room?

"And it was this discovery that led to my visit. In the beginning I presumed your parents to be the true subject of this case, but I think you play a bigger part in it that we know. I could be wrong, however, and the perpetrator could have just been snooping around your room. But that yields the question, why would they need to look around your room? Unless they intended for you to be involved sooner or later."

She swallowed. Her eyes glanced every which way while she tried to sort her thoughts.

"Perhaps I could be very mistaken," Steven continued. "And the person behind this has no clue your parents even had a child, but if they didn't before, I believe after seeing your room they do now."

"So," she breathed. "I'm in danger…?"

"To put it short, yes," he said frankly. "You'll be staying with me, it seems, until another government official can come and watch over you. Of course you'll be allowed to go about your business without watch once the case is solved. Oh, and just a follow up, your father's body has been released and the government arranged a funeral for this coming Friday."

The government, the government, the government, she thought in contempt. It was most likely because of her parents' work with the government this happened. And right here, before her, was another government official. He appeared a lot more robotic and unsympathetic than last time as well. It seemed as though the government liked to destroy her life.

The waitress approached once again to clear their plates and to bring the check. May patted down her pockets, and realized she had forgotten her wallet. Steven told her it had been no bother, as he had planned to pay for the meal regardless.

"We'll stop by your apartment so you can grab clothes and whatever else you might need," Steven told her as they left the diner.

The drive to her campus was a quiet one, and May noticed how he didn't mind that in the slightest, or so she thought. After about ten minutes, he cleared this throat and rubbed his palms against the steering wheel. It seemed he did mind the silence after all.

"Is something wrong?" May asked in the dark. The sun finally left the sky and only streetlights illuminated the inside of the car for a few seconds when they passed them.

"Nothing at all… I apologize before hand, because where I am staying isn't exactly the most comfortable…"

"I don't mind. Do you have an air mattress or something for me to sleep on?"

Steven cleared his throat again. "Unfortunately no, I'll be sleeping on the ground and you can take the bed."

"No thanks Steven—"

"Please, I insist," he interjected, taking a deep breath. "I understand I must not seem the most sociable or friendly, but I do have some manners."

Those words made her give a small smile, but it immediately vanished once she became conscious of the action. Anxiety rushed over her once more in the car, and she choked back the swift tears that tried to surface. She reprimanded herself, how could she smile? And then the thought came to her, if she responded this way always, how could she ever return to normal? May hung her head down and covered her face with her hands.

"Will I ever go back to normal?" she sobbed hoarsely. The student did not expect the man next to her to reply. After a few seconds of silence, she was sure he wouldn't. Yet, he proved her mistaken.

"You will," he softly returned, but his next words ended on a grim note. "It just takes time."

And for the first time in a long time, he sincerely hoped those words to hold truth. The young girl that wept next to him in the dark made him begin to think as an honest man. His eyebrows slightly rose in alarm, what was this girl starting to do to him? Steven's fists gripped around the wheel, there was no time to think about her — he had to focus on the road. He had to focus on the case.

But he discovered his mind wander to May. She became a frequent thought in a head full of bleak realities.

They pulled up to her complex, and she ran up the stairs to unlock her door. Steven watched her disappear behind her beige door as he waited in the car. He glanced around the area, no one to be seen, and there shouldn't be anyway. Practically everyone was on holiday. Then, something odd caught his attention. Some obscure figure was showing in his rearview mirror, and his eyes squinted trying to focus on the object.

When the detective concentrated enough, he thought it to be a man hiding near an alleyway. Just as he believed he could find a better view of the figure, May came scrambling down the stairs with her duffle bag. She hopped into the passenger seat with a nod to the driver, and he took the car out of park. His eyes glanced into the mirror again, the figure gone. His attention changed from the suspicious shape to the girl beside him. The strange sensation washed over him again, the feeling of invisible hands all over and being watched.

"Nothing happened inside, did it?" Steven inquired.

The girl furrowed her eyebrows. "Not at all, did something happen out here?"

His heart pulsed rapidly as he attempted to clear his thoughts. It might have been a good thing she was staying with him, after all. If she truly was a target, he would be able to find the archer by keeping her close. The only issue at hand was that he could not guarantee taking an arrow.

"I'm not sure."

chapter 4, end.

Chapter Text

When she stepped into his car that December night, she hadn't realized that practically all her freedom had been removed. She found it nowhere, except when she went to the restroom. The detective known as Steven Stone would never allow her out of his sight unless he knew where she was exactly, what she could possibly be doing, and who she would be with. Even then, he lingered in the background. May couldn't particularly put her finger on it, but she felt as if more than one pair of eyes had kept watching her.

She would, however, not relay this thought to her temporary guardian. The student thought, perhaps, she was just being paranoid—and giving cause for alarm to this man, a man who watched her every movement—would do more harm than good. Those first few days took May a while to become accustomed to his constant presence, but she adapted nevertheless.

In some cases, she even thought about playing tricks to distract him from being around her so often, but then she realized that might not be such a good idea.

For some other reason, she found solace thinking about him. The thought of him brought unprecedented comfort—a comfort she felt guilty of. May wasn't sure whether or not she could be allowed to be happy or relax—too many things were happening around her. Furthermore, she didn't know if the pleasure she found in him was unnecessary or even inappropriate. Another aspect of the feeling that made her distressed. Her train of thought went off the rails as the winter gusts scraped her nose and Steven nudged her with his elbow.

He had brought her back to reality, the time of 'happening-now.' And her father's burial was what happened now. May's eyes had stayed within in a trance that stared at the dead grass, and the detective worried she wouldn't notice the people approaching the casket and herself to shake her hand. The young woman's eyes rose to the level of the people approaching, and they all grasped her cold hand saying, "I'm so sorry."

I'm so sorry. She had probably heard it over 500 times that day. She thought it would never end. May couldn't feel her feet through her black boots anymore. After a while, every person that approached her became faceless. It didn't matter whatsoever who they were, or how they said 'I'm sorry,' because in the end it was all the same. Condolences, condolences, con—

"You have my deepest condolences, May," a familiar voice said as they clasped her hand within both of their palms.

May's eyes shot up from the dead grass to the person in front of her. She immediately relaxed seeing a face she could trust. A sigh of relief left her mouth and she brought her friend into a tight embrace.

"Brendan, I'm so happy you made it," she breathed while her chin rested atop his shoulder.

"Of course, I wouldn't miss it for the world," he whispered, hugging her tighter.

May blinked, feeling a little too close for comfort to Brendan, but did appreciate his presence. The two detached themselves while Steven watched with a discerning eye. His gaze caught May's attention and she cleared her throat.

"Oh, Brendan, I'd like you to meet Steven Stone," she introduced the two men. "He's… A distant relative."

She panicked. Although the detective never told her explicitly, she thought it might be best if his real identity stayed on the down low. Steven picked up on this immediately, and followed along with the ruse. He extended his hand to May's friend.

"Yes, it's nice to meet you Brendan," he said while warmly shaking his hand. "May never mentioned you before."

This comment struck May. She had never mentioned Brendan, why did that matter? Brendan was just a friend, but she picked up on subtle hostility in Steven's eyes. She reflected, perhaps, she should have told Steven about Brendan. After all, he was the reason she found out about her parents in the first place. Wait, how did Brendan know about her parents? Could it have been, that maybe, possibly, Brendan—

"Funny," Brendan began, releasing the older man's hand. "Neither May nor her parents ever mentioned you before. Which side of the family are you from?"

Steven's eyelids slightly narrowed, feeling suspicious of the man in front of him. In addition, it was not just Steven feeling it, May suddenly experienced a heavily intense atmosphere out of nowhere, and her eyebrows knotted in concern as well as confusion. Nevertheless, Steven was not about to let the cat out of the bag, he suspected something was not right about this friend of May's, and was not about to let his true identity be known to Brendan.

"Ah, I'm from—"

"May!" Another familiar voice popped up out of nowhere and started running towards her from behind. She turned around to see an old friend that she hadn't for quite sometime, and the tense environment vanished from her thoughts. Steven and Brendan's conversation had been successfully interrupted.

"Oh, Wally! It's been so long!" May exclaimed with a small smile.

"It has, hasn't it?" Her green-haired friend softly smiled back, but sniffled as well. "Listen, May, I am so, so, so sorry about what happened, I can't believe it, I-I was in shock for hours and worried about you!"

May swallowed, feeling somewhat undeserving of such immense sympathy and care. Her mind had been so preoccupied lately, it hadn't even occurred to her that other people might be worried about her. And yet, here she was, in front of such a sincere creature as Wally, the poor boy's eyes looked as if he had been crying the entire funeral service. Her brows knotted once more, she observed his physique and remarked in her thoughts that her friend needed to eat more since he was so scrawny.

"You have? Thank you so much, Wally," she told him with a fake smile, feeling the need to return the favor and be polite—something which Steven caught onto fast.

"Of course, anytime! Seriously, if you ever need anything from me just let me know, you have my number right?" Wally wiped his nose on his sleeve and then shuffled his pockets in search of his cellphone.

"Yes, I do have you number Wally," May replied. "Thanks again, you're really sweet."

The boy stopped rummaging and his cheeks tinted pink. A small smile curved his small lips, "Anything for you, you've always been there for me, I do have to leave now though, mom arranged some kind of doctor's appointment for me, so I'm sorry I'm leaving early."

"I don't mind at all, thank you for coming."

"Well, I'll see you later May, sorry to interrupt!"

The boy walked off in a slight hurry, and the group of three watched. Brendan sighed and turned to May. "I'd better be off too, I actually have a big research paper in an anthropology class due when we get back from break, you don't have any homework May?"

"No, I actually don't, all of my professors were very generous when they found out what happened."

"Ah, yeah, that would make sense. So, I'm going to head home, take care May," he continued as he walked past Steven. "It was nice meeting you, Mr. Stone."

The detective and the college student gazed as her friend stalked off from sight. May turned to her recently interred father's casket, and peered over the hole. Everyone would eventually end up like him, wouldn't they? She figured it must be cold, to be in the ground, but if a person was dead they wouldn't feel the cold—

"Right?" She said, finishing her thoughts aloud.

Steven stood beside her, "I'm sorry? What was your question? I must have missed it."

"No, you didn't miss anything, I just accidentally thought out loud. I was just thinking, it must be cold to be buried in the earth, but dead people don't feel anything, right?"

"You are correct," he answered. She felt his grey eyes stare at her in perplexity.

"I just wonder, if it's worth it," May carried on. "My dad did a lot of work for the government you know."

"I am very well aware of late Dr. Sebastian's work, as well as your mother's work."

"Yeah, well, look where it got him, and wherever my mom is, too. I just wonder if it gave meaning to his death, was it worth it to have an eternally cold bed so soon?"

"Well," Steven began, his thoughts racking together. "I suppose if there was meaning, then his death would be worth it?"

"Steven, is your work meaningful? If you died because of it, would you say it was worth it?"

Those were questions he could not give answers. What if he died on the job? He hadn't ever given it thought, whether it would mean anything or not. He had been in experience with the aspect of death several times in investigations, but it'd never occurred to him that perhaps his job would have meant something, or his life. His life? It didn't mean anything to anyone anymore, so he never contemplated such a thing.

"I am not sure, May."

"I see."

"But I can say with certainty that you might find your answer during this investigation, and I will try my best to be of service as well."

"Thank you Steven," she said. He extended his arm out to her, a gesture she found more personal than he'd ever done around her. In that moment, she began to feel as though her world would heal, and all the white noise would go away. She thought, maybe if he stayed with her she would eventually find all the answers.

"I think we should be off, the rest of the funeral party has long since left, and the undertakers seem to be waiting to fully bury him," Steven explained.

May's soft hand reached for his upper arm and gripped it as they walked from the cemetery. She turned her head for one last glance at her father, unsure of far too many things. And she wasn't alone. The detective also found himself in a boat of incomprehensible rumination, as this young girl beside him stirred feelings and concepts he'd never imagined before. He wasn't sure why, but her hand on his arm gave him a sense of security.

When they had finally reached the gates of the cemetery, small drops began to fall. The world seemed silent, and all that could be heard was the dirt shoveled atop her father's casket. May stared up at the sky, realizing she hadn't seen the sun for a while. The frigid raindrops hit her cheeks, and for a moment, while they ran down, she looked as though she wept; and for some reason, beautiful was the only thing Steven thought.

He started, "May—"

Boom.

The direction of May's oceanic eyes changed from the sky to her father's gravesite, gravel and parts of her father's casket fell all over the headstones and cemetery. Her mouth opened and her body immediately moved forward, but Steven wrapped his arms around her and held her back. May screamed and sobbed at the destruction of her father's grave.

She didn't need the weather for water to roll down her cheeks.

chapter 5, end.

Chapter Text

Steven enveloped May within his arms while she wriggled out with every ounce of her strength. She shrieked as the gravel and other parts of debris she couldn't stomach with the thought of even being considered debris hit the ground. It was minutes before the air began to clear from the smoke, and the detective's hand covered the young woman's eyes while his other arm restrained her. He swallowed in distress at the scene before him, whoever did this, there had to be a reason behind it, correct?

However, the first course of action could not be to investigate. The first course of action? The Sebastians' daughter. He had to remove May from the location and calm her… This situation would definitely require some calming down. Her father's casket and corpse had just been blown to smithereens, and the countless questions, as well as outrageous anger, must have been piling up within her mind. Steven realized, she must have many questions and so many pent-up emotions. He lowered his head to her ear, and said, "May, I need you to calm down and leave with me."

Her shoulders began to quiver, and he could tell she was on the verge of tears. The rest of her body stopped struggling against his grip, and he ushered her away from the cemetery. He walked her to the car, opened and closed the door after she'd sat down—the tears streaming from her cheeks, and he called the police. Within the next 15 minutes, police officers had pulled up and conversed with Steven. He explained to the men who he was, what had happened, and that the deceased man had been a vital person in an on-going investigation. Using his government official authority, he ordered them to bag any suspicious recovered items, and bring what was left of Norman Sebastian's body to the designated government coroner—whom Steven worked previously with. The detective had arranged all of this in a period of 30 minutes, quickly phoned his agency to give them an urgent update and finally returned to May who waited in the car.

He swallowed once again, but this time with a grimace, unsure of what would occur during the car ride. She'd been waiting for him for almost an hour, so his first words to her would be an apology. Once he'd been seated, he turned on the car and buckled his seatbelt. His eyes glanced over at her, her legs shook.

"I apologize for the wait," he began, hesitation clear in his voice. "I am also sorry for the temperature in the car, I should have given you the keys to warm it while I was… preoccupied—"

"It's fine," she replied brusquely.

Her abrupt response rattled him, as her words contradicted the expressions of sorrow on her face. Steven wasn't so sure what to say to her. He was confused, why would she say it was fine when she clearly appeared as if it was not? He remembered, Brigette did that, too when she was upset. His foot slowly pressed down on the accelerator. …Brigette? The car went faster. He hadn't thought about that woman in years—

"Steven!" May screamed his conscience back into reality, "It's a red light, stop!"

The silver-haired man stomped onto the brake. He turned his head to May in worry, inquiring if she was unharmed. "Are you all right? I am so sorry."

"I might ask you that instead, are you all right Steven?" Her brows knotted as her blue eyes pierced straight into his. He could not break her gaze for some reason, and found himself…curious. A second ago she'd been upset, now she was offering aid to him as if her previous troubles no longer existed. He stared so intently, he saw the light turn green in the reflection of her eyes. Steven turned himself forward and continued driving.

"I am quite fine," he carried on the conversation. "Thank you for your concern."

"It's no problem," she said in return.

He noticed in the corner of his vision, she set her feet on the car seat and hugged her legs against her chest. It registered in his thoughts how small she was.

"How… tall are you? Forgive me for asking."

The young woman blinked in confusion at his random question. "I'm 5'2", why are you asking?"

"It's just that I have never seen anyone sit like that in the passenger seat before."

Immediately she unwrapped her arms from her legs and set them back down. Her face flushed. Avoiding looking in his direction, she replied. "I don't understand you, who points that out?"

The second part of her sentence had been a part of a grumble, so he didn't quite catch it. The first part, he heard crystal clear, and as such, felt he must defend his person. The detective released a sigh.

"Well, I can say the same thing to you, Ms. Sebastian."

"Wow, we're back on a last-name basis, Detective Stone?" The college student pouted all over again in unhappiness, for reasons he just could not understand.

He licked his lips and pursed them in frustration he planned to not let show through. Why was she acting so difficult all of a sudden? And, she had pointed out a sore truth, Steven tended to revert to formal addresses when he was annoyed. He released yet another sigh.

"May, since we seem to be feuding over questions, let me ask you another, why are you behaving in such a difficult manner? First, you're upset, then you're 'fine'—or so you say, then you're worried, then you're offended, and then upset all over again. I have never met anyone who changes their emotions so willfully, or quickly, for that matter."

Steven Stone had done it. He'd pushed about almost every button to infuriate May, which he also hadn't picked up on. The young woman was silent for a solid minute, her face reddened and her heart pounded. She balled her fists and felt her eyes sting with every passing blink. She turned her incensed face to him while his eyes stayed on the road. Her mouth opened.

"How can you be so insensitive?!" She began in a low growl. "You, Steven, are practically a robot!" The volume of her voice increased as she spoke. "You act as if you can't understand basic human feelings, you're so formal, is there ever a time you aren't counting your breaths to make sure you've met the quota of breathing like a standard human being?! It seems that all that matters to you is work, or some sort of correct morale, or whatever it is that keeps you going the way you go!"

She panted. The words had flung out of her mouth at an incredible pace, and after a few moments, she realized the weight those words might have carried. A few more moments passed, he said nothing. He looked… like nothing had happened. His eyes stayed on the road, his driving didn't falter. But she just gazed at him in quietude. Remorse slowly accumulated inside her mind, and right before she began to speak again—

"I don't understand very much," he replied. He seemed to be having a comprehension problem quite often lately. "I understand very little about human relationships… I have not been fortunate enough to grow in a home where two loving parents — and furthermore siblings — are present."

In fact, it just became a part of who he was. His mother died young, his father worked, and being well off perhaps enforced the feeling of exclusion he'd been all too familiar with. He had very few friends, all of which were also work colleagues, meaning he didn't actively search out companionships. And the closest thing to a romantic relation…? There'd been her, but he really preferred never to think about it again.

"The whole empathy concept rather escaped me during my years of education," Steven carried on. "As you may have observed, I am not a very personable individual, and my job has never required me to be so…"

The detective slowed down the car, pulled into the lot, and steadily put the gear in park. His hand turned and removed the key from the ignition, and he set his hands on his lap. His face focused on May. She returned the attention to him as well.

"However, I believe it does now…" Their eyes locked onto the other's pair, and May couldn't trust what her ears had been hearing. A small smile began to peek through her mouth, but she perceived the inappropriateness of her action had it been executed and promptly stopped it. She broke from his gaze and inhaled deeply. Steven picked up on her behavior and looked down at the keys he fiddled in his hands. "I wondered, if… perhaps… May, would you be willing to help me—" he struggled to find the correct words "—improve on that part of my job?"

A tiny chuckle actually broke from the college student's breath and she replied, "Improve that part of your job? Really? That's what you say?"

The man then faced a feeling he had never before—the back of his neck suddenly felt inexplicably hot and he could not describe this newfound anguish. He felt… ashamed? No, that hadn't been it. Something strange, he knew that for sure. What he conceived from the emotion was utter regret from his choice of words and a discomforting self-consciousness.

May observed the mortification apparent on his face. Her eyes widened, and she gasped. "Are you embarrassed?!"

She pointed a finger to his increasingly pink neck and cheeks, and offense masked his expressions. "Embarrassment? Please, I have never been embarrassed in my life," he defended himself as they exited the car. Was that what it was called? Embarrassment? Seemed that she'd already begun to help him.

The young woman followed behind him in his apartment complex. It'd been in a more worn-down part of town and built in a one level fashion. The whole complex went up one side, and then down, almost in the shape of the letter 'L' when looking from an aerial view, like the layout of a cheap motel—but in apartment form. May didn't think too much of it, but figured it made sense for a detective who'd be staying in town temporarily. His apartment had been all the way at the end of the 'L', so they walked in silence to the door.

Just steps before they arrived, Steven stopped in his tracks. May began to speak but quickly he put his index finger to his lips to "Shh!"

May stepped to the side and saw the door to his apartment ajar. No lights appeared to be turned on. Her chest hammered in anxiety as the detective slowly moved closer to the door. He put a hand inside his coat, and from it, he pulled a pistol. His thumb quietly cocked the firearm, and he placed his free hand on the door and put his back against it. He listened carefully and heard footsteps waiting for them to stop moving. Steven's eyes went back to the college student, and his mind ran at a mile a second.

Quietly, just under his breath, he said to May, "if anything happens to me, run."

She nodded.

He took a deep breath, raised the pistol in both hands, and quickly turned himself into the one-room apartment. With the gun pointed at the perpetrator, he yelled, "freeze!"

Steven immediately released a click of his tongue in annoyance, dropping the firearm from the direction of the person.

"Wallace!" He groaned in frustration. "What on earth are you doing here?"

The silver-haired man motioned May to come inside blankly, and in perplexity, she acquiesced. Before the detective and the young woman sat another man with light blue hair dressed in a silk suit ensemble, he gingerly smiled from atop the desk with his legs crossed.

"I honestly can't believe that's how you would greet me, Steven!" The man whined. "How cold, but, so like you. Anyway, great security on this place, a squirrel could break in."

"This is why you're here?" Steven continued to question. May stood by him, as though a deer in headlights.

"Oh no, of course not, I'm here for that." Wallace daintily pointed a finger at May and removed himself from the desk to now stand in front of her. In a tender fashion, he grasped her hand and brought it to his lips. Steven instantly felt a tinge of irritation. "Ms. Sebastian, I am Wallace, another detective like Steven. I've been issued to come to take you to a safe house—you are no longer under Detective Stone's watch, but mine."

"Oh," became the only word that could escape her mouth right then, but she straightened up and cleared her throat immediately for a better response. "Y-You can call me May, not Ms. Sebastian."

"My, how lovely, first name bases already," he delighted. "I hope you didn't move that fast with poor old Steven too."

May's cheeks heated up as did the back of Steven's neck. "All right, Wallace, so will you be taking her now?" Steven broke in, evidently vexed.

"Ah, no, it's gotten too late in the day, so I decided we'd head there tomorrow. It's a good while from here, closer to your university May, that way you might visit with friends if you'd like."

The girl's eyes lit up, but Steven's fell, and Wallace observed both expressions carefully. He breathed with a coy smile and stroked his chin while glancing around the apartment. "By the way, how on earth were you both sharing this place? There's only one bed."

"I slept on the floor," Steven replied without a moment to lose.

"Of course you did," Wallace continued on. "I guess we'll be sharing it tonight! Now, May, it's getting somewhat late, maybe you should hit the showers. Steven and I have some things we need to discuss."

May suddenly felt as though she was the odd one out, and almost like a juvenile because he was excluding her from the conversation. It seemed she was 12 years-old again, and mom and dad had 'grown-up' things to talk about. She wanted to say something to defend herself, defend her dignity and her maturity, but the way he looked at her… well, it was as if she really was 12 again. She thought there was no use arguing, so she agreed, picked up her things, and headed to the ladies' showers.

She had made a mistake, not completely closing the door to the apartment.

"Was it truly necessary to leave May out of this conversation? She is an adult," Steven had defended her with the words she wanted to say before she left.

"Steven, what on earth are you saying? She is a child, she's only 19 years old. I seriously hope you have not been involving her deeply in this investigation, have you?"

"No, of course not, but you know who her parents were, she may not be as in the dark as we think she is."

"Yes, exactly, we know her parents, who they were, and they were always professional as far as I'm concerned. Listen, that girl may potentially be in danger, we cannot involve her any further. If she knew anything, she would have told you, right? It is my belief she's just a normal girl in college, whose father was just blown up this morning and a mother missing. I cannot even begin to imagine the things she feels."

"But are you sure you should take her? It seems too soon, especially with what happened today. You received the report, correct?"

"Of course I read the report, you should go see the doc as soon as she's finished up with the remains, and check out forensics, too. I was over there when they received everything, I guarantee you this case is about to become ten times messier — and this girl does not need to witness any more than she already has."

Steven scratched the side of his head, reflecting on his friend's words. "So say you're right," the silver-haired man started. "You're just going to lock her up in a safe house or babysit her until this is all over? What if you're personally targeted? I feel that… keeping her close is a smart move, for reasons I cannot explain."

Wallace examined his face as he could tell Steven struggled to find the right words to match his emotions. For far too long, he'd known Steven for far too long and knew exactly what had been transpiring presently in his mind. The blue-haired man swallowed.

"Steven, I've only ever seen that expression on your face once," he moved closer, "do you know what I'm referring to?"

The silver-haired detective knotted his brows in confusion, and his eyes expressed great concern for himself and the words he somehow knew Wallace was going to say but still chose to feign ignorance. "I have no clue what you could possibly mean."

"The only time I can remember you being so fond of a woman was Brigette, but now you're like this with the Sebastians' daughter as well."

Steven felt as though some sort of mirror inside his mind had cracked when he heard that name spoken aloud, and in relation to May.

Just as this occurred, the college student walked down the hall and set her hand on the knob noticing she'd accidentally left the door slightly open. She stopped when she heard Steven's voice so affronted.

"Don't ever say Brigette's name again," he announced indignantly. "And myself? I have no regard for Ms. Sebastian, she is just another troubled child from a murder investigation."

May's insides crumbled—for some reason she couldn't understand, hearing those words from him hurt gravely. The 19 year-old choked back the tears and swallowed. She waited for Wallace to respond for her to enter the room. She may not have been brilliant, but she was smart enough to know that if she'd entered right after that they could assume she'd overheard Steven. And who was Brigette..?

"As you wish, Steven, I won't say anything more, but I will take her tomorrow and there is a good chance it may be the last time you see each other."

Finally, she pushed the door open and acted as though she was refreshed by her shower and overheard nothing. Wallace greeted her and Steven stood quietly against the wall. She could feel his eyes constantly on her, which made her all the more uncomfortable.

"Well, it's about dinner time, pizza anyone?" Wallace offered, pulling out his phone.

The odd trio of two detectives and a college student ate pizza sitting on the ground that night. Wallace continued a conversation with May a large portion of the time, and Steven remained reserved, only occasionally putting in a word. After some time passed, May climbed into bed and the two men laid on the ground, Wallace in between May and Steven. Steven faced himself away from May's direction, staring at the wall, and coincidentally May did the same. The blue-haired man snoozed away happily while the other two laid awake in anguish. Both pondered how they might never see each other again.

Maybe it's for the best, they both thought at the exact same time.

Steven shut his eyes at last, thinking, I'm sure it is.

May didn't sleep that night.

chapter 6, end.

Chapter Text

As he swiped his ID card through door after door, after passing through more than twenty walls, he finally entered a clean and neat reception area, said a quick hello to Glacia at the desk, and continued into the elevator. The metal box swept him down underneath the ground a few floors, softly stopping to a hallway. This hallway led to forensics and the autopsy rooms. Making his way through the laboratory, the detective waved his hand over at Drake, who nodded his head to him in acknowledgment. Past another set of doors and another hallway, he eventually met with the medical examiner who had currently been peering over a set of remains.

Her eyes glided up in the direction of Steven when she heard his entrance. With her body propped up straight, she delivered a hardy smile. “Hiya’ Steven!” She exclaimed happily.

“Hello Phoebe,” he greeted, returning a smile. “I am glad to see you’re in high spirits — although your career is less… cheery.”

The tan young woman released a loud laugh. “I mean, I suppose so, but I don’t find my work the least bit gloomy. Every person I work on is my buddy!” She said, gingerly tapping the corpse on the cold slab.

The atmosphere turned from a pleasurable greeting to grim and intense in an instant. The medical examiner knew exactly why he came to visit her and so she took off her gloves and walked to her desk. “I suppose you’re here for Norman Sebastian’s second autopsy report, right?” She continued.

“And you would be correct,” he replied, following after her across the room.

She pulled open a drawer with her finger and swept up a folder with her hand. She turned to him, seriousness painted all over her face. “First of all,” she began with raised eyebrows, “This info is like, totally, completely weird and ominous, and I’m going to tell you right now Steven, if you’re going to continue this investigation, keep your eye out and be careful because this is some wonky stuff I’d never thought to find looking so closely at a body.”

The silver-haired detective stared hard at the files she had handed over to him, then looked up to his colleague with knotted eyebrows. “Brief me.”

The young woman let out another boisterous sigh and took a seat atop her desk while offering him her chair. “I was afraid you’d say that, but I’m prepared for anything!” She gave him a thumbs up. “Well, I think what you should know is that Norman Sebastian must have been researching some top secret stuff for us at the time of his death because what I found in him was nowhere near natural and absolutely artificial.”

“What could you possibly mean by that?”

“What I could possibly mean by it is, when his body first came here after being shot and left in his home, I didn’t find anything strange then. When he came back as shrapnel pieces, I had to look even closer at his body than I did before, and honestly, it must have been my mistake for not finding it the first autopsy.”

“Finding what, Phoebe?”

She scratched the side of her head and crinkled her nose in puzzlement. “I found weird traces of radiation in his blood and upon even further examination, in a part of his body that I was able to identify as a piece of the cranium, a special type of metal that was coated in zinc, which is probably why I never identified it in the first place. Zinc isn’t abnormal to find in the body, but the metal I was never able to identify. Drake is running forensics on it as we speak, but the metal, Steven…”

He began to grow impatient and concerned, “What about the metal?”

“It contained some sort of code under the microscope, except the piece I found was almost microscopic itself, meaning… or at least I think it means, it’s a part of some larger piece that was either destroyed in the explosion or worse—“

“Taken because of the explosion,” he finished her sentence, knowing exactly where she was leading to. “Whoever originally killed Normal Sebastian and took his wife was not finished, or they did not know about this until after finding out more information from a source.”

“What source, though?” Phoebe inquired.

“Mrs. Sebastian of course, which could imply that she is still alive or they murdered her after acquiring such intelligence.” The detective stood up from the chair, fixing his thin blazer.

Phoebe could feel him tensing up in a fashion she had never encountered in Steven before. It made her anxious.

“We couldn’t possibly know whether or not she’s still alive, Steven. Also, maybe we’re getting a little too riled up! Maybe the explosion was just a hate crime or some other, maybe the murderer was trying to cover up the code or something… We don’t know! We don’t know if Mrs. Sebastian would release info like that either!”

Steven headed for the door with the autopsy report in his hand. “We’ll know if her body shows up in the next few days.”

He left the doctor to herself, staring him down in worry as he exited. His next stop would be forensics. At the lab, he would find Drake, another colleague as equally trustworthy and reliable as Phoebe. He would definitely have something that would move this case forward, he had a feeling. However, when he met the elderly man, he said very little about the technology Phoebe discovered.

“There is not much to say…” the man began. “I ain’t ever seen this before, I am going to have to do more research…”

Steven sighed and thanked the man, “Drake, if you find anything at all, please let me know right away.”

Drake noticed the concern plastered to Steven’s face, something he had never observed before. Amongst the co-workers in the institution, the ones who have known him the longest could tell he was not acting as practical as he usually does in a case, Phoebe also caught onto this behavior. He may not have realized it, but his countenance and words borderlined frustrated and upset, while the detective they all had come to know would be extremely cool-headed during an investigation.

“Ehh, of course, but Steven… you all right? You seem more agitated than usual,” the researcher felt inclined to say something, as the storm of exasperation and panic brewed behind the young man wherever he walked.

“How could I not be well? I have been sleeping perfectly fine and I like to think the investigation is moving forward. The Sebastians’ daughter is in Wallace’s capable hands and I’m in town working through this like clockwork, everything is exceptional.”

The forensics specialist watched as the silver-haired detective stormed out of the lab, on his way to do more investigating in any possible way he could. Everything, in fact, was not exceptional. He was not sleeping well at night, the bed he laid in smelled too much of her. He was also finding out that he adores the way she smells and before he knew it, he had become hooked on her scent. She had even forgotten a few belongings: a hair clip, some bobby pins, a bracelet, and even one of her sweaters. He piled them all together and placed them on the right corner of his small desk in the apartment. In truth, it distracted him quite often, he would daze off and always be looking at the pile of her articles. At night, it would be what he’d stare at and, in the morning, the first thing he saw.

In a way, she was on his mind from dawn to dusk and vice versa. And in many ways, he could not help but wonder if she was sleeping well, too, or eating well, or becoming frustrated with whatever piece of writing she had been reading at the time. He became frustrated with every little objective he’d been doing since she left and he was stumped on the case. Nothing new came up except Phoebe’s findings and he felt as though there was a hole somewhere in the hourglass, leaking sand faster than it should be allowed to. Unbeknownst to him, any harm coming to the Sebastians’ daughter became his worst fear and that was the powerful force driving him to panic. He didn’t know where she was at all times and whether or not Wallace truly was keeping her safe. The sand poured rapidly out of the glass and into Steven, each grain a tiny anxiety that something might happen to May.

He spent another night staring at the pile of her belongings.

 


 

The college student’s transition appeared to be a lot smoother and peaceful than the detective’s. Wallace and May became friends rather quickly, open about many things concerning where she could go and when, and she felt less restricted under Wallace’s eye than Steven’s. Not that she preferred Wallace to Steven, in fact she could admit to herself in a joking manner that she missed him sometimes, but the strain in her relationship with Wallace seemed far different from the strain in her relationship with Steven.

Wallace also assumed a “distant relative” role whenever he and May bumped into one of her acquaintances. Except he was far more prepared with a backstory; related to May’s mother, her younger brother who worked in jewelry, ergo, May’s fashionable, handsome uncle. Her friends bought that gyp a lot faster than when Brendan had met Steven at her father’s funeral. Before the 19 year-old had realized it, she lived with Wallace in the safe house (which had been a lot more comfortable than the one-room apartment she’d been accustomed to) for almost two weeks. Their days consisted of the mundane; grocery shopping, watching old noir films, Wallace helping her map out her major, discussing literature, a great deal of coffee drinking… and boys.

She confessed to Wallace she never really ‘liked’ any boys and it had never really occurred to her because she knew if she was meant to like them, she would. But she didn’t. She didn’t like anyone. The blue-haired detective asked her how she felt about a few of her male friends, like Brendan and Wally, and she waved them off.

“My, May, you’re a tough lady to please,” he joked with her. “How is it possible no man has caught your eye?”

She burned her lip on the expresso he had just made for her while listening to his words. For some reason, when he said the words ‘caught your eye,’ Steven intruded into her thoughts. This truly caught her off guard. A funny smile curved its way onto her lips and she chuckled his words off. “I guess there just isn’t anyone out there for me, yeah?”

Wallace watched her carefully, keeping in mind Steven as well, curious about how she might feel for him since it became obvious during his arrival to take May away that it displeased his colleague in some manner. The two of them hadn’t mentioned detective Stone in the entirety of their stay together and her new protector felt apt to know more about the situation.

“Oh, I really don’t believe that!” He waved off in a huff. “Besides, keep talking like that and you’ll start sounding an awful lot like someone we both know…”

May’s eyebrows rose in interest, he knew from then on it would be hook, line, and sinker. “Who are you talking about?”

“Just that drab detective you were forced to tolerate living with for too long! Now that man really has nothing spicy going for him anytime soon. He’s a workaholic and far too serious for anyone’s liking, there really may not be anyone out there for him.

The college student’s finger fiddled with the edge of the expresso’s saucer while her cheeks tinged rosy. “I don’t think that’s completely true, I wouldn’t say he’s drab, and yeah he’s very serious… but I’m sure there’s someone for him, he’s incredibly handsome and well-mannered.”

Her bodyguard didn’t speak for a moment, the teasing expression on his face soon faded and turned rather stern in contrast. She, like his co-worker, had begun developing inappropriate feelings during the investigation. These feelings had to be terminated.

“You know, I’m really all jokes about that man, but his life will always revolve around work and nothing else, not even a woman. Not that this information concerns you—you’ll also never see him again, so it’s best to forget about him.”

Wallace truly only meant the best and not to hurt her feelings, but in his mind, it needed to happen. The two of them would never meet again and he would make sure of it. May displayed a solemn countenance after hearing his Steven discourse and let her expresso turn cold as it sat in her hands. Then, in the next moment, her phone buzzed. It became the perfect distraction for the party of two living in the safe house.

“Ah! Isn’t that right, we were going to see your friends for dinner!” He continued. “Let’s hurry on up and pile in the car to eat some delicious high-saturated fats!”

He shooed her up from the couch and made the gears start turning. They were out of the house in less than 5 minutes and driving into town. They meet May’s friends, Wally and Zinnia, at the same diner that Steven and May had eaten in once before. The young woman, herself, remained reserved throughout the whole social outing, saying few words while Zinnia and Wally talked to Wallace. The course of the meal passed by like a montage for May; Zinnia excitedly gushing over one of her biology professors, the waitress, Wanda, noticing how handsome Wallace was, and Wally lamenting over missing an exam last semester due to being sick once again.

She truly spent the time thinking of Steven, how she might never see him again, and what it would be like to be that woman. To be the woman that was suited for him. She put her hand in her coat, looking for one of her hair clips, and remembered it must be in her other sweater. Although, she cannot remember where that sweater could be. Her water on the table slowly goes down and empties. She wondered what he might be doing that very moment, if he thought of her, because she thought of him more than she liked to admit. May became so locked into her mind that it seemed she was deaf to the conversations happening around her. She wanted to see him. She didn't know why, but she did. In many ways, she realized it would be best if she forgot who Steven Stone was, but she couldn't. With everything that had transpired with her parents and their meeting, their living together and their bonding, she could not erase him from her memory. 

At some points in the dinner, the college student sensed Wallace's eyes on her, but would not meet his gaze for fear that he could see straight into her percolating thoughts and know what she was feeling. She knew what she felt would be deemed inappropriate. this whole situation with Steven would be considered inappropriate. Inappropriate because he was the detective leading her parents' investigation. Inappropriate because he was seven years her senior. Inappropriate because her father had just died and her mother was missing. Inappropriate. 

She wanted to scream from how overwhelming it all felt. Yet, inside her mind, all noise became soundproof. 

Before she knew it, her chicken and waffles were gone and they were stepping out of the food joint as the sun set. It was quiet. Zinnia excused herself for a second to go to the restroom located on the other side of the restaurant, so Wally, May, and Wallace stood outside against the wall waiting for her. The cool and bitter breeze brushed onto her face as she watched the cars in the road zip by. She heard nothing. Her eyes’ focus turned to the ground. And suddenly, in a matter of moments, loud cracks snapped in her ears as she was pushed to the ground by Wallace, who screamed “May! Move!”

The gunfire ceased in almost an instant, it ended almost too soon for May to register what had happened. When Wallace had shoved her, her head went towards the building and skid into the brick wall. Herself in pain, she put a hand to her head and felt blood in her palm. She struggled to bring herself up, looking slowly to the side to see Wallace.

“Wallace…” she called to him, the sharp pain to her skull increasing. Her blurred vision finally found him, laying near to her.

Blood pooled from his side as his body twitched. Faint coughs were heard from his mouth, also sputtering plasma.

Silence rang. She closed her eyes.

“Wallace…”

chapter 7, end.