Title: I'll Never Let Go
By: Jaxson K.
Pairing: Don/Jackson, other pairings within the cast
Rating: NC 17
Summary: Jackson survives a violent attack, but will it be the end of him and Don?
Warnings: Rape, violence, angst


Jackson lay in Don's arms basking in the afterglow of a wonderful bout of lovemaking. He felt so safe and content, feeling Don tracing lazy circles and patterns on his back while whispering how much he loved his 'baby'. Don had given him that pet name a long time ago, and Jackson still loved to be called that. He loved being in the arms of the man he loved even more.

Things hadn't been this good in a while. Jackson and Don had been through quite a bit in the past year, but they had made it. Jackson sent up a silent prayer that he and Don would not have a repeat of recent events ever again. Even though it still bothered him to do so, Jackson's mind went back to the events that nearly tore him and Don to pieces.....

Jackson decided that since business was slow, he would go ahead and close Groovy Gold for the night. He felt like he'd sold enough vintage records and CDs for one day. Besides, he was anxious to get home to his Donnie and relax. Jackson smiled when he thought of the dark-haired detective waiting for him. They'd been together for nearly 10 years, and Jackson still got a bit weak in the knees when he thought of Donnie's beautiful blue eyes as the detective held him in his arms. The man still turned him on!

Jackson's mind was brought back to the present when he heard the bell chime above the door of the shop. He looked up to see a guy start browsing in the bargain LPs and work his way over to the more expensive ones. "Is there something I can help you find, sir?" asked Jackson. "Not really, just looking....." the man replied. Jackson went about getting things ready to close, keeping an eye on the man the whole time. The more Jackson watched the guy, he wasn't sure, but he seemed familiar to him. While Jackson was finishing up, the guy came to the counter with a few LPs in his hand. "Will this be all for you, sir?" asked Jackson. "Not quite..." the guy replied.....

Before Jackson could process what was happening, the guy had made it around the counter and had twisted Jackson's arm behind his back. Jackson began to struggle but the guy was way too strong for him and Jackson was forced into the office. It was then that Jackson saw the knife in the man's other hand. Jackson made the mistake of thinking this was going to be a simple robbery, but the man had more on his mind than just money.....

The man forced Jackson into the office and demanded that he open the safe. Jackson did as the man asked and put the money into the backpack the man was holding. Jackson started to back away from the man, but the man grabbed him and put the knife to Jackson's throat. The man ordered Jackson to strip, but Jackson had other ideas. He remembered some of the self-defense moves Don had taught him and made his move. Unfortunately, all that did was piss the man off even more, and he and Jackson began to fight. Jackson went for the knife, but the man beat him to it and promptly knocked him in the head.

Jackson was stunned just enough from a blow to his head for the guy to continue on with what he had in mind. He proceeded to beat Jackson to a bloody pulp and when he was finished, he took the knife and began cutting at Jackson's clothes. Jackson struggled weakly, but it didn't help. The man just laughed, spread Jackson's legs and went at it. When the man entered him, Jackson began screaming. This did nothing but encourage the man and he laughed at Jackson for begging him to stop.

After what seemed like an eternity to Jackson, the man finally left. When Jackson heard the chime over the front door over the shop, he tried to get up but moving was agony. It seemed like every part of him hurt, but he knew that he had to get some help. He searched around for his pants and found his cell. It was really hard to see because one eye was swollen shut and the other was rapidly doing the same. He hit what he thought was the number for Don on the speed dial, and was confused when Danny answered. Jackson was hoarse from screaming so much, but he tried his best to make Danny understand that he needed help, and where he was. Jackson had no idea if Danny understood because he passed out.....

Danny and Mac arrived at Groovy Gold in record time. Danny had tried calling Don several times, but his phone kept going to voicemail. Mac had tried Jackson and Don's home number, but the answering machine kept picking up. When they entered the shop, Danny called out to Jackson but got no reply. Mac began going down the aisles looking for Jackson.

When he reached the office, Danny found Jackson near the desk and rushed over. Jackson's face was nearly unrecognizable from the swelling, the blood and the bruises beginning to form. Danny took his jacket off and tried his best to cover Jackson's nudity. As he was doing so, Danny couldn't help but notice the cuts and bruises all over Jackson's torso and upper thighs. When he saw the blood coming from between Jackson's legs, Danny yelled for Mac to call an ambulance.

Danny rode with Jackson to the hospital while Mac continued trying to get in touch with Don. Mac went to Jackson and Don's apartment and beat on the door. He knew Don was home because he saw his car parked near the apartment building. He waited and banged some more. He finally heard movement inside, and called out Don's name. When Don opened the door, it was obvious he had been sleeping. When he saw Mac, he knew something was wrong. Mac told Don to get dressed and that they needed to get moving. Don kept asking questions, but all Mac told him was that Jackson had been hurt, and that they were headed to Mercy General where Jackson had been taken. When they arrived at the hospital, Mac flashed his badge and asked where Jackson had been taken. The nurse gave Mac the information and he and Don headed for the elevators. Don saw Danny sitting in a chair outside one of the exam rooms and ran over to where he was.....

"Danny, how is he?"
"I'm not sure yet, Don. I'm still waiting for the doctor to come from surgery....."
"Yes, Don.....Jackson was beaten pretty badly, and some of the cuts he has needed stitches. The more important thing is the surgery they're doing to repair the damage he suffered from the rape....."
"What the fuck?? He was raped, too?"
"Yes, Don..... it looks like a robbery that went wrong. I'm going back to the scene to see what I can find. Would one of you please call me about Jackson's condition when you can?"
"Yes, Mac.....be careful....."

Danny turned his attention back to his best friend. Don was sitting there staring at the floor. Danny sat down next to the man and put his hand on Don's shoulder.....

"Don.....he's gonna be okay. You just wait and see....."
"I sure hope so, Danny..... He's my whole world....."
"Let's have a little faith, Don. You know Jackson.....he's a fighter. I want you to know that I got to him as soon as I possibly could....."
"He called you? Why didn't he call me?"
"Don, he may have tried to call you. After he called me, Mac and I both called your cell and home numbers but we didn't get an answer....."
"I turned my cell off and I fell asleep because I wasn't feeling good. That's why I didn't hear the phone. Dammit, if only I hadn't gone to sleep....."
"Don't think like that, Don. You couldn't have known....."

Don started to reply when Dr. Chapman came out asking for the Flack party. Danny and Don both stood, and Don asked about Jackson's condition. Dr. Chapman explained that Jackson was holding his own, and might be able to see people one at a time as soon as he was more awake. The doctor went on to explain that they had had to stitch up some of the deeper cuts on Jackson's face and body, and that they'd had to do more extensive surgery on the damage Jackson had received from the rape. Dr. Chapman told the men that he would have a nurse let them know when they could see Jackson. Danny looked over at Don and saw the tears in his eyes. He had no idea what was going on in Don's mind at that moment, but he knew that his friend was hurting.....

"Don, let's go have a seat....."
"I don't want to sit, Danny, I want to see my baby....."
"You heard the doctor, Don. Someone will come and let us know when we can see him....."
"Dan, what if Jackson doesn't want to see me?? What if he's mad that I wasn't there....."
"Don, stop that bullshit! Jackson will definitely want to see you....."

Just then, a nurse came and told them that they could see Jackson. She stated that they could only go in for a few minutes at a time, and asked which one of them was Danny. Messer stepped forward, and the nurse explained that Jackson had been asking for him since he had woke up. Danny looked at Don, but Don just looked away. Danny went into Jackson's room, and had to stop himself from gasping out loud. The man looked like nine miles of bad road. When Jackson heard Danny come in, he opened his eyes and tried to smile. He reached out his hand and Danny took it.....

"Hey, Jackson..."
It was a bit hard to understand because Jackson's voice was still strained from all the screaming. Danny was trying his best not to cry because Jackson was in such bad shape.....
"Danny, where's Don?"
"He's right outside, buddy....."
"Does he know what happened, Dan?"
"Yeah...the doctor explained everything."
"Danny, is he mad?"
"No, buddy.....he's just concerned, and is nearly out of his mind wanting to see you......"
"I'm sure he is.....Danny, I'm afraid he's gonna be pissed at me......"
"Jackson, honey, this wasn't your fault.....he's not pissed at you....he's pissed because of what the guy did to you....."
"Danny, I want to thank you for coming to help me. For the record, I was trying to call Don on speed dial, but I guess I must have called you instead......I'm sorry about that."
"You don't have a damn thing to be sorry about. I was glad I was able to help. If you need anything, just let me know, okay?"
"I will.....thanks again......"
"Jackson, you've been a friend of mine for a long time, and there's nothing I wouldn't do for you. Now, I'm gonna go so Don can come in....."
"Okay...thanks, Dan."

Danny couldn't help the tears that were flowing as he left Jackson's room. He was thankful that Don wasn't outside the door. He took a moment to get himself under control, and had just done so when Don came back from the nurse's station. Don saw Danny and hurried over to where he was......
"Danny, how is he?"
"He's awake, but seems kind of weak. Don, he thinks you're mad at him because of what happened....."
"What??? Hell, no I'm not mad....This wasn't his fault!"
"Don, you and I know that, but Jackson's reaction is typical among some rape victims. Just tread lightly and keep your temper in check. He needs understanding right now....."
"Danny, I really appreciate your advice, and I promise you that all I want is to see my baby and let him know that I love him....."
"Okay, Don....I'm going to see if I can find Mac. If you two need anything please don't hesitate to call me or Mac....."
"Dan, thank you so much for helping my baby.....you don't know what it means to me....."
"Hey! You don't have to thank me.....this is Jackson we're talking about..... Besides, I couldn't live with myself if I hadn't answered the phone.....
Don hugged his best friend tightly and walked with Danny to the elevator. The two men said their goodbyes, and Don headed back down the hall toward Jackson's room. He knocked softly and opened the door. Don was in no way prepared for the sight that greeted him when he walked into the room.

When Jackson looked at Don, tears began to fall. Jackson was crying because he was scared to death that Don was pissed or would blame him, and Don was crying because of his heart was breaking in two seeing what that bastard had done to his baby. Don approached the bed and
Jackson began to cry harder because he was relieved that Don didn't seem to be angry with him, and had called him by his pet name. Don reached toward Jackson and wiped the tears from his face.....
Jackson reached for Don and pulled him down onto the bed. Don reached for Jackson and held him tight as Jackson cried and told Don that he was sorry this had happened.....
"Baby, please don't cry..... you've done nothing wrong.....you have nothing to be sorry about....."
"But, Donnie, that man raped me!"
"I know he did, baby, but it still wasn't your fault....."
"Donnie, you're not mad at me?"
"Hell, no! I'm not mad at you at all.....Baby, all I want you to do is try and get some rest, and we'll sort all this out later, okay?"
"Okay, Donnie......Donnie?"
"What is it, Jackson?"
"Please don't leave......."
"I'll be right here.....I'm not going anywhere, I promise....."

Don made good on his promise about not leaving. He stayed the rest of the night and was there when Jackson woke the next morning. Nurses came in and out monitoring Jackson's condition and Dr. Chapman came to check on Jackson right before breakfast.....

"How do you feel this morning, Jackson?"
"I feel like shit....how do you think I feel?"
Don immediately picked up on Jackson's tone and demeanor. Don knew this wasn't good. When Jackson got snotty and hostile, a blow-up was on the way. After said blow-up took place, Jackson got really depressed. Dr. Chapman seemed to sense that Jackson was in a bad mood and commenced with his examination.

While Dr. Chapman was finishing Jackson's exam, Don sat at a table in the hospital cafeteria, thinking about all that had happened in the past 24 hours. He hated what happened to Jackson, and planned to put some feelers out regarding the fucking animal that had done this, but he hated himself at the moment for not being there to stop it. He had every intention of going to the shop, but when he'd stopped off at their apartment to change out of his work clothes he had fallen asleep. He had been hoping to surprise Jackson, but it had all gone wrong.

Don was feeling pretty low about letting Jackson down. He knew he needed to be strong for him, and he would be. He just hated the gnawing feeling that was growing inside him. Don got up and headed back to the elevator so he could get back upstairs to find out what the doctor had said.

When Don got off the elevator, he saw Mac and Danny heading toward Jackson's room from the other direction. The three men stopped outside Jackson's room, and Danny asked if the doctor had been in yet. Don explained that he was examining Jackson when he stepped out to get some coffee. Mac asked if they could see Jackson and Don replied that he would step in and see if it was alright.....

"Hey, Donnie....."
Don could tell something was wrong because Jackson was trying to hide the fact that he had been crying......
"Babe, what's wrong?"
"I don't want to talk about it right now, Don...."
"Baby, please tell me....."
"Not now, Don!"
"Okay, baby.....you have visitors....."
"Who is it?"
"Danny and Mac....."
"Donnie, tell them I'll see them later. I'm just not up to it right now....."
"Whatever you say, babe....."

Don stepped back into the hall to explain that Jackson wasn't feeling well, and that he wanted them to come back later in the day. Danny and Mac agreed, and on the way to the elevators, Danny asked Don if he was okay.....

"Not really, Dan....Something's wrong with Jackson...."
"What do you mean, Don?"
"I think he got pissy with Dr. Chapman when he came in on his rounds and when I got back to the room, Jackson had been crying. I'm afraid that this is affecting him more than he's letting on....."
"Don, you might be right. He's probably still processing this whole ordeal....."
"Mac, he seemed okay last night. He was still shaken up, but he seemed okay....."
"Don, that most likely was the drug they had given him for the pain. The effects of this whole thing may be long-lasting and quite extensive. I know you love the man, and would do anything for him so I will give you this advice......Listen when he needs you to, hold him when he needs it, give him space when he wants it, and above all else; never let him wonder how you feel. Be as honest as you possibly can, and love him....."

Mac swept Don up in a friendly hug and was surprised to see tears on Don's cheeks. Danny hugged Don, too, and the three said their goodbyes with a promise that Mac and Danny would be back later that afternoon.
Don headed back to Jackson's room to see what was going on. Jackson opened his eyes when he heard the door open and smiled when he saw Don.....
"Hey, Donnie..."
"I'm sorry if I woke you up, babe..."
"It's okay.....I'm glad you came back so we could talk."
"What's on your mind?"
"It has to do with something Dr. Chapman told me earlier....."
"Babe, what did he say?"
"Well, I will have some permanent scarring from the knife cuts, and I may have some problems resuming our sex life, that is if we have one, when I get out of the hospital....."
"I can live with the scars, babe, and as for our sex life, I will leave that in your hands. I say that because only you will know when and if you're ready. Besides, we need to focus on your getting better so we can we can get you home, right?"
"You are right about that, Donnie......and thank you for being so understanding not just about this, but everything......"
"Baby, I promised you when we got together that I would be there through thick and thin and back again so why the hell would I bail now???"

Mac and Danny came later that afternoon and Jackson was glad to see them. Danny fretted and fawned over Jackson until Jackson threatened to beat him to a pulp. Danny laughed and said that he knew his buddy was feeling better, and that made Danny glad. Mac commented that Jackson was definitely looking better and said he hoped that Jackson would be able to go home soon. Jackson agreed Mac about hoping to go home soon because he was tired of the nurses poking and prodding him at all hours. Don said he just want his baby home where he belonged.

Dr. Chapman granted Jackson's wish the following afternoon. After giving him instructions on taking care of his wound dressings and how to care for the injuries in the more personal areas, Dr. Chapman told Jackson he could go and told him to make a follow-up appointment in two weeks. The nurse wheeled Jackson to the door while Don went to get the car and soon the two were on their way home.
When they arrived at their apartment, Jackson expressed his joy at being home. Don asked what Jackson wanted for dinner and Jackson replied that it was Don's choice, so Don called for a pizza. After their late lunch, Jackson took some of his pills and went to take a nap. Don cleaned up the dishes from lunch and went out onto the fire escape to have a smoke. He was thinking of how glad he was that Jackson was home, but his happiness was marred by the guilty feelings he'd been carrying around. Don felt guilty for not being there when Jackson was attacked, but what really made him feel bad was that even though Jackson didn't say it, Don was afraid that Jackson would somehow blame him for not protecting him.

Don was pulled back to the present by screams coming from inside the apartment. He climbed back in the window and headed for the bedroom at a dead run. When he reached the bedroom door, Don could see Jackson thrashing around on the bed trying to fight off an invisible attacker. Don knew that the attacker was very real in Jackson's mind, and that's why he knew he had to wake his baby up. He went to the bed and took Jackson by the arm. He ducked as Jackson wildly swung at him, and he began talking softly to Jackson.....
"Baby......baby, it's me.....come on now, wake up......Jackson.....come on...."
"Donnie?" Jackson was sobbing and clinging to Don like a second skin.....
"Yeah, babe, it's me....I've got you....."
"Donnie, he was here......."
"No, babe.....it was a bad dream.....nobody was here....."
"Donnie, I was so scared.....I thought he had come back for me....."
"Nobody's gonna get at you as long as I'm around!"

Don could feel Jackson relax against him and he eased him back down on the bed. He climbed in next to Jackson and held him for the rest of the night. There were no more nightmares, but Don still didn't sleep. His guilt and shame kept him from doing do.

The nightmares didn't happen too much more after that, only every once in a while. Don was there for each and every one, and his guilt intensified each time. Don knew that something was going to have to give soon.....

In the weeks after the attack, Jackson made a very speedy recovery. He went back to work at his shop, but made some changes in the hours the shop was open. Instead of staying open until 7 p.m., Jackson closed promptly at 4. His reasoning for this was that he felt safer and would be arriving home while it was still light outside. He socialized with Mac, Danny, and some of the other people Don worked with, but he always made sure that he was never alone at any given time while he was out. Those that knew what had happened to him completely understood and did their best to accommodate him. For all outward appearances, everything was fine, but that was because Jackson had become a pretty good actor.

Things really weren't as good as Jackson made them seem. He and Don were going through a rough patch that seemed to get longer and wider as time went on. Don had taken to staying late at work, and when he finally made it home, he was usually drunk. He and Jackson had practically stopped communicating at all. When they did talk, the conversations were short and strained. All of this was beginning to disturb Jackson deeply because he felt as though Don was intentionally trying to put distance between them. Jackson felt as though he were walking on egg shells trying not to spark the powder keg he saw every time he looked into Don's eyes. He even began thinking that it was because even though he was recovering, he hadn't made any move getting things back on track in the bedroom. For all he knew, Don might not even want him anymore. Whatever the problem was, it scared the living hell out of him.

Don sat back in his desk chair and wearily rubbed his eyes. He'd been checking data bases for crimes similar to what happened to Jackson. He went so far as to check cold cases and robbery cases that bore a similar MO. The lack of information was extremely frustrating. Don kept wondering why this had happened to Jackson, especially since he knew that Jackson was always careful and paid special attention to anything out of the ordinary. Don shut down his computer and left the precinct. He headed to Sullivan's to drink his dinner and beat himself up some more about not being able to take care of Jackson. Don felt that he might be better off without him. He sure as hell didn't deserve to call Jackson his baby anymore.....

When Jackson went to his last appointment with Dr. Chapman, he voiced his concerns about how things had been going to the doctor. Chapman explained that this type of behavior was common in cases like this, and that Jackson should try talking with his partner. Jackson asked the doctor about his progress, and Chapman gave Jackson one final exam. He pronounced Jackson fit and told him that everything looked good. Jackson asked if he and Don could be intimate and Chapman told him that it was okay. Jackson thanked him and left his office a happy man.

Early the next morning, Jackson woke and reached for Don. Don turned toward Jackson, and Jackson took that to mean that Don was interested. Jackson began kissing Don on his neck and started working his way down Don's chest, placing feathery kisses everywhere just like he knew Don liked. Before Jackson knew what was happening, Don sat up in the bed and pushed Jackson away.....
"What the hell are you doing?"
"I was just...."
"You were just what?"
"Donnie, I was just trying to let you know that it was okay for us to be together. Dr. Chapman told me it was okay. I wanted to tell you last night, but you were too drunk....."
"So now you're gonna start on me having a few after work now?"
"A few my ass, you bastard. Here lately you come in so fucking drunk you can't see straight. You act like I have the fucking plague or something. You won't talk to me, and you do your level best to stay away as long as you possibly can....."
"Jackson, I really don't want to talk about this now. I need to get ready for work."
"That's right, Mr. Billy Bad Ass! Hide behind any fucking excuse you can find not to talk to me....."

Don stormed out of the room and went to get in the shower. He knew Jackson had him dead to rights, and that Jackson had every right to be pissed. Don had started drinking more and more to deal with the guilt that was eating him alive because he didn't have the balls to tell his baby what was bothering him. He could barely tolerate being around Jackson, not because Jackson had done anything wrong, but he felt so damn unworthy of Jackson's love and devotion. Jackson had made a spectacular recovery from what had happened to him, and for that Don was forever grateful. That aside, Don still felt like shit because he felt he had failed his man. Jackson evidently didn't feel that way because he never brought it up, never threw it in his face, or made Don feel bad in any way. Don had always been a bit protective of Jackson, and they had argued about it a few times during the course of their relationship. That didn't stop Don, however. He vowed nothing was going to happen to his man if he could help it. But the fact remained that something did, and it was killing Don.....

Don finished getting ready for work and was going out the door when Jackson asked if he would be home in time for dinner. Don said he would try. Jackson simply nodded his head and headed toward the kitchen. He made himself a cup of tea and lit a cigarette. He replayed the events form earlier with Don, and was trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Don had changed, and Jackson thought he knew why. It was because of the rape. It simply had to be. Ever since it happened, Don was different. He was quieter, and kept to himself more. Then there was the drinking. Don drank occasionally, but now it was nearly every day. Jackson couldn't count the times Don had come home blind drunk in the past few weeks. Besides all of that, he didn't even act like he wanted to come near Jackson. A kiss on the cheek was about as good as it got, and that hurt Jackson deeply. Jackson was a naturally affectionate person, and to be deprived of physical affection, especially from his Donnie, hurt like 9 different kinds of hell!

Jackson knew that some men didn't find their mates desirable after a rape, and he was hoping that wasn't the case with him and Don. Granted, Jackson's self-esteem took a giant hit after the rape, but he bounced back pretty quickly. The problem was that the rift between him and Don was slowly causing the patches he had so carefully placed on his psyche to crumble into dust. There just had to be a way to find out what was wrong and fix things with him and Don. It was a good thing that Jackson was so hard-headed and stubborn because he was going to find a way to fix this no matter what!

No matter how Don tried, he couldn't seem to concentrate. His mind kept going back to what happened with Jackson that morning. He knew he needed to fix things and come clean with his baby, but he didn't quite know how. He decided to go out and have a smoke when he run into Danny, who was coming to the precinct to question a suspect involved in one of the lab's cases.....
"Hey, Danny....."
"What's up, Flack?"
"Are you free for lunch today?"
"Sure...what's goin' on?"
"It's about Jackson....."
Danny visibly paled..."Is he alright?"
"Yeah.....I really need somebody to talk to, and I was hoping you could help....."
"Sure, Don.....how about meeting me at the little park across from the lab around noon?"
"That's fine.....I'll get us a couple of slices from Ray's....."
"Extra pepperoni on mine..."
"Deal! Thanks, Dan....."

Danny went on about his business, and Don got back to trying to finish the mountain of paperwork sitting on his desk.....

Danny was a bit late meeting Don, but Don was okay with that. After they finished their food, Danny asked Don what was on his mind.....

"Dan, it's kinda hard to explain, but I need to talk to somebody before it drives me out of my mind. It's about what happened to Jackson....."
Danny wasn't sure where Don was going with this, but he'd been expecting it. He'd seen the changes in Don, but hadn't said anything because he didn't want to pry. Jackson had seemed okay, but Danny wasn't too convinced that everything was the way Jackson said it was......

"What do you mean, Don?"
"Well, it's not about Jackson.....it's about me....."
"How so, Don?"
"Dan, I've never told anybody this, but I feel so fucking guilty about what happened to my baby....."
"Don, that's crazy....it wasn't your fault....."
"Danny, I feel guilty because I wasn't there to stop it. It makes me feel useless, and I don't like feeling that way. I let my baby down when he needed me most, and I don't know what the hell to do about it!"
"Don, hold on a minute.....has Jackson ever said anything to you about not being there?"
"No, but....."
"I honestly don't think Jackson blames you, Don. I say that because if he did, I feel like he would have brought it up......"
"Dan, I had planned to go to the shop that night, but I stopped by the apartment to change clothes, and I fell asleep....."
"That explains a lot of what you're feeling.....Honestly, Don, it's probably a good thing you didn't see Jackson in the shape that Mac and I did. He was in a real bad way....."
Danny's voice trailed off, and Don saw him wipe tears from his eyes......
"I still have nightmares about that....."
"I'm sorry, Dan..."
"Don't be....I'd do it all over again to help Jackson, and you know that."
"I know you would, Dan, and I sure as hell appreciate it....."
"Now....back to what you were saying about this guilt....."
"It eats on me, and I've been so cold to Jackson because I don't understand how he can still love me and want to stay with me after I let him down."
"Don, has Jackson ever said that you let him down?"
"No, and he probably never would....."
"Have you tried talking to Jackson about any of this?"
"Honestly? No, I haven't....."
"Then there is your answer, buddy! Just try talking to Jackson and tell him how you're feeling. You just might be surprised....."
"What do you mean with that bit about being surprised?"
"Simply that if you and Jackson can get your feelings out in the open, and you can ask him how he really feels about your feelings of guilt and failure, you just might be able to work this out, and you won't end up pushing Jackson away."
"Dammit, Dan, I never thought my treating him that way would push him away......"
"Don, we both know how deeply Jackson loves you, but if this keeps on, you just might kill the love he has for you. You need to let him know that you still love him in spite of what's happened to him, and that no matter what, he's still going to be your baby....."
"Danny, thank you for letting me get this off my chest....I know now what I need to do, and should have done a long time ago....."
"Don't sweat it, Don.....just go fix things with Jackson, and let me know how things turn out....."
"I will.....gotta go!"

Don went back to the precinct and told his captain that he needed the afternoon and next day off. When he left the precinct, he called Jackson and asked him to meet him at home. When Don arrived, Jackson hadn't made it, and Don waited impatiently for his baby to get home. When Don heard Jackson's key in the door, he got up from the couch and met Jackson in the entryway.

Jackson eyed Don warily and Don smiled to put him at ease. Jackson walked toward Don and Don held out his arms. Jackson walked into the embrace and Don hugged his him with all his might. He would have kept doing so, but Jackson was squirming and complaining about needing to breathe. Don laughed and eased up, taking him by the hand and leading him to the couch.....

"Don, babe, what's going on?"
"Baby, I want us to talk...I mean really talk, because I need to tell you some things, and I want to explain why I've been acting strange....."
"Okay, Don....I'm willing to listen, but I want the chance to say a few things, too....."
"That's a deal, baby. I should have done this before, but I was ashamed......"
"Go ahead, Don......"
"Baby, when you were attacked, I felt like it was my fault because I let you down when you needed me most, and I couldn't save you. To be honest, I don't know how you've stayed with me or can even stand to look at me anymore....."
"Don, it wasn't your fault. You had no way of knowing it was gonna happen. Hell, I didn't either. You shouldn't feel guilty because of that. I never did, nor do I blame you at all for what happened to me."
"Baby, I had planned on coming to the shop that night, but I stopped here to change my clothes, but I fell asleep and didn't wake up until Mac beat on the door to take me to the hospital....."
"I didn't know that....that explains why you feel so badly about this....."
"I'm so sorry, baby, can you ever forgive me?"
"For what? Being tired and taking nap? There's nothing to forgive, Donnie!"
"But, baby....."
"But nothing, Don Flack!"
"Don't get riled, babe...."
"Well, stop beating yourself up for this!"
"You mean it?"
"Abso-fucking-lutely! Now, I'd like for you to listen to what I have to say...."
"Please tell me....."
"Don, I was starting to think that you had changed because of the rape. You were so cold and distant, and you started drinking more, and I kept wondering when you were going to tell me to get out. I was scared, and the thought that you looked at me differently because of what happened hurt just about as much as the rape itself. Now I know that you were feeling guilty over your perceived shortcomings. I can deal with that. But I have to know how you feel about me, and where I stand with you......"

Jackson sat there holding his breath as Don tried to sort out what he wanted to say. Jackson wanted to know, but was afraid he wasn't going to like what Don was going to say. He visibly jumped when Don cleared his throat......

"Baby, I want you to know that I always have and always will love you. I know you've had reason to doubt that in the aftermath of everything that's happened, and for that, I am deeply sorry. As far as where you stand with me, let's just say it this way: You are still my baby, and you always will be. Never, ever doubt that. I want you to know that I love you more now than I ever have because you've overcome some really serious obstacles. I love you even more because you took all the bullshit I dished out because I wasn't man enough to speak up about what was on my mind. I want to put all my insecurities behind me and be the man you deserve.....that is, if you'll still have me....."

Jackson wiped the tears from his eyes and began to kiss the tears from Don's cheeks. The two shared a long, slow kiss and Jackson pulled away to look deeply into Don's beautiful blue eyes.....

"Donnie, I'll still have you. In fact, I'll never let go....."

Jackson was brought back to the present by the fact that Donnie had stopped tracing patterns on his back, and his breathing was slow and even, meaning he had fallen asleep. Jackson snuggled closer to Don and just before he succumbed to sleep, he kissed Don's cheek and whispered, "I'll never let go....."

The End