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FAKE First Year Together: Justice (June), ch 13
Dee sleeping
brit_columbia
Hi FAKE readers! Here I am, as promised, with the chapter. There are so many small things I'd like to mention or discuss that I think I'm going to have to leave them for future posts, or risk bumping this chapter way up over its allowed word limit. I had a lovely time with my girlfriend last weekend. We sat on her bed in pajamas on Sunday, stuffing ourselves with pastries out of a very large box and giggling. That is a memory I will still cherish when I'm old and grey. Otherwise, it has been an eventful and busy week. I'm feeling dismayed by how much pettiness and/or willful blindness there is in human nature. At the same time, I'm also quite detached from it. My husband says that the detachment isn't a good sign and that I need to travel. He's probably right. That's my state of mind in a nutshell!

FAKE First Year Together: Justice (June
)
Chapter 13

by Brit Columbia

Fandom: Fake
Pairing: Dee Laytner and Randy (Ryo) MacLean
Rating: I'm not sure if this is worksafe or not, since there is a brief reference to sexual activity.
Spoilers: Set after Volume 7 of the original Fake series by Sanami Matoh
Timing: This story is the sequel to FAKE First Year Together: A New Day (May), which I wrote to be set directly after Volume 7 finished. It's a continuation of the manga. 
Author's notes:  I don't know if One Police Plaza has a cafeteria or not, but I gave it one. By the way, my story Sweet Frustration ( http://brit-columbia.livejournal.com/13502.html) actually took place in the middle of this chapter! So if you feel like I missed an opportunity to write a lemon, I really didn't. The lemon has been out for years.
Thank you to the_ladyfeather tripple_p and shelley6441 for their help.
 

So Far in Justice:

Dee and Ryo caught John 'Jackhammer' Hambler, an associate of Lieutenant Mike Abernathy's, a few chapters ago. They coerced him into helping them to set up a sting to trap Abernathy. Recently, Bikky had his hands on a laptop that allegedly contained incriminating evidence that would link Abernathy to crimes, but he lost it in a struggle with Abernathy's men at a Manhattan subway station. Fortunately, Abernathy's men don't have the laptop, either. Ryo and Dee don't know about the subway incident because Bikky hasn't told them. Aunt Elena and Ryo are pressuring Bikky to go to a horse ranch near Philadelphia for his own safety, but Bikky doesn't want to go.


Justice (June), chapter 13: City of Dreamers

His heart sinking, Bikky stood wearily at the bottom of the five steps that led up to the sheltered porch of his apartment building's front door, patting the pockets of his shorts over and over, with the same result. Don't tell me, he thought. Aw, shit. After all that.

The way he figured it, he had two choices. He could buzz the manager, Mr. Humphries, and ask him or his wife to let him in, first to the building and then to the apartment, or he could go along to the 27th Precinct and tell Ryo he had lost his keys. Except Ryo wasn't at the 27th nowadays. He was at One Police Plaza. Bikky didn't know how he felt about going there. That place was bigger and more important and probably had way more serious security than he was used to. The front desk staff at the 27th, on the other hand, all knew who he was, and they were always nice to him. Especially those two ladies, Janet and Marianne. They were really nice, in more ways than one. He grinned at the memory of how they almost seemed to compete with each other to be the one who got to take him into the break room and ply him with doughnuts last time.

But One Police Plaza? The people there would probably treat him like a criminal. He thought for a moment. Maybe he should just buzz the apartment manager, after all. He didn't particularly want to be alone this evening, but, hell, he was already home. And he was hungry.

"Hello?" It was a young, high-pitched female voice.

"Hi, er...is that Mrs. Humphries?" Bikky didn't think it was, unless Mrs. Humphries had been sucking helium.

"No, sorry, I'm afraid she's out."

"Is Mr. Humphries there?"

"No, because they're both out together," said the voice brightly.

"Oh! Uhhh, well..." Bikky trailed off.

"Is there something I can help you with? I'm taking over for them until they get back."

"Yeah," said Bikky. "I'm Bikky MacLean, and I live in Apartment 303. I lost my keys and I need you to let me in."

"What did you say your name was?"

"Bikky MacLean."

"Okay, hang on, I'm looking it up." There was a long pause, during which she left the intercom on. Bikky could hear the rustling of papers, and then her voice saying "Hmmmmmm," in a way that didn't sound too promising.

She came back close to the microphone. "Your name one more time, please?"

"Bikky... MacLean," Bikky said slowly and carefully.

"I don't have that name for 303," she said. I have a Randy MacLean, but not a Bikky MacLean."

"Randy is my dad," said Bikky. "Don't you have me listed there, too?"

There was another silence before the young woman's voice returned. "Does your father have a daughter, perhaps? With a different last name?"

Bikky frowned, puzzled. "No," he said. "He only has me. I'm his son. Well, his foster-son."

"Well, the only other name I have listed for this apartment is "Vicky Goldman," she said. "Didn't you say your name was Bikky MacLean?"

"It's Bikky Goldman, not Vicky," said Bikky. "That's me!"

"Yeah, right. Come on, you can't just change your name now that I've told you what's on the list. You said you were Bikky MacLean. My list says Vicky Goldman, or Randy MacLean, but not Bikky MacLean."

"No, really. Bikky is a nickname. And my last name was Goldman until a short time ago. But my dad adopted me, so now my name is MacLean."

"Well, I'm sorry, but that's not what my list says."

"You're using an old list!" Bikky protested.

"I don't think so."

"Look, when are Mr. and Mrs. Humphries coming back?"

"Not until late, I'm afraid. They've gone to a Broadway show."

"Well, what am I supposed to do?" Bikky asked. "This is my home. My dinner is upstairs."

"I'm sorry, but, as I said, you're not on my list. I can't go letting people in if they're not on the list, can I? Suppose you were a criminal?"

Bikky leaned his head against the intercom, and sighed. "I'm not a criminal," he muttered sullenly. Anymore.

"Maybe if you got your dad to contact me... it'd help to clear things up," she said helpfully.

"Okay, whatever."

He stood up straight again, and called Ryo. Voice mail, as usual. Jeez! Why could he never get through to Ryo when he needed him? Okay, fine, he would go to One Police Plaza. And if they wouldn't let him in either, he'd just go to McDonalds. Whatever happened, he needed food and soon.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:
        
"Dee, you're too close."

"To close to what?"  

"Don't play dumb. Too close to me."

"Dude, if we're both looking at the same computer screen, we kinda need to sit close to each other."

"Does your hand need to be on my thigh?"

Dee looked down and widened his eyes in fake surprise at where his hand was. "Hey now, look at that."

Ryo pushed the offending hand away. "Keep your mind on work. What if someone walked in here?"

"No one could see your thigh unless they walked all the way around the desk!"

"Still. We need to be as professional as possible, especially here. We're not exactly surrounded by friends at One Police Plaza. Are you done with this picture?"

"Yeah. Next." Dee's other hand stole across the backrest of Ryo's chair, and he leaned forward a little. "Hey, recognize that guy on the far left?"

They were in the 'History of Steelshot' section of the web page. The picture on the screen featured a much younger looking Rick and Alan onstage somewhere. Rick was playing guitar and Alan was at a standing microphone.

"No," said Ryo. "Should I?"

"Well, I'm not sayin' I'd put money on it, but that guy sure looks like Tyrone."

"Who's Tyrone?"

Dee shrugged. "All I know is that he's a Stone Blood. He was on guard duty the night you, me and Marty went to question Ibo in the hospital."

Ryo put on his reading glasses and leaned in close to the screen for a better look. "You know, I think you may be right. If so, that's significant."

"How so?"

"Well, later pictures show Rick with Devils. But here he is, what, four, five years ago? With a Stone Blood." He clicked on 'print'. That was one for the file.

"Well, Ibo was the one who told us to go looking for Ja Romeo in the the East Village. They obviously know each other."

"There must have been a falling out at some point." Ryo leaned back in his chair again, but jumped when he felt Dee's arm there.

"Maybe we need to go talk to Tyrone," said Dee, deliberately not moving his arm. "Alan either still likes Rick, or has reasons for wanting to stay on the guy's good side. But I bet Tyrone could tell us a thing or two."

"He may be able to explain those bruises you saw on Alan's arms, too."

"Well, with enough time, I think I might be able to get Alan to tell me himself."

"Dee, I can't explain it, but I feel like we're running out of time. I feel like Abernathy is planning something big. He knows we're on his trail, so he's going to bring it to us."

Dee gave this his full attention. Ryo had a peculiar kind of instinct for predicting the weird turns their cases sometimes took. He had learned not to dismiss his partner's hunches.

"Okay," he said. "I hear you. Let's go find Tyrone. Maybe after our meeting with Jerkhammer tonight, we could swing by--"

"Excuse me," said a voice from the door, and they both looked up. The giant security guard from the front desk stood there, with his enormous hands resting on the drooping shoulders of none other than Bikky.

"B!" exclaimed Ryo, glancing reflexively at the clock before returning his eyes to the boy. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Ryo. Sorry to bug you at work like this." To everyone's surprise, possibly even Bikky's himself, he suddenly rushed forward and wrapped his arms around Ryo. Ryo hugged back, startled, but grateful. This was his first real hug from Bikky since, oh, probably Eddie's funeral.

Dee got up and went forward to shake the security guard's hand. "Thanks for delivering the rugrat, Lance. Where'd you find him?"

Ryo watched them, his arms around Bikky. Trust Dee to know the guy's name.

The big man looked pleased to be acknowledged. "Oh, he tried to rush one of the elevators, but I'd already spotted him on the outside camera, so I was expecting something."

"Bikky!" exclaimed Ryo. "Why didn't you just tell them you were my son?"

Bikky seemed reluctant to let go of Ryo, but finally he did. "Sometimes people don't believe me," he mumbled, eyes down.

"Who? Who didn't believe you?" Ryo's eyes were sharp, and so was his voice. Dee felt that someone, somewhere was going to be catching royal hell from Ryo in the very near future.

Bikky didn't answer. After a short hesitation, all he said was, "I'm starving, Ryo. I mean, totally. You guys got any food?"

"Well, if you'll excuse me," said Lance, "I'd probably best be getting back downstairs." His eyes went from Ryo to Dee and then back to Ryo.

"Um, thank you." Ryo looked up at him, a blush stealing over his features. "Thanks for taking care of him. I owe you one...Lance."

"No you don't," said Lance. "I'm a dad, too. Got two rambunctious boys, so I know what it's like. 'Night everyone. I'm just about off shift." He saluted and left, with one last inscrutable look at Ryo.

"Look at the time, dude," said Dee. "It's almost dinner-time. And Bikky and I are starving. Right, Bik?"

Bikky's stomach gurgled loudly is if to punctuate what Dee had said, and Ryo laughed. "Okay, let's go grab something fast," he said. "Dee, any ideas?"

"There's a sub place around the corner, but I don't know if it's still open," Dee said.

"I saw a brick oven pizza place on my way here," Bikky ventured hopefully.

"I think since you guys are starving, we should just go downstairs to the Plaza cafeteria." Ryo stood up and removed his suit jacket from a hanger on the back of the door. He turned back and was met by two mutinous and disappointed faces. "What's wrong with the cafeteria?" he asked. "Bikky, they have mac and cheese, you know."

"Really?" Bikky's demeanor underwent a change. "I guess that's okay, then. Come on Dorkhead, let's go."

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:

Bikky walked up the stairs toward the third floor with Dee's keys in his hand, remembering the look on Perv-man's face when Ryo had told him to hand them over during their so-so dinner in the staff cafeteria of One Police Plaza.

"Huh?" Dee had said. "Why do I have to give him my keys? You live with him. You should give him yours and then he can let you in later."

Ryo immediately became annoyed. "What? Don't be ridiculous. I'll be coming home close to midnight, by which time Bikky should be sound asleep, especially considering it's a school night. I don't want to drag him out of bed just to let me in. Your keys are only a spare set anyway. It's not like you live with us."

"I thought you didn't mind me having keys to your place," grumbled Dee, poking rebelliously at his coleslaw. His face was getting as pink as the chunks of ham that were embedded in Bikky's macaroni and cheese.

"Dee, would you please stop being childish? You'll get your keys back as soon as I have time to make you another copy. This is just a temporary solution."

Dee glared at both of them for another ten seconds before finally, and with great reluctance, removing Ryo's building and apartment keys from his key chain and smacking them down hard on the table in front of Bikky.

"Thank you, Dee," Ryo had said in a disapproving voice. "Bikky, say thank you."

"Thank you, Loser." Bikky snatched the keys and grinned nastily at Dee.

Bikky wanted to smirk at the memory of Dee's resentful face, but was unable to summon one. He had to admit to himself that the only times he actually felt safe nowadays was when he was with Dee and Ryo. As soon as they had dropped him off out front tonight and driven away, all his jittery feelings came rushing back. He'd give anything to have Ryo and the Perv, grumpiness and, yes, even loveydovey jackrabbit-ness and all, with him right now. But they were off to a meeting somewhere in Harlem, and he had to spend the next few hours by himself. 

As he got closer to the door, his steps slowed. What if someone was waiting for him in there? He was pretty sure he had lost his keys during the conflict at the subway station, and not earlier in the day. There were three possibilities, as he saw it. One, either his keys were just plain lost and he was never going to see them again, or two, someone had turned them into the station's lost and found, or three, one of Abernathy's guys had picked them up on the escalator and was just waiting for a good time to come over and question him further about the current location of the laptop.

If that happened, he didn't know how he was going to convince them that he no longer had control of the laptop situation. He hated to admit even to himself that he didn't know where the laptop was or if he was ever going to see that Tahawney guy again, whoever the hell he was. Bikky was mildly freaked out about the fact that Tahawney seemed to know all about him, right down to his last name and his school. What the fuck was up with that? It couldn't be a coincidence that he and Tom both seemed to be having encounters with wheelchair stalkers now. He needed to get a description from Tom. The guy had helped him out back there on the train platform, but was he really a friend?

Of course if Abernathy sent someone to come and search his room for the laptop, they would naturally come when Ryo was working. Since Tom's prick of a dad was a cop too, it wouldn't be hard for him to find out when Ryo was working. Like... tonight, for example. 

He stood in front of the door for a long time, not knowing what to do. Finally, he sort of shook himself and pulled out his cell phone. If he stood out here any longer, one of the neighbors was bound to notice and would ask him what was wrong. The incident would get reported to Ryo, and he didn't want that.

Carol answered on the second ring. "Hi Bikky! How did it go? Why didn't you call me sooner?" There was music playing in the background. It sounded like girl band crap.

"It was pretty bad," he said. "I'm glad you didn't come with us, actually."

"Why, what happened?" Her voice changed and he heard the volume of the music go down.

"I'll– I'll tell you in a little while," he said. "But right now, I need you to do something for me."

"Anything!" she exclaimed. "Tell me and I'll do it. You want me to come over?"

Bikky closed his eyes. He wanted her to come over more than anything. But he seemed to be a shit magnet today, and he didn't want to be the cause of anything bad happening to her.

"Just stand by and wait for a call from me," he said. "Don't take any other calls until you've heard from me, okay?"

"Um...sure," she said, sounding a little doubtful. "Is that all?"

"Pretty much," he said. "Oh, and if you haven't heard from me in exactly seven minutes, then please call 911 and tell them to come to my place."

"What?" she demanded. "Bikky, what's going on?"

"Seven minutes," he said, and hung up.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:

 Ryo lifted his arm and waved to someone at the other end of the restaurant. "Jackhammer just came through the door," he said to Dee, who quickly glanced in the direction Ryo was indicating.

"What the–" Dee threw down the plasticized menu that he was perusing. "Did he fucking bring a chick with him?"

"I think it's the same girl from the night we chased him down in the Bronx," Ryo murmured. He wasn't any happier than Dee. A sting only worked if very few people knew what was going down. Once participants started bringing their friends and loved ones on board, the chances of someone's cover getting blown increased exponentially.

"This is Maria," Jackhammer announced defiantly, his arm around a black-haired girl in a tight pink golf shirt and faded denim cut-offs. "She's gonna be sitting in on our meeting this evening."

"And why exactly is that?" Dee asked. "Nothing good on TV tonight? You don't give a shit about her safety? All of the above?"

The girl's sullen eyes kindled. "Listen up, cop!" she hissed, looking around furtively to make sure no one was listening. "We know you no give a damn about us. We are just the little people and our lives are no important to you. You use us for you big plans and you don't care if anyone who is no a cop get shot. But I'm no gonna let you make Johnny to die!"

"Look, 'Maria'," Dee said her name with deliberate emphasis. "Let's get one thing straight. Unless you're a criminal who wakes up every day thinking of new and old ways to break the law, then your life is very important to us. We don't want you to die or get hurt, and therefore, we want you to go home right now."

"No. She stays or we both leave." Jackhammer's arm tightened around Maria, who shot him a quick look of gratitude and snuggled a little closer.

"John Hambler." Ryo raised his eyebrows at the man and spoke without smiling. "Can I just remind you that if you walk away from this meeting and therefore cancel the deal we made, the warrant order we arranged to have put on hold for you will go right back into the system. In addition, my partner and I will rethink our earlier decision not to submit the paperwork from our last encounter with you."

Dee broke in, counting on his fingers. "In which we removed from your person one illegal firearm, concealed, one honkin' big blade twice as long as the regs permit, and one small bag of cannabis, which is still considered an illegal drug in the state of New York. Hey, and let's not forget that you tried to draw on a cop. You'll not only be back in Sing Sing by the end of the week, but you'll be facing new charges, too." He transferred his gaze to Maria. "Whaddaya say, sister? Since you seem to be his lawyer and all."

Maria reeled off a few choice words in Spanish, and then spat on the floor in front of the booth Dee and Ryo were occupying. She made as if to pull away from Hambler, but he hung onto her.

"Wait, baby," he said. "Gimme a minute here." She nodded and stood back.

Ryo observed the change in Dee's expression, and kicked him under the table just as his partner's mouth opened to say something mean. In his opinion, Dee was sometimes a little too harsh with people.

"Look," said Jackhammer. "I know you think I'm a piece of trash, and I don't have to guess why. You seen my rap sheet, and yeah, it looks bad. Most of that stuff wasn't my fault, but I agree that some of it was."

Maria stood off to one side, her arms folded, gazing at Hambler and nodding. Her face was tight with emotion as if she were trying not to cry. It was clear to Ryo, although he couldn't imagine why, that she was deeply emotionally invested in this large, battered-looking man in front of them.

"We're listening," said Ryo, his foot still pressing warningly against Dee's shin.

"So.... So, after this job, I wanna go straight, like from here on in. You guys already know I'm lookin' to get paroled to Texas. I don't wanna go back to being the same guy I was. I gotta get away from the New York scene, the drugs, the players here." He reached out blindly and Maria's hand leapt eagerly to meet his, her small brown fingers curling around his big sallow ones. "Maria and me, we wanna get a piece of land, start a new life together. Hell, this is it for me. I never felt this way before."

"Mi querido!" she whispered huskily, her eyes shining damply.

"That's fucking A-1 fabulous," said Dee. "So why can't she go home and watch TV right now while we talk about business?"

"Because she IS my business!" Jackhammer insisted. "What I do affects her. Don't you see that?"

"What I see is that you cooperate with us, or go back to the big house. You and your lady love ain't holding any cards here."

"Dee..." Ryo kicked him again. "Let it go, okay? What happens here DOES affect her life." He didn't add that he felt Hambler had probably already filled in his girlfriend about all the details involved in this sting. She probably knew enough as of right now to compromise the operation if she was, in fact, going to.

He invited them to sit down, which they did. Maria glared triumphantly at Dee.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

His heart in his mouth, Bikky unlocked the door as quietly as possible, and entered the darkened apartment. The front door opened onto the kitchen, and for at least a minute, he stood in the shadows next to the stove and sink, just listening. He couldn't hear anything except the hum of the refrigerator and other normal apartment building sounds. He finally found the courage to push the door into an almost-closed position and switch on the light. From then on, he did a rapid search of the apartment: living room, Ryo's room, his own room, even the linen closet, which no grown man could have fit inside, but hey. Okay, whew, the whole place was empty. He hurried back to lock the apartment door. He had left it ajar in case it had been necessary to come tearing back out into the hall. After cranking the deadbolt, he slid the chain home, too. Those bastards may have his keys, but the chain would stop them. Or at least slow them down long enough for him to call 911. He just had to make sure the chain was back off again before Ryo came home. It wouldn't do his anti-horse-ranch stance any good if Ryo knew he was scared enough to put the chain on the door. He didn't think he would be able to fall asleep tonight, anyway, not as long as he was alone.

The song Negative Space by Metz erupted in the charged silence of the kitchen, making him jump about three feet off the floor and squeak like a deranged hamster. Jesus, how embarrassing. He was glad no one had been there to see that. He was going to have to change that ringtone. He flipped open the phone and saw that it was Carol.

"Yo Cal!"

"Bikky? It's been almost seven minutes! Is everything okay?" she sounded scared.

"Yeah, for now. But what a day," he said.

"Tell me all about it," she urged, and he did. Talking to her made him feel better, not to mention less alone.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

"I want him to wear a bullet vest." Maria's voice was adamant.

"Naw, baby, I don't think that's a good idea," said Hambler. "They show."

She turned fierce eyes on Dee and Ryo. "Will the cop who is with him be wearing a bullet vest?"

"We don't know," said Ryo, after exchanging a look with Dee. "It depends on who gets assigned to go with him, as well as our assessment of the risks. As John said, they show."

"The guy we're after ain't likely to start shooting," Dee added. "He has too much to lose by doing that. Also, he doesn't like to do his own dirty work."

"It's only a car job." Hambler sniffed his glass of orange soda before taking a swallow. "The only time guns come out in a car job is if someone's jackin' it. Mike don't need to jack no cars with guns. He's a cop. He can do it the easy way. He does it all the time. Or used to. I been inside for a while."

"What do you mean, he does it all the time?" Ryo looked sharply at Hambler.

"He sees a nice car worth some coin. He sends a cop to pull the driver over for whatever reason they cook up. The cop calls a guy with a tow truck to 'impound' the car, and the owner never sees it again."

"But don't people complain to the NYPD?"

"Yeah, sometimes." Hambler looked at him. "But nothin' happens. Someone takes a message. No one calls back. Even if a guy gets a lawyer, there ain't no record of the car coming in. Besides, Mike don't target upstanding citizens. Who got the flash cars nowadays? Dealers and gang members, that's who. Mike ain't gonna move on no senator's Audi."

Ryo tightened his lips and stared wrathfully at his coffee cup. "I want that bastard in jail."

Hambler shrugged. "He's just part of the food chain."

"Do you know of any other cops who run the same kind of game?" Dee asked him.

Hambler took another sip of his drink. "If I did, would it be smart for me to open my goddamn mouth about it? I told you, I'm gonna do what you say I gotta do so I can get my parole back on track. That's it. No more. Then I just want a quiet life until Norm says I can blow town with Maria."

"All right, let's get on with this," said Ryo. "The car we got you is a Lexus IS-F. Try not to scratch it, because it's due to go to auction later this month. We've arranged for there to be two kilos of cocaine under the spare tire. This is what you offer Mike."

"I thought I was supposed to offer him the car."

"No, he'll get suspicious if you do that right out of the gate. Besides, as you say, you've been inside for a while. He's only offered you drug and enforcer work since you got out. You tell him you promised the car to someone else."

"That'll make him want it." Dee said. "Let him think you're branching out."

Hambler hesitated, then nodded. "Makes sense. He knows I always had other deals goin' on."

"Now make sure you don't deal with anyone but him." Dee said. "Tell him you ain't handing anything over to a flunky."

"We know the drill, don't we baby?" Hambler turned towards Maria's adoring face, and Ryo watched them.

"Don't let Mike know about Maria, either," he warned. "He'll find a way to use her. That's his style."

Hambler's powerful arm went around Maria again. "Don't have to tell me that," he said. "I've known that cocksucker for a long time. Now, we gonna go see this car, or what?"

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Bikky came awake abruptly to the awareness that there was someone in his room. A shadow moved next to the closet, and he heard a low, cruel laugh. He knew he ought to get up and get ready to run, to call for help, but he felt oddly paralyzed: arms, legs, face, even his voice. The only part of him that could move was his heart, which was thudding away by itself in his chest. The man moved closer and as he passed in front of the window, a shaft of moonlight illuminated muscular, heavily tattooed arms. It was mustache! Except when he spoke, he had skull cap's voice.

"Gonna make you cry for your mama, boy. You get us that goddamn laptop, or you're gonna be cryin' into your own puke."

"Bikky!" That was Ryo's voice now, but he sounded far away. There was a banging sound, but that was far away too. Then his cell phone went off next to the wall where it was busy charging. Bikky turned his head to look and was overjoyed that he could move again! "Ryo"! he croaked. He had to warn Ryo. He had to get up.
 
Then he realized that the lights were on, and mustache was gone. What the hell? Had all that been a dream? His cell phone was still ringing. His blood surging with adrenaline, he jumped out of bed and snatched it up. It was Ryo.
 
"Ryo? Ryo!"
 
"Bikky! Why did you put the chain on? I can't get in."
 
"Sorry, Ryo. I didn't mean to leave it on. I guess I fell asleep. I'm coming now to unlock the door." Bikky padded quickly down the hall to the kitchen, trying to breathe and think normally. The time on the stove clock said 11:55. The last thing he remembered doing was lying on his bed, trying to compose a book report.

When he opened the door and saw Ryo's concerned face looking down at him, he felt so relieved that he almost wanted to cry. Almost. He hoped it didn't show on his face.

"B, are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah. I was doin' my homework and I fell asleep." He rubbed at his face. "Didn't mean to lock you out."

"Did anything happen?"

"No! Just a boring book report that put me out like a light."

Ryo didn't seem to want to let it go. "Well, it's not like you to put the chain on."

"Sure it is. I put the chain on lots of times. Besides, tonight I got to thinking about my keys. What if someone has 'em? So I put the chain on, just to be safe."

Ryo nodded, appearing to accept that. "We'll call MTA Lost and Found again tomorrow, and if they haven't located your keys by tomorrow night, we'll get the lock changed. Don't worry." He tried to hug Bikky, but Bikky pulled away.

"I ain– I mean, I'm not worried, Ryo! I'm sure we'll get my keys back."

"Sure. Now let's see about getting you back into bed. You think you can fall asleep again?"

"Hope so." Bikky yawned and stretched. Unfortunately, he felt sort of wide awake.

"Do you think a mug of hot Ovaltine might help? With marshmallows?"

Bikky brightened. "Yeah!"

"Okay, but there's a price."

"What's that?"

"You have to give me a hug." Ryo opened his arms and looked at Bikky hopefully.

"Aw, Ryo." Bikky tried to act embarrassed, but actually he was relieved to have an excuse to hug Ryo. His arms went gratefully around his foster-dad, and he felt and heard Ryo chuckle.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Ryo sat up in bed, panting. What a dream! What time was it? He looked at the clock on the nightstand. Two a.m. He lifted the sheet up off the sticky wet mess he had made of the front of his boxers, and reached over to turn on the light so he could inspect the damage. Luckily, it turned out that his shorts had contained most of the wet stickiness, so he wouldn't have to change the sheet. He definitely needed a change of underwear, though.

Why, why, why had he had such a dream? About Sergeant Pekoe, of all people! He didn't even like the man, and he had absolutely no doubt that the feeling was mutual. In his dream, Ross had been coldly adversarial, as usual. He had been trying to order Ryo to move his files into a small, narrow, windowless office. Ryo listened for a few moments, studying Ross's lean, haughty face, and that perfect hair of his that never moved. Then he seized Ross by the front of his shirt and hauled him into the room. "Don't be an asshole, Ross," he growled against the man's neck, which was ridiculous because of course in real life he would never talk to a higher ranking officer like that. Without even caring that the office door stood wide open behind them, he had then ordered Ross to drop his pants and bend over the desk. Ross acquiesced meekly and whimpered with pleasure when Ryo took him forcefully.

Lord, like that would ever happen! With an effort, Ryo pushed the disquieting images out of his brain and quickly got out of bed to get another pair of underwear out of his dresser. Perhaps it was the Ovaltine that had caused such a strange dream. He certainly wasn't going to drink that stuff at midnight again anytime soon.

He knew he needed to get back to sleep as soon as possible. The alarm was due to go off earlier than usual, since he and Dee were temporarily back on first shift just for Tuesday. But when Ryo looked over at his bed, he knew he didn't dare lie down on it with these strange feelings brought on by his dream still bumping around inside him. Instead, he spent the next twenty minutes sitting in bed and making a to-do list for the rest of the month. When his drowsiness returned, he switched out the light and lay down, soon sliding into a deep and dreamless slumber. 

To Ryo's surprise, the light of morning revealed the sight of Bikky, stretched out beside him, unaffected, as usual, by the relentless beeping of the alarm clock. Ryo's first reaction, after shutting off the alarm, of course, was to peek at himself surreptitiously under the covers, and feel relieved that he hadn't had any more nocturnal emissions. His second reaction was to wonder why Bikky had come to sleep with him. First the chain on the door, and now it seemed Bikky didn't want to sleep alone. Aunt Elena was obviously right. Bikky was more scared than he was letting on. Ryo decided to call the principal of Wilson Lloyd and see if it would be possible for his son to do the last two weeks of his schoolwork for the year by mail or internet submission. It was time to make arrangements to send him to Devon.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

 "Hey Dee, have you come back home to us?" Janet greeted him with a smile as he walked past the front desk on his way to the stairs.

"Hiya, darlin'. Sorry to disappoint, but I'm just here for the afternoon. Ryo's in court today and Chief needs me to go out on a call with Ted. He was supposed to meet me out front, but he obviously didn't get the memo."

"Say, a guy came in here fifteen minutes ago looking for you. Says he's a PO."

"What's his name?"

"Norman Gray. Ted took charge of him. You'll find them both upstairs, I'm sure."

Marianne looked up from the switchboard and waved. "Hey Dee, tell Ryo hi from us next time you see him. It isn't the same around here without you guys."

Dee grinned at her. "Sure thing. See ya later, doll."

When he got up to the CI room, he found Ted talking enthusiastically to Sheldon and Allison, but there was no sign of the PO Ted had allegedly spirited upstairs.

"There really was a goddamn body there! Just like Marty said. And it looks like Drake and JJ are gonna get most of the credit." Ted laughed. "Talk about luck."

"What's this about a body?" Dee asked.

"Oh, hi Dee. Didn't you hear the news?" Sheldon asked him with more animation than he usually displayed. "Marty's crew found a body in Tony DeLuca's back yard in Oyster Bay this morning. JJ and Drake were on stakeout duty there last night, and they stopped Tony's guys from digging it up first and transporting it off the property."

"Fuckin' awesome," said Dee. "JJ and Drake oughta get commendations for that. Anyone in custody?"

"Yeah," said Ted. "Apart from Tony, who couldn't run due to some injuries he already had, they got four other Corporate America members. Tony's brother Sol got away."

"Well, that's a damn respectable haul," Dee remarked, although he felt mildly jealous that Drake and JJ were the stars of the day. "Good press for the two-seven, too. Do we know who the stiff is?"

"Nope. Tony naturally is saying he doesn't know how the hell it got there. Marty is organizing an autopsy."

"Well, Teddy-boy, there's no such glory for us today. You ready to go look at big, hot pink vibrators?"

"What?" Allison looked shocked. "Where are you going?"

Ted leered at her. "Break-in at the Love-Pole Boutique. All kinds of sex toys are missing."

Allison made a face of disgust. "Jesus. So why are you guys pulling this duty, and not Central Robbery? Was there a homicide?"

"Unknown," said Ted. "The owner is missing, and it looks like there may have been a struggle."

"Well, have fun. This is the perfect call for you two. Try to keep straight faces."

"Hey," protested Dee. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means act like professionals and not a couple of high school kids."

Dee stuck his chest out and flashed her a grin. "I'll have you know that Dee Laytner is no stranger to sex toys, although I betcha Teddy here will be blushing like an altar boy thirty seconds after entering the store."

"Oh yeah?" retorted Ted. "You probably have to pack a whole suitcase of 'em around with you just to make sure you got something you can satisfy a lover with."

"You're just jealous, Captain Vanilla. You need to live a little. Maybe we can try to bring back a couple of inflatable ladies so you can spend the evening 'dusting them for prints'."

"See, this is exactly what I'm talking about," said Allison with a sigh. "Sheldon, maybe you and I ought to take this one instead."

"Not a chance in hell," said Sheldon, with a shudder of distaste. "It's all theirs. Go on, get out of here, guys. We've got work to do."

"We're going, we're going," said Dee. "I'll take sex toys over paperwork any day of the week. Hey Ted, what happened to that mysterious PO? I heard he came upstairs with you."

Ted looked around. "Dunno. Said he was goin' to the john. Maybe he got lost. Anyway, I'll go down and get us a car. Don't drag your butt, okay?"

In the hallway, Dee spotted an auburn-haired young man walking slowly and reading the name plates on the doors. He hesitated at the empty office which still bore a plate that read 'Laytner/MacLean'.

"Hey, bud, you lookin' for someone?"

The guy looked at him and smiled. "Yeah," he said. "I'm looking for Detectives MacLean and Laytner, but I'm not clear on exactly which building they work out of, Puzzle Palace, or here."

"Well, you've found one of us," Dee said. "I'm Detective Laytner."

"You're Dee Laytner? Oh, shit," said the guy, staring at Dee.
 
"'Oh shit', what? Who the hell are you and what do you want?"
 
"You're really good looking," came the sad-sounding reply.
 
Both the non-sequitur and the unhappy look on the guy's face took Dee aback slightly. "Gee, thanks for noticing, buddy, but you can just stow the personal observations until you've answered my fucking question." He frowned suspiciously at the man in front of him. This guy was acting flaky, but something told him he wasn't really a flake. Also, his internal gaydar alert system was pinging like crazy.
 
"Uh... Sorry about that. I'm Norman Gray, John Hambler's parole officer," Norm said, blushing. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. Crap, I'm really putting my foot in it, here." He seemed to think for a moment and then brightened. "It's just that, um, well, everyone in this precinct is so damn good looking!" he said. "I think I may have lost a bet because of it."
 
Dee gave him a small grin and shook the other man's shyly proffered hand. "You obviously haven't met the Chief," he said. "And some of those guys upstairs in Narcotics who totally live up to all the doughnut-cop stereotypes." He considered flirting with this guy a little but decided to hold back for the moment. "So, are you here about Jerkhammer?"

"Yeah... sort of. Your partner filled me in on the plan. It's for Wednesday, right?"

Dee looked around cautiously. "We shouldn't discuss it here, man. I don't have time right now, anyway, 'cause I'm due to go out on a call. But, walk outside with me."

"Oh, sorry. Right. Okay." They went down the stairs together talking about basketball. When they got outside, Norman told Dee that he needed something in writing from him or Ryo stating that John was willingly working with them.

"Otherwise, being in possession of drugs is a violation of his parole, you see. I want to make sure he's protected."

Dee shrugged. This sounded like paperwork, which meant he wasn't interested. "Give my partner a call on his cell. He's in court right now, but he should be done in a couple hours. You got the number?" He pushed his hair up off his forehead.

"Yes, I think so." Norm gazed into his eyes a moment longer in the bright sunlight and then blushed again. Dee couldn't help grinning before putting on his sunglasses. He enjoyed having that effect on people, but only if they were hot. Norm was hot enough, but for the past couple of years he found he had been measuring every attractive man he saw against the impossible-to-match standard of Ryo MacLean.

"Laytner!" Damn, if that didn't sound exactly like an enraged walrus. "Why the hell are you and that slacker O'Neill not on your way to that call? I told you to report here forty-five fucking minutes ago!"

"Uh, nice meeting you," said Norm and hurried away.

Dee sighed and turned to face the Chief's wrath.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

Ryo lay down on the bench press in the community center gym that was near his building. He hadn't felt like going to the gym at the 27th today. After his dreary afternoon in court, he didn't want to think anymore about police work or law, and going to the 27th was guaranteed to bring him into contact with co-workers who would want to talk shop. He concentrated on emptying his mind of all work and Bikky-related worries as he pushed upward on the bar. When he finished his set, he sat up and looked at the clock. Should he try to call Bikky again? No, it was too late. His son would be on the basketball court by now. He and Bikky had been fighting by phone all day. He didn't understand why Bikky was so fiercely opposed to going to Devon. To Ryo, it seemed like it would be a dream come true for Bikky, a fabulous opportunity. He would get out of school two weeks early, go on a cool vacation, and learn to ride horses. What was the problem? It wasn't even for the whole summer, just a few weeks. If their positions were reversed, Ryo would jump at the chance. He loved horses. Hell, everyone loved horses. Didn't they? But Bikky had gotten quite emotional and had hung up on him twice. The fact that Ryo had worked first shift today meant that he would be home at suppertime, instead of working. All day, he had been looking forward to having dinner with Bikky. Now he wondered if Bikky would want to come home for dinner or not. If he thought they were going to talk about horses some more, he might not.

"You done with the bench press, buddy?" A middle-aged man with a drooping brown mustache stood in front of him.

"Oh, yeah, sure." Ryo hastily stood up and wiped it down with his towel. "It's all yours." He had to stop being an airhead and focus on his workout. He wouldn't be able to talk to Bikky for at least an hour anyway. He also expected to see Dee tonight, as he had left a message for his partner saying that he would be home around five p.m.. For a moment that strange dream he had had the night before flashed into his mind. Yes, he really wanted to see Dee.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:..:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

"Bikky, I'm tired of arguing. Elena and I believe that sending you to Pennsylvania is the safest option for you right now. And don't you dare tell me that you're going to run away from there! Do you have any idea how long you'll be grounded if you do that?"

"Ryo, you keep forgetting that I had a way more dangerous life before I met you!" Bikky was practically yelling. "I'm pretty damn good at taking care of myself, you know. And just 'cause YOU like horses doesn't mean everyone does! I can't figure out why you think that shoveling horse shit on a friggin' ranch in the middle of friggin' nowhere with no video games, no basketball and none of my friends and family around is gonna be so much freakin' fun for me! For you maybe, but not for me!"

"Look, Bikky, it's just for a little while–"

"Like hell! I'm gonna be stuck there most of the summer! Don't think I don't know that. I wanna spend the summer with my friends, Ryo, can't you understand that? We've got basketball tournaments lined up. And Carol's got a summer job at House of Beads. I won't see her for the whole summer if you kick me out."

"B, will you please stop talking like that? I'm not kicking you out! I'm not sending you away because I want to. I'm gonna miss you like crazy! I'm scared for you, that's all."

"I keep telling you you don't have to be freakin' scared for me! I'm on familiar turf here in the city. How do you know that Tom's dad won't send people after me huh? Then it'll just be me and a bunch of horses and the nice old lady who owns them. I feel way safer with you and Dee."

"He won't send people after you because once you're gone, he'll turn his attention to other... things," said Ryo. He didn't add "other ways to get at me", even though that was what he was thinking. "Plus, he won't have any idea where you've gone, will he?"

"Sure he will. All my friends know you're trying to pack me off to a horse ranch near Philadelphia. Someone will tell Tom for sure."

"Bikky, you were supposed to keep it a secret!"

"How do you expect me to keep something like that a secret? I'm leaving my team to play those tournaments alone, I'm running out on my best friend..." Bikky's tone got even more accusing. "Don't forget Cal hasn't exactly had an easy time with this whole thing either. That freak-ass cop from Queens tried to pin Eddie's murder on her. I wouldn't be surprised if old man Abernathy tries going down that road again."

"Well, I told her she was more than welcome to go with you, but she decided not to go," Ryo reminded him.

"She has to work, Ryo! She's only got three summers to save for college."

Ryo decided it was time to put his foot down. "Bikky, no more arguing. You're going, and that's that. Finito. Now come on home and let's have a civilized meal together. This may be the last time we can have dinner together for a while."

There was such a long silence, that Ryo began to wonder if Bikky was still there. He spoke his name, and Bikky's voice came back on the line. He sounded bitter.

"And whose fault is that, huh? Not mine! I don't think I wanna come home tonight. If I've only got a few days left, I wanna spend as much time with Cal as possible."

"Are... are you sure?" Ryo asked, trying not to feel hurt. "Will I see you tomorrow?

"Doubt it. I'm going to school and you're working second shift."

"B, come home after you've done your homework, even if it's late. I want to see you."

"Yeah, right. That's why you're probably packing my damn suitcase for me right now."

"Bikky, I want you back here by eleven at the latest. Please be reasonab– Hello? Hello?" Ryo sighed as he realized that Bikky had hung up on him yet again. It was so hard being a parent sometimes. He hoped that someday Bikky would understand. When he looked at the clock, he realized that he had been talking to, or rather, arguing, with Bikky for longer than he had thought. Dee would be here any minute. He had just enough time for a quick shower.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.

The alarm clock went off in the middle of the morning, and Ryo rolled over to switch it off.

"Oh God, what time is it?" groaned Dee, clutching his pillow over his face.

"It's ten," said Ryo, "and I don't want to hear any whining. You've had plenty of sleep."

"I don't think so," mumbled Dee and pulled the covers over his head.

"You have. Both of us have, especially since we didn't have to get up early to get Bikky off to school. Come on, rise and shine."

"How about you go take a shower, and then come back and help me rise and shine?"

"I'm on my way to the shower right now, and I will not be getting back into this bed with you. You might as well doze until I come back. But don't think you're lolling around in bed all morning. We've got things to do."

"Dude, we don't start work until three, remember?"

"I want to make sure tonight's sting goes off without a hitch, so we'll need to go in earlier than three."

Dee mumbled something that sounded like 'workaholic sadist'.

"What was that?"

"I said I'm gonna work up an appetite for breakfast."

"Yeah, right. Ten minutes, Dee." Ryo strode to the bathroom, smiling. Last night had been a really good night. Dee had arrived at his place claiming to be horny as hell, and they had spent a very satisfying evening making love. Ryo still couldn't believe that he had found the courage to handcuff Dee and mildly dominate him for a while. Dee had been impressed. Ryo had to admit that he had succeeded in impressing himself, too. He felt strangely confident today, like he could take on the world and win. Of course, it helped that he had been able to catch up on his arrears of sleep.

Too bad Bikky had opted not to come home last night, however. Ryo was still hoping that Bikky would come around on the subject of the horse ranch, especially since he had made up his mind to take him there on Saturday. He decided to give Bikky a call around noon to see if he could catch him on his school lunch break.

.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:.:
.

John Hambler reluctantly dialed a number from his home phone. His newly wiretapped home phone. Mike answered on the third ring, and they exchanged cautiously genial greetings. After that, Hambler came right to the point. "Listen Mike, a little earlier tonight, I got me a Lexus, a few years old, but still a beauty. Paulie J's gonna process it for me, but there's one little problem."

"It's a continuous source of wonder to me, the way folks come to me with their problems," said Mike. "But get on with the story, lad. You've got me curious now."

"I found two K of charlie under the spare tire, that's the fucking problem."

"How pure is it?"

"No idea. I kicked my habit in prison, and I don't want it back. I gotta get rid of this stuff fast."

"Before you succumb to unholy temptation?"

"Yeah, and before I get myself arrested or whacked trying to offload it to the wrong guy. I been out of the game for a few years, Mike. A lot of the players have changed. I need to keep my eyes open 'til I know the score."

"Why did you ask Jefferson for help with the car?"

"Why not, man? Paulie and I go way back."

"You and I do too, lad. And as I recall you brought quite a few cars to me in the past."

"Word is you got bigger deals on your mind nowadays, Mike. A whole new set of friends, too."

Mike's voice developed a disquieting undercurrent. "What are you getting at, lad?"

"Seems like you've expanded your ops since I got sent to Sing Sing."

"Ah, and just who have you been talking to? Because my 'ops', as you call them, are not public knowledge."

Hambler snorted. "That's what you think. I can't speak for Queens or Manhattan, but you're practically a household name in Brooklyn."

There was a short silence, during which the two men warily waited each other out.

Mike spoke first. "That's as may be, although I think you might perhaps be mixing me up with someone else."

Hambler followed his lead. "Sure, Mike. Perhaps I am, yo. I been out of the game for three fucking years. Not many of my old contacts got any sizzle left. That's why I need to make some coin, however I can. My fuckin' parole officer wants me to work in a goddamn diner."

Mike chuckled. "A diner, eh? It might be the making of you, lad. Slinging hash is a fine and time-honored occupation. I'm sure you did your share of KP duty in prison."

Hambler grinned evilly. "Yeah, I did. Where else in prison do they let you play with knives? It was my job to carve the turkey on Thanksgiving, since I was just so damn good at making a clean job of it. Not like some of those other butchers." He figured he might as well remind Mike that he was no pushover.

"So, back to the car," Mike said. "You still dead set on cutting out an old friend?"

"I heard you don't do cars no more, Mike. If I heard wrong, then say so."

"I do cars if it's the right kind of car. No more budget or small time junk. But this is a Lexus, you say?"

"Yeah, but she ain't no spring chicken, know what I'm sayin'?"

"Tell you what, lad. You bring her around this evening so I can take a look at her. If I think she's worth the trouble, I'll take her off your hands. Either way, I'll take care of your other little problem."

"How about my warrant problem, too, Mike? You didn't return my call on that one, remember?"

"We can talk about that, me boyo, but I'm afraid I lack sympathy there. What's so hard about stayin' in touch with a parole officer, that's what I'd like to know. But let me think on it some. There might be a way."

Another silence, during which Hambler realized that Mike was expecting him to say something, probably 'thank you.' Damned if he was going to thank the smug sonofabitch for doing sweet fuck all so far to help him out, and also, by the sounds of it, for planning to use the warrant issue to grind him down into the basement, price-wise. Even though it wasn't his car and they weren't his drugs, John Hambler knew when he was being muscled into the shit end of a deal.

"Where we meeting?" was all he ended up saying.

"Thames Street in Battery Park."

"You coming yourself? 'Cause I don't want no association with your Brooklyn buddies."

"Don't be tiresome, Johnny lad. One-oh-five a.m. Don't be late."

"I'll see y--" Hambler realized he was talking to empty air. Asshole. He pressed the off button and put his phone back in its cradle, frowning. Mike sounded...different. Different in a way he couldn't really put his finger on. Hambler sighed and picked up the remote, absently changing channels. He could hear Maria humming to herself in the kitchen. Her old man was asleep but would soon be wandering into the living room wanting dinner and the Spanish channel.

"You wan' another beer, baby?" Maria was standing next to the sofa, an ice cold bottle of Bud in her hand, her eyes shining with love. He smiled at the way she said 'baby'. It sounded like 'bay-bee.' Claire had never called him baby. But Claire had been a ball-breaking bitch. For a moment, sadness filled his mind, and his smile faded a little. No, no. Don't think about Claire. Think about Maria. She was different.

'Thanks, honey." He pulled Maria down for a quick kiss before sending her giggling back to the kitchen with a slap on her ass. He loved the way she pressed that ass against him in the early hours of the morning when the rest of the world was still asleep. He sure hoped he would be coming back in one piece tonight. 

Business with that dangerous little Irishman somehow never worked out to his advantage. The guy had always been trouble, always wanting too much in exchange for giving too little. Hambler only ever dealt with cops in emergencies, the reason being that they pretty much held all the cards, even when they were dirty. You couldn't trust a man jack of them. They delivered if they felt like it, or they went back on everything they'd promised, and locked you up. If Laytner and that other guy didn't have him up a tree, he wouldn't be having anything to do with this shitty deal.

~end of Justice chapter 13~

Additional author's notes: Did you spot the point where my one-shot Sweet Frustration happened? If you liked this chapter, please review! One more thing. I would just like to remind everyone that the opinions and feelings expressed by the characters are not necessarily indicative of the author's thoughts and feelings. I give them desires and fears that fit their individual personalities and life experience. Some of it is universal and some of it is personal to the character. There are a few drops of me in every character in my Fake-verse, just as each of you will recognize a few drops of you, too! But they are separate from us, so please remember that they won't always behave or react to things the way you or I would.

 


 







   
 
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Wow, am really the first? It wasn't even as marathon-ish as some of your past epic updates! But it was solid, I'll say that. Not as frenetic as the last, thank goodness, because we needed a breather, but very solid. Poor Bikky's really caught between two rocks, isn't he? He's terrified out of his wits and I don't blame him a bit, but he just loathes the idea of the horse ranch. Seems to me that the safety bit has been compromised, since all his friends know, but I guess Ryo thinks it's safe enough. Hope he's right.

And yes, it was lovely to have Dee and Ryo back in the spotlight. I really kinda felt for Jerkhammer there, too, being so in love with his new girl and wanting to start a new life in Texas. Which makes me all kinds of wary, because it's when a character decides it's time to straighten out his life and start anew that he usually gets whacked, either in gangster or warfare movies. Every time you say "I'm in love" you paint a pretty target smack in the middle of your forehead.

Poor Norman! Aw crap, you're extremely good looking. Damn it, you're hot. My life sucks! Well, honestly, Norman, what did you expect? Ryo is also extremely hot. Did you think his partner would be some flabby yesteryear with body odor? Tens date tens. How long until Dee finally catches on to his little crush?

Bravo to the sex toy shop burglary for a little humor. It never ceases to surprise me, when I remember how Matoh's books actually ran, the contrast in humor between her work and the general fandom. To read an average Fake fic, you'd never know there's supposed to be light-hearted office humor, an angry walrus for a chief, and light-hearted snark all around. Save the endangered comic relief!

No, I didn't spot any Sweet Frustration. You're always so hard on yourself! Looking forward to the next crazy twist.

Thank you for reviewing! It's been up since Friday. I was beginning to think no one cared anymore.

I really sympathize with Bikky because I too would hate to be sent to a horse ranch. I really like horse-- from a distance. But I'm very, very scared of them (they always figure that out right away), and I almost can't bear to breathe through my nose when I'm near one. I feel bad because I admire the horse tremendously. I think they're the second most beautiful animal on the planet. Human civilization depended on them for eons. The horse has always been a friend to Man, and has never received enough appreciation and gratitude. We have used and abused them throughout history and thrown them away when they got too old to serve us.

Dee should discover Norm's secret within the next couple of chapters. I don't know precisely when because I don't know how many words and pages the sting scene is going to take up.

You know, you're right about there being a lack of humor in the fandom. But I guess some people are more interested in drama and angst, and humor does tend to ruin the mood for those two things.

Thanks again!

I'm surprised there are so few comments on this chapter! I see that there's another post-- about the flag counter-- and that it has a lot more, but I haven't visited it yet. Perhaps that's where people are commenting on this marvelous update?

Really, so much happened this chapter. I'm having a real time of it trying to keep all of the characters straight, but you generally provide enough context clues that I can figure it out by half way through. Tony DeLuca sounds familiar, but I can't place him. Help?

This chapter made me proud of Ryo all over. Not only is he stepping up in his love life, but in his role as a father too. From an outsider's point of view, I don't think he should send Bikky to the ranch, but if I was Ryo I would be doing the same thing. Keeping my son safe would trump any other arguments.

Yay Norm again. I look forward to this. Also, congrats to JJ and Drake for the bust. I felt definite foreshadowing chills at the mention of a body, and I'm still worried about Bikky's keys. That short dream attack you included scared the begeubus out of me.

I felt this chapter jumped around a lot more than usual, and I don't know if I like that better or not. There are so many things going on, and we'd never move past day one if things weren't skipped, but somehow the scene-breaks in this chapter stood out to me more than in any of your previous ones.

Well, I hope everyone else comments, and that they've just been too busy! I know I've been meaning to read this since Friday(Saturday?) but I just haven't had the chance.

I definitely look forward to more. Thanks again!

Thanks so much for the feedback. I really appreciate it. You know, I've decided I need to do another character list for this story, like I did for A New Day. You can find a lot of people over there, like Tony DeLuca, for example. Here's the link: brit columbia's character list, and if that doesn't work, http://brit-columbia.livejournal.com/tag/brit%20columbia%27s%20character%20list
I had Tony under D for DeLuca, but I moved him to the T section. There was also a mention of what was happening at Tony D's house back in Justice, chapter 6 when JJ and Ryo had a conversation at the fax machine. That conversation is why Ryo and Dee are working first shift in chapter 13, even though they've been on second shift since the story opened.

I've started the character list for Justice, but it's not ready yet.

I think most parents would send Bikky to the ranch, but Ryo doesn't know what we know!

I just enjoy the hell out of any scenes that have Norm in them. I'm enjoying the anticipation.

So glad I scared you with the dream attack! I mean, sorry about that, but I'm glad it had its intended effect.

You're right, this chapter did jump around a lot. It bothers me too, although most published books I read do these big jumps that kill a lot of dead time. It was actually one of my goals for Justice, to NOT describe every hour of Dee and Ryo's existence like I did in A New Day. I want to end up with a tighter product that doesn't go off on so many unnecessary tangents, even though it's arguable that the tangents can be kind of fun. Anyway, I wanted to move us forward to Wednesday so that I can open the next chapter with the sting. This was a slow chapter, so it's time to bring some action back for the next one. But I know what you mean. The scene breaks felt kind of jolty to me, too. I tried to go back in on the weekend and add a couple of sentences here and there to improve the flow, but I'm apparently at my word limit for this post. If I add even one more sentence, it tells me 'Client error: Post is too large'. I was so please3d with myself for managing to get this all into one post instead of two this time, that I decided not to mess with it anymore.

Anyway, thanks again! It was very heartening for me to get your review!

Wow! This chapter definitely isn't as fast as some of the others, but I was just as enthralled. Thumbs up!

It was just a strange and horrible night for both McLeans wasn't it! Bikky's nightmare and Ryo's strange wet dream.

I've lost my keys before, but never with bad people after me. It was just as creepy knowing that on the odd chance that they actually know where you live, that they can just let themselves in. *Shivers* His dream was creepy too! I had a moment just like that this weekend. I had taken something to help me sleep (Insomnia SUCKS) and I spent three hours staring at the shadow on the ceiling because I swear they were moving overhead and then right when I close my eyes, my mother knocked on the door. I freaked out and was across the room and in the corner before I could realize what was happening. Never taking THAT again!

I think that Ryo's going to have to start talking to someone, because his thoughts and worries are starting to manifest themselves in dreams. I hope he doesn't start feeling guilty about it. You can't control your dreams! Being more dominant in bed is obviously on his mind. Yes, I did catch your reference but I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the title!

Poor Bikky! He's terrified but doesn't want to leave. He's going to regret it if he stays angry at his dad. I feel really sorry for the kid. I would love to get out of school for two weeks to hang with the horses! But I can also understand that being away from everything can be just as terrifying as still being there. Worrying about everything would drive me crazy!

Anyway! I hope this early-ish review makes up for the really really late one on last chapter! :D

<3 -Neengy!

I'm always happy to get your reviews, Neengy. And I love saying your name so much that I'm going to say it again: Neengy! Neeeeengy! Neeng-Y! There, got that out of my system.

Thanks for reviewing early this time. I started to get worried when the chapter sat up here by itself for 48 hours, unacknowledged, unloved, twiddling its thumbs, feeling embarrassed... I think I've learned my lesson about posting too close to Valentine's Day.

Yay! I scared another person with Bikky's creepy dream. Bikky's a street-smart city boy, not a country boy, so he's better equipped to deal with thugs and winos than with horses and possible wildlife like crickets, etc. He's also really uncomfortable about being sent away from everyone he knows to go live with strangers. It's not even like he's being packed off to stay with Aunt Elena. Besides, he needs to be in place to get that laptop back. Presenting Ryo with the laptop was supposed to be his way of proving to Ryo that he wasn't a little kid, that he could be smart, resourceful and useful. Unfortunately, he screwed it up badly and now he can't tell Ryo. He's still hoping he might be able to evade the bad guys long enough to get the laptop back and have his hero moment.

As for the wet dreams, this has happened to Ryo before! Click on my tag 'Never Tell', and you'll see what I mean.

I went out of town weekend before last and I am STILL just this far behind on my email inbox that I just got to the update notification this evening.

This chapter feels like a bunch of playing pieces are being moved around the board and into position for the next big beat so I'm waiting for multiple shoes to drop. There are lots of good character moments along the way, especially the parts with Bikky. I'm fully expecting the horse ranch plan not to work out but one way or the other him dealing with not wanting to be away from Ryo and his fears about the situation with Mike is good stuff.

Thanks for reading the chapter and taking the time to comment! I hope you had fun on your weekend away.

Yes, this chapter was exactly like moving chess pieces around. If I want something particular to happen two or more chapters in the future, I can't wait until the last minute to get things set up. It means I always have to be thinking ahead and making sure I don't forget about any of the plot threats. And the odd thing there is that in real life, I'm a lousy short-sighted chess player who is totally unable to strategize! It would probably be different if chess featured more hot guys laying amorous hands on each other.

Come to the Hikaru no Go fandom. I think we can accommodate you.

*slinks in, horrendously late*

I'm glad we got to see Maria again! I remember liking her way back in...um...I forget exactly when she debuted, but she struck me as a fully-developed character, not just a two-dimensional extra. That's one of the things I like about your work: every character, even background characters who only get five paragraphs of "screen time" and two lines, seem like real people.

Heloooo, Norm! I still giggle a little bit at his name (sorry, I just read waaaay too much Far Side as a kid!), but his dismay at seeing Dee in the flesh was half hilarious and half awww-inducing.

Now, no slinking please. Walk through the front door of my LJ with your head up and your shoulders back, secure in the knowledge that your comments are always welcome! Especially on this rather unloved chapter.

Yes, I remember that you were the one who took special notice of Maria back in chapter 5 when she made her first extremely brief appearance and her name hadn't even been revealed!

Sorry about the name 'Norm'. I really only chose it for its 'normal' connotations, because I thought that for once, Ryo should have a nice 'normal' guy interested in him, just so he could, for a change, see what that was like!

And because he's so normal, or course he would be dismayed at meeting the larger-than-life Dee Laytner. Poor Norm. I feel for him, too.

Thank you very much for coming in to comment on my chapter. It means a lot to me!

Hi Brit! I just caught up with Justice! You are doing an amazing job! I'm glad this chapter was a little bit of a breather from all the crazy action. Poor Bikky! If I were him, I'd want to be at the horse ranch, pronto! And I really hope that Jerkhammer's sting works. I kind of have a soft spot for a practical criminal who knows when he needs to get out. Plus Dee and Ryo could use the break!

Thank you very much for coming by to comment. I've actually been feeling quite concerned about the gradual lessening of interest in my story which has been going on for the last few chapters.

Dee and Ryo need a break from all the plottiness so that we can get on with the Norm triangle and Ryo's eventual topping of Dee for the first time! But unfortunately, I have several kilometers of plot to plow though, plus some angst that's coming up in the next chapter.

Thanks again for reading and commenting.

Ah I was up all night Saturday night with a million tabs up because I don't have internet at home, reading this and I'm still not caught-up. But I thought I'd comment here because I'd been waiting for Norman to meet Dee, so yay :D

Thanks for commenting! The funny thing is that at this point in the story, Dee's got Norm pegged for a bottom and he thinks Norm is going to be attracted to him. Little does he know!

I would love to go to that horse ranch during my holidays! But of course Bikky has his reasons for not wanting to go there. That's a shame, I would have loved to see Bikky riding a horse ;D However, awesome chapter as usual!

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