Soul Alone 2: Apart
Written by Justine

AUTHOR'S NOTE: It might be easier if you read the first part of the series, Soul Alone: Together, for a better grasp on the tone and plot but if you don't want to or if you need a quick rundown here goes. When we last left our heroes, Tim and Lewis were investigating a series of murder/rapes committed by a wealthy and crazy man named Barlow but they didn't have the proof to arrest him. Tim and Frank had hot, hot sex for a very long time. And at the end, Tim received a call from Lewis asking for a meeting to discuss a lead on the case. Now without further ado...

Lewis watched Frank carefully, happy that the dim lighting masked the look of disbelief on his face. That lousy bastard was blaming him for Tim's trouble. //Unless you didn't notice Frankie boy, we're all in a heap of shit.// He'd fought hard against making the call to lure Bayliss into a trap and had in fact resisted Barlow's first demand to phone his partner. Too bad for all of them the evil fuck could be so convincing. The gun aimed point-blank into the middle of Frank's skull was all the incentive Lewis needed.

"Don't freakin' stare at me like that Frank. Would you rather I let that bastard blow your head clean off your shoulders?" He cringed. "You're goddamned tie wouldn't hang straight."

"You called him." Frank's voice was accusing but he knew Lewis wasn't really to blame.

"Fuck you." Lewis advanced on Frank.

"Fuck me." He spun on Lewis. "You picked up the phone and you called him." Frank shrugged. "This is what I can't believe."

"I didn't have a choice!"

"Of course you didn't." Frank said sarcastically then backed off and closed his eyes. "I KNOW you didn't." His head was spinning. It hurt…god it hurt. "What the hell does he want with Tim?"

"What do you think? He wants revenge. Crazy bastard thinks we were getting too close." Lewis sat heavily on the concrete and examined his surroundings for the millionth time. It hadn't gotten any better.

Frank considered the situation. Something wasn't right. If Barlow wanted to kill Tim, why abduct him and Lewis as well? It was a risky move to kidnap three homicide detectives. He frowned. Make that two detectives Frank reminded himself. "It's something about that last body."

"The one that looked like Tim?"

Frank nodded. "Maybe this time a duplicate isn't enough for him. Maybe this time he needs the real thing."

Lewis shuddered. The near empty room with its windowless walls and dirt floor was starting to get to him. I bet when this is over he just gives us a shovel and tells us where to dig, he thought. He tried to change the subject. "Where are we?"

"Well, you gave him the address.

"I don't think Barlow would be so stupid to let me give him the right one. He's probably gonna take Timmy at that fake address much like he did us. Kicking andscreaming."

Frank leaned heavily against the wall. / What an idiot! / One year out of homicide and he'd let himself be abducted by a murderer. //What the hell happened to my instincts?// He rubbed the swollen spot at the back of his head where he'd been struck by the butt of a handgun. Frank grimaced. He slid down the wall and started to drift. "I gotta rest my eyes for a minute and then we'll figure something out. Then we'll…." He felt himself drifting, his vision slowly being blotted away by pieces of a blackening puzzle. Frank started to explain to Lewis but suddenly lacked the ability to speak. The sweat on his neck was very cold and he shuddered remembering the helplessness he felt during his stroke. The utter lack of motor control and mental capability were devastating. He raised his hand to his head and groaned. The rest was blackness.


The strong and familiar voice shook him out of his sleep.

"Wake-up Frank. Come on."

He opened his eyes to see Tim slapping him a little too hard across the face.

"All right! I'm awake." He pushed Tim's hand away. "Stop hitting me, okay?"

Tim relaxed but watched Frank carefully. "What the hell's the matter with you Frank? You know better than to fall asleep after being hit on the head." Frank was sweating heavily and Tim frowned.

"I'll remember next time dammit." He shrugged away Tim's concern.

"Well you better." Tim stood back unconvinced. Frank was not the kind of guy who asked for help whether he needed it or not.

"Stop mothering me Bayliss!"

"You wanna die Frank, fine!"

"I don't want to die Tim. Just leave me the fuck alone." Frank struggled to stand, shaking off Tim's supporting hand.

"You sleep, you die." Tim took a deep breath. "I need…." He looked at Lewis. "We need you to live," Tim amended.

"Don't bother me and I'll be fine." Frank didn't know why he felt so angry. The hurt and dismay in Tim's expression was startlingly clear. // Can't I ever leave well enough alone? Why do I always need to hurt him? //

"Are you the second shift?" Frank rubbed his temples. "When did you get here?"

"Barlow nabbed me at Lewis's phony address. That was oh…." He looked at his watch. "Maybe an hour ago but I've only been here for ten minutes. It was a long drive." Tim paused. He noticed Frank's pain. "Maybe you shouldn't be standing."

"Maybe you should try and take care of yourself for a change." Frank stood straighter and started to pace.

"Fine Frank. I'll leave you alone. If you're tired just take another nap. Sure, maybe you won't wake up but you'll die with your pride intact." Tim crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the wall.

"Terrific!" Frank wished he wasn't yelling. "Next time I'll wear a football helmet."

"You are such a stubborn pain in the ass." Tim tried again. "Just sit down." He frowned. "Please."

"I don't need your damn pity."

"It's concern Frank," Tim seethed.

"I don't care what it is!" Frank spun to face his friend. Why the hell were they fighting? He wondered briefly about the old adage on sex ruining a friendship but decided against it. Arguing was much more commonplace for the two of them than last night's romp had been. Not as much fun to be sure, but definitely more familiar.

Lewis whistled sharply. "Hey! I don't know what's gotten into the two of you but I think the devil's at the door." He pointed over his shoulder. "We're getting company."

The door opened slowly and Barlow and two other men holding guns walked inside. Frank recognized the bigger guy as the one who hit him. The other man was shorter but stocky with tattoos covering both his arms. Next to him, Tim stiffened slightly, a small gesture that captured Frank's attention.

"Welcome to my party." He gestured to the larger man who grabbed Tim by the arm. "Me and Detective Bayliss have business to discuss so regrettably we can't stay to chat."

"What kind of business?" Frank asked suspiciously.

Barlow smiled. "The personal kind." He queried Tim without turning his head. "Isn't that right Detective?"

Tim nodded soundlessly. "It's fine. It's okay." He closed his eyes tight and took a deep breath before staring directly at Frank. Tim trembled slightly hoping Frank didn't notice. "I made a deal." He turned to leave.

"A deal? With this fuck? Have you finally gone crazy Bayliss?" Lewis's voice thundered across the desolate room.

"What kind of deal?" Frank lowered his voice. "Tim? Answer me."

Lewis continued. "Don't do anything for him Timmy. He's gonna kill us anyhow." He smirked at Barlow. "Isn't that right bunk?"

Tim looked back. "It's gonna be fine." The man with the gun pushed him towards the door. "I'll be okay."// Don't look at me that way Frank. I don't have a choice.// He felt the other man's intense glare cutting into him as he vanished out the door.

Barlow smiled at his remaining guests. "As long as he does what I tell him." The smile vanished. "As for the two of you, if Bayliss behaves you live. If not, you die. It's that simple." He shrugged and pointed at Lewis. "And Detective Lewis, since I like you least, I'll kill you first."

"You bastard." Barlow exited to Lewis's shrill howls. "You're a fucking dead man Barlow."

The thud of the door resounded in the stillness. Frank and Lewis retreated to separate corners, helpless, angry and frustrated beyond all comprehension.


Tim watched the door close behind him and immediately started looking for a way out. He'd been escorted to the tiny room in the dank, old factory building and corner, completely made with sheets and pillows. He frowned at the implication and turned away. It had all happened so fast….

He arrived at the address Lewis gave him on the telephone only to find his partner missing and a long black car waiting. Barlow exited the vehicle and Tim drew his weapon. He remembered thinking it was a set-up the moment his suspect smiled.

Barlow had an evil smile that always reminded Tim of a joker on a deck of cards. When his mouth was set in casual conversation, he was a charming, attractive man. But god forbid if you told him a joke, then his entire countenance changed dramatically. The smile started at the far reaches of his mouth, an almost clown-like façade that dipped it's bottom lip low to the chin while the top lip curled upwards revealing perfectly white chipmunk teeth. It always seemed to Tim that Barlow couldn't decide whether to laugh with you or bite your nose off. He shuddered. Clowns always spooked him anyway.

"Come with me Detective Bayliss." When Tim hesitated, "Or your friend dies."

He hadn't known at the time that Frank was a part of the bargain but Lewis was problem enough. "Where's my partner?" he'd asked, chilled to the bone when Barlow smiled again. "Where's Lewis?"

"Lewis is dead -- if you don't get in the trunk." Every shred of experience told him to refuse but Tim chose to listen to his conscience.

"We talk here." He didn't lower his weapon as he moved slowly towards the car, taking notice of the large man with a beard in the driver's seat.

"Somehow I knew you'd be stubborn so I made sure to get a little extra clout." He paused and the smile disappeared. "Did I use the singular? I believe Mr. Pembleton makes it "friends." Barlow watched him carefully. "Get in the trunk."

Tim felt himself turn numb. No, not Frank. It couldn't be. He had just seen his friend this morning. They had parted as strangers after experiencing the deepest reaches of intimacy and it still hurt. He found it hard to believe that last night ever happened at all. He closed his eyes. Now Frank was in danger because of him. Tim searched Barlow's face and realized the bastard wasn't joking. His gun dropped. Barlow unclenched his fingers from around the weapon and tossed it in the front seat.

He had no voice to refuse. What if Frank was already dead? Tim's stomach clenched at the thought as if he'd been punched. The nausea wasn't far behind. He had lost his friend once already; he wasn't prepared to do it again. Barlow stroked Tim's cheek and he shivered. Not many men were taller than he was but Barlow towered obtrusively over his thinner frame.

"Get in the trunk," he repeated softly.

Tim looked at Barlow, really looked at him for the first time and was staggered by the depth of cruelty he saw reflected in the ice blue eyes. This man would kill him without a second thought, but he wanted more. There was something sinister clamoring for space in that venomous stare that Tim couldn't quite pin point, a feral glimmer that offered untold pleasure at an unspeakable price. He realized with both a measure of relief at his mental aptitude for the human psyche and a sense of dread for his own physical person that what he saw in the expression was pure unadulterated lust. Barlow wanted him and Tim didn't know how to refuse. When the bearded man exited the car and bound him with his own cuffs he didn't put up a fight. Tim curled up in the trunk and shuddered, the irony of his position paralleling the countless bodies he'd found in the very same way.

He lost track of the time they spent driving and wished he could see the dial on his glow in the dark watch. When the car finally stopped he estimated it must have been at least a forty-five minute drive. Tim was hustled out of the trunk and pushed into an abandoned old building he didn't recognize.

Tim could feel Barlow's hot breath creeping down his neck. He didn't look back when a steady hand grabbed his shoulder. Barlow nuzzled his ear and groaned.

"Your body for their lives. Do we have a deal?"

Tim started to spin around but Barlow held him in place. "You can't be serious." He was suddenly very, very cold.

"I want to fuck you." He paused. "Yes or no Detective." Barlow pushed his pelvis hard against his captive and pulled Tim back to meet his thrust. "Life or death."

The hand moved from his shoulder to his hip settling possessively against his thigh. Tim moaned softly. He thought of Frank and Lewis and immediately knew what his answer would be. "Yes," he said simply and closed his eyes….

"Daydreaming Bayliss?"

Tim shook himself out of the memories and stared into the face of Satan. The smile was back, the white teeth stark against the naked darkness. "So, what now…you've come to collect?"

"I admire you detective."

"You do." It wasn't a question. Barlow closed the door behind him and Tim felt his claustrophobia increase. There certainly couldn't be enough oxygen in here for two. Only the cold air kept him stable.

Barlow nodded. "Just my rotten luck that you picked up the phone. I've never encountered anyone retentive enough to come so close to me. And after the very first murder too. Amazing." He removed Tim's jacket and threw it on the floor. "Your partner didn't think I was involved at first, but you convinced him."

"Why did you do it?" Tim asked quietly. "Why did you kill them?" He was trying desperately to ignore what was happening but Barlow's roaming fingers weren't making it easy. They traveled across his chest and down to his abdomen, stroking an intimate claim to his body. Tim tensed when a particularly bold caress roamed possessively across his stiffened nipples.

Barlow smiled and squeezed before shrugging his answer. "I wanted to get away with murder."

"It doesn't look like you got away with anything."

"And Mr. Edgars?" Tim asked tonelessly. //Stop touching me there. Don't…don't …don’t'//

"A passable likeness don't you think?" Barlow twisted Tim's hair in his fingers.

"You messed up," Tim moved away slightly but Barlow pulled him back.

"Take a look around Tim. I think I've done just fine." The smile disappeared. "I'm in the bedroom of a very beautiful man who desires me. I'm wealthy. What more do I need?"

"Sanity?" Tim offered and was quickly backhanded for the effort.

"Don't assume you know me detective or you won't last as long as I want you too." His finger traced the bloodied line of Tim's lips. Just beautiful, he thought, I'm going to have lots of fun with this one.

Realization dawned on Tim. "You're going to kill the three of us anyway." It wasn't a question.

Barlow smiled. "In all probability, yes. But wouldn't you like to buy you and your friends some time?"

Tim started to shake as Barlow moved closer. His helplessness was disgusting. Once, long ago, he had felt this way and the memories had never left him.

"Would you rather I shoot them quickly or dice them into little pieces?" He undid Tim's tie and belt slowly, savoring the look of pure dread that crossed his face at every touch.

"You'll enjoy this," Tim was told for the second time in two days but this time he definitely had his doubts.


"How long has it been?" Lewis was nervous and it showed.

"A little over three hours." Frank's ebony eyes were closed, his head hung low in his hands. He couldn't stand to imagine what was happening to Tim. Barlow was a disgusting animal that Frank wanted very much to destroy. It had been a very long time since he fired a weapon but that didn't really matter. If Barlow hurt Tim he would die even if Frank had to use his bare hands to do it. He stroked down the inside of his thigh and felt the snug fit of a 22 caliber handgun. He didn't even remember taking it with him from New York but now he was glad he did. It still amazed Frank that Barlow's men missed it in the search but they probably figured since he wasn't a detective he wasn't packing. He frowned. Now was not the time to get overconfident. What the hell made him think he could save Tim this time? The last time he held a gun in his hand had nearly cost his partner his life.

"What kind of deal would Timmy make with this bastard?" Lewis looked confused. "It's like selling his soul to the damn devil or something."

Frank never had time to answer. Barlow came through the door with a flourish. "Gentlemen, I trust the accommodations are suitable."

"They are not." Frank clenched his fists. "Where's Bayliss?"

"We're enjoying him, you know." Barlow smiled. "And he us, I'm sure."

Frank was livid but remained silent. Lewis was a different personality type all together.

"You are gonna pay for this. So help me if you hurt my partner I'll kill you."

Frank turned briefly at the other man's furious words. It was strange to think of Tim as anyone else's partner but he had given up the right to the title long ago, nomatter how much he might long to re-claim it. Besides, partnering up was simply the way it was done in Homicide. The simple logic made him frown. He had been replaced and it didn't make him feel a hell of a lot better.

"Did you hear me?" This time Barlow's words were addressed to Frank.

"I did." Frank stared him in the eyes. Every nerve in his body tingled with fear for Tim and hatred for the pompous man who bragged so powerfully about hurting him.

"And?" Barlow moved closer until they were standing face to face. He was at least two inches taller than Bayliss, and he practically towered over Frank, but somehow the height was insignificant. Three out of Frank's six feet were pure attitude.

"And I know you're not a stupid man. Dangerous maybe but you're smart enough to know that if you kill a cop you never get out of this. No matter how crazy you try to plead yourself into being, it won't work anymore. " He silently prayed that his assessment was correct. Barlow smiled in reply and Frank felt his insides turn to jelly. Inwardly he groaned. Tim had to be alive. They had parted poorly this morning Frank knew, and it was mostly his fault. He wanted another chance to explain to his friend, to let him know how special last night had been.

"Is Bayliss alive?" Lewis asked quietly.

Barlow ignored the question. "I'm surprised. Homicide cops should have more patience than that." Barlow laughed again, finding delight in Lewis's angry expression. "You wear your emotions on your sleeve Meldrick. That's why you were never able to catch me."

"We got you now scum. We got you."

"Are you sure of that? Really sure?" He reached into his coat pocket and removed a small pistol. Lewis barely heard the shot.


The fire was first.

It scrambled his brain and screamed his name. Lewis tried to concentrate on Frank's soothing voice but the pain in his chest denied all his best efforts. He tried to reach out and touch his body, to assure himself that he was indeed still whole, still living and breathing. He was in desperate need of some small confirmation that the agony that claimed him was more than a lie designed to deceive him into believing he was not dead, while in reality he did not exist at all.

"Lewis stay with me." Frank unbuttoned his shirt and applied pressure to the wound. The blood started its macabre, crimson flow, blossoming like a flower, seeping and spouting through Frank's steady fingers, determined to empty itself from the human container that held fast.

"It's your right shoulder. Don't move." He tore off a piece of his jacket and wrapped tight under Lewis's arm and around his neck. "It's gonna be all right but you won't be firing any guns for a while."

Sitting on the floor, cradling his friend's bloody body in his arms, Frank shuddered as a cruel streak of déjà vu reminded him of another time, another friend. Lewis's wound was not in the same league as Tim's had been. It was painful and mean but Lewis would recover quickly. By late evening Frank had no doubt he would be up and complaining to anyone who'd listen.

But Bayliss was different.

Bayliss had died on him. The stupid, dumb bastard had stepped in front of a bullet meant for Frank and died on him. He had wanted to cry then, in fact he had cried, the weight of his screams and prayers singing his heartbreaking despair to both God and man. He vaguely remembered Tim telling him everything would be fine. Infamous last words that Frank had heard before under other circumstances from a dying man trapped beneath a subway car. He cringed at the memory of that other senseless death and went back to tending Lewis.


"The crazy mother shot me!"

Frank glanced briefly at Lewis's aggravation. "Yes he did."

Lewis opened his mouth to continue but stopped. A tirade at this point would probably make him feel better but it wouldn't do Frank or Timmy any good at all. He counted to ten and took a deep breath. "He's not dead Frank."

Frank turned to him, cold black eyes speaking volumes. "That's what a small part of me is afraid of."

"Now why did you have to go and say something like that, huh?" Lewis struggled to sit up, flinching when he leaned too heavily on his wounded arm. "Damn!"

"Well, what do you think, "enjoying him" means?" Frank countered. "That they're having a party? That Bayliss is having a good time?"

"It doesn't mean their hurting him."

Frank stared at him for a moment. He knew Lewis better than that.

"Don't say it Frank."

"It means they're raping him."

"Jesus." Lewis closed his eyes and leaned back. The entire left half of his body was throbbing and his head was starting to hurt.

"You know Barlow's MO is rape and murder and Tim is more than just a thorn in his side - he's the man who wants to put him away. "

Lewis considered but shook his head.


Lewis sighed. Nothing escaped Frank Pembleton's eye. That's what made him the greatest. "Sometimes in the box, during the interrogation, I kind of got the feeling he was flirting with Bayliss. Like he wanted to turn him on or something." He frowned.

"Did Tim think that?" Frank looked concerned.

"If he did, he never mentioned it to me. Of course, flirting with men is not something he'd readily discuss in light of everything that's happened."

"Yeah, I know all about that." Frank seethed. "Tim deserved better from all of you." He hadn't been there when his partner needed him most and didn't cherish the reminder. Frank would live with that guilt for the rest of his life but hopefully he'd have one more chance to make it up to Tim.

"We were hard on him Frank but that's over now for most of us." Lewis winced. "Gharty can be a pain in the ass though but Timmy doesn't let it get to him."

"You sure about that?" Frank thought briefly of Bayliss. "He's more vulnerable than you think." If they raped Tim, he shuddered to think of the consequences. His friend still couldn't forgive himself for being molested as a child, how in the world would he be able to forgive a sexual assault at thirty-eight? Or assaults he reminded himself. Barlow had said, "We're enjoying him," not I'm enjoying him. God how he hated semantics.

"Think Tim's ever done it with a guy?" Lewis bit his lip in regret the moment he spoke. Frank's face offered no sympathy.

If only you knew, Frank thought, carefully choosing his words.

"Now why do you think I would be privy to that information? You think Tim tells me about his sex life? You think I want to know?" Frank's mind was spinning. According to Tim until last night he was still a virgin when it came to male sex. But I couldn't really be the only one…. He found himself hoping his belief was outdated, that maybe Tim had found a man before Frank re-entered his life that he felt comfortable enough with to explore his new found feelings. He remembered Tim's innocent yet sensual responses and knew without a doubt that he had been the first

"I was just asking," Lewis was on the defensive.

"Well I don't know, okay?"

"Fine." Lewis tried again. "I just thought it might be, I don't know, easier maybe if he had. He and Rawls were an item for a while." He froze under Frank's glacial stare. "I know it sounds stupid but if it's not his first time maybe…." His voice trailed off.

"You say that to all your female rape victims?"

"That's not what I meant Frank." Lewis closed his eyes. "I don't know what I mean. I'm worried about him too."

Frank ignored him, nostrils flaring. "I get it now."

Lewis looked up. "You get what?"

"If you knew that Bayliss never had a homosexual experience, you'd feel really bad about the way the squad's been treating him lately. On the other hand, if he's a slut he gets what he deserves, and more, right?" Frank was getting angrier by the second.

"Fuck. You're out of line."

"I'm right, aren't I?" Frank was on a roll. "I really hope his virginity, or lack there of, is enough to assuage your guilt Lewis, but you'll forgive me if my thoughts aren't really with you right now."

Lewis didn't answer as Frank continued.

"You don't know a damn thing about him." He stood and started pacing. "Did you know he still dreams about Adena Watson?"


"He can't get her out of his head. The blood, the murder scene, her family, the way he came so close in the box. Timmy thinks it's his fault the case never went down."

Lewis remained silent. Frank needed to vent. Tim's feeling's about the Watson murder were well known around the department. Sure, the newer detectives like Falsone and Stivers, they didn't understand, but Gee knew, and so did he. Adena Watson was one of those crimes a cop could go crazy over. An innocent child brutally murdered and a probable suspect just out of reach. So Tim spent nights in a sweat of condemnation for not avenging the little girl's death. Lewis would never have known it.

"He'll be okay Frank."

"Fuck you." Frank looked at his watch. Tim had been gone three hours. "He's gonna be a mess."

He tried not to think about what Tim was going through. It just wasn't fair. Last night he'd been so full of life, so consumed by passion. Frank still couldn't quite believe he'd had sex with his best friend but Tim had needed him and this time he was determined to be there in every possible way. Were they lovers? Frank wasn't sure. He still had hopes of getting his marriage back in order. He loved Mary but he loved Tim too, only differently. What the hell had he been thinking? Making love to Tim had been one of the most wonderful experiences of his life. And how had he expressed it? By trying to sneak away in the morning without so much as a kiss good-bye and head back to his life in New York. //Coward.// He wondered if Tim knew he wasn't coming back. Frank smiled. His former partner was a good detective. He would have sensed it immediately.

Tim woke up in pain and decided immediately to go back to sleep. If only his body shared the same idea things would be fine, but no, it had abandoned him again, choosing to flounder in agony rather than slumber in peace.

He didn't want to think about what happened. He couldn't think about it. Tim pushed the memory to the back of his mind to share space with other similar dark images, battering the hell out of his fragile psyche and leaving him open and defenseless.

He shuddered and pulled himself to a sitting position. The wall was cold against his back, his shirt hanging damp against his trembling frame. Tim reached for his glasses and put them on, his confidence weakening with each pain filled breath. So I'm in hell, he thought, what did I do to deserve it?

//You didn't help Adena//

"I tried!" Tim knew he was alone and shouting but the thought was so strong, holding him hostage to its unavoidable power. He shook at the realization that he just might be loosing his mind. // Don't tell me you didn't see that coming. //

He closed his eyes tight and found a better daydream. It didn't take long. Last night had been spectacular. For the first time in what seemed like forever he'd been loved and cherished by another human being. Frank rarely expressed intimate emotions under any circumstances so it was strange to see his friend make the first move that would take their relationship to a new plateau. He didn't have to concentrate hard to imagine the feel of Frank's cock inside him. It was so thick and wonderful, opening him, filling him, throbbing deep within, a vibrating passion that left him weak but not sated. Tim wanted more. He'd always want more of Frank. Suddenly he was confused. It had happened, hadn't it? Suddenly his hazy mind couldn't be sure.

Tim groaned and wrapped his arms around himself, waiting for the cramps that would send him spinning to the floor moaning loudly in distress. At the very least they were something familiar. He rubbed his stomach and groaned. When the pain hit, he was not disappointed.

They started in his belly, at first just a small rumbling, an indirect promise of the fun yet to come. He closed his eyes and held fast, determined that this time his face would not touch the ground. His stomach ached and he burrowed his chin tight against his chest as the first waves of nausea struck.

"Oh god…"

The pain gripped him, digging deep into his soul and Tim heard himself moan long and hard. The sound frightened him more than the agony itself. He wanted it to stop but was aware from the last occurrence that he would have to ride out the torment for at least half an hour. After that it would degrade to a fine line of discomfort, a distracting calm before the next rising storms.

Tim felt wrong. His entire body seemed disconnected and out of joint. He shuddered remembering the confident way Barlow had touched him. The gentle caresses and soft kisses that were in there own way much worse than the actual sex. Tim cringed at the memory, unable to stop the impact as the images came back in a rush.

What he remembered most was the hurting. His attacker wasted no time burrowing deep into his battered body. Each agonizing thrust was designed to cause pain, each light breathy kiss to confuse. Bayliss could not stop himself from crying out as he was physically and emotionally raped. He shuddered. Barlow had known his fear and disgust and exploited it expertly with each well-placed word; each self-assured stroke against Tim's icy body. He remembered then that he'd been cold, his skin unbelievably cool in the warm moist air, his heart beating fast despite the freeze surrounding him.

He'd been aware of Barlow's feelings from the first time they met and had watched his desire intensify with each passing encounter until it was almost too tangible to ignore. In one particular instance, during a confrontation in the box, Tim actually got the feeling he was being hit on. Since this was a rare occurrence for him on any occasion and even rarer still when it came from a man, it left Tim feeling unsettled and out of sorts. One quick glance at his co-interrogator made him realize that he was not the only one surprised at Barlow's tactic. Lewis was staring at the odd exchange, a strange expression on his face that Barlow didn't seem to notice - or care. He leaned back in his chair, composed and smiling, an undercurrent of malevolent lust creeping out from every pore on his deftly polished skin. It made Tim feel funny to experience it, almost dirty in a way he hadn't felt in a very long time.

He suddenly realized his face hurt and raised a trembling hand to his mouth. Even without a mirror he knew what he would see. Barlow took a perverse pleasure in biting - especially his lips, and when he brought his hand back stained red he wasn't really surprised. Tim looked around for a place to wipe the blood and settled on his shirt. It didn't matter anyway. Barlow promised to return before evening for another round of pleasure and Tim was certain he would do as he said. He cringed.

A sudden wave of panic caressed his spine crushing him with the weight of its certainty. He started to shake and wrapped his arms tighter around himself. The thought of doing '"that" again with Barlow disgusted him. Suddenly he was no longer a grown man and a cop, but a frightened little boy crying in the dark, waiting for the nightmares to stop and having no idea then that nearly thirty years would not erase them.

"NO." Tim spoke aloud to slay the demons and to hush the internal soliloquy he had replayed so often in his mind. He hoped Frank was okay. And Lewis too. He had went willingly with Barlow to keep them breathing but wondered if he had done the right thing in making such a questionable pact. His body for their lives; it would have to be a deal he could live with. If indeed, any of them lived at all.

Tim breathed quickly as the pain ignited through his body. He wondered for the hundredth time what drug Barlow had pumped into his system to keep him in line. His brain wanted to take a crash dive, the grogginess was so strong.

"Nothing to hinder your physical responses Detective, just your mental ones," Barlow had said with sincerity before plunging a needle into the vein on his left arm. Whatever it was, it worked fast. Tim's body reacted honestly while his mind shed tears of horror. He wanted it to end. God, how he'd wanted it to end quickly.

Barlow had instructed him when to move and when to remain still, praising his forced responses and shushing each gasp of horror with a soft brush of his lips over various parts of Tim's exhausted body. The fact that his attacker failed to ejaculate inside him solved some of the murders' mysteries. It wasn't unusual with sexual criminals. He wondered why his stomach still hurt, the dilapidating cramps coming and going with a will all their own, seeping him in the throes of misery. Sex with Frank had not been that way. Sure, there had been discomfort afterwards, some pain at penetration, but that was probably normal for a first time experience. But this… Well, Frank hadn't used his stomach as a punching bag. He shook his head. / Stop being ignorant Tim / That wasn't an act of sex and it definitely wasn't love. He'd been violated and the thought sickened him. His second time had been nothing to brag about.

"God," Tim repeated. "Oh my god."

It was so unreal. Just last night he had lain in Frank's arms, confident, secure and exhausted. If only the next morning had been free of regret it would have been the most perfect experience of his life. But when he woke, Frank was trying to escape and Tim had no idea how to keep him. Definitely not the breakfast in bed he'd pictured often enough in his fantasies. One night with Frank wasn't enough…it just wasn't.

Tim knew he had no right to want anything more from Frank than he was able to give. Maybe the sex had been a mistake. God knows he'd made his share of so many lately, what difference would one more really make? He closed his eyes unsuccessfully fighting back two stray tears of pain. This mistake would make a difference, he knew, because it was Frank he had made it with. Suddenly Tim felt guilty. Frank was right, he had a life without Tim. And that life included a beautiful wife and two very wonderful kids. Poor Timmy Bayliss; all grown up and no one to love. Congratulations, he scolded himself; you've done it again.

But god, he'd been so lonely. Tim swallowed and tried to remember the last time he had connected with anyone, male or female. He thought of Roger Fisk and tried to toss the pain away. Roger's treatment of him hurt more than he was willing to admit. It wasn't only the casual cruelty of his remarks that stung, but his own reaction to them. What the hell had he expected from Roger? Sex. Yup, there it was. Tim wanted to get laid very badly, wanted to experience lust and passion fully with another man for the first time in his life. He thought briefly of Chris. Beautiful, beautiful Chris. God, how he wanted to fuck him. //But you weren't ready, were you Tim?// They had made love, if you could call it that. Tender gropings in the dark; their two swift, slick bodies tossing wildly against each other gathering a friction that threatened to burst him in two. He had shied away from penetration though the oral sex had been remarkable. What had he been waiting for? Roger? Even as he asked himself the question, Tim knew the answer. He'd been waiting for Frank. Could he get anymore obvious? He wanted Frank. Wanted to hold him and kiss him and fuck him. The thrill went straight to his cock and Tim gasped. There was no denying he had it bad. He shook his head sadly. He was too sick to think about it now.

Tim cringed again. The nausea was on him in a flash, enveloping his body and squeezing his guts. He barely had time to groan before he was vomiting the contents of his stomach violently, his body reduced to dry heaves and shivers. When the door opened minutes later, Tim barely had the strength to care.

Barlow walked slowly; his arms and legs in perfect sync. It was a gate specifically designed to herald his presence with a sense of nervous dread. Tim swallowed and he smiled. It worked every time.

Tim Bayliss had brought him much enjoyment earlier in the day and Barlow was eager to go another round. It was amazing the lengths some people would go to for loyalty and friendship. He had given Tim a choice and miraculously he accepted. The attraction between us is strong, Barlow thought. There was no other way to explain his decision. The responding moans to his touch were further proof of Tim's unspoken desire.

This one was special. Barlow had known it from the moment he entered the game. The tall, lanky detective with the soft hazel eyes grabbed his attention immediately. He was smart, so very smart, and Barlow was always drawn to intelligence. They were meant to be together. How else could he explain Bayliss finding the answers so quickly? Granted he couldn't' prove them, but the sheer fact that he knew the truth was an amazing turn-on since Barlow never made mistakes. He smiled at his lover knowing full well that he would eventually have to kill him. Barlow could only hope the next player was as good an opponent or better.

He walked around slowly, taking in every nuance of the delectable man sitting exhausted on the floor before him. Barlow didn't say a word, just stared with a slight grin, as he willed up mental images from his early afternoon lovemaking.

Tim had been nervous but that was to be expected. Barlow was after all an experienced lover and Bayliss was a novice to the art of male sex. He tried to calm the shivers and shakes and stroked his beautiful body willing it to respond as he wished. When that didn't work, he whispered reassuring words designed to delight and stimulate. Barlow hated to strike his lover but Tim was not quick to catch on. Discipline was so very important if he was going to learn how to satisfy. He'd been knocked out for a while but Barlow waited patiently for him to recover before continuing Tim's lessons. He smiled. The experience had obviously been a success for both of them.

"Tim." He stroked the pale face. Tim's eyes were defiant and Barlow frowned. This one would be tough to break he mused. The soft hazel eyes glaring at him wearily had experienced many bad things. "Behave."

Tim knew that trying to pull away only made Barlow angrier. He'd been beaten unconscious once already for that indiscretion and as much as the thought of oblivion tempted him, Tim didn't like the accompanying pain one little bit.

"I want you."

Tim did not respond. He was dead inside, no emotion or fear. If Barlow took him again, he would relinquish his body willingly if it meant keeping Frank and Lewis alive. The sweaty touch against his skin made his heart beat with dread. / Dear god…not again so soon./

Barlow removed Tim's glasses and put them in his pocket. "You shouldn't hide such beautiful eyes." Tim nodded because it was expected but made no further reply. Barlow continued to touch him everywhere, his fingers tracing the angles of Tim's body with a particular look of glee upon his face. "You're mine now Detective. I won't let anyone else have you." He smiled cruelly. "Remove your shirt."

Tim complied without incident. He was exhausted and sick and if Barlow wanted him like this there was absolutely nothing he could do to deter him. With Frank and Lewis's lives at stake, refusal was out of the question. The lust in Barlow's eyes was overwhelming and Tim hated it. He would survive intact as long as there was no foreplay. The fake aura of romance and desire that Barlow tried to project terrified him. The way he believed in his own demented way that Tim wanted him was worse than the penetration. He closed his eyes and tried to prepare himself for the worst when suddenly Barlow pulled away.

He backhanded Tim across the face. "I told you never to close your eyes." He pulled Tim against him and kissed him. Tim felt himself starting to black out but one quick shake from his aggressor halted the oncoming bliss. "I want you awake." His mouth found Tim's again and the kiss continued.

Tim shuddered even though he knew Barlow wouldn't like it. His abused body and mind were suddenly refusing to cooperate, rebelling against the mistreatment heaped upon them in the only way they knew how. Barlow crushed his shoulders in a vice grip, determined to squeeze a better response from the previously submissive form but Tim didn't care. He gasped weakly into the open mouth, his tongue dry and worn. Barlow shook him violently. Tim's head bobbed back and forth, a failing puppet without strings, refusing to play for its captive audience.

"You broke our deal," Barlow spoke quietly, the menace in his voice a vocal pantomime of horror. He lifted Tim's exhausted body towards him and nuzzled his elegant neck. "Someone has to pay Timmy. Someone has to pay."


Frank's eyes were on Tim from the moment he entered the room.

As willowy and pale as ever, Frank thought critically, though he didn't remember the circles being quite so deep.

Next to him, Lewis muttered, "Shit."

Tim moved strangely. It was all wrong somehow, surreal in a way that he couldn't comprehend. Suddenly, Frank realized the bastards had taken Tim's glasses. No wonder he seemed to be stumbling. Now why the fuck would they do that? Without his glasses, Tim was nearly as blind as a bat.

"Move!" A swift shove from the gun of the man behind him tossed Tim forward and he had to catch himself from falling over completely. The man laughed and Frank shuddered at the cruel delight in his dark eyes.

This man wouldn't think twice about killing a cop, he was sure of that.

He pulled his eyes back to his friend. Tim looked haggard. His crisp white shirt was wrinkled and tossed haphazardly out of his pants and his gray suitcoat was clutched between shaky white fingers. Tim closed his eyes briefly, and if possible, it seemed to Frank that he turned a few shades paler. The gun nudged hard between his shoulder blades. Frank grimaced at the blood coating the left corner of Tim's shirt. He walked carefully, each step an obstacle. Lewis muttered aloud again, and Bayliss jerked at the sound, raising a trembling arm to toss matted brown hair away from his face. Seconds later he made eye contact with Frank. Mouth swollen, bottom lip nearly double in size from the last time Frank had seen him nearly four hours earlier and fresh blood dripping from nose to chin; Bayliss had never looked worse.

Frank swallowed hard. He couldn't bring himself to think what had happened to Tim in the long hours he'd been out of his sight. If only he didn't know about Uncle George, his thoughts might lose their dark innuendo. Letting his imagination run wild was a luxury he couldn't afford. His fists clenched in anger as Bayliss approached.

"Tim," Frank offered his hand and his friend grabbed for it, missing the first time but finally catching the comforting grip and leaning into a deep embrace. They held fast to each other, an eternity passing with each heartbeat. Tim's breathing was heavy upon his chest. //Bastards// He pulled Bayliss closer and waited for him to move.

He didn't have to wait long.

Tim distanced himself from Frank and leaned heavily against the cement wall. His head and stomach throbbed and ached in unison, an internal cacophony minus voice and sound. He squinted and smiled at his friend's concern.

"You sure picked a helluva time to visit Frank," he said simply and fell forward like a stone into his former partner's arms.

Frank cursed and lay Tim down as gently as possible. He soothed the hair away from his face and wiped blood from his nose with his shirtsleeve. Tim was still as death. His chest rose evenly, releasing soft puffs of breath into the cold, moist air. To Frank he looked like an angel. He reached out to stroke his cheek and Tim stirred slightly, his breathing undisturbed.

"Is he okay Frank?" Lewis watched concerned as the scene unfolded. Bayliss looked terrible, pale and gaunt, long hair falling loose and damp against his face. Lewis wanted to grab him and shake him hard. The need to hear Tim speak, even if it was his usual gibberish, was overwhelming. Frank said Barlow had raped him. One look at the vulnerable face of his sometime partner made him pray Frank was wrong. He glanced at Tim again. Nope, not a chance. The swollen lips and sweaty hair told Lewis all he didn't want to know. Tim had been raped and from the looks of him, quite recently too.

He didn't spend much time thinking about men and looks. Sure, Kellerman was attractive. You'd have to be blind not to see the way women and men went for his blonde hair and blue eyes. But Bayliss was another story. He seemed delicate sometimes, and ethereal in an almost fragile fashion. Large hazel eyes and a mouth made for sin confirmed Lewis's opinion. The man was not simply handsome but beautiful. He reached out to touch Tim's shoulder wanting desperately to connect with the warmth of the man in the cold shell of the body.


Gee was having a difficult time trying to figure out whether he was extremely worried or just very pissed off.

Lewis and Bayliss were either in a hell of a lot of trouble or off playing hooky. Knowing the temperaments of both men involved and the danger of the case they were working on led Gee to believe the former. He looked around the near empty office and sighed.

Barlow spelled danger from the very beginning but no one really took him seriously. A homicide detective learned early on that suspects would always threaten you until their lungs were about to burst but not much would ever come of it. On many occasions Gee heard one or more, "I'm gonna kill you," or "You're dead fucker" to no avail. But Barlow was different, his threats were silent, his thoughts transparent. The way he looked at Bayliss gave Gee the chills. He voiced his concerns to Tim but when he shrugged in that affable way of his and said he could handle it, Gee didn't argue.

"Damn," he muttered to no one in particular.

This was one time he should have listened to his gut. It wasn't that he didn't trust his detective's instincts, but Bayliss had been a bit out of sorts lately so Gee decided to give him a little more room to breathe. Tim was a good cop, one of the best in the squad room, but Gee always felt that when Pembleton left, he took a part of Bayliss with him.

They were so good together, not really opposite, not really alike. Both men had quick tempers and were capable of expressing them easily with each other or with whatever unfortunate souls happened to be standing in the immediate vicinity when the verbal shooting began. But they were also friends. He smiled remembering an incident involving a desk full of grilled cheese sandwiches. They really could get under each other's skin at times but somehow their partnership thrived despite many threats to the contrary.

He was so used to grouping them together that without Pembleton, Bayliss seemed alone no matter who he was partnered with. Gee frowned. He'd never really taken the time to talk to Tim about how he felt about Frank retiring, but things had happened so fast and he always thought that maybe Frank would come back when he had his fill of life on the outside. Gee knew he shared the responsibility for Pembleton leaving, had in fact played a very big part in that scenario, so he still felt a twinge of guilt whenever he looked at Tim sitting alone at his desk or writing a name in black on the board.

Gee frowned. The day Bayliss was shot seemed so long ago. He remembered Pembleton's eyes, dark with worry, as he gazed at his friend. Not being able to fire his gun had changed Frank in many ways. Bayliss had saved his life by stepping into the line of fire and taking a bullet engraved with his partner's name, and died for it. The coma and rehabilitation that followed were hard on Tim but not as difficult as the realization that Frank would no longer be in his life. They fed off each other in ways that Gee would never understand, somehow making the other a bit more alive, a bit more human. If the best decision Gee ever made in his entire career was putting them together as partners then the worst would have to be the part he played in pulling them apart.

Munch entered with a cup of coffee and Gee latched onto him immediately.

"John, have you seen Pembleton since yesterday?"

Weird question, Munch thought. "No." He paused. "Come to think of it, I haven't seen Tim or Meldrick all day either." His cop instincts kicked in. "Is there something wrong?"

"I'm not sure. Naomi said Tim called in and said he was working a case with Lewis. That was at 8:30 and we've heard nothing since."

Munch looked at the clock. It was nearly four o'clock -- the end of the day in some cushy jobs -- and no sign of Lewis or Timmy. With a growing sense of dread he knew that even though he'd been hard at work since eight, his day was just beginning.

"I want you to find out where Pembleton's staying. See if he knows what's happened. Go to their apartments. Find them Munch."

Munch nodded wearily. "Barlow?

Gee's face was set in stone. "Let's hope not."

Falzone whistled in, walked straight to the board, erased a name drawn in red and rewrote it black with a flourish. "Guerera is down." He turned to look at Gee, expecting at the least a brief congratulatory pat and was met with a frown. He'd solved the case and no one seemed to care. //Fuck the both of you. It wasn't easy you know.// He shrugged amiably. "Who died?" Immediately Paul knew it was the wrong thing to say.

"No one. At least not yet," was Munch's usual caustic reply.

"Falsone, work with Munch. I want Bayliss and Lewis found -- now!" Gee returned to his office and slammed the door.

Munch winced. "Let's get going." He stretched and winced again. "My joints are aching. That's never a good sign."

Falzone was confused. He knew that Meldrick hadn't been in today but he hadn't really taken notice of Bayliss. "A sign of what?"

Munch smirked. "Bad weather kid. I sense storm clouds on the horizon."

Falsone shook his head. Of all the people in the department he hated working with Munch. The man was a complete and utter wacko and if that wasn't bad enough, he was a smart wacko to boot. Always lording his immense brain --- and ego --- over Paul whenever the opportunity arose. He chanced one more look at the board. The Guerera case was already old news.


Frank's lips were on his neck softly slurping at his Adam's apple. He groaned in delight and reached for his lover, pulling the addictive lips to his mouth for a deep, wet kiss. He felt Frank's tongue in his mouth latching onto his own and he shuddered at the delightful arousal awakening in his soul. Frank spread his legs apart with his knee and pressed against his aching cock, stimulating him to full hardness.

He reached for his penis and started to stroke but Frank pushed his hand away, over his head, holding him immobile and helpless. He wanted to move, to touch himself, to touch Frank but his lover again denied him the pleasure. He winced. Hands gentle only moments before were suddenly wounding and vicious. His nipples were battered and bit; his wrists bruised and sore. He felt himself lifted crudely and positioned across firm, muscular thighs. Frank's cock played around the entrance to his body, it's light caresses driving him mad with desire. He pulled his hand free and reached for his partner but his hand was slapped away and immobilized once again.

"Relax," a calm voice said.

It didn't really sound like Frank, in fact it sounded a great deal like his uncle. He trembled. That was impossible. George had never taken him this way, at least that he remembered. But if it were his uncle it would certainly explain the force and domination. Uncle George wanted action, not reaction. He wanted Tim for an outlet, a receptacle for his sick twisted passions. He cringed when he felt himself entered, one finger, then two and sighed in relief. This wasn't his Uncle's style. George wouldn't have cared for his comfort, would just have shoved and squeezed until he was settled snugly inside. Then, when Tim's breathing calmed and his tears faded, when he was painfully aware of being brutally taken, George would remove himself and start all over from the beginning. The man was a monster. It had to be Frank taking him. He groaned and thrust forward to increase his lover's attentions; the length of his body long, graceful and proud.

A cool hand stroked his stomach, flittering expertly across his aching cock and he trembled. The hand grabbed him and started to tug his swollen member in hard, deft strokes. He moaned as his unknown lover touched his lips and dipped his fingers inside to suckle. They moved slowly down his throat, caressing his tongue and suddenly he found himself gagging.

His hips were grabbed roughly. He felt an insistent pressure against his ass and tried desperately to pull away. The swift fist to his stomach stilled him. He moaned in agony at the penetration, Frank's throbbing organ filling every possible inch of his sore body. He pushed deep and Tim cried out in pain. Another deep thrust and he was sobbing. Why would Frank want to hurt him this way? It couldn't be Frank. Frank was his partner. Frank cared for him. But did Frank love him? Tim wasn't sure. The pounding continued and soon he stopped moving altogether. It didn't really matter anyway. His body didn't belong to him anymore. He wondered if it ever did. One quick jab to the left and he shuddered, frightened of the damp tears upon his cheeks. He wanted the agony to stop. The feelings confused him. Pleasure and pain. He screamed and suddenly it was over.

Tim opened his eyes from the dream slowly; afraid of losing the brief solace of the darkness but greatly relieved to abandon it's damning void.


The voice wasn't Frank's nor was it his Uncle's. When his vision finally cleared, Tim found himself staring into the face of Meldrick Lewis, who in his opinion had never looked more beautiful.


"Frank didn't have a hotel room anywhere in the city. Lewis's car is still parked in front of his apartment and Bayliss's car was found abandoned clear across town," Munch shook his head. "I'd say that in the absence of an alien abduction, we have ourselves a sweet little mystery here."

"Right now the aliens don't sound half bad." Falsone watched Munch carefully. He was concerned -- very concerned -- about the three missing men. John Munch was not the type of man to wear his heart on his sleeve, but when he cared, he cared deeply. "Where do we go next?"

"We check out Barlow. That miserable rat." Munch frowned. "He's involved Paul. I have a bad feeling about this."

Falzone sighed. "What about Pembleton? Maybe he left town early. That would explain why he doesn't have a hotel room."

Munch considered. "Yeah, and maybe he stayed with Tim. Or Lewis for that matter." He looked at Falsone intently. "Frank and Timmy had a lot to talk about. It would probably take weeks to sort out everything between them. Overnight? No way."

"Yeah, but they were always fighting, right? Maybe one explodes at the other and presto! The reunions over." He laughed. "How the hell did they ever remain partners for six years?"

Munch smiled knowingly. "Nobody else would have either one of them." He started the car. "We'll call Frank's house and find out if he came home last night. Then it's straight to Barlow."

Falsone nodded. This was going to be a very long night.


"They took Frank."

The three words uttered so softly by Lewis were enough to still his heart. Tim leaned back heavily against the wall and closed his eyes. /They took Frank./

He took a deep breath, willing the life back into his body. "When?"

"A few minutes after they dumped you here," Lewis frowned. "You look bad Tim."

"Well since I feel the same way…." His voice trailed off. "I'm okay."

"I sure as hell don't believe you Bayliss but we're cool."

"We're cool?"

"That's what I said."

"What do you mean?" Tim squinted wearily.

"I mean what I say Timmy. Unlike some others I know, I don't lie."

Tim sighed. "What do you want from me?"

"Just the plain old truth." Lewis watched him carefully and wondered if he was doing the right thing by pressing so hard. Tim was the kind who kept things inside until they burst to the surface with the force of a volcano.

"The truth." Tim repeated and shook his head. "Isn't this where I'm supposed to say 'you can't handle the truth?'"

Lewis remained silent. If Tim were going to talk to him it would be now. Any later and his emotions would be bottled up next to Adena Watson in his subconscious. He frowned. What right did he have to expect Tim to confide in him about anything? They had never been the closest of friends but dammit he was trying. The Moss shooting had been the turning point. He had let his prejudice and anger get in the way of good police work and Tim had nearly lost his life. He probably wouldn't believe the number of evenings Lewis spent condemning himself for his lack of action. The way he had abandoned Tim to face Moss and his demons alone in a dingy alley still shook him up. If the shooting had gone another way…if Moss had managed to hit Tim with the first shot…Lewis shook his head. No good thinking that way now.

"When you feel like talking Timmy. I'm here."

Tim stared. No way was he going to talk to Lewis. The man had the compassion of a stone. No, that wasn't fair. //Just because he's not as emotionally open as you are doesn't mean you can't talk to him.// He remembered the night on the roof after the Moss shooting. Lewis had opened up to him, called him a "pretty good cop," and tried to get him to forgive himself for the killing. He'd almost laughed. Poor Meldrick had no idea how impossible it was for him to do just that. How could he possibly know that the man he was trying to convince that he'd done the right thing had some mighty large forgiveness issues?

"I…" Tim tried to explain. "I feel terrible Meldrick. My entire body hurts. I just don't want to feel anymore, you know?"

"He hurt you."

Tim shuddered. "Yeah, he did. He…aah…hurt me." He smiled sadly. "I want…I can't…I want to talk to you but I'm not ready, okay?" He closed his eyes tight. "And now Frank. If he does the same things to Frank…" Tim shook violently and grabbed his belly. "Not now…god, not now."

Lewis reached for Tim but his hand was pushed away.

"No! Don't touch me. I know you mean well but just don't fucking touch me Lewis!" He wrapped his arms across his chest and moaned. "Damn."

Tim knew the pain would stop soon but that didn't make it any easier. If only Lewis would stop gawking at him, his light brown eyes so filled with concern then maybe he could bear it better. Tim hadn't meant to shove him away like that. Perhaps if he hadn't been touched so much lately he would have reacted differently. He sighed as the pain started to dissipate. "I'm sorry."

"No, I should have known better. I mean, you've been...forget it." Lewis shook his head. Great choice of words pal, he told himself. Tim was hurt and it was all his fault. Why the hell hadn't he been stronger? Why the hell had he made that phone call?

"I've been what?" He nearly gagged. If Lewis knew that meant Frank knew. Jesus, he should have known Barlow would brag. "Raped? What, you know that for certain?"

Lewis moved closer to Tim on the floor. "You're word Tim…not mine." He sighed. "I'm not going to touch you and I'm certainly not going to try and say I understand because I couldn't possibly, but I am your friend Timmy and if there is anything I can do -- no scratch that -- there really isn't is there?" He paused. "I want to help if I can."

"I wasn't raped Lewis. I don't know what Barlow said to you but he's crazy, we both know that."

"Yeah, he is that." Lewis allowed Tim his retreat. When Frank returned he'd be more talkative. If Frank returned he reminded himself. Those two had a tumultuous relationship but he was sure they confided in one another. At least he was sure Tim did. He was such a touchy-feely kind of guy. Always wanting to talk, always willing to listen. But Frank Pembleton was made of granite. That man couldn't share the time of day without feeling he'd somehow breached his personal space. Never mind a deep thought. He looked at Tim and frowned. He looked like seven layers of hell and damn if he hadn't been sucking in that bottom lip for the past five minutes.

"I'm okay," Tim repeated, stronger this time. "It's Frank I'm worried about."

"Pembleton can take care of himself." Lewis frowned at Tim's disbelieving expression. "Don't worry about him."

Tim turned away. Not worry about Frank? There was absolutely no chance of that happening. In a strange way the potential danger to Frank was what kept him from thinking about his own problems. /Is this what they call denial?/ Had it really been rape? Hadn't Tim agreed to give his body to that detestable man for a chance to keep Frank and Lewis alive? At worst it could be called unwilling acquiescence but rape? He wasn't so sure. "It wasn't rape," he said, voice barely above a whisper.

For a moment Lewis wasn't sure he heard correctly. Tim was admitting to having sex with Barlow and he seemed mighty confused about the part he played. "Tim, you didn't do anything wrong. That bastard forced you..."

"Stop it."

"He forced you Timmy. He made some kind of sick deal using me and Frank as leverage, and I feel guilty as hell about that, but it doesn't mean you wanted anything to happen."

"Stop it right now."

"I know you're hurting. I'd kill the bastard if I could. Of course I'd have to stand in line behind Frank to get to him." Lewis steadied himself for the outburst he knew was coming. "What happened?"

Tim stared at him incredulously. Lewis absolutely was not going to leave this alone. //Well, fuck him then. I wasn't raped and I'm certainly not going to lie and say I was just to make him feel better.// "What the hell do you want from me? I wasn't raped by Barlow."



"Oh, so you're trying to tell me that you got the hots for that wacko bastard? You want to make me believe that the sex was a mutual act of love, lust or passion on behalf of both parties? Is that right Bayliss? God, I thought you had more class than that. Chris Rawls at least had style." Lewis delivered the final blow and waited. "I never knew you were a whore Timmy."

Nothing, only a sad tilt of the head and a forlorn knowing smile. Now he was really worried.


"It's okay. What you think of me is okay. I'm tired of defending myself. Who I am or what I want to be. You've known me forever Lewis. I shouldn't have to explain every little thing."

"Somehow I don't think this qualifies as 'a little thing' Tim." Lewis continued. "Just let it go. I don't think you're a whore. You know that, right? We're friends and friends don't think that way about each other."

Tim shuddered. //God, am I so unused to kindness?// He turned his head against the wall and took a deep breath. When he spoke he was surprised to hear his voice tremble. "He raped me. He used me and hurt me and tried to use me again. I hated the touching, the kissing, and the fucking. I didn't ask for it to happen and I don't blame myself. Is that what you want to hear? " If he was shouting, how come his voice sounded so small? Tim wrapped his arms tight across his chest.

Lewis stared. //Oh dammit Timmy.// "I'm sorry you went through that man. God if I could…" Lewis was at a loss for words. What the hell could he possibly say? Nothing seemed adequate. How the hell can he look so vulnerable, Lewis thought. Without his glasses, Tim looked far younger than his 38 years. He sat like a crumbling statue, pale and trembling in the damp air.

"You and Frank are alive." Tim would not believe otherwise.

"He's fine. We both are." Lewis noticed that Tim laughed lightly. It seemed strange considering the circumstances. "Tim?"

"This is all so weird…so strange. Buddhists believe that sex is special, a communion of body and spirit. Not something casual that you just forget about in the morning. Not that I'm ever gonna forget this you know, but don't want to let it control me either. Sex and love…When I was younger I used to think the two of them were mutually inclusive. " He smiled. "Geez, I guess I was born a Buddhist."

Lewis smirked. "Nobody's that unlucky." He frowned. "And now?"

"Now I'm not so sure. This has changed me. Whether or nor we survive…"

"We will." Lewis was firm.

"…I don't know if I can think that way any longer." Tim looked away briefly.

"What he did to you wasn't love and it wasn't even sex. It was an act of violence. An act of power. That's all Timmy and you better start believing that."

"I accept it Meldrick but that doesn't make it any easier." He shuddered. "It's just that sex now isn't gonna be the same. There's no way it ever can be."

"That's crazy talk. You gonna go all celibate or something?" Lewis moved closer. "If you do that, he wins. If you give up on life, on sex..." He struggled to find the right words. "Sex is life Tim. It's part of who we are as human beings." He noticed Tim's curious expression and continued. "You said it wouldn't control you but that's exactly what you're doing."

"It's not that easy Lewis. I can't just wave a magic wand and the hurt disappears. I don’t want it to own me but it's so strong…so consuming. I feel like his hands are still touching me and it makes my skin crawl. The pain is still here." He pointed to his stomach. "And here." He rested his hand across his heart. "And I don't know what to do to make it go away." He shuddered. "I want it to go away."

Lewis bit his lip. He was no damn good at this. Always saying the wrong thing, always ignoring the obvious. //You've just been assaulted Tim and as an extra bonus guess who you get to confide in?// "You're right. It's not going to go away and it's not fair either. But you're not dead. You're breathing and I'm breathing and wherever the hell he is Frank's still chugging along too. That's a gift Tim." He watched Tim nervously. "Embrace your life now. They'll be time for the bad later."

Tim shuddered. Lewis was suddenly making a great deal of sense. He wasn't dead -- not even close -- but if he started letting his mind and body be directed by the violent circumstances that surrounded the rape he might as well cease to exist. If that happened he would be no better off than he was with the memories of Uncle George. Talking was a good thing he decided. And Lewis was a friend. "When did you get so smart?" Tim asked.

"Oh, I've always been smart. I'm just careful about dispensing my wisdom. The squad doesn't need two Munches on the payroll." He smiled. "We are gonna get out of this and when we do you're gonna get a chance to kick his ass. Lot's of things aren't going to jell for a while but you'll win. You're strong Tim and you'll win. You might not ever forget it, but I'll sure as hell make sure you don't dwell on it. That bastard will pay for what he did to you, I promise he will, but until then can you accept it?"

"To be honest I don't know." Tim shook his head. "It's a shock for me to realize that everything I am is not tied up in this moment, this pain. Everything I believe has not been destroyed. It hasn't been strengthened but it's still intact. I still exist Lewis and I think I'm still sane." He looked away. "I guess that's something."

"That's right. If you ever were sane that is Timmy." Lewis tried.

Tim smiled gently and closed his eyes. "That's all for now, okay?"

Lewis nodded. The worst was over -- at least he hoped so. Somehow he knew that if anything happened to Frank Pembleton, the worst was yet to come.


Frank stared at Barlow, trying to contain his rage. The malignant bastard, the fucking piece of shit was gloating to him over what he'd done to Bayliss. For the first time in a very long time Frank knew he could kill. The thought of how liberating it would be to pull the trigger and extinguish the flame of life that was Barlow from the face of the Earth nearly gave him a hard-on. There was no other way really. Tim could not face this evil man in court. He could not take the witness stand and explain in detail to a crowd of onlookers, friends and family the atrocities committed on him by a psycho who would probably attempt to stretch his luck by wasting the court's time with an insanity plea. It wasn't right.

Frank remembered the day Tim trusted him with the knowledge of his Uncle George. The anger in his expression masked a pain that would never go away. The stray tear dispelled down his cheek shocked Frank with its blatant disregard for the obvious. That cruel bit of salty water mocked him. Screamed to him that he had missed the signs. That when it came to friendship Frank Pembleton was not worthy of the honor or privilege. When the hell had he ever been there for Tim? He'd rebuked his attentions at every turn. The man who'd saved his life deserved better for a friend than an insensitive fuck who denied his heart with selfish abandon, unwilling to adapt his ego or his emotions if it meant any small sacrifice to his open and shut life.

And then there was the sex…oh god the sex. Hot, wild, completely uninhibited. What had he been thinking? Tim was so vulnerable and trusting. //But you didn't make any promises, remember?// He groaned. Tim gave him his heart and soul without hesitation and what had Frank done in return? He flinched at the remembered look on Tim's face when he pleaded with Frank to come back to bed. //Stay for a little while longer, hold me, nothing more, and when you get up to go next time I won't make a sound." Tim had said. "I'll hear you goin' Frank, that's a given, but I won't make a sound."// Only Tim could beg with such dignity.

He thought back to a conversation they'd had long ago, before Adena Watson, before Uncle George. He and Bayliss were sitting in a bar, he didn't even remember the place, and Tim had ordered a beer. When he heard Frank ask for a glass of milk he quickly changed his order to a non-alcoholic beverage. They had been investigating the death of a man who had been found strangled in a hotel room and his missing T-Bird being driven around town by the probable murderer. When Tim asked why someone would do something, knowing full well that he would be found, Frank just shrugged off his question and said, "I don't know. Crime makes you stupid." Tim's delight in that answer was obvious, and in one of his first minor attempts to become a part of Frank's life he replied, "Can I quote you on that?"

It was then that Frank decided to put down the law and nip the rookie's enthusiasm in the bud. He told Tim in no uncertain terms that "I don't want a partner. I don't need it. I don't want it."

"It's not 'it'," Tim had said, "It's me."

In what was undoubtedly one of his coldest moments on record Frank ended the conversation abruptly by saying, "Then I don't want you."

The pain that settled in the large puppy dog eyes startled him briefly but Frank didn't change his mind. They finished their drinks in silence and drove back to the station. He wished for the millionth time that he could take that moment back. Maybe if he'd tried harder in those early days, Tim would have found it easier to confide in him. But then the rush of Adena Watson hit and there was no turning back.


Munch always had a strange passion for empty-headed criminals. In between the pity he felt at their ignorance and the erotic thrill he received at their capture, he felt an odd sense of compassion that these pitiable creatures were destined for a life without remorse or betterment because in the end they never really blamed themselves anyway. There was always another thug to reproach for the screw-up, another lucky penny they should have picked up on the street. He nearly shuddered at the excitement and glanced at Falsone, wondering if he felt it too, that moment of exhilaration when everything just seemed to come together. Not that the kid would probably know a strong lead if it jumped up and bit him on the ass, but Munch's excitement was contagious, it had to be, and so Falsone went along, following instructions and waiting for just the right moment to strike.

He grinned. It would feel so good to take Barlow down. That crazy, murdering bastard finally fucked-up big time. Munch's smile grew. Okay, so it hadn't been Barlow himself who'd committed a verbal faux pas, but one of his weaker minded intellect-lacking-lackey's who in a moment of drunken revelry announced to a bar of bikers and one undercover detective that his rich but crazy boss had a thing for cops. Especially the one's he'd taken earlier in the morning. It didn't take long to check out this information and get it back to Homicide where they just so happened to be missing a few good men.

The undercover cop followed the idiot back to a condemned waterfront warehouse about an hour out of the city. Now it was simply a matter of time. Munch clenched his fingers around his weapon and said a silent prayer for his friends. He had no desire whatsoever for this to turn into bloodbath but if any of his colleagues were injured -- or god forbid dead -- Munch would not apologize for any violence attributed to his handiwork.

He glanced around the corner at his backup. Even Gee was on hand for this showdown. His deadly gaze chilled Munch to the bone. He never, ever wanted to be on the receiving end of that angry face. Near their Lieutenant, Stivers and Gharty stood ready with weapons drawn. The only one missing was Ballard who had called in sick this morning and was home safe nursing a very bad cold. Well, he thought, the gang's all here. His thoughts drifted back to his missing friends. And hopefully they were all in one piece.

Munch gestured with his gun and started the slow push forward.


Frank Pembleton wanted to vomit.

Barlow had spent the past fifteen minutes explaining in intricate detail every nuance of his physical encounter with Tim and extrapolating on the reasons why the intimacy was a satisfying experience for the both of them. Frank watched, disgusted, as the psychotic maggot praised his own part in Tim's sexual initiation. He couldn't stand the gloating look on Barlow's face or the way his eyebrow's came together when he smiled. How in the world could anyone find this man attractive? He hurt Tim, raped the best friend he had in the entire world, the man he had made crazy love to only last night and tried to walk out on just this morning, and he had the nerve to brag about it? Didn't the pain he inflicted mean anything? Frank frowned. What did pain mean to a monster?

Somewhere in his twisted world-view, Barlow did not rape Tim but made love to him. Tim didn't hate what had happened, Barlow reasoned, he probably wanted more of the same. Frank confidently felt for the gun he'd moved to his right coat pocket. //And that's not very likely you pig.//

"I was his first. I was the first for all of them." Barlow smiled waving his gun. "And you never forget the first time. It's special."

Frank felt as if he'd been punched. The way he treated Tim this morning sickened him. "Somehow I don't think Tim wants to remember what happened between the two of you."

Barlow snickered and sat down on the only chair in the bare room. "You don't say." He grinned. "Why don't you ask him yourself. He and Lewis should be here momentarily."

"Oh, I'll be sure to inquire." It was Frank's turn to smile. "And by the way, you weren't the first, just sloppy seconds."

Barlow observed Frank carefully and his eyes narrowed. This man was dangerous. Perhaps when the other two arrived, he'd kill Pembleton first. "And you know this because…?"

Frank breathed deeply and exhaled. It's now or never he thought. "I slept with Tim last night. I made love to him for hours. His long body felt soooo good next to mine." He smiled. " Don't you just love the taste of him?" Frank felt a perverse satisfaction in the other man's anger. "He screamed my name over and over when he came." He paused long enough to note the doubting anger on the other man's face. "Did you hear me Barlow? I fucked him senseless. I FUCKED HIM!"

"Liar!" Barlow stood and tossed the chair aside. "I was the first." For a brief moment the thought crossed his mind that maybe his power was fading. He gripped his gun tighter. If Pembleton was telling the truth then his entire time with Bayliss had been based on a lie. Barlow cringed. He'd probably been thinking about this bastard the entire time they were screwing. "I was the first," he repeated confidently.

Frank held his ground. "No you weren't."

"You never went near him. He wouldn't sleep with you. He wanted me." Barlow's confidence was faltering. "He still wants me!"

"Now, now. Don't get hysterical." A brief smile crossed his full lips. "I came inside him. He's mine." Frank watched the scene unfold anxiously. He wanted Barlow edgy, not insane, though he wondered now if that was even an option.

The door opened and Tim was shoved roughly into the room. Frank felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. His lover still didn't look healthy but it was a joy to see him standing upright. Frank nodded towards his friend but made no other move for contact.

Tim returned the glance and breathed a sigh of relief. If Lewis was here he wouldn't feel so edgy.

"Where's the other one?" Barlow was practically screaming.

The man with the gun grimaced. "He put up a struggle and Carter had to knock him out. He's gonna bring him here when he comes round." He pushed Tim forward flinching under Barlow's angry glare. "I'll go back and help him."

"Do that." Barlow smiled darkly.

Barlow aimed his nasty looking weapon at Frank and smiled. He pulled Tim roughly against his hip.

"Timmy, this man here has been telling me an interesting story. It seems he thinks that I was not the first one to screw your tight little body because you gave that honor to him last night. I say he's crazy, so crazy that I'm prepared to kill you for that little indiscretion if indeed he fucked you first." He squeezed Tim's arm and pointed the gun at his throat. "Tell me that you didn't have him."

Pembleton spoke before Tim had a chance. "Well, well, well. What a surprise. Barlow, you're a common criminal after all."

Tim tensed noticeably. "Stop this." For a moment he was stunned. Why the hell had Frank told this madman what happened between them? It made him queasy to think what Barlow had told his old partner in exchange. He closed his eyes tight to the pounding in his head. If Barlow released him, Tim swore he'd fall over. //Would this nightmare never end?//

"Don't defend him Tim. I'm not jealous. If the wacko wants to believe it, let him. Me and you know the truth." Frank slowly reached for his weapon.

Barlow pushed the gun deeper against Tim's skin and licked his cheek. "You were right Pembleton. He tastes delicious." Barlow smiled. "But if you're telling the truth I will kill him."

Frank withdrew his weapon. "Then you die."

Barlow stared coolly at the weapon. "Looks like I picked some very incompetent help, doesn't it?" he sighed. Everything has a price these days."

"Let go of him…now!" Frank's eyes were made of steel. His expression set in a predatory mask. //It's even you shit. Now we start playing by my rules.//

"Oh, I think not." He smiled. "Tell me the truth Tim," Barlow crooned into his ear. "That's all I want."

Tim gasped. Where the hell had Frank gotten a gun? And would he be able to use it? He felt the heat of metal on his neck and cringed. "Frank was my first."

"No." Barlow's voice was calm.

"Yes. He wanted me." Tim's eyes never left Frank's face. "I wanted him."

"NO you didn't. Say you didn't." Barlow dug his fingers into Tim's forearm.

Tim shuddered. His head and heart were throbbing. Barlow's breath breezed foul upon his sweaty skin and the suddenly the simple act of speech was beyond him. If Barlow killed him, Frank would pull the trigger and silence his evil once and for all.

//If Barlow killed him…// With a start, Tim realized he didn't want to die, though relinquishing his life in exchange for Barlow's assured death seemed the only open alternative. If Tim made Barlow angry enough, maybe Frank could get a clear shot. He nearly laughed aloud. When the hell had he become such a martyr?

He looked at his partner and smiled. The man was truly a piece of work. It amazed him to see his lover look so confident, so at ease with a gun in his hand. Oh, what a difference a year makes. If someone had asked him a months ago if this moment would ever be possible, he realized with surprise that he would have said yes. Frank was not someone who gave up easily. He worked hard to get his life back in order following the stroke. It wouldn't shock him to learn that Frank had even been to the firing range. But the true test for his friend would be right here, right now. Confidence holding a gun was one thing; confidence shooting a gun was another.

Tim shuddered. His options were pretty scarce. He closed his eyes and imagined Frank's lips upon his mouth and Frank's hands upon his body. Nothing would ever force Tim to deny the wonder of that night. The gun pressed harder and he trembled slightly. They had made love once and now it would never happen again.

"Detective," Barlow thrust his hips suggestively. "I own you."

Tim bit back the pain of unshed tears. "No," he shook his head. "Frank does."

Barlow screamed and knocked Tim into the wall never letting go of his arm. "You fucking whore!"

Frank gasped. He couldn't take his eyes away from Tim's face. He looked haggard and so deathly pale but beyond all that he was alive! His dark hair clung limply to his forehead and his hazel eyes were filled with worry but there was something deeper hidden within his expression. After all that Barlow had done to him, he still looked strong. Tim had seen such terrible things his life span that Frank wondered how he kept it all together. The amount of reserve and will it took for him to greet each day with a smile and a curious glance had never ceased to amaze Frank when they were partners. He was all the more astonished by it now.

But this latest tactic of Tim's was difficult for Frank to understand. Why in the world would he want to make Barlow angry? Frank's plan was to get the fuck mad enough to take the gun away from Tim and point it in his direction. When that chance came he wouldn't waste the opportunity to blow the bastard away forever. But it almost looked to him like Tim was trying to coerce Barlow into taking a shot at him so that Frank would have a clean opening. He suddenly felt very cold. //Oh no you don't Tim. No one should have to die for his partner twice.//


Lewis regained consciousness being dragged down a filthy hallway. His first thought was that Gee had better look into a better cleaning crew because the one the department had now sure as hell wasn't getting the job done. Barnfather would grow a tail if he saw this. Lewis laughed silently. Gaffney would lose weight. He turned his head and stared straight into the face of Popeye. "What the…"

"Shut the fuck up or I'll off your freak ass right here."

Not very literate, Lewis mused, but enough to do the trick. Tattoos covered a great deal of the man's body but to Lewis they made no sense. Other than Popeye, he could make out a weird looking woman with big breasts, one which was fading, and an eyeball with a knife cutting right through its center. No symmetry, he thought, not even a little bit.

"Where are we going?"

"You'll know when we get there."

He turned back to the other man. He was smaller and more dangerous looking than Tattoo boy but he wasn't carrying a weapon. God, how he loved it when crooks got cocky. Realizing this might be his only chance, he feigned passing out and prayed his captors were as stupid as they looked. The cursing he heard as he slumped to the ground almost made him smile.

"Damn lousy bastard." Tattoo boy shook him. "On your feet."

"Whatever you say." With a quick jump he kicked out, made contact with Popeye's smiling countenance, and knocked Tattoo boy off his feet, weapon flying. He flinched as the smaller man reached for him and grabbed the discarded gun. .

"I'm gonna enjoy this." His finger slowly started to compress the trigger and Lewis closed his eyes.

Well, this is it. In a brief instant Lewis realized he was sorry for so many things. Not seeing his brother more often, the wife who got away, the way he treated Mikey.

God, Kellerman had deserved better from him. A kind word, a confidence in their friendship. There was so much he wanted to correct in his life. If survived another day, his first mission would be to find his ex-partner, wherever he was, and have a real heart to heart. Feelings weren't made to be stomped on. He needed to speak to Mike, to let him know just how important he had been. Lewis sighed. Just how important he still was. //Ah Mikey, there's so much I should have said.//

Within seconds he heard the whoosh two bullets but felt no pain. Lewis inched his eyes open and stared into the broadly smiling face of John Munch. A quick look at his feet revealed a very dead little mean guy with a bullet through his chest. Tattoo boy, though still out, was being cuffed by a very relieved Falsone.

"The cavalry is here." Munch gestured to the body. "He missed. I didn't." He offered Lewis a hand up. "Where's Bayliss and Pembleton?"

"Here…somewhere. I wish to hell I knew."


Frank had to try something new. He had to communicate to Tim just how useless he thought his plan to be. //I can't let him die. Not when I finally realize just how much he means to me.// He shuddered to think that maybe after what Barlow's cruel treatment, Tim wanted his life to end. Or maybe Tim was just being Tim and putting his partner first. Whatever his reasons, Frank was more determined than ever that they would both live through this nightmare. He would accept nothing else.

"Do you know what we talked about in bed Barlow?" When Frank's prey didn't answer he continued. "No? We talked about you. Well, that's not exactly correct. I should say we laughed about you." He noticed Barlow's fingers tighten on the gun until his knuckles turned white. "We laughed about how stupid you were. About the pathetic way you just couldn't ejaculate." He considered. "That must be a bitch, huh? I even suggested you might be impotent but Tim said no since you did rape those men your problem must run deeper than that. Still…" Frank let his voice drift.

Barlow's face twitched. He tried to calm down. He was being played by an expert and the feeling wasn't setting very well. Impotency indeed! His earlier decision had been correct: Pembleton had to die.

"How could you be so stupid? We all knew it was you who did the killing. Crazy shit like that has to be done by a psycho so of course you were our number one suspect. There's no one else as daffy as you in the whole fucking city. Isn't that right Tim?"

Tim gasped when Frank spoke his name, yet the casual question seemed so familiar and so right he couldn't resist playing along. Tim steadied himself for the confrontation determined not to let his best friend down. "That's right Frank. His father knows what he did but he's just too embarrassed to admit it. Stuff like that doesn't sit well in high society."

"Mmmm…hmmm. You gonna loose your social standing now. The prison class system is all you're looking at. That is of course until the court puts you out of your misery."

"That would be the best thing for him Frank. His family could go on with their lives and the victim's families too. He'll be forgotten a month after he's gone." Tim nearly smiled, a box session without the box.

"Do you think I'm going to jail?" Barlow laughed.

"Jail or hell. It makes no difference to me." Frank's grin was cold.

"No difference at all." Tim repeated. "Either way, you're doing some hard time."

"Very hard time." Frank echoed. "Death time."

"I think you're mistaken. I'm not the one who's going to die here." Barlow shook Tim violently. "You're mine."

"No. Frank was my first."

"Not you Barlow." Frank smiled. "Me."

"And I know how that makes you feel." Tim shook his head.

Barlow glared at Frank his eyes sharp as daggers.

"Tell him before I do." Frank watched his lover nervously. He seemed to be going along with the game plan but Barlow was getting tough to figure.

"Insignificant, weak, undesirable…." Tim started.

"Very undesirable," Frank repeated eagerly.

"I could go on and on."

"But time is short," Frank added.

"The point is, when you're that lousy in the sack you have to find a compromise," Tim continued.

"Is that true Barlow? Are you a lousy lover?" Frank was smiling.

Tim's eyes narrowed. "And you found a compromise, didn't you?"

"I make no compromises!" Barlow roared.

"Oh, you made compromises all right." Frank snickered. "A corpse can't speak. A corpse can't tell the world just how freaking inadequate you are!"

"You see, what he was thinking Frank, is that no one would ever find out. But he messed up cause…you see," he paused. "I'm alive and I know the truth."

"Looks like Barlow made a boo-boo." Frank sobered. "I'm glad Tim."

"Glad?" Tim looked momentarily confused.

"That you're alive." Frank shrugged and turned back to Barlow. "It's over. You've burned your last bridge."

Barlow smile faded. "What a pithy saying." The sound of two bullets pierced the air and his expression turned victorious. "I told your partner he'd die first."

Tim shuddered. Oh god. No way was this happening. Lewis, Jesus, they'd spoken only an hour ago. He met Frank's eyes and frowned. "No."

Barlow kissed his cheek. "Yes. And now one of you will join him. Say good-bye to your lover." Killing Tim would be disappointing but it would hurt Pembleton tremendously. Barlow made his decision and raised the gun to Tim's forehead.


Later, Frank would say it all happened too fast for him to think straight, though at the time he would have sworn the world was moving in slow motion.

Barlow aimed the gun at Tim, his finger compressing the trigger. He had a weird smile on his face, almost charitably demonic, but Frank didn't have time to debate his own conflicting opinion. He glanced at his partner. Tim's expression was sharp but wary, his eyes lasers on Frank's face. In that moment a lifetime passed between them, the past and the present colliding in one instantaneous collage. Their first meeting, Frank's stroke, Tim's confession, the shooting, the pain, the joy, everything culminating in the memory of one long night of intense passion that both men revered and regretted.

They had been through too much for it to end like this. He still had not told Tim all that was in his heart, how special he was, how much more than a friend. He never said that he loved him, though Frank did in every possible way. He needed to talk to Tim, to explain his fears and doubts. It was the only way they could ever get anything settled. Sex with Tim had been the best of his life but he doubted whether he could go there again.

But god, how Frank craved him. The mental picture of stroking Tim gently and watching his orgasm build made him weak. The hard and soft kisses and the pounding thrust of body on sweat soaked body enveloped his heart and for a moment nothing else mattered except making wild love to Tim. Frank sighed. It wasn't fair to lead him on. Tim said he loved him but Tim would never cause him pain. He just didn't have it in him. Looking at his friend so frail and vulnerable made Frank feel guilty. He'd almost lost his partner again.


The gun felt comfortable in hand, it's warmth burning the tender skin on his palm. His aim was perfect, not as good as Tim's of course but he had worked hard to improve in the long months following his stroke. Frank blinked. He could see the whites of his victim's eyes enlarge only moments before a hole exploded through his forehead. Barlow sagged to the ground slowly, his large body clinging to Tim, his expression frozen in shock and horror. He never had a chance to fire.

Frank lowered his weapon and let it fall at his side. Strange that it had all come down to a small piece of lead to save them both. He hadn't hesitated for a moment. His heart thundered and his face burned. One year ago he had been unable to pull the trigger and the recriminations were unbearable. Tim bleeding, his own life in tatters. //Oh god.// Yesterday was only a memory. Today was indisputable and the past didn't matter. He realized he was shaking and closed his eyes. When he opened them Frank noticed only that Barlow was dead. His eyes drilled into the body, a silent mental challenge. //You'll never hurt anybody again.//

He glanced at Tim and frowned. Blood splatters draped across his collarbone and his face was still and ashen. All the reserve strength that allowed him to entice Barlow deserted him, leaving Tim trembling and uncertain. Frank wanted to hold him very badly. He needed to feel the vibrating hum of his heartbeat to ensure him that Tim was still alive. Until the moment Frank could finally touch and kiss and hold him, Tim would not be real to him.

"Are you okay?"

Tim glanced at Barlow and then moved away slowly toward Frank.

"It's okay Tim. He's dead." Frank reached out a hand and Tim stared blankly.

"You killed him Frank."

Frank nodded. "I had to do it." He paused. Tim's eyes were glazed in a state of shock. "I wanted to do it." He grabbed Tim. "I'm not sorry."

"You killed him," Tim repeated. He noticed the gun still in Frank's hand and the barely noticeable way he was shaking.

"Yeah god dammit I killed him Tim." Frank noticed that he was hurting Tim's arm but he didn't stop squeezing. "He hurt you and now he's dead. It' s over."

Tim slumped without warning into Frank's arms with a slight shudder and held tight. Inhaling the scent of his former partner and lover, he nuzzled his face deep into Frank's shoulder and allowed himself to breathe. Frank was right. It was finally over and somehow they had both survived. Reality hit like a ton of bricks. "Oh god," he gasped. "Lewis."

Frank wrapped his arms around Tim, in relief and sorrow. "We don't know he's dead."

Tim couldn’t move. He couldn't speak. He simply clung to Frank for dear life and said a silent prayer for his missing friend. He looked at Barlow on the floor and closed his eyes tight. "Frank…"

Frank's hands stroked Tim's hair and kissed the top of his head. "What?"

"What Barlow did to me…I…god Frank." Tim pushed away with his last ounce of strength. "You don't know…" His mind was a conflicting torrent between want and need. More than anything it was essential that Frank hold him. But just as strong was the overpowering urge to be left alone and untouched. He wasn't sure if he would ever be able to put himself back together. Frank rubbed his face and Tim moaned softly. //It's insane how much I desire this man.//

"I do know Tim. And I'll help you through this, okay?" He was surprised by how much Tim's doubtful expression hurt him. //I guess I don't have a great track record for sticking around when he needs me.// Frank pulled his partner back into his arms and kissed his lips gently. Tim's mouth was cold and lifeless under his but opened gradually with some gentle prodding and soft intimate sounds. The slow passionate kiss quickly evolved into something more as Frank squashed Tim's lips savagely, breathing strength and life into his exhausted, battered body. He wrapped his arms around Tim's back and jerked him into a tight embrace that his lover did not return. Frank refused to let go, in fact he could not release without feeling bereft and guilty, as if by letting go of Tim, he was abandoning him once again to forces beyond his control. //I love this man, and I will hold him as long as I want.// When they finally parted Frank stroked his face lovingly. "I'm not going anywhere." He turned back to Barlow's slowly cooling body. "You stay here. I've got to find Lewis."

Tim nodded wearily as Frank led him to the lone chair. He tried not to look at Barlow, tried not to think about the pain and the hate. Instead he centered his thoughts on Lewis and nodded again, not trusting himself to speak.

Footsteps in the hallway drew both men's attention. Frank took out his gun and stood ready, motioning for Tim to remain where he was. Just what we need, he thought, more unwanted company.

The door opened quickly and Munch burst into the room followed by Gee and two other officers.

For a moment they all looked at each in disbelief and then Munch smiled. //Thank god.// These men were his friends and John Munch had lost too many friends in his life. The fear that Barlow had killed even one of them was petrifying. Munch hoped his concern had not been too obvious. He didn't want his sarcastic image to suffer. He'd worked on it far too long. "Well…" surprisingly, Munch was at a loss for words.

"We heard shots. Is everybody all right?" Gee examined the scene with a practiced eye. Frank seemed a bit worse for wear and Bayliss looked like death warmed over but they were both alive. And Lewis makes three, he thought in relief. Then his face settled on Barlow and he frowned. "What happened?"

Tim spoke in a slurred voice. "Lewis, is he okay?"

"Why don't you ask me that Timmy?" Lewis entered quietly and smiled when he saw Barlow's body. "Frankie, I didn't know you had it in you."

"I did what I had to do. He was going to kill Tim." Frank gestured toward Barlow and spoke firmly. "Anyway, this is over."

"Falsone, get an ambulance here for Lewis and Bayliss. Call the coroner. We have to get this mess sorted out." Gee approached Tim cautiously. The man was definitely in need of care. He patted Tim's shoulder and the younger man flinched. "Tim."

"Forget the ambulance for me, Gee. I'm all right." Tim shrugged off the contact and closed his eyes.

"I don't think so Tim." Gee held his ground. "What happened here?"

Lewis spoke up. "Barlow grabbed me and Frank and then tricked Timmy into coming after us. He kept us here for a while, pounded on us for a bit, but everything's cool now. The good guys win and the bad guys lose. Frank's like one of those quick draw gunslingers." He wasn't sure how much Tim wanted everyone to know about the rape and Lewis wasn't going to be the one to spill the beans. That information was for Tim and Tim alone. He looked at Bayliss and smiled, hoping to convey the meaning of his wandering words.

Gee fumed. "Bayliss, you should have waited for back-up."

"I didn't have time. It all happened too fast." Tim rubbed his temple. "Can we get into this later?" The last thing he needed right now was a rundown of the past twelve hours. All he wanted was to crawl into bed and stay there for a week without any of his thoughts for company. Without any company at all he realized sadly taking a quick glance at Frank. The thought of sex, any sex, even what could possibly be considered the best sex of his life, made him tremble in denial. A kiss was one thing, but to actually have to respond to physical intimacy scared him to death. He sighed, deeply saddened by a future that was suddenly restraining instead of infinite, empty instead of fulfilling. //Oh god, it hurt so much.//

"Look Gee, Tim's in a bad way." Frank was concerned but stalling. "Let me get him to the hospital, okay?" So, Lewis was going to keep what happened to Tim a secret. He observed his former partner. Tim didn't look eager to recount the sordid details either. Frank didn't know if it was a good idea or not but now was not the time to discuss it. A part of Frank was angry that Barlow's punishment could not have been worse. He deserved to die a thousand times for his crimes and Frank knew a great many people who would gladly carry out the sentences. He hoped Tim would survive this horror without losing too much more of his soul. He was so haggard and worn-out that it broke Frank's heart to look at him. He needed to talk to Tim, to hold him close and convince his lover that he would do everything in his power to make everything right for him again.

He remembered the feel of Tim's full lips pressed lovingly against his own and the addictive response of his elegant body and shuddered. Frank couldn't shake the feeling he would not have sex with Tim again, and It shocked him to realize this was not what he wanted. "Okay, Gee?" he repeated almost pleading.

"Not okay." Gee frowned. "Why do I get the feeling that there's something the three of you don't want me to know?" He tapped his foot. "This is all very unfortunate detectives since I want to know everything." He glanced around the room at his motley crew. Frank's eyes were bolted on Tim who couldn't really seem to concentrate on anything. Lewis was nervously hedging his answers and alternating cautious glances at the two other men. Something went on here, Gee knew, something very bad. He shrugged. "Now, who wants to start?"

Frank sighed and turned to Gee. "It's a long story Lieutenant. A very long story."

"Well, lucky for you, I have plenty of time."