Notes: A special thanks to LeFey for letting us use the idea of Section Six, and for Ori for all her great whip-cracking ... err, feedback! ~AND~ Translation: Yau mo gau hai cho? = What the fucking hell?

Pretty Baby 3
First Steps

Angyl & Rina


Disclaimers: The names belong to Alliance, but they did evil bad nasty stuff to the boys (blowing them to smithereens no less!), so we decided it was our turn!!!

From a distance the Agency training facility looked like a fancy spa. According to the Director, it, in fact, used to be one until the Agency had 'acquired' it. There were tiny little cottages for each of the Agency's guests and such lovely amenities as endurance tracks and obstacle courses.

There were indoor and outdoor shooting ranges, a street scene walk through and a rifle range, each complete with moving targets. Inside there were classes on self-defense taught by some of the most highly skilled assassins in the business as well as classes on interrogation, counter-intelligence, information gathering and a myriad of other helpful little courses needed for the wonderful world of secret agency life.

It was a high intensity training program meant to push new agents to their limits and beyond. It was also meant to weed out the ones who'd be problematic. There were physicals, psychological assessments, drug tests, everything imaginable to properly assess the new recruits. Diet was structured to each person as were the individual training programs.

Victor Mansfield, for example, was being groomed as team leader, although he wasn't aware of it. His police skills of marksmanship, investigation and interrogation were supplemented and he was given some crash martial arts training with counter intelligence thrown in on the side. A nice, rounded education. He was also being trained with his new 'partner' in an effort to help the two men resolve their rather obvious differences. Which led to Vic's current mood.

Victor slammed the door to his temporary home at the Agency training facility with a satisfying thud. He wasn't quite sure who he wanted to kill more at this point; the Director, for sucking him into this nightmare, Dobrinsky, for being the jailer from hell, or Mac for being... well Mac.

Not that he could actually kill the younger man. Director's orders, he and his 'charge' were to be one big, happy family. "Bullshit! The kid's doing his best to drive me fucking nuts!" Vic growled, fully aware that his rooms were probably bugged. "If everyone knows what the fuck is good for them they're gonna stay the hell away from me tonight. God, I need a drink, either that or I need to shoot someone. Better yet, I need to get laid, anything to work off this god damned tension."

For the past two weeks, hell, ever since they'd been shipped to this country club, Mac had done every and anything he could to provoke the older man. The kid was itching for a fight, that much was obvious, but Vic, already feeling more guilt than he thought possible, wasn't about to add to his burden by plowing a kid he had more than a few feelings for. It had taken Vic a while, but now he could admit it without wanting to choke on the thought - he had some deep feelings for the pain in the ass baby he was stuck with for what looked to be the rest of his fucking life.

Throwing himself into an overstuffed chair, Victor stared stonily at the fireplace in front of him. "Why the hell do these rooms have fireplaces for fucks sake? Wanna make us condemned souls actually feel like we're at home?"

"Actually Victor, we normally use the cottages you and Mac have for our 'special' techniques training, mostly for our Section Six recruits - seduction, games, - you know, honey trap techniques," the Director purred from the bedroom doorway. "I thought it fitting considering how you and Mr. Ramsey met," she continued. "Hmmm, perhaps we should have you trained in Section Six techniques too, considering your experience in the area," she continued thoughtfully, slinking out of the room, her skin tight leopard skin catsuit appearing to be merely painted on.

"Why are you here?" Vic moaned, burying his head in his hands. "And forget it - I don't play those games anymore - for anyone!"

The Director continued to slink forward, and, pushing Victor upright again, she straddled his lap quite close to his groin. Pulling the green-eyed agent's head down to her rather pillowy breasts, the woman began to croon softly. "Poor, poor Victor. So unloved and unappreciated. The little brat should be spanked and sent to bed without any supper for the way he's treating you. I even have a riding crop with his name on it. Why don't you let Di take care of you tonight, help you relieve some of that tension?" she purred softly.

"That's it, you're almost there. Oh yeah, that's the spot! C'mon, c'mon!"

The breathy voice whispering the words in his ear almost diverted Mac's attention from the task at hand and he closed his eyes, willing his body to relax. Control and concentration were the only ways to get through this, though both were things his instructor seemed to delight in stripping from him.

Ignore the soft blonde hair that was tickling his ear and neck, ignore the trim body pressed up against him, just live in the moment, feel only what was under his hands. A bead of sweat rolled down Mac's face and he barely managed to keep from squirming as it was licked away by a hot, wet tongue.

Two problems there - the first being that if he did move, all the prep work he'd done would be lost and the second, more infuriating, reason was that as much as he wanted to enjoy it, her touch was more distracting than arousing.

"Mmmm, nice, god you have good hands, they're perfect for this."

They should be considering I've spent over half my life being trained to do this, Mac snorted to himself, the absurdity of the situation finally breaking through the last of the tension in his body, heightening his senses just when he needed the boost the most.

Three, two, there. A soft click and the vault opened, each of the five different locks holding it shut having been breached in turn. Unable to stop himself from grinning at the shock that momentarily suffused the young woman's expression, Mac straightened, holding the heavy door open for her gallantly. "Well?" The blonde pushed her hair back off her forehead as she consulted her stopwatch, then made a notation on the clipboard she carried. "Fifty eight seconds, not bad at all."

"Fifty eight seconds!" Mac broke into a huge grin at that and indulged himself in a short victory dance. " Can't break a minute my ass!"

"Enjoy your celebration for now, Macky. Tomorrow you do it again blindfolded and with gloves on."

Mac's elation died a swift and sudden death and the young man groaned out a muffled curse. Did these people ever stop? Ah, screw em, he was done for the night and Murphy now owed him a hundred bucks. Granted, that guy and his partner were both creepy sons of bitches, but they paid their debts.

"Okay Teach, gloves and a blindfold. Sounds kinky, but whatever you're into." Giving the woman a half-assed salute, Mac jogged along the pathways toward his temporary home. At least it was his alone - or near enough, even though it was connected to Victor's rooms by a door that didn't lock.

Victor. That thought succeeded in sapping Mac's good mood as quickly as rain soaked into an arid desert. How the hell were they ever going to pull off this "guardian and ward" scenario when they couldn't even be in the same room without taking potshots at each other?

Just looking at the older man made Mac want to grab him, wrap his hands around his neck and... The problem was that Mac couldn't decide if he wanted to slowly strangle the ex-cop for everything that had happened or kiss that superior expression off his face.

Hell, who was he kidding? Given the damn dreams that came knocking almost every night, the thief knew what he'd do if given a choice, only thing was that Vic was never going to present him with that choice. Pity - oh yeah, that was there. Disgust too, but lust? No way, not our Victor that's for sure.

"Eh, fuck it, not gonna let that ruin my night." Banishing the depressing thoughts from his brain, Mac regained his grin as he recalled that, during one of the rare moments that he and Victor had been able to stay in the same room together for more then five minutes without the threat of bodily harm or the intervention of one of the other agents, the cop had offered up the same bet Murphy had.

"Oh yeah, Vice-man. That's one hundred dollars, payable now," the young thief smirked, passing straight through his rooms and shoving open the connecting door to Mansfield's cottage. "Yo, Victor, do I have news for you! You..."

The sight of his so-called partner with his face buried in their boss's mostly exposed cleavage stopped Mac cold and sent something deep inside of him teetering out of control. "Whoops, sorry 'Dad', didn't mean to interrupt you and 'Mom'. Just be careful, don't want any new baby brothers or sisters running around." As he spoke, Mac was backing rapidly for the door, and the moment he crossed the threshold, he slammed it shut behind him.

"What the - Mac!" Vic called out, his voice muffled by the over blown bosom cradling his face. "Will you get off me. Dammit!" Pushing the Director off his lap as fast as he could, Vic stood to go after him.

"Warn a girl when you're gonna get into the rough stuff, Victor," the Director groused, dusting herself off. "If I'd known that's the way you liked to play. I would have dressed accordingly. Let him go," she ordered, grabbing Victor's shoulder as he tried to storm past her. "He needed something to shock him out of his little mood. He was being a brat on purpose. Maybe this will straighten him out."

"Will you stop? Stop playing games with our fucking LIVES!" Vic bellowed, at the end of his rope. "And if you ever, ever do something like that to either of us again, you'd better have Dobie here to protect you, got it?" the infuriated agent spat before heading into Mac's room to try and catch him in order to explain. What, he didn't know, but he'd be damned if he let the Director win whatever game she was playing.

Standing, the Director smiled, an actual smile since there was no one around to see her acting human. "Well it's about time boys." With a flick of her long red locks, she sauntered out the door and towards her car. Her work here was done.

"Well, that was something you don't see every day..." Unaware that he was babbling to himself as he moved around the cabin, Mac mechanically stripped out of his regular clothes and pulled on shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and running shoes. He needed out and he needed out now. "Glad I didn't see any more, talk about gross." The image of Victor's hands on the Director's bare skin filled Mac's vision and was immediately replaced by an even more carnal one that rose from the dim recesses of his memories of the night they had shared together.

Grabbing his Walkman, Mac tore out of the cottage, slamming the door behind him, cranking up the volume until the music blocked out everything else except the feel of the wind and the give of the pine needle strewn path under his feet. Get out, get away, don't think about anything. That was the only way to stay sane and to avoid thinking about what he had just witnessed.

Gone. Fuck. Was this the kid's answer to everything? Run away instead of staying to confront the situation. If that was the case it meant that Victor had better get used to spending the better part of his life tearing around wherever they happened to be in order to chase Mac down.

At least he knew Mac's general whereabouts this time. There was no way for the young man to get out of the Agency compound, and not even Mac would be stupid enough to try it. Victor settled himself into one of the chairs in Mac's room to wait for the young thief's return. There was no way he was going back to his room until he had some back-up. He was not about to face down that black widow of a woman alone. She just plain scared him.

He shuddered involuntarily when he remembered where his face had been mere minutes ago. What was it about him? He seemed to attract three kinds of people - black widows, wounded birds or bratty teens with chips on their shoulders. Great choices, all of them - especially the last.

If someone had told Victor a year ago that he'd be involved in a relationship with a man who was barely old enough to shave, someone practically the same age as his baby sister for Christ's sake, he'd have shot first and had them committed later. Yet here he was, one disastrous night behind him, hung up on a baby who made his heart do strange things, and his breath catch whenever he saw him.

He'd been watching Mac surreptitiously for the past two weeks every chance he got, his eyes seeming to naturally follow the young man. Sometimes Vic could scarcely believe it, the things they had done - the things he desperately wanted to do again - and again, and again. God he was disgusting, lusting after a kid barely half his age. He was ten years older than Mac for Christ's sake. But it didn't stop the want, or the need that churned his gut.

"Never thought I'd miss you this much, baby," he whispered into the darkness of the young thief's rooms. "Never thought I'd need you this much."

"It hurts Mac. I want to touch you, to love you, to get on my knees and beg your forgiveness for being such a shit, and each time I try to open my mouth, poison comes out. Each time you turn those deadly cold eyes on me, I see you pulling the trigger. Fuck, I almost wish you hadn't missed. Don't think it would have hurt this much if you hadn't," Vic moaned, burying his face in his shaking hands. "Never meant to love you baby. You got your revenge without even knowing it. Don't think I'll ever be able to get it back. Don't think I even want it back."

The tape in the cassette player ended and the absence of the driving beat sucked the last bit of energy from Mac's body. Head bowed, chest heaving with the exertions of his run, the young man forced himself to continue walking, not wanting to risk a cramp. The cool evening wind fluttered against his soaked shirt, raising a rash of goose flesh on his body and making Mac rub his palms over his arms. He finally looked up, gauging how far he had come and how long it would take to get back to a warm shower.

Maybe long enough that the howling from next door will be over by the time I get there.

Determined not to think of what was going on in the cottage next to his own rooms, the young thief raked back his headphones, letting them dangle around his neck, as he surveyed the moonlit expanse below the small hill he stood atop. The street walk through. His own personal hell, one that Dobrinsky reveled in making him revisit again and again.

Stationary targets, piece of cake. Movable ones on the rifle range, ditto. It was only when it came to shooting at the lifelike targets during the sim runs here that Mac had a problem. Each and every shot he took at the supposed bad guys hit a good six inches to the right of center, most times missing the whole 'person' as well.

Brow-beating, extra practice time, dry firing until blisters formed and broke on his palms, nothing worked, and Dobrinsky and the other instructors were getting close to throwing in the towel. Not that they'd mentioned it aloud, Mac had taken it upon himself to hack into the files one night on a whim and had discovered that little fact.

Hey, maybe if he flunked out of this high-class spy school things would go back to normal - if they didn't ship him off to Michael's doorstep in a box with a gift bow on it anyway. The worst part was that he wasn't trying to pull the shots, his aim just automatically shifted in that last millisecond before he pulled the trigger.

Guess I know where that little habit came from. Pulling the trigger had become intertwined with the memory of the haunted look in Victor's piercing green eyes when the cop had been sure that Mac was about to kill him, and each time his finger tightened, all conscious control vanished.

The wind gusted again, kicking up a whirlwind of dust and debris below, making Mac shiver again. It was time to be heading back. The instructors here delighted in waking them at ungodly hours of the morning and Mac had seen the sunrise more in the past couple of weeks then he ever wanted to for the rest of his life. If his luck was with him, there wouldn't be a pissed off Director or Victor waiting for him - but when had his luck been with him lately?

Scaling the wall was a tempting thought, but what was the point? There wasn't anything around for miles, and the Director's dogs - both human and canine - would track him down. Not Mac's idea of a fun way to spend an evening, not in the least.

Groaning slightly as his over-extended muscles protested being forced to move again, the young man started back toward his rooms, taking the shortcut across the obstacle course and through the pool house, wishing fervently that the freaks that had redesigned this place had left one of the hot tubs that had been here in place.

There were no lights on in either of the two adjoining cottages, and Mac offered a silent prayer of thanks for that fact. He was sure he was going to have to deal with this mess sooner or later, but right now later had a much nicer ring to it. If boffing the queen bee made Victor happy then good for him. If it kept the older man out of his hair and off his back, even better. Why then, did that thought leave such a hollow feeling inside?

Shouldering open his door, tossing his Walkman on the table, and stripping off his still damp shirt even as it closed behind him, Mac headed for the bathroom, hopping on one foot and then the other as he pulled off his shoes and socks. It was from this ignoble position that the thief first noticed his visitor. Shock caused him to lose his balance, and Mac sat down on the floor, hard.

"Yau mo gau hai cho?" Surprise made Mac switch languages to Cantonese, but he recovered quickly, if with obvious annoyance at finding the last person he wanted to see tonight sitting in his room.

"If you've come to explain to me about the birds and the bees, don't bother, Vice-man. I think I figured all that out a while ago." As he spoke, Mac pushed himself back to his feet, and glared at the intruder. "If you want to invite me to watch you and the she-devil, no thanks. The food here may be bad, but I really don't want to lose my last meal that way."

Vic stared at the young man for a moment, listened to the caustic words he emitted, and sighed. It wasn't going to change. Nothing was ever going to change. "She didn't stay. Couldn't seem to get over the fact that she's not the one I want. Not that it matters to her, or to the person in question. This was a mistake. We were a mistake. I'll try and talk to her again, figure out some way to get you out."

Rising silently, his shoulders slumped in the first true defeat he felt in a long, long time, Vic let himself out of Mac's room. Just before he shut the door, he half turned and looked at the young thief.

"You probably couldn't care less to hear this, and I don't really blame you. After all I've screwed up your life beyond belief, but... I didn't plan on it being like that," the older man confessed softly. "Rictor would have gone after you no matter what. She just wanted things too badly, and rolling you would have given her them. I said yes to the assignment because I hoped I could screw it up enough that she wouldn't get what she wanted. No one deserves what she did to you, and I hope she's rotting in whatever hell the Director could come up with for what she did."

Turning away again, Vic began to shut the door behind him. "I didn't plan on falling for you either, baby," he managed to get out as the door shut behind him. Grabbing his new leather jacket off the chair where he'd thrown in, Vic walked out the front door of his cottage and made his way over to the administration offices of the facility. Dobie would be there. Dobie was always there. Maybe he and his ex-partner could get blinding drunk together. Just like old times. Before Mac Ramsey.

Scarcely believing what he had just witnessed, Mac stared at the door that had effectively just shut Victor Mansfield out of his life. He should be elated, ecstatic, but, as he heard the soft sound of the cottage's outer door closing, the only emotion that Mac could dredge up was a sick feeling of loss.

He should go after the cop, demand an explanation for the quietly spoken words that had ripped a hole through Mac's already shredded defenses, leaving him wounded and confused. If he had any sense, he would do it, if only to put an end to all this mess, but Mac found he couldn't. He knew where Vic was going - to visit Dobrinsky - and the thief knew he wasn't up to dealing with both of them at once right now.

There were times that he hated everything about this place, including himself for shooting off his mouth when he should have shut up and walked away from it all. If one more person called him 'kid', 'junior', or 'Macky', Mac sometimes thought that he would blow their brains out - not that he'd come close to hitting them, what with his little problem and all. At least with the Tangs he'd been treated like an adult and an asset, not like a wet behind the ears baby who had been brought into the fold out of pity. Expendable, that's what he was. Train him and toss him out for cannon fodder, not good for anything else.

Rolling the smooth metal of his piercing against the roof of his mouth to try and calm his thoughts, Mac stripped off the rest of his clothes, leaving them where they lay as he walked into the bathroom, stepping into the shower without even waiting for the water to heat up. The cold spray cleared his mind somewhat and, as it warmed up, Mac leaned against the cool tile, wishing he could cry, or scream, or something, anything to relieve the pressure that was building up inside of him, fighting for release.

Ever since the debacle half a year ago, it was as if he had undergone an emotional abortion. Everything but anger, fear and pain had been ripped out of him and left in a bloody mess on the floor of Victor's condo. Having lost all that, was it a wonder that he continued to snipe at the older man? That he took advantage of every opportunity to make him miserable? That he... was so damn jealous of the idea that Vic might have been with the Director and was even now with Dobrinsky that he couldn't see straight?

They couldn't talk, that was what it boiled down to, and Mac knew the blame for that was mostly his. Fight, trade insults, bitch, oh yeah, no problem with any of those things, it was just when it came to exchanging any kind of normal conversation that there was a definite lapse.

There had to be some way to make this work, he had to find some way to get past all the anger inside to do it. Mac knew there was nothing else out there for him, and that thought terrified him - especially considering he might just have pushed Victor past his breaking point tonight. He couldn't be alone, he needed somewhere to belong, even if it was in some sick, twisted organization like the Agency seemed to be. And, most of all, he didn't want to be alone, he wanted...

He wanted Victor - and badly. Not just for the sex, but for who he was, a battered but not beaten icon of what was good in the world, a bulwark against the insanity crashing in around them.

Climbing out of the shower and shutting off the water, Mac slowly toweled himself dry, rolling this new-found information around in his head, mulling it over. By the time he had pulled on his clothes - tan linen pants and a slate blue shirt that, although not quite what he used to wear back in Hong Kong, gave him a greater sense of self then the grunge look he had adopted on the streets - Mac had come to a decision.

He grabbed the former cop's leather jacket, the same one he'd stolen that first night, and pulled it on, then stopped and dug in the battered backpack that was his only remaining link to his former life. Pulling three worn pictures out of one of the compartments, Mac slipped them into his pocket, and left his rooms, walking around the outside of the cottages to sit on Victor's steps, waiting for the older man's return.

The starlight was bright enough for him to see the photos he'd brought along. Mac studied the images of his mother, his adopted father and foster sister, wondering just what advice they would give him if they could speak.

Vic trudged wearily up the path to his temporary home a few hours later. Halfway to Dobrinsky's he'd veered to the left and entered the training facility. He suddenly realized he was falling back into the destructive pattern he'd been after Mac had bolted that first, fateful time - losing himself in alcohol to dull the pain. He wasn't going back to being that person again, not even for Mac. Victor didn't particularly like that man, the harsh, abrasive man who needed booze to help him sleep. He wasn't an alcoholic yet - but he'd come damn close, and that thought terrified him. Vic was used to being in control of his life and himself. Towards the end it was the alcohol that had been more in control.

But no more, this was a new life and Vic was determined to start over right, no matter who he was working for or the fact that these people now owned his very soul. Vic was going to be the man he used to be - the one who believed in the rules, who believed that there was justice in the world. The fresh-faced cop he'd been when he first picked up his badge, a little older, a little more bloody for his battles, but with his ideals and his morals still intact.

So instead of joining Dobrinsky and losing himself inside a bottle, Victor went to one of the facility's training salles and tried to find himself instead. One of his instructors happened to be up - the one giving him a crash course in tae-kwan-do - and for three hours Vic got tossed, thrown, pinned, and basically beaten bloody - but he felt better than he had leaving his rooms earlier. His mind was clearer, more at peace with himself, and while his body ached - ached that was an understatement! he was in agony - he felt cleaner inside than he had in six months. All the negatives were purged and although most of the positives in his life were chancy at best, they were still better than being lost. A small smile broke out on his battered face. It was a step - and one in the right direction.

The smile and the sudden burst of humor were short lived as he rounded the bend and caught sight of Mac sitting on his doorstep, waiting. Bracing himself for yet another round of verbal sparring, Vic continued home.

"Mac..." he started, his throat catching a bit as his 'partner' was revealed to him in the moonlight. Oh god, his baby's face alone could break hearts. "If you really wanna go another round can you at least wait until I've had a hot shower? I'm in desperate need of some heat on these muscles. You can yell at me all you want, in any language you want, when I get done, but at least let me feel human again before you start in," Vic requested brusquely. He moved past the younger man and into his cottage, every muscle tensing when he heard the younger man follow him in. Bad move.

Mac opened his mouth, ready to respond to the other man's clipped tone with a rush of anger, but he stopped, reminding himself of all the soul-searching he'd done over the past three hours. Attacking Victor once again wouldn't accomplish anything, especially his goal of trying to reach some kind of peace with the older man. They were in this together, it was time for Mac to act like it.

Vic's back protested violently, reminding him that although he was still in his prime, he was no longer as limber as he used to be. Muscles screamed and seized, and his back spasmed, drawing a painful groan from him involuntarily.

"Fuuuuuck," he bit out, bracing himself against the wall to allow the worst of it to pass. "On second thought, Ramsey, I'm in no condition to be able to defend myself against you tonight - mind if we postpone this until morning? With that, Vic began to gingerly strip out of his jacket and shirt, revealing the reddened welts where various weapons had managed to strike him or where he'd been thrown one too many times. Stumbling slightly, he made his way to the bathroom, not noticing when or if Mac had left. His only concern was getting under the stinging spray of hot water and trying to relieve the ache in his bones

"Just my luck, not only do I have a sadistic boss, I have sadistic trainers. Well I always thought justice was divine, here's my proof," he half chuckled, half moaned to himself as he stepped under the steaming water with a heartfelt groan of gratitude.

Jesus, just what had Mansfield been doing while he was gone? As he asked himself that question, Mac's forehead creased in a worried frown, his eyes cataloging each of the welts and bruises that Vic had acquired since last they had spoken. Unaware that he had moved, the thief reached up a hand to touch one of the marks, halting only inches from his goal, close enough to feel the heat coming from Victor's body.

"Victor," he began, sighing when the other man either didn't hear him, or didn't care to answer as he went into the bathroom. A few seconds later the shower turned on, leaving it up to Mac's imagination to fill in the details as to what was going on in there and unfortunately, his imagination seemed to be in overdrive at the moment.

"This can't wait until the morning." Okay, so walking in on Vic in the shower probably wasn't a good move, but that didn't mean that Mac couldn't do something while he was waiting. Giving the closed door a final look, Mac slipped back into his cottage, gathered up what medical supplies he could find, then reentered Vic's rooms to wait.

As he arranged the ointments and salves he had brought on the bedside table, Mac tried to piece together just what he wanted to say. Something had changed in Victor while he had been gone. The man who had returned to the cottages wasn't the feral, sexual being Mac had met that first night, nor was he the bitter, hard, man on the edge who he had grown accustomed to these past weeks. He was somehow more settled, calmer, and the thief found himself drawn to that even more then he had been to the other sides of the ex-cop.

The noise from the shower subsided, and Mac took up a position next to the doorway, catching Vic's arm as the older man exited the small room, clad only in a towel.

"Just let me say what I have to, then I'll go," Mac promised, holding up his free hand to forestall any argument or rebuttal. Seeing wary agreement in Vic's verdant eyes, Mac nodded, then urged the other man toward the bed. "And to make it worth your while, I'll take care of your back while I talk, okay?"

"Okay," Vic replied quietly as he sank down onto the mattress with a tiny groan. The heat of the shower had loosened up his muscles once more and he was actually feeling kind of good again - and Mac wanted to talk. Maybe things weren't as grim as he thought they might be. "Just... no fighting, please Mac? I'm so tired of fighting with you. It hurts to much ba..." the older man bit off the rest of his sentence, remembering that Mac hated Vic calling him that. When the younger man didn't snap out a retort, Vic breathed a soft sigh of relief. Maybe things were actually kinda good.

Then he felt Mac's hands on him, rubbing salve into the more reddened areas, and kneading the stiff muscles, and for the first time in six months Vic felt himself respond to being touched. Fuck, it felt so good, having Mac touch him again. Groaning gratefully, he arched back into the strong, agile hands working on him, and waited to hear what the younger man would say.

"No fighting," Mac agreed quietly, scooping out a bit more of the Tiger Balm ointment and working it into the mass of knotted muscle at the top of Victor's left shoulder as he tried to organize his thoughts. Okay, start simple first.

"I'm sorry," he sighed, keeping his eyes centered on Victor's back so that he had some kind of focus. "I know none of this was your idea or what you wanted and that I've been a shit about it. Here I am bitching about people treating me like a kid when I haven't done anything to dissuade them of that idea." Mac took a deep breath and went on, forcing himself to continue, to speak around the constriction in his throat. "All that stuff you said that night in your apartment, it's true. If I had done what I was supposed to, stayed where I was told to, none of this ever would have happened. You would still be a cop, still be happy with your life. Father always said that I was too rash and impulsive, well look where it got me - look where it got both of us."

Mac paused at that and swiped the back of his hand over his face, not noticing the dampness that clung to it. For him, the world had narrowed down to the expanse of tanned, bruised skin under him, and the torturous confession that was spilling from his soul. "I'm a crook. You know it, I know it and the Director knows it. That's what she's going to use me for and that's okay with me. It's what I know, all I know. It's what I was trained for since I can remember."

There was a slight tensing in Victor's back and Mac dug his fingers in a bit harder to silence whatever the other man had been going to say before he could speak. "I also know what my father was, but if I ever hear you talk about him like you did again I'll - " What? He couldn't shoot the other man, he'd already proved that. Forget the threats, there was no point in making them anyway, he couldn't hurt Vic any more no matter what happened. "He may have done everything you said and more, but he also was more of a father to me then my biological one ever was. He took me in when he could have had me shot and dumped in the ocean. Hell, that's what I expected when I found out I had picked the pocket of the Tang Godfather, that's what I was waiting for. Instead, he gave me a home and a family."

"Doesn't matter any way. He's dead, Li Ann's dead, only Michael's left and he is going to be dead if I ever get near him again. He blames me for Father dying, but he killed Li Ann, strangled her." Mac choked off a sob, his harsh gasps for breath communicating themselves to the older man through the shaking of his hands. "Guess that's my fault too though, she stayed in contact with me and when he found out..."

"Think you should be able to sleep now, the worst of the knots are gone." Here Mac closed his eyes and slowly sat back. "Maybe you should talk to the Director about another 'partner'. I tend to get people around me killed lately." Feeling drained by his outpouring of grief and anguish, the young man pulled off the leather jacket that he had kept on through the massage and laid it on the bed beside Victor. "Sorry I took this, it's a little worse for wear, but at least it's still in one piece."

Vic's hand shot out, lightening fast, and snagged the younger man's wrist. He was sitting and had Mac in his lap, holding the younger man tight, before either man really had time to register it. Vic's strong arms wrapped around his young partner. "I'm sorry baby, I'm so sorry," Vic whispered harshly, placing tiny kisses on Mac's head and neck.

"I don't want anyone else but you for my partner Mac - in any capacity. God, I've missed you, so damned much - especially when you were right in front of me and I couldn't, I don't know, beg you to forgive me for ruining your life?" Victor choked, holding Mac even tighter. "Just don't leave me again, okay. The first time was hard enough. I don't think I could handle you leaving me again," the older man begged softly, meaning every word.

A series of small tremors ran through Mac's body, first at being caught that way, and then by the quiet intensity of Victor's words. His posture was stiff at first, but slowly Mac relaxed until he wasn't pulling at Vic's arms any longer. At the feel of the ex-cop's lips against his face, Mac sagged against Vic's chest, undone by that small show of tenderness and the other man's seemingly heartfelt words.

"Your father is off limits from now on Mac, I promise. It's hard for me to equate the criminal I knew with the man who raised you. But seeing how you turned out I have to believe that there was more to him than I ever saw, otherwise you wouldn't be... you," Vic trailed off, not quite ready to say what he really felt about the young thief, how important Mac had become in the span of a few weeks. It would take some getting used to, this idea that maybe Mac was it for him - the one he'd really been looking for all his life - home.

The one thing that made Vic's blood run cold though, was the idea that Michael Tang would be ruthless enough to strangle his own sister just for staying in contact with Mac. The very thought that the brother would be psychotic enough to do that terrified him. And drove home the thought that Michael would probably stop at nothing to get to Mac. The bastard would have to go through Vic first though. He was not about to let that sick fuck anywhere near his baby. No chance in hell. "I promise Mac, I'll look out for you. Won't let anyone hurt you again, baby," the older man swore, cradling his... whatever Mac was to him, it was permanent. That much he knew.

"We're in this together Mac, all the way. I'm not walking out on you, and I'm sure as hell not letting you run on me. This is a partnership kiddo - equal, 50-50. You're not just a crook, you're the guy who's gonna have my back. The one I'm going to trust with my life - trust to keep me that way. No one else I'd rather have there either. I think we're being trained to balance each other. My background let's me do the investigative, yours the intuitive, that sort of thing. It's gonna work out Mac, we're gonna work out. It'll just take some time, is all."

"And Mac? The jacket is yours now, I want you to have it, okay?" Releasing the younger man for a moment, Vic put Mac on the bed beside him, a hand tracing the curve of his partner's cheek. "Stay with me tonight - just to sleep Mac, I promise. I just need... I need to hold you, hear your heart beating, know you're with me. Please?" he asked softly, laying himself bare and exposed, hoping that this was truly a second chance for both of them.

Mac just sat there for a moment, staring blindly at Vic, trying to comprehend the enormity of what the other man had just told him. Victor trusted him. Victor Mansfield, moral, upstanding, good-guy crime fighter, trusted him, Mackenzie Ramsey, scheming, conniving, sneak-thief. It didn't seem possible, but there it was, as plain as the soft leather of the jacket Vic offered, as real as the light pressure of the older man's hand against his cheek. Mac made a vow to himself in that moment, that he would do anything and everything in his power to live up to the faith Vic had placed in him.

What this was, where it was going, he had no idea, but Mac knew that he didn't want to go, couldn't leave the softly beseeching tone and the naked regret in Vic's eyes. "Partners?" he whispered, trying the feel of the word out as it flowed across his tongue. "I trust you to watch my back too, know you've been doing it as much as I'd let you from the start." Mac rubbed his hand over the jacket, then looked Victor in the eye, his own expression half-embarrassed, half-hopeful.

"I'll stay if you really want me to. Might not want it later though, I'm not the quietest sleeper around, haven't been since... Well, in a while anyway." His gaze dropped to the sliver ring threaded through Victor's nipple and sucked in a breath as a flash of heat spiked through his body. Maybe this wasn't a good idea after all, not if just that sight did that to him, definitely not if Vic intended on going to bed in just that towel.

"I really want you to stay, Mac," Vic smiled. "I just gotta... I'll be right back," the older man mumbled, as he stood and quickly grabbed a pair of boxers and disappeared back into the bathroom to change. Vic was so used to sleeping in the nude that it hadn't occurred to him until Mac's eyes had drifted downwards that he was less than suitably dressed - especially if he was going to stick to the nothing but sleeping promise he'd made. Even if it killed him, which it probably would.

Oddly enough, the thing that was turning Vic on the most was completely innocuous - well almost completely. It was that damned tongue piercing Mac now sported. The ex-cop couldn't believe how fascinated he was by it, how a flash of that round silver ball on the younger man's tongue could get him instantly hard. It was downright embarrassing! He felt like a kid again, instant erection whenever he was around someone attractive.

Of course it didn't help that Victor who, prior to meeting Mr. Ramsey, had had a fairly active sex life, had been celibate for the past six months. Of course he hadn't had the inclination or desire either, but why did his libido have to return now - and with such a vengeance?

Shaking his head and trying desperately to think of cold things, Vic emerged from the bathroom, to find the room dark, Mac's clothes folded neatly over the back of a chair, and a comforting lump already occupying his bed. He stood there for a few seconds, the light of the bathroom providing dim illumination, and wondered at how right this felt, seeing Mac in his bed. Maybe even their bed. Victor liked the sound of that, their bed. A bloom of heat appeared in his stomach whenever he thought of he and Mac being a them, a couple. It just felt... right.

Turning the light off, Vic crawled into bed next to the other man and tentatively put his arm around Mac's waist, breathing a sigh of relief when the younger man snuggled back against him. Placing a gentle kiss on the Mac's head, Vic fell into his first untroubled sleep in six months.

First there was warmth, then a scent that was both comforting and arousing, then a pressure against the length of his whole body, one that brought Mac from the vestiges of sleep into a drowsy, semi-conscious, state with a low murmur of pleasure. Mmm, now this is the way to wake up, he thought sleepily, nuzzling his face into the warm, stubbled neck next to it.

Mac drifted a little more awake at that, and came to the realization as to just who was the owner of the lean, cut body he was sprawled across, the one his hips were arching into even now. If it hadn't felt so good, Mac probably would have had second thoughts about it, but the reality of Victor next to him after the months of denied dreams was too much. Past caring if it was a good idea or not, the thief turned his face until his lips brushed against Vic's neck, flicking his tongue out to taste the other man's sleep-warmed skin, purring at the flavor.

Victor came awake the rasp of a tongue against his skin and the softly muttered purr of a voice that had wrapped itself around his pleasure centers months ago. He instinctively arched up into the touch and threaded his fingers through the fine silk hair tickling his chest. He felt smooth, warm metal caress his shoulder and moaned softly. "Soooo good, baby!"

The rough abrasion of chest hair teased his sensitive left nipple and he pushed harder into the feeling, relishing the slight burn it brought to his pierced flesh. His hand slid down soft skin and underneath the loose waistband of a pair of jersey shorts. It was only when a straining erection began to hump into his leg that Victor finally woke up - and found himself with an armful of squirming, aroused Mac Ramsey.

"Mac... baby, please!" Vic groaned as he tried to get the younger man to stop his insidious attack. The younger man patently ignored him and finally Vic had to wrench himself away, practically throwing himself out of bed.

"We - we can't do this, Mac," he panted unevenly, his chest heaving as if he'd just finished a fucking ten mile sprint. God that mouth! That sweet, lush..."We just... I'm not going to take advantage of you a second time Mac. I'm not gonna chance you leaving me again. You need to be sure baby. Very sure that this is what you want. I'm what you want. I don't think I could handle losing you a second time."

With that Vic was out of bed and in the bathroom, snicking the door lock behind him. "Shower. God I need a fucking ice-cold shower. Baby," he groaned softly, his hand stroking the wooden door longingly, as if it were the one he really wanted to be caressing. "Need you, Mac...."

Mac heard the bathroom door shut, but continued to lie where he was, face down on the mattress, desperately wishing he still had Vic's body as a buffer between his aching erection and the cool cotton. "God, Vice-man, are you trying to kill me or what?" he moaned, rolling onto his back and trying to ignore the throbbing bulge that pushed at the loose fabric of his shorts.

Okay, so maybe it hadn't been the best idea, but god it felt so good, waking up next to Vic, feeling the older man's enthusiastic response - until, that is, he woke up enough to know what was going on. Flickers of doubt skittered over Mac's emotions, plucking those that were still bruised and raw as the result of the turns his life had taken.

"No." Growling out that single word, Mac swung out of the bed, pushing aside the nagging voices that wanted him to believe that it was still some kind of game, that once the Agency got what they wanted out of him he'd be cut loose again. If it hadn't been for the way Vic had looked as he backed toward the bathroom, and the conflict that was evident in every line of the other man's face, Mac might have started to believe the lies his subconscious was concocting. But Vic... He couldn't be that good an actor, the minute twitches of his fingers as he restrained himself, the sweep of his coal dark lashes as he confessed to his desires but controlled them through the imposition of rules, those told the real story.

Just remembering it was enough to make Mac want to howl aloud, jimmy the lock and slip into the shower with his partner, to inform him in no uncertain terms that yes he did want this. But what was this? If both of them managed to graduate from this hellhole, they'd be work partners. Obviously there was also a visceral attraction between them, but could they survive a relationship based simply on those two things? From the sounds of it, Victor wanted more from him then just something casual and, Mac was coming to realize, he did too. Maybe it was better to wait, to let things settle out before taking that next step again.

But that didn't mean the wait was going to be easy.

With a disconsolate sigh and one last, longing look toward the locked door, Mac gathered up his clothes and trudged toward his own rooms. Maybe after a cold shower, he'd be able to deal with the ramifications of all these changes a little better.

God, he hoped so or he was going to go off his fucking rocker.

Thankfully, the frigid shower helped restore things to their proper perspective and by the time Mac stepped out of his own bathroom, he was feeling somewhat more centered. The rest of his morning routine passed in a blur though as Mac's thoughts bounced from yesterday's events, to the increasing awareness that he was starving, to pondering what hellacious training exercises would be thrown at them today.

Them. Mac repeated the word to himself, realizing that this was the first time he had paired himself and Victor in that way. Priorities had shifted, dividing lines had been redrawn, and while Mac still was unsure as to how they all would solidify, he was hyper-aware of the fact that he had a partner, someone to watch out for him and to expect the same in return.

It was different then the Family. He, Li Ann and Michael had been trained together for so long that they could anticipate each other's reactions to any new situation. There was also the fact that while most of the jobs they had carried off had been highly profitable, they also had been relatively low risk ones. Their father wasn't going to hazard his children's lives doing a job that another of his specialists could pull off.

If things had gone differently, that would have changed, but now...

Mac gave his head a vicious shake, banishing the memories to the past where they belonged. Glancing at the neat, type-written schedule that had appeared overnight on the small desk in the outer room, the thief groaned. A full morning of policy and procedures followed by an afternoon on the obstacle course with the promised lock session thrown in for good measure. Just another day of fun and games at the Agency training facility.

"I want a vacation," Mac muttered, pulling on a pair of sweatpants, his sneakers and a loose tee shirt. No point in wearing anything better, there wasn't time to change between the classwork and the killer course. But maybe, maybe today it would be better. As it was, Mac felt as if an anvil that had been locked to his ankle was gone and that was a good start.

"Victor?" he called, rapping on the door between their rooms, chuckling at that fact when he had never bothered with that bit of courtesy before. "You have time to get something to eat before we get thrown in the mill again?"

Vic stood looking at the bed he'd shared with Mac the night before, a silly grin plastered on his face. Which in itself was surprising considering how cold that damn shower had been in order to wrestle his body back into some semblance of control. Part of him could hardly believe last night had happened, that Mac had slept curled safe in his arms and had woken aroused and needing him. Him, Victor Mansfield, the guy that had messed up the younger man's life. Was it any wonder he felt a little silly?

It was like an invisible yoke had been lifted off his shoulders, he felt lighter - and happier than he had in a long time, despite his current employment woes. All because Mac Ramsey had trusted him enough to stay the night.

The knock on the door roused him from his reverie and the sound of the younger man's voice sent gleeful shivers up his spine. Was this what real happiness was? Finally registering Mac's words, Vic walked over, opened the door... and hauled the younger man into his arms and proceeded to devour his mouth hungrily.

"Wish I could have the breakfast I really want," he murmured, eyes dark with need, when he finally broke off the kiss. "But I'll settle for having the morning's swill in the dining room as long as I can have it with you." Vic knew it sounded corny, but it was true. He suddenly wanted to share everything with the younger man, even something as lame as eating breakfast together. Just as long as it was with Mac.

The sappy grin was back as he ran a finger along Mac's jawline before turning and grabbing both brown leather jackets that he'd tossed onto the bed when he'd made it. Handing Mac his old one, he shrugged into the newer and smiled. "Shall we go see what nightmarish foodstuff they have for us this morning?"

How does he do that? Mac wondered, trying desperately to divert his thoughts from the direction they wanted to go in after that greeting --namely, straight to the gutter. The kiss had been totally unexpected and therefore all the better because Mac found that having a mouthful of Victor when they were both awake and aware was a fine treat indeed. Unfortunately, his body was too into it and the young thief was now sporting a very noticeable bulge in his sweatpants once again.

Okay, I'm a teenager, I'm supposed to be horny but goddamn, if he keeps springing shit like that on me, I may explode before we even touch each other again! "Breakfast, yeah..." Mac's voice had a definite dazed quality to it, and he leaned his face into Vic's light touch, pouting slightly at the loss. "Food is good."

Victor chuckled at that and Mac stuck his tongue out at the older man in retaliation. The defiant gesture was rewarded when he saw Vic's eyes turn dark as his entire being focused on the stud piercing Mac's tongue. "See something you like?" the thief asked, feeling a comforting warmth that had nothing to do with desire, but everything to do with contentment, curl up deep down inside him as if it was settling in for a long stay.

"Yeah," Vic smiled softly. "See someone I think I like a lot," the older man continued, deliberately misinterpreting what Mac had said. "In fact, I'm pretty sure what I feel for said someone goes way beyond like. How far beyond, I'm not really sure yet, but... I definitely like the way it makes me feel, and can't wait to see where this is gonna take us."

Snaking a hand behind the Mac, Vic laid a solid swat on the younger man's... god, perfect ass. Not the most intelligent move when that brief touch, coupled with Mac's flaunting his tongue piercing, left him aching and needy. He had to get out of there before he tossed his good intentions out the window and threw Mac on the bed to ravish his young lover. "C'mon kid," he gruffed, "let's get a move on before Dobie sends the dogs, or worse the Director, after us."

How the hell was he gonna survive not touching Mac until both men were sure that this was where they wanted to be? Fuck, he had to be insane to suggest waiting, but... the look of gratitude in the younger man's eyes when he'd suggested they wait, combined with a smoldering look only enforced Vic's convictions. Mac wasn't the only one who needed to make decisions.

Vic had to decide if this was truly what he wanted, and once he'd made the decision be willing to commit to it. He was 26, not old by most standards, but old enough that he knew he wanted his next relationship to be long term - as in life long. He didn't want to play the games anymore - unless they were played with his life partner.


So much for having to come to a decision. It seemed that he'd made the decision without even being consciously aware of it. Life partner. Mac. Victor Mansfield, heretofore unacknowledged bisexual man, who lived and breathed being a cop so much that he'd submersed that part of him that didn't fit behind the blue shield, was committed to having a relationship with a man. A young man who was the same age as his kid sister. His pretty baby.

"Whaddya say we go show this agency just how much trouble they're in now that we're partners, eh partner?"

"They have no idea what they're in for," Mac grinned, rubbing his stinging backside as he proceeded Victor out the door and into the early morning sunshine. Birds were singing, bees buzzing, and brightly colored flowers danced in the cool breeze. It was like something out of a fucking Disney movie and all Mac could do was laugh as Vic caught up to him and the two fell into step together. "No idea at all."


  since 02-04-07


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