By: SamsKid


Hi, if there is anyone still out there checking on this story I apologize for taking so long to come back to it. I have a list of excuses. My dad had a stroke and then quadruple bypass surgery, my computer crashed and then there was Katrina…but that's another story in itself.

Anyway, I have a new computer and the other day, by accident I found the complete series on DVD. So after a week of immersing myself into that world I felt the need to refit my story. The basic story is the same, but I've removed some parts and added others hoping to make it more true to cannon and maybe a little more coherent.

The standard disclaimers apply to all chapters; I don't own the series or any of the characters. This was written only for fun and practice.

Hope you enjoy. I would love a review but please let your criticisms be constructive. Thanks

Chapter 1

Matt groaned as he surfaced to consciousness, only to wish that he hadn't. O God, did he hurt! Every part of his body hurt. He felt as if every nerve was on fire.

He took a deep breath only to feel that same fire burning deep in his chest. "No, this was not a good thing to do," he told himself, "don't do that again." He admonished. He lay still trying to get his bearings, trying to remember why he was here, and just where here was. The more he tried to remember the more his head throbbed, the pressure and haze building as the minutes passed. He couldn't think, and the whole world was spinning dizzily making him nauseous.

He could feel his extremities, but he couldn't make them move. He didn't know if he could open his eyes or not, right now he really didn't want to. All he seemed to be able to do was breath, and that was agony in itself. He tried to calm down, but he could still feel the blood racing in his ears.

Someone was trying to force water down his throat. He gagged, sputtered and choked but was able to get some of it down.

He tried to talk but his tongue was too thick. He desperately wanted to ask that someone where he was and why was he here.

He felt a prick in the inside of his forearm and the world started to dim again. He fought it hard but the blackness was too deep, it was like swimming in mud, thick mud.

Fiercely he held to the thought that come hell or high water, George would find him…wherever he was. And then there was the vision of Cathy's smile, the one that never failed to give him hope. He clung to that vision as he plunged head first into the blackness.

George sat at his desk drumming his fingers in an absentminded rhythm, not even realizing that he was doing so. He had done everything he had known to do, but every lead had turned up false. No one anywhere had seen a sign of Matt since he had left the station heading for home over nine days ago.

George wearily buried his face in his hands. "Matthew, my friend where are you?!" He heaved a sigh, tinged with exhaustion, and raised his head. He stood stiffly and walked over to the window, trying to work some of the kinks out of his muscles.

Beatrice Zepada entered the office quietly, and just stood watching George at the window. Finally, thou she was loath to be the bearer of bad news yet again she spoke "I'm sorry George, we didn't find anything. I've combed through that warehouse for the last six hours and there was no sign that Matt had ever been there. Just another wild goose chase."

He only nodded never turning from the window.

"You know George…"

"Don't say it!" he grit out between clinched teeth.

"Damn it George, he's my friend too ya know, it's just…"

He could hear the tears in her voice but couldn't bring himself to turn around, to offer comfort when he couldn't find any for himself.

"You're right I'm sorry I know we can't give up. I think it's just that we're all so tired. Look at yourself George, you're dead on your feet. When was the last time you slept in a bed?" there was no answer but she knew there wouldn't be "You need to try to get some sleep." She raised her hand as if to give his shoulder a squeeze but let it fall not knowing if the touch would be welcome. He looked so closed in on himself.

He cleared his throat "Beatrice I know that you love him as well. And I know that you've done everything possible to find him." He swallowed his own tears. "And I know how tired you must be, so please go home and get some rest."

"What about you?" this time she followed through with her impulse and lay her hand on his shoulder giving that gentle squeeze.

"I can't. When I close my eyes I'm haunted by the thought of what must be happening to…" he swallowed again "I know in my hearts that he is still alive. Don't ask me how, I just do. I would know if he were dead. I would know."

"Yes George I believe you." She sighed wearily "At least get something to eat." She squeezed again and turned to go.

"Beatrice." He called her back.

"Yes George?"

"Thank you."

"Yeah sure he's family right? Hey get some rest you hear me?"

He merely nodded again.

"Okay, well…I'm gone." and she left quietly closing the door behind her.

He leaned his forehead against the window wondering how much longer he could stand this. Matthew was his dear friend, his partner, his brother.

There was a light tap at the door and he turned to see the new commissioner just entering his office. "Sir!" he tried to smooth the wrinkles from his cloths and gestured toward a chair by his desk "Please come in, have a seat."

"Oh no captain, I just wanted to stop by and see how the investigation was going." Grazer seemed genuinely concerned.

George tried not to sound defeated but "Not very well I'm afraid" came out rather shakily.

Grazer took in the haggard appearance of the city's first New Comer police captain. "You okay George?"

"Yes sir, I'm just tired like everyone else. I would like to thank you for the extra man power on this case, I know that you and Matthew haven't always see eye to eye."

Grazer snorted "Yeah, Sikes is a real pain in the ass, but George, he's our pain in the ass. And nobody hurts one of our own. We are going to find him if it takes every cop in the city."

"Hey look George, you've been here all night, go home before you fall down."

"Oh, I'm alright sir. It's still early and there's too much work to do." George was making excuses.

"It'll still be here tomorrow. I'll fill in for you this afternoon." He said while removing a cigar from the inner pocket of his jacket.

"Sir? But your own job…" George stammered.

Grazier smirked "I called in sick, besides my secretary won't let me light up in the office." He lit the end of his cigar and took a long pull. "Ahhh, now that's better." He opened his eyes and motioned toward the door. "I thought I gave you an order Francisco, now get out of here."

George was surprised to say the least, not just at the offer but at the deep compassion evident in the other man's eyes. "Yes sir, okay if you say so…"

"I do say so, now go."

Not able to come up with an argument, he grabbed his keys and headed for the door but he had no intention of going home.

Matt woke up remembering next to nothing, it was like waking from a nightmare. The days before were only hazy recollections of pain and fear. For the first time since he had been captured he felt his mind clearing, it didn't hurt quite so bad to think.

He turned his head hoping to get a look at his surroundings only to have spears of pain shoot through his neck and up into his brain. He clamped his eyes shut and waited for the pounding to ease. Well at least his neck worked so he thought he would try out other parts of his body. He found that he could move his arms slightly but only as far as the bindings at his wrists would allow. 'Okay let's try a leg' he thought to himself, only to find that his ankles were also bound to the foot rail of the bed.

Okay, now that he had taken physical inventory of body parts and finding all parts still attached and accounted for he decided to try to get some idea about where he was being held.

There were silk sheets on the bed and rich velvet drapes on windows that spanned almost three quarters of one wall. The wall facing the foot of the bed held an ornate fireplace flanked by two antique wingback chairs and there was an antique armoire, a real giant, gaudy piece of furniture set against the wall facing the windows.

"Well enough of the grand tour." He said under his breath "Get the Hell outa here Matt!"

He wriggled his wrist and although he was unable to get loose, he did find out that his wrists were connected by a single cord wound around and behind the spokes of the big brass head rail. He was able to get his hand up to one of the spokes and feeling with his fingers he found the sharp end of a bolt used to repair the old bed.

Stretching as best he could, he was able to get the inside of his wrist up against the bolt and began to rub the cord back and forth. It was tiring work and it took him almost an hour but finally he felt it give and his hand fall free. He was surprised by the shock of pain that coursed through his shoulders and down his back when he tried to bring his arms down to his sides. He rubbed at his arms noticing the injection marks. This is just Great! He shook his head wondering how long he had been held captive here, and a hazy memory tried to come to the front, but was quickly pushed back. Now was not the time.

He lay panting for some minutes before he was able to try sitting up. It took him several tries but finally there he was, in an upright position. The room began to spin wildly and he had to shut his eyes to calm the nausea he could feel rising up from his stomach.

"Damn! At this rate it's gonna take me all day to get out of here!" he fumed. Feeling a bit steadier, he began to pick at he knots of the cord binding his ankles to the foot rail of the bed. When finally free he lay back exhausted his joints screaming.

He caught his breath and worked his way to the edge of the bed letting his feet touch the rich deep pile of thick carpet. He sat there for a few moments not yet ready to try standing. From this vantage he began to scan the room hoping for any sign of his clothing. He was determined to get out of here while he could, even if he had to wrap himself in a bed sheet.

As had become his habit, George found himself driving around peering into alleyways and studying people on the sidewalks. He had no clear destination in mind and although these streets had been checked and rechecked he found himself here again.

Memories washed over him thick and unyielding. Suddenly he was back on his first day with a new partner. The differences were too many to count. Sikes had immediately disliked George, but when Emily had been threatened at her school, it was Matt who had come to her rescue. He had shamed the mob until only a few die hard fanatics were still shouting. He had then stooped down till he was at eye level with Emily. He had smiled and winked at her, forever winning her heart, along with Susan's and yes, his own as well.

George smiled at the memory of Vessna's birth, the look of outright panic on Matthew's face when he realized that it was up to him to deliver her. That panic quickly turned to an almost overwhelming fear when the baby hadn't turned. Matthew had saved both Vessna and George that night and had then fallen head over heals in love with the little wriggling bundle.

The smiled faded with the memory of Matthew's limp body lying on the cold concrete walkway behind the convenience store. He had died that day. His heart had simply stopped and in turn George felt his own break into a million pieces. A jolt of adrenalin had jumpstarted Matthew's heart back into action and George had his partner back.

Would he be so lucky again?

George had seen so many of his people die. People no more than mere skeletons working in mines on starvation rations working until they fell only to be stepped over and left to rot. Others on harsh worlds that were a hell compared to the mines or the slave ships he and his own family had been enslaved to. He had held friends in his arms as they slipped into the next life but all that had ended when the ship crashed on this little blue world.

For the first time in generations his people had a chance to live with hope because of people like Matthew Sikes, and now... "No!" George shouted into the emptiness of his car. "I will not give up! You are alive! I know you are alive Matthew! I would know if you were … I would know…" George would not let the despair take hold "…I just have to find you. I will not give up!" he shouted to no one in particular. He looked down and noticed his hands clinching the stirring wheel. He willed himself to relax and in a softer tone he promised his absent friend, "We will find you Matthew, I will not rest until I find you." He refused to believe otherwise.

Matt had found some clothing in the old armoire. They were cut for a shorter stockier man but at least he was covered. Now all he had to do was to get out and then get home. He stopped for a moment in confusion. Just where was home? He mentally shook himself and decided that getting out was more important right now, he would figure everything else out afterward.

When he had been able to walk without the room spinning, he had made his way to the large windows. Looking out on the city from a dizzying height he realized he was in a penthouse apartment, an apartment that seemed to be empty for the time being. He didn't know why his captor hadn't left him guarded, but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

He made his way from the windows to the door of the bedroom, and quietly opened the door very slowly just in case there might be someone on the other side after all. He couldn't see anyone, so far so good.

He slowly made his way down a dark hallway to a huge living room area with a vaulted ceiling, and one whole wall made of glass looking out over the city. He had no idea who had been holding him here but the guy had to be filthy rich to afford a place like this.

He quickly crouched down behind a couch when he heard sounds coming from what he guessed to be the kitchen. The sounds became familiar someone was humming sometimes giving voice to the words and then lapsing back into only humming the tune.

Matt figured that this was probably only a cook or a cleaning lady. He quietly stood to his feet and made his way to what he hoped was the door to the outside hall. What he found was an alcove with an elevator on the opposite wall. He took a deep breath and pushed the down button waiting for the machine to make its way up to him and praying that it would be empty when it arrived.

The doors smoothly slid open to reveal an empty Oak paneled box. Matt hurried in and pushed the button for the lobby. When the doors opened he held his breath, but again there was no one in the vicinity of his elevator. He straitened himself and headed for the richly decorated glass doors leading to the outside. He noticed the funny looks from the door man, and knew he must look pretty suspicious with the ill fitting cloths and scruffy hair, but he didn't give the guy a chance to stop him, he had to get home.

He was brought up short by that thought again. The combination of sedating drugs and the fact that he couldn't remember the last time he'd had anything to eat had his mind muzzy. No matter how hard he tried to remember, home seemed elusive. He took a deep breath and suddenly George came to mind. All he had to do was find George. George would take him home.

Matt knew the definition of withdrawal, but did not recognize that he was in its throes. Too long had his captor used sedatives and other drugs to keep him week and subdued. He felt sick and overly frightened. He could see monsters hiding. He needed to rest. He needed to get his bearings.

Finding an alley he ducked in making his way to about mid point, and not being able to hold back any longer, he retched leaning on the cool bricks of a wall for support. He decided to hide in amongst some cardboard boxes and empty crates tossed over by the dumpster. He was so very tired, and weak as a kitten. Fever had him shaking and miserable so it was a relief when sleep finally claimed him.

Several hours later he woke to find someone removing his shoes. He fought to keep them only to get the wind knocked out of him and then to find himself lying in a heap. The man taunted him and others came. Matt couldn't think strait. Visions and memories swam in his mind terrifying him. These attackers in the alley mocked him and laughed thinking him to be an addict or a drunkard. One of them began to hit him and as is the way with a mob even a small mob, they became of one mind. They beat him and kicked him until he no longer moved. He looked dead and fearing that they had gone too far, they had run away still carrying his shoes. He curled in onto himself rolling into a ball of misery, and from somewhere deep within he called out for George before falling into unconsciousness.

Later that afternoon he struggled back to the world of the living, he was alone, in pain and now barefoot. He struggled to his feet holding his ribs. He felt a sharp pain stab through his back and middle. His gut was starting to cramp and he felt the need to piss, so he hid behind the dumpster and relieved himself. He grimaced as his urine burned and wasn't really surprised to find it dark and bloody. Again he thought of George and he knew that George would take care of him. George meant safety. Somehow he had to find George.

He finished his business and started to limp toward the end of the alley back toward the sidewalk. He heard something coming from behind and fearing his attackers were coming back he began to run still holding his middle.

Fear is a powerful motivator and the adrenaline pumping in his system pushed him out of the alley into the bright afternoon sun and then into the street, where he found himself bouncing off the hood of a car, and then nothing at all as the familiar blackness took him again.

Buck loved being a cop, he thanked Celine he had wised up and chosen this path for his life. He felt this to be his calling, and was glad that he had listened to his hearts.

Buck's partner Jason R. Gonot, was also Tenctonese and a couple of years older. There were quite a few differences but, in the end they seemed to get along. Their differences seemed to balance the partnership instead of creating weaknesses, the bond between them grew stronger day by day. Buck had already learned a lot from his patient older partner and had grown to trust him, not only as a partner but as a friend as well.

Like George, the two had spent every waking moment in the search for Matt. Jason felt concern for Buck, and he wanted to help. He knew how close Buck's father and Matthew Sikes were. Anyone who knew them could see that the bond they shared was deeper than mere friendship. Like most longtime partners they were brothers, they would die for one another. He also knew that that bond had grown to include the whole Francisco family, with Sikes becoming a part of the close knit clan. So in Buck's mind and heart Sikes was family, even if he was human.

They were nearing the end of their shift and about to head back to the station when suddenly there was a screech of brakes, a loud crash and people screaming.

Jason quickly parked their unit as close to the disturbance as he could get. From their vantage point it seemed to be an ordinary fender bender with injuries. When they got closer they could see people kneeling beside someone lying in the middle of the street. Two human females were crying and a Tenctonese male in a business suit was trying his best to keep the accident victim still. "Now sir, please! You are hurt, you must lie still until help arrives."

"NO! I've got to get away, let me go!" the victim, a thin human male with dirty hair, long and stringy, was struggling weakly. "I need George, where is George?"

"Please sir, you have a head injury! You must lie still!"

Jason and Buck walked up on this scene and seeing the car's busted windshield and the injured man in the street had no trouble figuring out what had happened. Jason quickly knelt down next to the male holding the victim while Buck started to question the different people standing around, "What happened here."

"I don't know exactly, he just came out of nowhere. You could tell the guy driving tried to miss him but he just bounced off the front of his car"

Jason was trying to asses the man's injuries, he gently moved the long hair out of the man's eyes, and then looking closely he caught his breath as he saw a familiar face. "Buck! Come here!" he shouted.

"Okay, on my way!" he shouted back as he trotted over to his partner.

Jason looked up with wide eyes full of anxiety, "Buck, It's Matt."

"What?!" Buck fell to his knees beside the now unconscious man. Jason was right.

"How bad is it?" he asked his partner fearfully.

"Don't know yet, there are some internal injuries I'm sure, along with a pretty serious head injury, and his leg is broken below the knee, but other than that, I just don't know. There's something else."

"What?" Buck was almost afraid to ask.

Jason then showed him the ligature marks he had found around the man's wrists and moving a pant leg up he pointed out the same marks on the ankles above his bare feet. Opening the ill fitting and much too large shirt, they saw that Matt's thin torso was covered with bruises from blue black and deep purple. Some of them might have been caused by the impact but it was clear that most of the wounds were several hours old.

Buck held Matt's head steady while they waited for the ambulance. His mind was busy trying to make sense out of all this.

Jason watched his partner as he carefully held the human's head, gently caressing a temple with his knuckles. He watched as tear filled eyes slowly took in every bruise, cut, scrape and the ligature mark on an exposed wrist.

"Buck, are you okay?"

"Yeah, umm…I just…umm…I don't…" more and more upset, Buck lapsed into Tenctonese, "HOW COULD ANYONE DO SOMETHING LIKE THIS?"

"I don't know Buck, but you have to stay calm. Panicking now won't help Matt, he needs you to keep your head." His voice was calm and strong, almost like an anchor for the younger cop to grab hold of. "We have him now, and you are here with him now, be strong for him, okay?"

Buck pulled his ragged thoughts back together and nodded. He looked down into the face of his friend just as Matt opened his eyes, the long lashes fluttering on the pale thin cheeks. His eyes opened wide and Buck was taken aback by the stark terror evident in those dark eyes. Matt began to fight weakly at the two officers. "No don't touch me, please don't touch me." he whimpered.

Afraid that he would hurt himself, Buck started talking in a low soothing voice, "Hey, Matt it's me, calm down, its Buck. Can you hear me? Calm down, come back."

Matt's eyes grew wider, much too big in his shrunken face and began to move frantically as if searching for an escape. "Let me go! I have to find George, please let me go, I need to find him."

"It's okay, Matt, listen to me, it's Buck. Can you hear me?" Buck gently patted the man on the cheek, "I'm not George, but I'll get him for you, you just have to stay with me here, okay? Come on stay with me Matt, look at me!"

The eyes stopped their frantic movements, and bore into Buck's. "Bbuckkk…?" the raspy almost unrecognizable voice stuttered. By this time Matt had begun to tremble violently.

"Yes, it's me," Buck's shoulders slumped in relief, "you're okay now. You're safe."

A shaky blood smeared hand came up to touch Buck's face, his fingers leaving bloody smears across the smooth cheek. "Safe?" Matt's brown eyes never left Buck's face.

"Yes, Matt you're safe now. I won't let anyone hurt you." He took the hand in his own holding it tightly.

"I want to go home." he said in a small voice almost childlike. "Do you know where home is?" he looked hopefully into Buck's eyes, his confusion was heartbreaking.

Suddenly his eyes rolled to the back of his head and he began to seize. All they knew to do next was to pin the man's flailing limbs to the pavement, hoping to keep him from injuring himself anymore than he already was.

Finally, after what seemed like a small eternity to Buck, the seizure ended. Jason was watching the injured man closely. "Buck we need to get him on his side, I think he's going to hurl!" Sure enough, Matt began to gag, bringing up blood.

"This is not good," Jason muttered under his breath.

He stood and placed a hand on Buck's shoulder, "See if you can keep him quiet, I'll get a blanket from the cruiser. Will you be alright?" Buck only nodded, looking up at his partner with round fear filled eyes. Jason squeezed the shoulder, "I'll only be a minute." Buck nodded again, never letting go of Matt's hand.

Buck noticed that Matt was watching him again, unblinking eyes never leaving the young officers face. Those eyes bore into him with an intensity Buck had never seen before. It was like Matt was holding on to him with his eyes. Buck pulled the broken man into his arms and held him to his chest. "It's going to be okay, Matt. You're safe now." he said as he held the trembling form even tighter, cradling Matt's head against his shoulder. "You're safe, and I won't let anyone hurt you again, I promise." all fear of possible injury to Matt's neck forgotten in his need to comfort his friend.

Retrieving the blanket from the car Jason made his way back to his waiting partner and injured friend, in the distance he could hear the high piercing whale of the coming ambulance and released his breath in a sigh of relief.

George had been driving around aimlessly for the last two hours. His cell phone rang, and he pulled his car over to park in a restaurant parking lot.

He took his phone from his inside jacket pocket and looked at the caller ID. It was Buck. George started not to answer, he really wasn't in the mood for another 'go home and get some rest speech', but changed his mind.

There was no greeting, there was only "Where are you?" Buck once again had lapsed into Tenctonese.

"I'm in a parking lot why?" George asked confused.

There was a pause, and then "Dad, we found Matt." his voice was choked.

George was stunned. He felt his head spin and realized that he had stopped breathing. He mentally shook himself, "how bad is it?"

"He's alive but Dad, you really need to hurry." George could hear the strain in his son's voice although he answered this time in English.

"Yes, of course, but where are you?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Dad. Ahh…we're on our way to County."

"I'm on my way."

George could still hear the fear in Buck's voice as he turned on the siren and attached the flashing light to the top of his car. He quickly pulled into traffic and made his way to the hospital. He had to get there fast. He quietly prayed to any deity that would listen that he wouldn't be too late.

George had called Susan from his car on the way to the hospital. She grabbed her purse and fairly flew over to Matt and Cathy's apartment.

She nervously knocked on the door hoping that she might catch Cathy at home. She probably should have called but George had been worried. He felt that Cathy should not be alone. Susan knew he was right she could only imagine how she would feel in the same situation.

Cathy had slept very little in the last several weeks. She had waited by the phone until the emptiness of the apartment threatened to drive her insane. She found herself driving around aimlessly in a vain attempt at finding Matt herself. Finally in a state of total exhaustion, she had made it back to the apartment. Not bothering to change out of her clothes, she collapsed on the bed and was asleep before her head had touched the pillow.

The insistent knocking had eventually broken through to her consciousness and she forced herself to wake up. "I'm coming," she called from her bedroom, trying to smooth the wrinkles from her clothing.

When she opened the door, the look on her friend's face told her that she had news, and suddenly she felt very afraid. "Susan what..."

Susan took her cold hands in her own, and tried to sound reassuring as she spoke, "He's not dead, but George said that we need to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Come on, I'll drive."

Cathy grabbed the purse that had been dropped by the door earlier, and ran down the stairs after Susan and out to her car.

Susan was driving wildly with hazard lights flashing, and horn honking. The whole thing seemed surreal every light turned green before they got to it, and it seemed that every slow moving vehicle had moved out of the way or turned off. It almost seemed like some unseen hand was making their way clear.

Finally they were at the hospital, Cathy jumping out of the car before Susan could come to a complete stop. She clutched her purse tightly to her chest, and ran for the ER. George was just inside the door waiting for her. "Oh, George where is he? Is he alright?"

George took her by the arm and led her to the family waiting area, where they sat down "I haven't seen him yet. I just got here myself. Buck and his partner, Jason, found him. He was the victim of a traffic accident, but he had other injuries as well. Buck said that he was conscious up until the paramedics got there."

"Oh, George, I've got to see him!"

"I know how you feel…good luck. I ah…need to talk to Buck, I think he went to the men's room to clean himself up." George gave Cathy's shoulder a reassuring squeeze and walked in the direction of the Men's room.

Susan took Cathy's hands in her own, "Are you sure you're up to this? Do you think they will let you?"

Cathy looked into her friend's eyes, "I have to see him, to know that he's still alive. It's something I've got to do. I've done a few research studies here and I know most of the ER staff. I don't believe they will keep me out."

"Alright, I'll wait for you here," Susan smiled encouragingly.

Cathy took a deep breath and straitening her shoulders she turned and headed for the examination rooms.

When George walked into the men's room, he could hear the sounds of someone retching into one of the toilets. He found Jason leaning against the wall facing the stalls. Jason merely pointed toward the first stall and gave George a sympathetic smile.

"Thank you Jason," he told his son's partner. "Thank you for being there for him, but I think I've got it from here."

"Whatever you say sir," Jason nodded but before leaving for the waiting room, he took George in a quick embrace, "He's a stubborn man and he's got a good chance, don't lose hope."

George almost lost his composure. He returned the embrace slapping Jason on the back, "Thank you Jason, I'll try my best."

He then leaned on the wall where Jason had stood only moments before and waited for his son.

Buck had never felt so sick, he had retched until nothing was left in his stomach and he was reduced to dry heaves. He was cold, clammy, and trembling. On shaking legs he stood and flushed the toilet. He wiped his mouth on a piece of toilet tissue and then flushed it down as well. That's when he heard a knock on the stall door.

"Buck?" unmistakably his father's voice.

"I'm fine, ah…really I'm okay." He was almost afraid to open the door, afraid to look his father in the face. He had battled his emotions since finding Matt, and feared that just looking at his father's face would make him break down completely.

"Come on out, Son."

The door opened slowly, and immediately Buck was enveloped in the arms of his father. He was right, he lost it completely.

George just stood holding his son tightly in his arms letting him sob into his shoulder. He felt Bucks arms slide inside his open jacket and around his waist. "Let it go Son, let it all out." He crooned to Buck in Tenctonese.

"Dad, you don't understand, that is not just another vic. This is someone I know, someone I love, If he dies…Oh Dad, he looked so horrible. And what they must have done to him! I can still see his face, his eyes! He was so afraid. He was almost like a little kid ya know?" He sobbed again, a fresh wave breaking on his father's shoulder. George merely held him tighter, gently swaying from side to side letting him cry it out. After he had quieted down a little he told his father, "He was looking for you, Dad. He wasn't very coherent, but he said he had to find you, that was all he cared about at the time. He couldn't tell us anything, he just kept asking for you."

George felt his chest tighten. 'He was looking to me for help and I could do nothing.' His thoughts were accusing.

Buck was still very ragged emotionally. "I just guess that I thought that Matt would always be here. I didn't realize that he's become one of the anchors of my life you know? Right now, I can't remember a time he wasn't around somewhere, even when I didn't want him to be. Then he was gone and…" he struggled in English. He took a deep breath and continued in his birth tongue, "I'm not ready to say goodbye to him. There are too many things I need to say." He paused trying to get control of himself before continuing, "Too many things I need to unsay."

George continued to hold Buck in his arms, "Well, Son, Matt is strong and you know how stubborn he can be, I don't see him giving up without a fight. Do you? Don't give up on him now, Son. Not yet."

Suddenly Buck pushed himself away, apologizing in English "I'm so sorry, I don't know what came over me, standing here crying like an infant." He said, savagely wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand.

George lifted his son's chin to look into his eyes, "Listen to me Son, never apologize for feeling. When you stop feeling you become less a person. Without feeling you are only an automation, a robot. Feeling things only means that you are alive."

Buck then noticed the unshed tears in his father's eyes. "Are you okay Dad?"

George laughed, "Yes son, for now."

George took a long look at his son and pushed him against the wall. "Stay here for a minute." Not wanting for Buck to get a look at himself in the mirror, he then walked over to the sinks. He turned on the tap in the first sink he came to and held his handkerchief under the water. He came back to Buck and began to clean the smears of dried blood from his face. "There now, you look quite handsome again."

Buck held his father's eyes, passing him a look of gratitude, and in his imagination he could almost feel Matt's fingers as they had touched his face to see if he was real or only an illusion. He couldn't help himself as he shuddered slightly.

"Will you do me a favor?"

"Sure, Dad, whatever you want." Buck said with a frown, for the first time noticing the dark stains on his uniform shirt.

"After you've gone home to get a clean shirt," he smiled at his son's sheepish look, "would you please call Emily at Princeton, and let her know what's happening, and then stop by Vessna's school and bring her here. I can't leave. Not until I know something. Oh, and I guess we should try to find Kirby somehow. I don't even know where to begin."

"Don't worry Dad, I'll take care of everything. It will give me something to do, I hate just waiting." Buck said with a wobbly smile.

George took his son's face in both hands and then placing his knuckles to Buck's temples he said. "Oh, Son I love you so much. Don't you ever forget that, alright?"

Worried for his father, Buck returned the caress, "I love you too, and always will. Don't you ever forget that, okay? Listen, Dad, you're right. Matt's never run from a fight yet. He's going to make it, he has to."

Dr. Thomas Fredricks was quickly assessing the condition of his patient. The man was a mess, even after most of the blood had been cleaned away the doctor could see numerous lacerations and contusions, and probably a few broken ribs. There didn't seem to be any damage done to his neck or spine, but he did have a rather serious head wound.

Turning him on his side the doctor noted the heavy bruising to his back. The bruising around the kidneys had him worried. "Let's get a Foley. And after a quick examination of his anal area he added "and go ahead and bring me a rape kit" he said with a shake of his head.

When finished, they turned him to lay on his back once again. And working his way down Matt's body he continued, "His belly's extended, that doesn't look good. The EMTs said that he had been throwing up blood." He looked up in time to see Cathy dressed in scrubs, coming to the door. Suddenly a light went off in his head and his eyes grew wide, "Oh, no!" and he quickly looked into his patient's face starring hard. "I couldn't see it before, but it's him alright."

"What are you talking about?" the nurse asked.

"Read the name on the chart!" he cut his eyes sharply over to her.

"Matthew Sikes. Hey! This is Matt?!" her own eyes wide and incredulous. "Is he undercover or something? Poor guy, I guess somebody blew his cover. Does Cathy know?"

"Here she comes now, have we got a surgeon coming?"

"Yeah, Hastings is on his way down, should be here any minute."

"Good, the sooner the better." He watched Cathy enter the trauma room. "Cathy, you really shouldn't be here."

"I know Tommy, but I have to be here. What is his condition?"

"Look, Hastings is on his way down here now to take him to surgery. All I know for sure is that he's bleeding internally. You'll have to talk to Hastings after surgery, okay?"

She swallowed hard and held back the tears that threatened. "I understand."

"Hey, let us get him up to surgery and I'll come out to talk to you, I promise I'll tell you whatever you want to know, but you really need to leave." The eyes over his mask were sympathetic but adamant.

"Ok, but please let me see him first. I promise I'll go wait for you outside, just let me see him."

He nodded and motioned for her to come, "Okay, but make it quick."

Walking to the examination table, she was not prepared for what she saw. She wanted to turn and run.

He fluttered his eyes open as she cautiously came near. He had been intubated and couldn't speak, but his eyes spoke volumes. Cathy saw raw fear etched into the depths of those soft brown eyes and they seemed to cling to her soul. She felt the room spin momentarily and reminded herself to breathe.

"Now you listen to me Matthew Sikes, you're going to be okay! Do you hear me!? They are going to take you to surgery to repair your injuries." She softened, lightly passing her fingers over the longer strands of his dirty hair. Squeezing her eyes shut to stop the tears that threatened, she continued. "I know you are so very tired my love, but you have to fight a little longer, please Matt…please don't leave me, not now." She took his hand and lifted it to her lips, kissing it through the mask she wore. She then rubbed the back of that hand across her cheek and on up to her temple, "I need you in my life. I haven't needed anyone but myself for such a long time, but I need you, maybe more than I even knew myself."

Hastings barged through the door, at that time, "Okay people what have we got here?"

Fredricks called to Cathy, "I'm sorry, but we need to get him upstairs now. Someone will keep you updated."

They transferred Matt to a gurney, and wheeled him out of the room. She stayed with him as far as the elevator, then reluctantly she released his hand and the doors swooshed to a close.

Cathy stood there alone, wanting to get herself together before she joined the others. Not until now did she realize the depth of feeling she had for him. She had known that she loved him, but she hadn't realized how much until the thought of losing him hit her head on. Matt was her friend, and her lover, she felt that in some ways he brought out the best in her. For the first time in her life there was someone who supported her one hundred percent, never judging her actions or asking for anything in return. She didn't even think of him as human anymore. He was Matt, her Matt, the reason she had chosen to live again. Tears came to her eyes and she thought to herself, "If I lose him, I will lose myself. I will die too."

"Cathy, is everything alright?" George had walked up behind her lightly touching her on the arm.

She wanted to scream "No! Nothing is alright!" but she only nodded, and allowed George to lead her back to the waiting room.