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Dotty    Kathy    Lvblair    Mary Ellen    Ophelia    KAM    Ronnee    Kathy 'n Mary Ellen

 

Family, Trust, and Betrayal

(Sequel to "Home for Christmas")

By: Kathy and Mary Ellen

 


 

Authors' Notes:

Well, this story has been a long time coming but it's finally finished. Both of Mary Ellen and I want to thank everyone who sent us such great feedback on "Home for Christmas" and expressed interest in a sequel. This is for all of you. We hope you like it.

As with "Home for Christmas", many thanks to D. L. Witherspoon for the use of her characters Dr. Amanda Cuthbertson and Sadie Farmsworth.

A word of warning for those who are fond of Naomi -- you may want to bail out now. We aren't very nice to her. <VEG>

Please forgive any medical/legal errors.

This story contains minor crossovers with 'The District' (Captain Vince Hunter) and 'Law and Order' (Ben Stone).

A special thanks to Dotty for agreeing to beta this story for us. Thanks, Dotty, we really appreciate it. Any remaining mistakes are solely ours.


Prologue

After receiving his doctorate from Rainier, Blair had immediately accepted the position offered by Commissioner Warren. Now, more than half way through the required academy courses, he was only weeks away from becoming an official, paid consultant for the Cascade Police Department. Not only would he be able to continue working with Jim, but he'd be working with his dad as well.

Jim, wanting to have his guide by his side, suggested that they find a way for Blair to skip the academy; reasoning that he could teach Blair anything that the instructors at the academy could and do a better job at it. Joel, however, had been more realistic stating that while the Major Crime detectives would accept Blair without hesitation many others might not be so welcoming. That despite Blair's association with the department over the past several years, there was bound to be some lingering resentment, if not outright hostility, towards the recently redeemed professor.

In the end, Jim had relented and Blair began classes at the academy once the new term started. It was also agreed that Blair and Joel would keep the new aspect to their relationship quiet until Blair graduated from the academy. As it was, too many of the cadets were bound to be jealous of Blair's status as Dr. Sandburg and the fact that he would be the equivalent of a detective when he finished the academy. Even though he'd already put in more that three years of grunt work, that he'd already paid his dues, those perceptions wouldn't change and if the other cadets knew that the former bomb squad captain was Blair's father, it might serve to increase their animosity. Although Blair had earned his position with the department, many would think that it was only a result of his relationship to Joel as well as his friendship with Jim.

Blair, for his part, had mixed feelings about everything. On the one hand, he shared his father's views. On the other, he was proud of his father and wanted everyone to know of their relationship. His thoughts about Jim were even more chaotic. He wanted to be by his sentinel's side. All though Jim hadn't zoned in a while, the threat of one caused Blair a great deal of worry. He knew that Megan and Simon, as well as the others since they now knew of Jim's senses, would watch out for his partner. But that knowledge didn't lessen the guilt he felt at not being there to watch Jim's back.

 

Chapter One

"God, am I glad this day is finally," Blair said as he slowly and painfully made his way to his car. "All I want to do is get home. Hopefully before Jim so I can take care of this little accident before I have to face him. Maybe that way I won't have to tell him about it."

Driving home, Blair thought back to what had happened earlier that morning. Loaded down with books, preoccupied with thoughts about his last class, he hadn't been paying attention to his surrounding as he walked down the stairs. Suddenly, he had been startled when a loud voice had exclaimed, "Hey, fraud, you don't belong here! Quit now before you really get hurt!" Before Blair could turn around and confront the person, a violent shove to the middle of his back sent him hurtling down the stairs. Barely managing to grab a hold of the railing, badly twisting his knee in the process, he had scrapped up his leg on the stair's rough surface. A surface which, ironically enough, was intended to keep people from slipping and falling.

"I can't believe those jerks," he muttered. "I am not going to complain and I am not going to quit. Idiots think that they can drive me out. Well, they've got another thing coming."

Pulling up in front of their building, Blair groaned when he spotted Jimís new truck in its usual spot. "I just can't catch a break today," he complained as he slowly got out of his car. Limping slowly, hoping that he could get inside and get cleaned up before Jim noticed that anything was wrong, Blair said, "Hell, after all, hope springs eternal. That's what they say anyway."


"Hey, Chief," Jim called out when he heard Blair arrive home. "How was your day?"

In the process of hanging up his jacket, Blair froze. 'Shit,' he thought. Out loud, he answered, "It wasÖumÖokay, Jim." Dropping his backpack onto the floor, Blair started over to the kitchen to get something to drink.

Emerging from the archway connecting the two lofts, Jimís eyes narrowed as he watched his partnerís slow progress over to the refrigerator. "Youíre limping."

Not noticing Jim's entrance, Blair came to an abrupt halt. "Gee, really. Hadnít noticed." He replied a bit snidely. "Itís nothing."

"If itís nothing, then whyíd you stop?"

"Gee, Jim, I know your dad taught you some manners. I stopped to answer your question. Besides, you surprised me." Blair continued on to the fridge.

Studying Blairís movements, Jim slowly and quietly approached the other man.

After retrieving a bottle of water form the refrigerator, Blair turned around and found himself face-to-face with Jim. Jerking backwards, nearly falling, he exclaimed, "Whoa!"

Grabbing Blair, preventing him from falling, Jim warned, "Watch it, Chief!"

Blair shoved Jimís hand away. "Back off, would ya!"

"Not until you tell me whatís going on with you. Howíd you hurt your leg? Did you get it checked out?"

"I just had a little accident during the last training exercise," Blair obfuscated. "I zigged when I should have zagged. No big deal."

"SandburgÖ"

"So what do you want for dinner?" Blair asked, cutting off further questioning from Jim. Or least he hoped. "Pizza? Chinese? Italian? Itís my treat."

Instead of answering right away, Jim simply stared at his obviously nervous roommate. When Blair began to fidget, becoming uncomfortable under Jimís unwavering scrutiny, Jim finally broke the silence. "Letís try that new place by the station. I hear itís pretty good."

"That new Thai place? Blair asked. "Sounds good; Iíve been wanting to go there. Just give me a few minutes and IíllÖ"

"Youíll what?" Jim interrupted. "Limp your way up to your room? I donít think so. Iím not gonna watch you drag your ass all over the place."

"I told you that Iím fine," Blair snapped. Straightening up from his slightly off balance stance, Blair fought the urge to favor his injured leg as he made his way to the stairs that led to his bedroom "See. Fine."

"So, tell me something," Jim replied, ignoring the sarcasm. "Are you resorting to the one-word answers because youíre pissed at me or because your leg is hurting?"

With a deep sigh, Blair gave in. Too tired, both physically and mentally, to keep up the act, he admitted, "Both, man, both."

Suppressing the smile that wanted to break through his stern façade, Jim ordered, "Get your butt over to the couch and sit down, Sandburg. Iíll order the food and then check out your leg."

"Ah, Jim, really IímÖ"

"Fine," Jim finished. "Yeah, so youíve said. Just humor me, ok."

"And exactly why would I want to do that?" Blair queried as he limped over to his couch.

"If you donít cooperate, Iíll be forced to use other means of persuasion," Jim replied with just a hint of warning in his tone despite the small smile on his face.

"Oh, man, Iím shaking here." Blair grinned. "Whatíre you gonna do? Make me do even more of your paperwork?"

Jim ignored the remark. "Actually, I was trying to come up with the best way to display some pictures."

"Pictures?" Blair suspiciously asked. "What pictures?"

"Oh, those baby pictures of yours." Jim had a smirk on his face. "Thought maybe I'd show them to the guys when they come over for poker Saturday night. I know Joel would like to see them. Thereís that great one of you on the fur rug. Joel would probably love to have a blow-up of that one. Maybe two, one for his desk at work and one for home. Maybe a miniature done as a key chain, so he could show you off to complete strangers."

"The rug picture? Blair swallowed nervously. "Youíd really do that to me? Jim, you wouldnít do that! Youíre just messing with me, right? Right, Jim?"

Jim continued as if Blair hadnít spoken. "Thereís this great place by the station. They do that kind of thing there. Hey, as long as Joel's getting a key chain done, he could get a mouse pad and some refrigerator magnets. Simon will probably want some copies too. Hell, I'd like to get some myself."

"Jim," Blair whined. "You canít use that picture."

"Itís a really good picture of you Chief." Jim barely managed to keep a straight face. "Whatís the matter?"

"Whatís the matter? Blair repeated. "Jim, Iím naked in that picture. I so do not want the entire bullpen seeing my bare butt on a daily basis."

Jim laughed. "Why not, Sandburg? After all, you look so cute."

Muttering under his breath about blackmailing sentinels, Blair made his way slowly and carefully to the couch and plopped down with a sigh. "Did anyone ever tell you that youíre one evil, mean, manipulative, unscrupulous son of a bitch?"

"Once or twice." Jim smiled. "And by the way, dinnerís on me tonight. I picked up a menu from that Thai place on my way home. They deliver." Jim handed the menu to his friend. "Here, take a look while I get the stuff to take care of your leg."

"Okay," Blair agreed as he opened the menu. Intent on studying the selections, he missed Jim's brief moment of intense scrutiny.

Shaking his head, Jim made his way over to his bathroom to get the needed supplies. 'Obfuscate all you want, Chief,' he thought, 'it may work on everybody else, but it doesn't work on me. After dinner I'm going to get some real answers out of you, partner.'

Returning with the supplies, Jim found out what Blair wanted and then made a brief detour to order dinner. Hanging up the phone, he gathered up the supplies from where he had dumped them on the counter. Going over to the couch, he knelt down in front of his wounded partner. Holding Blairís foot gently in one hand, he skimmed his other hand over the wounded leg. Eyeing the scrapes, bruising, and swelling, he asked, "Want to tell me how this happened, Chief?"

"I told you, Jim, it was a training accident."

"Must have been one hell of an accident," Jim stated. "You know, you donít have to do this. You donít have to go through this. We could have found a way to get you out of it."

"Do what?" Blair asked. "You mean the Police Academy?" Blair rolled his eyes. "Jim, weíve been through this. Simon and I have been through this. My dad and I have been through this." Smiling in spite of the tension between him and Jim, pleased at being able to refer to Joel as 'my dad,' Blair paused for a moment before continuing. "Rafe, Henri, Al and Rhonda have been through this with me. Hell, even your dad has been through this with me. Going to the academy is something I have to do, Jim."

"But, BlairÖ"

"For me, Jim. Itís something I have to do for me," Blair interrupted. "Please understand. Itís not like I have to go through the whole program. Just self-defense, some classes on police procedure, and firearms training. Stuff I need to back you up effectively."

"Hell, Sandburg, youíve been backing me up for years and doing a hell of a job. All without going to the Academy," Jim growled. "Why is this so important to you?"

"It just is, Jim," Blair insisted stubbornly. "I justÖItís just something I have to do. Please, just accept it."

"When youíre ready, will you come talk to me?"

Leaning his head back against the couch, Blair closed his eyes. "Iíll try, Jim. Iíll try."

Turning his attention back to Blairís injured leg, Jim once again gently slid his finger over it. Turning up his sense of touch, he checked for any serious injury. "Itís just sprained," he announced. "But youíll need to stay off of it this weekend."

Grabbing the bottle of liniment, Jim poured some into his cupped hand. After warming it in his hand for a moment, he began to lightly rub it into the injured knee. "You should be okay by Monday but youíll need to take it easy in class. You donít want to re-injure it."

Wrapping the injured knee, Jim became worried about Blair's silence. "You know, thereís something else Iím wondering about," he said. "Why wasnít this treated at the Academy? Your instructor would have had to make out an injury report and should have sent you to the infirmary as soon as it happened."

Worried that Jim would hear how his heartbeat sped up in response to the questioning, Blair was relieved to see that the older man was concentrating on wrapping his knee and apparently didnít hear it. Frantically, he thought for a few minutes before finally coming up with an answer. "Yeah, well, it happened right at the end of class. The instructor was way at the other end of the training field so I didnít tell her about it. Besides, I knew you would take care of it. After all, youíre still my blessed protector, arenít you?"

Jim, having been very aware of his best friendís increased heartbeat and respiration, persisted, "But still, she should haveÖ"

"Please, Jim, can we just drop it?" Blair pleaded. He gave Jim a weak smile. "I'm tired and I don't feel like getting into this right now."

At that moment, a knock sounded. Giving Blair a final look, Jim stood up and walked over to the door. Opening it, he accepted the bags of take-out and paid the delivery guy. When Blair started to rise from the couch, Jim said, "Stay put, Sandburg. I'll bring you a plate. We can watch some TV while we eat." Seeing Blair lean back against the couch, Jim started fixing their supper. Keeping part of his attention focused on his guide, he thought, "This isnít over yet, partner. This discussion will definitely be continued."


Despite Jim's many attempts at prying some more information from his uncharacteristically silent partner, Blair refused to tell him any more at the incident at the academy. Now, Monday morning, Jim watched with apprehension as Blair prepared to leave for class.

Seeing Blair wince as he bent over to pick-up his backpack, Jim advised, "Remember to take it easy on that knee today."

"Jim, I think Joel would be kind of upset to know that you're vying for his job."

Ignoring the sarcasm, Jim said, "Just don't try and overdo it today."

"Whatever." Blair walked out the door, slamming it behind him.

"You have a good day too, dear," Jim called out, smiling as Blair's resulting string of muffled expletives reached his ears.


Still concerned about his partner, Jim's mind was preoccupied as he entered the bullpen and walked over to his desk. His reverie was interrupted when something struck him in the chest. Looking down at the waded up piece of paper as it bounced off him and dropped to the floor, he gave it a kick as he looked around the bullpen for the culprit. Spotting the smirk on Megan's face, he asked, "Haven't you got anything better to do?"

"Besides irritate you, you mean?" Megan shook her head. "Not that I can think of."

"It's nice to know you're earning your pay there, Connor," Jim retorted as he sat down at his desk.

The inspector stood up and walked over to Jim's desk. "I wouldn't get too comfortable, Ellison. The captain wants us to go interview some witnesses in the Martin case."

"I thought that Brown and Rafe were handling that one."

"They were, but the Smith court case got moved up and they're currently testifying," Megan explained. "That leaves you and me, mate."

"Well if this just isn't my lucky day," Jim replied. "I spend the weekend with a cranky roommate and now I get to spend the day with you."

Concerned, Megan asked, "Is Sandy okay? Is something wrong?"

Hesitating for a moment, not sure if he should confide in Megan, Jim lowered his eyes. Thinking back to the times when Megan had been there for his partner, and for him as well, Jim came to a decision. "I'll tell you in the truck, okay?"

Sensing Jim's uneasiness, Megan joked, "What makes you think that I'm going to let you drive?"

"Because that's the only way that I'd go anywhere with you." Jim smirked. "Now let's go."

Once they were in Jim's truck and on their way to interview the first witness, Megan said, "So tell me what's going on with Sandy."

Sighing, Jim explained, "I don't know exactly and that's what's bothering me. He came home Friday with his knee all messed up. Said that it was just a little accident during a training exercise."

"Okay. That seems reasonable enough. Some aspects of the academy can get pretty intense I'd wager."

"I realize that," Jim replied. "I just get the feeling that there's more to it than what he told me. Something's going on and he's not talking about it."

"Going on at the academy? What do you think it is? Trouble with the other cadets?"

"Maybe." Jim shrugged. "I just wish that he'd talk to me about it. I want to help him, but I can't do that until he comes to me about it."

Snorting, Megan asked, "When has Sandy's not coming to you ever stopped you before?"

"You're right," Jim agreed. "Maybe it's time I pulled a little BPM and paid a visit to the academy. Make some discrete inquires."

"Okay, first, what in the hell in a 'BPM' and second, you being discrete? I don't think so."

"Hey, I can do discrete?" After a repeated snort from Megan, Jim insisted, "Really, I can." Glancing at Megan, he smiled. "Okay, maybe not all that discrete."

"Now that I can believe," Megan replied. "So?"

"So what?"

"So what's this 'BPM'?"

Giving Megan a sheepish look, Jim answered, "It's Ö um Ö well." Trailing off, the then mumbled something else.

"What was that, mate? I didn't quite catch that. I'm not the one with the super ears."

Rolling his eyes, Jim repeated, "Blessed Protector Maneuver."

Laughing, Megan gasped out, "What?" Seeing Jim squirm, she said, "Ooh, I think that's there's a very interesting story there."

Pulling up in front of a small, cozy-looking house, Jim replied, "Interesting would be one word for it. Then again, frightening and terrifying would work too."

"Jim?"

"It's just related to an old case, Connor. One that I don't like to talk about. Or even think about for that matter."

"Was SandyÖ"

"Don't you even think about asking him about it," Jim interrupted. "Do you hear me, Connor?"

"Sure thing, mate," Megan replied. "Whatever you say."

"Good, now let's go talk to these people." Having said that, Jim got out of the truck.

Wincing when Jim slammed the door shut, Megan thought, 'Seems like I need to make some discrete inquiries of my own.'

Following behind Jim as he stormed up to the front door and proceeded to pound on it, Megan said, "We're just here to interview them, Ellison. I don't think that the big, bad cop routine is necessary."

"Connor, IÖ" Jim began but stopped when the door opened.

"Yes, can I help you?" A soft voice hesitantly asked.

Jim pulled out his badge. "Ma'am, I'm Detective Ellison and this is Inspector Connor. We need to ask you a few questions."

The woman peered at the two officers from behind the cracked door. "About what?"

"We need to ask you some questions about a Gilbert Martin," Jim answered.

"Gil? What about him?"

"Well, if you'll just let us in, we'll tell you what we can, Mrs. Jackson." Jim's voice became tense as he began to lose his patience.

"Let me see your badge again," the woman demanded. "Both of them."

"Now, look hereÖ"

Stepping forward, pushing Jim aside, Megan pulled out her badge. "Of course, Ma'am. No problem. Can't be too careful now-a-days, can you?"

"No, you can't."

After putting her badge away, Megan turned to Jim. "Show her your badge, Ellison."

"Oh for the love ofÖ" Shaking his head, Jim pulled out his badge and shoved it towards the woman. "Satisfied now?"

His hearing suddenly spiking, Jim tackled Megan and brought them both crashing to the ground just as the door was flung open and several shots rang out. Lunging upward, Jim grabbed a hold of Mrs. Jackson and they began to struggle over the gun.

"Jim!" Megan cried out when another shot sounded. Horrified, she watched as Jim and the woman fell back into the house. Struggling to her feet, side aching from where Jim had impacted against her, Megan raced into the house. Spotting Jim sitting on the floor, a hand clenching his bloodied arm, she let out a sigh of relief. Glancing towards an unconscious Mrs. Jackson, she asked, "Are you all right?"

"Does it look like I'm all right?" Jim asked, irritation lacing every word.

Pulling out her cell phone, Megan quickly dialed the station to have them send a patrol car to pick up Mrs. Jackson and an ambulance for Jim.

Hearing Megan's call, Jim complained, "C'mon, Connor, I don't need an ambulance. After the patrol car shows up and takes Annie Oakley over there into custody, you can take me to the hospital."

"Oh, so now you're gonna let me drive?" Megan retorted. "No way, mate. If Sandy found out that I didn't have you checked out immediately, he'll have my hide. Normally, that wouldn't be such a bad thing, but in this instance I don't think that I'd enjoy the experience very much."

"Connor, I'm in enough pain as it is," Jim replied, "and even though thought of you and Sandburg together makes it escalate into intense agony."

Chuckling, Megan squatted down next to Jim and began to inspect his wound.

Pulling his arm away, Jim hissed in pain and then growled, "Watch it, Connor."

"Quit being just a baby, Ellison." There was a hint of amusement in Megan's voice. "It's just a scratch."

"Well, it doesn't feel like a scratch."

Worried, Megan lowered her voice. "Jim, are you having trouble with the Ö with the you know."

"What?"

"The dials," Megan hissed. "Are you having trouble with the dials?"

"They're a little out of whack," Jim confessed. "But it's nothing that I can't handle until I see Sandburg tonight. He'll fix it. He always does."

"JimÖ"

"I'll be fine," Jim interrupted. "I can deal with it."

"Maybe I should call Sandy."

"No." Jim shook his head in protest. "I don't want to bother him. He's got enough to worry about right now. And don't you tell him about the dials either. Like I said, I can handle it."

Uncertain, Megan began, "I don'tÖ"

"I mean it, Connor," Jim cut in. "Not a word."

Before Megan could respond, the officers and paramedics arrived. Giving Jim a final, uneasy glance, she went to talk to the patrolmen as the paramedics began treating Jim.


After a quick examination, hastened by Jim's incessant complaints and increasingly vocal grumbling, the paramedics loaded the wounded detective into the ambulance and took him to the hospital. Now, impatiently sitting on a gurney, Jim turned to the nurse and growled, "Exactly how much longer is this going to take anyway?"

"The doctor will be here momentarily, Sir."

"Yeah, well, I hope so." Under his breath, he added, "As it is, Sandburg gonna give me hell when he finds out about this; but it'll be worse if he hears about it from someone besides me."

"What was that, Sir?"

"Nothing." Then the door opened and Jim looked up as the doctor entered. "Well it's about time."

Smiling, Dr. Amanda Cuthbertson said, "It's nice to see you too, Jim." Expression turning serious, she added, "But what exactly are you doing back here again so soon? After what happened at Christmas time, didn't I tell you that I didn't want to see you back here for six months?"

"Yeah, like that was going to happen. You were just deluding yourself there, Doc."

Chuckling, Dr. Cuthbertson approached Jim and began to examine his arm. "Well, let's see what you've managed to do to yourself this time, Detective."

After examining Jim's arm, Dr. Cuthbertson was stitching up the gouge made by the bullet. "You were lucky this time, Jim," she said as she finished the last stitch and tied it off. "The bullet just grazed you." Putting on a bandage, she stated, "What is it with you and that partner of yours anyway? You two seem to be showing up here a lot lately."

"What are you talking about?" Jim asked. "I know that it hasn't been all that long since I've been here, but Sandburg hasn't been here for a while."

"But just last weekÖ" Trailing off, Dr. Cuthbertson gave Jim an intense, unreadable look.

"Last week what?" Jim asked when Dr. Cuthbertson didn't continue. "Is there something going on that I should know about?"

"Jim, have you seen a lot of Blair lately?"

"I seen him every day," Jim answered. "Well, at least every night during the week. He's been going to the academy during the day. We spend every weekend together though. Why?"

"Listen, Jim, I don't really feel comfortable discussing this without Blair's approval," Dr. Cuthbertson said. "I can't break any doctor/patient confidentiality."

"Listen, Doc, I think you'd better cut the crap and tell me what in the hell is going on here."

"JimÖ" Doctor Cuthbertson began. Before she could finish, Sadie rushed into the room.

Pausing as she caught sight of Jim, Sadie hesitated briefly before saying, "Dr. C, you're needed in exam area two. There was someone brought in and I think that you'll want to treat this patient yourself."

"Sadie, I'm with Detective Ellison at the moment," Dr. Cuthbertson replied. "I'm sure someone else can handle it."

"But it'sÖ"

"What, Sadie?" Dr. Cuthbertson prompted when the nurse fell silent.

Sadie bestowed a sad, sympathetic look on Jim. "It's Blair. He was just brought into the emergency room."

"Again?" Dr. Cuthbertson asked.

Reeling from Sadie's news, Jim almost missed Dr. Cuthbertson's murmured word. Glaring at the doctor, he demanded, "Wait a minute. What do you mean by 'again'?"

  

Chapter Two

"Jim, weíll discuss this later," Dr. Cuthbertson said. "Right now, I need to get to Blair."

"Fine, Dr. C," Jim agreed. "But we will definitely be discussing this later."

Nodding, Dr. Cuthbertson turned to Sadie and instructed, "Sadie, would you finished dressing Detective Ellisonís wound and then see about getting him discharged." Looking at Jim again, she added, "After youíre discharged, you can check up on Blair."

Leaving Jim to Sadieís care, confident that the nurse could keep Jim under control for the time being, Dr. Cuthbertson hurried out of the room.

As soon as the doctor left, Jim turned to the nurse. "Címon, Sadie, let me go on down there. We can handle the paperwork later."

"Jim, right now, youíd do more harm than good. Give Dr. C. a chance to help Blair. Youíll see him soon. I promise."

Sighing, Jim relented, "Okay. Iíll stay here for now. But youíve got to tell me what Dr. C. meant by Ďagainí."

"Jim, I really shouldnítÖ"

"Címon, Sadie, I need to know."

After a slight hesitation, Sadie explained, "Blair has been a frequent visitor to the ER over the past few weeks. Usually, itís something minor. A sprain, some cuts. The most serious was a bruised rib. Each time he came in, I offered to call you but he refused. He said that you were busy on a case and that he didnít want to bother you."

"Exactly how often had he been here?"

"Once or twice a week over the past two months."

"Since he began going to the academy," Jim murmured to himself. "I knew something was going on." He raised his voice. "Sadie, can you go get my discharge papers ready? I want to get to Blair as soon as possible and thereís a few phone calls that I need to make."

"Iíll go see if I can hurry them along."

"Thanks," Jim called out as the nurse left the room. Dialing up his hearing, Jim relaxed slightly when he picked up on Blairís slow, but steady, heartbeat. "Youíd better be alright, Sandburg," he whispered. "Why didnít you come to me about this, Chief? I would have done something. I am going to do something. This wonít be happening again."

Several minutes later, Sadie returned with Jimís discharge papers. "Here you go, Detective," she said as she entered the room. "Youíre all set. Just remember to take care of that arm."

Standing up, Jim took the papers from Sadie. "I will, Sadie." Then, he went to find his guide.

Standing in the hallway, Megan saw Jim leave the treatment room and head down the hall. "Jim," she called out. When Jim turned around, she hurried over to him. "Whatís going on?"

"Sandburg is in the emergency room too," Jim informed her. "While Dr. C. was treating my arm, Sadie came in to get her."

"Is he all right? What happened?"

"I donít know how he is," Jim answered. "Thatís why Iím going down there now to find something out. As for what happened, Iíve got a pretty good idea. Címon, Iíll tell you about it on the way down there."


When Jim finished explaining the situation, Megan exclaimed, "Those wankers! Iíll go down there and kick their asses!"

"Youíd have to get in line after me," Jim growled. "When I find out whoís responsible for this, IíllÖ" Trailing off, Jim sighed in frustration. "I just canít understand why he didnít tell me about it."

"He probably thought that he could handle it himself," Megan replied. "You know how Sandy is, never wants anyone, especially the gang at the station, to see him as weak or helpless."

"But, itís different with me."

"Is it?" Megan asked. "Seems to me that itís even more true when itís you."

"And what exactly do you mean by that, Connor?"

"You and Sandy, youíve been through some pretty rough times lately," Megan explained. "There for a while, we werenít sure if the two of you would ever work through your differences. Both of you, you almost let everything that happened drive you apart for good. Like it or not, that affected both of you and your friendship. Youíve both still got a lot of issues to deal with and it seems to me that you both, especially Sandy, are still learning how to trust each other again."

"Youíre saying that Sandburg didnít come to me with this because he doesnít trust me?"

"Iím saying that the two of you need to sit down and have a long talk," Megan replied. "About everything. Alex, the dissertation, everything that happened over Christmas, Sandyís stint at the academy; youíve never really dealt with any of these things. Until you do, youíll never be back to the way you were."

"Maybe we donít need to be back to the way we were," Jim mused. "Seems to me that thatís why we got screwed up in the first place."

"I donít understand."

"Nothing, Connor," Jim replied. "Itís nothing. But youíre right about one thing. Sandburg and I will definitely be having a talk later." He turned to face Megan. "Look, Iím going to go check on Sandburg. Would you go check in at the station and tell Simon whatís going on? Maybe he can start checking out things at the academy."

"All right," Megan agreed. "But as soon as Iím done, Iíll be back. I want to know how Sandy is doing."

Jim watched as Megan walked over to the payphones. Then, he followed the sound of Blair's heartbeat to the examination room. Once there, despite the protests of several nurses and orderlies, he went drew back the curtain. "Fuck!" he exclaimed when he saw Blairís unconscious form laying on the gurney.

Hearing the yelled expletive, Dr. Cuthbertson turned around. "Jim, what are you doing back here?"

Holding up the papers that Sadie had given him, Jim replied, "You said I had to wait until after I was discharged. Well, I was so here I am. Whatís wrong with Sandburg?"

"Jim, you really need to go back to the waitingÖ"

"Iím not going anywhere until you tell me whatís wrong with my partner," Jim interrupted as he continued into the room and came to stand by Blairís bedside. "Why is he unconscious?"

"He took a pretty severe blow to the back of his head," Dr. Cuthbertson explained. "Iím getting ready to send him for a CAT scan right now. We should know something more after that."

"Itís not serious, is it?" Jim was worried at seeing his usually hyper friend lying there so still and pale.

"Like I said, weíll know more after the scan," Dr. Cuthbertson reiterated.

"Well, what about besides the head wound?" Jim gestured towards Blair's body. "Are there any other injuries?"

"A few bruises and lacerations," Dr. Cuthbertson informed. "And his knee has been pretty badly sprained."

"I know about the knee. It was messed up when he came home Friday."

"Did he say how it happened?"

"Some sort of accident during a training exercise at the academy," Jim replied. "At least thatís what he said."

"Well it seems as if heís had quite a few of these little accidents lately," Dr. Cuthbertson remarked.

"I know, Dr. C. and, believe me, I intend to get to the bottom of it."

"Well, you can do that from out in the waiting room," the doctor instructed. "Iíll come get you as soon as Blairís back from getting the scan."

"ButÖ"

"Thereís nothing you can do for him right now, Jim." Dr. Cuthbertson's tone was sympathetic. "Right now, youíd only get in the way. Go wait and let us do our job. Weíll take good care of Blair. You know that."

Reluctantly, Jim nodded. "All right. But youíd better come and get me as soon as heís back."

"I will," Dr. Cuthbertson promised.

Reaching out to grasp Blairís slack hand, Jim leaned over and whispered, "Hang in there, partner. Iíll be right here if you need me." Releasing Blairís hand, Jim took one last lingering look at his guide and then left the room.


Arriving in the waiting room, Jim found Megan already there waiting on him. "Hey, Connor. What did Simon say?"

"In a minute," Megan replied. "First, tell me how Sandy is doing?"

Jim sat down next to Megan. "Unconscious. Dr. C. said that he received a pretty bad blow to his head. Theyíre getting ready to do a CAT scan now and see whatís going on. She said that sheíd come get me as soon as Sandburg was brought back to the ER."

"Did she give you any idea as to how serious it was?"

"No. She didnít tell me much of anything. I guess she wanted to wait until they found something out. What about Simon? What did he say?"

"He and Joel are on their way here. Brown and Rafe were back from court so he sent them to the academy. Theyíre going to question the instructors and cadets. See if they can find out if what happened to Sandy was academy related or not."

"Maybe we can do some investigating of our own while we wait," Jim said. "Iíll go nuts just sitting here."

"What did you have in mind?"

"We could find out how Sandburg got here. If an ambulance brought him in then we could talk to the paramedics. See what they know."

"Sounds good to me." Megan looked over toward the examination rooms. "But what about Sandy? How are we going to know when he and Dr. C get back from the scan?"

Jim tapped his ear. "Iíll know." Standing up, he said, "Letís start with the admittance desk. Theyíve got to know something about how Sandburg got here."

Arriving at the admittance desk, Jim and Megan had to wait while someone was being admitted to the ER. Impatience getting the better of him, Jim took a step forward and pulled out his badge. "Excuse me, but I really need to ask someone a few questions."

"Certainly, Detective," the nurse replied. "Iíll be with you as soon as possible."

"Look, lady, IÖ"

"That will be fine," Megan interrupted as she grabbed Jimís uninjured arm and hauled the detective back a few steps. "We can wait."

After the nurse had turned her attention back to the patient, Jim turned to Megan. "What in the hell are you doing, Connor? We need some answers."

"Yes, we do," Megan agreed. "But donít you think that sheíll be a little bit more forthcoming if we donít start interrogating her? Losing your temper isnít going to do Sandy any good."

Grumbling a few inaudible comments, Jim relented.

Finished with the person she had been helping, the nurse addressed Jim and Megan. "Can I help you?"

Quickly stepping in front of Jim, Megan replied, "Yes, we have a few questions about a patient that was admitted just a little while ago."

"What is the patientís name?"

"Blair Sandburg," Megan answered. "We need to know who brought him here. Was it an ambulance?"

"Just a moment and Iíll check." The nurse looked down and began accessing a computer. "Our records indicate that someone brought him in," the woman said after a few minutes. "A Greg Williams checked Mr. Sandburg into the hospital. He was required to show his ID since Mr. Sandburg was unconscious. But he left soon after Mr. Sandburg was taken back into a treatment room."

"Did you happen to get any other information from him?" Megan asked. "Address, phone number?"

"Well, I did make a copy of his ID," the nurse replied. "I donít know why though. Itís not standard procedure. But something about the manís behavior just made me suspicious."

"Why?" Jim took a step forward. "Exactly how was he acting?"

"Being here in the ER, you tend to become pretty good at reading peopleís body language," the nurse explained, "and this gentleman, he just acted like he felt guilty. He seemed pretty anxious to leave yet also reluctant at the same time. Pretty torn actually. Like he wanted to stay and see how Mr. Sandburg was doing but was scared to do so." Seeing the looks of surprise on the faces of the two police officers, the nurse added, "Itís been a pretty slow day today. Besides Mr. Sandburg, weíve only had three other people come in for treatment. Since Mr. Sandburgís injuries were the most severe, his case drew my attention. Besides, I always tend to keep a pretty close eye on the happenings around here. Things can get pretty crazy sometimes."

"I image," Megan said. "Could you please get us a copy of Mr. Williamsí ID?"

"Right away."

When the woman went to retrieve the paper, Jim turned to Megan. "We need to get a hold of Brown and Rafe, have them check to see if this guy is in any of Sandburgís classes."

"What guy?" A loud voice asked.

Turning around, Jim and Megan saw a very concerned looking Joel and Simon standing behind them.

"Simon, Joel," Jim greeted.

"Whatís going on, Jim?" Joel asked. "Howís Blair? Megan didnít have a lot of details."

"And we still donít," Jim replied. "Sandburgís getting a CAT scan right now. Dr. C. said that he received a blow to the back of his head and theyíre checking that out. Other than that, heís got some bruises and cuts. And I think that he re-injured his knee some."

"Re-injured his knee?" Joel asked. "Jim, tell me what in the hell is going on with my son and tell me now!"

"UmÖ excuse me," a voice said, "but Iíve got that information for you."

Turning around, Megan took that paper from the nurse. "Thank you. If we have any further questions, weíll let you know." Facing the group of men once again, Megan said, "Why donít we take this to the waiting room."

"I donít care where we go just as long as someone tells me whatís going on with my son!"

"Weíll tell you everything that we know, Joel," Jim promised. "But so far, itís not a whole hell of a lot."


Once they were seated in the waiting room, Jim said, "Well, I guess that I should start with Friday." Receiving a nod of encouragement from Joel, he continued. "When Sandburg got home, I noticed that he was limping. He tried to give me some bull about an accident during a training exercise, but I didnít buy it."

"Why not?" Joel asked.

"Like Sandburg once said, Iím a human lie detector," Jim answered as he tapped his ear once again.

"Oh."

"Yeah," Jim agreed. "Anyway, I took a look at his knee and fixed it up but I was never able to get anything else out of him. Then, when Dr. C. was treating my arm, Sadie came in and said that Sandburg was in the ER. Before I could ask any questions, I heard Dr. C. say Ďagainí. After she left to take care of Blair, I managed to get an explanation as to what she meant."

"And what did she mean?" Joel prompted when Jim didnít elaborate.

"Apparently, Blairís been a frequent visitor to the ER since he started up at the academy," Jim explained. "Sadie said that heís been here once or twice a week for two months now."

"And you suspect that his classmates have something to do with it?" The question came from Simon this time.

"Yeah, I do," Jim confirmed.

"What about this guy that you were talking about?" Simon asked.

"The nurse said that this guy Greg Williams brought Sandburg in this afternoon," Jim answered. "I think that Brown and Rafe should check him out while they're at the academy, see if heís in Sandburgís class."

"What did Blair have to say?" Joel asked.

"Well, Joel," Jim began. Looking down, he continued, "Sandburg has been unconscious ever since he was brought here. He hasnít woken up yet."

"Shit!" Joel exclaimed, this outburst from the usually jovial man surprising the other officers. "If his injuries are a result of some kind of harassment, Iím going to go down there andÖ"

"Kick some ass," Jim finished. He laid a hand on Joelís shoulder. "Youíre too late, Joel. Connor and I have already called dibs on that."

Knowing that Jimís remark was an attempt to lessen his worry, Joel smiled. "As Blairís father, Iím invoking my parental right to go down there and seek a little bit of retaliation for my son. Simon, you can back me up on this one, canít you?"

Glancing between the two men, Simon smiled. "Donít look at me. Iím staying out of this one. Besides, Iíd like to do down there and kick some tail myself." Sobering, Simon said, "Look, Iím gonna step outside and call Brown. He and Rafe should be at the academy by now and Iíll have them look into this Williams guy. See if he really is a cadet or not."

Sensing that Jim and Joel might like some time alone, Megan said, "I'll go with you, Sir."

"I don't think that's necessary, Conner," Simon replied as he stood up.

Trying to be discreet, Megan gave the other two men a sideward glance. "Really, Captain, I'd like to go along. Find out if they've come up with anything yet."

Simon got the hint. "Oh, okay. Well, weíll be back as soon as we can."

Watching Megan and Simon walk off, Jim said, "No matter what, weíll find the guys that did this, Joel. And one way or another, theyíre pay for what they did to Blair."

Unnerved by Jimís words, not to mention the way in which Jim had said his sonís name, Joel didnít respond as he tried to decipher exactly why that vow caused a shiver to run through his body. Joel turned to look at Jim. He couldnít help wondering exactly how well he really knew this man that he had considered a friend for several years. Taking a closer look, seeing the way Jimís head was tilted slightly to the side, Joel remembered seeing Jim strike a similar posture before.

Struck by a sudden realization, Joel thought, ĎHeís listening in on Blair. Trying to find out whatís going on.í Continuing his study of the other man, he wondered, ĎBut what am I seeing? Is it a friend worrying about an injured friend? Or is it a Sentinel worried about his injured Ö guide? My son is this manís guide. Blair is Jimís guide.í It was then that Joel finally recognized the tone in which Jim had said his sonís name. And he knew why it caused such a reaction in him. ĎHis tone, when he said Blairís name, it sounded like possession. Ownership.í Another shiver racked his body. ĎOne thing is clear, as soon as I know that my son is safe, Jim Ellison and I will be having a very serious discussion.í

Both men were so caught up in their concerns for Blair that neither of them noticed the figure that detached itself from the shadows and quietly left the hospital. Escaping outside, the man pulled out a cell phone. "It's me, he was brought in again." After a moment, he stated, "I don't know yet, he's hasn't regained consciousness yet. Yes, Ellison and Taggart are here. Banks and that Connor woman as well." The man paused again. "If that's how you want it, then that's how it'll be." Snapping the phone shut, the man went back into the hospital to continue his surveillance.

Across town, Naomi Sandburg hung up the phone. "So, he's been hurt again. I won't let this continue. I know what's best for my baby even if he doesn't. Ellison and Taggart certainly aren't what's best for him. One way or another, I'll get my son back from those pigs." Smiling, she said, "Looks like it's time for us to have a little chat, Detective Ellison."


Huddled together on the police academy athletic field, tension radiated from all six men as they began to argue. Nervously glancing around, the dark-haired, lanky young man hissed, "You guys went way too far. I canít keep this quiet anymore."

Reaching out, John Adams grabbed the shoulder of the man standing in front of him. Leaning forward, using his larger size to intimidate the smaller cadet, he demanded, "What are you talking about? You were all gung ho for getting rid of the little fag. What changed? Maybe you're getting some from him too. He's already putting out for all of Major Crimes so what's one more, huh?"

Shrugging off the hold, Greg Williams glared at his fellow cadet. Taking a deep breath, he took a moment to calm his racing thoughts. 'God, how did I ever get mixed up in this? All I ever wanted was to be a cop like my dad and now look at me. Shit, I know that Sandburg doesn't belong here. He's an insult to everything the PD stands for. No matter what the university said, the guy publicly admitted to fraud. And he's going to be a detectiveís full time partner? But assault? That was illegal. Hell, we're training to be cops and here we are breaking the law.'

Looking up as Adams took a step towards him, Greg held up a hand to halt the other cadet's advancement. "Sandburg was unconscious when I left him at the hospital. If he dies, youíve committed murder! And I'm an accessory to that. Hell, Adams, we all want to be cops, don't we? So tell me something? How do murder and being cops go together?"

The other five men looked at him with disgust.

"Williams, youíre soft. You rat us out, weíll go after you too. You know what happens to rats, donít you?" Josh Short snarled.

Staring at the other man, the self-proclaimed ringleader of the group, Williams briefly wondered just why the man hated Sandburg so much. "Don't threaten me, Short. I'm not going to just stand there and take your shit like Sandburg does. You make a move against me and I'll go straight to Ellison. I'm sure that he'd like to have a little talk with the guys who put his partner in the hospital."

"You wouldn't dare. After all, we wouldn't want daddy to know about our extra curricular activities, would we?"

"Just back off, Short. All I'm saying is that weÖ"

"We need to break this up for now, that's what we need to do," Short interrupted. "You can bet that those Major Crime detectives are going to be here asking questions. We need to get our story straight. Remember, guys, we were just studying and none of us have had any kind of interactions with the fag." After receiving an answering nod from the others, Short turned to Williams again. "As for you, Williams, you just remember to keep your mouth shut. If you turn on us, you'll get a little taste of what we've been dishing out to Sandburg. Then I'm going to pay your old man a little visit!"

Watching as his fellow cadets walked away, Williams again wondered exactly how it got himself mixed up in this and how he could get out of it without winding up in a cell.


Getting out of their car, Brian Rafe and Henri Brown were furious as they made their way into the academy. Still reeling from the news that Sandburg had been hurt, and from what Banks had said it wasnít the first time, they were going to get to the bottom of this and find out who had hurt their friend.

Pausing as a soft beeping noise sounded from his coat pocket, Brown pulled out his cell phone. "Hey, Rafe, hang on a second."

Stopping, Rafe turned to watch as his partner answered the call. Concerned over the deepening frown on the other man's face, Rafe wondered if Blair's condition had taken a turn for the worse.

"Did you say Williams?" Brown asked, disturbing his partner's musings. "Shit, Captain, I think I know that guy. If he's the one that I'm thinking about, that is. There's a Detective Sam Williams in Homicide and he's got a kid named Greg." After a few seconds of silence, he added, "We've got it covered, sir. You can count on us. If this guy is responsible for the kid getting hurt, we'll take him down no matter who his father is. As soon as we find out anything we'll let you know."

"What's happening?" Rafe asked when Brown slammed his phone shut.

Shoving the phone back into his pocket, Brown started to walk towards the entrance again. "That was the captain. Seems Ellison and Connor found out that some guy named Greg Williams dumped Hairboy in the emergency room and then took off."

"And this guy is a cop's kid?"

"That's what we're going to find out," Brow replied. "Last I heard Detective Williams' kid was planning on attending the academy. So before this is over, we may end up having to bust a cop's kid."

"Oh man, that's not going to be pretty."

"Tell me about it," Brown commiserated. "But, hell, if this guy messed with Sandburg then he's going down."

"Going down hard," Rafe agreed. "Nobody messes with one of us, no matter who they are."

"You said it, babe."

Caught up in their thoughts, both men remained silent as they continued on towards the building.

Once inside, they headed for the commandant's office. Brown cleared his throat when they reached the receptionist's desk.

Hastily putting aside some papers, the administrative assistant looked up in surprise. "What can I do for you, gentlemen?"

Holding up his badge, Brown announced, "I'm Detective Brown and this is my partner Detective Rafe." He glanced down at the nameplate. "Sergeant Hughes, we need speak to Captain Jones about Blair Sandburg."

"Blair Sandburg?" Hughes asked, surprise evident on his face. "I was just filling out some paperwork on him. He missed his afternoon classes." Leaning forward, voice dropping to a conspirator's soft tone, he added, "I can't say that I'm all that surprised. Everyone here knows that he shouldn't be at the academy yet alone associated with the force. The guy's a disgrace to all of us. I'm not surprised he took off. He's nothing but aÖ aÖ" Finally noticing the twin glares directed his way, he came to a stumbling halt.

"He Ďmissedí the class because heís unconscious in the emergency room," Rafe hissed. "Now we need to talk to the commandant right now. And while you're sitting there doing nothing, how about finding out if a Greg Williams is a cadet here. If he is, then track him down and get his ass in here. We need to talk to him as well."

"Alright, gentlemen," the now flustered sergeant replied. "Let me apprise Captain Jones of the situation and then Iíll check on this Greg Williams. Please take a seat." After the two detectives had walked away, the sergeant picked up the phone and buzzed the commandant.

About five minutes later, an extremely disturbed looking man emerged from a door marked, 'Commandant'. Approaching the seated men, he stated, "Good day, gentlemen. I'm Captain Jones, please come into my office so we can discuss this matter."

Gesturing for the two detectives to precede him, Captain Jones exchanged an uneasy glance with the sergeant before following after them. Once inside, he indicated for Rafe and Brown to take a seat before he went over to sit behind his desk. "So, how can I help you?"

"Earlier today, Blair Sandburg was brought into Cascade General by a Greg Williams."

"Greg Williams?"

Hearing the recognition in the captain's tone, Rafe confirmed, "Yes, sir. The admitting nurse made a copy of his ID. There is no doubt."

"Are you aware who Cadet Williams' father is?" Jones queried.

Brown and Rafe exchanged a brief glance, silently communicating their desire to play dumb. "Why would that make any difference?" Brown asked.

"Cadet Williams comes from a very respectable family," Jones answered. "His father is a distinguished police officer himself and there is no way that his son would be involved with the likes of Sandburg."

"The likes of Sandburg?" Anger evident in his tone, Brown leaned forward. "Whether you like it or not, Sandburg is a cadet at this academy. As commandant, it is your duty not only to provide an example of how a cop should act but to also ensure the safety of everyone here. Donít you care that a cadet was hurt and then dumped at the hospital?"

"Sandburg is NOT a cadet. He is merely taking a few classes. For some reason, in spite of his questionable background, heís been allowed to attend the academy. Not only that, he'll be partnered with Ellison on a full time basis once he's done. If I had been consulted or given a choice in the matter, he would not be here. Heís a disgrace and an admitted fraud!" The captain was clearly furious. "I suppose you wish to question Williams?"

"Yes sir, we do," Brown answered. "As well as the other cadets in Sandburg's classes."

"And just who gave you the authorization to conduct interviews of my cadets?"

"Captain Banks, that's who." Growing angry at the captain's behavior, Brown gripped the arms of the chair he was seated in. "He assigned us to investigate the assault upon Dr. Sandburg. Williams was the last person to see Dr. Sandburg and will be questioned. We will also report your lack of concern about Dr. Sandburgís injuries and the academyís failure to follow established procedure. Now, find Cadet Williams. Immediately."

Rafe nodded his approval of his partnerís firm tone. This bullshit was going to stop.

Captain Jones called his assistant. "Sergeant Hughes, please locate Cadet Williams and have him report to me immediately. These detectives will question him while I observe."

Brown spoke up. "No, sir. We will question him on our own. That can happen here if you have an empty classroom or we will escort him to the station. Your choice."

"I don't think so, detective. Banks may be in charge over at Major Crime, but I'm the boss around here. I'll allow you to question Cadet Williams, but only if I'm present." His tone indignant, Jones added, "Interfering with a promising cadetís education because of a fraud. I will be calling the commissioner about this!"

"So will we, sir, so will we." Rafe murmured.

 

Chapter Three

Joel looked up as Simon and Megan returned. "Well?"

"I talked with Brown," Simon replied. "I gave them the information on this Williams and theyíre going to check him out."

Seeming to finally become aware of the conversation, Jim asked, "What exactly is the information on this Williams? I never got to look at his ID. What does it say Connor?"

Pulling the piece of paper out of her pocket, Megan unfolded it and handed it to Jim. Accepting the paper with a mumbled, "Thanks." Jim then read out loud. "Greg Williams. Age 25. Hey, this guy looks familiar."

Leaning towards Jim, Joel looked at the grainy picture. "Itís kind of hard to tell, but I think Jimís right."

"He very well could be," Simon replied. "When I spoke with Brown, he recognized the name. Seems this Greg Williams may be the son of a homicide detective name Sam Williams. After I talked with Brown, I called the precinct and asked Rhonda do some checking on it."

"Son of a bitch," Jim cursed, his fist tightening on the paper.

"Brown and Rafe are checking at the academy now to see if this Williams is a cadet. We have to tread carefully. Detective Williams has a reputation nearly as good as yours, Jim."

"Thatís bull, Simon, and you know it." Jim was clearly furious. "Sandburg could have been killed and you're talking about treading carefully. I don't believe this!"

"JimÖ" Simon began but stopped when Dr. C. walked up.

Jim stood. "How is he, Dr. C?"

"Finally awake," Dr. C answered with a smile, "though heís going to have one hell of a headache for a while. The CAT scan did confirm a slight concussion though so I want to keep him overnight for observation."

"Can I see him?" Jim asked.

"I think that can be arranged. Once heís settled into a room, Iíll come get you okay?"

"Yeah, okay. Thanks, Dr. C."

"Youíre welcome," the doctor replied. "Now, if youíll excuse me, Iíve got some other patients to attend to." With a final nod, she left.

Sitting down, Jim sagged back against the chair. "Thank God."

Sharing Jimís relief, Joel concurred. "You said it, Jim."

"Now that I know the kid is going to be all right," Simon spoke up, "I think that Iíll head to the station. Do a little investigating of my own."

"Iíll join you," Megan said. "I want to help nail these guys."

Simon nodded at Connor. "Take care of Sandburg, you two. Jim, you take care of that arm. You really should go home soon and get some rest."

"I want to see Sandburg first," Jim replied. "After that, Iíll consider it."

"See that you do, Detective. Thatís an order."

After the others had left, Joel glanced at Jim. Nervously, he cleared his throat. "Um, Jim, thereís something that Iíd like to talk to you about."

"What?"

"Blair," Joel answered. Voice low, he added, "About this Ö this guide thing."

Straightening up in his chair, Jim pinned Joel with an intense look. "Exactly what about it, Joel?"

Raising up a hand, Joel said, "Look, Jim, as Blairís father I feel that I have a right to know about whatís going on in my sonís life, to know about the different aspects of his life. You are a big part of his life. Over the years, Iíve seen you go from one extreme to the other in the way you deal with Blair. Iíve seen you concerned, protective and caring. But, Iíve also seen you controlling, hurtful and downright mean as well. Now, Iím not going to get into the whole Alex Barnes thing with you. We both know that you acted like a bastard to Blair during that time. I guess what I what to know is; how do I know that you wonít act that way towards him again? Because believe me, Jim, there is one thing that Naomi and I have in common. Like her, Iíll do whatever it takes to keep my son safe. If that means getting him away from you, then thatís what Iíll do."

"If you do try to come between Blair and me, if you make him chose between the two of us, youíll regret it," Jim warned. "You ought to know that by now. No matter what happens, Sandburg and I will always come back together again. Nothing will ever drive us apart for long."

"I know that, Jim. Iíve seen it. Iíve seen the way my son keeps coming back even after all the shit that youíve put him through. God, no many how many times I see this type of behavior, I will never understand it; a person who keeps returning to an abusive situation."

"Whoa, wait a minute there, Taggart," Jim said. "Are youÖ Do you really thinkÖ Christ, Joel, Iíve never laid a hand on Sandburg. I canít believe that youÖ"

"No, you wait a minute," Joel interrupted. "Iím not saying that you hit Blair. Though if you ever do, youíll have to answer to me. But there are other kinds of abuse, Jim. Whether you like it or not, whether youíll admit it or not, some of your behavior can border on verbal and mental abuse. Iíve seen it myself and Iíve heard about it from others whoíve witnessed the way you treat Blair. That scene in the bullpen on Thanksgiving is one such instance."

"What goes on between Sandburg and me is nobodyís business. I admit that I sometimes lose control of my temper and I blow off some steam, usually in Sandburgís direction. But he knows that I donít mean anything by it."

"Does he?" Joel asked. "Do you even tell him that youíre sorry after you Ďblown off some steamí? Seems to me that Blair is always the one trying to make things right between the two of you. Heís always trying to fix things. My God, Jim, did you even see that press conference Blair gave? The one where he renounced his lifeís work and declared himself a fraud?"

Jim shifted in his seat. "I donít want to talk about that."

"Why? Why donít you want to talk about it? Is it because you can still picture the look on his face? I still see it, Jim. Or do you not want to think about the sacrifice that he was willing to make for you?"

"I never asked him to do it!" Jim exclaimed. "Iím not responsible for what he does."

"Iím not saying that you are and Iím not saying that Blair is totally without blame in everything. But tell me something, Jim. Were you really prepared to let him do it? Were you really going to let him throw away everything that heís worked for all these years?"

"Iím what he worked for," Jim blurted out. Immediately regretting the words, he said, "What I mean isÖ I mean, heÖ" Jim sighed and ran a hand over his face. "Hell, Joel, I donít know what I mean. This whole thing with Sandburg, this whole sentinel thing, itís confusing as hell to me sometimes. For so long, it was this secret between the two of us Ö well the three of us if you count Simon but he was never that involved with it. The kid was always there with some suggestion or idea. Always coming up with some way for me to improve my senses or some new way for me to manage them. It got to be irritating at times. But it could also beÖ Shit, how can I put this without sounding like some egocentric, self-centered narcissist?"

"Let me guess," Joel said. "It can also be rather flattering at times. Kind of an ego boost, having someone so focused on you, huh? After the two of you met, you kind of became the center of his universe. Sure, he still had other interests Ö the university, a social life Ö but the main focus of his energies, his attention, was you, right?"

Jim averted his eyes. "I suppose."

"Iím not any kind of psychiatrist or anything, but even I can see that the relationship between the two of you, itís Ö symbiotic I guess is the word Iím looking for. As much as that can be beneficial to the both of you, it can also be detrimental."

"What are you saying, Joel?"

"Iím saying that maybe you and Blair need to Ö to separate your lives some. Find some separate interests."

"You make it sound like weíre joined at the hip or something. Contrary to what the guys at the station think, Sandburg and I donít spend every second of the day together. Sure a lot of areas of our lives overlap, but we do have separate interests. Weíre still two separate individuals. What is up anyway? First Connor and now you. Why the sudden interest in Sandburg and me?"

"Itís not sudden. Even before I found out that Blair was my son, I considered him a friend. I care about him andÖ"

"Yeah, sure," Jim scoffed. "You care so much that you participated in that little stunt with Brown and Rafe. The little ghost prank of yours really showed how much you care for him."

"WeÖ"

"You were ridiculing him, making fun of him. Youíre so good at telling me to think about Sandburgís feelings, but you donít do too much of that do you? Did you ever stop to think about it? Shit, Joel, you stood there asking him about ghosts and his beliefs about life after death. Did you ever stop to think that maybe it wasnít a very good idea to bring shit like that up to a guy who had just diÖ died not too long ago?" When Joel remained silent, Jim continued. "I didnít think so. I donít need you telling me how I should treat Sandburg."

"This isnít about me or my relationship with my son. Itís about you and how you treat Blair."

"Iím not going to get into this with you any more. Right now, all I want to do is see Sandburg so that I can know heís all right. Donít push me right now, Joel. Iím not in the mood for it. Besides, the last thing that Sandburg needs is to see the two of us fight."

"Out of concern for my son, Iíll let it go for now. But this isnít the end, Jim. We will be discussing this again sometime soon."

"Just great," Jim sarcastically said. "Something else for me to look forward to."

The remainder of their time in the waiting room was spent in silence, both men wanting time to calm down before seeing Blair. When Dr. Cuthbertson returned, they stood.

"Can we see him now?" Joel asked.

"Yes. Blair has been settled into a room and if you follow me, Iíll take you to him


Turning towards the door as it opened, Brown and Rafe watched at Sergeant Hughes escorted Greg Williams into Captain Jones' office.

After the sergeant retreated, Rafe spoke first. "Mr. Williams, you understand that you are just here to answer some questions regarding injuries sustained by Dr. Sandburg. You are not being accused of anything."

Nervously, Williams glanced around the room. "Yes, I understand."

Noting the young man's refusal to look them in the eye, Brown cleared his throat to draw the fidgeting cadet's attention. "Mr. Williams, how is it that you took Dr. Sandburg to the emergency room at Cascade General today?" The detectiveís tone was deceptively gentle.

"How did you know about that?" His eyes wide and his tone incredulous, Williams finally brought his eyes to rest on the detectives.

Inwardly amused at the cadet's shocked expression, Brown schooled his face into an unemotional mask. "We're detectives, Williams. It's our job to know these things. Now, I'll ask you again, how is it that you came to take Dr. Sandburg to the hospital today?"

Attempting to speak, Williams cleared his throat when nothing came out at first. "Sir, I Ö um Ö I found Dr. Sandburg staggering toward his car. It appeared that he was injured but he did not want me to call for help or report his injury. I respected his wishes. He lost consciousness as we were heading toward his home and I immediately drove him to Cascade General. The nurses in the ER recognized him and said they would make the appropriate calls. I gave them my ID and returned to the academy." Williams was sweating. The statement was truthful but incomplete. It did not include the beating he had witnessed. A beating in which he had stood by and done nothing as Short and the other four cadets beat Sandburg into unconsciousness. Recalling the event in vivid detail, Williams cringed as he remembered the soft thud noises that resulted when Short had kicked Sandburg in the head. Knowing that he could be charged as an accessory in the event that Sandburg died, Williams sent up a silent prayer for the injured man.

In the silence following Williams' statement, Rafe and Brown looked at each other. Both of them were good detectives and realized that they hadn't been told the whole story behind Blair's injuries. Knowing that they had to handle the nervous and distraught cadet very carefully, they were trying to figure out the best way to get the young man to tell them the rest of the story. Just as Brown opened his mouth to speak, the door once again opened. But instead of Sergeant Hughes, a vaguely familiar man entered the room this time.

Charging into the office, ignoring the protesting sergeant behind him, Detective Sam Williams stormed over to stand beside his son. Glaring at his fellow detective, he yelled, "Somebody better tell me what in the hell is going on here! What business do you have dragging my son out of his academy classes?"

Standing up, Brown extended his hand. "Detective Williams, it's good to see you again." Lowering his hand when it was ignored, he asked, "Care to tell me exactly how you found out we were here questioning your son?"

"I got an anonymous call from someone telling me that some detectives were at the academy sniffing after my kid," the elder Williams answered. "Then Banks' secretary called my department to check up on me and my kid. My captain suggested that I haul ass down here before you jokers railroad my kid. So, I'm asking again, what in the hell do you think that you're doing?"

"We're here investigating some injuries sustained by Doctor Sandburg today," Rafe supplied.

"I don't believe this crap!" Moving to stand in front of his son, Detective Williams shielded the younger man from the others. "You're here hassling my son because that little hippie ended up in the ER again?"

Not willing to allow the outraged father to remain in control of the meeting, Brown advised, "First off, Williams, I'd suggest you watch what you say about Sandburg. After all, we'll be giving a full report on this meeting to Captain Banks and to Detective Ellison as well. Your son took Sandburg to the emergency room; he admitted it himself. Since Dr. Sandburg was obviously assaulted and Cadet Williams was the last person to see him conscious, our questioning of your son is perfectly proper. If you would like to sit in on the questioning, you may. However, we are the primaries on this assault. Understood?"

Williams turned to his son. "Son, do you know anything about this?"

"Just what I told the detectives, Dad."

The homicide detective glared at Rafe and Brown. "You through with my boy?"

Rafe replied "Yes, for now. We may have more questions after we talk to Dr. Sandburg."

"Not without a lawyer present." Detective Williams warned. "I won't let my kid take the fall for this." Turning to his son, he said, "Let's get out of here."

Watching as their fellow detective herded his son out of the office, Henri and Rafe exchanged an uneasy look. Both knew that Greg Williams was involved in what had happened to Blair. And they also knew that since a cop's son was involved, the situation was going to get a whole lot worse before things were through.


Pushing open the door to Blairís room, Dr. Cuthbertson gestured for the two men to precede her into the room. Immediately, both men went to stand beside Blair.

Groggily, Blair moaned softly as his eyes fluttered open. "Jim?"

Leaning forward, Jim grasped Blairís hand. "Right here, Chief. How are you feeling?"

"Lousy and Iíve got one hell of a headache," Blair answered.

"Can you tell us what happened, Son?"

"Joel? Is that you?"

"Yes, itís me, Blair. Can you tell us what happened? How did you get hurt?"

Nervously glancing between Joel and Jim, Blair asked, "Can we talk about this later? I really donít feel up to talking about it right now."

"I donít want to pressure you, Chief, but Joelís right. We really need you to tell us what happened. Who did this to you?"

Stepping forward, Dr. Cuthbertson said, "Blair really needs his rest right now. Give him a break, guys. You can ask him about it later."

"ButÖ"

"Later, Jim," Dr. Cuthbertson insisted.

"All right."

Becoming more alert while the others were talking, Blair finally noticed the bandage on Jimís arm. "Jim, what happened?"

"What?"

"Your arm. Youíve been hurt."

"Itís just a scratch. Connor and I had a little trouble when we went to question someone. Nothing to worry about. Dr. C. patched me up."

"Are you sure that youíre all right? Maybe we shouldÖ"

"Iím fine," Jim interrupted. "Youíre the one lying in a hospital bed, not me."

"ButÖ"

"I mean it. Listen to the doc and get some rest."

"Jimís right," Joel said.

Instead of replying, Blair asked, "What about Megan? Is she okay?"

"Sheís fine too," Jim answered. "Weíre both fine."

"Thatís good." Blair continued to glance between the two men, studying each of them. After a moment, he asked, "So, whatís going on with you two?"

"What?" Joel asked as Jim said, "I donít know what youíre talking about."

"Anyone could see the tension radiating between the two of you."

"Itís nothing for you to worry about, Blair," Joel reassured.

"Iíll be the judge of that. Now, tell me whatís going on."

"Joel and I just had a little difference of opinion, but weíve worked it out."

"A difference of opinion? Over what?" Seeing the two men cast their eyes downward, Blair repeated, "Over what? It wasnítÖ Please tell me that you guys didnít get into a fight over me."

"Weíll talk about it later," Joel said. "When youíre feeling better."

"ButÖ"

"Later," Joel insisted. Then, seeing the slight smile on Blairís face, he asked, "What?"

"Nothing. Itís justÖ"

"Just what?"

"Itís just that that was like a total Ďdadí thing to say."

Joel laughed. "Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"

"Good. I think. Iím still trying to get used to the idea of actually having a dad around to tell me what to do."

"Well maybe this will help you with that. Lie down and get some rest, young man. NOW!"

Laughing, Blair retorted, "I already am lying down."

"So now we start with the back talk, huh?"

Smiling, Blair looked over at Jim. His grin faded when he saw the expression on Jimís face. "Jim?"

"Yeah, Chief."

"Are you okay? You lookÖ"

"Fine. But my arm is kind of hurting. Since Joel is here and Iím sure that he wonít mind staying, I think that Iíll head back to the loft."

"Well all right," Blair replied in a hesitant tone. "If youíre sure that youíll be okay by yourself that is."

"I think that I can handle it. Donít worry about me. You just get some rest and get better. But when I come back, we are going to have a talk, about a lot of things. Understand?"

"Sure, Jim. Whatever you say."

Turning to look at Joel, Jim said, "Iíll be back later on. Youíll stay until then, right?"

"You know it."

"Good," Jim replied. Then he turned back to Blair. "Is there anything that you need me to bring you?"

"Just a change of clothes," Blair answered. "That is, if Iím going to get out of here soon."

"Dr. C said that sheíd spring you tomorrow."

"Well then thatís all Iíll need. Thanks, Jim."

"No problem. Iíll see you in a little bit."

"See you."

Waiting until after Blair had closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep, Jim looked at Joel again. "Donít tell him what we talked about," he said. "He got enough problems to deal with right now without you dumping any more on him."

"I wouldnít do that."

"See that you donít." When Joel nodded, Jim added, "Iím going now, but like I told Blair, Iíll be back soon. Watch over him until then."

"Iíll always watch over my son."

"Youíd better," Jim advised. Then, he turned and left.

 

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