If there was any one thing Maddox couldn't bring himself to stand for, it was a thief. They may've come from all walks of life, but they almost always had three things in common: first and foremost being a sob story that never failed to paint them as a victim. Given the chance, they would prattle on and on about how had so unjustly wronged them and this is the only thing I know how to do blah blah ..

The second thing was that they were almost always manipulative, cunning motherfuckers without any morals or conscience whatsoever. And last but not least, the third––

"No! I said no, goddamnit! Get the fuck off me, you creep, no––stop, I don't––"

The fear in Elisha's voice turned Maddox's blood to ice, replacing his anger with a pounding sense of urgency; he broke into a run, combat boots thudding heavily on the concrete, his heart slamming in his chest as he sought to pinpoint exactly where Elisha's voice had come from––

"Stop, I don't want this––"

Suddenly it wasn't the dark, bustling streets of Brooklyn at all but the blistering heat of the Afghanistan capital, gritty sand in his eyes and hair and mouth. Under his nails, too. It had been there for months, mingling with sweat and blood and tears; a stinging reminder of the situation at hand, of his duty to his country and platoon. Jesus God, it burned, he felt like he was going blind––

"Shut the fuck up, faggot bitch. You ain't telling me what to do, I own your ass now, hear?"

"I said stop, I don't want this––you're hurting me, don't, please––Oh, God––"

Maddox swore, spatting out a mouthful of something grainy and wet. Probably more sand. God, he hated sand––

Wait, sand? No, that wasn't right. This wasn't Baghdad, this was America. Brooklyn. Fucking US of A ..

Sand in his mouth again, except there wasn't really any sand, he was just hallucinating. Fucking flashbacks. This wasn't real, he told himself, he wasn't on duty, he was home––and Elisha needed him, needed him bad. He had to focus.

Shielding his face against the onslaught of nonexistent airborne debris with an arm, he fought his way forward, continuing to curse, bitterly, with every step until the unhindered, mottled beige of Baghdad had dissolved and took with it the gunfire and the sand, leaving Maddox standing on the outer fringes of an alleyway's orifice, momentarily disoriented as he wondered about the blood on the ground, why it hadn't disappeared with the rest of the flashback––

"Ain't nothing like virgin pussy, ain't that right, Johnny?"

The gunfire crept back, visions steathily invading his periphery through his ears. It sounded wrong at first, but then he registered the weight of the gun in his hands and he remembered that there wasn't anything more right than this. Couldn't be.

Smoke fogged the air, originating from the burning buildings. Like the sand he'd left back in the desert, it stung his eyes, made them water fiercely. His platoon spread around him, their footfalls silent on the cobbled stone as they advanced on the enemy, M16s at the ready. Someone was crying: low, broken sobs, audible testament to violation.

Maddox had stood at his post one morning, squinting against the rays of harsh sun. He'd heard the strangled screams and had ran to see what was going on. When he'd found out, when he'd seen one of the lcoals––a man pinning his own wife to the floor with his weight, choking her with one hand and slapping her with the other, he'd lost it. He'd grabbed the local by the back of his neck and yanked him off the young woman, thrown him up against a wall and beaten him to within an inch of his life.

It was like that, what he was doing now. Except it was two men instead of just one, and the wife wasn't anyone's wife, though, or even a young woman; instead it was a young man. Elisha, his slate-grey eyes gone wide in his bruised, mutilated face. He cowered in the corner, as Maddox finally knocked the men unconscious, effectively cutting off their whimpering pleas for mercy.

Once it had been done, he just stood there, breathing heavily and trying to push past the roar of blood in his ears. Then the flashback deserted him entirely and Maddox almost fell to his knees in the puddle of blood.

He'd just nearly killed two men. Oh, Jesus.

He would've undoubtedly fallen apart and wept, if Elisha hadn't been present. His hands shook as he helped the kid to his feet and allowed him to replace Maddox's wallet without a word. He barely registered the weight of the thing; it was the last thing on his mind now.

''Thank you," came Elisha's whisper, nearly rendered inaudible due to the hoarseness of his voice. The only reason Maddox heard it was because of his close proximity, the kid plastered up against him like paint on a wall.

An apt metaphor, indeed, except paint didn't tremble and Elisha was. Uncontrollably, despite his clear efforts to keep it under wraps. In the scant light provided by the nearby streetlights, his face looked pale and drawn, unspoken testament to the toll the situation had and continued to take upon him. His skin, Maddox discovered, was cold to the touch.

He's going into shock.

Maddox knelt so that he was level with Elisha, trying to gently help the kid back into his clothes. It wasn't much of a task, though, seeing as how his jeans were torn all to pieces. His shirt and jacket had somehow remained intact during the assault; Elisha clung to these articles fiercely, his sobs having subsided to soft hiccups.

Dried blood caked the insides of his thighs, clotting in the dark nest of curls around his testicles. The pale, creamy skin beneath was bruised and cut––the mere sight of it made Maddox want to simultaneously vomit and snap the men's necks.

Snap out of it, Maddox told himself. He needs you to be strong.

"I d-don't wa-want––" Elisha was resisting, trying to twist away from Maddox's clumsy attempts to slip him back into his jeans. "Pl-please, d-don't make m-me w-wear it .."

The stuttering pleas hit Maddox like a blow to the gut. He couldn't blame Elisha for not wanting to wear the bloody, torn jeans––and besides, they'd make for compelling evidence.

Evidence. Shit, he needed to call someone, Topher maybe––

"Okay, okay, I won't. Listen to me, Elisha. Listen to me. I have to make a very important call, okay? But I'm not going to leave you. I'm going to keep you with me. I just need to call someone for a little help, alright?"

He spoke slowly, making eye contact so that the kid would know to pay attention. And he did. Those gorgeous green eyes never wavered from Maddox's own. When he finished, Elisha nodded, indicating he'd understood.

Then he started crying again.

Maddox almost felt a little like crying himself. Imploring the warrior inside for help, he took the green-eyed waif into his arms and held him tight, whispering assurances as he dialed his best friend's number.


a/n: omg i'm so sorry i left you guys hanging! i went on a two-week camping trip after i posted chapter four and then spent the next two weeks winding down from all the excitement and trying to find out where i really wanted this story to go.

next chapter: you might find yourself wishing elisha was in better form for his first meeting with maddox's best friend, topher. is topher homophobic or is it just a guise for what he's really about? how does elisha know so much about the law?

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