Title:  DIAGNOSIS MURDER - Ragnarok
Author:  Clare
Email:  clare@solomon29.freeserve.co.uk
Pairings:  Jesse/Rick Brookes, Steve/Jack Stewart, Steve/Other, Steve/Jesse
Programme: "Diagnosis Murder"
Rating:  NC-17
Series:  None
Status:  Complete
Archive:  Write first
Disclaimer: The characters and location herein belong to Viacom and
Paramount                     and  no profit is being made from this story.
Feedback:  Yes, please!
Summary:  As Steve and Jesse grow up and meet, their lives are inextricably
linked                 with that of a serial killer.

Warnings:  M/M sexual interaction and violence.  Some of the events in this
story
are told from the point of view of a serial killer which, while I've tried
to keep the violence to a minimum, some people might find disturbing.

Comments: I've used several infrequent or one-off Canon characters: Rick
'Slick Rick' Brookes (from  the fourth season  episode "A Model Murder"),
Wendy Windsor (same episode) and Police Chief Masters (who appears
in various episodes beginning with "Murder Blues").  Jerry Levan and
Lana Davis are original characters.

Notes:  The title, Ragnarok, is a word from Norse mythology.  It refers to a
time when a great battle occurs and the world is destroyed in a fire.  However,
a new world rises up and the survivors begin again.

Thanks: A big thank you to Janet, William and Juli for all their betaing
help, which has really helped this story :-)



 

 

Ragnarok

by Clare




June 1, 1971
Los Angeles

His former friends had betrayed him and thrown the world into confusion.
Because of them, brother killed brother and madness swept through the
mortals in the land below.  Two of his sons had been murdered and he had
been tortured for a millennia. Now the gods would pay.

Sword in hand, he led his followers on.  To his right side the wolf, Fenris,
stalked forward, the hackles of its grey-gold silken fur raised, a mad light
in pale green eyes.  To his left, and even larger than the giant wolf, was
the serpent, Jormungand, its mottled body writhing forward.  These were two
of his remaining children and the strongest of his army.

There was a movement ahead in the sweltering mist; the gods approaching to
meet the challenge.  Odin, as always, led them and for a moment his own gaze
met the one-eyed stare of the king of the gods.  Regret and bitterness
warred inside him.  There had been a time when they'd fought together, when
they'd been closer than brothers, but Odin had then turned against him.

Fenris gave a howl so piercing that it shook the ground.  He let the sound
soak into him, renewing his fury.  He took a step towards his old enemy,
Heimdall, sword raised.  At the same moment, Fenris leapt at Odin, biting
deeply into flesh.  As Heimdall met him and steel clashed against steel, he
caught a glimpse of Fenris's blood-soaked fangs and of Jormungand locked in
a struggle with Thor, then he was too preoccupied with his own fight to see
any more.  The fevered noise of battle around him gradually faded until the
only sounds that reached his ears were the bone-breaking thuds of his and
Heimdall's swords colliding, and his own laboured breathing.  He was growing
weaker: whenever Heimdall's sword struck his it sent a jolt of pain through
his body.  His own sword grew heavier by the second, until his arm trembled
with the weight of it.

A scream caught his attention and he turned.  A sea of blood-covered corpses
surrounded him and, beyond them, a wave of flame swept closer.  The fire
blackened the land and slaughtered the people it touched as he stared into
its moving depths.  All around him people were burnt alive but his gaze was
focussed on two particular forms.  He couldn't see them clearly amid the
smoke and bright flames, but there was something so familiar about them that
it made his stomach clench and his skin turn clammy.  They turned, faces
contorted with pain, and he saw that they were his parents.

Their pain became his own.  He tried to move, to help them, but his legs
were rooted to the ground.  He could do nothing but stand and watch them
die.

At the Los Angeles Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Jerry Levan awoke.
He lifted a hand to the wooden headboard on his bed and wrapped his fingers
around it, clenching them with all his strength until it felt as if his
fingers would break and, for one blissful moment, the pain blotted out the
nightly images and the layer of grief around his world.  He shoved his young
face into the pillow, so as not to wake those around him, and sobs wracked
his body.


June 1, 1971
Los Angeles

"May I have this dance, Miss Davis?" John Tanner asked with exaggerated
formality and gave a bow to complete the gesture.

Lana laughed at his behaviour, emerald eyes sparkling, and said, "Sorry,
John, I hate to turn down such a charming offer, but I've promised to dance
every dance with my date."

Steve Sloan grinned at the other boy and made a shooing gesture.  John
grimaced at his friend and left the couple alone.  Steve resisted the desire
to tug at the constricting collar of his rented tuxedo as he turned back to
Lana.  He'd never worn anything like this before and, if he had anything to
do with it, never would again, but he'd wanted to do things properly for his
girlfriend.  So he'd worn the tux, borrowed his dad's car, and appeared on
the doorstep of Lana's parents' house with a box of chocolates and a wrist
corsage in his clammy grip.  When Lana had opened the door he'd barely
recognised the beautiful sophisticated woman as his normally jean-clad
girlfriend.

Lana had been in his class at high school for years, but he had only plucked
up the nerve to ask her out three weeks before.  After tonight they would
only have a few weeks more together until he had to go and fight in Vietnam,
so he wanted their evening at the prom to be perfect.   "So would you like
to dance with me?" he asked.

"Love to."

Tommy Roe's 'Dizzy' was playing as they put their arms round each other and
it seemed to match how Steve felt.  They barely noticed as it finished and
another song began.  Steve felt a shivery kind of longing as he held Lana's
hand and her expressive eyes met his.  When the event finished at midnight,
it felt to him as if only seconds had passed since they'd arrived.  A
tingling silence accompanied them as he drove Lana home.

When he kissed her and said goodnight, it should have been the perfect end
to the perfect evening.  He told himself it was, and tried to banish the
emptiness he'd felt when they kissed.  He'd dreamed about Lana for over a
year: how could anything be missing?  He was just nervous about becoming a
soldier, he told himself.  It would be better when he got back.


August 10, 1985
University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA)

"Hi, Steve, it's Lana," she said into the phone receiver.  "I realised this
morning that it's been over a year since we last met up; I thought maybe we
could get together for lunch some time.  Tomorrow?  Hang on."  She leafed
through her academic diary.  "Yes, that's fine.  I finish the morning's
class at midday so I could meet you near the station?  Great, I'll see you
then.  Bye, Steve."  Lana was smiling as she put down the phone; she had
just rung her old friend on an impulse and was glad he wanted to meet.

Their romance had barely begun before it ended.  When he returned from
Vietnam he just wasn't interested in her any more.  At the time she had
thought it was about his feelings for her, or something she had done but,
over the years, she had realised how much Vietnam had affected many
soldiers.

Besides, it many ways, the friendship that had developed from their romance
had always seemed more real.  Their brief fling had had something of a
fairytale quality to it: it had seemed perfect at the time but, in
retrospect, had lacked substance.  As a friend he was someone she could
really talk to.  However, they'd lost touch during this last year - her new
career at the University taking up all her time and, presumably, his police
career keeping him occupied - and she'd wondered, when she called, if he'd
want to resurrect the friendship.

She picked up her handbag and papers and left the office she shared with a
couple of  female lecturers to make some lecture notes in the library.
However, she had barely got two steps towards her destination when Paul Lee,
the Vice-Principal of the University, called out to her.  She turned round
and saw him standing with a stranger about her age.

"Lana, this is our new colleague, Jerry.  He's beginning work here in two
weeks.  Could you show him around for me?  I've got a class."

She smiled at the man.  "No problem."  As Paul walked away, she held out a
hand to him.  "Hi, I'm Lana Davis."

He took her hand and returned the smile.  His otherwise ordinary-looking
face was dominated by intense hazel eyes - partly hidden by thick lensed
glasses - which had seemed to flash different colours when she first
approached him.  "Jerry Levan.  I'm pleased to meet you."

"So what are you going to be teaching?"

"Mythology.  I love the subject."

She nodded.  "I can understand why.  I teach English Literature and there
are some amazing literary works in Mythology.  Do you have any favourite
cultures?"

He nodded, smile brightening.  "I've always had a particular bond for the
Norse myths.  They're less popular than the supposed 'Classics' but ."

"Say no more," Lana said.  "Beowulf is a wonderful saga and I've read parts
of the Elder Edda."

"You have?" he exclaimed, pushing his glasses more firmly onto his nose,
eyes gleaming behind them.

They talked for the next couple of hours as she showed him the University,
and Lana decided that she liked the man.


December 8, 1988
University of Illinois at Chicago

"Slick, you've got tests; you have to study," Jesse told his roommate in a
stern voice.  At least, it was supposed to be stern.  He had a suspicion
that he sounded about as tough as a kid who was begging for a puppy, but he
was doing his best.  Rick had to pass his tests.  If he didn't, he might
leave college, and then what would Jesse do?  The thought of not having Rick
here scared him.  He didn't know why his feelings were always so intense
where the other boy was concerned; he only knew that Rick couldn't leave
him.

The dark-haired boy was looking at him now with an expression of fond
exasperation.  "Fine, I'll study.  There's just this party in the Epsilon
Kappa House, then ."

"No!" Jesse exclaimed.  "Your Design test is tomorrow and you've admitted
that you've done no work for it so far.  No parties!  Work!"

Rick rolled his eyes and grumbled something under his breath, then he
reluctantly nodded.  "Yeah, okay; you're right."  He frowned as Jesse pulled
on his shoes and said, "Where are you going?"

"The party at the Epsilon Kappa House."

"You're off to a party when I have to spend half the night studying?" Rick
queried in a scandalised tone.

Since he had a nasty suspicion as to where this conversation was heading,
Jesse assumed his best whine to respond, "Well, I don't have a test
tomorrow."

"But I need you to help me get ready for mine," Rick said, clearly
determined that if he was going to suffer then Jesse would too.  "I need
your 'stay awake all night coffee', and for you to help me go through my
books, then ask me questions about them."  He slipped backwards from his
sitting position to lie on the bed, and threw a hand over his forehead.
Jesse's breath caught at the sight of the long slender body stretched out in
front of him.  Rick was adding in a teasing voice, "And for you to soothe my
fevered brow when it all gets too much for me."

Jesse couldn't help but laugh at this, then he made one final attempt at
escape, moving purposefully towards the door.  "Sure, I'll do all that.
Just as soon as I get back from Greg's party."

As he passed his best friend's bed, Rick grabbed him and they both fell
across the bed, the brunet tickling him until he was breathless.  Giggling
helplessly, Jesse made a weak lunge for the other boy's hands, and pinned
them against the bed.  He then collapsed and tried to get back his breath.
As his gasps faded into even breathing, he became aware of Rick's cool,
long-fingered hands entangled in his.  They were sprawled together on the
bed, Jesse half on top of his friend while Rick's dark hair tickled the side
of his face.

Jesse's breath faltered once more, but he couldn't resist raising his head
to look at his friend.  Rick looked back at him with an expression of such
deep affection that Jesse felt bizarrely tearful.  Rick disengaged a hand
from one of Jesse's and touched the blond's face, from cheek to chin,
fingers gentle and caressing.  Jesse had no idea who leaned forward first,
but their lips met with dizzying accord.


December 8, 1988
Steve's Apartment, Los Angeles

Doctor Jack Stewart reached for his clothes, slipping his feet into his
shoes before his pants were even zipped up.

"You don't have to leave," Steve told the man.

"Yeah, I do."  Jack still faced away from the cop as he spoke and
simultaneously buttoned his shirt.  "I gotta go."  He grabbed his jacket and
left the apartment without a backwards glance.

Steve lay down on the crumpled bed and wondered why he felt so empty: he
should be used to this by now.  He and Jack Stewart had been friends for
years; this new aspect of their relationship had only started a few weeks
ago and it was destroying them both.  It made neither of them happy, so why
couldn't they stop?

Half the problem was that he really cared for Jack and couldn't understand
why it wouldn't work between them.  He wanted to fix whatever was wrong and
make their relationship a good one.  But Jack couldn't cope with feeling
this way about a man and wouldn't talk about what they did together.  Ever.

It didn't help that the one other person he wanted to talk to, his father,
was Jack's boss and telling him anything would mean that Jack never spoke to
him again.  Steve had never had sex with a man before and it was a lot to
deal with, coming to terms with the realisation that he was bisexual.  He
knew that he was lucky enough to have a father who would do his best to
understand and accept this, but he couldn't talk to him.

He gave a frustrated sigh and got up to switch on the TV, hoping it would
blot out his thoughts and cover up the loneliness of his apartment.

January 17, 1989
University of Illinois at Chicago

Jesse sat cross-legged on his bed studying.  Many of his fellow students
found it a real effort to do this, but Jesse loved it.  He spent hours in
his room reading medical texts, making notes and dreaming of the time when
he could put the information into practise as a doctor.

The rest of his time used to be taken up with attending lectures, eating,
sleeping and big-time partying, but he'd socialised less and got a good deal
less sleep since he'd gotten together with Rick.  Happiness flooded through
him just at the thought of the other boy.  He'd never dreamt that his life
could be this good.

He hadn't enjoyed his childhood.  He'd always been plain, tiny and shy so he
'd found it difficult to make friends and had been bullied for years.  Then,
when all the other boys began dating girls, he was too shy to ask anyone
out, which led to a different kind of name-calling.  Just as he was
beginning to get some confidence in himself, his parents' rocky marriage
fell apart, their divorce devastating him.  He'd never seen his father since
he moved out, leading him to conclude that the man didn't care about him.
His mother had always been more interested in her career as a doctor than in
him, so he had ended up feeling abandoned by everyone.

Then he'd left home to come to college, and his life had been transformed.
He loved studying and, to his amazement, he'd ended up with a large circle
of friends.  His relationship with Rick just made everything perfect.  There
was a part of him that was waiting for it to all go wrong but, mostly, he
revelled in every second of happiness.

His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of heavy footsteps approaching,
then the bedroom door was flung open and Rick raced in.  "I got a 'B'!"

"On a test?"

"*The* test."  Rick fell down on the bed beside him, pulled the other boy
closer and  kissed him.  "The one I was supposed to study for the night we
first got together."

"And you got a 'B'?" Jesse said, smiling, then his expression changed.
"Hang on: you didn't do *any* studying for that and you got a 'B'!"

"Great, isn't it?" Rick grinned.  "I did better with that than the tests I'
ve studied really hard for."

Seeing where his lover's mind was heading, Jesse shook his head, his shaggy
blond hair swaying with the movement.  "There is not a lesson to be learned
from this - you were just lucky."

"Spoil-sport."  Rick grimaced, then hugged the smaller student and nuzzled
his neck.  "You wanna go out tonight or stay in?"

Jesse slipped a hand beneath the other boy's T-shirt, his fingers sliding up
and down his lover's back, feeling the slight bumps in his spine beneath
velvet soft flesh.  Rick responded by wrapping his legs around the smaller
boy so that their bodies were fully pressed together.  "We could go out for
a couple of hours then come back and have an early night together," he
suggested in a distracted tone.

"Okay."  Neither of them moved.

"I think John and the gang's got some kind of fancy dress party in the Beta
Sigma  House."  Rick kissed down his neck then nosed his shirt out of the
way and kissed his bare shoulder.

"Mmm," Jesse said, more in appreciation of his lover's kisses than in
response to his words.  He slid Rick's T-shirt up his torso and the other
boy lifted his arms and tugged it off.  The pendant he always wore gleamed
silver against his tanned chest and Jesse touched it, his fingers sliding
over the angles of the pentagram and feeling the cold metal and warm flesh
beneath simultaneously.  The two boys stared at each other for a moment with
hungry eyes, then they were kissing as if their lives depended on it.  When
they finally came up for air, Jesse said hoarsely, "Or we could just stay
here."

"Okay."


January 17, 1989
Steve's Apartment, Los Angeles

Steve opened his apartment door and found Jack Stewart standing there.  The
doctor's face was pinched and his chocolate-brown eyes met those of Steve
with worry in their depths, before they slid away from his gaze, black
eyelashes hiding further emotions.  Steve knew what this was about without a
word being said; he'd spent the last few months unsuccessfully trying to get
the doctor to talk to him, but suddenly he just wanted an excuse to avoid
it.

They walked into the living room where Jack stood with his arms folded.
Steve couldn't remember him ever looking vulnerable like this before.  "Do
you want some coffee?"  he asked, for want of anything better to say.

Jack shook his head. "Steve, we have to talk."

The cop watched him fidgeting and sighed.  "Yeah, I know," he said quietly.

"What we've been doing - it has to stop.  You're one of my best friends and
we're going to screw that up if we keep going on like this."

Steve sat down on the couch and ran his hands through his hair.  One of them
had finally found the courage to say it.  He felt as if there was ice
sliding down his body, leaving a cold numbness in its wake.  "I can accept
going back to just being friends - I don't want to mess up our relationship
either - but I need to understand what went wrong.  Do you really think it's
so terrible to be attracted to a man?"

Jack stared at him, frowning, dark eyes hooded, then he shrugged.  "Yeah, I
do.  I hate feeling like this."

Steve looked away from him to hide the flood of pain that the words
produced.  "Why?"

Jack walked to the window and pulled the curtains closed, then moved to
straighten a framed picture.  "In the neighbourhood where I grew up, I only
ever knew of two gay kids.  They were both beaten to death by gangs."

Steve stared at him, for a moment unable to take in the words.  "God,
Jack ."  He stood and moved forward to put a hand on his friend's shoulder,
but the doctor pulled away and returned to stand by the window.

"I was a young teenager the first time I heard that someone had died like
that.  It terrified me.  I don't think there's something wrong with being
gay but, whenever I think of you like that, I flash back to hearing about
those kids and I can't cope with it."

"I understand."  And he did.  Jack's behaviour made sense now.  But it didn'
t stop the pain and loneliness that seized him as Jack turned and let
himself out of the apartment, shutting the door behind him with a thud.


July 5, 1989
University of Illinois at Chicago

"There you are," Jesse said to his lover.  He'd looked all over the college
before finding him here, sitting in the middle of an empty sports field.  He
sat beside the young man and put an arm round his shoulder.  "How are you
feeling?"

Rick glanced round.  There were dark circles beneath his blue eyes and his
face was pale, but it was the haunted look of pain in his eyes that scared
Jesse.  "It's the day of Dad's funeral and I still can't take in the fact
that he's dead.  It just doesn't seem real."

Jesse rubbed his lover's shoulder gently.  "Maybe the funeral will help;
give you a chance to say goodbye."

"I don't want to say goodbye!" Rick exclaimed angrily, then he took in Jesse
's worried expression, and the fight went out of him.  "Sorry."  He stared
down at his clenched hands.  "Jesse, there's something I . Gods, I don't
know how to say this!"

Jesse kept stroking his shoulders and back.  "It's okay, whatever it is,
just tell me."

"You know I never told my parents about us, about me being bisexual or
anything."

"Sure.  It's a big thing to work up to explaining."  He should know: his own
mother had been horrified and tried to convince him he was just confused
about his feelings.  He still felt sick when he remembered that day.  It was
as if she'd seen him as some disgusting stranger.  He also knew that his
lover's parents had had a difficult enough time over the passed year
understanding Rick's Wiccan beliefs and that he'd been afraid of alienating
them completely with an explanation of his sexuality.

"I can't talk to Mom now; it wouldn't be fair on her," Rick said, still not
meeting Jesse's eyes.

"Of course not.  I wouldn't expect you to."

"But I can't lie either.  Jess, I'm going to be at home a lot trying to help
my Mom get through this and I can't pretend and lie the whole time to her
about us.  I mean . I-I need for us to stop being lovers, just for a while.
Gods, Jess, don't hate me; I just can't handle mourning for Dad and lying
about us and ."

Jesse pulled the other boy into his arms and held onto him tightly, tears in
his eyes as he realised Rick was shaking.  "It's okay.  Ssshh, it's okay.  I
love you more than anyone in the world and we can do whatever you want.
Hell, the sex doesn't matter; we can stop that side of things for as long as
you need.  Everything's okay."

Rick clung to him, as if the rest of his life was drifting away and Jesse
was all he had to hold on to.  "I was so scared that I'd lose you when I
said that and I don't know what I'd do without you."

"I'm here.  I'll always be here for you."  Jesse rocked the other boy in his
arms and Rick cried for the first time since he'd been told about his
father's car accident.



August 1, 1989
Inglewood, Los Angeles

Steve asked himself what on earth he was doing as he walked into the man's
apartment.  A week ago he'd arrested a murderer in a gay bar and he'd been
unable to get the place out of his mind since then.  His experience with
Jack should have well-and-truly put him off the idea of sex with a man but
it hadn't.  Instead, he wanted to prove to himself that it could be fun and
guilt-free.  He didn't believe there was anything wrong with having sex with
a man but his times with Jack had always left him feeling ashamed and hurt.

When he'd walked into the gay bar tonight he hadn't known if he could see it
through: leave and have sex with someone he'd never met before.  Ben looked
a little like Jack - tall and dark-haired - but he had a relaxed sensuality
that made Steve think that this was actually possible.  They'd bought each
other drinks, chatted for maybe twenty minutes, then gone back to Ben's
place.

Steve refused the offer of coffee so they went straight into the bedroom.
It was a luxurious room: beige coloured walls, upon which hung several
framed paintings of exotic places; thick fawn carpet; and, appropriately, a
queen-sized bed which was covered with green silk sheets.  They had to have
been put on especially, Steve thought, but wouldn't silk sheets be a
nightmare to clean?  He recognised the thought as an avoidance tactic, his
instinct telling him to turn and run, or at least ask to take things more
slowly. *How the Hell did I end up here?* he asked himself, as Ben stripped
off his jacket and shirt.

Up close and seen in proper lighting rather than the bar's murky glow, Ben
looked older than he'd first appeared, close to Steve's own age.  The man's
sleek black hair had a hint of grey at the temples.  His expression was
confident to the point of arrogance as he undid the buttons of his black
silk shirt, giving the undressing the slow sensual approach of a
strip-tease, clearly certain that Steve would appreciate the view.  The fact
that Steve did enjoy it prevented him from minding the note of smugness in
the other man's attitude.  The cop removed his denim jacket and pulled off
his T-shirt in one fluid movement, then paused, and the other man took the
initiative by pulling him into a sitting position on the bed and kissing
him.

The kiss felt good.  Everything had always been such a rush with Jack that
he'd never really had the chance to stop and enjoy any of it.  He ran his
hands up and down the other man's lean torso, getting to know the feel of
the body, and Ben gave a murmur of pleasure, then began undoing the buttons
on Steve's jeans.  Full lips kissed his neck and nibbled on an earlobe and
Steve finally forgot his doubts and began to actively enjoy the experience.

They lay down and his boxers, and the rest of Ben's clothes, were tugged off
amid much kissing and rolling around.  Ben produced two condoms from the
bottom drawer of his oak bedside table and had eased one over Steve's penis
and the other onto his own, more quickly than the cop could blink.  He then
lay back down, half across Steve's muscled body and they kissed again.  The
cop could taste brandy within the moist cave of Ben's mouth; he'd never been
a big fan of the alcohol before but, as their tongues undulated like mating
snakes, he became a convert.

Ben's right hand was beneath Steve's shoulder but his left moved over the
cop's body, stroking, tickling and rubbing it to the peak of arousal.  Then
Ben stopped and leaned back on one elbow.

"What's wrong?" Steve gasped, his entire body aching.

The other man gave a slow grin and drawled, "Just enjoying the view," then
he lowered his head to kiss Steve's shoulder, and work his way painfully
slowly down the cop's torso.  When he took Steve's cock into his mouth the
cop exploded instantly.

It was the best sex he'd had with a man, and one of his strongest orgasms
ever, and Steve happily returned the favour, going down on the other man
until Ben yelled out his pleasure.

When Ben sat up, Steve yawned and said, "I guess we should clean up."

"Yeah. I'll just be a couple of minutes, then it's all yours."  Ben got out
of bed and paused to stand in front of the cop, naked and unselfconscious.
"I've got to be at work early tomorrow so you can't stay.  You don't mind,
do you?"  He headed for the bathroom without waiting for a reply.

Steve stared after him, unwilling to believe what he'd heard.  Nine minutes
later he left the man's apartment.

He'd never considered that anything could make feel like a prostitute but
Ben's casual dismissal had achieved just that.  The shame he'd felt every
time Jack left him straight after sex was back now, and it left a bitter
taste.  This was it, he decided.  He'd given it a second chance to work and
it hadn't: from now on there would be no more men.


May 10, 1993
University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA)

Lana collected her tray of food and looked around the staff canteen.  Ted
Maine, a  professor of Philosophy, nodded her over and she went to sit down
beside him and several other colleagues.

"You get on with Jerry Levan, don't you, Lana?" Ted said, scratching at his
red beard.

She shrugged.  "As much as anyone, I guess.  I've never socialised with him
outside work, but he's a solitary kind of man.  We sometimes chat about
Mythology.  Why do you ask?"

"Meg thinks there's something strange about him."

Lana gave the plump woman a querying look as she picked up her sandwich.
Megan Andrews pulled a face.  "I didn't say that exactly.  It's just . doesn
't he give you the creeps at all?  He's so intense and he talks about all
this Viking stuff as if it were real."

Lana laughed.  "I hate to have to tell you this, Meg, but when you've been
in the academic world for a few more years you'll find that half the
academic staff are a bit crazy."  Ted coughed and she added, "Present
company excluded, of course.  Okay, maybe not half of the staff, but there
are several professors who get so caught up in their books and the
University that they're not really living in the real world any  more.  Come
on, Ted; you know what I mean."

"All too well," he grinned.  "But the likes of Ethel Westbridge and Charles
Ward are so antiquated that it's not surprising they're a bit out of it.
They've existed so long in the academic world that they've forgotten there's
any other.  But Jerry can't be more than, what, forty?  Forty-five?  He can'
t be senile yet!  I know what Meg means; I reckon there's something a bit
odd about him."

"He's just passionate about Mythology," Lana said, catching sight of the
topic of their conversation sitting alone on the other side of the room.
For a moment, she felt a flicker of concern about the man, then she
dismissed it and returned to her food.


November 19, 1995
Community General Hospital, Los Angeles

"Steve, this is Jesse Travis, one of Community General's newest residents.
Jess, this is my son, Steve."

"Hi, nice to meet you," Jesse said, holding out his hand, and wondering why
all the men in Los Angeles seemed to be so tall.  He knew he was on the
short side but this was ridiculous: he was going to end up with a crick in
his neck from permanently peering up at people.

Steve shook the hand and smiled at the newcomer.  "Hello, how are you
getting on at Community General?"

*Nice smile*, Jesse thought. "It's great.  I'm really thrilled to be here."
*And getting more thrilled by the second: wow, that's a nice smile.*

"Good."  Steve then turned to his father. "Dad, I just called by to let you
know I'll be late getting back tonight, so don't make dinner for me, okay?"

"Work?" Mark Sloan asked in a sympathetic tone, then explained to Jesse,
"Steve is a detective at the LAPD."

"Yeah?  Hey, that must be really interesting," Jesse said.

"Sometimes," Steve told him.  "Other times it's just a pain; I have less
social life than my dad and that's just sad!"  Mark and Jesse laughed, then
the cop continued, "No, for once I'm not going to be working on a case.  I'm
meeting Lana Davis at the University and we're going out for a meal to catch
up."

"Oh, that's nice," Mark said happily.  "Say 'hi' to her from me, will you?"
He turned to Jesse once more to explain, "They dated as teenagers; it was
very sweet."

Steve rolled his eyes.  "A *long* time ago."  He glanced at his watch.  "I
gotta go.  I'm due in court in less than an hour.  Good to have met you,
Jess."

"Yeah, you too," Jesse agreed, watching the man turn and stride to the
elevator.


November 21, 1995
University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA)

Steve walked into the Humanities staffroom and looked around.  He spotted
Lana quickly, her long red hair making her stand out like a fox amongst
chickens.  She was wearing the kind of clothes she had worn when he'd first
known her as a teenager: jeans which had seen better days and a black
blouse.  She caught sight of him and smiled, and for a moment he was sixteen
again and she was the most important person in his life.  Then the feeling
melted into fondness towards an old friend.

They greeted each other with a hug and Lana gestured to the man she'd been
talking to.  "Have you met Jerry Levan?"

He took in the man, probably his own age, with brown hair, jeans and
old-fashioned tweed jacket.  The professor's face held an intense
expression, hazel eyes earnest behind gold-rimmed glasses, the thin line of
his mouth pursed.  The man was attractive but there was something about him
which Steve found unsettling.  He hid the feeling and smiled.  "No.  It's
good to meet you - I'm Steve Sloan."

They shook hands, the professor's tight smile doing nothing to change Steve'
s initial impression of him.  As he and Lana left the staffroom together, he
said, "I'd hate your job, you know.  You have to work with some very odd
people."

Lana smiled.  "Poor Jerry.  He's probably not done an unpleasant thing in
his life and most of the people I know say he's creepy."

"Yeah, 'poor Jerry'," Steve agreed dismissively.  "Now, where do you want to
go to eat?"


November 28, 1995
Mark's Beach House, Malibu, Los Angeles

"You've made a lot of food for two people," Steve commented, as he took in
the half dozen bowls of salad and quiche and jacket potatoes in the oven.

"Oh, didn't I tell you, I invited Jesse over.  You know, the new resident."

Steve recalled a vague image of a small over-eager man who didn't look old
enough to be a doctor.  "Uh-huh."

"He's new to LA and doesn't really know anyone yet so I ."

"Thought you'd take him under your wing and look after him," Steve concluded
with a smile.  "It's every waif and stray with you, isn't it, Dad?"

Mark Sloan laughed.  "I don't think I'm that bad!"  The doorbell rang at
that moment and, as he went to answer it, he told his son, "Be nice to him."

He returned with the new intern, both of them talking eagerly about some
operating procedure.  Jesse was wearing blue jeans and a black sweatshirt
and he looked older than he had at the hospital; perhaps it was the long
white medical coat which had given him the appearance of a kid dressing up.
When he saw Steve he smiled warmly and the cop found himself starting to
like the younger man.

Mark got the quiche and potatoes out of the oven and Jesse made appreciative
noises.  "I'm not much of a cook myself," he confessed.

"That makes three of us," Steve said.  "The quiche was bought."

As they went into the dining room, Jesse asked, "So what division of the
police force do you work in, Steve?"

June 1, 1996
Levan's Apartment, Los Angeles

"Before you go, I've got a present for you both," Jerry told the teenage
boys.

They looked warily at him and a part of him wanted to cry.  His own sons
knew so little of him that they were uneasy in his company.  He put on a
bright smile as he fetched two paper bags.

The boys opened them.  Paul's lack of enthusiasm for his gift was poorly
concealed.  "Norse mythology?"

Jerry's youngest son, Eric, opened his own book and flicked through it.  "I
remember you telling me bedtime stories about Loki and Odin," he said and
Jerry's smile became genuinely happy.  The boy continued, "This is the kinda
stuff you teach too, isn't it?"

Jerry put an arm round the boy.  "Yes, that's right."

The figure standing in the background took a step forward.  "Time to go
home, boys," she said, and Jerry felt a stab of annoyance: he wanted this to
be their home too.  Paul walked passed him to the front door with a quick
goodbye; his disinterest a pain in Jerry's heart.  Eric hugged his father
before moving away.

"Janice," he said as she began to follow them.  She turned back to him with
a note of reluctance.  "Can't the boys stay here for a whole weekend some
time?  I want to see more of them."

"You know the Courts said I had to be there when you saw them."

"That was years ago; I just reacted badly to you leaving.  They're my sons
and I want to get to know them."

The woman shook her head quickly.  "You threatened yourself, me, even them.
That isn't 'reacting badly'; that's unstable.  I can't stop you seeing them,
but I'll never leave them with you."


June 5, 1996
Downtown Los Angeles

Steve glanced at his watch.  "I've gotta go, Lana.  I'm meeting Jesse so we
can go watch the baseball game this afternoon."

The red-head smiled.  "This is the same Jesse who's been helping you all
week with your latest murder investigation?"

"I'm not sure I'd use the word helping," he joked.

"And the same Jesse whose living room you helped re-paint last weekend?"

"Same one," he agreed.

"Well, don't forget to invite me to the wedding," she told him with a
mischievous smile.

He stared at her in disbelief.  "Excuse me?"

"Well, when you're happy to spend virtually twenty-four hours a day with
someone, that's called a relationship."

He rolled his eyes.  "And that relationship is called *friendship*."  He
looked at his watch again.  "I really have to go."

"Young love: you just can't bear to be apart from him," she declared and he
laughed.

"You don't give up, do you?"  He got to his feet then bent down and kissed
her cheek.

"Take care, Steve," she told him fondly.

"You too, Lana."

As he drove to Jesse's house, Steve thought about what his friend had said.
He'd never noticed it happening but somehow Jesse *had* ended up becoming
involved in every part of his life.  When the doctor had first arrived in
LA, Steve had tried to keep the man from joining in with murder
investigations but, with Dad and Amanda to lead him astray, that had been a
lost cause.  The friendship had snuck up on him.  Jesse had simply been an
acquaintance for a number of months, then the two of them had begun
socialising together.  And now he couldn't imagine not having the young man
in his life.  If anything important happened to him, his father and Jesse
were the two people he wanted to tell.  If he had some time away from work,
Jesse was usually the person he wanted to spend it with.

Lana's idea that there might be more than friendship between them had hit a
nerve though.  While he was certain that Jesse didn't feel the same way, he
sometimes found himself watching the younger man, enjoying just looking at
him.  He'd even had a couple of erotic dreams about him, which he'd hated
himself for.  He was certain Jesse wouldn't stop being his friend if he ever
found out about the attraction - the doctor was bisexual after all - but
Jesse might feel uncomfortable about it and Steve didn't ever want that to
happen.  Or, worse, although a lot less likely, Jesse might return the inter
est and suggest they get involved and, given his own track record with men,
that would destroy their relationship.

No, he and Jesse had a great friendship and he wouldn't let anything
jeopardise that.


10 June 1996
Jesse's Apartment, Los Angeles

When Jesse answered his doorbell, he didn't need to be told that something
important had happened.  Rick's face was lit up and he was practically
dancing on the spot in the doctor's doorway.

"Come on in," Jesse said, curious about the change, as he followed his
friend into the living room.  They'd never gone back to being lovers after
the 'pause' in their relationship at college. If Jesse had known this at the
time he would have been devastated, but their friendship had remained a
strong one.  Rick had proven this when he'd moved from Chicago to Los
Angeles, to make this his home so he could stay near his former lover.  When
they'd first got here they had met up once or twice a week to chat or go
clubbing together and, if that had now tailed off to every other month, it
hadn't made Jesse doubt the strength of their bond.

Rick didn't even wait to sit down before telling Jesse his news.  "Wendy and
I are engaged.  She's agreed to marry me - can you believe it?"

"Of course I can believe it: Wendy's a smart girl who knows a great guy when
she meets him."  Jesse hugged his friend.  "It's fantastic news."  Rick had
introduced him to Wendy about six months ago, shortly after they'd started
dating, and the three of them had met up several times since then.  Wendy
was bubbly, attractive and intelligent - the latter making him surprised to
find out she was a model, although he'd instantly ticked himself off for
finding it surprising.  The fact that she had also clearly adored Rick had
completed Jesse's good opinion of her.

He'd thought that the couple were serious about each other the last time he'
d seen them, and having this confirmed delighted him.  He searched his
feelings for a twinge of jealousy and, not finding it, wondered when he'd
stopped being in love with Rick.  He'd still been head-over-heels when they'
d first moved to Los Angeles, but then his new life and friends here had
become increasingly important to him and, at some point, his feelings for
Rick had become pure friendship.

"I want you to be my Best Man," Rick said.

Jesse was torn between happiness at being a part of this, and doubt about it
being the right thing to do.  "I'd love to but, um, are you sure that's okay
with Wendy?"

Rick rolled his eyes.  "Are you still worried about that?  Wendy is fine
about the fact that we used to be involved; she really likes you."

"I know.  I think she's great too, the perfect woman for you.  But she still
might not want one of your ex's to be your Best Man - did you talk it over
with her?"

"Yes, last night, and she thought it was a wonderful idea."

"Wow."  Jesse beamed at his friend.  "In that case, yes, I will very happily
be your Best Man."


November 6, 2001
Levan's Apartment

"Wait in the car.  I just need to talk to your dad a minute," Janice told
her two children.

She closed the door behind them and turned to Jerry, her floral scent almost
over-powering close-up.  She took a breath before speaking and he knew from
old that this meant she was nervous.  "Jerry, I've had an offer of a job in
Boston and I'm taking it.  We'll be moving in a couple of weeks."

He didn't believe his ears for a moment.  "You're taking the boys away from
me?"

"I'm sorry, Jerry, but I think it's for the best.  I know you've been
trying, but you still make them uncomfortable.  Paul, especially, remembers
when we first got divorced, how you went off the rails."

"You walked out on me from out of the blue!" he exclaimed.  "Of course I was
upset!"

"You were more than upset: you scared Paul and Eric, and you scared me.
Hell, you sometimes scared me when we were married.  I don't want you in the
boys' lives any more, Jerry."  She had turned and walked out of the house
before he could respond.

He stared at the closed door.  "No," he whispered.  She was leaving?  Taking
his children away forever?  "No!"  He reached out a shaking hand to the
table in front of him, clutching it for support, rocking himself back and
forth.  He had to do something.  He had to find a way to keep his children.
His eyes fell onto one of his numerous texts on Norse mythology and he
grabbed it, like someone turning to an old friend.

"The gods are doing this," he muttered, turning page after page.  He stopped
on a full page picture of Odin.  "Why have you turned on me?  I'll fight
you.  I'll fight ."

He tossed and turned in his bed that night, and the fire burned, red as
blood, in his dreams.


November 7, 2001; 2032 hours
Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles

It was growing dark outside and the woman, having just got off the bus, was
in a hurry to get home.  She didn't pay any attention to the sound of
footsteps behind, but when someone touched her arm, she jumped and spun
round.

"What the ..?"  She stared at the man.  "Jerry?  I thought ." She gave a
relieved laugh.  "Never mind.  Are you all right?"

He looked pale, ragged faced, in the moonlight.  "I-I'm sorry."

"No, it's fine.  I just didn't recognise you for a moment.  You can't be too
careful alone at night."

"I don't want to hurt you ."

"No, I ."  She had been going to say that she knew that - that it was only
the suddenness of his appearance that had scared her - but the look in his
eyes stopped her.  His expression had always been intense but there was
something in his eyes now that was wild.  She felt scared again and told
herself she was being ridiculous.  "Did you want to talk to me?"

"I . There's something I have to do; I don't want to, but I have to.  I'm
sorry."


November 7, 2001; 2210 hours
Pacific Beach, Los Angeles

Steve looked down at the corpse and pain ripped through him.  The part of
his brain that could still function thought about when he'd seen her last;
thought that if only he turned away and refused to believe it, then somehow
this wouldn't be true.  He'd known her for nearly all his life - how could
she be gone?  How could some bastard have hurt her like this and then taken
away her life?

The uniformed police officer at the scene was speaking and Steve took in the
words without really hearing them.  "The body's been really torn apart," the
cop said in a tone that could have been discussing the weather, "and it
looks like some kind of ritual was performed here, presumably with the
victim as the sacrifice.  We haven't got an ID on her yet."

Steve said, "She lived near Palisades Park and worked at the UCLA. Her name
was Lana Davis."

November 8, 2001; 0615 hours
Community General Hospital

His father had phoned Steve when he hadn't come home that night and the
detective had explained about Lana Davis's murder.  It was an impulse that
led him now to the Community General.  The forensic team had come up with
few clues and Steve was hoping that his father might get one of his famous,
or infamous, hunches.

He found Mark, Jesse and Amanda on a coffee break in the main Hospital
cafeteria and their sympathy washed over him like salt water in a wound: if
he let go now he might never be able to regain control over his grief.

"I'm really sorry, Steve.  I know Lana was a good friend of yours," Jesse
said.

"And to have seen the body like that must have been terrible," Amanda added,
a hand on his arm.

"I just want to find the bastard who did it," Steve said grimly.

"Have you got any clues?" Mark asked.

"There were some strange shapes carved into the body and marked in the mud
all around it.  I think it could be some kind of cult sacrifice, like
Witchcraft or some other kind of devil worship."

"Real Witchcraft is a Pagan religion and the Devil is a Christian concept.
They have nothing to do with each other," Jesse ventured.  When everyone
looked at him in surprise, he said, "A friend of mine is a Witch.  Actually,
he did some study of old religions at college.  Do you want me to give him a
call and see if he recognises what those symbols you found stand for?"

Steve nodded, a part of his mind digesting the unusual idea of Jesse being
friends with a Witch, while the rest could think of nothing but Lana.
"Thanks.  If he can translate them, that would be a big help."


November 8, 2001; 0830 hours
Police Chief Masters' office at the LAPD

Steve had a good idea what to expect when Police Chief Masters called him
into his office.  He knocked on the side of the open door as he let himself
in, greeted the man behind the desk, and waited to hear if his guess was
correct.

Masters lounged back in his chair, looking up at Steve with eyes that were
said to recognise a guilty man at a glance.  Steve wouldn't have put it that
strongly but he believed in the officer's determination to reach the truth.
He hadn't trusted Masters when they'd first met, had even suspected the man
of conspiring to commit murder, but that was long passed.  They'd been wary
of each other for a while after this incident, but Steve had now grown to
like and trust his boss.

Masters came to the point at once.  "Officer McKinsey's report indicates
that you said you knew the victim, Lana Davis.  How is that?"

"She was one of my oldest friends.  We practically grew up together."

"In that case ."

"I know what you're going to say, Chief," Steve interrupted, ready for this.
"You don't think I should be in charge of this case because of my personal
emotions."  The seated man nodded and Steve continued, "I can't stay out of
this, sir.  You've known me to be involved with cases in which I had an
emotional involvement, and have there ever been complaints about me acting
unprofessionally?"

"From time to time," Masters informed him.

Steve grimaced.  "Sir, if you stop me investigating this officially, you
know that I'll just start investigating unofficially.  I have to know what
happened.  Tell someone to keep an eye on me; put someone else in charge: I
don't care.  Just don't take me off the case."

Masters narrowed his eyes for a moment, then seemed to reach his decision.
He nodded.  "Okay, you're in charge for now, but if your emotions take over
I'll have you replaced."

"Yes, sir."


November 8, 2001; 0900 hours
Community General Hospital

"Hey, Rick," he said into the telephone.

"Jesse?" the voice answered.  "Hi, it's great to hear from you.  How are
you?  How's everything going?"

"It's all fine, for me at least, but I was wondering if I could ask a big
favour."

"Just tell me what you need," the man said and Jesse smiled, remembering why
he was so fond of his friend.

"It's a case Steve Sloan is working on.  A murder case.  There was some kind
of ancient writing at the scene and I was wondering if you could take a look
at the crime photos of it and see if it looks familiar.  Steve thinks it
could be some kind of religious sacrifice; something like that, anyway."

"Sure.  I don't know how much use I'll be - it's years since I studied that
kind of thing - but I'll have a go.  Why don't you fax it to me and I'll
find out what I can and drop round to your place this evening - is that soon
enough?"

"That would be great."


November 8, 2001; 0910 hours
LAPD; An Incident Room

Steve stood in front of a group of officers and pinned the last of the
photographs up on a board on the wall, before turning to face them.  "At
2145 hours last night, the body of Lana Davis was found on Pacific Beach.
The Coroner's report ."  A feeling of nausea ran through him at the thought
of what had been done to Lana.  He subdued the emotion with difficulty and
began again.  "The Coroner's report indicates that the victim's throat was
cut and the body was then dismembered and marked in a fashion that might
suggest religious sacrifice.  The victim worked in the English Department of
the UCLA.  Walker, Li and Kolovski: you'll be with me interviewing the
victim's colleagues.  Dent and Brown: I want you to set up house-to-house
visits around the murder area, in case anyone saw anything ."

He ran off the list of instructions, then headed to the UCLA to begin the
interviews.


November 8, 2001
Jesse's Apartment

"It's great to see you," Jesse told his friend.  "How long has it been since
we last met up?  Over a year?"

"Nearly two," Rick answered and they hugged once more before sitting down on
the couch.  "Your hair's nearly as long as it was in college - it suits
you."

"Well, you look shattered - great, but exhausted - so what've you been up
to?"

Rick laughed.  "Nothing fun, unfortunately.  My current job seems to need
twenty-four hour a day attention."

"Tell me about it," Jesse agreed with feeling.

As the small-talk trailed off, Rick opened his briefcase and got out the
faxed crime photos and a page of notes.  "I checked out the symbols you sent
me."

Jesse moved closer and peered over the other man's shoulder.  "Any luck."

"Yeah, they're Norse runic symbols."

Jesse blinked.  "Huh?"

Rick grinned at him.  "Do you know anything about Norse or Viking mythology?
Thor, Odin, Loki, Freyr?"

"Oh, yeah, Thor: has a big axe."

Rick nearly fell off the couch, he laughed so hard, and Jesse swatted his
arm lightly.  "Get your mind out of the gutter!  I didn't mean it like
*that*."

Rick wiped the tears from his eyes.  "Right."  He giggled again then tried
to be serious.  "Yes, the axe - that's the guy.  Anyway, the bad news, if
Steve wants clues, is that the symbols could mean anything.  Runes were
often used to find answers to problems in life but, without knowing what the
question was, the answer can't be guessed at.  The symbols don't mean
anything except to the killer."

"Is there any good news?" Jesse asked hopefully.

"A police profiler might be able to tell you a bit about the killer from
this.  The best I can do is say that the killer obviously has some kind of
belief in the supernatural to use the runes in this situation.  Very few
people would know about these kinds of Norse rituals, but I've no idea how
you could find out who those people are."

Jesse frowned.  "How about academics?  The victim worked at the UCLA?"

"It's very possible, but then I know a bit about it and I work in a Design
department.  If someone wanted to, they could find out all about the subject
on the Internet."

"I take your point."

"Look, if Steve or anyone else on the case wants to talk to me about the
runes, tell them to just call me."  He searched through his wallet then
handed Jesse a business card with his phone numbers on.

"Great; I'll pass it on."  Jesse glanced at his watch and was surprised at
how late it was. "Why don't you stay here overnight, or do you want to get
back to Wendy?"

"Wendy and I have separated, Jess," Rick said with a grimace.  "It's been
eight months now and I can't see us getting back together."

"Why not?  You two were so good for each other?"

"You remember what Wendy's mother was like?"

"Of course I do."  Jesse vividly recalled Katherine Windsor who'd been so
crazy and psychotic that she'd killed Wendy's previous two fianc├ęs and tried
to attack Rick.

"It never occurred to me that Wendy could ever act like that, but she'd get
into these rages where she couldn't control herself and broke everything,
hurt me, sometimes hurt herself.  I begged her to see a psychiatrist but she
wouldn't.  In the end, I just couldn't cope any more.  A part of me still
loves her but I can't live like that."

Jesse put a hand on his friend's arm.  "Rick, I'm really sorry.  I wish I'd
known you were going through all that - I would have done anything to help."

"I know."  Rick smiled.  "I've thought about our time at university together
a lot recently.  I was happier during those years than I've ever been before
or since.  You were really good for me.  We could talk to each other about
anything, couldn't we?"

"Yeah."  Jesse thought back.  It seemed like an incredibly long time ago but
his memories from then were happy ones.  "Life seemed a lot simpler.  I
guess we didn't have any of the responsibilities we have now."

"That's true."  Rick stretched and said, "In answer to the question you
asked ages ago, yeah, I'd love to stay here overnight."

Jesse only had the one bed and an extremely uncomfortable couch, so they
shared the double bed.

"Now this is like old times," Rick commented as Jesse, having returned from
the bathroom, got into bed beside him.

"Not quite."  Their eyes met for a moment, then they both laughed,
releasing the tension in the air, and they got some sleep.

November 9, 2001
Outside Jesse's apartment

Steve's determination to solve the case had kept him focussed the previous
day but, when he'd closed his eyes that night, he could think of nothing but
Lana's corpse.  He remembered details that he'd not taken in at the time:
the expression in her open eyes; the savage cuts over her body ...  He
quickly gave up on the idea of sleep and spent the next few hours reviewing
the files he'd brought home.

He remembered that Jesse had an early shift at the hospital this morning, so
he drove over to his friend's house in the early morning to find out if he'd
discovered anything about the symbols on Lana's corpse.

He locked his car and turned towards Jesse's apartment block.  A man was
leaving the building and Steve frowned, recognising the face but unable to
place it until he remembered the Katherine Windsor case and realised that
this was the doctor's friend, Rick.  Why would he have stayed the night at
Jesse's place? he wondered, then a suspicion entered his mind.  The doctor
had said he'd first realised he was bisexual at University and he'd
mentioned that he and Rick had been roommates there.  Had they been lovers?
Were they lovers now?  The thought sent a wave of shock and anger through
him and, not stopping to think what he was doing, he hurried to Jesse's door
and pounded on it.

Jesse opened it straight away, his expression sleepy.  He was wearing a
terry cloth robe and Steve had a horrible suspicion that there was nothing
beneath it.  Before Jesse could say a word, he said,  "I saw Rick just
leaving."

"Yeah, we talked over the case."  Jesse stepped back from the door to let
him in and, rubbing sleep from his eyes, followed him to the chairs.

"All night?"

Jesse sat down heavily on an armchair and stared at the older man, a
confused frown creasing his forehead.  "Excuse me?"

"If the two of you are involved, it's not very professional ." Steve said in
a condemning tone.

Jesse reacted to the anger, his voice growing louder and hard-edged.  "Hey,
*you're* the cop, not me.  I can do whatever the Hell I like!"

"Then you are lovers?"

"What business is it of yours?" Jesse queried, his whole body tense.  "I
can't believe you're suddenly acting like this.  I thought you were okay
about
me being bisexual."

"I am."

"No, you're not!  You're treating me like a criminal over just the thought
that me and Rick might be involved.  It's obvious that you've got a problem
with it."

"Jess, I'm not prejudiced," Steve insisted tightly.

"How can you say that?" the doctor yelled.

"Because I've done that kind of thing with a guy myself!" Steve shouted
back.  The moment the words were out of his mouth, he cursed himself for
speaking.  Jesse was staring at him, stunned, and the abrupt silence of the
room was unnerving.

"You're ..?" Jesse broke off, frowning, then started again.  "You never
said.  I told you all about my past and you never said a word.  Mark didn't
say anything ."

"Dad doesn't know," Steve said quietly, not looking at the other man.

"Why?  He's never had the least problem with me; you can't think he'd be
outraged over you being bisexual."

"No."  Steve turned to the couch and sank onto it.  "No, it wasn't that."

Jesse leaned forward in his chair.  "So why haven't you ever told anyone
before?"  The anger had left his voice and he simply sounded puzzled.

"I couldn't."  Steve sighed and rubbed his face.  "Hell, Jess, it's a long
story."

The doctor shrugged.  "I'm not in any hurry."

So Steve told him all about Jack and the one-night-stand and what a mess he'
d made of the relationships.  "That's why I decided not to get involved with
any more men, and that's why I didn't tell anyone about it," he concluded.

"You shouldn't blame yourself for what happened," Jesse said,
sympathetically.  "You didn't do anything wrong except pick the wrong guys.
I didn't realise how lucky I'd been until I heard that."

"You and Rick ..?"

"Yeah, he was my lover at college, but we're just friends now.  He just
stayed over because it was late."

"You don't have to explain," Steve said, embarrassed.  "I don't know why I
acted the way I did when I saw him - I guess it was just the thought that
there was a load of stuff I didn't know about you."

Jesse laughed.  "Steve, I don't think there's anything you don't know about
me, so you don't need to worry about it, okay?"

Steve nodded, then glanced at his watch.  "I should be getting to work soon.
I just called in about those symbols."

Jesse told him what Rick had said, ending, "It's not much help, is it?"

Steve shrugged.  "I'm not really sure, but I do appreciate you asking Rick
for me."  He got to his feet and Jesse followed suit.

"Look, why don't you come round for dinner tonight and tell me how the case
is going.  You know it always helps you to talk over the facts in a case and
I know you probably wouldn't want to let Mark get too involved, as he knew
Lana too."

"I think it has shocked him."

"And what about you?  Did you sleep at all last night?"

Steve smiled at the doctor's concern, then the happiness melted away as he
thought of Lana again.  "Not really.  I can't really take in that she's
dead.  I just need to somehow get the case solved, then I'll figure out a
way to cope with what's happened."

"I'm here any time you need to talk, or just need some company."

"That means a lot, Jess."  Steve tried to swallow the lump in his throat,
and realised how relieved he was that the doctor knew the truth about him.
Well, relieved that he could be completely honest now, but a touch
disappointed at Jesse's matter-of-fact reaction to the news.  A part of him,
usually smothered, had hoped the doctor would fall into his arms at this
point.  As he looked into the sapphire eyes of his friend, he tried to
remember why revealing his feelings would be such a bad idea. "I'll take you
up on the dinner tonight."

"Good."  The round eyes crinkled as the doctor smiled.  "I'll see you later
then."


November 10, 2001; 0900 hours
LAPD: An Incident Room

Steve hadn't realised how little the investigation had found out until the
officers involved met to discuss it the next day.  None of the interviews,
either at the University or the murder scene, had provided any new
information: no one had seen the murder and no one had a clue why it had
been committed. And the coroner's report, going into explicit detail about
wounds and cause of death, made Steve feel sick but didn't lead anywhere.

Ignoring with difficulty the photos on the walls around him of Lana's
corpse,  Steve said to the other officers, "The only real clues we have at
this stage are the forensic evidence and the symbols cut into the victim.
Forensics have collected clothing fibres and hairs from the crime scene,
some of which are likely to be the murderer's.  Psychologically speaking, we
know that the killer believes in these Norse runes and perhaps other aspects
of Viking mythology."

Kolovski cleared his throat, and said, "How does that help us?  Do you think
the murderer's an academic?"

"It's one possibility," Steve answered.  "I want you and Li to visit shops
in LA which specialise in this kind of thing: get lists of anyone who's
bought books on Norse mythology, or Norse runes, or anything else to do with
the subject."

"I don't know much about it," Dawn Li said, "but could there be some kind of
cult group involved?  I mean, is this religious?"

"I thought originally that this might be linked with devil worship or
something of that nature, but apparently not.  A friend of a friend knows a
bit about it and has agreed to help with any questions: his name is Rick
Brookes and this is his work number."  Steve handed the business card to Li.
"Get in touch with him if you want to find out more about what we're dealing
with."

"Okay," the woman said, nodding.

"I want the rest of us to work on the unproven assumption that the murder
was committed by someone the victim knew.  I'm going to talk to her family
again as they weren't up to talking much yesterday.  Dent, Brown and
Walker - you're to talk to her friends and find out if anyone had any kind
of grudge or showed any hostility to her about anything.  You know the
drill.  I want suspects for this murder."


November 10, 2001; 1200 hours
University of California in Los Angeles

Jerry was on-edge.  There had been police at the college for most of the
previous two days, their presence enough to bother him even without the
interview he'd had with the blond-haired cop Lana had been friends with.  He
hadn't realised the man was a policeman before and, for some reason, was
frightened by the thought that the man was working on the case.

He hadn't considered that there would be a murder investigation; it
certainly hadn't occurred to him that he might be caught and put in prison.
Nerves frayed, he decided that he had to ensure the help of the gods with
another sacrifice.

Now it was just a matter of deciding who should die.



November 10, 2001; 2220 hours
Jesse's Apartment

They didn't talk about the case as they ate take-out pizza.  Steve had put
the evidence file to one side and had been relieved when Jesse hadn't
immediately asked questions about the investigation.  Both men were quiet,
concentrating on the food, but every now and then Steve caught Jesse
throwing a concerned glance at him.  He felt a numb exhaustion with a
nagging of emotional pain behind it; he wondered exactly how much of this
Jesse could read from his face.

He finished his last slice and wiped his fingers on a napkin, then moved the
file in front of him and opened it.

"Have you got any leads?" Jesse asked.

"Nope."

"A hunch?"

"Not even that," Steve admitted with a sigh  Jesse leaned forward, across
his vision, to glance at the information.  The cop tensed as the doctor's
leg touched his, feeling the heat from the man's body, inhaling his cologne,
unable to tear his eyes from that profile of the doctor's face.  Jesse
seemed to sense a change in him and glanced round.  Steve met his eyes and
the moment lengthened, filled with only the sound of a heartbeat.

"Steve," Jesse said, a note of wonder in his tone, then he sat back down, a
hand reaching out to touch the other man's chest.  The caress was light,
hesitant, and Steve's own reaction mirrored the uncertainty, as his hand
moved to touch Jesse's face, the lightest stroke down the younger man's face
and through the silken hair against his neck.

They leaned forward, lips barely touching at first, yet that contact was
enough to bring every part of Steve's body to life.  The next kiss, when it
was clear that neither of them was going to pull away, was hungry and
never-ending.  Jesse's hands moved from their feather-light neutral position
on Steve's shoulders, one of them slipping around his waist while the other
caressed his neck and hair.  Steve's arms completed the clinch, their two
bodies now pressed so tightly together that, even through his own clothes,
he could feel the buttons on Jesse's shirt leaving a horizontal pattern down
his torso.

His left hand slipped beneath Jesse's shirt, poised to move away if the
doctor showed any reluctance to move on so quickly.  Instead, one of Jesse's
hands began to work on the knot of Steve's tie, undoing it with ease and,
still kissing him deeply, unbuttoning it.  The rest of their clothes
followed and a frantic coupling on the couch was followed by a leisurely
exploration of each other's bodies in Jesse's bedroom.

Steve had no idea when he fell asleep, only that it was late, and he was
feeling incredibly happy at the time.

His pager went off in the early hours of the morning and Steve had to search
round, naked, until he finally found it by a chair in the living room.  He
answered it then hurried to clean up in the bathroom, before returning to
dress in Jesse's bedroom.  Not fully awake until he phoned the Station, his
mind was then filled with thoughts of the case, and it was the most tempting
sight in the world that stopped him in his tracks and brought every aspect
of the previous night vividly to mind.

Jesse was semi-awake and peering at him over the top of the quilt in a dazed
fashion.  The thick brown and green checked quilt was crumpled and askew
after the two men had made love on top of it as well as beneath it.  It hung
half off the bed so that Jesse was only partially covered by it.  The left
side of his naked body was revealed: long golden leg, slim hip and smooth
tanned chest.  After seeing Jesse fully clothed, a person might have been
forgiven for assuming that, naked, he would have a skinny body.  It wasn't
the case.  His body was slim but with a hint of muscle all over.  Steve
recalled lying beneath that body, revelling in the passionate strength of
the man's embrace.  He could state categorically that Jesse was no wimp.

And as for the doctor's face . Steve didn't understand how anyone could
resist the man.  Much as he'd denied it to himself, Steve had always found
Jesse attractive, but as the years passed the sight of the man had become
increasingly beautiful to him.  It became not just the wide azure eyes, but
the joie de vivre and caring that shone out of them.  Jesse's happy grin was
contagious, but Steve had learnt to recognise all the different smiles and
the myriad of feelings they conveyed.  The blond hair perfectly framed his
face and had proven to be as silky soft as it had always looked.

Steve's smile grew.  The other man's hair was currently so mussed up that it
stood up on end in various places, while being pillow-flattened in others.
The azure eyes were barely open and looked ready to surrender to gravity at
any moment.  And the man was *still* a more incredible sight than anyone
else
Steve could imagine.

"Work?" the doctor croaked and rubbed his eyes.

Steve's entire body was begging to return to his lover's arms. "Another
murder," he answered, turning his back so as to resist the tempting sight,
and reaching for his clothes.

"Damn," Jesse said with a grimace.  "Is it the same MO as Lana's death?"

"Yeah."

Jesse paused, biting his lip, then crawled forward on the bed and touched
Steve's shoulder.  The cop turned and Jesse said, "Are you sure it's a good
idea that you handle this case?  I know you want to solve it for Lana's
sake, but given how personally involved you are, could it be better if
someone else took over?"

"My captain suggested it, but you just answered the question yourself.  I
have to do this for Lana; I'd never forgive myself if I didn't."

Jesse put his arms round the older man and Steve sank into the embrace for a
moment, his head against the other man's shoulder.  He could feel Jesse's
sympathy and desire to help him and it made him feel unexpectedly protected.
He wanted nothing more than to stay here, letting Jesse take away all
thought of how painful the rest of the world could be, but he had to get to
a crime scene.

He pulled away.  "I have to go."


November 11, 2001
University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA)

For the first few hours of work, Steve's mind was focused solely on the
murder case.  The corpse was a colleague of Lana's, a middle-aged professor
from the English department, so there was a link between the murders; it was
up to Steve to find out what else they could have in common that could lead
to their deaths.  He returned to the UCLA.

At 9.30am, in the middle of yet more interviews, he caught a glimpse of a
young man with blond hair, and thoughts of Jesse flooded his mind.  When
they'd made love the previous night it had seemed like the best idea in the
world, but now he was having serious doubts about it.  He didn't want to
wreck their friendship and his track-record with relationships, especially
relationships with men, was enough to make him doubt that it could work.

Besides, how soon would it be before Jesse regretted getting involved with
him, if he didn't regret it already? What exactly did he have to offer the
doctor?  A fear of commitment; a 24 hour working day; and the fact that he
was more than a decade older than the other man!

He had to tell Jesse it was over before it blew up and hurt them both.

"Lieutenant," Kolovski said, distracting him from his thoughts.  "You know
that list we've been compiling, of people who've bought books on Norse
mythology?"

"Yeah?"

"One of them is a lecturer here at the UCLA."

Steve's attention was focused solely on his colleague now.  "Who is it?"

"A man named Jerry Levan."

Steve recalled the man at once - he'd interviewed him less than an hour
ago - and several of his colleagues had described him as 'odd'.  Steve
remembered that Lana had introduced Levan to him years ago and he was sure
there had been mention then of the professor being a strange man.  If only
he'd taken it seriously.  Lana might still be .  He cut off the thought and
accompanying emotions.  "Let's go get him."

"You want to arrest him?" Kolovski queried, doubtful.  "On what evidence?"

"We'll wing it."


November 11, 2001; 1400 hours
Police Chief Masters' office at the LAPD

"What the Hell are you playing at, Sloan?"

Steve grimaced and didn't bother asking for clarification of this remark
from his superior.  "Levan's guilty - I know it.  He knew both victims ."

"So did hundreds of staff and students at the UCLA," Masters interrupted.

"He's fascinated by Norse mythology and bought numerous books about it."

"He's a mythology professor: of course he knows about the subject."

"He's unbalanced.  He was in a mental hospital when he was younger."

"Thirty years ago?  Have you got anything that links him directly with these
deaths."

Steve sighed, frustrated.  He knew in his gut that they'd got the killer; he
also knew he couldn't prove it.  "No, sir, but if you'll let me put a tail
on him or at least collect hair samples to compare with those found at the
crime scenes ."

"And have him run to the nearest newspaper with a story about police
harrassment?  Not a chance.  You've got nothing on him, Lieutenant, and you
should never have arrested him.  Now, get him out of the Station before I
start questioning the wisdom of letting you handle this case."

"Yes, sir."


November 11, 2001; 1920 hours
Jesse's Apartment

Jesse opened the door and his face lit up at the sight of Steve.  "Hi, I
wasn't sure what time you'd finish at work but I was hoping you'd come over.
You're actually in perfect time for dinner."

"You've cooked?" Steve queried, with a touch of disbelief.  Jesse tended to
reheat or microwave or eat take-out or live on snacks.

Jesse looked at him blankly.  "I was about to phone for take-out."

Steve couldn't help but grin.  "Figures."  He followed Jesse into the living
room and they sat down on  the couch.

"So what do you feel like?"  The doctor raised an eyebrow and gave him a
suggestive grin.  "Apart from me."

He leaned forward to kiss Steve.  For a fraction of a second, the older man
knew that this was the time he should stops things if he intended to, then
their lips met and desire raced through him.  He sank back against the
couch, Jesse on top of him.

Four hours later, Steve looked down into the sleeping face of his lover.
Jesse looked gorgeous and ironically innocent in sleep.  The younger man
didn't seem to have the slightest concern that they could make their
relationship work and Steve wondered what exactly he himself had been so
concerned about earlier.  *I worry too much*, he decided with a smile, then
leaned down to kiss the lips of his sleeping lover, and settled down beside
him, arms round the younger man.


November 15, 2001
Levan's Apartment

Jerry slammed down the phone.  Why wasn't anything getting better?  Two of
his enemies were gone: Ragnarok should have been averted and there shouldn't
be anyone to keep his children from him.  Instead, his life was more of a
mess than ever.  When the police had arrested him he'd thought that the gods
had all forsaken him.  He'd been released, but he couldn't stop looking over
his shoulder, waiting for them to pounce once more.

He thought about the first killing and shuddered.  He'd liked Lana.  When
she died he felt as if he was fulfilling his destiny but later he'd been
plagued by more of the dreams.  He'd convinced himself that he just had to
see it through and rid the world of the other gods who were posing as
humans.

Ice slid through his body as he wondered if he could possibly have been
wrong about the identity of the gods.  It had made sense that his colleagues
must be the ones thwarting him, but then why wasn't anything getting better?
He ran into the lounge for his Norse mythology books and began to pour over
them.

Two hours later he began to weep.  The gods played cruel tricks: he hadn't
avoided Ragnarok; he'd set the events in motion that would lead to the
destruction of everything.  The killings had led his enemies to him.  How
could he not have realised?  That detective, Steve something, was Thor's
human disguise; it was obvious.  He was tall, strong, a protector.  Of
course he had to be Thor!

He thought of Lana's meaningless death and felt sick.  The only way he could
put events right was to kill his real enemies.  He would find the detective
and follow him until the man revealed all the gods to him.  Then they would
die.


November 16, 2001
Rick's Apartment

Rick had been thinking about Jesse all day.  He'd had a bad feeling about
the case the police were working on from the moment his friend had told him
about it.  He'd dismissed the niggling feeling at first but, when the two
police officers had contacted him for information about Norse runes, the
sensation had come back, stronger than before.

As soon as he got back home from work, he changed into a T-shirt and
comfortable jogging pants, then brought various objects into the living
room.  He used a broom to sweep the area, a ritual to purify the room, and
something which always put him into the right mindset for casting a spell.

He then lit the candles scattered around the room and the incense burner of
mixed oils.  He sat on the carpet, cross-legged, meditating and clearing his
mind of all thoughts for half an hour before he was ready to do the spell.

He then collected a photo of Jesse, from their shared college days, and his
wand.  He drew an invisible circle around himself with the wand and moved
clockwise around the circle, murmuring the words that would make it a safe
sacred place for him, then he sat down once more.

He took several deep breaths, the burning oils making the air pungent, then
picked up the picture of Jesse.  He concentrated on it, imagining his
friend, and began speaking the words of a protection spell.  From out of
nowhere he felt a darkness all around him . no, not around him, he slowly
realised: around Jesse.  He tried to reach out with his mind, to understand
what was going on, but the darkness slipped away.  He continued with the
spell, then put out the candles and oil, and put away the magical items.

He had never encountered anything like this while he was making a spell, and
wasn't sure what it meant.  The spell which had been supposed to allay his
concerns and protect Jesse had only increased his worry.  He picked up the
phone and called his friend, saying only that he had a bad feeling about the
case, and telling the doctor to be careful.  He didn't know enough to say
more than this, and was sure the doctor didn't take him seriously.

He hoped the protection spell had worked because he had a feeling Jesse
would need it.


November 17, 2001
Community General Hospital

The two of them sat opposite one another in the hospital canteen.  Jesse
played with his food for a while then launched into an explanation of what
was on his mind: "Steve, there's something I want to talk about and, if you
don't want to yet, that's okay.  It's just bothering me a bit 'cos I don't
like keeping secrets.  But, I mean, Mark is your father so if you don't want
to talk to him yet, I understand.  I'm not trying to talk you into it ."

The cop waved his hands in front of his lover's face to try to stop the flow
of words.  In the pause, he said, "Are you saying you'd like to tell dad
about us?"

"If you do.  If you don't, that's ."

"Jess," Steve interrupted, "I think that's a really good idea."

The doctor stared at him, blue eyes round.  "Really?  You're not just saying
that to please me?"

Steve didn't dare kiss his lover in such a public place so he said softly,
"There are a lot of things I'd do to please you ." He paused to admire Jesse
's blushing smile then continued, "but I'm not keen on secrets either.  I've
kept my sexuality to myself for too long as it is.  I really hope dad will
understand."

"Of course he will," Jesse reassured him.  "Um, if we don't tell Amanda at
the same time, she'll be really offended."

"Tonight?"  Jesse nodded and Steve went on, "I'll talk to dad and say we've
got something to tell him and Amanda at the Beach House."

"I'll invite Amanda," the doctor said.


November 17, 2001
Los Angeles

He'd been following Detective Steve Sloan around for a day and a half now.
He wore a baseball cap and shades so as not to be recognised, and kept a
fair distance between himself and his quarry just to be on the safe side.

He yawned.  He'd had a late night last night, sitting outside an apartment,
expecting Sloan to leave, and not believing, until several hours later, that
the man was remaining there all night.  He returned in the early hours of
the morning and watched with a clinical curiosity as Sloan kissed a short
blond-haired man in the doorway of the apartment.

He then trailed Sloan to the LAPD, then to various places in Los Angeles.
One of these included a book shop where he'd bought several books on Norse
mythology.  Could it be a coincidence?  He got out a cigarette and lit it,
but it failed to calm him.  More deaths would solve everything, he told
himself.

At midday Sloan went to the Community General Hospital, where Jerry saw him
meet his lover.  When Sloan left, Jerry remained at the hospital, asking
questions about a doctor named Jesse Travis.

November 17, 2001; 1900 hours
Mark's Beach House

"What's going on?  What's happened?" Amanda asked.

Jesse and Steve exchanged nervous glances then the cop cleared his throat
and said, "Dad, Amanda, Jesse and I, we- er ."

"We're involved," Jesse finished for him.

"In what?" Mark asked helpfully.

In other circumstances the answer might have been amusing,  but Jesse's
stomach was filled with butterflies and his hands were clammy.  He loved
Mark more than his own father and knew how important a part of Steve's life
he was.  Abruptly, any more words eluded him.

Steve seemed to be having similar problems.  "Er, no, we mean, the two of
us, Jess and me, we, um ."  He gestured to the doctor and himself and,
against all odds, Amanda got the picture.

"You two are involved?  As in: lovers?"

Mark laughed.  "No, of course they're ." He caught sight of the faces of the
two men then Jesse confirmed matters by slipping his hand into Steve's and
clutching it tightly.  "You two are lovers."  He said it less as a question
than as a way of getting the concept into his mind, but the men nodded
anyway.

"Since when?" Amanda asked.

"A week ago," Jesse said, looking from Amanda to Mark then back with
enormous worried eyes.

Mark looked away a moment, a frown of confusion on his face, then he said,
"I know that it sounds incredibly stupid to ask 'why' but . I mean, I know
Jesse's bisexual but, as far as I know, you've never considered a man in
that way, Steve."

"Actually, dad, I've done more than consider it before."  Steve's face was
pale; he looked as if he was about to be sick.

In the light of Steve's death-grip on his hand, and Mark's hurt expression,
Jesse blurted out, "Steve wanted to tell you in the past, really he did, but
there was a reason he couldn't ."

Jesse paused and Steve took up the story, "It was someone you knew, who
never would have forgiven me if I'd told you."

"Oh."  The wounded look had thankfully left Mark's face and he'd gone back
to confused.  "Why?"

"He worked with you and he was never comfortable with having feelings for a
man.  I can't tell you who ."

"Jack!" Amanda exclaimed.

Steve grimaced and wondered if she'd taken up telepathy.  "Well, yeah."

When the astonishment from this revelation faded, Mark said, "So when did
each of you realise you had feelings for each other?"

"Always, I think," Steve said.  "I just spent a long time in denial.  After
Jack, I stupidly had this one-night-stand with a guy which was a massive
mistake, and at that point I decided never to get involved with a man again.
I mean, I was really certain about that.  I didn't think it could ever make
me happy.  But, um, no relationship has ever come close to feeling as good
as it does with Jess."

The doctor blinked a couple of times.  "I love you too," he said quietly,
squeezing the hand he held.

Amanda smiled at this and said, "Then I'm happy you've realised how you feel
about each other."

"Really?" Jesse checked, a note of hope amid the doubt.

She walked forward and hugged him, then embraced Steve.  "Me too," Mark said
and followed suit.

"Do you mean that, Dad?" Steve asked.  "I know I should have talked to you
about a lot of things sooner ."

"Steve," Mark patted his arm.  "We've got all the time in the world to talk.
If you and Jess can make each other happy then that's all that matters."


November 17, 2001; 2330 hours
Jesse's Apartment

At Jesse's place the two men opened a bottle of wine and began to work their
way through it to calm their nerves.

As they sat down on Jesse's couch, the doctor said, "That was the most
terrifying moment of my life but . Mark and Amanda are great, aren't they?
I knew it would be okay in the end."

"Did you?" Steve still sounded shell-shocked.

"Well, no."  Jesse finished his first glass of wine in one go and helped
himself to more.  "But I'm really relieved it was."

"Yeah," Steve agreed with feeling and reached for the wine bottle.


November 18, 2001; 0000 hours
Los Angeles

*A fire was raging.  He could see Jesse beyond it along with Steve, Mark,
Amanda and others he didn't recognise.  They were fighting a battle and
losing.  A man he didn't know was screaming something he couldn't hear.
Someone was going to die .*

Rick Lawson came out of his meditation gasping and still with the sensation
of flames licking at his body.

There was a danger from Steve's murder case that was about to turn back upon
the investigators.  He knew with certainty that Jesse, Steve and others
involved with the case were in mortal danger from the killer: death was
lapping at their heels.

He had to talk to Jesse.


November 18, 2001; 0030 hours
Levan's Apartment

Jerry was confident that he'd correctly identified all of his enemies this
time.  Steve Sloan was Thor; Mark Sloan, Odin; Jesse Travis, Heimdall; and
Amanda Bentley, Freya.  The question was which of them should die first.

Jerry's instinct was to protect his children.  Thor and Odin would kill them
given the chance, but Jerry had to be sure he would survive to protect them
and that meant getting Heimdall out of the way.

He looked at the instant photo he'd taken of the blond doctor.  Heimdall was
the watchman of the gods, and he was destined to kill Jerry's other self.
Jesse Travis would be killed first.


November 18, 2001; 0830 hours
Community General Hospital

"Hi, Mark," Jesse greeted his friend with a note of cautiousness in his
voice.

Mark stopped in the hospital corridor and smiled at him.  "Hello, Jess.  Are
you all right?  You look pale."

"It's self-inflicted."  The doctor grimaced.  "Steve and I got through a
couple of bottles of wine last night."

"I guess it must have been a bit unnerving for you both having to talk to me
and Amanda about your relationship," Mark said with understanding.

"A bit.  How about you?  I mean, this must have been kind of a shock."

"Well, I did have a pretty sleepless night.  It's just a lot to take in."

"I know Steve wants a chance to really talk to you properly, about his past
and me.  And you know you can talk to me about anything you want to know,"
Jesse said awkwardly.

"I appreciate that."  Mark patted his shoulder.

Jesse's pager went off and he excused himself to answer it.  The message was
from Rick.  He went to a hospital phone and called his college friend.

"Can I meet you?" Rick asked.  "It's about the case and it's pretty urgent."

Surprised, Jesse said, "Um, sure.  Do you want me to get Steve to the
hospital too?"

"Yeah, that would be a good idea.  I can come to the hospital any time today
or meet you later anywhere.  Just let me know when's convenient."

"I'll speak to Steve and call you back."


November 18, 2001; 1130 hours
Community General Car Lot

Jerry saw the doctor enter the empty parking lot.  This was his chance.  It
wasn't perfect as someone else might see him, but it would have to do.
Jesse Travis was rarely alone and was apparently involved with Thor, so
Jerry was unlikely to be given a better moment than this.

He hurried forward, sneakers making his steps silent.  Travis had his back
to him so Jerry got out his knife.  His other hand was in his pocket,
touching his rune stones.  One clean kill and he could begin to make amends
for his failures.  He couldn't perform a proper sacrifice, not here, so a
stab through the heart, killing the man instantly, would have to do.

Travis was practically within touching distance now, still unaware of his
hunter.  Jerry brought the knife up to position for the fatal cut .

"No!"

Jerry glanced round, startled by the shout, and the doctor turned and
managed to knock him over.  He quickly recovered and punched the doctor then
raised his knife.  It was ripped from his grip by a newcomer, a stranger to
him.  They fought and he stabbed the stranger.

He turned to his real quarry, desperate to finish this.  The young man was
bending over the stranger, but then he looked up at Jerry, pale-faced with
shock.  There was another shout, this time from behind him, and he turned to
find that a couple more people had entered the parking lot and were running
towards him.

He ran, escaping while he could.

November 18, 2001; 1200 hours
Community General Hospital

Rick returned to consciousness in a hospital bed with his college friend
hovering worriedly over him.

"Hey, Jess," he said, his voice sounding weaker to his ears than he'd
expected.

"Rick, how d'you feel?" Jesse asked.

He cleared his throat.  "Not too bad.  What happened?"  The memory returned
to him as he spoke.  "Someone attacked you.  It was the serial killer."

"What makes you say that?" a new voice asked and Steve Sloan moved forward
from the back of the room, his father and Amanda at his side.

"It was why I wanted to see you all.  I knew the danger was going to coil
back upon you."

"How?"

Jesse stopped the questions with a hand on the cop's arm.  Steve looked at
the doctor and Rick watched the two of them.  Something had changed between
them since he'd last seen them.

"He needs some rest, Steve.  He was stabbed, for goodness' sakes!"  Jesse
was saying.

"No, I'm okay," Rick said.  "I won't be able to rest until I've told you
what I saw."  He took a deep breath.  "I expect Jesse's told you I'm a
Witch."


November 18, 2001; 1230 hours
Los Angeles

Steve got out his police radio as soon as he left Rick Brookes' room.  As
soon as Rick and Jesse had given a description of the man who'd attacked
them, Steve had recognised it as Levan.  He cursed himself for not getting
the evidence to keep the man in prison when he'd first arrested him.  "The
suspected serial killer is a man named Jerry Levan who works at the UCLA,"
he told the officer who answered.  "He's armed with a knife and has already
injured a civilian.  Put an all points bulletin out for him and let people
know he's dangerous.  He was last seen at the Community General Hospital an
hour ago."

"Yes, sir," the officer answered and, moments later, he heard his message
relayed over the police radio.

Having determined that Levan had not returned to the UCLA, he got the man's
home address and drove there, adrenaline coursing through him at the thought
of finally catching Lana's killer.  He wanted to kill the bastard with his
bare hands, but would settle for knowing the man would spend the rest of his
life in jail.

He was first on the scene at the house.  There was no answer to his repeated
knocks on the door, so he kicked it open, gun in hand.

It took him just a couple of minutes to ascertain that Levan was nowhere in
the house.  He was in the living room when Kolovski and Li arrived.

"No sign?" Li asked rhetorically, holstering her gun.

"Not of him, but we need to get a warrant to collect evidence.  I don't
think we'll have any trouble proving he's the killer."

Li glanced round at the numerous books on Norse mythology, and the scraps of
paper with rune symbols scrawled all over them.  She saw Steve was staring,
pale faced, at the table in front of him and she followed his gaze: it was
covered in photographs.  There were pictures of Lana Davies; Ted Maine, the
second victim; Steve himself; Steve's father; colleagues of Steve's father .
"I'll get some uniformed officers to go to the hospital and protect your
father and his colleagues."

"It's already done," Steve told her.  "Levan tried to attack Doctor Jesse
Travis and, instead, wounded a civilian.  I've got a couple of officers
there now."  He punched his fist into his palm.  "I just want to catch that
bastard before he tries anything else - I should have kept him in prison."

"We didn't have any proof against him," Li said.  "If only we'd been able to
search this place earlier, we'd have had all the evidence we needed."

"We'll get him soon enough," Kolovski added.  "We know where he lives, where
he works, what car he drives.  Everyone's out looking for him.  He can't
stay hidden for long."

Steve looked again at the photographs on the table.  He felt sick.  This
madman wanted to kill Jesse, Amanda, his father. If Rick hadn't showed up
when he had, Jesse would be dead; he and the doctor had only just gotten
together and he'd nearly lost him . could still lose him.  No!  He wouldn't
consider that possibility, he told himself, fighting down the urge to ring
Jesse to make sure he was okay.  The uniformed officers would protect them.
"I hope you're right."


November 18, 2001; 1500 hours
Topanga Beach, Los Angeles

Jerry crouched on the sand, rocking back and forth.  It had all gone wrong.
He hadn't been able to kill Heimdall and now he, Thor and Odin would be
hunting him down.  He couldn't go back to his home because they'd be lying
in wait there.  They would also be wary now, expecting another attack.

He had one more chance at best and he couldn't make any more mistakes.  The
stranger had been one of the gods and if Jerry had been more prepared, he
would have known about him.

Ragnarok was coming.  He couldn't stop it any more, but perhaps he could
turn the battle to his own advantage.  He had to think.  He stuffed his fist
into his mouth, biting hard on the flesh, the pain helping to clear his
mind.

He had one more chance.


November 18, 2001; 1700 hours
Community General Hospital

Jesse walked into the hospital room and smiled at his friend.  "How are you
getting on?  Do you need anything?"

"No, it's fine," Rick told him.  "So what's going on between you and Steve?"

Jesse stared at him for a long moment, then said, "What do you mean?"  Rick
just raised an eyebrow until the younger man took the hint that stalling
wouldn't work.  Jesse grimaced then grinned.  "We haven't told many people
yet, but we're together."

"Serious?"

"Oh, yeah," Jesse said in a contented tone.

"I'm glad.  I admit that I had wondered about you and me getting back
together, but I don't think it could work twice."

"It's a great memory, though."

"And a great friendship.  Steve Sloan had better treat you right ." he
began, but Jesse stopped him by laughing.

"You'd have to get in line.  Mark and Amanda will be watching our progress
carefully and making sure we don't mess up."

"Good."

Jesse was feeling good when he left the room, thinking how lucky he was to
have Steve, then someone brushed against him as they walked passed, and he
nearly jumped out of his skin.  He'd kept the thought to the back of his
mind that he'd been the intended victim of the attack this afternoon.  He
has work to do and couldn't afford to get nervy when there were patients
depending on him.  But he knew that, if he closed his eyes now, he would
re-live the moment when the killer had held out that knife and lunged at
him.


November 18, 2001; 2100 hours
Los Angeles

Steve had searched everywhere he could think of.  He and his police
colleagues had interviewed everyone Jerry Levan knew but apparently no one
had known him well.  Ironically, they said that Lana had been the closest to
him of his co-workers.

Steve had even called Jerry's ex-wife.  She had told him of their argument
over the phone three nights ago and claimed that had been the last she'd
heard of him.  His instincts said he could believe her, but he'd sent a
couple of uniform cops to watch her just in case.  Jerry might well go to
see her, with or without her prior knowledge.

There was still no sign of him by the evening.  He'd arranged to meet Jesse,
his dad and Amanda at the Beach House to up-date them on his progress on the
case - or 'lack of progress' as better suited the situation - so he headed
over there.

He parked his truck in front of the house and let himself in.


November 18, 2001; 2200 hours
Mark's Beach House

Jerry watched Thor arrive at the house with savage satisfaction.  He'd known
the man would have to return home at some point and it was as if the gods
were finally on his side: all four of his enemies were together.

There'd been officers roaming around the house and grounds for several hours
earlier.  He'd begun to despair of getting near his enemies, but then Odin
had sent them out. They were still nearby, sitting in two patrol cars
outside, but Jerry could get to the back of the house without being seen.
He did so now, holding on tightly to the items he'd bought this afternoon.


November 18, 2001; 2203 hours
Mark's Beach House

"I don't think I'll be able to completely relax until he's caught," Jesse
said as he sipped from a glass of lemonade.

"I wonder why he swapped from killing his work colleagues to targeting you,"
Amanda said, frowning.

"He's targeted all of us," Steve reminded her.  "There'll be officers
watching the three of you until Levan's arrested, but be on your guard just
the same."


November 18, 2001; 2205 hours
Mark's Beach House

Jerry looked through the window at his four enemies.  They were sitting,
talking, drinks in their hands and snacks in front of them, as if they didn'
t have a care in the world.  That was about to change.  "Time to die," he
whispered.

He backed away, closed his eyes for a moment, then hurled himself at the
French windows.

November 18, 2001; 2206 hours
Mark's Beach House

Officer John Fry heard the breaking glass and dropped the cigarette he'd
been holding out of the open car window.  He and his colleague, Mary Obadu,
exchanged glances as they reached for the car doors, then they sprinted
towards the house.


November 18, 2001; 2205 hours
Mark's Beach House

Jerry had thrown most of the can of petrol over the living room before his
enemies could do more than jump to their feet, fear and horror on their
faces.  He poured the rest over himself.  He couldn't avoid his own death -
he knew that now - but in sacrificing himself in this way perhaps his
children would be spared.

"You don't have to do this," Odin said with a placating gesture of his arms.
Thor took a step forward, but Odin stopped him.  "Don't go near him, Steve,
for God's sake."

"We all have to die," he told them.  "It's Ragnarok."

"No, it isn't," Odin said.  "Please think about what you're doing, Jerry ."

He lit a match.


November 18, 2001; 2206 hours
Mark's Beach House

Fry heard a scream as he and his colleague reached the back of the property,
then there was an explosion of flame inside the house.

"We can't get in this way," Obadu yelled as she peered into the flame filled
room.  "Quickly - we'll have to break in at the front."

By the time they had got to the front door their fellow officers had arrived
and, between them, they smashed their way into the building.  Fry got on his
radio for an ambulance and fire engine to urgently be sent, before following
his colleagues inside.  In the smoky interior, he almost ran into Obadu who
was leading two civilians back out.

"Steve?" yelled the dishevelled young man, Fry recognised as Doctor Travis.
The man had his arm around Doctor Bentley.

"We're right here, Jess," Detective Sloan called back.

Fry and his colleagues got them outside, then he checked, "Is anyone hurt?"

"Well, there's the corpse of one severely charred serial killer in the
remains of the living room," Detective Sloan said in a dry tone.

"Steve's arm is burned," Mark Sloan said and the other two doctors promptly
rushed to his side.

Over the dual clamour of an approaching ambulance and fire engine and
several worried voices, Detective Sloan said, "It's fine, dad.  Jesse,
really: it's nothing bad .  I'm okay."

"I'll drive him to the hospital, Mark."

"Okay, Jess."

"But I'm *fine*!"


November 19, 2001; 1000 hours
Mark's Beach House

Steve and Jesse approached the side of the Beach House and grimaced at the
sight of its blackened exterior.  Mark stepped out of the hole which had
been the French windows to meet them.  "How's the invalid?" he asked Steve.

The cop rubbed his bandaged arm self-consciously and rolled his eyes.  "As I
told you over the phone, it's nothing."

"It's a nasty burn," Jesse said, "but it'll heal up okay.  How's this
place?"

"It's not nearly as bad as it looks.  Amanda came over first thing and spent
a couple of hours helping me clear up the glass and soot.  Someone's coming
to fix the windows this morning and I'm getting estimates for the rest.  It'
ll be fixed in no time."

"Well, if you both need a place to sleep until it's sorted out, you're
welcome to stay at my place."

"That's kind of you, Jesse," Mark told him, "but it's really okay here.  The
living room and hallway are the only places badly affected.  The smell of
smoke everywhere is the only unpleasant thing, and that'll quickly go."

"Are you sure?" Jesse looked doubtfully at the house.

"Positive."

"I think I might take you up on that offer," Steve said and ignored Mark's
knowing expression.

"Careful, Jess: you might never get rid of him."

The doctor smiled.  "I can bear that thought."


November 19, 2001; 0900 hours
Boston

Janice Darren put the phone down and stood staring ahead of her in
bewilderment.

"Mom, are you okay," the deep voice of her oldest son asked.

She turned to him.  "I-I need to talk to you and Eric.  It's about your
father."

"What's he done this time?" Paul asked in a weary tone.

Janice put a hand on his arm and led him through to the kitchen where her
younger child was eating.  As he looked up at her she was struck as always
by how much his intense brown eyes resembled his father's.  She sank into a
chair.

"Mom?" he said leaning forward, worried, and Paul crouched down beside her.

"Your father's had a terrible accident," she said.  "He died."

"No!" Eric shook his head, face pale.

"What happened to him?" Paul asked.

"He died in a fire."

"No!" Eric repeated.  He pushed passed her and ran to his room, reaching
automatically for the book on Norse mythology his father had given him years
before.  He stared down at it.  "A fire ."


November 19, 2001; 2200 hours
Jesse's Apartment

"Why do you think he killed himself?" Jesse said.

Steve didn't need to ask who his lover was talking about.  "I don't know.
He was crazy.  None of what he did made any sense to me."

"Rick said it was all to do with this battle in Norse mythology, but I don't
understand it either." He shivered and Steve moved closer to him on the
couch and wrapped an arm round him.  Jesse snuggled closer, then sighed.  "I
keep feeling relieved that he's dead and then I feel guilty."

"Why should you feel guilty?  He wanted to kill all of us and any others who
got in his way," Steve said.  Jesse looked up at him and the cop smiled.  "I
know.  You're a doctor; any death is a waste to you.  But think of it this
way: he didn't have any peace in life; in some ways it would have been more
cruel to send him back to a mental hospital."

"That's true."  Jesse shook off the pensive mood and looked at the older man
with a warm gaze.  "I love you.  Wanna have an early night?"

Steve grinned.  "I love you too.  And *yes*."

Thoughts of recent events vanished as they kissed then, slowly undressing
each other, moved towards the bedroom.




 


 

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