Page Four

Part Thirteen

When Carlos entered Ranger headquarters, Walker was sitting at his desk and Trivette was sitting on the corner of it.

At the look in Carlos' eyes, Walker grew concerned. "What's up Carlos?"

Carlos slammed the video tape down on the wooden desk in front of Walker. "When I got home today, I found this waiting for me."

"What is it?" Trivette asked, glaring at Carlos.

"A tape, a message, from Johnny Prima's half-brother Jarius Valdez," Carlos spat.

"Half-brother?" Trivette asked.

"That's right. Looks like brother dearest took over El Vaquero's operations. He's got another kid brother who was arrested that he wants to trade Trent for," Carlos explained.

"We're going to have to see that tape Carlos, there might be something on it that can tell us where Valdez is keeping Trent," Trivette said, moving to take the tape off the desk.

Carlos caught his wrist. "No, you can't do that."

"Why not Carlos?" Walker asked.

"Because," Carlos said in a low voice, "There's things on that tape I'd rather not have you see."

"But if it could help Trent..." Walker began.

"No!" Carlos snapped.

Walker pushed his chair back away from his desk and pulled Carlos off to the side. "What's going on here Carlos? What's on the tape that you don't want us seeing?"

Carlos glanced around the room, shifting his eyes uncomfortably. "That tape has rather private moments between me and Trent on it," he explained and saw the recognition flare in Walker's eyes as to what he was referring to. "And since no one besides you knows about us, I'd rather have it stay that way, you know?"

"Yeah, I understand Carlos," Walker said, "but I still think it would help us if we actually saw the video, see if we could pick some clue up from it that you could have missed."

"Walker..." Carlos started to protest.

"What if I promised you that only Trivette and I would see the video?" Walker offered.

Carlos glanced quickly at the younger Texas Ranger. "Jimmy knows? Did you tell him?"

"You know me better than that Carlos," Walker admonished. "He figured it out after the attack on Trent, while you two were in the emergency room."

"Oh," was all Carlos could think to say.

"Well, do we have your permission to watch it?" Walker asked.

"Yeah, I guess, if you really think it will help Trent somehow," Carlos said with great reluctance.

Walker beckoned to Trivette and together they went into a small room that had a VCR, monitor, and not much else, shutting the door to keep prying eyes out.

As the tape began to play, Trivette watched scenes of Trent and Carlos in bed together, the two of them in a heated embrace, kissing, touching, and stroking one another. Fidgeting in his seat, glancing away from the screen to watch Walker's impassive stare, Jimmy heard the sounds of two familiar voices moaning and calling out endearments to each other.

With the same type of fascination that makes people slow down and gawk at car wrecks, Trivette looked again at the television, watching as Trent climbed on top of Carlos, their bodies merging, blending as one. Trivette's insides clenched as he watched, trying to mentally comprehend how it could be possible to want something like that. He stared, hard, at the screen, trying to somehow capture some understanding from the moving pictures.

It was then he noticed not just the actions going on upon the screen, but really looked at Trent and Carlos' faces for the first time. He was completely unprepared for the raw emotion he saw on those faces, the intense passion he saw flowing between them, but it wasn't only passion he saw, there was something else mingled with it, something familiar, but that he wasn't able to name. His mind searched, struggled to figure out what he felt coming from the screen, and when it came to him, it wasn't something he wanted to admit it. The more he tried to ignore it though, the more it nagged at him. Finally he was forced to admit that what he was seeing was a pure expression of more than lust or passion, but of absolute love.

But that didn't make it right though, didn't make it something natural or accepted, he reminded himself. Before he could contemplate anymore on it, the scene changed and Trivette watched as Trent was beat and whipped, again his insides cringed, but for a different reason. Finally they came to the end and Valdez's little speech and Trivette simply couldn't believe the man's complete arrogance, assuming that his orders would be followed unfailingly.

When the tape ran its course, Walker went back out to Carlos, who was leaning against a wall with his arms folded across his chest.

"What are we going to do Walker? He wants Seirge and won't give up Trent without him," Carlos said.

"Well, for one thing, we can't let him know that you've told anyone about the blackmail yet," Walker said, deep in thought.

"Yeah, well if you weren't doing something to get blackmailed over in the first place then it wouldn't be a problem now would it?" Trivette commented, his eyes burning into Carlos'.

"Are you saying that this is somehow 'my' fault?" Carlos asked, steeled gaze meeting Trivette's.

"You tell me," Trivette said slowly. "Would this have happened if they hadn't had Trent to go after? Because of his 'relationship' with you, it made him a target."

"You sound like you have a problem with our 'relationship' 'Ranger' Trivette," Carlos said, his hands automatically clenching and unclenching at his side.

"Maybe I do Detective Sandoval," Trivette responded, stepping a little closer.

"You know man, I though you and I were friends. We've known each other for years, but I never knew how much of bigot you were 'till now," Carlos said, his eyes were narrowed and his voice dropped.

"You are calling 'me' a bigot?" Jimmy asked in disbelief.

"Hey, if the name fits," Carlos returned.

Both men took a step closer to one another until Walker stepped between them.

"The both of you cool it, right now," he said, his voice strong and authoritative. "Look, we have to remember here what's important...Trent's life being in danger. We don't have time for this."

Carlos held Trivette's angry eyes for a few seconds longer, neither man backing down. Finally Carlos broke his gaze. "Yeah, you're right Walker, we need to concentrate on Trent here, the rest of it ain't worth it."

"So how is this going to go down?" Trivette asked, his eyes finally pulled back to Walker.

"Well, turning Seirge Valdez over to his brother isn't an option, even if we could get the clearance to do it," Walker remarked, "So the only option that leaves us with is getting to Valdez before the deadline and getting Trent back."

"We don't even know where Valdez is located," Trivette reminded them.

"We have Ramires though right? Isn't that what you told me?" Carlos asked.

"Yeah we do," Walker answered.

"So what's the problem? We get Ramires to tell us where Valdez's hideout is," Carlos said.

"The problem," Trivette interrupted, "is that Ramires isn't talking."

"I haven't questioned him yet," Walker said. "I'm sure with a little time, I could make him more than happy to share what information he has with us." Walker's blue eyes turned hard as flint at the images of Trent being abused still replayed through his mind.

"No," Carlos said. "Let me do it. Please?"

A glance passed between Trivette and Walker and finally Walker nodded in acquiesce.


Miguel Ramires slumped in his chair. How long was it going to be before Valdez sent someone to get him released, he wondered. He'd been waiting for hours, but still no one had shown up for his defense. Still, here he sat in the dark interrogation room that smelled of sweat and stale cigarettes, a concrete wall against his back.

He was sure Lucia would let Valdez know what happened to him wouldn't she? Of course she would, he told himself. He'd be sprung soon enough.

The door of the interrogation room opened up, squeaky on its hinges, and in walked who he knew to be Carlos Sandoval. So now they sent Sandoval in to work him over? Miguel smirked. No way was he talking and if they thought some fag cop was going to make him change his mind, they were wrong. Stupid pigs.

Dark, narrowed eyes watched as Sandoval slid his leather coat off of his body and casually place it over the video surveillance camera in the corner.

'Oh I'm quaking in my boots now puss boy,' Miguel thought with smug smile turning up the corners of his lips.

With aloofness, Carlos approached the table. Turning the chair around backwards, Carlos took a seat.

"So what do you want?" Miguel asked when Carlos didn't speak immediately, taking a drag off of his cigarette.

"Information," Carlos stated simply. “You’re going to give me Valdez."

Blowing a puff of smoke in Carlos' direction, Miguel said, "Now why would I do that? I don't even know any Valdez."

Carlos blinked once and then grabbed the edge of the wooden table and slammed it hard into Ramires' stomach. The other Hispanic man let out a loud 'oomph' and cried out.

Carlos stood up so quickly that his chair flew out from under him. Before he knew what hit him, Miguel found himself hauled out of his seat with one hand shoving the side of his face roughly against the stone wall while the another hand had his arm wrenched up to the middle of his back.

"Ya know, for some reason I don't happen to believe you," Carlos said nonchalantly. "Now, would you like to start tellin' the truth or do you still want to play games?" the Hispanic detective asked him as the arm was twisted harder.

"Hey, even if I knew anything do you really think I'd be stupid enough to turn against someone like Valdez?"

Carlos leaned in close to the other man, until he was next to Miguel's ear. "You'd better think long and hard about it because if anything happens to Trent, you're going to pay dearly amigo. I guarantee it." Carlos' voice turned deep and ominous.

Miguel tried standing on tiptoe to relieve some of the pressure in his arm muscles. "Why should I give a flying fuck if anything happens to your fairy boyfriend? Let me ask you, how does it feel sticking your cock up that ass of his huh? Bet he likes to be pounded doesn't he?"

Carlos drew his fist back and slammed it into Ramires' kidneys. The other man groaned and started sliding down to the floor, but Carlos hauled him back up again. He was appalled at his own behavior, but all he could think about was Trent's life being in danger and nothing else mattered in comparison. Not even the civil rights of a bag of scum like Ramires.

"Oh you're going to find out exactly what it feels like having some cock shoved up your sorry ass all right," Carlos whispered harshly at the man, resuming his hold on Ramires' arm.

"Whada ya mean?" Miguel asked, his voice betraying a slight tremble.

"Because, Ramires, when you get to prison, and believe me, if anything happens to Trent, that's exactly where you're going, you'll not only take it up the ass, but offer it freely to the biggest, meanest butch you can tempt just to keep it intact," Carlos sneered.

Miguel's throat moved in a gulp. "Why?"

"Because you're gonna need the protection. What do you think is going to happen to you when Valdez finds out you told us everything about his operation you could?" Carlos asked him.

"But that's not true!" Miguel protested, once more trying to work free from Carlos' grasp.

Carlos simply pulled the arm higher. "Yeah, maybe, but that's not going to be what's gonna go around on the street, my friend. Rumors spread fast and word gets around. It would be unfortunate for you if such a thing got started and you ended up having an 'accident' one day in jail. Valdez has lots of contacts on the inside doesn't he?"

Miguel paused for a moment until he finally said, "Okay, okay man, I'll tell you what ya wanna know, now ease up."

Part Fourteen

Carlos came out of the interrogation room, his leather jacket hanging over his arm.

"We got him," the Hispanic detective said to Walker.

"What did you find out?" Trivette asked.

"He said Valdez has a place at Pine Point Valley, said that's where he thinks Valdez is holding Trent until the transfer can be made," Carlos said, his eyes still seething. "Let's go," he said and began to take off, but Walker caught his arm.

"Hold on," Walker said.

"Why? We know where Trent is and I for one am not wasting another moment here when he needs me," Carlos said, shaking off the arm.

"I need to put in a call to Alex first all right? If we go tearing in there without a warrant, Valdez is going to get off on a technicality. That's not what your wanting is it?" the older Ranger explained.

"No," he said with a shake of his head. "Valdez is going to be made to pay, I won't let him off that easily," Carlos said, but Walker could still see the anxiety in eyes.

"Hang in there a little while longer," Walker said, already picking up the phone.

A half an hour later, he hung up from his second call to Alex.

"Okay, we got the warrant. Alex said that between the tape and Miguel's confession, we got what we need for a case," Walker told the Hispanic detective that was pacing around the office like a caged tiger.

"No, we don't use the tape," Carlos said, stopping abruptly, his head snapping up.

"What's more important to you right now Detective? The tape or Trent?" Trivette asked.

"Fine," Carlos growled. He didn't plan on being outed on the force this way. If they were forced to use the tape, he knew that would be what happened. He also knew all too well the consequences that action would have, but he'd just have to worry about that when it happened. Trent was first and foremost in his mind and all that concerned him. What could happen to him on the force didn't matter when he though about Trent's life. "Can we make the bust now?"

"Let me get back up first, since we don't know what we're in for when we get there," Walker told him.

"Just hurry," Carlos said, annoyed at the pleading tone of his voice.


Mickey Raines was standing guard outside of Valdez's compound. He was sitting in a booth that housed the equipment to open the gates to the long circle drive of the master house.

Suddenly hearing some unfamiliar noise from behind him, Mickey quickly reached for his holder and the revolver it held. The noise grew louder and Mickey whirled around, gun drawn and aimed in front of him.

"Damn Mickey, is that any way to greet someone bringing your dinner?" the other guard, a hulk of a man named Joey, responded.

"That's a good way to get yourself shot Joey, you don't go sneaking up on me mano," Mickey snapped.

"Can I help it if you're edgy?" Joey asked. "Do you want your meatball sandwich or not?"

Mickey replaced his revolver back in the shoulder harness. "Yeah, hand it over."

Joey tossed over the wrapped sandwich. "You own me four-fifty for that too," he commented, unwrapping his own deli sandwich.

"Put it on my tab," Mickey smirked, taking a big bite of his meal.

"Yeah, right," Joey groused.

All at once, the still night was disturbed by the sound of shrill sirens. Down the street, three police cars came racing down at them with a dark blue truck with flashing lights in the lead.

"Heads up, we got trouble," Mickey said, his sandwich falling to the ground as he grabbed his gun again.

The blue truck screeched to a halt, next to the booth as did the three squad cars and Mickey and Joey opened fire.

Bullets flew, sparking as it hit metal and cracked windshields. The officers in the squad car started to return the fire and Joey watched as Mickey fell to the ground, dark brick red blood flowing from several wounds Joey had taken to the chest. He barely had the time to hear the other man's gurgling last breath before he felt his own body on fire, the sting of piercing bullets, the last thing he felt.

Walker watched as one of the uniforms jumped out of the squad car and rushed into the booth. Seconds later, the heavy gate began to swing open.

"Go, go," the uniform yelled and waved Walker forward.

The truck roared down the circle drive to the large three story building. Walker jumped out of the cab with Trivette and Carlos following.

At seeing the large, wooden, oak door, Walker turned to Jimmy and Carlos.

"On three," he said and they nodded.

"One...two...three," he counted down and all three of them used their shoulders to break the door open.

In the entrance way, stood a surprised man who drew his pistol.

Walker reacted faster than the gunman could react; with one swift back spin kick, Walker had the gun flying across the room, the gunman holding his wrist. Walker moved in quickly, grabbing the gunman by the collar and lifted him off his feet.

"Where's Valdez holding Trent?"

The gunman gasped out an answer. "Downstairs, basement." He didn't have time to answer further before three other thugs joined them in the hallway; one going after Trivette, one after Carlos and the third went after Walker. Walker put the first gunman down and with a swift side kick, sent the first gunman into the thug that was advancing on him, the two both careening into the near wall. Meanwhile, Trivette was effectively blocking the punches his thug was aiming at him, a swift right cross knocking the guy over the entry way table, crashing through the tall vase with flowers.

Carlos had been backed into a corner and wasn't making much headway when Trivette came over and pulled the guy off of him.

"Go find Trent; Walker and I will take care of these guys." Carlos hesitated when Trivette pushed him down the hall. "Go! Now!" Carlos nodded and started down the hallway toward the downward staircase.

Trivette turned his attention back to the thug, repeatedly pummeling him until he no longer got back up. He turned to see Walker head up the stairs.

"Walker! Wait up!" Trivette yelled over his shoulder as he started to cuff the thugs.

"Can't, going after Valdez." Walker continued up the stairs and paused at the top; Valdez was coming out of a room, pulling the door closed behind him.

"Hold it Valdez! Hands up, you're under arrest."

"If you think you can take me Ranger, you're welcome to try," Valdez spat out.

He pulled out a butterfly knife and menacingly slicing the air in front of him.

Walker advanced slowly, his eyes never leaving Valdez's, his peripheral vision tracking the knife in front of him. Valdez sliced toward Walker's midsection, Walker jumped back. Valdez tried again and this time, Walker knocked the knife hand away from him with a forearm block, the knife slicing through to the skin, but only a surface wound.

The block threw Valdez off-balance, and Walker took the advantage to hit Valdez in the side; Valdez crumpling and moving back. He regained his composure and lunged at Walker, Walker this time slicing down with a knife-hand strike to Valdez's wrist, causing him to drop the knife. Valdez drew back, eyeing his opponent. He faked forward with a roundhouse punch, but came up short to kicked out with a half-moon kick to Walker's knee. Walker went down, more to save injury to his knee than actual power from the kick.

Valdez moved forward to hit Walker while he was down, but Walker twisted up to his hands and knees and kicked out to hit Valdez in his stomach, knocking him backwards while Walker spun to stand up.

Walker moved forward, ready with a vicious right cross to Valdez's face before Valdez could recover too much. Valdez blocked the punch for the most part, then followed up with one of his own, but Walker saw him coming and deflected the punch. He moved closer to connect solidly to Valdez's stomach with a side kick, pushing the gangster backwards again. He turned to connect again with a spin kick, forcing Valdez down to his knees. Walker thought he had Valdez where he wanted him, but the gangster had more surprises up his sleeve.

Valdez moved quickly toward Walker and tackled him around the knees, knocking the Ranger down. Valdez took the advantage and drew back for a punch to Walker's face, but Walker was again too fast for him. He deflected the punch into the unforgiving hardwood floor and knocked Valdez off of him. Valdez spun around and both men faced off again, Walker with the advantage.

Valdez was trying to shake off the pain in his dominant hand and Walker knew he had him. He knew where the next punch would be coming from.

Valdez didn't disappoint Walker. He pulled back with his good hand to attempt a left cross, but Walker was ready. Walker pummeled forward, punch after punch as Valdez staggered backwards, until the final right cross that sent Valdez down and out for the count.

"You hurt bad?" Trivette asked his partner, noticing the small trickling of blood from the wound on Cordell's arm.

"Nah, it's nothing," Walker said, shaking off the concern. "I'd say he got the worse end of things, wouldn't you?" he said, looking at Valdez's prone body spread out onto the floor.

"Yeah, I'd say so," Trivette agreed. "He definitely got what was coming to him."

Walker's eyes burned a cool, blue, flame. "If anything happens to Trent, he's going to wish I'd finished the job."

Part Fifteen

Carlos bounded down the stairs to the cellar. A wooden door blocked his path and he tried the knob to no avail. Rearing up he then threw his shoulder against the structure and it didn't budge at all. One more time he drew back and threw his entire weight against it, and it broke and splintered under the pressure.

Stepping into the darkened room, it took several seconds for Carlos' eyes to adjust, but when they did, he finally saw his lover tied to a twin sized cot.

"Oh God Trent," he called out and rushed over to his mate's side.

The blonde P.I. looked horrible. Various bruises covered his face, legs, and chest while raised, swollen, lacerations, some bloody, some clotted crisscrossed over his back and chest.

"God baby, what did they do to you?" Carlos asked, very unsettled by the fact that Trent still hadn't responded to him.

Gently Carlos turned his face to him. Trent's azure eyes were unfocused, and bloodshot, dark pupils were dilated. When Carlos touched Trent's skin, he found it cold and clammy, and noticed how Trent's muscles twitched and quivered unnaturally. When he touched Trent's cheek, Trent moaned softly and shrank away from him. Carlos' stomach pitched when he realized that his lover was high on only God knew what.

"Don't worry babe, I'll get you out of here, your going to be safe soon," Carlos murmured as much for his own peace of mind as Trent's. Hazy eyes followed him without recognition.

Pulling out a knife he carried on him, Carlos set to work at cutting through the ropes around Trent's wrists. Gently, he helped Trent to sit up, cringing at the groan of pain it caused his mate. He was about to start on the ropes binding Trent's ankles when he heard an unfamiliar voice.

"If you think you're taking Blondie out of here alive, you've got another thing coming."

Carlos turned to see a man standing in the entrance way. The man not only looked like he had seen his fair share of steroids, but had a face that looked ugly enough that the use of a baseball bat on it would only be an improvement.

Raving anger raged in Carlos' eyes. "And you think you're gonna stop me?" he asked in a ominous and foreboding voice.

"Nope, I know I am," the man responded, as he advanced toward the Latino, hatred and rage in his eyes. "Both you and your loverboy there aren't going to know what hit you."

Carlos watched as the man came closer and closer, biding his time, just as Trent had taught him. He knew that this fight wasn't going to be won on strength, only by cunning and skill.

Carlos stood up, keeping Trent behind him, protecting him now, protecting him with his own life. He held his stance as the huge man came within range. He watched as a meaty hand drew back to punch, and he prepared himself.

Beak-nose drew back and threw himself into the punch, only to find the punch easily deflected to the side, his balance compromised. He pitched forward as his punch found only air and a solid punch was felt directly in his mid-section, knocking the breath out of him. He doubled over and staggered back, readying himself for his next attack. He wouldn't underestimate the smaller man this time.

Carlos watched as Beak-nose picked himself up and hoped there'd be an opening to take him down. Beak-nose advanced again, this time faking a right cross while hitting Carlos with a low left punch to the gut. Carlos doubled over, then fell to the ground as Beak-nose hit him on the back, flattening him out. Carlos quickly flipped over, capturing one of Beak-nose's legs between his, and with a quick scissor kick, brought Beak-nose down, too.

Carlos jumped up and again got between Beak-nose and Trent, prepared to fight to the death. Beak-nose got back up and Carlos decided to get in the first blow this time...which was his big mistake. He drew back for a right cross, which Beak-nose effectively grabbed and gave Carlos a right cross of his own. Carlos staggered back, landing next to a still out-of-it Trent. Seeing Trent dazed and hurt brought his resolve back on-line and he got up for the next assault, but this time Beak-nose wasn't in the mood to play. Carlos found himself staring down the barrel of a Colt .45.

"I'm tired of this, fag, let's end it now."

Carlos knew he only had one chance to get them out of this alive. Beak-nose looked so smug behind the gun; Carlos turned quickly and brought his leg up, kicking out in a spin kick just in time to knock the firing gun from Beak-nose's hand.

The bullet jammed harmlessly into the wall, the gun skittered across the floor to stop underneath the cot. Carlos recovered and kicked out with a side kick, back-side kick combo, moving Beak-nose backwards, then came in with a roundhouse kick to the side. Beak-nose staggered backwards farther, his balance precarious as Carlos continued his assault, each blow to Beak-nose a blow for Trent, to pay him back for what Trent suffered, to have him feel what Trent felt. He wanted to remove that smug look from the thug's face; wanted to wipe the floor with his face. No more Mister Nice Guy; his adrenaline was up; he saw nothing but fury as he continued to pummel Beak-nose until the thug fell down and no longer moved.

As the thug laid, motionless, on the dirt floor, Carlos turned when he heard his lover's rasping voice.

"Don't move."

Carlos spun around to see his mate holding the hoodlum's revolver and had it pointed directly at his head.

Trent's finger was on the trigger and Carlos watched as if in slow motion, as the gun was cocked, the sound of the clicking deafening in the ensuing silence.

The blurry shadow seemed to loom nearer, and Trent wasn't going to let himself be hurt anymore if he could help it, he had to get back to Carlos somehow and he'd do anything to make it happen. Shaking his head slightly, Trent tried to clear his fuzzy mind. The words, the threats, that Beak-nose had spoken still rang in his ears. Trent could still feel the man's filthy hand caressing his cheek, could still hear the graveled voice whispering in his ear what the man wanted to do to Trent, to make Trent do to him. It simply wasn't going to happen, Trent was the one with the advantage now and he wasn't going to give it up willing.

Trent's hand shook slightly, but Carlos didn't flinch, knowing that any sudden movements on his part could be fatal as it quickly dawned on him that in Trent's drug induced state, he didn't realize who he was pointing the pistol at, only seeing Carlos as a possible threat.

"Trent, it's me, Carlos," he spoke softly.

Trent didn't blink. "Don't move," he repeated, steadying the hand holding the gun with his other.

Did the man actually think he would be fooled by using his lover's name, Trent wondered? Trent knew better than to fall for a ploy like that. There had been too many times he had thought he'd heard Carlos' voice, saw his lover's handsome face, only to have it disappear as a phantom whisper. No more was he falling for it.

"Babe, listen to my voice, listen to what I'm saying," Carlos said gently, steadily.

"Get back!" Trent ordered.

Carlos risked edging closer. "You're confused right now Love, you don't know what you're doing," Carlos murmured, hoping that the sound of his voice kept Trent distracted as he took another couple of steps forward. "You need to give me the gun Love."

"No," Trent hissed, continuing to level the gun. The voice sounded so real, so warm and gentle and Trent was becoming tempted, but he knew what that mistake could cost him.

Carlos could see the confusion and fear rising in Trent's eyes as he took another few precious steps.

"Trent, concentrate, do you hear me?" Carlos watched Trent's eyes blink rapidly, a sign he was getting through and he grew bolder in his steps. "Querido, I'm here to take you home, babe."

Trent shook his head as though in disbelief. Querido? Did the apparition actually call him beloved? Gods how often he'd longed to hear that word, to feel the security it offered. Did he dare believe? Could it be possible?

"C-Carlos?" Trent's arm began shaking more violently, several tears starting to streak down the P.I.'s cheeks.

"That's right, Querido, it's me," Carlos said gently and moved within distance until he was able to capture Trent's wrist.

Gently prying Trent's fingers lose from the trigger, Carlos laid the revolver to the side on the bed and drew Trent into his arms, murmuring soft, reassuring words and endearments as he rocked the blonde karate instructor. Trent's arms locked around Carlos as his body shivered and he let out a soft whimper.

"Sshh, it's okay now, you're going to be okay," Carlos cooed and kept rocking him.

Eventually the shaking subsided and Carlos finished cutting the rope away from around Trent's ankles. Once loose, Carlos slipped an arm under Trent's legs and one around the P.I.'s back and carefully lifted him up.

With his arms full of his precious cargo, Carlos slowly made his way up the stairs as Trent's head rested on his shoulder.

Both Walker and Trivette watched as he carried Trent past them. "You got some garbage downstairs to take care of," he informed them, not breaking his stride.

Heedless of the glances he got from Walker and Trivette, Carlos continued to carry the karate instructor through the house and out the main door until he got to the ambulance and only relinquishing his mate to settle him on the stretcher that was waiting beside the ambulance that someone had summoned.

Carlos watched as his lover was strapped down to the gurney and the medical technicians lifted him up and into the back of the emergency vehicle.

Carlos climbed into the back of the ambulance and took a seat next to Trent and the P.I.'s hand reached out to clasp Carlos'. One of the emergency personnel was about to say something about Carlos coming with him, but one look shot at her from the Hispanic officer, silenced her immediately.


Trivette truly hated hospitals. The way he saw it, they only meant trouble, illness, loss, and, or, pain. This time it was no different. He stood outside of Trent's hospital room and felt cold at the sight of a friend suffering so much. Trent looked so battered and washed out that Jimmy was surprised that he even had the energy left to breathe, let alone talk.

The younger Ranger watched as Carlos stood by Trent's bedside, one hand holding onto Trent's and the other brushing through the blonde's matted hair. Trent started to cough and convulsed, sitting up in the bed despite the beating Trent's bruised ribs had taken. Carlos grabbed the emesis basin and barely had the time to get it to Trent's mouth. When Trent was finished getting sick, Carlos took a damp washcloth and tenderly cleaned his face off.

"That's part of the drug withdrawal isn't it?" Trivette turned his head to look at Walker.

"Yeah, the doctor said it would be a day or two before all of the heroin will work its way out of his system," Walker told him, still infuriated at the thought of his friend being force fed drugs.

Carlos held the glass of water for Trent to sip from, then helped Trent lay back down on the bed and placed a kiss on his forehead, oblivious to the two watchful Rangers.

"I'm surprised that with all of that happened to him, that he didn't get anything broke," Trivette commented, watching Carlos continue to stroke Trent's hair.

"The doctor said he came close, had some soft tissue damage that is going to take a little time to heal, muscle strain he's going to feel for awhile yet," Walker told him.

Carlos leaned over and softly kissed the private investigator's lips. "He's a survivor isn't he?" Trivette commented.

"Yep, that he is, that he is," Walker responded.

Part Sixteen

"Are you all right Love? Need me to get you anything?" Carlos asked when he drew back from the kiss.

"No babe, you just being here is enough," Trent said in a raspy voice, taking the Latino's fingers and intertwined them with his own.

The P.I. could see dark shadows flittering across Carlos' velvet brown eyes. "Hey, what is it?" he asked, squeezing the Hispanic officer's fingers.

"Nah man, this isn't the time for it, you need to rest," Carlos said, looking away from his lover's gaze.

"Hey, no, I can tell you have something to say, so out with it Sandoval," Trent ordered with a weak smile.

Carlos glanced away, not wanting to ask what was troubling his mind. Still, he had to know the answer so his eyes shifted back down to Trent's.

"Querido, I...," Carlos paused, pain and anger storming in his dark gaze. "Did they hurt you...touch you..." Carlos could hardly bring himself to get it out. He didn't even want to think about it, but he realized how vulnerable Trent had been while drugged. "...in a sexual way, I mean?" The question came out sounding strained and choked.

Trent's blue eyes flashed in concern. "No, babe, they didn't," he reassured the police officer. "One of them acted like he was going to, but that was all it was, an act trying to intimidate me." His hand came up to touch Carlos' stubbled cheek.

Carlos looked up to the ceiling, releasing the breath that had been trapped in his chest in a sigh. "Oh thank God," he whispered, and leaned in to kiss Trent's lips again.

"I know they still hurt you, but if they had done 'that', I'd killed them with my bare hands, I swear I would've," Carlos vowed.

Taking a long, hard look into Carlos' eyes, as hard as brown flint, Trent had no doubts that Carlos meant it.

"Hey, Lover, none of that, okay?" Trent said, continuing to stroke Carlos' cheek with the back of his fingers. "I'm here, I'm going to be fine, and Vadez has been taken down. All in all, a good day considering," Trent smiled and shifted in the bed slightly, causing him to moan a little.

Carlos just shook his dark head. "You're amazing, do you know that? Here you are trying to make 'me' feel better," Carlos said in wonder.

"Well, if you wanted to make me feel better, I know something you could for me," Trent said softly.


"Give me another kiss?"

Carlos leaned down until his lips hovered over Trent's. "As many as you want babe, anytime," he whispered before sealing his mouth over the detective's.


Back in the hallway, Trivette watched the scene curiously. Once more he recalled the images he'd seen on the tape and the feeling of love he felt between the two men. Seeing the intimate kisses and touches now going on by the men who weren't aware that they were being observed, brought that feeling rushing back to the younger Ranger.

It was as if he could almost feel the warmth, affection and love flowing between the two men like a tangible entity. In fact, he couldn't help feeling like he was spying on something so sacred, he felt like he should turn away, but he couldn't.

Jimmy thought about what exactly love meant to him. He thought about devotion, honesty, trust, commitment, and he saw all of that when he watched the two men in the hospital interact with each other. So what did that mean to him? Remembering his feelings for Angel, it also hit him hard just how fleeting and precious love, real love, was.

Trivette's mind also recalled all of the times both Carlos and Trent had risked their own lives for others, including himself. That had to count for something, right? Loving each other hadn't changed that about either of them, in fact, it seemed to have enhanced it. Carlos and Trent both had a love for humanity, prided themselves on trying to provide help and safety to those who needed it, without biases, shouldn't they receive the same consideration in return? Was it 'that' much to ask?

'You know man, I though you and I were friends. We've known each other for years, but I never knew how much of bigot you were 'till now.' Carlos' ghostly words came back to replay in his thoughts.

A bigot. Jimmy Trivette had been called a bigot. The word itself didn't unsettle Trivette so much as the truth behind it. The more Jimmy tried to dismiss it, the more it forced its way out and demanded to be dealt with.

Bigotry, the word Trivette himself had fought against since childhood was now staring him in the face and it shamed him. When he was a child, Jimmy couldn't remember the times he'd been called 'nigger' and looked down upon just because of his skin color. He'd cried himself to sleep at night at times because of the cruelty kids in school he'd had to endure, had fought all of his life to prove that he was just as good as anyone else whether he had dark skin or not.

It hit him hard at that moment when he realized that he had been treating Carlos and Trent with the same unfairness, judging them not on the basis of their skin color, but just because they loved either other. He also realized how one was as inane as the other.

Suddenly Carlos came walking out of Trent's room and stopped short when he saw the two Rangers.

"Hey guys, could you two keep an eye on Trent? I need to go back to the loft and pick up a couple of things for him," Carlos said, speaking directly to Walker.

"Yeah, sure, of course," Walker agreed.

When Carlos started to walk off, Trivette took off after him.

"Hey Carlos, wait up," the Ranger called out.

Carlos paused. "Yeah?"

"Can I give you a ride back to your place?" Trivette offered.

Carlos lifted an eyebrow. "No, thanks man, but I'm good."

Trivette caught his arm. "Please?"

Carlos stared at the Ranger, measuring him with a scrupulous glare. Finally he said, "Sure, whatever."

They both settled themselves into the cab of the truck and were quickly on the road to Carlos' loft.

Trivette turned his head, one eye still on the nighttime traffic. "Look Carlos, I've got something I want to say to you."

"What?" Carlos asked dubiously.

"I'm sorry, man," Trivette said and glanced over at Carlos' slightly surprised face. "Look, I had no right to be treating you the way I have been. It's just that, well, I guess I was in shock," he shrugged.

"Yeah, but it still hurt," Carlos told him. "I trusted you, thought you were a friend, someone that I could count on."

"Like I said, it wasn't something I was expecting, you know. It sort of blind-sided me, took some adjusting to," Trivette told him.

"You think it was easy for me to realize?" Carlos asked him. "This took me totally off guard."

Trivette looked from the road to the Hispanic officer. "You really love him, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do," Carlos said softly.

Trivette cleared his throat. "You know, when you called me a bigot, that was a real wake up call. I realized you were right, and that I was treating you the same way the people I've despised all my life treated me. It wasn't fair, and I'm sorry."

"Well, I might have been a little harsh," Carlos granted. "And I accept your apology."

"So we're cool then?" Trivette asked, knowing he'd still have a long way to go yet to make up for the unjust way he'd treated them both. He held out a fisted hand.

"Yeah, we're cool mano," Carlos said, hitting Jimmy's fist with his own as they pulled into the lot of Carlos' apartment.


Carlos rode up the elevator, both arms securely wrapped around Trent's waist and holding him close to his chest.

"Man, am I glad to get out of that place," Trent said, referring to his release earlier that morning from the hospital stay at Parkland Memorial. It had been a long week being cooped up, but Trent had suffered through it and was released with the doctor saying he had nearly made a full recovery, save for the bruised ribs that still ached occasionally.

Carlos nuzzled the nape of Trent's neck, and nibbled at an accessible earlobe. "So am I, querido, you don't know how much I missed you babe."

"Missed me? When did you have the time to miss me? You were at the hospital with me so often, I thought they were going to go ahead and just admit you too," Trent quipped.

"What can I say? I just loved their cafeteria food," Carlos teased. "Are you complaining?" Carlos softly murmured, his lips traveling around to Trent's other earlobe, sending shivers of delight down the blonde's body.

"So who's complaining?" Trent whispered back, turning around to softly kiss Carlos' full mouth.

He'd teased Carlos about his hovering and claimed that the only reason the Latino officer stayed around so much was to flirt with the nurses, but in truth it had pleased and comforted him to have Carlos visit him so much.

The elevator came to a stop with a jerk, and the two men reluctantly broke the kiss, their foreheads resting against each other as they stared into one another eyes.

Carlos nuzzled Trent's nose with his own. "Come on, let's go in. Looks like you could use a nap," he suggested.

"I'm feeling fine," Trent informed him, "and the only way I'm taking a nap is if you join me."

"Hey, I thought I was suppose to be the incorrigible one here," Carlos murmured.

"Can I help it if you're a corrupting influence on me?" Trent countered.

Carlos growled in answer and Trent laughed when he bit down on the private investigator's neck. He was still chuckling when he opened the door to their loft.

"SURPISE!" was called out and Trent, startled, nearly jumped back into Carlos.

The blonde P.I. stared in utter amazement, completely speechless, at sight that greeted him. Their loft was brightly decorated with balloons and streamers of all colors. A huge banner declaring 'Happy Birthday' hung from the ceiling, and under the banner, stood all of Trent's family and closest friends, a table full of brightly decorated presents behind them. Walker, C.D, Trivette, Alex, Maria and Leon, his mother, even Carlos' mother were all there, huge smiles on their faces.

Trent's six year old sister, Tandy, came running up and grabbed her big brother around the waist.

"Happy birthday Trent!" Tandy exclaimed and was picked up in her brother's arms.

Trent was still stunned. "How...when...? I'd completely forgot it was my birthday with so much going on!"

"Yeah, but you didn't think we'd forget did you?" Carlos asked with a bright grin at pulling one over on his surprised mate.

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