by Tidia

Disclaimer: The characters don't belong to me they belong to Stephen Cannell.
Spoilers: Circle of Death

Another glance at the clock told Grady it was five in the morning. He had been tossing and turning with the hope he could quiet his mind and get back to sleep, however it had been impossible. The events of two weeks ago still played over in his mind.

The owner of Chan's Dojo, where Grady worked part time when not at Malloy's Bar had arranged an exhibition match between Chan's and another local martial arts school. The owners considered it a win/win situation as it would provide interest in martial arts and hence lead to new students for both schools. Grady had been asked to participate, but he had hesitated. After the Circle of Death, he did not like to fight in front of an audience.

After he had escaped Vietnam he ended up in Hong Kong. It was there he and his best friend met Nigel. Nigel had promised them money for a karate exhibition. Little had they known that it wasn't an exhibition, but a fight to the death. They had been branded with a circle under their feet and then forced to fight. Grady had been forced to kill his best friend or his best friend would have killed him. Grady could still hear the bloodthirsty crowd proclaiming him champion.

Recently, he had the chance to avenge the needless death. Nigel came into his life again, and Grady went after him. The crowd attending the Circle of Death matches was still the same, goading him as he held the life of the current champion in his hands. Grady let him live so that he could go after Nigel. Nigel he wanted to kill, but "B" had convinced him to let the law handle it. The Circle of Death was over finally.

Grady relented and agreed to participate after Chan's owner convinced him it was harmless fun, and no one would get hurt. He also wanted to be there for is students who would also be involved in the exhibition.

Grady was warming up, preparing for his exhibition fight, which was next.

"Grady! Over here!" Malloy shouted, waving to catch Grady's attention.

Grady looked over and saw B, Malloy and Miguel all taking a seat in the bleachers that had been set up in the Dojo. He waved a quick hello, and smiled. He was lucky to have friends like these. Sounds of someone grunting broke his reverie.

His opponent was also warming up. He looked over his competition. Derek was also a black belt and had been teaching at Power Martial Arts Studio for 2 years. He was about 6 feet, wiry with jet black hair. Grady looked into Derek's eyes and saw the other fighter was going to take this fight seriously. He shook his head, he was getting the guy who was out to prove something.

The referee was beckoning them both forward. He went over the rules, and gave them both a pat on the back, "Remember it's only an exhibition."

Grady bowed to honor his opponent. Derek remained standing,

"I am going to kill you, Jamieson," Derek said in a harsh whisper and started to attack. A kick landed directly in Grady's chest throwing him back. The crowd gasped.

"What is your problem, Derek?" Grady replied sucking in a deep breath.

"My problem is you!" Derek attacked again.

Adam was up and making his way down to the arena as soon as he saw Grady get hit. Something was wrong. He saw Grady was now successfully defending himself. By the time he got to the arena floor, blood had been drawn on both sides. Grady's opponent had a spilt lip and blood coming from a cut over his left eye. Grady had a trickle of blood coming from the corner of his mouth. Legs and arms kept flying. Grady got a kick in sending his opponent into the bleachers. Adam went to restrain Grady.

"B, the guy wants to kill me. Let me go," Grady said trying to break Adam's hold.

Grady's opponent got up and saw everyone looking at him. "You raped and killed my sister! This is not over yet!" Derek stumbled out, pushing people out of his way and escaped to the street.

Grady went slack in Adam's arms.

Finally giving up on sleep, Grady arose from his bed, a groan escaping as his ribs protested the sudden movement. They had only been bruised, but Adam insisted that he go to the hospital after he had passed out. It had only been for a second and from the adrenaline rush, but B and Malloy were worried. While the emergency room doctor was checking him out, B had made a phone call to Lieutenant Pine to find out information on Derek. Derek and his sister, Lilly, had been runaways, throw away kids like Grady himself. Lilly had been found raped and murdered just as Derek had said. B questioned Grady, and was visibly relieved when Grady told him that he wasn't even in the state when the incident happened. Ever since the Circle of Death, Grady knew B was finding it hard to discover who exactly Grady was, B had accepted him. However, on some level B saw an innocent 8 year old boy, but life had taken away Grady's innocence. Grady had been on the East Coast looking for Harden, the man who took away Grady's innocence. Harden was the man who had led the Viet Cong to the village where his parents were missionaries. They had been killed along with the other villagers. He had discovered that Harden was on the East Coast, and in between looking for him Mr. Waverly, the owner of a lumberyard, had Grady do some odd jobs. Luckily, he still kept in touch with him, so he had an alibi.

Since it was still early Grady decided to do some katas to try to focus his mind. Martial arts had always given him peace of mind and the feeling he could handle anything. What would his missionary parents think of their son now? He had killed people with his bare hands. He looked over at the picture of his mom, looking at him with disapproving eyes. He had seen that same look in B's eyes, too when Grady broke or bent the law.

He couldn't blame his friends, B, Malloy and Miguel, looking at him in fear on occasion. Fear of what he could do. He had done what he had done in the past because it had been a matter of survival. Some of what he had done still ate as his conscience.

B kept telling him to have the police handle this Derek matter. Malloy kept hoping Derek had left town. After all it had been two weeks and no one had seen or heard from Derek. Another glance at the clock told him it was only 7am. Malloy wasn't getting in until 10 am. Deciding a jog is was what he needed; he went out and greeted the day.

Malloy had decided to come in early. The door was locked, which meant Grady was either still sleeping or had gone out. A quick knock on his door with no answer meant the latter. She was counting on some privacy. After all she had to plan Grady's birthday party. Granted he knew they (Miguel, Adam and herself) were going to take him out for dinner, but he didn't know the gift they had purchased for him.

Miguel had found out Grady knew how to play the guitar. So, they all decided a guitar would make a great gift. Malloy was happy since it had nothing to do with violence that seemed to surround Grady. Thankfully, he had not raped and murdered that girl. She knew he had a dark side and was capable of killing; she stopped her mind from going down that route. Beaudreux had told her about the Circle of Death.

This was also the same Grady who on many occasions had fiercely protected her and had been a true friend.

She had the present wrapped, hidden and reservations made at Grady's favorite restaurant by 10 am. Grady had still not returned.

The door opened and Adam entered, "Everything set for tomorrow?" Adam asked.

"Reservations are made and the gift is safely hidden."

"By the way, where is Grady? Still sleeping?" Adam asked as he walked behind the bar to get a cup of coffee.

"No, I came in early and he wasn't here," she answered. "He probably went to the dojo." Malloy added, seeing Adam's worried expression.

"For god's sake there is someone after him and he has bruised ribs. What does he think he is doing?"

"Going out for a run," Grady answered upon entering the bar.

"You know they still haven't found that guy yet."

"I know. Don't worry, B. I can take care of myself," Grady said stretching out, his arm quickly going to his ribs.

"Yeah, I can see that," Adam smirked. "Hey, Happy Birthday!"

"Happy Birthday, Grady," Malloy said kissing him on the cheek.

Grady blushed, he had forgotten today was his birthday. He was not used to celebrating it, in fact other than when his parents were alive, there had been no celebrations. "Are we still on for tonight?"

"Yes, of course we are!" Malloy said cheerily.