Kermit stirred, feeling the soft morning rays of the sun hitting and warming his eyelids. He moved, feeling the weight of another body next to his, felt the sensation of warm, bare flesh pressed against his. Opening his eyes, he peered into the sleeping face of the blond man who'd fallen asleep in his arms.
The stark morning light did little to soften the blow of reality that hit the ex-mercenary full force in the gut. There he lay, spent seed dried on his stomach and chest, arms holding another man close to him. He'd actually had sex with another man, and he still couldn't believe it. If someone had suggested to him forty-eight hours ago that something like this was going to happen, the person suggesting it would have found himself picking himself up off the floor. But here he was, in bed with another man. He didn't even have any excuses to fall back on either. He hadn't been drunk or otherwise at a loss of judgement, he'd done it simply because he 'wanted' to...and that scared him more than facing someone like Stryker or anyone else from his mercenary past.
What had him so off balance wasn't the fact he was with a man necessarily, but the fact that he'd acted on his impulses that way. One thing he'd always been able to count on was being able to rely on himself, that he knew himself so well he could run on instinct. Now everything he thought he'd known about himself was going down in a tailspin around him.
'Jesus, Griffin, you've lived half a lifetime already,' his mind told him. 'Now's a hell of a time to start having an identity crisis.' He grinned a little at the irony of it all, considering there were many times he didn't even think he'd live to 'see' a mid-life crisis, let alone something like this.
'Maybe it isn't that big of deal anyway,' he argued with himself. 'After all, what 'really' happened? What the two of us did, I could have easily achieved going solo with my own hand and a little privacy,' he insisted.
Even as he made the argument, looking down into the relaxed face of the younger man, it fell flat. Kermit reached over and gently brushed away a few wayward strands of sandy hair off Jack's forehead. His features were so soft, relaxed, like he knew he safe where he was. To know Jack could feel that way around him, trust him like that, the feelings it stirred in him left little doubt he'd just be fooling himself if he tried to believe nothing serious had happened last night. Even if he didn't know what exactly it meant, 'something' happened.
The computer expert let his hands drift up and down the solid muscles that were slack under his touch. The feel under his fingertips merely reinforcing the obvious to his skeptical mind. The younger man murmured something unintelligible and moved closer in his arms. It took several moments for Kermit to realize a smile had actually formed on his own lips as he kept up the nimble caresses.
Blue-green eyes slowly opened as Jack fought waking up. He stretched his legs, rubbing them against Kermit's, and yawned sleepily. A hand drifted across Kermit's abdomen, as Jack lifted his face to Kermit's.
"Good morning, Detective," Jack greeted with a shy smile.
"Good morning," Kermit returned, loosening his hold a little on the younger man. He wondered if it was just his imagination that he was feeling a little hesitation from the younger man.
Jack glanced over at the clock on the nightstand. "You probably have to get ready for work, don't you?"
"Yeah, I do," Kermit answered softly. "Did you want the shower first?"
Jack pulled the sheet up further against him. "No, I'm in no hurry. You take it first."
Kermit lingered for a moment longer, then rolled out of bed and walked nude into the bathroom. If truth be known, he felt a sense of relief flood through him. He wanted to retreat in the solace of the shower until he could clear up some of his scattered thoughts.
As Jack lay there, sheet drawn up around his chest, he let the events of the previous night play in his mind. It had felt so good, so right, and so scary at the same time to give in to his passion for Kermit. He hadn't let himself get that carried away with someone for...a long time. He smiled a little as he swore he could still feel the hot caresses on his body, the lingering effects still making him shiver.
'He wanted me as much as I wanted him,' his disbelieving mind whispered to itself. 'He actually wanted it.' And it had felt so good too - the way they fit together, the way the older detective had known just how to touch him to turn his blood to liquid lava - it had been amazing.
'Oh, c'mon, face facts, Greyson, he was only using you to satisfy the curiosity he's got. You're nothing more to him than a novelty, so don't let yourself go thinking there was more to it than that,' the other warring voice in his mind chimed in with warning.
As he listened to the sound of running water, Jack thought about that. Could that be true? The image of Kermit came to mind, the image of the moment Jack first opened his eyes...there was something in the way Kermit had been looking at him in the moments before he'd realized Jack was looking back. He knew he had seen it, it wasn't just his imagination...was it?
The phone started ringing. Jack reached over and answered it.
It was a female voice that answered. "Mr. Greyson, this is Captain Simms, may I speak to Detective Griffin?"
"Uh, he's a little indisposed at the moment," Jack said. "Can I take a message?"
The sigh on the other end was one of frustration. "Yes, please have him call the station as soon as he can."
"All right, I'll pass it on," Jack promised.
"Thank you," Simms said, before hanging up.
A moment later, Kermit stuck his head out of the door. "Did I hear the phone ring?"
"Yeah, it was your captain," Jack answered. "She wants you to call back immediately."
Kermit strode out of the bathroom, a white towel wrapped around his waist. He strung little puddles of water on the floor as he made his way over to the phone. His dark, wet hair clung to his head and neck.
"Yeah, Griffin here," Kermit spoke into the phone. "Yeah, you nailed them a couple of hours ago? All right, we'll be there right away."
Kermit hung up the phone and Jack watched him quickly grab his shirt, pants, and the rest of his clothes and threw them on.
"What's going on?" Jack asked, uncertainly.
"The sniper and the vice cop are both sitting in holding right now. Peter and I need to get down there and see what we can find out from them," Kermit answered, then after pulling his shoes on, he stopped short next to the bed. He looked down at Jack and reached out to brush his fingers through the younger man's hair. "Call me at the precinct if anything happens, all right?"
Jack's eyes pulled away from Kermit's. "Yeah, sure."
Kermit dropped his hand and was about to turn away when he quickly swooped down and kissed Jack hard on the lips. The kiss was thorough, but quick, and the ex-mercenary slid his green shades on, turned and left before Jack had a chance to say anything.
With a lingering tingle on his lips, Kermit knocked on Peter and Caine's door. Kermit heard some rustling around and movements going on before Peter got to the door. When the younger man finally opened it up, Kermit noticed Peter's face was flushed and sweaty, and his full mouth looked swollen. He was panting slightly.
"What's up, Kermit?"
"Why are you so out of breath?" Kermit asked.
Peter's flush deepened a bit. "Oh...uh...Pop and I were just doing our morning work-out routine," he answered. "What's going on?"
"Deke and Brewster were picked up this morning," Kermit said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "They're in holding as we speak."
"Right behind you," Peter said, tucking the tail of his shirt into his jeans. He turned to look at the bedroom where his father was still nude under the sheets. He wanted to give his lover a more proper good-bye, but suspected if he did, he wouldn't make it out of the bedroom again. 'Bye Lover, I'll be back soon. Be careful,' Peter projected towards the bedroom.
Pop's voice came to him clearly. 'Good-bye, my darling one. I will miss you until you return. Be safe yourself.'
"C'mon, Peter, let's get going," Kermit said, impatiently.
With a curt nod to the officers outside the doors, Kermit and Peter headed to the Kermitmobile and the 101st.
At the station, Kermit and Peter wove through a group of angry prostitutes that were going through central processing as they tried to get to Broderick. Peter yelped when one of them grabbed a handful of his rear in a move that was far from accidental.
"Hey, Broderick, where's Deke and Brewster?" Kermit asked, dodging the bodies all around.
"In holding," the officer answered. "You want 'em?"
"Yeah, bring them into a couple of the interrogation rooms, will you?" Kermit asked, and added, "Oh, and make sure they happen to bump into each other on the way in, all right?"
Broderick looked a little confused. "All right," he mumbled, and left the mob of women to a couple of the other officers on duty.
"What do you have up your sleeve, Kermit?" Peter asked, his gut instinct telling him the ex-mercenary had something in mind.
"Just follow my lead," Kermit answered cryptically.
Inside the brick and glass encased room, Michael Deke sat there, back to the two-way mirror. He puffed away on a cigarette, letting the smoke swirl around his head and settle in his greasy, mouse-brown hair.
Watching from the other side of the mirror, Peter thought the guy looked entirely too cool for being where he was sitting, knowing he'd just tried to take out a couple of cops two days ago. Although, with Deke's criminal record, it was hardly the first time the man had been in an interrogation room...and probably not the last either. Grabbing a couple of cups of coffee, he followed Kermit into the room.
"Hey, I want to talk to my lawyer," Deke said, as soon as they stepped foot into the room.
"Don't worry, you'll get to talk to him soon enough," Kermit said, turning a chair around and straddling it.
"Coffee?" Peter asked, setting the cup down in front of Deke, who looked at it suspiciously, but took a sip from it anyway.
"Besides, you don't need a lawyer right now anyway," Kermit said, pulling the cigarette out of Deke's hand and snubbing it out. "You see, if you were to want to take a deal, the time would be now, not later."
"What deal?" Deke asked suspiciously.
Kermit's eyes locked with Peter's for a moment. "Well, the charge of attempted murder against you 'might' possibly be reduced, if you decide to play ball and turn over on your boss."
"Man, first, you ain't got shit to convict me on," Deke protested.
Kermit slapped down a manila folder in front of Deke. "Oh, I wouldn't be too sure of that," Kermit replied, the veneer of initial friendliness slipping from his face. "You see that there?" he asked, pointing at the folder. "That is a ballistics report that states the bullets fired at us the other day came from the gun we confiscated from your apartment this morning. Also in the report, it states that the gun, with your prints on it, had shown signs of recently being fired."
"We've got you dead to rights, Deke," Peter stated. "It'd be wise to think about the offer."
Deke folded his arms on the table and leaned in closer. "And, say I even chose to believe you'd be able to pull off a conviction, what makes you think I'd want to roll over on whoever you think is behind it?" Deke asked. "Supposing that I ever knew who that was. I mean, we're talking quite a risk here if the wrong people were to find out that I...helped...you."
"We didn't say the deal was going to be without risk," Peter responded.
"But, if you don't want to play for this team, we can recruit elsewhere," Kermit added.
"What are you talking about?" Deke said, sitting back and trying to look disinterested.
"Well, I'm betting you saw Brewster on your way in, right?" Kermit asked.
"What's that got to do with anything?"
Kermit sipped on his tepid coffee. "Let's see, a cop with an otherwise clear record...Brewster full well knowing what would happen to him on the inside with all the enemies he's made in vice," Kermit drew out. "It doesn't take a genius to know it isn't going to take a lot for him to jump at this same deal if we offer it to him."
"You're going to offer it to him?" Deke asked, starting to show signs of nervousness. "What about me?"
"Sorry, my friend, the DA gave us a chance to offer one deal and one deal only. It's a limited time offer," Peter jumped in, seeing where Kermit was going finally.
"So why don't you sit and think about it while we go talk to Brewster," Kermit said, standing up and motioning for Peter to come with him.
Outside in the hall in the hall, Kermit was smiling.
"Good catch, Pete."
"The squeeze play?"
"The DA would never have issued any deals."
"We know that, they don't."
In the next interrogation room, Brewster was pacing. The stocky, spiky-haired blond was walking back and forth in front of the mirror like a panther stalking its prey. His head jerked up when he saw the two detectives enter the claustrophobic room.
"I want the hell outta here, you've got nothing to be holding me on," Jake Brewster growled.
"Jakie, now is that any way to talk to the two men who just might be able to save your ass?" Kermit asked in a low-pitched voice. "Sit down because we're going to talk."
"I ain't got nothing to say," Brewster groused.
Peter put his hands firmly on Brewster's shoulders and forced him down into his seat.
"Detective Griffin asked nicely that you sit. Do it," Peter encouraged.
"Yeah, you just might find something out that will be to your advantage," Kermit told him, taking a seat across from him.
"What did you mean about saving my ass?" Brewster asked finally.
"We got a deal from the DA that we can put on the table. Reduced charges for your boss. That simple," Kermit said, getting straight to the point.
Brewster snorted and sneered. "Oh yeah, I believe that. I think I'll take my chances. You don't have a thing on me."
"Except a witness who you helped put into a coma," Peter replied with ill-hid contempt.
Jake smirked. "Yeah, I heard about your so called witness. If I understand correctly, isn't she nothing more than a little whore from the streets?"
Peter jumped out of his seat and with both hands twisting the neck of Brewster's shirt, hauled the larger man up and out of his chair and pinned him to the wall.
"Look, Brewster, I know you get your rocks off by assaulting helpless women, but in my presence you will refer to the young lady as Ms. Jackson." Peter shoved him hard against the brick wall. "Or else I just might take a few minutes and forget I'm a cop."
Kermit clasped Peter on the shoulder. "Cool it, Pete."
The fuming anger warred in Peter's eyes, but he slowly let loose of the other man's shirt. The glib look on the vice cop's face made Kermit consider taking a swing at him himself, but he stifled the urge for the time being.
"Fine, considering the 'lady's' reputation," Jake sneered, "do you really think a jury is going to believe her over a cop with a clean record? The DA's got no case."
Kermit waited until they all sat down again. "You know, you just may be right. I mean who's going to trust the word of a streetwalker over a cop with a record like yours? It's spotless."
"Damn right," Jake said with a complacent grin on his face.
"Yeah, I mean, the DA would be foolish to go after you with no more than that," Kermit added.
"Fucking foolish," Jake agreed with a chuckle.
Kermit slid a folder with his finger over the vice cop, his smile vanishing. "That's why it's a good thing I came up with a bit more than that, then, isn't it?"
Brewster's smile faded as he looked at the folder. "What's that?"
"That, Officer Brewster, is a copy of your bank statement," Kermit answered, sitting back and folding his arms across his chest. "See, I decided to do a little digging and discovered, not to any great surprise, that you've had several large deposits recently." Kermit laced his fingers behind his head as he talked, loving the pallor coming over Brewster's face. "After doing some computer work, I tracked down those deposits as coming from a rather obscure company in Europe. Of course, the company was nothing more than a dummy front, but I bet you knew that already," Kermit said leaning forward and looking Brewster straight in the eyes. "I don't like wild goose chases, so eventually, after going through another dozen such companies, what did I discover, but that the original company's co-chairman was none other than Adam Haun."
"And you want Haun?" Brewster asked rather quietly.
"We want who Haun is working for," Peter said.
"Are you fuckin' out of your minds? Do you have even the slightest clue what you're asking me to do?"
Kermit smiled ruefully. "Enlighten us."
"You're asking me to commit suicide! If they ever found out..."
"Would you rather find out what happens to cops that go to prison?" Kermit asked.
"Yeah, I'm sure you've got a lot of friends on the inside that can't wait for a reunion," Peter stated.
"Like Richie Tenz you busted last year. He was part of the Viper Tong if I remember right," Kermit mused.
"Oh yeah, and don't forget about your old friend Brodie Miles. Didn't you kill his kid brother on a raid last month?" Peter asked.
"I...that was self-defense. IA cleared it," Brewster muttered.
Peter clapped his hands. "Well, there you have it, self-defense. I'm sure Brodie would surely understand that. He is such an understanding fellow after all. Hey Kermit, what's he in jail for again?"
Kermit scratched his chin. "I believe it was for killing his girlfriend, her parents, and her two sisters. He had lost it for some reason when the girlfriend wanted to break up with him."
Peter stood up and waited by the door. "C'mon Kermit, let's go and let Brewster give it some thought while we talk to Deke."
"Deke? What's he got to do with anything?" Brewster asked.
Kermit rose and walked to the door also. "Oh, didn't we mention it? We offered a deal to Deke too. Pity, really, since there's only one deal to be offered."
"Yeah, I wonder who'll be the first one to take it," Peter mused mildly. "The one who does is going to be a smart man, that's for sure." He walked out the door Kermit held open for him.
In the hallway, Peter was smiling. "Now what?"
"We wait and see which one breaks first," Kermit responded.
Peter ambled back to his workstation, his eyes going to the growing mound of paper work that looked like it had a personal vendetta to drown his desk. Sighing in resignation, he figured if he had to wait, at least he could put the time to use. Pulling out a file from Nickie he needed to sign off on, Peter pushed thoughts of the warm bed and willing lover he'd left behind this morning out of his mind...and tried not to think about the pleasure the night would bring them. He watched Kermit withdraw into the sanctuary of his office. He assumed his friend would be hitting the computer once more, scavenging bytes of info that might prove helpful.
Something gnawed at Peter as he thought about his and Kermit's ride in to work this morning. There'd been a subtle change Peter had noticed, but he hadn't quite put his finger on it yet though. Kermit had been...intense...as usual, but there was also a subtler, elusive sense of...relaxed ease coming from his friend. Kermit had always carried his cool, calmness with ease, but Peter could always tell it laid just over the surface of something much stronger that was brewing in the ex-mercenary. Now it seemed to go several layers deeper in the veneer of Kermit. He couldn't help wondering what the cause of that was.
Not for the first time, Peter wished his skills were as sharp as his Pop's when it came to sensing and seeing into a person with Shaolin eyes. Yes, he'd taken his training, but he still had a long way to go yet. 'Just give it time, Peter. Some things you just can't rush,' he told himself. Glancing to the desk near him, Peter smiled at Mary Margaret when he caught her eye. She smiled back, but it didn't quite reach her normally sparkling dark brown eyes. She looked pale and the dark rings under her eyes guiltily attested to fatigue. He didn't care for the look at all. He hoped the pregnancy was going well so far. Giving her a conspiratory wink, Peter went back to scanning autopsy reports.
Kermit poked at the keyboard with agitation. He was checking in on several contacts in various locales that he kept in close connection with. One in particular he was looking to contact was the one he had watching out for Jim Hellstrom. He hadn't heard from the person looking out for his son in over a week. That didn't bode well for the computer expert. Made him nervous, and he didn't like doing nervous.
Mildly Kermit thought about the Feds and wondered how they were handling the encrypted code. A niggling little thread of guilt wove through Kermit as he thought about an undercover agent putting his butt on the line to secure the disk in the first place only to have him turn down trying to bust the code on it. Kermit couldn't help it and he wasn't about to let the guilt grow. After all, the Feds could fend for themselves when they had to, he knew that all too well, but he had a job to do that centered around Jack Greyson and until that was resolved, the ATF would have to deal with it on their own. 'Oh, come on, Griffin, at least be man enough to admit after last night things went beyond just doing a job,' an irritating, small voice in the back of Kermit's mind ventured. 'You had to go and make it personal, didn't you? You know better than that.' Kermit lifted his sunglasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. He really didn't want to give any thought to that at the moment, not right now.
A knock on his open door brought Kermit's head up. Blake was standing at the threshold of his office looking about as uncomfortable as a sacrificial offering to the lion's den. Maybe word had gotten around that he was a little testy lately.
"Yeah, what is it, Blake?" Kermit asked wearily.
"Brewster's requesting to talk to you and Peter," Blake said.
Kermit glanced at his watch. They'd held out longer than he thought they would. "Okay, tell Peter and I'll be there in a minute."
Blake left with a nod and Kermit hammered out a quick email request that his associate watching Jim get back in touch with him as soon as possible, it didn't matter how or when, then shut off the monitor and headed to the interrogation rooms.
Peter was already in with Brewster, the younger cop straddling a wooden chair opposite the vice cop. Kermit closed the door and leaned against it.
"All right, Brewster, start convincing me you want the deal," Kermit ordered.
"Chen Kwan," the vice cop said rather quietly, his face set in a lax look of defeat, but wariness and fear were still in his eyes. "That's who Haun's boss is and I might be able to give him to you."
Kermit moved closer, as had Peter. "Chen Kwan?"
His and Peter's eyes met. Both men remembered hearing Chen Kwan had stepped up to take leadership of the Zhao Tong when Jimmy Mah's replacement had met a dubious demise after a car accident. Apparently Robert Teoh had taken a headlong dive off a four-story drop off when he lost control of his car. Peter and Kermit both had always thought Teoh had a little help over that drop off, but they could never prove it. Forensics hadn't found anything, and not surprisingly, no one had come forward to offer up anything they knew. Kwan had stepped in, taken control of the Zhao Tong.
Word on the streets was that Chen wasted no time in overtaking some of the smaller tongs in the area to enlarge his power base even more. Once his 'family' grew, so did his ambitions for more power. He was bold, ruthless, and had no qualms about getting his hands dirty. An unsettling combination to say the least. While both Kermit and Peter knew this, so far their hands had been tied because Kwan never gave them anything substantial they could work with. They'd taken down some of his underlings, but they'd always been too loyal to be of any use to them.
"Yeah, Chen Kwan," Brewster repeated. There was a hint of fear in his voice as he spoke the name.
"All right, just how do you think you can give him to us?" Peter asked, his interest obvious as his eyes bored into the vice cop's.
"I've been thinking," Brewster said slowly. "What if I call Haun and tell him that I want to set up a meeting with him and Kwan to renegotiate my cut in the deal? Tell them I want to demand more money from them."
"You think that's really going to work?" Peter asked. "What's to keep them from hiring someone like Deke to take 'you' out when you start getting too demanding?"
A wry smile curved on the blond's face. "Because I'll offer them something they want bad enough that they'll agree."
"Which is?" Kermit asked.
"Jack Greyson and the tape."
"Over my dead body," Kermit said in the low tone that Peter recognized as the one the ex-mercenary used when keeping a strangle hold on his temper. "That is 'not' going to happen, do you hear me? So you'd better think of an alternative and soon."
Brewster shook his head. "It's the only thing that's going to work," Brewster insisted. "If I come to them offering Greyson and the tape soon, they'll bite, but it has to be soon."
"Why?" Peter demanded. "Why does it have to be soon?"
Brewster twisted around in his chair. "Because I know that Kwan is setting up a very big drug deal with Randolph McKnight. He's a big player in the heroin trade from Singapore. The deal's going down tonight at the Starcliff hotel. Haun and Kwan aren't going to want to do anything that's going to risk this critical meeting."
"How do you know about this meeting and why is it critical?" Kermit asked, spreading his hands out on the table as he leaned in closer to Brewster.
The vice cop ran a weary hand over his face. "Because I happened to be acting as Haun's bodyguard when the meeting went down to set up the meeting with McKnight's underlings. The reason it's an important meeting is because it's their first where Kwan and McKnight are gonna be meeting face to face to set up negotiations for a permanent trading partnership."
Kermit shook his head. "No, we're still not using Greyson for the deal."
"Kermit..." Peter began.
Kermit snapped his head around, eyes as hard as stone behind his shades. "No, end of discussion."
Just then the door swung open and Karen Simms stood at the entrance. "Detective Griffin, Detective Caine, I'd like to talk to you for a moment."
The police captain led her detectives into an empty interrogation room next door and shut the door for privacy. Perching herself on the corner of a table, she looked at the two men with piercing blue eyes.
"Look, I was listening to your discussion in the observation room and I..."
"Captain," Kermit interrupted before she went any further, "I am 'not' going to agree to put Greyson in a position where if things go wrong, he could end up getting killed. I'm not going to do it."
Karen and Peter both looked at each other with puzzlement, the concern in their eyes plain as they looked back to Kermit.
"Kermit, I don't know if we've got much choice," Peter said softly. "You heard him, you know how badly they want Jack."
"It's too damn dangerous," Kermit insisted. His jaw was set tight and his hands clenched in his pocket. "There's got to be another way."
"I think it's the best chance we're going to get," Simms said with reluctance. "Besides, Kwan and Haun's men will probably be watching every step of the exchange, so if we don't enlist Jack's help, they're going to sense something is up and they'll go so far underground we won't be able to ferret them out again."
"I thought you wanted Adam Haun," Peter asked, looking at Kermit.
"Not if it means possibly getting Jack killed to get him," Kermit said with a strange softness in his voice.
"Trust me," Peter insisted, "I don't like the idea anymore than you do. So many things might go wrong, but don't you think we should find out what Jack thinks about it before we completely rule it out?"
"Look," Kermit growled, "this may be the hotshot cop shit you get off on, but it isn't going to be your ass in the fire, now is it?" The stricken look on Peter's face immediately sent a pang of regret through the ex-mercenary. He ran a distracted hand through his salt and pepper hair. "Pete, I didn't mean that, it's just...."
"No, you're right," Peter said, "It isn't my ass that's going to be on the line, but you've got my word that if we do this, I'm going to do my best to make sure nothing is going to go wrong."
Kermit met Peter's eyes, and suddenly he realized that Peter knew how important this was to him. Even if he didn't completely understand his knee-jerk reaction himself, Peter somehow understood. It unnerved him and gave him some comfort at the same time.
"We'll make sure that the entire trade will be under constant surveillance, ready to move in at a moment's notice in case it looks like the trade might go sour. The S.W.A.T team will be standing ready."
"Oh no," Kermit butted in, "'if' Greyson agrees, and 'if' we haven't come up with a better alternative by then, I sure in the hell am 'not' going to put this in Lasher's hands. I want to be in charge of this."
Karen paused for a moment, trying to get a read on Kermit's expression. "All right, I think that can be managed," she stated finally.
"I'll call and tell Benson or Tate to bring Jack to the station so we can tell him what's going on and see how he feels about it," Peter said.
"Do that, Detective," Simms said as she and Kermit both watched Peter walk away, leaving her alone with the ex-mercenary. When they were alone, she looked at him, meeting his gaze head on. "Is there anything you want to talk about?" she offered softly.
Kermit saw the concern in her eyes, could hear it in her tone. "What would I have to talk about?"
Karen sighed. "Why don't you tell me? All I know is you haven't been quite yourself these last couple of days."
Kermit closed his eyes behind the green shades. "I've just been going through some stuff, it's all right."
When Karen reached out and took his hand in hers and squeezed it, it was like tightening a vice around his heart.
"Just because things have...changed...between us, our friendship hasn't. I meant it when I told you that," she said gently.
He brought their entwined hands up and kissed the back of her knuckles. "I know that," he whispered back. He turned and looked at her. "And don't think that doesn't mean something to me either," he told her.
Her eyes held his for a few moments more before she nodded and left herself.
Left to the quiet solitude of his office, Kermit took a few minutes to check his email. He was surprised when one of senders of an email message held Paul Blaisdell's call sign. It'd been a while since he'd last heard from his friend who still wouldn't reveal his location. Before he even opened it, Kermit knew what the letter would say. Paul would make a little small talk, then get to the real reason he wrote...he wanted an update on Annie, the girls, and Peter. It was really the only time Paul ever wrote...when the loneliness set in and started to overwhelm him. Kermit could identify with it all too easily, so he provided Paul with an update, his promise not to mention the letter to Annie or the kids, and didn't ask any questions about where Paul was nor did he remind Paul how much Annie missed him. He'd said it all before only to have Paul say he still needed more time before he could be any good to those he loved.
After hitting send, Kermit leaned back in his chair and wondered how Paul could ever walk away from what was probably the best thing that had ever happened in his life when he walked away from his family. Being a mercenary himself, Kermit knew the lines of thought Paul was working with, but that didn't mean he agreed with them. Just when Kermit thought he'd come to terms and reached an understanding about it, he would talk to Annie, see the tough exterior she tried to portray, but could see how much she was hurting on the inside when she asked if Kermit had heard anything from him. It just wasn't fair to them.
The computer expert then thought about Peter. He knew the kid had taken it pretty hard when Paul left. Once again someone in Peter's life betrayed him by 'abandoning' him, but at least this time Peter still had Caine to turn to and find comfort from. He would, of course, have been there for Peter if the kid needed him, but Kermit knew he wouldn't have the same effect on Peter that Caine did. There was just something special about the bond between a father and son, especially with those two, that even a friendship couldn't touch.
The peace of silence that had birthed within his office was abruptly aborted at the knocking on his door.
Swiveling around, Kermit saw Jack standing in his doorway. The young architect was wearing a stark white dress shirt and well-fitting blue jeans. The white shirt brought out his tan nicely, Kermit noticed offhandedly.
"Can I come in?" Jack asked.
Kermit didn't like the hesitation in the question. "Of course, you can come in," he said and waved over to a chair in front of his desk. After Jack sat down, Kermit moved to sit on his desk in front of the architect. "I take it you've been filled in on the way over?"
Jack ran his fingers through sandy hair. "Yeah, Tate explained most of it. You're thinking about using me as bait to reel in Adam and his boss, does that pretty much cover it?"
Kermit got up, closed and locked his office door and pulled down the blinds on the windows before taking a seat again. "Look, Jack, you don't have to do anything you don't want to do here."
"I know that," Jack told him, "but are you going to have a better chance of getting Adam if I go along with this plan?"
"Yeah," Kermit said, refusing to lie to him. "I think so, but I'm not lying to you here, it could get dangerous. Very dangerous." The way they were sitting, his knees were touching Jack's. Kermit was trying not to find the contact distracting.
"I figured as much," Jack said solemnly. "So what do you think I should do?"
Kermit shrugged. "That's up to you to decide. You've got to ask yourself if you're going to be able to deal with Adam and the possibility that if things go wrong, you could end up in serious trouble." Kermit wouldn't make the decision for the kid; he couldn't do that. He knew this was something Jack was going to have to decide on himself, something Jack was going to have to face on his own. "Whatever you decide though, know I'm going to back it," he added.
Jack was still, his blue-green eyes downcast as though lost in his own thoughts. "Are you going to be part of the team that's going to take them down?"
"I'm going to be leading it," Kermit told him, though not having that clearance from Simms yet, but knowing he'd get it. She'd make sure of it.
"So you're going to watch my back?" Jack asked softly.
Without thinking about it, Kermit reached out and took one of Jack's hands in his. "Oh yeah," he replied, "count on it."
For the first time since entering the office, Jack offered up a smile. "Then I'm going to do it," he said with conviction. "If it means getting Adam to pay for everything he's done, then let's do it."
"Just so you know," Kermit said, "we're going to take every precaution to make sure nothing goes wrong with this."
Azure eyes looked deeply into the ex-mercenary's. "Kermit, I trust 'you'," Jack said softly with meaning.
Several heartbeats passed by, Kermit's gaze remained fixed to Jack's. The sound of the computer's soft hum mixed with the sound of their breathing and heartbeats.
"Why?" Kermit asked finally. "Why do you trust me?"
Jack's moist tongue stole out to wet his lips. He pulled his eyes from Kermit. "I don't know," he said softly. "I can't explain it, but it's like something in my gut is telling me that it's all right to trust you, that you're not going to let anything happen to me, and that you're not going to let Adam win this time around." Kermit didn't say anything as he felt Jack reach up and carefully remove the green sunglasses and set them to the side.
"You asked me a couple of nights ago if I trusted you. I told you 'yes' even then," Jack said quietly. "Now it's an even stronger feeling."
Kermit let out a slow, controlled breath. The emotions he could see in Jack's eyes, raw and unhidden, were so transparent and open to him. The ex-mercenary's stomach churned as he read through them and grasped the meaning behind them. Though he'd seen the look a few times before, he refused to name it. Then almost as suddenly, the look was once again masked as though the architect had revealed too much.
'Because of last night,' Kermit thought to himself. 'It's because of what happened between us.' That caused his gut to twist up and lurch even more. 'What if last night has affected his judgement a little?' He knew his own thoughts had been more than little skewed lately, so what if it was affecting Jack in the same way? 'What if he's not thinking clearing and considering the consequences to what he's agreeing to?'
Kermit's eyes were drawn to Jack's supple lips. He thought about the taste of those lips, the feel of them against his own. Momentarily he thought about stealing another taste, but then shook himself out of it.
Another part of Kermit's mind spoke up. 'What if he's trusting you and 'you're' not thinking on your feet either?' Kermit clamped down on that thought right away. He'd spent a better part of his life learning how to separate a job from...other influences. He'd done it before, he could do it again. He'd have to if they were going to take down Haun, that's all there was to it. If Jack gave him his trust, he'd just have to make sure nothing happened to betray it.
"Come on, let's see what Simms has set up to make this happen," Kermit said softly.
Peter was bent over his paperwork again, lost in reports, warrants, and other forms that reminded him of the one part of police work he hated the most. His shoulders started feeling a little stiff and he moved them around to work some of the kinks out when he felt strong hands kneading his muscles through his shirt. The agile fingers immediately honed in on the knots and Peter felt the heat from the touch send a warm tingling sensation all long his nerves.
"Mmmm, s'nice," Peter murmured quietly enough that only his lover would hear him. "What are you doing here?"
With the barest of pressure, Caine urged Peter's head forward so he could have complete access to the back of Peter's neck. "I, as you would say...hitched a ride...with the officer who brought Jack Greyson here.
Peter leaned his head back against Pop's stomach, closing his eyes as Caine gently rubbed at his temples. "So you have an idea about what we got planned?"
"I do," Caine answered. "But you have some concerns," he stated.
Peter opened his eyes and looked around for a quiet place to talk. Seeing the empty solitary holding cell, Peter met Pop's eyes and they both wove through the desks and officers and into the room where Peter shut the door.
Momentarily Caine was reminded of the time he had escaped from the very same room after he'd been accused of murdering one of his students. He brushed the memory aside and focused on his son. "What is it that concerns you, wo xi'na'ider'en?"
"It's Kermit," Peter said, sitting down on a nearby bench. "I don't know what's going on, but...."
"What is it about Kermit?" Caine asked, watching as his perpetually moving lover was up and pacing.
"I told you about how he turned down the assignment to work with the ATF, right?" Peter asked, not waiting for a response. "Well, then today you should have seen his reaction when Brewster wanted to use Jack as part of the set up to lure in Haun and his boss." Peter paused a moment to look Caine in the eyes. "The thought of putting Jack in danger like that almost made him lose it. I've...I've never seen anything like it before from him." Peter ran a hand through his hair, then shoved it into his jeans pocket.
Caine waited patiently until Peter brought his eyes to meet his. "Kermit's emotions are...in a state of flux...right now," Caine explained. "As he works through them, he needs you to be patient with him and supportive with him, to offer him the friendship you always have."
"Hell, Kermit knows he's got my friendship and support, but...." Peter just shook his dark head. "It's almost like he's in...." Peter didn't complete the sentence, but as he met Caine's eyes he could read the truth in his dad's eyes that were unshielded. 'Almost like he's in love with Jack,' he let himself finish. Could that be possible, or was he reading too much into things?
Stepping up close behind his son, Caine took Peter by the shoulders. "As I said, he will need your support as he sorts through his emotions and comes to understand them."
Peter turned, resisting the urge to wrap his arms around his father. "You know, I still haven't even asked him yet about the ceremony."
Caine smiled softly. "You will when the time is right," he assured his lover. With open fondness, he looked deeply into Peter's eyes. "We must go, you will be needed by Captain Simms in a few moments."
Pulling his eyes away from his father's, Peter said, "Yeah, you're probably right. If Jack agreed to do it, she's going to want to go over the operation."
Peter could feel his father at his back as he walked out the door and towards Simms' office. When they passed Mary Margaret's desk, Peter noticed her eyes following his father for a moment before she looked away. He also noticed how Jody watched her worriedly. He was going to have to make sure Skalany and his dad talked soon. They really did need to work through this and preferably before the pregnancy got further along. If his dad was the father of the baby she was carrying, she really should tell him.
In the office, Kermit and Jack were already there and waiting on them. Neither man, nor the captain seemed surprised when Caine came in as well and stood silently, hands locked in front of him, near his son.
"So what's been decided?" Peter asked, looking between Kermit and Jack.
Karen shoved a loose strand of wispy blonde hair behind her ear. "Jack has decided he's going to work with us on this and I've cleared it so that Kermit can lead the operation."
"Brewster is going to call Haun and tell him he wants to set up a meeting with him and his boss because he wants more money," Kermit explained further. "In return, he's going to offer Jack and the tape in trade. Once Haun and Kwan are at the meeting, Brewster is going to try to get them to confess to arranging to have those girls raped and murdered on tape, and maybe even hiring Deke to try and kill Jack."
"What about surveillance?" Peter asked.
"Blake is going to have Jack wearing a miniature microphone that will transmit back to the van where you and Kermit will be receiving it," Karen responded.
"Me and Kermit?" Peter asked. "I figured you might want me in position as a sharpshooter just in case you need me."
"Yeah, I want you in the van with me instead," Kermit said. "Someone else can sharpshoot, but I want you close by in case we need to get into the action quickly."
'He wants me by his side,' Peter thought, oddly touched and pleased at the thought. "Where's the meeting going to take place?"
"I thought we could use the abandoned restaurant on Fourth Street," Kermit suggested.
"That place that used to be Miko's?" Peter said, thinking about the old Japanese restaurant. It was in a low traffic area, so they could identify cars easier than a busier locale, and the building was surrounded by other buildings and a parking garage. It'd be a good place to camouflage the S.W.A.T team until they were ready to move in. "That could work," Peter granted, "but what if Haun or Kwan wants to meet elsewhere, won't let us say where the meeting's going down?"
"Then we improvise," Kermit said with an eerie calmness.
"Then let's tell Brewster what's going down," Peter said.
Four men and Captain Simms filled the small interrogation room as Brewster sat cuffed to the table. Kermit tossed Brewster's confiscated cell phone down in front of the former vice cop.
"Here's what you're going to do," Kermit said with quiet authority. "You're going to call Haun, say you have Greyson and the tape. In trade for them, you want a meeting with Kwan because you're not happy with your arrangement. Tell him you want the meeting for tonight at 10pm at the old Japanese restaurant on Fourth street and either you meet or no Greyson or tape."
"All right," Brewster agreed. "I think they'll bite and should agree to where I want the meeting."
Leaning in close to the vice cop, Kermit grasped the collar of Brewster's shirt and hauled him in close until they were face to face. "Listen up, Brewster, because I'm only going to say this once. You'd better play above board on this because if you even 'think' of screwing us over for your own advantage, I will personally see to it that when you get to prison, which you will, that you'll be introduced to a personal hell you can't even begin to fathom. Am I understood?"
Brewster nodded uneasily and didn't say anything.
"Good," Kermit said and pushed the phone closer towards him, "then dial."
With a shaking hand, Brewster punched in a number he seemed to have memorized and waited.
"Yeah, who is it?"
"Adam, this is Brewster, we need to talk."
"What the hell are you doing calling me on this line?"
"Will you relax? It's a secured phone," Brewster replied. "Besides, I needed to get in touch with you fast because I think you'll be interested in something I happen to have for you."
"Oh yeah, and would that be?" Haun asked, his anger abating and turning to interest.
"Jack Greyson and the tape," Brewster said with ease.
"Greyson? You got Jack and the tape?" Haun asked.
Brewster smiled at the eagerness in Haun's voice. "Yeah, I've got them both and I want to deal."
The irritation and barely disguised anger was back when Haun spoke. "Deal? What are you talking about? If you have them, I want them."
"Ah ah ah, not so fast, Amigo," Brewster broke in. "I think we need to renegotiate our little financial arrangement."
"Oh, you think so, do you?"
Brewster shivered. Haun's voice was cold as ice and twice as hard. "Yeah, I do and I want a meeting set up with Kwan to work it out."
"And what makes you think he'd even agree to meet you?"
"Supply and demand, Brother, supply and demand. I've got what you want and I know it," Brewster answered.
There was a pause on the phone. "Let me talk to Greyson if you got 'im."
"What's the matter Adam, don't trust me?" Brewster asked, motioning for Jack to move closer.
Jack looked to Kermit, who nodded that it was all right.
"I don't trust my own mama, now put him on the phone if you want to talk a deal."
"Say hi to your old boyfriend, Pretty Boy. Someone misses you," Brewster said snidely and made a hand motion for Jack to talk.
"I don't have shit to say to him," Jack said into the phone, intentionally putting a tremor and some fear into his voice.
Brewster took the phone back. "You satisfied?"
Haun laughed. "That's my Jackie-boy all right. Okay, we'll meet, we'll talk, we'll see how it goes from there. What did you have in mind?"
Brewster swallowed. "Meet me at 10 tonight at the old Japanese place on Fourth street. Do you know it?"
"Yeah, I know it. We'll be there at 10," Adam answered. "By the way, Jake...."
"Lay a finger on Jack and I'll kill ya, do you hear me? I've got special plans for that boy."
"I understand," Brewster responded.
"Good. I'll see you then."
Brewster hung up and looked at the cops. "He bit."
"Good," Peter said. "Now to get things set up."
"While Blake is getting the equipment ready and you're assembling the team, I'm taking Jack to go pick up the tape," Kermit said.
Jack followed wordlessly, as they left the office, wove through the precinct activity and to the green Corvair. The humidity was moist and clinging, so Jack was grateful when Kermit flicked on the air conditioner.
"Where are we going?" Kermit asked. "Where did you put the tape?"
"The bus station," Jack responded, as he turned to look at the detective. "I rented a locker there."
Kermit nodded, making a turn that would take them to the bus terminal. Glancing over, Kermit noticed that the closer they got, the more nervous Jack seemed to get, the tauter his muscles became. The computer expert wondered if Jack was in the midst of changing his mind, not that he could be blamed if he did.
"Are you having second thoughts?" Kermit asked evenly, weaving the car through the traffic.
"About the bust? No, no second thoughts."
Kermit glanced over. "No one would fault you if you were. After all, we're asking you to take a big risk."
"It's one I want to take," Jack said resolutely.
Silence descended in the car once more, each man tuning into his own thoughts. Kermit found himself thinking again about the conversation they'd had in his office. The question it raised couldn't be ignored and curiosity was finally getting the better of him.
"Jack, remember in my office when you said you trusted me, and I asked why?"
"Yeah," Jack responded softly.
Kermit took a breath, held it, then released it. "Does this, your agreeing to help out, have anything to do with last night?"
Jack lifted a sandy eyebrow in surprise. "What? Why would you think that? I mean...."
Kermit avoided cerulean eyes. "It's just...I need to know you've thought about this clearly, that you know what you're getting involved with."
Jack chuckled without mirth. "Hold a mighty high opinion of yourself, don't you? One night in bed with you, and you think I'm so blinded I can't think clearly?"
Kermit glared out the window. "Fine, forget it. I don't give a damn what you decide to do or don't do."
The ex-mercenary felt a hand on his thigh as he stopped for a red light but he didn't turn his head to look at the man beside him.
"Look Kermit, I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said. I...I'm a little scared right now, okay? I admit that."
Kermit chanced a look into sincere azure eyes.
'Come on, Jack', his inner voice instructed. 'Caine told you to trust your instincts with Kermit. Be honest with him.' Jack looked into dark brown eyes disguised behind green glasses. "Kermit, last night we got to share something I felt was pretty special and I think you think so too," Jack said softly, and Kermit neither confirmed or denied it, "but that doesn't have anything to do with why I agreed to help put Adam and his boss away. I'm doing it because if I'm going to have any chance of having a life worth living, I have to know Adam is paying for what he's put me and others through."
"Why didn't you ever press any charges?" Kermit asked after the light turned green and he drove on. "After the rape, you could have filed charges."
"You think it would have made a difference?" Jack asked, the bitterness creeping back into his voice. "Think most cops would give the matter a second thought? Who cares about an assault on a gay man? If Adam had killed me, it'd be one less queer in the world to them."
Kermit winced inwardly, thinking back to some of the things he'd heard other officers say when dealing with a homosexual case. Though not every cop was a closed-minded homophobe, Kermit knew there were enough of them around that not only that wouldn't care, but would actually hinder the cases just to make it rough on the homosexuals. Key evidence getting 'accidentally' misplaced, paperwork never being processed...he'd heard it enough to know that what Jack was saying did have some truth in it.
"Besides, Adam's lawyer would have had him out in no time and I'd have been in even more danger that way," Jack said quietly. "At least this is something serious enough that it could get him locked away and out of my life for a long time."
"What about the other guys who...raped...you, what about bringing them down?" Kermit asked, his hand moving to cover the one still resting on his thigh.
"Once Adam goes down, they're going to fall too," Jack answered.
"You think they work for him then?"
"I'd bet my last dime on it," Jack said as they pulled into the parking garage of the bus station.
Jack waited until he felt Kermit behind him before entering the busy bus station. The bustling terminal was filled with travelers of all ages and types. Someone with purple, spiked hair and wearing a matching colored leather dog color bumped into Jack as he spotted the bland, gray lockers.
"Sorry man," the man with the purple hair said in apology and not waiting for acknowledgement as Kermit pulled Jack closer to him.
"Yeah, no problem," Jack murmured, his eyes going into tunnel vision as he focused on the row of lockers.
Reading the numbers, Jack quickly zeroed in on the locker he wanted and dug into his pocket for the small key he'd kept on him for the last couple of days.
Surreptitiously, Kermit watched the traffic in the bus station, keeping an eye on anyone he found suspicious while Jack opened up the locker and drew out the tape. He immediately handed it off to Kermit, as though he couldn't stand to touch the thing.
Kermit slid his hand down Jack until his hand reached the small of the architect's back and gently guided him once more through the crowd. He was aware of Jack's breathing becoming more rapid and shallow.
"You okay?" the detective asked with concern.
"I will be once we get back outside," Jack murmured as the door got closer and closer.
Once back out into the muggy, hot day, Jack took a long, deep breath and seemed to calm down. Kermit kept his hand on Jack's back as they headed to the Corvair.
"I don't like crowds much," Jack offered, not looking at Kermit.
"Yeah, me either, they grate on my nerves," Kermit said softly, his hand rubbing small circles with his hand.
Climbing into the passenger's side, Jack turned to Kermit once he got in. "Now where to?"
"I wanted to go back to my apartment before heading back to the precinct," Kermit replied as he started the engine. "I want a look at that tape."
"You...you want to watch it?" Jack asked in disbelief. He couldn't imagine anyone wanting to see what that tape held.
"It's evidence and I want to see what's on it," Kermit said, and reached out to squeeze Jack's hand quickly and then releasing it. "Don't worry, you don't have to watch it if you don't want to."
"Once was enough for me," Jack murmured.
The traffic was surprisingly light in the district Kermit lived in, so it didn't take long to reach the place he leased. They climbed the stairs up to the floor in which he lived. Kermit passed Henry Dugan's apartment, a married salesman who was currently cheating on his wife with a stripper who worked at 'Carmine's' to put herself through law school. Then they passed Lizza O'Leary's place. She was a young stewardess whose very Catholic parents had no idea she was pregnant with an Asian man's baby. And so on it went. He knew all about each and every neighbor living there, but they knew next to nothing about him besides the fact he was a police detective.
Switching on the light instead of opening the drapes, Kermit moved out of the way so Jack could enter. Leaving the drapes pulled insured that no one else was looking in just in case the place was somehow being watched.
"Welcome to the frog's pond," Kermit said with a hint of a smile.
Jack quickly looked the place over - from the soft, gray carpeting, to the cream colored sofa and matching chairs, to the heavy, oak entertainment center with a sophisticated sound system and television that matched the end tables and coffee table. The place was spacious, very tastefully decorated, and oddly...impersonal...which didn't surprise him much, knowing Kermit as little as he did.
Kermit took his suit and threw it over the sofa and walked over to his liquor cabinet. "Do you want a drink?" he asked Jack, knowing it was early in the day, but maybe it'd help calm the architect a bit.
"No thanks." Jack felt like he could have used a stiff drink. If he was going to be facing Adam though, he wanted to do it was a perfectly clear head. "Are you going to watch the tape now?"
Kermit turned the television on and popped in the tape. "Yeah, better to get it over with so we can get it back to the station." He looked over to Jack. "If you want, you can wait in the room down the hall."
"Your bedroom?" Jack asked.
Kermit nodded. "I'll let you know when I'm finished with it."
Down the hall, Jack turned left into a room opposite the bathroom. The carpeting in this room was a mixture of dark brown and lighter brown. The furniture was the same dark shade of oak as the living room and the king sized bed occupying the bulk of the room was covered in a deep forest green that matched the drapes. The fact they were green didn't surprise Jack much, since he knew it reflected the taste of it's owner. Though he did wonder what Kermit's preoccupation with green was. In fact, he was willing to lay bet that underneath the spread there were green silk sheets on it. A thought crept into his mind about how those sheets would feel against his bare skin, but he quickly shoved it right back out again.
Sitting down on the edge, Jack let his hand sweep out a bit to caress the fabric. He had to wonder why Kermit felt the need to have a bed so large when he was usually the only occupant. Didn't it get awfully lonely having such a huge bed to just himself? It was one of the reasons Jack himself had gotten a simple full sized bed when he left Adam...and even that seemed too big at times.
Glancing over to the nightstand, he noticed a small photo album sitting beside the lamp. His fingers reached for it, but he hesitated. He felt a little guilty for wanting to peek into the book, knowing it would be considered an invasion of privacy. Still, the desire to get to know a little more about the man in the other room was a strong pull he found hard to ignore.
Opening it up, he noticed that the first picture was of a family. A man with graying brown hair, standing beside a woman wearing the dark sunglasses of someone who had no sight, but her smile was sparkling. In front of them were two girls, one who was a teenager and another who hadn't hit pubescence yet. In the middle of them was someone who Jack recognized as a very much younger Peter Caine. It was obvious that this had been Peter's foster family. Though young Peter was smiling, Jack couldn't help noticing the look in the teenager's eyes. The only way he could describe it was haunted and nothing like the warmth he seen in Peter's eyes now. Finding his father again must have made all the difference to Peter.
Flipping it to another picture, there was another family portrait. This one had a pretty brunette woman standing beside her husband holding a baby in her arms with a teenage boy and a younger girl sitting on stools in front of them. Jack wondered whom these people were.
The following picture on the next page that Jack looked at had the same woman, only much younger, standing beside a much younger Kermit and another boy who looked an awful lot like Kermit. They were all standing behind an older couple. Jack suspected that the couple were actually Kermit's parents, which would make the woman in the other picture his sister and her family. The boy must have been Kermit's younger brother.
When he turned the page again, Jack eye paused and froze on the picture. There staring back at him, was the face of a smiling, laughing Kermit Griffin who had to have been in his early twenties at most. He was wearing a black tuxedo and a dark green bow tie and cummerbund, and in his arms was a very beautiful woman with ebony hair and light blue eyes smiling vibrantly in a flowing wedding gown. Jack's tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as the pure happiness in Kermit's expression. Those elusive dark eyes were practically gleaming.
"What are you looking at?"
Jack jerked his head up at the soft voice, looking into the same dark eyes that were less than gleaming at the moment. Kermit was leaning against the doorframe.
"I found some picture and were just going through them," he explained quietly. "I hope you don't mind."
"You could have asked first," Kermit responded and walked the rest of the way into the room to sit beside Jack on the bed. He looked down at the picture Jack had turned to, his lips pressing together in a thin line. "That particular picture was taken another lifetime ago."
"Who is she?" Jack asked.
"Maria, my first wife," Kermit answered, his eyes lingering on the picture.
"I was on a mission in Afghanistan when I got a 'Dear John' letter from her," Kermit explained. "She couldn't handle my line of work at the time or me being gone for long at a time."
Jack looked into Kermit's eyes. "You said she was your first wife, you got married again?"
Kermit reached over to turn the photo album to a picture of him and another woman. This woman was a petite blonde. They were at the beach and he was in the surf up to his knees and holding her up in his arms.
"This is Lisa, we were married for a couple of years," Kermit explained.
"What happened with Lisa?" Jack asked, wondering why he felt tiny pangs at looking at these woman.
Kermit shrugged. "We got divorced because of irreconcilable differences. I happened to believe in monogamy and she didn't."
"Oh," Jack said softly. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not," Kermit responded. "It just wasn't meant to work out with them. We had some good times along the way and I don't have any regrets about it," Kermit said. "I chalk it up to a learning experience, a painful one, yes, but still a learning experience and leave it at that."
"Sometimes those experiences are some of the hardest to take, though," Jack said softly.
"Yeah, but you learn more from them too," Kermit reminded him gently.
Their eyes were holding one another's gaze, their voices turning soft and low.
"And sometimes, afterwards, it makes things clearer than they ever had been before," Jack whispered.
Kermit tracked Jack's mouth with his eyes, watching as he spoke. Again, Kermit was reminded how he'd wanted another taste of that mouth earlier in his office. As the ex-mercenary leaned in closer, he watched Jack's azure eyes flutter shut as his mouth parted ever so slowly. Kermit inched forward, able to feel Jack's breath.
The phone rang shrilly from the nightstand, causing both men to jerk back quickly. Kermit moved to answer the phone and all but growled into it.
Jack felt his cheeks heating up and knew they were stained with a flush as Kermit took a moment to reassure his captain that he had the video and that they'd be returning to the precinct soon.