A/N: I know! It's been forever! But your patience has not gone unnoticed. What did I say this story was rated? PG-13? Well… I just upped it to R ;) Yep…. You're finally going to get to see some story progression here, folks. I would really, really love to know what you think of this chapter so please drop me a line. Thank you so much those of you who have all ready reviewed. Thanks! Now… on with the show! :=)

Instead of ruining his brother's good time Dave left quietly and told John to go home as soon as the party was over. However, instead of going home early like he'd told John he was, Dave found himself at the tree on the hilltop where he had first glimpsed Jing-Mei. It was where he liked to think and dream.

He sat down, idly tearing up bits of grass and leaves in thought. He'd never forget the look of terror he saw on Quan-Yin's face. He was ready to kill that man. But what could he do to help her? Jeez, now he'd probably gone and screwed up things for John. Mr. Xiang-Fu would probably never let his little brother and Mihn see each other again. Great. This whole day had been one huge mess ever since the moment he had spilled water on his clean shirt while eating breakfast. The one moment of the day he didn't regret was his time spent with Jing-Mei. He couldn't help but smile at the thought of her. Jing-Mei… it would be easy enough for him to sneak out at night, but what about her? She'd be taking a huge risk. However, she had been the one to suggest it. She was willing to accept the risk, which must mean that she felt the same way for him as he felt for her. Oh God, how beautiful she was- all of her! How warm she made his soul feel.

He looked to the sun. It was about four, eight hours until he could see her again. Unable to just wait he began thinking of what he would say. He rose and decided to go for a walk in the nearby forest, despite the quickly dropping temperature.

"David." His father greeted him firmly as he entered the living room. He glanced quickly from his mother to John and back to his father. They were all looking at him expectantly. He turned and hung up his coat.

"John says you left the party early, yet he returned nearly four hours before you."

"I went for a walk."

"The Xiang-Fu's claim you caused a disturbance."

Dave couldn't help but grin incredulously as he turned back to face his family. "A 'disturbance'?"

"Mr. Xiang-Fu says you threatened him."

"Well that's hardly fair-"

"Regardless of your intentions, David, the Xiang-Fu's will no longer accept our medical assistance. You or I are to never set foot in that household again."

His mother and John looked at him gravely. He didn't know what to say.

"This is serious, David. All it takes is one incidence like this to create distrust among the village, especially when we're the foreigners," he paused and looked at his son lovingly. "You've always been a responsible young man, David. I can't believe that you would do something like this. This affects the whole family."

"Father, I-"

Mr. Malucci raised an eyebrow.

"David," his mother began.

"Mother, I can explain. I did the right thing. Did Mr. Xiang-Fu even tell you what happened?"

"He said you interfered in family matters both brashly and boldly, causing domestic disturbance." His father's tone was even.

"Bullshit!" Dave's face sharply contorted in anger and his mother sharply intook a breath at his outburst, preparing herself to calm him down. "He was beating Quan-Yin and I stopped him. I didn't even touch him. I told him that if he ever did it again he'd pay," Dave was obviously upset. "And I couldn't possibly have caused any disturbance; the party was on the other side of the house!"

David Malucci rubbed his eyes. "Dave, I know it's wrong but it doesn't matter. You can't threaten someone like that. Not here."

"But Dad, what else can I do?" he looked as if her were on the verge of crying.

His father smiled at him sadly. "There's nothing we can do, Son."

"Yes there is! There has to be! You- you can't just say something like that Dad!" he paused and shook his head as he spoke the next words. "All of my life you've been telling me about the good of humankind and how we can make a difference in this cruel world. Then when I finally act on those teachings you resent it."

His father sighed. "David, it's much more complicated. What Mr. Xiang- Fu did to Quan-Yin was wrong. It always is. You know that. I know that. But we're Americans, David. We're Westerners. This is China. The Chinese don't drive automobiles. The Chinese don't have skyscrapers. This is an entirely different world. Change here is slow. If we want to make a difference we must start with the young. People like Quan-Yin's father aren't going to change. The only way we can hope to end such barbaric ways is to teach the upcoming generations and hope for the best. Otherwise you'll end up with your head on a pole paraded through the streets."

Dave's emotions had calmed slightly.

"David," his mother called for his attention. Why was everyone so suddenly full of insight for him? "It's the Boxers."

He shifted his weight. "What about them?"

John looked at him dully. "They've killed the Weisman's."

Dave blinked. "Wha-what?"

"They're creeping closer and closer, slaughtering all missionaries along the way," she paused to give him a meaningful look. "It's time to go."

Dave glanced at his father then to John and back. "B-but we're not missionaries…"

"I know," his father placed a hand on his shoulder. "It doesn't matter. We're Americans. We're white. To them that's crime enough."

"But we can't leave- we can't abandon the village."

"They've abandoned us!" John suddenly stood up, enraged. "Can't you see that?! The Boxers are all over the palace. They could be anyone. But you wouldn't notice that, would you? You're too busy performing for Mother and Father and doing all that you can to make me miserable!"

Dave looked pleadingly at his brother, knowing he was speaking of Mihn. "John, I'm sorry-"

"No you're not. You don't give a damn about me. All you care about is yourself!" he stormed out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him.

"John!" Dave called out after him.

"You better leave him alone- you know how he gets when he's in a mood like this."

"Mom, I didn't mean to do this. I just wanted to-"

"It's all right, sweetie. I understand." She ran her fingers through his hair affectionately. "Why don't you go read? That always calms you."

He looked at her with sorrow-filled eyes for a moment before melting into her embrace and comfort. "I love you," he whispered.

Natalia tried not to let the tears in her eyes fall. "I love you too, my dear sweet child. I love you, too."

She'd never known the night could be so cold. Jing-Mei shivered slightly as she watched her breath cloud before her. She wiped her nose. She couldn't help but nervously glance back at the house from time to time. Having taken great measures to be silent she had slowly but surely made her way out into the garden and was now seated on the bench as she had been earlier that day. She gazed at the spot where Dave had knelt and smiled, remembering him. What if he didn't come? He had to come, he said he would. What if she was caught? Her heart told her that it didn't matter if she was caught, it would have been worth it to see Dave, at least once more before she married that cold man.

She heard a slight crackle of twigs then a hoarse whisper. "Jing-Mei!"

She quickly rose and leaned over the garden's stone wall. "David?" she whispered back.

"Come on, I'll help you down!"

She frantically looked to either side of her. 'Help her down?' As in, leaving the security of her home with a man? She climbed to the edge of the wall. "Where are you, I can't see you!"

"I'm right here…. Are you alone?"

"Of course I'm alone! Now are you going to help me or not?!"

Dave suddenly appeared out of the beautiful darkness of night. He grinned when he saw her face, fully illuminated by the moonlight. Jing-Mei paused to look at him. The moonlight in turn danced in his eyes. What on earth was he doing just standing there? "David Malucci, what in the world are you doing standing there? Help me down!"

"Sorry," he moved forward and reached up for her. "Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Help me down before I change my mind."

He wasn't surprised at her light weight as he placed his hands on her hips and lowered her down. She tried not to notice how much his touch exhilarated her.

When she was safely on the ground again she tugged at her robes, straightening them, however before she had the chance to finish Dave had grabbed her hand and was pulling her into the forest that fringed the back of her family's property.

Without a word she followed him, trusting his night-adjusted eyes to lead them to safety. She couldn't see where they were going. They just wove through the trees, not speaking. Frightened by how much she enjoyed his touch and even his silent company she slowed down. In response he stopped. She looked back in the direction they had come from. Her home was so far away, it seemed. "I agreed to meet with you, not to run away with you."

"I just wanted to go somewhere where we could talk in peace."

She looked at him for a moment, then back to the direction of her home, suddenly feeling ashamed. She felt the blood rush up into her cheeks. "David, this isn't right. I should go back-" as she turned away he caught her wrist. In the same motion she spun back to him, never wanting to admit how happy she was that he had stopped her. He slightly furrowed his brow as he looked into her deep brown eyes as if searching for her truth there. "I just wanted to be with you," he gently ran his fingers through her long, loose black hair. She felt herself leaning in closer, as did he. In a moment their lips touched, gingerly at first but then broke out into a passionate kiss. Jing-Mei found herself wrapping an arm around Dave's head while tightly holding onto his coat with the other. For a few moments of ecstasy she lost herself in him, then almost violently pulled away, quickly turning and wiping at her lips. "This is wrong," she whispered.

Dave couldn't help but feel the same, although he didn't dare voice it. "Love is never wrong," he whispered.

She turned back to him and smiled weakly for a minute. "David…"

"I love you Jing-Mei. I love you more than I've ever loved anyone before." His eyes shone with truth.

"David. I… " She longed to also speak the words but something deep in her consciousness stopped her. "It changes nothing. Love cannot alter our reality." Her eyes were woeful.

"What do you mean?"

"David, I…. I'm to be married."

It felt as though someone had physically delivered a blow to his heart. He could not speak.

Tears began to stream down her face as she saw the hurt in his eyes.

Dave turned away for a moment, gazing up at nothing and resting his hands on his hips in thought. "Do you love him?" he finally whispered.


He turned to face her. "Do you love him?"

Jing-Mei swallowed. "That is not important. He can provide for me, he is a very powerful man." She tried to give him a weak smile of reassurance but it quickly died as she allowed herself to see his feelings.

"You don't love him. You can't marry someone you don't love. You're too good for that. You deserve better."

"David, it is not my decision to make. Please do not speak so highly of me."

"Why not?"

"You do not really know me," she cast her eyes to the ground.

"No… no that's your parents talking. I do know you. I know you like I've known you all my life. I can't explain it. But I know that you're the most amazing, brave, intelligent, beautiful person in the world. And I love you for that. I love everything about you." The conviction of his words was hard to push away and she had nothing to say to defend herself of such claims.

She continued to look at the ground, breathing quickly and unwilling to look at his face, afraid of the truth and virtue she would find there.

After a few moments of silence she heard Dave's soft, broken voice. "I, uh, I'm sorry, Miss Chen. I thought for a moment there that you cared for me also. I guess I was just something you had fun with before your wedding."

She glanced up at him quickly, her heart wrenching. She had to say something!

"You, you know where your house is. We didn't travel that far. I think I better go. I'm sorry for any pain I've caused you or ever will."

"David," she took a step forward, tears rolling down her cheeks.

"Jing-Mei, just… do me a favor and… forget that you ever knew me." He was all ready receding into the darkness of the forest. She couldn't believe what was happening. Why hadn't she said something reassuring! Instead she watched him disappear into the darkness of the night. She put her head in her hands for a minute and began to sob until she heard a loud crack. Or had her mind just made it seem loud? She listened for a few moments in silence, her ears and eyes straining. Part of her wished that the sound came from some ancient beast, coming to take her out of this life of misery and torture. She looked in the direction of her home. The moonlight lit the way slightly. She took a step forward, then stopped, feeling something wet plop on her head. She could hear the sound of light rain beginning to fall on the surrounding foliage. On an impulse that reflected her truest sense of self she spun and ran into the palpable darkness of the woods in the direction Dave had gone in.

How long had she waited? Where would he have gone to? Could she catch up with him? Oddly enough she pushed back all of her fears of the forest. The possibility of being caught, lost or killed all didn't seem to matter anymore. It was as if some invisible beam of light was guiding her through the sweet-smelling woods. She hardly noticed that the rain and foliage had soaked her robes and hair. She didn't mind. In the first time in what felt like forever she was alive.

She suddenly paused at the edge of a clearing. She was now obviously on someone else's property. She felt the cold wind chill her body as she simultaneously heard bells ring in the wind. Missionary bells. It was an abandoned home of westerners. She crept forward, towards the barn that was dimly lit by an oil lamp. She gently pressed on the door and heard it loudly squeak, announcing her presence. "David?" she whispered, her eyes peering about in fear.

The lamp which had grown dimmer suddenly flared to life, lighting up the room. In the second it took for her eyes to adjust to the rapid change in light she saw Dave crouched beside the lamp. He looked at her curiously as he scrambled to his feet. She let him look at her for a few moments before offering a small smile.

"You were right."

Dave blinked. "What?"

"You are always true to yourself."

"One can only try."

She stared at him longingly, struggling for words. He broke off her gaze.

"Jing-Mei, you shouldn't be here. You should be home where it's safe-"

"Wherever I am with you will always be safe." His face melted at her words. "David Malucci, I love you."

In the second of shocked silence that followed the two looked at each other. Suddenly Dave bounded forward, folding her into his arms as they kissed passionately once more. After a few moments they pulled apart, resting their foreheads together. "I don't understand… I thought-"

She put a finger to his lower lip to quiet him. "You always think so much. I never even spoke. I don't know what love is but I feel that I love you."

He giggled as they kissed again. "That is what love is, Jing-Mei."

She giggled, "that funny feeling in my stomach? That ache in my heart that drives me crazy?"

"That longing to be with you every minute of every hour, asleep or awake," Dave grinned as he joined in.

"Oh Dave," she ran her fingers through his hair, staring up into his eyes. "Love has never been real to me. Love is in ancient legends. Legends of men fighting for their women. Women fighting for their men."

"Jing-Mei I would fight for you. I would go to the ends of the earth and back again just for one kiss, one look, one moment in your presence. I'd rather die a thousand deaths, each more painful than the next, than never feel you again. If not in my heart then at my fingertips."

She hardly noticed that warm tears that slid down her face. Where did this angel come from? "Oh David, I love you, too. I could no longer bear life without you. I love every part of your existence," they simultaneously had fallen into a passionate kiss, each more intoxicated with each other than ever before. It took a while for Dave to pull his mind enough out of its elated state to notice that she had begun to unbutton his shirt and had snaked her hand inside, pressing it against his warmth as she felt his ribcage expand and compress as he breathed. In a moment her other cool hand was sliding up the right side of his chest to his shoulder where she began to push away the material that kept his body from hers. She suddenly wanted him more than she had wanted anything in her life.

"Jing-Mei," he had pulled his lips away slightly. She rested her forehead against his chin and looked down as she traced her hand over his pectorals. She gently let it slide down over the small bumps of his abdominal muscles and down to his belt, unbuckling it. Not being able to speak he gazed into her love-filled eyes as she turned them back towards his. She gently pulled his head down to hers and locked him into a deadly kiss of passion.

In a few moments she felt her bare skin against the dry yellow straw as her hands traveled up and down his body. She wished that she could somehow make love to every square inch of him to prove herself worthy of his love. Only a small portion of her mind remained unconsumed by her passion and in it she could hear the ages condemning her. She was committing the worst sin possible. Then why did it feel so right? Her body told her that it was right. Her heart told her that it as right. Only that small voice of conditioning dared speak out against her. Perhaps the knowledge that what she was doing was the worst possible thing a woman could do was what made it so erotically passionate. She felt her body convulse slightly with a small twinge of pleasure and she quickly put the thoughts of her future out of her mind, promising to give all that she could possibly give to this angel who had rescued her from her own mental and emotional prison.

It had taken all of the will power that Dave possessed to not climb the garden wall after her. They had all ready said good-bye a thousand times with a thousand different passionate kisses. But the cawing of a rooster had given Jing-Mei the adrenaline enough to sneak back into her home.

Dave remained where he had left her, underneath the garden wall, her taste still lingering on his lips. It wasn't until he heard someone shouting in the distant street that he noticed how long he had been standing there. He turned hastily and trotted back the way he had come. He'd have to sneak back into his room past John before he woke up. The sun was all ready rising as he climbed in through his shared bedroom window. He closed it as quietly as he could, glancing at John's bed. Uh oh. Where the heck was the little weasel? That was when he heard his mother's voice speaking with someone out in the other room. He glanced at the clock. Everyone must all ready be up. He quickly changed and combed his hair before stepping out into the hallway.

"Oh, David, you're finally up!"

Dave yawned, wishing he could go to bed. "What's going on?"

"I decided it would be best to get an early start on packing today."

Dave glanced about. The house was missing a few key items that had all ready been packed away.

"Did you get a chance to pack up you things yet?"

"No…. Not yet."

His mother paused in her folding of cloth and looked at him lovingly, giving him a warm maternal smile.

Dave suddenly felt guilty and gave her a quick smile in return as he turned away and walked back into his room. Closing the door he leaned his head against it, rubbing his eyes. His whole world had suddenly turned upside down as soon as he saw his mother's smile. Her warm, trusting smile. She trusted him… trusted him… had he violated that trust? She didn't know but he couldn't help but feel that last night had ripped through all of his morals. Half of him was crushed but he other half of him, the stronger half, would do it all again in an instant. But he had to do something. He had to somehow alleviate the pain his conscience was giving him.

He sighed, turning around to be suddenly confronted with John. Jeez that kid was quiet, he hadn't made a peep since Dave entered.

"Where were you last night?"

"Jesus, John. You scared me half to death."

"Don't use the Lord's name as a curse."

Dave shot him a resentful look as he crossed the room to his bed. "Since when did you become Mark Greene?"

"I'm serious David. Where were you?"

Dave picked up one of John's shirts that was lying on his bed and tossed it across the room at him. "None of your business."

John caught the shirt and turned away, his face contorted with frustration. "I really liked Mihn."

"Oh God, John, I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you."

"Her dad's… just… well, he's a….


John looked up sharply at Dave's obscenity.

Dave smirked. "Well it's true, isn't it?"

John slowly nodded, smiling. Wait a minute! He was mad at Dave and here he was liking the guy again! How did he do that?!

"So, uh, where're we going?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean America? England? Some other chauvinistic shit-hole?"

John blinked. Something had definitely changed in Dave. Something big. He'd never heard him speak like that before of his beloved China. "Dave?"

Dave had turned away and wiped a stray tear off of his cheek. "Not now, John," he quickly opened the door and strode out of the room, surprising his brother.

"Mom?" Natalia suddenly looked up at the cracking voice. Her expression softened when she saw the concern on his face.

"Yes, Honey what is it?"

Dave tried to calm his voice. "I want to get married."

Natalia just looked at him for a moment, in shock, then broke into a huge smile as she crossed the small distance to her son and hugged him. "Oh…. Sweetie. So who's the lucky girl?"

"She's Chinese, Mom."

She pulled away. "Well that's okay. We are in China, after all." She grinned.

Dave just smiled, so grateful that his mother approved. Maybe everything would be all right, after all. Little did he know that Elizabeth Greene had just uttered her last, horrified shriek as her throat was cut and her pale, lifeless body fell to the floor of her church at the feet of a Boxer.