Standard Disclaimer:

This is not a standard Nifty story: there may be sex in this story, but only insofar as it shows up in real life, and I'm goign to try and take a closed-door approach to it. This is not a porno story, it's intended as a serious novel. That said, I still need to provide certain disclaimer's if I'm going to post on Nifty:

You're all probably familiar with the standard drill: this story may contain sexually charged scenes including same-gender pairings, abuse, incest, rape, and more. If reading such is illegal in your area, please do not continue.

I have my own website, and am also hosted at other sites, including and Redemption, and Guardians before it, are not my only stories! If you drop by my website, it tends to be the most comprehensive source of stories for your reading pleasure, but you will occasionally discover stories that haven't reached it -- such as Unexpected Reactions at

Remember, please, that e-mail is an author's only payment -- please do pay! My address is, and I look forward to hearing from you. I respond to all e-mail recieved.

Darkness crawled around the DA's office as the phone call continued. Under his chair a small blob bubbled and oozed, raising a stench that could not be smelled. "I'll have to think about it," the DA answered his phone. "The case file doesn't seem to suggest..."

The blob boiled faster, growing warm as its power was expended and a mind twisted. "Yes, you're quite right... I should have seen that before..."

The blob vanished, every trace of its physical existence expended to open a mind that would otherwise have been closed.

"...and in further news," the reporter continued, "we go to our live correspondent Sandy Doolitle in Checkero, Alabama, about a truly tragic case. Sandy?"

"It truly is a tragic case, Diane, as eight year-old Samuel Clements is charged with the brutal and senseless murder of his foster-brother, Andrew Wilkinson," the blond-haired reporter said energetically. "Not two days past Andrew Wilkinson died of terminal injuries received in a playground 'accident' that has left people baffled..."

Dill froze, remote halfway up to shut down the TV. "Sammy?!"

"What's wrong, Dill?" Bri asked from the other room.

"Get in here, now!" Dill ordered his lover harshly, eyes locked on the plasma screen in front of him.

Still dripping wet, Bri skidded in with a towel over his shoulder and watched the news with his lover. "Oh my god, I just don't fucking believe it!" he swore.

"This is bullshit. Bull-fucking-shit," Dill agreed. Then the kicker, when a social worker came on. Not just any social worker, but her.

"While it is truly tragic, what people need to understand, is that while a guilty verdict is appropriate, it isn't the end of this boy's life. He's young, and with proper care and treatment we can help him redirect his anger into more appropriate venues. The reason a children's court exists in the first place is that -- especially with younger children -- the full adult charge simply isn't appropriate to a child who is, by definition, less than mature!" She just oozed sympathy and compassion, and Dill felt a sneer form on his face as he remembered the bitch. Sympathy and compassion alright -- for the 'right' kind of people. Which poor Andrew had been, and Sammy never was. And of course, Bri and Dill could never be -- not after having become lovers!. Dill clicked it off, unable to watch this travesty of justice any further.

"I am not going to let this stand," Dill told Bri, eyes on the now blank screen.

"No, I'm afraid you're wrong," Bri said, earning an angry glare. "We are not going to let this stand, lover-boy!" Dill lost the glare in favor of a dreamy smile.

"Thank you," he said lovingly. "After all the crap we've been through, thank you."

"Hey, that's over and done with boy. Your parents..." Bri let the subject drop. Neither of them really wanted to discuss their parents. "Well, thats all behind us. And thanks to your grandmother, we don't have to worry about much of anything."

Dill laughed in agreement. "Ten thousand a month, plus a big mansion with all its staff and upkeep paid for out of the trust account? Yeah, not much to worry about at all!"

"Ten thousand a month..." Bri said thoughtfully. "You know, I'm willing to bet that could hire a really good lawyer for Sammy."

Dill lept up off the couch and kissed Bri. "Brilliant, lover-boy!" Bri kissed back. "I'll see to it first thing tomorrow... it's too late tonight to even think about trying anything..."

"Are you sure about that?" Bri asked hungrily.

"Hrm... well, anything about Sammy's situation..." Dill answered, hunger in his voice as well. "But our favorite number won't keep us up very late... and we can be up and ready first thing in the morning to start dealing with the situation if we go to bed right now..."

"Bri, after what, four years of being lovers, why is it that we still haven't learned to not throw our clothes all over the place?" Dill asked the next morning, hunting for a missing sock.

Bri held the sock up and grinned back, "Because its too much fun throwing them away as quickly as we can get them off, duh!"

Dill laughed and agreed. Eventually they got their clothes from the previous night cleaned up and placed in the proper receptacle for such items -- what fit in the dirty clothes hamper, anyway. "Laundry day, ugh!" Dill commented. "That's one thing I don't miss about the parents."

"Well, your grandmother was willing to pay for most of the household chores to be done by paid labor... I guess she thought that cleaning your own room and clothes was reasonable enough!" Bri twitted.

"Well, I wish I agreed -- but I don't!" Dill shot back.

Bri laughed and started pulling things out of the hamper, tossing them into appropriate piles -- and being very careful to keep the reds out of the white pile. That's the kind of mistake even a teenager will only make once! It had taken weeks of heavy bleach to get the pink out of their whites, and to this day a few close friends still teased him about his 'fetish' for pink.

Just in case of a repeat, he kept a spare set of whites, still in their original packaging, for both him and Dill. "So, any further thoughts on a lawyer?" he asked.

Dill smiled back at his lover, "Yeah, ours! He isn't a criminal attorney-"

"Wait, I thought all lawyers were by definition-" Bri began to crack.

"Not today, Bri, we need to stay on his good side!" Dill ordered. "Anyway, he may not be a criminal attorney, but I imagine he could point us at a damn good one anyway."

"Fine, so we'll dress up and go calling, bleh," Bri complained.

Dill shook his head, "No, I don't think so. We're both adults, and thanks to grandmother 'we' pay his bills -- he is our lawyer, and he'll come to us."

"Thank God, we don't have to-" Bri began.

"We'll still be polite and dress nice, of course," Dill told his lover sadly. "Don't want to offend him, remember?"

"Damn it," Bri uttered crossly. "I suppose I get to call him Mr. Murphy, too?"

"If you'd rather call him 'sir'..." Dill quipped, earning a harsh glare. "Alright, alright! Mr. Murphy it is -- unless he invites you to call him Andrew."

"Fat chance," Bri muttered angrily. "I hate the guy, you know that right?"

"Feelings mutual, he hasn't liked either of us since he discovered we were lovers. Remember his reaction when he realized he was 'bound by the ethics of my profession to serve you two to the best of my not inconsiderable abilities?'" Dill managed to match the pompous statement's original utterance almost exactly, including the disgusted 'you two' perfectly.

"Yeah, well, you're the one he smarms up to," Bri reminded Dill. "After all, you've only got the one strike-"

"Whereas you're not only gay, but poor and of the wrong color to boot, I remember," Dill answered testily. "I really wish you'd stop harping on it -- you might come from the 'wrong side of the tracks' but I honestly don't think he holds your color against you too. If I did I'd... well..." Dill broke off in a sigh. "I'd try to get him replaced, anyway..."

"Fat chance, your Granma set things up to well for that!" Bri laughed bitterly. "I can only assume she didn't know the SOB-"

"Enough, Bri," Dill said. "I'll go call him, and find out when he can be over here."

"Go do that, lover-boy," Bri answered, resigned to his fate. "I'll go dig out the ties and make sure our shoes are shined."

Leaving the laundry piles be, they went to take care of their mutual tasks. Bri cursed as he dug through the closet, unable to find the thrice d- Ah-hah! There they were, but "how the heck did they end up there?" Bri mused aloud. Shaking himself, he pulled the ties out and started digging for the shoes. Thankfully this was a slightly easier task, but left him with a new problem.

He hated polishing shoes! "Dill?" he called.

"Yes Bri?" Dill answered from the other room.

"You done on the phone yet?" Bri yelled.

"No -- haven't gotten through yet."

Bri closed his eyes in frustration. "The shoes need polishing -- you do that, I'll do the laundry for today?"

"Deal!" Dill yelled back. Neither of them really cared for laundry duty, but Dill at least had lots of practice shining his own shoes -- couldn't go to church without a mirror polish, after all. Especially when you're going to a Southern Baptist church in the deep south, and happen to be rich -- and therefore responsible for 'setting a good example'.

Neither Dill not Bri had kept up with those kinds of 'religious duties' after Dill's father had gotten sent to jail, for some strange reason. Maybe it had to do with the church in question leading the fight to lynch them.

Bri shook himself back to the present as Dill called again, "Hey, you still there?"

"Sorry, woolgathering!" Bri answered.

"Well, I said- oh," Dill began before breaking off. From the muffled sounds coming from the other room, Bri figured he was on the phone. Shoving the remaining mess back into the closet, Bri promised himself -- again -- to clean it out sometime soon. At the last second he remembered to grab the shoe-polishing kit before closing the door, and walked into the other room to set the shoes, and polish, on the table. Dill wordlessly took up the task while still talking on the phone. "Yes, I'd like to speak with him immediately... no, it's not an emergency, but... If you'll just tell him my name..." Dill broke off, face growing red. "What is your name, miss?" Dill snarled. "Very well, Ms. Reckit," he continued in a nominally calmer tone, "here is what is going to happen. You will either march into Andrew Murphy's office, now, and tell him that Dillon Torrelli called, or this time tomorrow you will be searching for a new job. And not finding one within a hundred miles... No, that's not a threat, its a promise. Yes, Dillon Torrelli... yes, of those Torrellis..." Dill's voice took on a suddenly softer, colder tone. "Excuse me? You what? Mrs. Reckit, do you know who pays your bills? No, not your employer, I mean who pays him the money to pay you with? Yes, his clients -- and who is his single, biggest client?" Dill waited for a few moments, and then snarled into the phone again. "Ms. Reckit, will you be putting me through to him sometime today, or do I need to take my business elsewhere?" Dill pulled the phone from his ear and stared at it, and Bri began to edge out of the room.

"Bri," Dill forestalled him. "We're going in to the office. In full dress." Bri knew better than to argue when his lover took that tone.

"Spoiled rich brats," he muttered lovingly as he went to dig out the high-quality business ties. If Dill felt it necessary to make an impression, Bri would support him -- scratchy, unbearably tight shirt collars or not.

"Bri," Dill called out, "the laundry is going to have to wait until tomorrow -- but you still get to do it."

Groaning, Bri called out an acknowledgment.

Anything was better than polishing shoes, but still: he hated laundry!

Formal business suits, perfectly polished shoes, and a limousine drop off aren't bullet-proof armor, but when you show up at a legal office they come pretty close. "Sirs," the doorman murmured respectfully as he held the door open.

"Thank you," Dill replied as he waited for Bri to climb out. Walking into the lobby, they didn't bother with the directory -- or receptionist -- and simply walked straight to the elevator. Pressing the up button, they waited, silently, for the elevator to arrive. Maintaining that perfect silence, they pressed the desired floor and the close button, and the elevator whisked them away to the appropriate floor. "Perhaps we should have had lunch," Bri commented.

"He's taking us out to lunch," Dill said.

"You sure about that?" Bri asked nervously. "It's already-"

"Watch," Dill said flatly.

Bri didn't push -- his lover was in the throes of a full rich-boy temper tantrum, and it just wasn't worth fighting over. "If my stomach growls while we're-"

"It won't, that's why we bought a snack," Dill assured him. "Now, we're almost there. Remember: we own this place, and everyone here is our servant."

"It's all in the attitude," Bri recited back, receiving a grin for his troubles.

"Lets explain matters to that..." Dill started to snarl, and immediately forced himself to be icily calm. "We will explain matters to Ms. Reckit."

The elevator dinged, warning them they'd arrived, and Dill's head snapped forward. Waiting for the door to be completely open, he strode off the elevator, looking directly ahead and Bri one step behind him.

Turning the corners without even looking, soon they were outside the right office. Dill didn't hesitate, or even break step -- Bri had darted ahead to open it for him, and he walked right through.

"Hello sir, how may I help you?" Ms. Reckit began from her desk. Dill walked right past her towards to the door in the back of the office, and she tried to cut him off. "Excuse me sir, but you can't-" Dill stopped, turned, and stared at her.

"Pack your belongings, now," he ordered, then resumed his travel to the office door. Ms. Reckit tried to stand in the way, but Dill was going to win this game of chicken. He walked right into her, knocking her out of his way and flat on her butt.

"Security!" she called angrily.

Dill ignored her and walked straight into Andrew Murphy's office. "Mr. Murphy, there you are!" he called companionably.

"Dillon!" the lawyer called out, very successfully faking joy at his employer's appearance. "Why didn't you call ahead? And I've told you, call me Andrew!"

"I tried, Ms. Reckit refused to let me talk to you," Dill informed him. "Now, we have business to discuss."

"I'm sorry sir, he just wouldn't-" Ms. Reckit began.

"My former secretary will arrange for a table at Madam Luelle's, directly before she cleans out her desk. Will that be acceptable, sir?" Mr. Murphy toadied.

"Perfectly," neither Dill's nor Bri's faces revealed their emotions over this turn of events. Dill had expected it, Bri was just used to hiding what he felt.

"Splendid! I'll order up a limo-" Mr. Murphy began.

"Call our service, have them bring ours around front," Dill ordered. "Now, Madam Luelle's, is that the delightful little café in downtown," Dill barely emphasized the word 'little', "with the... lovely Italian cuisine?"

Mr. Murhpy winced and called out a correction, "Laura, call Antonio's -- tell the lunch shift manager I'm calling in a marker."

"Yes Mr. Murphy," Ms. Reckit replied after a moment.

"Ah, that sounds absolutely perfect," Dill enthused. "I'm glad you could arrange a meal at such short notice!"

Mr. Murphy smiled affably as he led them downstairs, having hissed a few instructions at Ms. Reckit before leaving. Small chat was the order of the day as they took the elevator downstairs, leaving the serious discussion for later.

"Good day sirs," the doorman said as he opened the door for them. Dill slipped into the limo first, and Bri cut Mr. Murphy off to get in right behind him. "Bri, I told you to behave," Dill hissed as Mr. Murphy settled in.

"For me, this is behaving," Bri answered with a grin. Mr. Murphy cleared his throat and they straighted up to look at him.

"I really am sorry about Laura's behavior, what did you need to talk to me about Dillon?" Mr. Murphy asked politely.

"Have you been watching the news?" Dill began.

"I always watch the news, the question is which news story should I be concerned about?" Mr. Murphy answered.

"Do you remember the story about a little boy, charged with murder?"

"Little boy... oh, that ni- er, I mean that black kid in your town?" Mr. Murphy asked.

Dill hit a control and shouted, "Driver, stop the car!" Glaring at Mr. Murphy, he asked quitely, "Bri, go sit shotgun."

"Dill, what are you-" Bri began angrily.

"Bri!" Dill shouted. "Go sit shotgun," Bri climbed out to do so, and as he was closing the door saw Dill wink at him. Stifling his anger for the moment, he walked over to the passenger side door and slid in. The driver grabbed Bri's arm to get his attention, placing a finger to his lips in the universal 'be quiet' sign before pointing at a lit indicator on the dash.

"Thank you for getting rid of that... person, Dillon," Mr. Murphy's voice was perfectly clear over the intercom.

"Andrew Murphy," Dillon spat out angrily, "you are a fool and a bigot, and I have tolerated it long enough. You will treat my boyfriend with all due respect from this day forward, and if I ever catch anything remotely related to racism coming from your lips again, you will regret it."

"Now see here, boy," Mr. Murphy snarled back, "what insane notions you have in your skull is no business of mine. You want to shack up with someone that's your business, but don't you dare expect me to do more than tolerate it! Your money only goes so far, especially when it comes to perversions like your so-called love for that nigger, and-"

The sound of a slap echoed clearly through the divider, and Bri met the driver's startled stare with his own.

"Mr. Murphy, I have tolerated your attitude to date both because you are a truly skilled lawyer who has not allowed it to taint your professional capacity, and because you haven't been obvious about it. I don't know why you have chosen to loose control of yourself, but you will regain it forthwith, or I will replace you." Bri smiled at Dill's icy tone -- say what you will about rich brats (and at one time or another, he probably had), they definitely knew how to put someone 'in their place'.

"Don't you threaten me, Dillon, your grandmother had me set this whole thing up -- you can't replace me!" Mr. Murphy blustered.

Dillon's amused reply shocked Bri, "Or so you think. My grandmother was no fool, and we both know it. Push me, and I think we'll just see what contingency plans she gave me in the event of... uncooperative lawyers."

The silence deepened for a few moments before Dillon hit the control panel again, and asked, "Driver, how much longer until we arrive?"

"Just a minute, sir," the driver answered respectfully.

"Good, I'm hungry. Bri, sorry I sent you out of the cab," with a click, the intercom went dead. Bri smiled, understanding the real apology behind that one.

When the driver pulled up in front, Bri opened his door himself while the doorman got the back door for Dill and Mr. Murphy.

"Mr. Torrelli, if you'll excuse me I should probably return to my office and begin working on the case. Give me a moment to discuss things with the manager, and you can enjoy your meal -- on me, of course," Mr. Murphy frostily informed Dill.

"That will be most satisfactory. I trust the issue we discussed..." Dill hinted.

"It will be dealt with," Mr. Murphy agreed grudgingly. "You have my word."

"Good. My driver will see you back to your office while we eat," Dill ordered.

Dill and Bri continued on into the restaurant, where a maître dé promptly sat them at a corner booth. A waiter took their drink order and ran off, finally leaving them alone for a few moments. "I thought you couldn't fire him?" Bri asked angrily.

"I can't," Dill assured him. "but he doesn't know that!"

Bri started laughing. "You bluffed him?"

"Not quite..." Dill temporized. "Grandma was a very smart lady, and while I don't know what the safeguards are, they are in there -- trust me on that. She promised..." Dill broke off. "After the confrontation with my 'father' about my parentage, we spent a lot of time talking. She had everything set up -- and she promised to show me the loop holes and safeguards she'd set in place. Unfortunately, she didn't have a chance to before..."

"Dill, it's been three and a half years, you need to forgive yourself," Bri told him.

"I have, I have..." Dill lied. "It's just... it's a hard memory."

"I know," Bri agreed. "I was there, remember?"

"Yeah," the two of them left it at the for a few minutes, lost in memories of the past.

Dill hadn't really been avoiding the meeting, but Grandma had finally had enough. He was to bring Bri with him to sit down and have a good long chat rather than a casual introduction. Bri, of course, was enjoying the idea quite a bit -- finally, a family member who appreciated him!

"Come on Dill," he argued quietly as they passed through the halls. "It's not like she's going to cause us any trouble -- if she wanted to do that, all she'd have to do is mention that security tape! Or take a new one!"

"I know, I know," Dill agreed. "It's just..." he never finished the sentence as lights began flashing up and down the corridor.

"What the hell?" Bri asked as the strobe lights flickered, seeming to direct them towards the suite Dill's grandmother lived in..

"Master Dillon, emergency override activated. Please hurry. Master Dillon, please hurry," an electronic voice called softly into the corridor.

"Come on, move!" Dill ordered as he broke into a sprint. "What's going on, house?"

"Mrs. Atredu is behaving irrationally, and her actions have triggered a medical alert. House AI requires human confirmation before it can call an ambulance, but she would appear to be having a stroke," the AI coolly informed him.

"Call them!" Dillon snarled.

"I'm sorry, but you do not have the authority to override that requirement until Mrs. Atredu is declared dead or incapacitated. As she is currently functional, if irrational, house AI's standard procedures stand."

"Damn you!" Dill turned the corner and burst into Grandma's suite and started looking for her. "Where is she?" When no answer came, he repeated himself, "House, where is she?"

"Sorry, but that information is restricted."

"Override!" Dill snarled helplessly.

"I'm sorry, but Mrs. Atredu is still functional. As such override powers remain in her hands alone."

"I confirm the medical emergency!" Dill tried.

"I'm sorry, but you must have at least examined her to-"

"Stuff it in the recycle bin, house! Where is she?" Dill demanded.

"Dill, in here! House, I confirm the medical emergency!" Bri shouted from another room, crouching over the elderly lady, who babbled on incomprehensibly as she tried to stand back up.

"I'm sorry, Brian, but you are not allowed access to my functions."

"I confirm medical emergency!" Dill cried the second he saw his Grandma.

"Signalling EMS, please stand by..."

Dill dropped to his knees beside her and wept as she struggled, holding a hand when she offered it.

At the hospital, they were told that there was nothing to be done -- she'd simply gone for too long without medical aid. Had she been gotten there even five minutes sooner, there were some procedures that might have helped, but...

"If only I'd remembered I had my damned cell phone in my pocket," he whispered softly. "Or pressed Grandma to give me additional access to house AI..."

"Can I take your orders, sirs?" a waiter asked, startling them. "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean-"

"Quite alright," Dill interrupted. "We were... discussing past events. I'm sorry we got caught up in them. Are you ready to order, Bri?"

"Do you do good steaks?" Bri asked the water playfully.

"Best in town, sir!" the waiter sounded a little scandalized.

"Good, I'd like a ribeye, done medium well..." after they'd finished placing their orders, the waiter left to fill them.

"Anyway, how did things go with Andrew?" Bri asked, using the interruption to change the subject.

"Badly, as I'm sure you heard," Dill answered weakly, glad of the shift. "After I cut you out -- sorry about that, but I didn't want to push my luck -- I filled him in on the basics of the situation. He has a colleague who should be 'most effective', and he's going to arrange to bring her in."

"Good, little bro deserves the best. Especially with that bi-"

"Not here!" Dill hissed, interrupting Bri. "God knows I agree with you, but not in public, and not in this restaurant of all places. Don't you have any sense?"

"I have plenty of sense -- I'm keeping my voice down!" Bri complained.

"I swear, Bri, you are going to be the death of me. With this crowd, you don't get a second chance and you should know it. She's one of 'theirs', at least until she gets caught doing something as unbearably gauche as you just did-" Dill's tirade was interrupted by his cell-phone. Checking the caller ID, his eyebrows rose sharply. "I don't believe it!" he whispered to himself before looking at Bri. "It's the grandparents," he told his lover.

Bri reached out and put a hand on Dill's shoulder in a gesture of love and support. Dill's withering glare reminded him they were 'in public', and he withdrew his hand. "Dillon Torrelli here," Dill answered politely, if icely, into the phone.

The angry snarl he got in response was just barely audible to Bri, even if he couldn't make out the words. "What did I do? I'm not the one who shot him, remember?"

The angry voice on the other end carried such venom, it shocked Bri to see Dill's face form a grin. His 'grandparents' hadn't been nice at all when Bri and Dill had been pulled out of the closet, and they had a whole host of 'reasons' they justified it with. What had been worst, though, was how they used the fact that they weren't blood relations to get a restraining order against Bri visiting Rafe in the hospital.

"I didn't have to 'do' anything to him, Mr. Torrelli, we're brothers!" Dill said joyously. "Well, that's not the way we saw it," Dill grinned at a shocked Bri as another snarl echoed across the ether. "I'm not the one responsible for his being shot, Mr. Torrelli. In case you forgot, his father -- which is to say, your son -- pulled the trigger."

"No, I'm not gloating over your 'misfortune'," Dill answered another angry accusation, "I'm rejoicing over the fact that, from what you've said, Rafe is awake." For a few moments, Bri was too shocked to believe it, then he had a grin to match his lover's plastered on his face. Turning around, he signalled a waiter urgently. "That's hardly my fault, either -- Rafe's father chose to overreact, and-" Dill scowled into the phone as the waiter began to hurry over. "Sir, will you please allow me the courtesy of not interrupting my sentences?"

When the waiter arrived, Bri talked quietly to him, "It may have arrived from an unwelcome source, but Dill here just got some very good news: his younger brother just woke up from a coma."

"Congratulations are in order!" the waiter exclaimed, equally quietly.

"Indeed, and could you perhaps arrange a decent champagne?" Bri declined the waiter's first suggestion -- "I know that he doesn't care for the 52, though other years are fine" -- but the second sounded perfect.

"You are entitled to your opinions, Mr. Torrelli -- just remember, so is your grandson," Dill flipped his cell shut before looking at Bri again. "He's awake, Bri."

"I heard," Dill agreed.

"My brother is awake," Dill repeated, tears in his eyes.

Bri smiled at his lover, wishing desperately to walk over and give him a hug. Sensing it, Dill skewered Bri with a sharp warning look -- not that it was very strong, what with the tears of joy still streaming down his face. "We can't visit him, you know," Bri at last pointed out. "That restraining order is still in force."

"Rafe will cancel it as soon as he hears of it," Dill reassured Bri.

"The Torrellis won't mention it, you know that. Just lie to him-" Bri began before Dill interrupted him by laughing.

"You forget, Cheryl has been there to see him every week -- the Torrellis like her, and its never occurred to them that she's still our friend. She'll set him straight," Dill grinned.

"Good point," Bri conceeded. "Though I could wish Sammy were here to celebrate with us," he added with a sigh.

"I'm sorry, Bri, but even with him being your brother, social services just wouldn't allow a gay man to raise a kid -- even if you ignore her best efforts," Dill apologized.

"I know," Bri replied sadly. "Still, I wish..." he trailed off with a sigh. There wasn't any point wishing, and they both knew it.

When their meal arrived, they focused on eating -- there just wasn't too much left to say. It was, as expected, delicious, and they quickly finished it, and the champagne, with a minimum of discussion. Well, except a large toast to the 'wonderful recovery' of Dill's brother, Rafe, which was cheered to by all the restaurant. The limo, as expected, was waiting outside for them when they had finished. "That was a truly good steak," Bri commented as they climbed in.

"Hopefully, Mr. Murphy will hire another Mrs. Reckit," Dill joked, "that meal was almost worth the drive over."

"Yeah, but the odds of that happening, with a five-hundred dollar a head price tag attached..." Bri pointed out.

Dill shook his head, "Expense accounts are wondrous, and tax deductible, things, Bri."

Bri laughed and shook his head. "Whatever you say, love."

Dill's cell rang again, and he looked at it rather exasperatedly. "Blocked caller ID," he complained.

"Dillon Torrelli here," he told told the caller, just in case it wasn't Cheryl.

"Wait, who is this? Woh, wait a second..." Dill hit the speaker phone button and then said, "You're on speaker phone, talk."

The masked voice on the other end sounded smug, a small corner of Bri's mind noted. "By now you've noticed the criminal charges against your fag-lover's little brother, Sammy. We arranged that after the 'accident' the other day." Bri stared, shocked, into Dill's eyes as they both shook their heads.

"He will be convicted -- we've arranged that, too -- and sent to a very special little prison. From there, it's your choice whether he gets it easy, or is tossed into the general population with a target on his ass. And I do mean ass: the facility in question primarily handles sexual cases, if you get my point."

Bri finally found his voice. "You no good God-damned son of a-"

"Shut up, just for taking the Lord's name in vain you have earned your brother one day 'unprotected', whatever else happens. He'll survive, unfortunately for him, though he won't come through intact."

Bri snarled wordlessly, unable to speak through his rage.

"Listen... What should I call you, anyway?" Dill demanded.

"Since I'm carrying the Good Lord's Message, it seems appropriate for you to call me the Lord's Messenger," the voice informed them.

"Alright Messenger," Dill said icily. "What us it you want?"

"Ten thousand dollars a month sound pretty close to-"

"No can do," Dill interrupted. "While I don't have to account for every penny of it, the trustees on my trust fund do check on how I'm spending that money, just to make sure I'm not spending it on drugs, whores, stuff like that. Oh, or blackmail: my grandmother predicted that."

The voice on the other end paused for a moment. "Our information suggests otherwise, and lying to God, or his hands, is be a very bad idea. Three days, one for lying and another for interrupting."

"Your information is incomplete," Dill said flatly. "I get a total of ten thousand a month in spending money, yes, but I can only really spend about a thousand of that freely. The other nine thousand I have to account for with receipts and the like."

"Fine, assuming we corroborate that, we'll accept the one thousand a month," the voice ordered.

Dill rolled his eyes in exasperation, "Alright, fine. I'm sure the trustees won't notice me suddenly using up exactly the one thousand dollar amount every single month."

The silence dragged on for a few moments before the voice returned. "Sammy would deeply appreciate it if you didn't act a smart aleck with us, understand?"

Dill clenched his teeth for a few moments and took a deep breath to calm himself. Unexpectedly, Bri cut in first. "Perhaps he would, perhaps he wouldn't, but taking us by complete surprise is hardly the way to get a response conducive to... whatever end you're looking for. We're still reacting, not thinking."

"Perhaps you should learn to think before you speak, then."

"So you wouldn't find a failure to respond as... offensive as our current behavior?" Bri asked, a slight edge of derision entering his voice. "You've taken us by complete surprise and are threatening a small child to try and extort significant amounts of cash from us. A... less than perfect reaction is to be expected."

"Perhaps. But the problem remains: you pay, or the child pays."

"And how do we know you'll keep up your end of the bargain? How do we even know that you have any power in this situation at all?" Dill finally managed to ask. "It is hardly unreasonable for us to ask for proof, and you haven't provided-"

"You contacted Andrew Murphy, attorney, seeking legal aid for Samuel and were unable to do so because his assistant refused to connect you. You will find it completely impossible to contact him in the next several days, as well. Will that be sufficient proof?"

Dill and Bri stared at each other for a few moments, wheels turning as they silently considered the voice's position.

"No, that won't be sufficient proof," Dill said finally. "It isn't even close."

"Perhaps I should point out that any definitive proof of our power would involve the boy being raped. Demanding proof would be unwise," the voice argued.

"When you've already promised to let him get raped, the threat of letting him get raped if we demand proof becomes... less than useful," Dill pointed out.

"True," the voice agreed. "I will contact some... associates... and consider how to respond. You figure out how much cash you can pay us, but remember: if you try and screw with us, Samuel will pay." The familiar clicking noise told them the line had been closed. Taking a deep breath to calm himself, Bri opened his mouth to begin a reasonable discourse on the situation.

Dill waited the sailor-worthy stream of profanity out before looking Bri straight in the eyes. "I'm not going to let this happen. I'm not!" Dill reached out and took Bri by the shoulder, "I swear to you, I will not let it happen, even if I have to pay the full ten thousand a month, I'm not going to let it happen!"

Bri shook Dill off and just stared at him. "If I hadn't... if... this is..." he tried to speak, finally breaking down.

Dill leaned back and just stared at his lover for a few moments. "Brian, I love you. But you need to pull yourself together, for Sammy's sake if nothing else."

"Sammy will... I..." Bri dropped his face into his hands and started crying. "Those bastards are going to... why? Why?!"

"I don't know, but... somehow, someway, we will deal with this, and punish the sorry bastards who think threatening a child..." Dill cut himself off as his voice rose towards a snarling shout. "I promise you that, Bri, I promise you," Dill said softly. "For now, we're nearly back, so pull yourself together, please!"

Bri took deep breaths and did his best to do as he was asked, without success.

"Damnit, no time, we're here," Dill complained. "Alright, stay in the car for now and I'll deal with Andrew." Dill got out the opened door and spoke softly to the driver, who closed the door. Bri just sank to the floor and cried.

Sammy was his little brother, and he hadn't protected him. He'd failed. He was as useless as that sack of crap that had purported to be his sperm-donor, the bitch he'd been forced to call 'mother'. And Sammy was paying for it.

"Sammy, oh Sammy... my Sammy..." Bri cried, rocking back and forth. Then his head snapped up as he realized something. "Bastards..." he whispered softly. "He all but said it and we missed it, the bastards!" He was screaming now, and the driver was lowering the partition to ask him something. "Stop the car! Get me back to the building now!"

The driver didn't question, just turned the vehicle into a sharp u-turn and hauled ass. Just like he was paid to do.