Between Heroes and Villains (In which there is no good or bad, just shades of pain)

Chad's decision to make Gabi pay for her sins turns into a dangerous obsession, while Nick is haunted by the events that happened to him in prison, and Gabi must search herself for a strength she didn't know she possessed.

Chad, Gabi, Nick, Will

Author's Notes and Disclaimers:

The title should tell you that I don't write in black and white. No character in this will be dismissible as good or evil, right or wrong. Sometimes you'll like a character, sometimes you'll hate the character- I don't like DOOL's pension for trying to spell out who should take the blame.

This is NOT a Sonny/Will fanfiction. There are a ton of really talented writers out there giving them a go, and are doing a great job with them. I want to write something different than that. Sonny is in it, but he's a peripheral character, just like Abby is. I'm not trashing either character, I'm just not going to be writing for them extensively

My fictions have a tendency to lean toward the darker variety and this is no exception.

I 100% think Will is gay, but just because *I* think it, doesn't mean all the characters do.

(If you've watched up until Christmas 2012, you're all set. If not, recaps are your friend )

January 3rd, 2013

CHAD

He supposed he could let it go.

After all, focus was not entirely healthy due entirely to his DiMera lineage, which made focus just a few breaths away from obsession. He knew enough history to realize that. His blood roared with the need for vengeance, and he knew where that desire came from, he knew the kind of darkness that path offered. It was a path his father had taken, his brother and his sister too. That way did not lead to happiness. At least, not in the long run.

Chad was smarter than that.

But the need, it was like…the way fire needed oxygen. It was all consuming. It was all he could think about.

And Gabriela Hernandez was everywhere. The raven-haired little bitch turned up at every corner, with laughing eyes the color of onyx and bright smiles that blinded him with rage. She was going to marry a man she loved. She was going to have his baby. She was going to do all of the things that Chad was supposed to do with Melanie, all the things that she had destroyed for him. His hands clenched at that thought and at the sight of her in the Brady pub, wearing a loose white peasant shirt, a necklace with a vile carrying little black specks and a long black skirt that reached her ankles. She was giggling with her physical opposite, the blonde and light-skinned Abigail. He tried to focus on Abigail's form fitting red sweater and apple bottom jeans, but it was no use. Hatred cemented his attention on the laughing little psychopath who was getting everything that she wanted while he was bereft.

With all of his energy and will, he tore his eyes from the window he stared through and turned completely around. Instinctively his arms drew up around him to fend off the ice of January's unforgiving wind.

"I thought I saw you out here." Came the light and airy voice of Abby. He turned around and tried to give her a dashing smile. She was wrapped up in a warm and cozy maroon winter coat and cream colored Cloche hat with a matching scarf "Jeez, it's freezing out here, Chad. I know you have this mysterious hatred for Gabi, but is it worth catching a cold?"

She meant it as teasing, so he forced a laugh and was pleased with it sounding genuine. Abigail was easy to be around. She was fun and pretty. He had enjoyed dating her before being drawn to Melanie, but though he loved her once, he knew that he wouldn't again. There was some guilt there, as his self-awareness shrewdly and silently claimed that she was just a distraction. It was cruel to use such a sweet girl…

But the alternative was ever so frightening, and clinging to her warmth was really the only solution he had.

"I have you here to warm me up now."

Nothing had yet come of their renewed flirtation, and he understood why she was so reticent. After all, he had broken her heart for Melanie, so why go there again? Perhaps she also sensed his real motives, or rather, the reason he was pursuing her. Abigail wasn't always very bright though, so he doubted she could sense his disingenuous motives. Besides- he was hoping he could fall for her again, he wanted her to make it all better.

"Not really, because I have class. In fact, you have class too, remember?"

"Yeah, in like an hour." He said suggestively, moving in a little closer so that they were almost touching. He made the mistake of looking past the beauty though and back through the window of the Brady pub where Gabi was collecting her things from the table and putting them in her back pack. Her bangs, angled over her forehead, fell over her eye as she moved, only to be swept away a moment later by a nicely dressed Nick Fallon. He had a blue silk shirt on, gray slacks, his hair flattened down with gel into a professional style. She smiled widely at him as he turned so that he was facing her. Then he took her into his arms and pressed his lips against hers.

All the while Abigail's floral scent pushed through the frigid air into his nostrils, giving the whole world a surreal feel to it. Winter shouldn't smell like lavender. But Abby, who look like springtime, also shouldn't smell like the cold. "Earth to Chad…what are you staring at?" she turned around and then promptly shook her head. "Chad, you need to just let this go before it turns you into something you aren't."

He looked into her doe eyes, almost searching them, though for what he wasn't sure. "If you knew-"

"Then tell me."

He sighed with exasperation, if only he could tell her!

He tilted his head to the sighed and regarded his former girlfriend carefully, pondering a way to allow her to find out but without him having to say the words. He could think of nothing then, and so decided to simply bid her a quick farewell and start off to his first class. Sure it was an hour away, but what was the harm in arriving early and scoping out a decent seat? Besides, that was a place where Gabi wasn't, which was reason enough for him to go.

NICK

"Are you nervous?" Gabi asked as he assisted putting her leather coat on. He liked the way it looked on her, and the way the tan faux fur collar accented her soft, feminine features. Her dark hair was neatly kept into a ponytail, with her bangs swept to the right side of her face. He was glad that she often wore her hair like this for school, then let it down when she came back to her room- almost as if she were relaxing and being herself, just for him. He lifted one shoulder in a half-hearted response, and she laughed. "Not that you would tell me if you were."

"You would be the first person I would tell," he assured her, touching his palm to her cheek. "But I can't be nervous, not with you in my corner." This brought the thousand watt smile that might as well have been the beacon he would follow anywhere. It brought a grin to his own mouth and he lightly touched her lips to his, but it was she who deepened the kiss and wrapped an arm around his neck. Her mouth was soft and receptive to him, she tasted like decadent hot chocolate, her favorite drink and when she came up for air, cheeks flushed, he pressed her forehead against hers. "I think that you're the one who is nervous for me- but don't be. I know you wanted me to take Sami's offer, but I'm just more comfortable working for a neutral party."

She let out a little sound and when he opened his eyes he found her beautiful dark ones staring right into his. She took one of his hands into his, "I know, Nick. I just- Sami said that GMDA Corporation has had some lawsuits brought on them in the past-"

"They're a multi-billion dollar research company, baby. Of course they have." He smoothed a hand over her hair and then kissed her softly on the forehead, "I'm working for their energy division, okay? I won't run into any trouble, I promise, baby."

She was worrying a lot and he knew that couldn't be good for her or the baby, and so he always did his best to reassure her. She trusted his instincts and followed his lead for the most part, and he couldn't express how much that meant to him. What meant more, however, was the way that she looked at him- like he was something really special, like he was the only man in the world.

Sure, she liked Will, she wished Sonny would like her again- but she didn't trust either of them with all of her secrets like she did him. That meant something. That was important. "I believe you, but I still want you to be careful. Okay? If anything ever happened to you, Nick…"

"Hey," he touched her chin as she trailed off and closed her eyes, "look at me. I'll be here." Then he smiled, "but you won't be, because you'll be in class. Come on, I'll drive you to the campus on my way to work."

She grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder as they headed out the door of the pub, stopping short as Will entered.

Nick's blood ran cold.

He was the one person that could yank the rug out from underneath them, who could turn the fairytale Nick was trying to write, into a messy nightmare that they would never wake up from. Nick could tell from the way the boy's wide blue eyes flickered over him with disdain that there was no love for him, and that he was not entirely sold on the paternity lie.

As a way to comfort himself, Nick intertwined his fingers with Gabi's. They tightened around his hand in response and he felt slightly better at the touch of her soft skin, at her desire to hold his hand, at her need for him in her life. "Hey, Will. How are you doing?"

His hair, styled upwards on the left and a little more calmly on the right, looked surprised to see them. He made no move to take off his dark jacket, or the blue scarf that Nick, for some reason, remembered seeing on Sonny and not Will. "I'm alright." He told Nick, with a dubiousness that Nick wasn't fond of. "I just came by to see if Gabi wanted a lift to class."

Nick felt tension in his neck and shoulders begin to form, "that's okay," he tried to keep his voice easy and light, "I was just taking her now."

"But you have to go clear the other way for work," Gabi temporized with a frown, "that doesn't seem very fair, especially since Will and I have the same class." She turned to face Nick, reached up onto her toes to give him a kiss on the cheek. "You're the sweetest to want to take me, but this should be easier for you. I should at least try and make your life a little less complicated."

"You don't complicate my life, Gabi." He replied sincerely, "you make it better." He was loath to let her go, and didn't like it when she spoke to Will by herself. He was afraid her former boyfriend's input still meant a little too much for her and that he would convince her to go down a path they would all regret later.

She smiled at that, "mine too. Good luck your first day."

"You too. I'll text you on my break."

She kissed him lightly on the lips, "I love you."

"I love you too."

Finally he did let her go, then she spun around and started following Will out of the pub as Nick stared after them. His jaw tightened slightly, not at the idea of Will being gay, because as far as Nick was concerned, the guy's sexuality was fluid enough to impregnate Gabi. The discomfort, at the moment, was about Gabi's relationship with Will, about how Will could, at any moment, decide he wanted the baby, wanted Gabi…wanted it all….

The idea of someone taking everything from him created a fist of anxiety and anger in his stomach, conjuring memories that he'd much rather let go of. He banished the thoughts from his mind. It can't happen. It won't happen. Will wants his precious Sonny; not a baby with Gabi.

The thought of Will and Sonny together began to bring a panic in his chest that he could barely control, so he closed his eyes and forced a memory that he knew would banish the darkness.

"Um, This is amazing, what- why did you do all of this?"

Her skin was even warmer looking in the flickers of the flames and the way the shadows played on her already dark eyes made her beauty all the more mysterious and divine. He had been right to try and make it special in this way. Nothing had ever felt so predestined to him, so perfect as this moment did.

As she started to tuck her leg underneath her to sit in front of him, he confessed, "I wanted to make it nice." The words barely came out partly out of nervousness. He had been so sure she returned the feelings when he prepared the room, but now…that confidence was dwindling.

She looked around, with an almost apprehensive aspect. "Well you did." She swallowed with nervousness.

"For when I tell you I love you." Those came out quickly, and he searched her lovely, shadowed face for the reaction that he wanted.

What he received was a mixture of surprise and…something he couldn't quite place. She shook her head the tiniest bit, "You don't have to say that-"

"I know." He comforted her, "I want to. I love you." The words were so genuine to him, that it almost felt like she was some kind of magical rainstorm that washed all the dirt away and made him clean again.

With raised eyebrows, and tension at her mouth she responded, "I feel the same way."

"Then say it," came a desperate whisper. His need to hear the words outweighed any desire for food or oxygen than he had ever known, and it overwhelmed him to the point that he didn't care that he had to ask for the words.

"I love you too."

A second later they were one.

He smiled at the memory, then picked up his own coat from the back of the chair. He was excited about the new job. It paid far more than Kate or Sami had to offer, and it was completely separate from Will and his family. In addition, all employees of GMDA were encouraged to seek as much education as possible to ensure they were the top thinkers in the world. They wanted everything to be top-of-the-line and cutting edge. How could he not support that? How could he not be excited to be a part of it all?

It's like all of the cobwebs and fog of the past were being cleared away.

When he went into work, he was going to give it his all. He'd throw his focus into science, the way he was meant to and when he came home, he'd be coming home to Gabi- the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She was the kind of beautiful that started and ended wars, that artists spent their whole lives seeking, that writers devoted epic poems to. And she loved him. No. she didn't just love him- because he had been loved before. But even when he was loved, he was still the geek, the loser or the whatever. She didn't see him as any of that though, she saw him as her hero, she saw him as a man.

He let out a little breath at that last word.

"You okay, Nick? You look a little high-strung."

Nick looked up and smiled at Hope, "I'm good. Better than good."

"Great. I'm worried, you know- new job, new wife, new baby- that's a lot of stress."

He had always loved Hope, possibly the most of all the Horton clan and her continued support meant the world to him. Lying to her was not something he wanted to do, but telling her the truth just wasn't an option. "Well, you shouldn't be. It's change, but it's good change." He gave her a heartening smile, "I'm happier than I've ever been, and I know that's hard to believe, but it is true."

"Gabi must be really special."

"She is. She really is." He nodded, "and it isn't just her, it's everything. I've got this great new job, and I'm really looking forward to it. I feel like my second chance has really taken off and I'm not taking it for granted. I plan on fighting to keep it, Hope, with everything that I have and everything that I am."

WILL

It was strange, being around Gabi while she was carrying his child- yet him not asking about it, not talking about it and not even acknowledging it. He was almost afraid to, for it was such a touchy subject between them. He didn't want to upset her, not while she was pregnant.

He didn't want to hurt the baby, or her.

So while they made their way to Salem U, Will kept the conversation light. They talked about the possibility of his mother getting back together with her brother, they talked about his grandma Caroline's recovery, they talked about what to expect this semester and wondered aloud to each other if it would be anything like the previous semester. They even talked about the idea of her teaching him how to play pool so that he could "hustle" Sonny one day.

So the elephant in the room slunk back into its corner.

"Oh no, I will definitely teach you how to be a pool shark," she teased with a laugh.

Will made an easy left turn with his car and gave his friend a sideways look once he shifted lanes and pulled into the Salem U parking lot. He flashed the parking permit to the Security Guard in the front and then pulled into a space that was a quite a bit away from the Student Lounge, as the parking lot was pretty full. "But we have to do this in secret, okay? I want it to be a total surprise when I take him for all he's worth."

She laughed at that, "I have a similar plan with Nick."

"You're really happy." He noted, almost wistfully. He wished that he could be as happy as she was, but the nagging feeling of this baby she carried kept darkening that cloud nine he should be on. He already felt a connection with it, a connection he had no real right to, considering he had given it to Gabi and Nick to raise…

But was it the right thing to do? He wondered. Lying was rarely good, right? He learned that from his mother's tumultuous trip on the lying express. He didn't want to have to learn the lesson himself, at least not again. He had purchased a few tickets on it himself, and that had never reached the destination he had planned on. It always got derailed one way or another.

"I am." She said softly, eyebrows drawn together, "and you are. Everyone is."

He made no comment.

"Will?"

"As long as the baby is happy, right?"

There was a long silence, because she had probably been avoiding the subject as much as he had. He wondered if they could even be friends during all of this, or if it would be too much of a tight rope walk for them. Already things were tense and uncomfortable, and that isn't what a friendship was supposed to be like.

But who was he kidding? He had no ideal relationships right now, he was lying to everyone and he was more than a bit jealous that Gabi had Nick to tell the truth to- even if Nick was no more ideal than any other criminal. He still had no idea what she saw in Fallon, and was beginning to suspect that he was more than a little bit homophobic. Little pieces were beginning to connect in his mind- how quiet Nick was around he and Sonny versus the Nick that Gabi talked about. It was almost like she was describing an entirely different person.

Will longed to talk to Sonny about it, but he didn't want to bring it up because Gabi seemed to be such a sensitive subject with him.

Was there anyone he could talk to about everything?

It was such an impossible situation. "Well, here we are." Will sighed, breaking the long, awkward silence. "At least classes will probably be normal."

"Yup." She agreed, "and I'm glad that we at least have one class together. Thanks for taking intro to Philosophy with me, I really think we are going to enjoy it. "

She didn't inquire again about his happiness, and he suspected it was because she no too afraid of the answer.

GABI

The Student Lounge was filled with the buzz of returning students reuniting after a short winter break. There was an excitement and busyness in the air that filled Gabi with cheerful and optimistic thoughts. She and Will still had twenty minutes before class, so they were seated at a table for two, her with a cup of herbal tea and him with his coffee. Their conversation had been filled with idle chatter about upcoming classes, the tense and trying conversation in the car far behind them.

"What's with the sudden interest in psychology, Gabi?" Will asked as he took a sip of his coffee and handed her back the schedule she had let him take a gander at.

She shrugged, not really sure what to say. It was not as if she could really tell Will that she sometimes questioned her own sanity after what happened with Andrew. If he knew the truth, he could hate her forever and thus another link to her past, one where she still had innocence, would be destroyed. "I'm thinking of changing majors," she replied and it was a half-truth, and half-truths were the only remnants of honesty she could cling to anymore. "Psychology is interesting, so I thought I would try it out."

"Maybe you can figure your fiancé out." Will joked, she leveled him with a glare and he snapped his mouth shut.

She loved Will, loved what he represented about herself, but Nick was everything to her now. He was the knight in shining armor she had always wanted as a little girl, the guy who really loved her and would do anything to protect her. He was so smart, far more intelligent than she was, and so funny. She had never loved another as she loved him, and so quickly too. Her desire for him physically was palpable, and due to his returned desire, it was sexier and more grown up. She was willing to go places with him that she had never gone before.

"I'm sorry. I know I said I'd chill out about Nick but…I mean," Will spread his hands out and bit his lip, "he didn't even want me to give you a lift to school, Gabi. Isn't that even a little worrisome to you?"

"Will," Gabi lowered her voice and leaned in, "he loves this baby and you can take it away from him at any time. It doesn't take a shrink to figure out that he's terrified of that."

"I guess." Will sighed, "let's get to class, okay?"

She nodded, relieved to not have to talk about Nick's feelings any longer. It felt like a betrayal, and with how many times she had almost leaked the truth about the baby, she felt like she had betrayed Nick enough. He was the one person she truly, completely and utterly trusted with everything and she wanted him to feel comfortable returning that sentiment.

The classroom was a lecture hall with cream walls, tan trim and brown carpeting. The seats were a gray plastic and rather uncomfortable looking- but regardless, a good many of them were already filled and from the looks of it, the class size already went beyond 100. "Wow. Maybe we should have skipped the lounge, huh?" Will asked as he found them a seat toward the center. Gabi nodded and sat beside him before retrieving her binder and pen from her bag.

"I'm not surprised." Gabi replied, shrugging off her coat and then taking a sip of her tea. "Dr. Fitz is a world renowned professor and best-selling author. She's like…the rock star of professordom."

"Oh? I didn't know that."

"I did some research before taking the class." She explained, "here, I printed you out the syllabus." She handed him the copy from her binder.

At the top of the paper, before it said anything else, there were a bulleted list of questions. Instead of the name of the class, or anything else that usual syllabi had. She typed up some notes herself the night before and put them in parentheses next to the given inquiries.

What is truth? (Can there be some algorithm for finding truth – some recipe or procedure for deciding, for any claim in the system of, say, arithmetic, whether the claim is true?)

Is the mind separate from the body? (Dualism and Monism)

What is knowledge? (Epistemologists study what makes up knowledge, what kinds of things can we know, what are the limits to what we can know, and even if it's possible to actually know anything at all.)

What is good? (important or valuable)

What is justice? (The quality of being just, impartial or fair)

Are we free or are our actions determined by that which we have no control over? (Free will? God?)

What is real? (What does it take to make something real? How do we determine whether or not something is real?)

Gabi had already gone over the questions the night before when she couldn't sleep and had done some research on them as well, but found little clarity. Her religious views aside, which seemed to answer some of the question, the whole ordeal was confusing. She hoped the course itself would provide insight- because the questions now ate at her mind as they never had before- and with good reason. She was no saint, and hardly understood what was right and wrong, let alone anything in between. She caught Will looking over at her syllabus and the notes that she had written on it already. "Wow, when did you find time to prepare for this class? You're getting married in like a week."

"Your mom has pretty much taken care of absolutely everything." Gabi explained sheepishly, "I've had to do so little, it almost doesn't feel like my wedding. I mean, um, don't get me wrong, Will. I'm grateful. I didn't, um, want to sound ungracious or anything, It's just-"

"Chill, Gabi. I know my mother and how she can be." He gave her that little half-smile she remembered being so fond of when they were dating. Strange how she had no attraction to him anymore, considering how much she had once loved him. Could the heart change so much in just a short while? She looked past him to the front of the room, then shushed Will as Dr. Fitz started situating her items on the desk in the front. She hadn't even noticed the professor entering the room.

Fitz was a tall, statuesque woman with a long straight nose, a thin, tight mouth and shrewd blue eyes that Gabi imagined missed very little. Her hair was short, with jagged edges and deep rich auburn color. She was wearing a flowing navy blue skirt, an off the shoulder black sweater. Gabi knew her to be 35, but outside of those wise blue eyes of hers, she looked so much younger than that. Immediately transfixed, Gabi quieted her friend Will again despite the fact that the woman wasn't even speaking.

The way the woman's eyes slid over her classroom, taking in the eager faces, made Gabi envious. This was a woman who probably didn't make poor choices, this was a woman who probably always knew the right thing to say. Maybe I can learn a lot from her.

The classroom's noise leveled into silence as she paced before them, scanning the crows without saying a word. There were no longer even whispers among the students, or papers rustling. There was just an anxious silence that imbued the air with was far more interesting looking and striking than the picture next to her profile on the University's website made her out to be, and when she spoke, her voice was a cool, clear sound like rain falling on a lake. "I'm Dr. Fitz, Salem U's very own question addict- changer of minds and all around odd bird, so to speak." Was how she started the class off.

There were some chuckles

"This is Intro to Philosophy, so if you're in the wrong class- bolt now, or maybe not. I mean, maybe I can convince you to stay, right?" She gave a cheeky wink. "Now most of you are here to fill out some kind of prerequisite so you can move on with your lives." She put up her hands, "I'm not judging you, I was once in your position, you see- I wanted to be an engineer. They make better money." Another joke, more laughter. "That obviously changed."

Gabi already knew that she was going to enjoy the class, there was something charming about the woman.

"I'm hoping that just because it's a prereq, doesn't mean that you won't take the class seriously, because peering into the world of philosophy changes your very way of thinking if you let it. It forces your mind to question everything, to look at the world more critically, and to, ultimately, live the best you can in the time you have here." With that she gave a winning smile, but Gabi was then distracted by Will touching her arm, and leaning over to whisper:

"To your right, two rows down." Gabi looked at the suggested area and tried to keep her face as neutral as possible, knowing that she wasn't doing such a wonderful job of it. Chad's dark eyes were boring into her like two flames and she could almost feel the hatred emanating off him. "Why does he hate you so much?"

Gabi gave a slight shake of her head and then tried, very hard, to focus on what the professor was saying. She had been looking forward to this class, and now Chad was going to be in it? Ruining it for her? Constantly making her think about what she had done and how it could all come out and ruin her life at any second?

If he told Will…if Will knew…

Her hand went to her stomach protectively.

Everything would be ruined.

"As part of my campaign to be the world's favorite professor, I have found the cheapest, but best book possible. My own!" She held up the light purple textbook with her left hand. "I chose it because with some deals, I could make it the cheapest text you'll ever own….free." She placed it down on her desk, "now- to be even more unorthodox, and because this is a two hour class and I didn't have an assignment for the first day, I will call down names individually, give each person two books. Printed in the second book will be the name of their partner for the entire semester, so when you get up here, call the name out." She gave them a severe look, "I'm a huge fan of the buddy system, because in college, you need it. Now, don't worry- I had my assistants do the picking, so you'll be matched with someone in your afternoon recitations." She smiled broadly, "so when you get your partner, sit with them, you'll have a few moments to talk before I start lecturing about what we'll be doing for the rest of the semester."

He was still staring. Gabi could almost feel tears burning at her eyes, and she tried to hold them back.

The professor read the name Michael Cervanski, who walked to the front of the room, read the name out of the second textbook he was given, and a female went up to the front of the room to retrieve her book. The pair walked to the left and searched for two open seats together, having a hard time trying to find them. Fitz called the second name- and this went on until seats started to open up in pairs and students had an easier time finding their way.

When she called Chad DiMera's name, Gabi's heart stopped.

He walked to the front of the room, not that Chad ever walked like a normal person, she had always considered it more of a stalk, like a tiger with its prey.

Gabi wet her lips and looked down at her hand, she wished that Nick was there, holding it. Dealing with Chad was always easier with him around, supporting her, making sure that he didn't hurt her. Nick always knew what to say and how to say it. She envied his intelligence, his understanding of a world that sometimes just left her completely confused and bewildered.

She missed how safe he always made her feel, how loved, how special.

"Gabriela Hernandez."

Her name rang out through the lecture hall crisply and clearly, and a note of disdain. She swallowed hard as her eyes met his over the crowd of students.

Printed in the second book will be the name of their partner for the entire semester, so when you get up here, call the name out.

Before she could stop herself, the words escaped her lips: "Oh….shit."