The Game of Hide and Seek (Prologue)

Trowa Barton was a romantic in every sense of the word. He wanted nothing more than a quiet, satisfying relationship that involved walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, intimate conversations, and sweet, tender love-making. His ideals did get somewhat complicated considering the fact that he hadn't been in a serious relationship in so long. Although he prided himself on his sincerity and kindness, he was never successful in building any lasting connections. He was confident although a bit shy, witty although very quiet. He was handsome and charming, but he was just too inhibited.

"Go take a chance," his sister always said. "That way you won't turn out to be such a bore."

After several years of persuasion, he finally did. Leaving the small town he grew up in, Trowa moved into the big cities where the opportunities were said to be boundless. His sister Catherine mourned his leaving, but she was just as happy to see him do something that was different for a change.

Of course, the city didn't turn out the way he expected it to be. With several people vying for limited jobs, Trowa was left to wander from employer to employer simply to survive the numerous bills that came in through the mail everyday. It didn't help much either that his hard-earned degree was going to waste. It took weeks of perseverance, but after long days of searching, Trowa finally landed himself a real job.

The Quinn Laboratories Inc. was said to be one of the most successful research companies. The company worked mostly with biological and pharmaceutical innovations. That fact alone seemed like a miracle, considering that he'd never had any experience to qualify for the new job. Catherine was ecstatic and he satisfied.

The days passed by quickly since that day and all the earlier introductions were forgotten. Trowa was able to transition into his new work place successfully although he had a bit of trouble with his co-workers. He acknowledged the fact that they respected him but also noticed that they barely approached him. One could also say that his cold exterior halted any further attempts to get to know him better.

Nevertheless, his job was satisfying because he was able to do something with the education he worked hard for and he was also left alone to make his own discoveries. Trowa was a chemist you see and the ability to work alone was considered an advantage. This was where his expertise lay, considering that he could work hours on end without once talking to anyone.

Much like his former situation though, his life was a bore with nothing more than the occasional praise by his superiors. It wasn't until that fateful day that his life turned more chaotic than he expected.

It was a rainy day when his exploits began. After consuming his tasteless but acceptable lunch, he made his way to one of the smaller labs to continue his work. That day, they were testing vaccinations for the laboratory mice in order to combat a rarer influenza that had just recently appeared in isolated areas. Picking up one of the rodents, Trowa reached over for a dropper and dipped it in what he hoped was the right vial only to find that the said bottle was no longer there. He doubted that he left it elsewhere and began looking around the area and discovered that it was nowhere to be found despite his clear memory of where he had left it.

What he found stranger even was the swift passage of something black moving in the periphery of his vision. Thinking it was nothing more than a trick of the light, Trowa ignored it for the time being and put the ill mouse back in the cage. He walked out the door and into the hallway with every intention of treating the mice as soon as he found the vaccine. The mice were sick after all and it was his job to find that which would no longer make them suffer anymore than they had.

He continued across the hallway and stopped in front of the door to the higher security labs where he was sure the other vaccines were located. Swiping his ID through a card slot, he waited for the massive door to open and was surprised to find two unconscious bodies on the floor. His immediate response was to check their pulse for signs of life. When he was sure that they were simply unconscious and not in grave danger, he walked around the area to look for the criminal, just in case he wasn't too late. It wasn't such a bad idea at that time but then again, he wasn't thinking. When he reached one of the darker corners, he noticed the quick and precise movements of someone who was attempting to escape. He decided, despite warnings from his common sense, to call out.

"Stop!" he said and was rewarded with the obedient halting of the thief's movements. The criminal turned around to face him, but he didn't see anything clearly save for the illuminated eyes of the thief as they blinked.

"Oh wow!" the thief said in a voice so hypnotic he almost forgot that he was dealing with a criminal. Just what was meant by the comment, Trowa could not decipher. He thought about it quickly and decided that it was just a trick to catch him off guard.

"Come out where I could see you," Trowa commanded. His heart was beating fast, especially since he just realized that he didn't have a weapon in hand.

To his surprise, the thief did obey him for a second time.

"Step into the light," Trowa continued.

The thief did as he was told and placed both hands behind his head while walking forward. Dressed in a tight, black ensemble that clung to every crevice of his body, the criminal glanced at Trowa and blinked again.

"Who are you?" Trowa asked, trying to look as stern as he could without prompting the thief to harm him in any way. In truth, Trowa was so shocked he wanted to slap himself a few times. The man before him seemed to be about his age with the most innocent look that no one would have ever suspected him of being a criminal.

"Yummy, yum, yum..." the thief replied and eyed him from head to toe.

"I asked who you were," Trowa demanded while trying to stop himself from salivating. The man's hair was wet, most probably from the rain and it didn't help that he had his hands raised up in a deliciously vulnerable position. What was even more distracting was the movement of the thief as he ran his gloved fingers through his wet hair, every drop of water sliding down his perfectly sculpted face. He was slim and gorgeous in all his criminal glory. Trowa felt the need to convert him into a righteous citizen.

"I'm going to ask you one last time, who are you?"

The figure ignored his question yet again and instead ran his tongue around his already wet lips before starting a whole new conversation of his choice.

"You must be new here," the thief said. "I've never seen you before."

Trowa was alarmed to find that the thief did, without a doubt, lurk around the labs on a regular basis. All previous promises of his employer regarding his safety went down the drain. How exactly was he going to deal with a situation such as this?

"I've always hated nerds before," the thief continued. "But you are one drop dead sexy nerd..."

The thief stepped closer to him, but Trowa couldn't find any useful, non-harmful weapons in sight. He'd be dammed if he ever hit the pretty face so Trowa held his breath and closed his eyes instead. Was his life possibly going to be spared? Was he so stupid that he'd provoke an attack? Catherine was going to mourn if he ever passed away so suddenly, especially when he was so far away.

"...Dr. Barton."

Upon hearing his name, Trowa opened his eyes again, only to be presented with a succulent, wet tongue passing over the stranger's lips. The thief must have read his name plate.

Trowa began to sweat.

"Why, I think I'll have me a taste of that."

His eyes widened when he felt a pair of soft lips on his and almost passed out because of the foreign, heavenly sensation on his lips. When he snapped back to reality, he was surprised to find that the thief was already scaling the walls, on his way to leave through the tiny vents. That's when he finally noticed the vials of vaccine stolen from his lab along with several others secured to the thief's waist. He wasn't just about to let the criminal go.

Before he could scream for help, however, the thief looked back at him with a smile and then winked.

"You taste like peanut butter Dr. Barton. Try not to pack your own lunch next time."

With one final flying kiss, the thief slipped into the impossibly small vent with all traces of his arrival gone except for the two still unconscious bodies and the sweet taste on his lips.

So, he was now hopelessly infatuated with mysterious, sexy-looking men coming in through tiny vents to steal his work. That was only the beginning, the start of an almost mischievous chase that turned his humdrum upside down. It was complicated, but he never knew it was going to get any more complicated than it already was.

That was when it started -- their devilish game of hide and seek.