Don barely felt the cold as he strode down the dimly lit sidewalk. It was nearly midnight and the streets were deserted at this hour. Panic simmered, locked down deep where it couldn't get free, but mostly rage slithered through his veins. The last time he'd felt this kind of fury had also been when Tim had been threatened, but it paled in comparison to now. Last time Don had fought to keep the focus on himself and mostly succeeded. This time, he wasn't even remotely in control and Tim was suffering for it.

He stopped at the corner and took a breath. Rasher was a cold, methodical bastard who had every intention of following through on his threat of killing Tim if Don didn't cooperate. Everyone knew that Don would do anything to keep Tim safe, but hardly anyone knew of Don's army background. They all saw him as 'Skippy, the Gay Detective,' and were more entertained than wary. That worked just fine for Don. The more people underestimated him, the better.

The pictures Don had taken of Rasher's dirty dealing, Tim's ransom, were in his jacket pocket. Don stepped around the corner and into the alley to the back door of Rasher's restaurant. He banged on the metal door, gloves muting the noise somewhat. The door opened a couple of inches, Racher's right-hand man, Dave, getting a look at him before opening it further.

Don walked in and suffered through the pat-down. It always amused him how cursory straight guys did that when a known gay man was the recipient; like they could catch being gay or something. Still, Dave found his gun and took it before shoving him through the kitchen to the main room.

The dining area had been cleared of tables, aside from one where Rasher and Tim sat. There were three other men, all armed, standing at intervals around the room. Tim's face was a mass of bruising and blood trailed from a cut at his temple down the right side of his face. His wrists were cuffed in front of him, on the table, and his eyes had obvious trouble focusing as he listed a bit sideways in the chair.

Just as well, Don thought. I don't want him seeing this.

Don shrugged out of his jacket and tossed it at Dave, who threw it on the floor. He rolled his shoulders to loosen up and said, “Pictures are in the jacket pocket. Give me Tim and we'll leave. No one needs to know about this.”

Rasher was a tall, thin man with an angular face and a habit of smirking. He was one of several minor mob bosses in the city that the cops couldn't pin anything on, no matter how they tried. The only reason Rasher was even on their radar was because of his 'former' ties to a larger crime family back in NYC. He leaned back in his chair and said, “You got some stones, thinking either one of you are leaving here alive.”

“Look. I brought you the pictures. Hold up your end of the deal,” Don said. His fingers twitched against his legs; it looked like nerves, probably, but he was really making sure his slacks were loose and wouldn't get in the way.

Rasher shook his head and stood up, lips twisted into an ugly grin. “You homos make me sick. I'm doin' the world a favor, killing you two.”

Don took a breath. Time slowed down and his nerves came alive like they had just before each and every ambush back in the desert. He dropped to into a crouch and came up with the K-Bars he'd hidden in his boots, one in each hand. He threw the right knife in one, continuous movement, taking Rasher out when it landed in his throat, blood spurting from his neck. Rasher went down clutching at his throat and making sickening, rasping noises as he tried to breathe around the blade.

Don spun and slammed the remaining knife into Dave's eye, letting go to catch his body and spin around again, using him as cover. The other three opened fire, getting Dave in the back. They were far enough away that the bullets didn't tear through him. Don pulled the gun free from Dave's holster and shot each of the remaining three between the eyes.

Killing five men took less than two minutes. Don dropped Dave to the floor, the thud loud in the resulting silence, and for a few seconds, all he heard was his own, harsh breathing. Adrenaline made his hands shake and he swayed a little, trying to keep his balance.

Shaking off the fog of violence, Don grabbed his jacket on the rush over to Tim. He gently gripped Tim's hands in his and said, “Tim? Baby? Can you hear me?”

Tim blinked at him a few times and the dilation of his pupils told Don that his husband had been drugged as well as beaten. He cursed under his breath and carefully pulled Tim to his feet. He'd hoped to avoid the hospital, but there was no way he could now, not knowing what they'd dosed him with. He'd planned for everything that he could think of, though, to keep from getting caught for these killings. Don had bought the knives with cash years ago and used Dave's gun to kill the others. He wore gloves and hadn't bled anywhere, so there wouldn't be any DNA or fingerprints.

Not mine, anyhow, he thought, shifting Tim carefully to his other arm.

There was no help for it. He would just have to burn the place down. Just in case.

* * * *

Tim woke up in a hospital bed with no memory of how he'd gotten there. His face and torso hurt like hell and his head ached a steady beat to his pulse. He blinked the crud from his eyes and focused with some difficulty on Don sleeping in a chair next to the bed. He cleared his throat and rasped, “Don?”

Don jerked awake and almost fell out of the chair in his haste to reach the bed. He smiled broadly and said, “Well hey there, sleeping beauty! It's about time you woke up.”

Tim frowned. Even feeling drugged as he did, he knew something wasn't right. Don wouldn't meet his eyes. Something bad had happened, something Don thought he wouldn't approve of. “What happened?”

“Hang on, there. Have some water,” Don said, picking up a cup and filling it from a pitcher.

Tim recognized the stalling tactic, but was thirsty so he accepted the drink. The cool liquid seeped into his parched throat and he sighed in pleasure after. And then Don gently wiped his face with a damp bunch of tissues, which felt even better. When Don sat on the edge of the bed, Tim asked, “Please tell me.”

“What's the last thing you remember?”

Tim had to think about it for a few seconds. “Lunch with you and then driving back to the office. We were going to go Christmas shopping, so I wanted to get back to work and finish a few things.”

Don gave him a tight smile, but his gaze slid away as he said, “You were kidnapped, Tim. I got you back, but not before they beat you up and drugged you. Doc said you had a pretty serious concussion and with the drugs, you've been out for three days.”

The very blandness of the explanation caused the hairs on the back of Tim's neck to lift in warning. Don rarely shut down like that. “Wait, you got me back? Just how did you do that?”

For a second, it looked like Don wasn't going to answer. Then he sighed explosively and said, “I killed them all. And I'd do it again to save you, Tim. I won't lose you, too. I can't!”

Tim knew his husband had abandonment issues, he'd known why only for a couple of years, though. Don's first real lover had killed himself after they'd both been dishonorably discharged for being involved. He also knew that Don wasn't always the most rational when it came to Tim's safety; that whole thing with Zailian had proven that beyond a shadow of a doubt. On the surface, he was horrified that Don had killed to save him, but not so deep down, Tim was thankful for his husband's well-hidden vicious streak. It only came to light when Tim was threatened; the rest of the time, Don was a sweet, loving man.

The door opened without warning and Bailey walked in looking about as harassed as Tim had ever seen him, and that was saying something. “Callahan. Good. You're awake. Care to tell me how you turned up at the hospital drugged and beaten to a pulp? And do you have any idea what this idiot did to get you back from Rasher?”

Tim said honestly, “I don't remember a thing, Detective Bailey. And as for Don's actions, well, he's sitting right here. You should ask him.”

Bailey scowled and said, “He killed five people, Callahan. I don't care what kind of nice guy act you got goin' on, Strachey, or if Callahan was in trouble, you don't do that. That crosses the line.”

Don shrugged and laced his fingers with Tim's as he said, “I told you, I don't know what you're talking about. Someone beat Tim up and drugged him and left him on our stoop. It was a hate crime, one you should be investigating.”

Bailey looked back at Tim. “You just going to let him get away with murdering five people?”

Tim met Bailey's eyes and said, “Seems to me that if you had any evidence, Don would be under arrest.”

“I can compel you to tell me, Callahan.”

“No, you can't.”

“I'll get a court order.”

“Spousal privilege, Detective.”

Bailey's mouth opened and closed a few times before he shouted, “You're not really married!”

Tim calmly held up their joined hands, both of which held wedding bands. “We are according to the State of New York. I'm sure the ACLU would love to sink their teeth into a new, landmark case in support of same-sex spousal privilege.”

Bailey's scowl deepened and he jabbed a finger at Don. “Don't come to me for anything, Strachey. Nothing. We're done.”

The detective stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

Tim let out a shaky breath and said, “Don, he's...”

“Not a problem,” Don interrupted. He kissed the back of Tim's hand. “There's no evidence. None. He'll start to doubt himself and then convince himself I'm just not that kind of guy.”

Tim's lips twitched into a brief smile. The kind of guy who would do anything to protect those he loved and not feel guilty in the slightest. Don's sense of honor was really very... medieval, at times. More fool Bailey, if he didn't realize it. “You are that kind of guy.”

Don grinned, the boyish expression at odds with what he was capable of doing. “Yeah, but Bailey doesn't know that. Now. I want you to relax and close your eyes. I'm going to get the doc to look you over and then we'll see about getting you home in time for Christmas. We still have a couple of days left.”

Tim relaxed a little, sinking back into the pillows. He tugged Don down for a real kiss, soft and lingering, and then said quietly, “I love you, Don.”

Don smiled tenderly and replied, “I love you, Tim.”

After Don left, shooed out by a nurse now that Tim was awake, Tim decided to count his blessings and freak out in private later. He was mostly in one piece and Don wasn't under arrest for multiple homicide. As Christmases went, it could be worse.