Summary: Spoilers for ep 1x08, 'The Bangover'. This is an alternate take on what happens when the cops show up at the house-arrest party to tackle Jared about having left the house to take the trash out. I took a few liberties in this fic with things like police procedure, but seeing as the show is full of improbables I thought it wouldn't matter too much! There's a sequel in progress.

"This is not a first for me, y'know," Jared pointed out conversationally to his cellmate, who - sat motionless on the bed, blue eyes staring blankly at the tiny window at the end of the row - was either comatose (as they so often seemed to be) or simply ignoring him. Which he wouldn't exactly blame the guy for either. He'd always found that letting out a stream of consciousness helped him to avoid actually thinkingwhen he was in difficult situations - whether that annoyed the hell out of people around him or not, he didn't really care. At that point, the last thing he wanted to do was fall silent and let his inner monologue start beating him about the frontal lobe with regards to his father, which was what jail usually reminded him of. Better to just babble.

"This is my third time, actually," he elucidated, watching as one of the prisoners further down the aisle was led out in cuffs by the guard, the door to the hallway closing behind them with a soft thud. "It could've been four, if Peter hadn't rescued me this one time. But that's another story," he waved a hand, "I'll get round to that a little later. First, let me tell you about my day."

"How about you shut the fuck up?" a voice cursed from the next cell up, the man occupying the bed hunching over further.

"Come on, man, y'all are not gonna get a better story than this tonight, let me tell you. It's got hot girls, it's got partying, it's got tracking anklets..."

"Does it got fucking?"

"I can probably crowbar some in for you, if that's your bag," Jared offered, and at the grudging silence of acceptance that followed he continued: "Y'see, me and my buddy were put under house arrest, so we had these tracking anklet things on which meant that, clearly, the only logical conclusion was to throw a huge mother of all parties at our place. So there I was tonight at this party, and my buddy's busy chasing after our boss's niece, and, y'know, you would've too because this girl was gorgeous, you know what I mean? Plus she had this British accent which has always been a total turn on for Peter. Vivien Leigh. Honor Blackman. Angela Lansbury. He's reallynot picky."

Jared glanced towards the door as another guard came and went. It'd been going on fairly regularly since he'd been brought in, the cells occasionally being left entirely unwatched aside from a security camera up in the corner, a little red light blinking on and off - an occurrence which put him entirely on edge.

So he kept talking.

"So anyway, I had to take the trash out to the kerb for collection the next day, because, you know, there were a hell of a lot of bottles being emptied at breakneck speed. Ten minutes later these two cops show up, one of 'em with a dog and a look in his eyes like he wanted nothing more than to let that thing chew on my balls. I'd violated my house arrest, they said. Set off the tracker by going out to the kerb, they said. So they cuffed me and brought me here, and here I am, spending the night with you guys. A victim of my own diligence with the chores."

The man on the bed in the next cell snorted in disgust, presumably at the complete lack of sexual content. He turned over to glare at Jared, then pushed himself up on one elbow as that glare very quickly morphed into stunned recognition, around about the same time as Jared's stomach lurched unpleasantly.

"You!" the man exclaimed, getting quickly to his feet and approaching the bars between them as Jared backed away. "You remember me you fucking asshole?"

Holding his hands out in a placatory gesture, Jared let his eyes dart briefly towards the door. "Hey, a guy's gotta work! You were assault and battery, right?"

"You remember my name, asshole?"

"Sure," Jared said, stalling as the pair of icy blue eyes in the corner of his cell suddenly turned his way, setting every nerve alight and knocking his train of thought out of whack. "Uh, Jackson, right?" he asked, tearing his gaze back towards the familiar face that was, thank god, on the other side of the bars.

"I spent a year in Twin Towers 'cause of you, runt," Jackson spat, his tattooed fingers wrapping around the iron columns.

"Hey, you can insult my profession all you want but you do notinsult my -"

"You're a lawyer?" a voice interrupted Jared's righteous anger, like sandpaper across rust.

Jared's heart started apparently trying to kill him as his own cellmate sat up on the bench, the unfurling of his body revealing himself to be well into the six foot zone.

"You don't look like any lawyer I've ever had," he rasped, looking him up and down scathingly. "They're usually taller. Older. Better dressed."

"Hey!" Jared retorted again, half-hearted though it was, his brain still mostly concentrating on escape routes. "I'm one of the good guys, man. Maybe I could help you get out of here. You look like a pretty nice dude, right? I'm sure you're not in here for anything worse than, what, stealing a car or something?"

"Yeah," Ice-eyes said, smirking as he got to his feet. "Smart mouthed lawyer."

"Do I wannaknow what you're in here for?" Jared asked, eyes darting desperately towards the door for a guard. "They wouldn't've put me in here with you if you were a dangerous guy, right?"

Cornered. That was all Jared could think as Ice-eyes closed in on him, looking him up and down with a gaze that made an uneasy panic spread through his veins like fire.

No guards. No point in shouting, if the thickness of the heavy door was to go by. Jared weighed up his options and came to one conclusion.

There was one thing that people never expected of him with his, some might say, 'diminutive' stature: Jared Franklin never went down without a fight.

He lashed out first - sharp, quick, his fist smashing into one of those glacier eyes with a force that sent the recipient stumbling back a step or two, his hand flying up to feel out the damage as he cursed vividly. Jared had time to crack one more punch across the bony jaw before hands darted out and grabbed his wrists, slamming them back against the wall with an intensity that sent his heart into over-drive. He struggled, to no avail. He swept one foot out but his opponent was onto him, side-stepping easily and lifting his head to pin him with a furious, anticipatory glare.

Jared found himself frozen suddenly by those eyes, staring defenselessly at the left one, bloodshot from his punch, the melee of crimson and blue somehow more terrifying than the weight holding him down; the hot breath against his ear.

A thumb brushed against the soft, vulnerable skin at the inside of his wrist a second before it was released and a fist drove like a rock into his left kidney.

Jared was a good fighter; scrappy, sharp, something his height had forced on him as a teenager. Ice-eyes on the other hand was well over six foot, though that did have the disadvantage of slowing him down slightly. In one swift movement, Jared dodged the third punch, landed one of his own in Ice-eyes' stomach, and, in hope of getting it right a second time, swept a leg out that tripped the taller man over into a heap on the floor. He backed off again into the corner, holding his fists up in defense as the men in the other cells started shouting their encouragement, all in Ice-eyes' favour. Realising his mistake too late, Jared found himself suddenly stuck as an arm shot out through the bars at his back and locked around his neck, holding him still and at mercy like a pinned butterfly.

He knew his luck was over as Ice-eyes slunk towards him, murder in his expression and a dangerous smirk on his face as he nodded his thanks his accomplice.

"You're feisty," Jackson hissed in Jared's ear in smug amusement. "That pissed me the hell off in court, but I think I've changed my mind about it now."

Jared snapped his eyes shut in despair as another arm wrapped around his middle, a hand groping him roughly as Ice-eyes smiled unpleasantly.

"Sorry, compadre," he grated to their neighbour as he screwed a hand up in Jared's collar and twisted it tightly against his throat. "He's mine first. You can have him after that. He'll be nice and compliant, for you." His gaze drifted briefly down to the point where his hand was clenched, and his smile grew slowly. Loosening his grip, he instead looped his fingers into the silk knot of Jared's tie. "Guess they didn't think you were a suicide case, huh?"

"Hey Pindar, have you seen Jared anywhere?" Peter asked, raising his voice over the music, eyes scanning the throng of bodies.

Pindar shrugged as he dropped a tiny paper umbrella into a cocktail glass and handed it over to a pretty girl with a smile. "I haven't seen him for hours, I assumed he'd got lucky."

Peter frowned at that. "He's not in his room. I was so engrossed in trying not to get lucky myself with Infeld's niece, I sort of didn't notice he wasn't here. D'you think he's okay?"

"He can look after himself," Pindar told him, frowning himself at the tone of guilt in Peter's voice. "Maybe you should ask around."

"Yeah, I'll do that. Maybe - " Peter cut himself off as his phone vibrated in his pocket. Fishing it out, he gave Pindar a pat on the shoulder in thanks and moved into the quieter area in the hallway.

"Janie," he said, putting a finger in his other ear to cut out some of the thudding bass. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

He could almost hear her roll her eyes.

"I'm just checking in to make sure you know that your soulmate's in county jail," she answered, with no further ado, the sounds of busy street traffic in the background. "I saw him earlier. Time for you to save the damsel in distress again."

"Wait, what?" Peter asked in stunned confusion. "I mean...when? What time did you see him?"

"Must've been around ten, I guess. Two hours ago. You mean you don't know? I thought you two were permanently joined at the hip nowadays?"

"Jesus, Janie, I had no idea. We're under house arrest."

"Why does that not surprise me?"

"Look, Janie, I have to get him out of there. I need you to get me there."

"Peter, it's the middle of the night. I didn't finish work 'til nine, then I went out for dinner, and now I am going home. I'm sorry, I can't help you this time."

"Janie," Peter said quietly, running his free hand through his hair. "Please, Janie."

"Aside from what I've just said, you're under house arrest,Peter."

"You can get me out. They can take me there with an armed guard, but I need to get there."

A car horn honked angrily. Janie sighed. Peter closed his eyes tightly and waited.

Jared saw stars; stars that burst in his vision as his lungs burned in his chest and his hands scrabbled at his own neck. Another punch to the stomach made him instinctively try to double over even as the tie around his throat yanked him backwards and cracked the back of his head against the bars. Jackson was laughing behind him as he tugged on the ends, crossing them over and pulling hard enough to cut Jared's airway off completely.

Peter had yet to get used to the sight of Jared behind bars. It scared the hell out of him, mostly. Despite being a lawyer, and despite having dealt with many a client in lock up, going inside jails was probably his least favourite aspect of the job. The smells, the sounds, the guns, the eyes watching his every move.

As he checked in at the desk and held his arms out for the metal detector, he thought back to one job in particular where he'd had to watch over and over again a security cam tape of a guy getting shanked in the stomach.

Knowing that Jared was in a place where something like that could happen always sent chills down his spine. He handed over his keys and waited for the prison guard and his two personal police guards to lead the way into the cells.

And into his own, private hell.

There was a strange moment of silence as every single man in the place stopped moving, then panic cut through the disbelief and Peter was shouting:

"Jared? Oh, Jesus Christ!"

The ensuing ruckus was a rush of movement, guards storming into each cell to handcuff the two attackers, hauling them out with threats and curses, but the only thing Peter saw was the way Jared crumpled to the floor as they dropped him.

He didn't stir when Peter crouched over him, nor when Peter's knees hit the cement with a painful thud. He didn't stir when Peter's hands hovered over him, desperate to touch yet knowing he shouldn't. It was only when Peter's fingers brushed his cheek that he finally moved, eyes flickering open like an old, slow fluorescent strip-light stuttering on.

"Jared," Peter urged, watching blood drip from Jared's nose. "Oh god, Jared. D'you need an ambulance?"

Reaching up and curling a bloody hand around Peter's forearm, Jared shook his head as best as he could against the floor before slowly pushing himself upright, eyes blinking dazedly as he pressed his free hand over his left ear and frowned in pain.

With an arm around his back for support, Peter helped him to sit, eyes wide as he waited anxiously, heart thundering a mile a minute, certain that blood would start gushing at any second. Jared just leaned heavily against him and dragged in unsteady breaths, his fingers still tight around Peter's arm.

"We shouldn't be moving you," Peter fretted, casting his gaze back to the pool of blood on the ground next to them. "If you've hurt your neck -"

"No ambulance," Jared uttered, interrupting, eyes closed. "Just...just you..."

Peter's heart dropped in his ribcage and smashed to pieces. He buried one hand in Jared's hair, curled the other around his arm and pulled him as close as he could. "Jesus, Jared..."

"Could'a taken him..." Jared muttered dazedly against Peter's collarbone. "Unfair fight."

Peter was wracking his brain for something consolatory to say when one of the guards appeared in the doorway to announce: "Ambulance is on its way, sir", before disappearing again. Jared gave an annoyed groan that was so familiar it made Peter's throat close up.

"Sorry, man," he murmured. "I'll stay with you, okay?"

Looking down at his back, Peter could see the shapes of boot marks ground into the white cotton shirt, their prints made with a stomach churning mix of dirt and blood. He wanted to kill the two sons of bitches who'd done it. Actually wanted to make them suffer. There was a hunted look in Jared's eyes that he'd seen before and had hoped never to see again.

"'M really sorry, man," Jared mumbled against Peter's neck eventually, his fingers clutching tightly at the soft cotton of Peter's sleeve.

"Don't you fucking apologise," Peter admonished, rubbing a hand slowly up and down Jared's back. "You have nothing to apologise for, you hear me? Someone's gonna pay for this. Someone's gonna pay big time."

Jared didn't respond, and the ragged breaths coming from his partner in crime were loud in the sudden quiet of the jail corridor.

Peter felt uncomfortably useless as he watched the ambulance crew work on his partner. He wanted to scare the hell out of the jail staff who'd left Jared alone in there with two psychotic bastards, not to mention having neglected to remove his tie beforehand, but he felt entirely too much in shock to do the job justice.

Instead, with shaking hands, he phoned the one man he knew would take great pleasure in ripping them all a new one.

"What is it, Bash?" was the clipped response, before he'd even spoken a word. "I'm doing actual legal work, here."

"Damien, I need your help," he said, sotto voce, curling a hand around one of Jared's as he perched in the back of the ambulance. "I need you to destroy some people for me."

There was a brief pause, then:

"I'm listening."

Peter had seen Jared get beaten up before - you didn't get to be that smart-mouthed without taking a beating or five, and there'd been times at college when, pushed to the edge by his father, he'd almost seemed to welcome fights (a worrying trend which Peter had stamped out) - but he'd never seen anything as bad as this.

Janie, who'd had to follow them to the hospital in order for the police guards to follow through with some paper work via her, went from shock to (very brief) sympathy to vague boredom and finally, having stood around in the waiting room for an hour, exhausted irritation.

"There's not exactly anything you can do for him right now, is there?" she asked for the second time, leaning back against the wall. "Why don't you go home, come back when there's actually light in the sky?"

"He hates hospitals," Peter explained as he curled his hands tightly around the seat of his chair, watching the nurses' station like a hawk. "I'm sorry, Janie," he added, almost as an after-thought, glancing up at the all-too familiar glare on her face. For once not shrinking under its weight, he simply shrugged and turned back to watching. "Thank you, I owe you, seriously, especially for getting them to let me stay here. But I'm not going anywhere. He hasn't got anyone else."

And that right there was the crux of the matter. Jared was alone, and Jared needed him. If he didn't stay then no one would. So Janie left.

And then, half an hour later, Infeld arrived.

"Dear boy," he announced, leaning against the door jamb to the waiting room. "You look positively lost."

Peter scrambled to his feet in surprise, placing a half empty styrofoam cup of coffee on the seat next to him. "I didn' did you-?"

"Damien told me all about it," Infeld answered with a wave of one hand, and Peter's insides twisted again.

"I didn't want to bother him, it's so late, but..."

"But he's a shark," Infeld offered with a nod. "He'll work this out. And we're both nightbirds, don't you worry. Lawyers, y'know. I hadn't even gone to bed yet."

Peter looked down at his hands where they twisted in front of him, before glancing warily back up at his boss. "This hasn't been a great day for Franklin and Bash, has it?"

"You still have a job, if that's what you're wondering," Infeld consoled him, moving closer to sit in the chair opposite. "And this," he gestured vaguely at the hospital walls with a sorrowful look, "was in no way either of your fault."

"I should've known something was wrong," Peter said, shaking his head and sitting down again. "I should've guessed when he wasn't there vying with me for your niece's attention. Jared loves a competition."

"Partners though you are, Peter, you can't be expected to somehow know his every movement."

Peter frowned, toying absently with his coffee cup. "Can I tell you something private, Mr Infeld?"

"Absolutely, Mr Bash. Although if you're about to tell me that you're in love with your partner or something similar then forgive me if I fail to feign sufficient surprise, won't you?"

Peter's head shot back up and he stared for a few moments before collecting himself. "Well, uh, we do...I mean..." he paused, frowned, then said firmly: "I do love him. I don't know whether that means I'm 'in love', but when I saw him in that cell tonight...Christ. And we have...y'know, in the past..." he gestured vaguely with both hands as Infeld shot him a sideways glance, eyebrow raised.

"Made love?" he offered, and at Peter's slight wince at the term added: "It is possible for men to do other than simply fuck, Peter. I imagine that with your sensitivity and Mr Franklin's raw passion there would inevitably be an element of romance about it."

Peter smiled wryly at that, but it faded within moments. "I just...I don't know whether we'll ever become a permanent thing, but I needed you to know that..."

"That it's complicated?" Infeld suggested.

Peter nodded. "And it might happen. You're not uncomfortable about this at all, are you?"

"I'm a man of the world, Peter. I'm also a lawyer, which means that firstly, I read you two like a book the minute I clapped eyes on you, and secondly, that I lost the ability to be shocked about twenty years ago. Now," he glanced over towards the busy nurses' station and heaved himself back up, "if there's no sign of them letting us in to see him yet, I'm afraid I'll have to leave you at this juncture. Duty calls, and all that."

"Thanks for coming," Peter said sincerely, standing up to shake his hand.

Infeld looked him in the eye, clapped him on the shoulder, and with a smile said: "My staff are my extended family, Mr. Bash. We look out for our own."

Another ten minute wait later, Peter considered calling Pindar and Carmen to inform them of the situation, but, after glancing at the clock and feeling his own head spin at the realisation that it was three in the morning, he decided against it. Carmen had mysteriously disappeared before the party even kicked off anyway, and Pindar would probably be asleep with earphones in, one of his self-help tapes playing on a loop.

Feeling the weight of his phone in his hand, he dropped it unceremoniously as it suddenly lit up and started blaring the chorus of 'Life On Mars' at him. Scrabbling for it as it skidded across the floor, he grabbed it and went to stand closer to the door as he answered: "Damien?"

"Just to let you know, those people are toast."

"Damien, I'm sorry man, I didn't mean for you to have to stay up all night -"

"Did they break his nose?" Damien interrupted, a total non-sequiteur that made Peter stop pacing in confusion.

"," he answered slowly, "I don't think so. Why d'you -"

Peter listened to his phone beep in his ear for a few seconds before he realised Damien had hung up. Shaking his head he turned back to his seat, just as one of the nurses started heading his way. Tensing, he looked at her expectantly and she smiled tiredly at him.

"Follow me," she said, gesturing with her head. "Doctor Benson'll let you know the big picture."

Trailed by his guards, Peter followed her down two corridors and up one flight of too-brightly lit stairs before reaching a long, straight ward of curtained-off beds. He heard coughing and the uncomfortable scuffling of sheets and his anxiety ratcheted up a notch at not being able to see anything. Just a few beds in, the nurse ('Janet', the flirtatious part of his mind that clearly never slept provided) pulled aside one of the curtains and let him move past her into the temporary cubicle.

Jared, his entire body screamed. Jared, Jared, Jared. Cuts and bruises and brutalised blue eyes that were open. Open and watching him with a hope that faded into wary concern as they flicked from him to the guards.

"Peter?" The doctor asked, pulling him from his thoughts by placing a hand on his shoulder. A woman in her forties with pulled back blonde curls, she held his eyes in appraisal for a moment before telling him: "Your partner's going to be just fine."

"He's okay?" Peter asked, glancing at Jared and repeating: "You're okay?"

Jared's mouth quirked in a tiny, uncertain echo of a Jared-smile, and Peter's heart leapt out of his chest.

"The full run-down doesn't sound too good," Dr. Benson said, "but it probably sounds worse than it actually is."

"Tell me," Peter asked, his eyes now entirely fixed on Jared's, which were so clear it was as though Peter could see 'GET ME OUT, GET ME OUT' written in the air between them.

"We're talking about severely bruised ribs, a minor concussion, two dislocated fingers on the left hand, several contusions - above his eyebrow, there, and across his knuckles, amongst others - and some fairly severe bruising to the neck," was Benson's summation.

Peter tried to swallow and failed thanks to the lump in his throat. "Can he come home?"

"Yes, absolutely. Mr. Franklin here's already informed me that he'd be checking out AMA as soon as he could." She smiled at Jared's faintly abashed look and gestured to the chair next to the bed. "Your clothes are there, Jared. Take as long as you need to get yourself sorted while I just have a word with your partner."

Jared nodded jerkily and reached out for his shirt as Dr. Benson pulled Peter into one corner.

"He's been sick a couple of times due to the hits to the head," she told him, adding with a small smile: "I imagine he's fairly empty by now, so hopefully your car won't get a new interior coat on the way home."

"Believe me, I've seen it before," Peter assured her, standing next to the curtain as she went to grab a pen off Janet. "What do I need to watch out for?"

"Even though this was a minor concussion and Jared didn't lose consciousness, I'd still like you to wake him every three hours for the next twelve, and if he begins vomiting again then bring him back. Make sure he has water or soda to rehydrate - no alcohol. He may find that all he can do is suck on ice chips to begin with, if his throat's too sore. There may also be blood in his urine from the blows to the kidneys - that's to be expected. I'll prescribe some painkillers, again, not to be mixed with alcohol."

Watching Jared grimace as he slipped tentatively into his shirt, Peter caught sight of the left side of his ribs, a most unsubtle shade of black that made his stomach churn.

"Okay," he said dazedly, as Benson pressed a prescription into his hand. "Thank you."

There was an overriding silence as they made their way slowly out of the hospital, Jared limping and staring hard at the floor and Peter desperate to say something but all too aware of the shadow of their guards.

As they bundled into the back of the cop car, Jared gasping at the pain in his chest, Peter had to press his hands hard into his pockets to stop himself from grabbing frantically.

He'd always had a protective streak a mile wide for Jared, although ninety-nine per cent of the time Jared didn't need anyone to look after him. The feeling still managed to physically stun Peter sometimes, though, especially as he knew it went both ways. It was really a terrifying, humbling thought.

As the car pulled out onto the road, he closed his eyes briefly and let his hands drop back to his sides. Moments later, his eyes snapped open again as Jared reached out in the darkness and curled the fingers of his right hand around and under Peter's left palm. That small gesture tore at Peter's insides more than anything else had ever done.

Peter looked at him and felt a visceral tug inside; a want and a need to shield his best friend from anything else the world might throw at him. The strength of his own emotion choked him for a moment, and he let his eyes wander to the darkness outside the window, catching a glimpse of his reflection and blinking at the ghostly visage.

He shivered lightly in the cool, conditioned air and felt Jared squeeze his fingers.

Back at the house, their trackers were re-set around their ankles and the cops retreated to spend the rest of the night in the car outside, leaving Peter and Jared to stand just inside the front door in the dark, alone at last. There was no sign of the party aside from empty bottle standing on all available flat surfaces.

After five seconds of ensuring they were alone, of simply breathing and listening to the silence, Jared turned and pressed himself up against Peter, arms winding around Peter's waist as he shivered bodily. Burying his face against Jared's hair and smelling the unfamiliar scent of antiseptic, Peter pressed Jared's forehead to his sternum and held him as tightly as he dared, shock finally making his eyes sting with un-shed tears.

He slid a hand inside the collar of Jared's shirt, moulding his fingers to the sharp collar bone underneath and pressing his palm against hot skin, feeling the too-fast echoing thump of his heart.

"Shower," Jared whispered against Peter's chest, and oh god, he sounded like his throat was in shreds.

"Are you sure?" Peter asked, reaching up to surreptitiously swipe at his own eyes, and Jared nodded against him. "Okay. Together."

Jared nodded again and the unspoken 'I'm not leaving you' simply lay in the air between them.

They went through Peter's bedroom to get to the bathroom, closing the door against the rest of the world. Jared brushed his teeth while the water warmed up and Peter stood and divested himself of his clothes, watching as the splits across Jared's knuckles flexed with every movement.

After spitting and rinsing thoroughly, Jared glanced at his reflection in the mirror only briefly before turning around and closing his eyes to hide the anger and pain and fear in them, frowning as he leaned back against the sink. Terrified, Peter moved closer and began slowly undoing Jared's shirt, unable to ignore the spatters of dried blood under his fingers and the bruises he revealed with every button that came loose. Jared lifted his head to look up at him, trust blazing out behind the discomfort as Peter pushed the material over his shoulders and it fluttered in silence to pool on the tiled floor.

Hands hovering near Jared's waist, Peter waited to see whether Jared wanted to take care of the next part on his own, but Jared just curled his hands around the sink behind his back and dropped his head again.

It wasn't like they hadn't done it a hundred times before, anyway.

When they moved under the hot water, Peter pulled Jared's back against his chest and massaged expensive cocoa-butter scented body wash across every inch of skin, using one hand to stroke through his hair gently, avoiding the lump at the back of his head.

Watching pale lashes flicker against paler skin, he couldn't help but imagine for a brief second, as he had every minute or so since the jail, that he could have been standing there alone. Jared could so easily have died right there in that cell, like that poor, drug-dealing idiot he'd had to watch die on tape fifty times. He drew in a deep breath as yet another sharp spike of anguish cut jaggedly through his chest, remembering the sight of the still body sprawled on the cement, cast in the ghastly yellow glow of the strip lights above.

He reached down to slide his hand into Jared's right, undamaged one. Jared shifted slightly, a soft sound coming from him as he turned and leaned forwards against Peter's chest once again. That lump in Peter's throat assaulted him again and he couldn't stop the pair of tears that escaped as he closed his eyes tightly, his breathing breaking down with a hitching gulp. A hand pressed flat against his sternum and he pulled back enough to find Jared looking up at him again, brow furrowed, hurting for him. He reached up with one of those split-knuckle hands and hooked it around Peter's neck, pulling him down.

"It's okay," he whispered, a mere breath against Peter's lips.

"Jared," was Peter's equally soft reply, cut off as Jared pressed a simple, lingering kiss to his barely open mouth.

They stood there, breathing together as the water pattered down, until Peter felt a tiny tremor of exhaustion set up in Jared's body and he made the decision to move things along.

Jared had always been less confident about his body than Peter, who would've been happy enough to walk around Infeld Daniels naked every day if it was required of him. Peter, on the other hand, had always been one hundred per cent confident about how wonderful Jared's body was, and had no qualms about telling him so. They looked like night and day, he and Jared, but he happened to think Jared was perfectly proportioned. It always gave him courage to look across the table at meetings and in the court room and see Jared, whippy and tough as hell.

Jared was pale skin and watchful, sharp, almost constantly-wary eyes, the complete opposite of what Peter went for in women - curves and sun-kissed skin and openness, too. Jared could be a real closed book sometimes, the cockiness hiding all kinds of insecurities, undoubtedly due to the number of kicks he'd gotten as a puppy.

Despite some years-in-the-making emotional armour, there were still moments when he couldn't prevent pain from showing up in his eyes though. Moments when Peter was reminded that he'd do anything to stop people hurting him any more.

He switched on the smallest lamp in his room, mindful of Jared's headache, then went to Jared's room to fetch him a pair of old, comfortable black sweatpants. After handing them over, he headed for the kitchen to sort out some ice chips, had a moment of 'what would mom do?' and ended up making two mugs of tea as well, unsure of which would be better, hot or cold.

When he got back to his room with both hands full, nudging the door closed with his foot and locking it with his elbow, he found Jared sitting up against the wall on his bed, watching him with that incredibly familiar soft expression of fond amusement.

Placing the mugs and bowl of ice down on the beside table, Peter crouched down, folding his arms on the edge of the mattress and letting his eyes wander across his best friend's battered torso.

"You alright?" Jared asked, that rasp of a voice startling, his blue eyes searching as he reached out to trail his fingers around the curve of Peter's left ear. "You look a little..."

"Tired," Peter said, leaning into the gentle touch. "Tough day. And night. I made you some tea, but I don't know whether it'll hurt too much to drink?"

"Better'n ice," Jared said gratefully, and Peter smiled, standing to push the mug carefully into Jared's hands before sitting on the edge of the bed instead.

"Before you start complaining, yes, I put sugar in it. Well, honey, actually. You haven't eaten anything for hours and the last thing I want's you passing out as well."

Jared's nose wrinkled slightly as he looked into the mug, as though the offending liquid might look right back out at him. "Travesty."

"Just pretend you're a kid again, okay?"

Jared just raised an eyebrow at that and brought the mug closer, breathing in the steam.

Reaching down to curl a hand around one of Jared's calves, stroking his thumb up and down the solid shin bone under soft black cotton, Peter watched for a moment before blurting: "Aren't you gonna ask me?"

Glancing up from the mug, Jared cocked his head slightly, quizzically.

Peter looked down and elucidated: "Why it took me so long to get you out." When Jared simply shook his head minutely, he continued: "I was distracted by Lilly. I mean, she had more moves than you and me put together, buddy, and there was me having to resist every single one of them. And I did," he clarified. "Resist them. But I didn't realise you'd gone. By the time I did, Janie was phoning me to tell me where you were, and then I had to wait for the police guards to show up so I could leave the fucking house..."

As he stuttered to a halt, Jared reached out with his free hand and placed it on Peter's, the strapping around his two middle fingers rasping gently against Peter's skin. Peter forced himself to look up and Jared just shook his head again, with a certainty that made Peter want to cry.

"I'm so sorry, man," he murmured, and as he spoke he saw Jared's eyes shimmer too.

"Not, your, fault," Jared told him, a defiant emphasis on each word.

Peter's chest constricted as Jared held his gaze with such faith. Managing a weak smile, he motioned to the cup in Jared's hands and reached over to grab his own. "Drink," he said. "It'll make you feel better."

Jared watched him for a moment more before doing as he was told, wrapping both hands around to steady the subtle shakes that made the tea shiver in its constraints.

As Peter drank his own, he hopped off the bed and searched out a piece of paper on Jared's desk nearby, scribbling 'DO NOT DISTURB' and moving to pin it up on the outside of his bedroom door. He'd already left a quick note in the kitchen for Pindar and Carmen to find in the morning, not giving the entire set of details, just enough to stop them from worrying.

By the time he'd locked the door again, Jared was placing his empty mug back down and Peter felt a crazy flutter of relief just to see it.

"I think Damien has a crush on you," he mused out of the blue, looking appraisingly at Jared's profile, which quickly altered as the man himself turned to raise a skeptical eyebrow at him.

"He likes your nose," Peter added, moving to sit up next to him on the other side of the bed. "He pretty much told me that."

Jared looked at him like he was crazy for a moment before shrugging, and, painful or not, he clearly couldn't resist replying: "Everyone likes my nose. It's one of my defining features, along with outstanding charm and humility."

Peter grinned for the first time since leaving the party. "Okay, so...Hanna, with Damien watching, or Damien with Hanna watching?"

A hint of brilliant mischief in his expression, Jared glanced sideways at him. "How about both at the same time?"

"Seriously? You'd fuck Damien?"

"Definitely," Jared said defiantly, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "It'd probably be him fucking me, though, am I right?"

Peter looked at him with amused affection and leaned down to kiss him, waiting for Jared to open up to him before sliding their tongues together, sweet and scalding hot from the tea. Jared made a quiet sound of relieved pleasure and Peter buried a hand in his still-damp hair, soft and golden against his fingers.

He reached to press his hand flat under Jared's ribs, the soft, vulnerable strip over his diaphragm giving way to the muscle over his belly. He traced a finger down the valley to Jared's navel before following it at right angles until he could curl that hand around his side, hot skin smooth under his touch.

"You always feel so alive," he said quietly, almost to himself, feeling the slow, steady rise and fall as Jared breathed beneath him.

Jared's arms came up and wound around his neck, trapping him and pulling him until he was lying down, pressed up close against his side. Settling his head onto Jared's chest, Peter closed his eyes and listened to the healthy thud of his heart.

"God, you scared me today," he mumbled, words muffled against warm skin.

Jared's fingers traced the line of his jaw, thumb rasping against his dark stubble, then he stretched his back, the dim light from the lamp casting shadows across his skin. It picked up the trail of blonde hairs leading down from his navel, soft and promising.

"You alright?" Peter asked quietly, propping his head up on his hand. He slid the other onto Jared's stomach, tracing around bruises with a feather-light touch.

Jared gave him a faint smile, eyes translucent in the half-light, and Peter leaned in to kiss that curve of lips again lightly, lingering there to listen to the ghost of Jared's breath. Pale stubble rasped against his own as he moved up to press kisses along the jut of Jared's cheekbone, reaching his ear and demanding softly:

"Tell me, Franklin."

"I'm fine," Jared murmured, lifting his head up off the pillow to press a kiss to Peter's throat before letting it fall back. "I wish I was drunk, but I'm fine."

Peter grinned, pulling back to look at him again. "Am I not distracting enough for you?"

"It's methat's not distracting enough," Jared said with a rueful smile.

"You got attacked, Jared," Peter pointed out softly. "I'm not expecting you to fucking perform."

"You could perform for me," Jared suggested with a ghost of his usual smirk.

"Hmm," Peter hummed in thought, and he moved closer, sliding one of his long legs across both of Jared's so he could kneel over him on all fours, holding his gaze to the end as he leaned down slowly to nuzzle a kiss just under his left ear. He moved along Jared's jaw - one, two, three slow kisses pressed to the bone - before pulling back just enough to lock their eyes again, the two of them breathing together in familiar synchrony. He dipped his head slightly, just enough to bring their lips within a whisper, a moment of temptation, before returning to that intense stare. Jared stayed still beneath him but bit down lightly on his lower lip and drew Peter's attention back down instantly. He leaned back in and softly kissed the dent that tooth had made in delicate skin as Jared's eyes slid shut. He tilted his head slightly to let Peter in, the intensity ratcheting up as Peter increased the pressure, his tongue sliding into Jared's mouth.

As they pulled apart, Peter pressed their foreheads together and they shared a smile, Jared reaching between them to curl his hands around the broad sides of Peter's ribcage, stroking over the warm, smooth skin there.

Solid as Jared was, lying there on his back made his hipbones protrude sharply and Peter leaned down to kiss the soft skin there reverently, licking over one ridge of bone and cupping the other with his hand briefly before the tenderness of Jared's touch made him ease up and he dropped down to lie next to him on his side. Propped up on his elbow, he cupped Jared's face again with his big left hand, thumb brushing under his eye gently.

"You must be exhausted," he murmured pensively.

Jared held his gaze for a long while before leaning in and kissing him in answer, slow and dirty and so damned open.

When they broke apart, he touched Peter's face in a mirror image and said: "I tried to tell someone, at the party. Before they dragged me off, I told someone to tell you. Guess they never did."

Peter shook his head ruefully. "They never did."

"So it was no one's fault," Jared told him firmly, though his voice cracked as it began to give out. "And I love you, for finding me when you did."

"I love you too," Peter said, sounding for all the world like the one with the bruised throat as he struggled past the sensation of his heart imploding. "And we'll talk about it more tomorrow, okay?"

Turning in towards the warmth of Peter's body, Jared closed his eyes and uttered softly: "I'm not going anywhere."