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Homeward Bound

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HOMEWARD BOUND
by alyjude

Cascade

Deputy District Attorney Beverly Sanchez looked up from her paperwork as the private door to her office swung open. The tall and very handsome man, who walked in as if he owned the place, smiled at her, folded his lanky frame into the chair opposite, slid down, crossed his sock-less ankles, hooked his hands behind his head and waited.

"You're early, Thomas."

"Nope, it's two o'clock on the dot. You lost track of time again."

She gave a quick glance at her Rolex and had to grin. "Damn, you're right."

His smile broadened. It was a smile she enjoyed even when he was slouched down in a chair. She reached over, picked up a file folder and slid it over to him. He took it, opened it and began to read. When he was done, he let it drop back onto the desk, slid back down in the chair and, again, waited for her to speak.

"I need you to find the young man you were just reading about and bring him back to Cascade. His testimony in the Kincaid trial could become crucial."

"Let me get this straight - Kincaid breaks out of jail, holds an entire stadium hostage, on National television, no less, and you have two dead bodies, thousands of witnesses including several famous basketball players, and you need this guy, this Blair Sandburg?"

Beverly studied the man sitting across from her, admiring the handsome features, slightly graying hair and hazel eyes currently studying her right back. In the well-worn jeans, Polo shirt and loafers, he looked anything but what he was: Thomas Sullivan Magnum, Private Investigator. Casual dress and manner aside, he was also the best damn investigator she'd ever had working for her, and counted herself lucky that he'd decided to re-locate from Hawaii to Washington.

On the other hand - at times, like now - he could be deliberately obtuse.

"Thomas, you've been following this case, you've read the papers and you know as well as I do that Kincaid could walk. He has three of the most successful and powerful attorneys in the United States on his payroll and since Preston Crawford isn't alive to defend himself or give us the truth, this could be tricky. Fortunately, Blair Sandburg is, which makes him the only witness who was actually alone with Kincaid, the only one who heard everything, was privy to everything. I need him. The case needs him."

"I'm still in the dark here, Beverly. You still have hundreds of witnesses. What aren't you saying? You know I don't go into anything blind, so spill."

She closed her eyes briefly, opened them and said, "I have it on good authority that his legal team is working on more than an insanity defense. They appear to be hatching a nice little conspiracy theory starring none other than the man I need you to find, namely Blair. If they succeed in planting the slightest doubt in the jury's mind regarding what Sandburg and Preston Crawford knew or didn't know, did or didn't do, Kincaid could walk."

"And if this Sandburg is a part of some conspiracy?"

"He isn't - I know him and he's a good man, one of the best. He was a hostage and nothing more, but in order to prove that, I need him. His last known address is in San Francisco and I need you to go there and bring him back - and you don't have a lot of time. We're almost done with jury selection. I admit, this is coming late but, like you, I really thought this trial would be open and shut. And now, with the new rumors - well, it could turn very ugly. I need Blair, Thomas."

Convinced, Thomas sat up and asked, "According to your file, he lived here, went to school here, and yet he's now supposedly living in San Francisco?"

Beverly looked down at her hands, sighed, and finally answered, "Blair left Cascade three weeks after the stadium incident. The only address I can give you is from the one and only letter written to Detective James Ellison by Blair not long after he left. They've had no further communication, so I have no idea if the address is still valid."

"He left just after the stadium takeover? That sounds more than a bit suspicious - if I had a suspicious mind, that is."

"I don't know what happened following the rescue and firefight that brought Kincaid down, and no one in Major Crime, where Sandburg acted as a consultant, is talking. Maybe they don't know, maybe they do. But I have to know - I can't have this case blow up in my face and then watch Kincaid walk."

Nodding, he held out his hand. "Ticket?"

She opened her middle drawer, pulled out an American Airline envelope and handed it to him. "Your flight leaves in two hours. Pack light."

Magnum folded the ticket and slipped it into his back pocket before standing. Giving her a mock salute, he said, "Aye, aye, Captain."

She grinned even as she waved him out. "Shoo, go, do, be a private eye."

When the door shut behind him, she turned in her chair in order to gaze out over the city.

She was worried, could admit it. One question had plagued her from the beginning: why had Blair left Cascade?

Watching the pigeons on the ledge outside her window, she prayed that bringing Sandburg back was the right thing to do.

***

"Jim, coffee?"

"No, thanks, I'm fine. What's up, Simon?"

"Sit, Jim. Sit."

Jim looked at his boss, caught the wary expression combined with fatigue, and sat. This looked bad, but then, wasn't everything since Sandburg left? He shifted uneasily and said, "Spit it out, Simon."

"I just had a talk with Beverly Sanchez and she's sending an investigator to San Francisco - to locate Blair."

Jim was pretty certain his heart just skipped several beats, but he worked hard to maintain an outer façade of disinterest as he said, "Yeah?"

Looking as though Jim weren't fooling him a bit, Simon said dryly, "Thought you'd like to know. Oh, and evidently the case against Kincaid is getting complicated."

"An insanity plea usually is, but so what? They don't have a prayer."

"Beverly feels otherwise. She thinks they have more than a prayer, which is why she's going after Sandburg. There appears to be a theory floating around, one that puts Blair in the middle of the whole thing - and not as a hostage."

Jim tightened his grip on the arm of the chair as he said, "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. No one in their right mind would believe he had anything to do with what went down that night. Who thought this beauty up, anyway?"

"Jim, no one knows what happened once my son and Sandburg were separated, but he was alone with Kincaid and that's apparently enough for some folks to think there's fire with that smoke Kincaid's defense team is blowing."

Jim got to his feet as a good bit of the anger he'd been experiencing - anger with both himself and Simon - started to escape. Voice tightly controlled but leaking his ire, he said, "You think that just because Sandburg took Daryl with him and, yes, put his life at risk, that he could have been involved in any way with Kincaid? Because if you do, you're not the man I thought you were."

His own frustration bleeding through his voice, Simon shot back, "That's not what I'm saying, Jim, and you know it. But damn it, he was alone with the man, saw things, heard things, and Beverly can use that, can fight this with what Sandburg knows. Yes, damn it, I was angry with him, hell, it's been four months and I'm still upset, but I don't believe that he was involved in any ridiculous conspiracy."

Jim felt some of his anger fade but the tension remained as he said stiffly, "Anything else, Captain?"

Looking clearly annoyed, Simon, a man who could give Jim a run for his stubborn money, shook his head. Jim walked out, shutting the door behind him.

***

Staring at the closed door, Simon felt overwhelmed. Everything was so wrong now, so very wrong. Yes, he'd been angry with Sandburg - violently so, justifiably so. Hadn't Sandburg risked his son's life? Yes, damn it. But…it had been a mistake, no doubt about it, but it should never have…he should never have… Damn it.

Jim had tried so hard to be the bridge between Simon and Blair, had tried to calm him down, but it hadn't helped. Simon had still refused to allow Blair inside Major Crime, refused to let him to ride with Jim. And finally, at the end of three weeks, three weeks of being shut out of their lives, three weeks of Jim trying to calm Simon down, Blair had left Cascade. A few days later, just as Jim was about to explode, he received a letter from Blair. It said, simply, that he'd settled in San Francisco, everything was fine, and then thanked Jim for three great years. That was it, nothing else.

And three friendships went up in flames.

Simon finally gazed back at the work on his desk but, in reality, he wasn't seeing it at all. Had he been wrong to react as he had? Had his anger been misplaced? The answer was simple now: anything that left three lives shattered couldn't be a good thing. And if losing Jim's friendship - and yes, Sandburg's too - weren't enough, his ex-wife had taken Daryl to Portland, Oregon, where her family lived. Simon could count himself lucky if he had a chance to see his son more than twice a year now.

And wasn't that the height of something that the only ray of sunshine in the whole Kincaid trial was that Daryl was on his way back? Unfortunately, it would be to testify, but still, he'd see his son.

And maybe, just maybe, Beverly would be successful and Blair would return as well, and then they could talk. All of them. The way they should have.

He rubbed his suddenly exhausted eyes, grabbed up a cigar and bit down hard. He glanced out his window at Jim - and sighed. Because the kicker to everything, the final insult, so to speak, was that Jim hadn't been a sentinel for months.

Because he'd lost his partner.

***

Jim didn't remember driving home, but he'd obviously made it without incident because here he was, at home. Of course, he couldn't vouch for how legal the drive had been, but hey, no one was perfect.

The meeting with Simon had really shaken him, and more than he'd care to admit. But the real corker was the fact that someone - someone who wasn't him - was going after Blair. Hell, he should have done that months ago, but damn it, he'd succumbed to Simon's anger and his own guilt thanks to his ineffectual behavior following the Kincaid fiasco. Thus he'd allowed far too many days to pass while rationalizing his actions.

He'd been an asshole, was still an asshole. He'd let Simon's anger destroy Blair, but damn it, he'd been so sure it would die down, and so afraid Simon would pull Blair's pass permanently. As a result, he'd gone along with the imposed exile, become a part of the problem instead of finding the solution for Blair. Helping Blair. And now, the storage room was back to being just that. The refrigerator was empty of Tupperware, tofu and algae shakes. The bathroom was all his, the only hairs in the drain…his.

Jim cringed as Simon's final words to Blair came back to him….

"I don't want to see your face in this building, Sandburg. What you did destroyed any trust I'd placed in you and I suggest you leave before I decide to pull your observer status for good."

Jim could still see Blair's stricken expression, the shaking hands and body quivering with suppressed emotions. The shock that registered on his face had only served to inflame Simon, causing him to spit out even more stinging words until finally, clearly exhausted, Blair had walked out of the office, eyes straight ahead. He kept going, through the bullpen, out into the corridor, into the elevator, and finally out of the building. That was the last time anyone from Major Crime had seen him. In the following weeks, Blair hadn't even tried to talk to Simon, to come back. He'd gone from loft to school and back again, working hard and talking little.

Three weeks later, he'd told Jim it was over, that he knew he would never be accepted in Major Crime again and that it was time he moved on. Jim had tried to convince him that Simon's anger would end and thought he'd succeeded until the following Sunday when he'd come home from the gym. He'd walked inside, dropped his gym bag on the floor and, with one look at his home, had known that he'd failed, that Blair was gone. A note taped to the fridge confirmed that fact.

Jim leaned slightly to his right and took the note out of his pocket; a note that he'd carried with him every day since finding it. He unfolded it for the umpteenth time and, once again, read Blair's printed words.

Jim,
You can't say this comes as a surprise. We've been moving in this direction since Alex, and I see no reason for the pain to continue. Your friendship with Simon is important to you as a man, a detective and a sentinel. This is for the best. Don't worry about school, things have been going south there too, as you know. Time for this Sandburg to start over. I'll let you know where I land when I land. I've left all my notes for you and I'm thinking you might want to consider pairing up with Megan (stop making that face!) - she knows the score and she can help. If you refuse that idea, then go with Joel. He'll take care of you, Jim.

Anyway, thanks for the best time of my life, for a friendship I'll always value. See you 'round.

Sandburg (I figured if I used my first name, you'd be confused)

A week later, he'd received a brief letter letting him know that Blair had 'landed' in San Francisco. There'd been an address - and a phone number - but by the time Jim got up the nerve to use it, it had been disconnected. There'd been no further contact, no additional letters, no emails. Nothing.

And Jim had let it happen.

Wasn't that typical? If he couldn't control something - it didn't exist.

Which was precisely why he was no longer a sentinel.

The Great City was on her own, sentinel-wise.

But now - now maybe he could fix things. Blair would be coming back and Jim would have a second chance to tell Blair how he felt, a chance to start over in so many ways. He loved Blair, needed him.

Second chances. He wouldn't let this one go by the wayside.

***

San Francisco

The noise, smoke and music were, for some reason, grating on Blair's nerves. Normally, none of it bothered him, but tonight it was all working its way under his skin and inside his brain like a sharp knife, twisting, turning, ripping him up, leaving him breathless with pain.

"One scotch and soda, one vodka martini and one Long Island Ice Tea."

Blair nodded at Terry Weber, one of the waiters, and he automatically reached for the right bottles and glasses. In seconds, he had the drinks ready and on the tray in front of him.

"Hey, Blair, you okay?"

He looked up and into Terry's concerned brown eyes. Nodding, he smiled before turning toward a customer at the other end of the bar who was yelling out, "Two Mai Tai's!" Terry, looking less than reassured, nevertheless shrugged and moved out with his order.

Two more hours, Blair thought as he worked. Just two more hours before end of shift and yet he had an almost overwhelming urge to run. To run far and run deep. Feeling suddenly edgy, he kept working, hoping the routine of his job would calm him.

If his mother were here, she'd tell him that he was surrounded by negative energy and that until he came to terms with it….

Right. Like he hadn't already? Hell, yeah, he had. Okay, things would never feel the same way again, but that was okay, that was life. Changing, always changing. And he had come to terms with everything, he had, damn it.

Okay, so he had a slight stutter now, so what? He'd come to terms with it. And maybe coming to terms had left Blair Sandburg somewhere on the road between Cascade and San Francisco, but so what? Wasn't he functioning? Working? Damn right, he was, and you couldn't ask for more than that. Well, maybe, a dog. He could use a dog.

Okay, so tomorrow, his day off, he'd go to the pound and get one. Something warm, sweet, friendly, just for him, loving him. Yeah, a dog.

Need to get rid of negative energy? Get a dog.

He felt instantly better. He had a plan now. Something to do for his day off. And after he got the dog, he'd go to the pet store and buy stuff…like food, a bed, toys, a collar…maybe he should write this down before he forgot - because he was forgetting a lot of things lately. Not drinks, mind you, but…other things. Yeah, he'd better write it down.

His own dog. A pet. Had he ever had one? He mixed another set of drinks, smiled at a customer and decided that no, he hadn't. No pet. Naomi's allergies. Wait, hadn't there been a hamster? Or was that a rat? A rabbit? He shook his head, didn't matter, he'd soon have a dog.

Felt good making a decision.

How much longer again until end of shift? Oh, yeah, two hours. He could make it, he always did. And tomorrow, a dog. Maybe a retriever? Or a Lab? Nah, too big for his little apartment. Okay, a terrier of some kind. He'd heard those Jack Russells were great pets. Or maybe…just a mutt, like him. A mutt would need him. People didn't like mutts, they never adopted mutts.

Okay, another decision made. He'd get a mutt.

Two more hours.

***

Magnum checked the piece of paper in his hand to confirm the address and groaned. He glanced up the several flights of stairs that led up from the street to the apartment - and remembered just what it was about San Francisco he'd never liked. He sighed and started climbing. He was fifty-four, in good shape, but figured that by the time he reached the top, he'd be fifty-six, at least.

A guy could get a nose bleed climbing this high, and just how many flights was this, anyway?

Huffing a bit, he finally reached the front of the building. Checking the mailboxes, he quickly located the one he needed. Naturally it was on the third floor - and naturally there was no elevator. He started climbing.

Fifty-six? Nope, try sixty.

He reached the third floor, found the apartment he was looking for and knocked. There'd been no Blair Sandburg listed on the mailbox, but that didn't surprise him. Evidently he was rooming with someone named Danny Pritchard, and that name had been on the mailboxes. He knocked again, and this time it was opened a bare crack as one tired green eye peered out at him.

"I'm not buying, man, so beat it."

"I'm looking for Blair Sandburg. He lives here, right?"

He could see the whole face now, along with a thatch of messy red hair. The exhausted look in the kid's eyes slipped away to be replaced by suspicion.

Trying to sound disinterested, Pritchard said, "Used to but not anymore. Moved out, man." With that, he started to shut the door, but Thomas was fast - and so was his foot, which he stuck out and blocked the move.

"My name is Thomas Magnum, I work with the Cascade District Attorney's Office and it's urgent I reach Mr. Sandburg."

In the old days, he'd have obfuscated, tried the old, "I owe him money" gambit, but he was older, wiser and really didn't have time for games. He pulled out his wallet, flashed his ID, and added, "Mr. Sandburg is needed to testify in a very important case and I need to locate him. Can you help?"

The door opened wider. "Testify? Blair?" Pritchard asked, incredulously.
Magnum could see the battle waging across the freckled face, so he kept his eyes on Pritchard, showing only sincerity.

"Just give me a second…I'll get you his new address."

He shut the door and, just when Thomas was certain he'd been scammed, it opened again and Pritchard stuck out a piece of paper.

"It's not far from here, just a couple of blocks. He's off today so he'll be home. He doesn't…he doesn't get out much."

Magnum took the paper. "Thank you, Mr. Pritchard."

"You'd better be telling the truth, man, 'cause Blair has real friends here, so if you're lying, if you hurt him, San Francisco will be the last city you ever see."

The words were spoken quietly, forcefully, and with an intensity that Magnum didn't doubt for a minute. He nodded and walked away, wondering at the kind of man who could instill that kind of loyalty and protectiveness in others.

The conspiracy theory had just lost another notch of believability.

***

Blair stood in the middle of his tiny apartment, hands on hips, trying to look stern as he gazed down at the small, brown, furry mop that sat staring adoringly up at him.

"You...ate my s-shoe. You ate my shoe."

The fur-ball cocked its head at the sweet tone and then promptly squatted in order to relieve himself. Blair's eyes widened at this newest assault on his home, but just as quickly melted as his new roommate finished, looked up, beamed, then trotted clumsily over to plop down on Blair's bare foot.

Remembering the words of the handler at the pound cautioning him to be firm and keep his tone neutral, he stooped and picked up the bundle of wiggling joy. Holding it away from his face while trying not to laugh at the pink tongue trying so hard to reach him, he immediately showed him the wet spot on the rug and said in a firm tone, "No! Bad dog."

With that, he walked over to the back door and pushed the mutt gently through the newly installed doggie flap on the newly purchased and installed screen door, and onto the small patch of grass that had come with this particular apartment.

He watched through the window as the dog sat there, clearly confused. Blair held his breath and, a moment later, was rewarded as the pup turned, padded over to the grass and squatted again.

"Y-yeees!" he exclaimed before turning his attention to cleaning up the mess on the floor. When he was done, he quickly joined the puppy, cooing and praising as he picked him up and finally allowed the puppy-bath even as he managed to get in a few kisses to the soft fur in response.

"Good d-doggie," he murmured into the puppy's neck.

He carried him back inside and sat down on the couch as he continued to tickle and pet the now deliriously happy animal. As the pup batted his paws at Blair's fingers, Blair said, "I really m-must n-name you, but what?" He cocked his head, studied the short brown fur, the long puppy body…and knew exactly what name to bestow upon his pet. "You're now…Joey. How's t-that? Joey Sandburg?

The newly christened Joey tilted his head as if listening, then started thumping his tail madly, obviously happy with his new moniker. They played a brief game of tug-o-war with Blair's shirt cuff and, just as the puppy's eyes spied Blair's earrings, the doorbell rang.

With Joey in his arms, he got up and, curious as to who'd be at his door, opened it only to find a tall, handsome man in his early fifties on his doorstep.

"Blair Sandburg?"

Curious but equally cautious, Blair nodded. "Yes."

"My name is Thomas Magnum. I work with Beverly Sanchez?"

Blair felt himself go numb at the utterance of Beverly's name, but his body went on polite autopilot and he stepped back in order to allow the man inside.

He should have known his past would catch up. It always did.

***

Thomas' first thought was that Blair Sandburg looked nothing like the photo in the file, one that showed a clearly ebullient young man with a huge grin on his handsome face, a kind of vital energy evident even in a photograph. Thomas remembered being struck by the young man's eyes, full of a strange, exotic mixture of ancient wisdom, maturity beyond his chronological age, and youthful mischief.

The man who stood before him now had to be the exact opposite. The energy that had been so clear in the photo was gone now and the expressive eyes, shuttered. There wasn't even a glimmer of the intelligence so evident in the picture.

Another difference was that in spite of Blair Sandburg's youth, there'd been an evident strength, something very missing now. Frail was more likely to be a word he'd use now. This kid looked as though the slightest breeze would blow him away, a fact that brought out Thomas' protective side, which surprised the hell out of him. Only his daughter Lily engendered such feelings in him. Until now.

With a kind of lost wave of his hand, Blair offered him a seat and he sat down in what was obviously a reading chair next to the small sofa. Blair remained standing, an active and playful dog in his arms.

"New puppy?" he asked, hoping to break the tension in the room.

Blair put Joey down and then sat down on the couch, the dog following and sitting on Blair's feet. "Yes, n-new. Yeeest-terday."

Okay, Beverly hadn't said a word about a speech problem. Thomas frowned as he regarded the younger man because…wasn't he…hadn't he been a teacher at Rainier? Or rather, a TA, and a good one according to the file?

Damn, how the hell would this go over with a jury?

"You don't seem surprised that I'm here, Blair. May I call you Blair?"

"S-sure, and no…I can read."

"So you were expecting someone?"

Blair nodded.

Thomas absently touched his jacket pocket, the one that held the subpoena, and accepted the fact that he wouldn't - couldn't - use it. Not on this wounded man, because that's what he was, one of the walking wounded. Thomas had seen the same haunted expression too many times not to recognize it here.

The puppy had somehow managed to crawl up Blair's pant leg and was now curled up in his lap, sound asleep. Blair was absently petting it, obviously allowing the action to calm him as he asked, "Beverly w-wants me to...t-testify?"

"I'm here to see…it's my job to let you know…there are certainly more than enough witnesses, so in all actuality, you're not really needed, but it's her job to seek you out. I'll go back, tell her it would be too much of a hardship and that's it," he lied.

Blair cocked his head and asked in disbelief, "You flew all t-t-his way, t-to not use me?"

Damn, caught red-handed. There was intelligence behind those shuttered eyes after all.

To cover his discomfort, he got up and started to walk around, appearing curious as he checked out the shelves, books (on Anthropology and Police Science), and at the artifacts. He was fully aware of Blair's gaze following him as he moved. He was about to turn and address his question when a series of photos on one of the shelves caught his attention. One of them was obviously the original of the one in the file, but it was the photo next to it that captured his attention. It showed Blair, obviously fishing, standing in a river next to a taller man, both clearly having fun, the taller, older man with his hand on Blair's shoulder as he encouraged him in reeling in a fish. They both looked incredibly happy and relaxed.

The next photo showed the same man, with several others, one of whom he recognized as Captain Simon Banks of Major Crime. All were in tuxedos, smoking cigars and appeared to be outside at a race track. There were also a few photos of a much younger Blair on what had to be expeditions, but it was the final photo that froze Thomas where he stood.

It was a photo of a young woman, maybe 16 or 17, with long red hair. She was sitting under a tree, an open book on her lap and smiling for the camera. He closed his eyes and fought back the urge to pick the framed picture up, to stroke his finger down the woman's cheek.

Naomi.

Blair Sandburg had a photo of Naomi.

Controlling his voice, he asked with what he hoped was nothing more than mild curiosity, "Who's this?"

"My m-m-mother."

Of course, his mother.

Naomi. Blair.

"Do you know when this was taken…and where?"

"I t-think it was…Maryland. Summer of '68."

But, of course, Thomas had known the answer before Blair spoke for the simple reason that he'd been the one snapping the shutter on the camera.

August and September of 1968, the two most incredible months of his life. Two months of wonder, passion and love with a girl named Naomi - Naomi Iris. A summer of love before the Naval Academy, a summer that ended when it became apparent that he was, in fact, going to attend the Academy. He'd lost her then and had suffered through his first broken heart as you only can when it's also your first real love.

He picked up the photo and turned back to face Blair. Voice gentle, he asked, "May I ask when you were born?"

Blair frowned but answered, "May…1969."

Thomas glanced down at the photo and said, "I took this picture, Blair, but when I knew her, she was Naomi Iris. We had two incredible months together - August and September. I was scheduled to leave…scheduled to report to the Naval Academy on October 3, 1968. She'd been so certain I wouldn't go, but I had to, and hoped she'd understand, but she…didn't. I never saw her again."

Blair leaned forward. "Iris? She…she t-told me once that f-for a while she'd used it. T-the iris was her f-favorite f-flower." He glanced down at the puppy, who was snuffling in his sleep, and added softly, "I never knew my...f-f-father. She said she d-didn't know who-"

"Two months, Blair, we were together for two months. There was no one else for either of us."

"I was conceived in S-september…."

Thomas, feeling a bit weak in the knees, dropped back down into the chair, photograph still in hand. He looked over at Blair and only one word filled his mind - son.

Had to be. Sure, a phone call to Naomi by Blair, maybe even blood tests for Blair's sake, but for him, those were unnecessary. He knew in his gut, heart and mind.

He knew.

He looked at his son and smiled; a gentle, experimental smile even as Blair spoke.

"Wh-what should I s-s-say?"

"What are you thinking?"

"Th-th-at I s-s-seem to have f-f-found my father. Should I call Naomi?"

"Not for me, Blair. I don't need the call. Other than to talk with her."

"T-this was...quick. One m-minute, t-testifying, the next, a picture, a f-father."

"I couldn't not tell you because, you see, I'm glad."

Blair looked away and muttered, "W-won't be."

Thomas sat forward, concern written in every line of his body, and asked, "What? What did you say, Blair?"

"W-won't be g-glad."

Blair got abruptly to his feet and, with a burst of almost manic energy, began to circle his apartment, Joey chasing after him as he waved his arms at his surroundings. "I'm n-not anyone you w-would want t-to know now." He faced Magnum, eyes full of regret. "T-t-this is who I am - wh-what I am now."

Thomas moved quickly to his son's side and, hands on Blair's shoulders, said, "Wrong, I want very much to know you, but Blair, I already have a good idea of who you are. I'm an investigator and I made it my business to understand the man I was sent to bring back to Cascade." He smiled gently. "I'm glad you're my son and nothing will change that, including whatever drove you to leave Cascade."

Eyes telegraphing his doubt, Blair shook his head in resignation because he knew the feelings, however new and wonderful, wouldn't last once he'd testified. But damn it, in the meantime, he could pretend, hold onto this for a while, luxuriate in having a father. And heck, maybe when the trial was over and he was back here, the feeling would keep him going a bit longer.

Sounding more confident than he was, he finally asked, "When d-do we leave?"

The change of both demeanor and subject threw Thomas for a moment, but he bounced back and answered, "We have enough time to get to know one another a bit better, and besides, like I said, you really don't need to come back, I'm sure Beverly can handle the case without your testimony."

Feeling only slightly guilty about his white lie, Thomas grinned. And maybe it wouldn't be such a lie - once Beverly understood that Blair's testifying was not the thing to do, anyway. On the other hand, if not, he'd be with Blair every step of the way, making it as easy as possible.

Joey had started to whimper at that moment, probably at being ignored for so long, so Blair quickly gathered him up. Cuddling the pup to his chest, he looked back up at his father and asked, "Where are you s-staying?"

"I have reservations at the Hyatt, downtown."

Stroking the puppy, who'd managed to turn over so his tummy was within rubbing range, Blair suggested shyly, "You're w-welcome t-to stay here. The couch f-folds out and I've b-been told it's k-kind of comfortable."

"I'd like that, Blair. I'd like that very much. I'll go down, get my bag, and then we'll get this 'getting to know each other' stuff started."

With an affectionate, if somewhat awkward, squeeze of Blair's shoulder, Thomas headed downstairs. When the door shut behind him, Blair felt like a tire leaking air. Legs weak, he quickly sat down. He was just getting what little equilibrium he had back, when the door opened and his father walked in, a garment bag over his shoulder.

Smiling, Blair asked, "Okay, so where d-do you w-want to start?"

***

Jim clicked the remote aimlessly, eyes fixed on the television screen, but not really seeing the pictures flashing as he surfed. The television was a comfort, sound helping him feel less alone while he slipped into his past, reliving moments with Blair, conversations, the fun and laughter, the ups and downs of having someone else in your space. At the moment, he was stuck on Blair's laugh. Didn't matter what kind of laughter, or why he was laughing, all Jim remembered was how it could move through him like a magical elixir, sending pleasure waves from the top of his head all the way to his toes. He missed it, missed the real thing. Missed Blair's voice too. No one else could warm him like Blair when he spoke. Warm and fiery at the same time, and smooth, like an excellent brandy, a vintage brandy.

Blair had been his sanctuary, lost now, realized too late, and dearly, sorely, missed.

Jim stayed in the past with Blair as the loft darkened with the setting sun and night crept in. The sentinel who was no longer a sentinel continued to sit, finger pressing relentlessly on the remote.

***

Thanks to the damp, foggy weather, the park was nearly empty. There were a few joggers and a couple of brave couples on blankets enjoying their picnics in spite of the sun's absence.

Thomas sat at one of the park tables, a couple cartons of Chinese food in front of him. Every now and then, he'd pick up the chopsticks and root around in one of the cartons for some juicy shrimp morsel he might have missed earlier. Blair was on the grass, Joey crouched a few feet away, in harness and leash, and avidly watching Blair's socked toe as Blair wiggled it, inviting Joey to pounce. Thomas figured that based on the way Joey's butt was wiggling, that pounce would be sooner rather than later. He wasn't disappointed as, a moment later, Joey gave one last wiggle and pounced, small teeth latching onto the mysterious, argyle-clad entity.

Laughing, Blair pulled his leg out of reach, patted his chest and, with a wild abandon that only puppies and kittens seemed to have, Joey bounded up. They did a little wrestling before Blair finally picked him up and joined Thomas at the table.

Swinging his leg over the bench, Blair grabbed one of the bottles of apple juice they'd brought with them and twisted off the cap. After drinking almost half, he placed Joey on the grass under the bench where he quickly fell asleep, spread-eagled, content, his head on Blair's foot.

"There's some Orange Chicken left," Thomas said and he nudged the carton towards Blair.

Shaking his head, Blair said, "S-s-stuffed."

Thomas smiled and nodded in understanding. They'd had twenty-four hours together and he figured Blair now knew everything there was to know about him. He'd shared his Navy days, the good and the bad, then told him about his years in Hawaii, living on the estate belonging to a favorite author of Blair's, Robin Masters. He shared stories about Rick and TC, and about his strange but important friendship with Higgins. He'd also explained Lily to Blair and had watched the surprise and, yes, joy, on Blair's face at the idea that he not only had a sister, but that the fact that she was attending Rainier explained why Thomas had moved from the Islands to the Mainland.

Unfortunately, as much as Thomas had shared with Blair, it was equaled by how little Blair had shared with him. He hadn't been able to pry one new thing out of his son - not one. He knew now what he'd known when he'd arrived: that Blair had been an anthropologist, an observer for the Cascade Police Department, and a teacher, and now worked at a club, the Deep Six, two blocks west of the Castro District.

He was putting his reputation and the good name of private investigators everywhere to shame.

"Your boss going to be okay with this time off?" he suddenly asked.

"Yeah, he's c-cool. Besides, I've work s-several shifts for some of the g-guys, they'll cover mine now."

"I still say you don't need to do this. There's no reason-"

At that moment, his phone pinged and, with an apologetic smile, he reached in and pulled it out. "Magnum."

"I hope you've found him because we'll finish jury selection today and the trial will start on Friday."

"Hello to you too, Beverly. And yes, I'm with him now but I'll have to call you later." With that, he hung up, not allowing any kind of response from his boss.

"B-beverly?"

"Jury selection is about over and she thinks they'll start on Friday."

Blair immediately began stuffing containers back into the bag, knowing his private time with his father was over.

"Blair, there's no rush."

"We b-both know t-there is. T-today's Wednesday."

He couldn't argue the facts. Thomas had no choice but to help pack up. A few minutes later, with a now wide awake Joey taking the lead, they went back to the car.

***

Magnum pulled up in front of Blair's apartment house, shut down and turned to his son. "I'm going to take Joey for a bit of a walk, okay?"

He could tell by the expression that flitted across Blair's face that he wasn't fooling him, that Blair knew darn well that as soon as he left the car, Thomas would call Beverly back. He watched Blair school his features, smile and nod. He grabbed the picnic bag, slipped out of the car and, without looking back, started for his apartment.

Thomas watched as Blair went inside and, when the door shut behind him, Thomas pulled out his phone and punched in Beverly's number.

"Magnum, this better be you."

"It is. I couldn't talk with Blair sitting right next to me. Why didn't you tell me about the stutter?"

"Stutter? What stutter? What the hell are you talking about?"

"Blair's stutter. He's in no shape to testify, Beverly. Just what the hell happened to him in Cascade, anyway? He's so vulnerable, hell, almost fragile, that a stiff breeze would break him."

"Jesus, that's not the Blair Sandburg I know. He could talk you silly and without stuttering. And damn it, as far as testifying, the choice is out of our hands now. I've received some information - and don't ask about my source - that the Defense has actually managed to tie Blair to Crawford and, if that weren't enough, there's some kind of proof that Blair was actually involved with Kincaid. The entire defense strategy will be based on Blair controlling Kincaid in order to help Crawford milk his company out of all that money. It's going to come down to Blair's word against Kincaid's. We need him, Thomas."

"You don't believe any of that garbage, do you?"

"I've told you where I stand regarding Blair, but you're sounding pretty protective of a guy you've only just met."

"I...know him, now."

"Then you must want to protect his reputation as much as I do, not to mention keeping Kincaid off the streets. You're booked for American Airlines Flight 216, leaving SFO at six o'clock, arriving here at eight-thirty. I'll meet you. I've made reservations for Blair at the Connaught."

"Cancel them, he'll stay with me."

He could almost hear Beverly's sigh of relief.

"I'll do that. See you at the airport...and take care of him, all right?"

"Will do."

He said goodbye, pocketed the phone and glanced up at the apartment house.

There was just too damn much he still didn't know about his son. He got out of the car and, as promised, took Joey for his walk.

***

Beverly Sanchez hung up and, still staring at the phone, pondered what Thomas had told her. But no matter how much she turned it around in her mind, the idea of a frail Blair Sandburg just didn't fit. That was not the man she'd known. And a stutter? Never. So what the hell happened to him?

She thought back over the entire incident at the sports stadium, shivered at the idea of being alone with Garett Kincaid. Why had Kincaid kept Blair but sent Daryl to his father? That action had never made sense and was undoubtedly going to be the cornerstone of the Defense's entire case. God, she hoped Blair would be able to supply some answers tomorrow.

She gazed down at her short, but impressive witness list, specifically at Daryl's name. He was due in her office tomorrow at nine. Maybe he'd be able to shed some additional light on all of this before she met with Blair.

***

Walter Turnbull sat at his desk, comfortable in his corner office of the Turnbull Building. He regarded the man sitting across from him as he asked, "You're certain about this information?"

"Absolutely. Professor Sanderson worked with Sandburg at Rainier and confirms that Crawford specifically requested to meet Sandburg on not one, but two separate occasions. And yes, I received confirmation that Sandburg was fired for excessive absenteeism as well as failing to turn in the first chapter of his dissertation for review."

Turnbull steepled his fingers and nodded as he gave the man a small, tight smile. Things couldn't be better if Sandburg really had been involved in a conspiracy with Preston Crawford. Thanks to all the bits of information accumulated, they'd be able to shovel enough manure on Blair Sandburg that the jury would have no choice but to let Kincaid off. He'd muddy up a few facts, which was, after all, his job, and the jury would have the necessary 'reasonable doubt' required to bring back a 'not guilty' verdict. Damn, this was just too good. Even if they found Blair Sandburg, what could he say? No, he hadn't been a part of it? And who would they believe by the time he was done with the man?

He tapped a brown envelope and said, "You'd better be right, Mitchell. Kincaid is paying us a great deal of money to ensure his freedom and I, in turn, am paying you a great deal."

"No problem, Walter."

Sliding the envelope across the desk, Walter Turnbull, lead defense for Garett Kincaid, said, "Hope so, Mitchell. Hope so. You're dismissed."

***

Thomas watched the economy of movement as Blair packed, putting only necessities into the one duffel bag. When Blair was done, he then packed another bag full of Joey's stuff. It had taken several phone calls to the airline, not to mention the purchase of another ticket, to get Joey on board. He'd be in a carrier, but up front with them as opposed to in the baggage hold.

Frowning at the stiff movements of his son, Thomas had to admit, at least to himself, that he was worried about Blair, who hadn't said a word since he'd returned with Joey. Blair had simply looked at Thomas' expression before walking into his room to start packing.

Trying to ease the mood, and figuring that Blair would speak if it was about the puppy, he asked easily, "Why Joey?"

Blair continued to pack Joey's stuff even as he said quietly, "S-s-seemed t-to f-f-fit."

Shit, the stutter was worse.

"You're right, it does. He's definitely a Joey." He handed Blair the last of the toys on the bed and added, "Hey, you don't mind staying with me, do you? Beverly had reservations for the Connaught but I told her I'd like to have you at my place."

Blair stopped packing to lift his head and stare at Thomas, eyes searching his face. Apparently satisfied with what he found, he finally nodded and zipped up the second bag.

Thomas rubbed his hands together and said with forced gaiety, "Looks like we're ready to go. Cascade, here we come."

He hefted the duffel bag over his shoulder, picked up his own garment bag and watched as Blair carefully took the carrier and Joey's bag before following him out of the bedroom. Blair took a moment to make sure everything was off and nothing left undone before joining Thomas outside.

Once settled in the rental car, Thomas checked the directions Blair had written out for him, directions to the Deep Six, so that Blair could collect his paycheck. He'd already talked to his boss about the need to travel to Cascade and, as he'd predicted, his shifts were covered.

By six-fifteen, they'd boarded the plane and were taxiing down the runway.

As they traveled closer to Cascade, Blair seemed to withdraw into himself and nothing Thomas could say or do worked at bringing him out of it. Not that it stopped him from trying. Through the entire flight, he talked more about Lily, her classes, favorite teachers; her life. He shared even more island adventures and just about depleted his stored up tales of Rick, T.C. and Higgins. For Blair's part, he listened, Thomas was sure of that, but mostly just kept his hand in Joey's cage, petting him, soothing him, and maybe soothing himself with the motion.

Even as Thomas continued to talk, his mind just kept asking, "What the fuck had happened to Blair?"

***

Beverly met them at the airport as planned but, as Thomas and Blair deplaned, she got her first look at Blair and found herself barely able to conceal her horror at Blair's appearance. She hugged him, felt his bones through his clothing and, when he didn't speak, looked covertly over at Magnum, who shrugged. She cooed appropriately over the puppy even as she led the way out of the airport and avoided asking Blair anything that might make him uncomfortable.

Once on the road, she said, with a peek in the rearview mirror at Blair, "I've got you penciled in for tomorrow at ten, Blair. I'll need to prep you for the trial."

At the way his face paled, she decided a quick change of subject was needed. "You guys got here at the right time. We're actually supposed to have four days of real sunshine. A storm moved out yesterday evening."

"That's great," Thomas said as he thanked her with a covert look. "It was wet and foggy in the city by the bay."

Smiling, she said, "I've always wondered how you managed to acclimate yourself to Cascade after Hawaii. All that sunshine?"

"And rain," he said with a chuckle. "Only difference is the rain in Hawaii is warm."

"Good point."

Beverly glanced into the rearview again and noted that Blair was smiling - a good sign even if the smile was aimed at the puppy now out of its cage and sleepily attacking a button on Blair's shirt. She managed to drive and watch - and as she watched, she made a major decision: unless the interview tomorrow yielded more than she anticipated, she was ready to let Kincaid walk rather than put Blair Sandburg on the stand.

***

Thomas closed the door to the spare room and leaned wearily against it. Blair was finally asleep, something he'd doubted would happen. Earlier, as Beverly had driven them through the city, Blair had become somewhat agitated - an agitation that had only grown as the night went on. He supposed it was seeing his city again, something Thomas was pretty certain Blair had never planned on. Not to mention the prospect of the trial and tomorrow's interview with Bev.

He moved slowly into his own room, feeling every inch his age. As he sat down on the bed and started to remove his shoes, he felt only the slightest twinge of guilt at the fact that he'd spiked Blair's hot chocolate with an OTC sleep aid.

The only redeeming quality held by the coming of dawn was that maybe - just maybe - Blair's interview would finally disclose what had happened to change him from the young man Beverly had known to the man he was today.

On the other hand - did he really want to know?

***

Coffee, juice, toast. All untouched by Blair. Thomas carried the plate, mug and glass into the kitchen, dumped the uneaten toast in the trash, and rinsed out the dishes. Drying his hands, he checked the wall clock and almost groaned. It was nine-fifteen. Time to go.

"Blair, we've got to leave now," he said as he walked back into the living room.

Blair put Joey down and rose to his feet. He was dressed in jeans and a white oxford shirt. He picked up his black jacket and waited.

"You know, you've got to talk sometime," Thomas said as he grabbed his own jacket and keys. "Like in forty minutes, give or take."

"I kn-kn-know."

Seeing the abject misery in Blair's eyes, Thomas couldn't stand it any longer. He took him in his arms. Palming the back of Blair's head, he murmured, "I swear it will be all right. I swear it, Blair. No matter what else happens, I have a son. One that I'm very proud of, by the way."

Blair said nothing, but Thomas was gratified when Blair brought his arms up and held him in return.

***

Thomas opened the door to Beverly's office and, with a comforting hand on Blair's back, guided him in. Marion Lee, Beverly's Assistant, moved immediately around her desk and, with open arms, greeted Blair.

"It's so good to see you again," she said as she hugged him. When she stepped back, she chastised gently, "You're way too thin, young man, but I'll soon fix that up."

Blair smiled, a genuine smile, and said, "Hi, M-marion."

Grinning, and with her eyes on Blair, she waved a hand in the direction of Beverly's office and said, "She's waiting for you, Thomas. I'll keep Blair company until she's ready for him. Her nine o'clock was late."

Looking at the two of them, at Blair's smile, he nodded, feeling good for the first time since leaving San Francisco. As he walked into Beverly's office, he could hear Marion offering Blair some chamomile tea. He was delighted to hear Blair answer her. Things were looking up.

***

While Marion prepared his tea, Blair took off his jacket and sat in the chair by the window, which afforded him a great view of Cascade. He gazed out at the vista before him and remembered, belatedly, that the building directly across from the courthouse and DA's office was the Cascade Police Department.

He let his gaze move up to the seventh floor, automatically counted windows and, staring hard, tried to see what was impossible to see at this distance, namely Jim. There was a good chance he'd be at his desk right now, maybe talking to Megan or Joel. Blair could envision him smiling, the smile that Blair used to crack jokes just to see, the smile that transformed that handsome granite surface into a warm, funny, inviting face. He missed that smile….

Blair turned abruptly away and plucked up a magazine.

***

When Magnum walked into Beverly's office, he found a young, good-looking black teenager, maybe seventeen, seated next to a woman who, by her resemblance to the boy, had to be his mother. They were both arguing and, just as he closed the door, Beverly finally seemed to get a word in.

"Joan, I think this will go faster if I talk with Daryl alone, all right?"

"Mom, go. Now. Wait outside."

"Daryl-"

"Mom, I'm serious. Go."

With an exasperated shrug, she got to her feet. "All right, I'll wait outside, but if there's any problem-"

"Mrs. Banks, I'm not the enemy, remember? We're all here to ensure that Garett Kincaid stays behind bars. Daryl and I will be finished soon, I promise."

Somewhat mollified, Joan Banks turned to go out the door Magnum had just come in, but Beverly stopped her. "Mrs. Banks, you can wait in my private waiting room, right through this door." She indicated the other door. "When we're done, I'll send him out to you."

Joan nodded and, with a final look at her son, walked out.

"Thomas, have you met Daryl Banks?"

He moved in, hand outstretched, and as they shook, Beverly introduced him.
"Thomas works for me, Daryl, and he'll be sitting in while we finish, if you don't mind?"

"No problem, and I apologize for my mother, but this has been very hard on her."

"I understand. Why don't we pick up from where we left off? You and Blair Sandburg had just seen your father taken prisoner by Garett Kincaid?"

Beverly hit the tape recorder as Daryl continued his story.

"Yeah, Blair was watching, counting the men surrounding us. Like I said before, we'd just come back from getting the hot dogs when everything went crazy. We couldn't get back to our seats because Blair didn't want to call attention to us so we ducked into the first row available. But that was too close to where Dad had been and that worried Blair. He thought Kincaid might figure Dad wouldn't be at a game alone, that maybe he'd guess I was there, and Blair was worried Kincaid would find me. At the first opportunity, we snuck away."

"Wasn't that even more dangerous?" Beverly asked, as much out of curiosity as because none of this was in any report.

"Blair said Orvelle had shown him a shortcut to the locker rooms and Kincaid didn't have that many men that he could really cover the entire stadium, you know? Anyway, there's this back exit and Blair was going to get me out and then try to help from within, except as we got closer, Blair realized that the players were being held in the room between us and the back exit. We couldn't go back, we could hear some of Kincaid's 'soldiers' behind us, so the only choice was to try to free the players. Blair made me hide while he got one of those hot dog carts." Daryl grinned then. "He was awesome. He pushed it right into the men who were guarding the hall leading to the locker room." Then his face clouded over. "He'd have made it too if Kincaid and his goons hadn't come around the corner behind me just then. With their guns on me, Blair had no choice."

Daryl had to stop then, trying to control his breathing as the memories flooded back. He finally looked up and grinned, somewhat self-consciously, and, at her smile and urging, continued.

"Two men grabbed me while two others grabbed Blair. Kincaid recognized us both and came up to me right away. He said that he'd bet I'd want to be with my dad and I remember nodding. The he turned to Blair and said something like, 'Ah, Mr. Natural, we meet again. But this time it'll be different.' He ordered two of his men to take me but just as we went around the corner, one of the men, a guy they called 'Lomax' told the other one to wait, he'd forgotten to find out something from Kincaid."

Daryl paused again and, because he looked suddenly very upset, Beverly did a little prompting. "Did you hear what Lomax and Kincaid said, Daryl?"

Daryl nodded but still didn't speak.

"What did they say?" she asked gently.

Taking a deep breath, Daryl said, "Lomax asked when…when he should 'do it' and Kincaid said as soon as he let all the spectators go, that was his cue to...execute...us."

The last word was whispered.

"What happened then, Daryl?"

"Lomax came back and I heard Blair pleading with Kincaid, telling him he would be making a big mistake, that maybe a lot of people were even on his side, but if he killed a young boy and several basketball players, the world would turn against him. Kincaid asked if maybe he and Blair could negotiate, that obviously he had something Blair wanted, our freedom, and that Blair had something Kincaid wanted...and that was all I heard - we were moving then, and a few moments later, I was shoved into a room and Dad was there."

Her tone gentle again, Beverly said, "Daryl, none of this is in any report."

"Dad did the paperwork because Mom took me to Portland the next day. I only got to see him once after we were all rescued and he wasn't worried about reports. Dad didn't believe there would even be a trial."

Beverly nearly snorted. Typical Simon Banks, not that she could fault him in this instance. And she could sympathize with his wanting to protect his son as much as possible.

"I never even got to say good-bye to Blair, you know? And Dad and I never really got to talk. But of course, you had Blair's statement."

"I understand, Daryl. And don't worry. I'm not sure when I'll actually get to you, probably not until Tuesday, but when I put you on the stand, you just tell the jury what you've told me, all right?" At his nod, she added, "When were you and the others actually released?"

"It happened at the same time as the release of all the spectators. I was so certain we were going to die, but they opened the door and we walked out and there was Joel, and we were alive, and I told them Kincaid still had Blair, and I was so afraid that he'd killed Blair instead of us, maybe he was so mad, from last time...but Jim and the others caught up to Kincaid and Blair was okay. I just wish I could have talked with him long enough to apologize and thank him. I tried to call, but, well, I was settling in and Mom was a wreck and I was having nightmares again…."

"It's okay, Daryl, I'm sure Blair understood. You did good. And don't worry, you'll do fine."

They talked a bit more as Beverly clarified a few more facts, but finally she let Daryl rejoin his mother, leaving her and Magnum alone.

"You looked pretty surprised more than once while he was talking," Thomas finally said.

"Hell, yes. As I said, none of that was in any report. Not Simon's or any of his detectives. My God, how the hell did Blair talk Kincaid out of killing Banks, his son and the five players, what on earth could he have said?"

"I don't know, but I don't like the sound of it, any of it, and I suspect if Blair comes in and tells us the truth, we'll hear a few more surprises. I'm just afraid that maybe I don't want to hear them."

"I understand. But at least we'll have a clue as to why Blair left."

Thomas nodded, again not at all certain he wanted to know.

Beverly picked up the phone and buzzed her clerk. "Marion, would you send Blair in, we're ready for him now. Thank you."

***

Blair entered Beverly's office and, without a glance at his father, sat down and waited.

"Blair, I'll try to make this as easy as possible, but you know the drill. Is there anything Marion can get for you, before we get started? Coffee, tea?"

"I'm f-fine. Let's just d-do it."

The stutter, as described by Thomas, was indeed noticeable, but oddly enough, it didn't detract from Blair, might even enhance his testimony. Beverly immediately chastised herself for being such a 'lawyer' when she should have been thinking of Blair, not about how a stutter, a symptom, might make him a better witness. Sometimes, her zeal truly frightened her.

She brought herself sharply back to the task at hand and marshaled her thoughts before finally saying, "I've already briefed Detective Ellison, Captain Banks, and the players. There have been several stipulations on both sides already, including the video of Kincaid taking over the stadium, which has already been accepted and acknowledged by the Defense. Since they're not contesting Kincaid's actions, but rather the reasons behind them, we'll be dispensing with the dozens of witnesses we could have called."

Beverly paused in her recitation, for both herself and Blair, knowing she was about to discuss the most difficult aspect of Kincaid's defense and his lawyers strategy. She fiddled with some papers in front of her, as she continued.

"His lawyers are going to attempt to tie you in with Preston Crawford and," she took a deep breath, "they're allowing Kincaid to testify. Information has come our way that he's going to say you and he…had a relationship. A sexual one. That he had…sex…with you."

Beverly had been twisting her pen around in her hand, but as she finished, she let it drop and finally made eye contact with Blair. He was staring at her, wide-eyed and pale, his breathing shallow.

Sweat had started to bead up on his forehead as he clenched and unclenched his hand. He cleared his throat and said, "I've n-never met C-crawford. I'm sure. I t-think he was v-very generous t-to the University, t-to m-my department in p-p-particular. B-but I n-n-never met him." Blair stopped and looked, for the first time, at his father before adding quietly, "And I d-d-did have…s-s-sex with K-k-kin-c-caid."

***

It took every ounce of willpower that Thomas Magnum possessed to keep from showing anything on his face other than complete support. He refused to allow his horror and fear from showing. He also fought back the urge to take his son and run. Instead, he simply smiled and nodded in encouragement as he moved from where he'd been standing in order to take the chair next to Blair.

It was obvious that Beverly was also struggling with her feelings and thoughts, her shaking hands a dead giveaway. She must have finally won because, in a voice that sounded strong, she said, "Blair, maybe you'd better just tell us, in your own words, what happened that day?"

He turned his attention back to her and nodded.

For the first few moments, his story paralleled Daryl's, but then he reached the moment when he and Daryl were separated and his voice and body language changed. He crossed his arms protectively over his chest and dropped his gaze from Beverly to his legs as he said, "I t-tried to c-convince him t-t-that k-killing them w-would b-b-be a b-b-bad thing...I'd been handcuffed and, when he p-p-pushed me up against t-t-the wall, w-wedged his kn-knee b-b-between my legs...and asked m-m-me if...if I'd b-b-be willing t-to negotiate for their release."

For Beverly and Thomas, the room seemed to fall away as, through Blair's words, they were suddenly there, at the stadium, with him and Kincaid.

End part 1

Chapter Text

Blair felt the pain as he was slammed against the wall and found himself, once again, looking into the ice cold glare of Garett Kincaid.

"So you think it's a bad idea? Killing one of the soldiers of the devil? One of the powerful enemies of this great country? Maybe you're right. Maybe you can convince me. You willing to negotiate, Mr. Natural?"

Talking was difficult, what with Kincaid's arm across his windpipe, so he just nodded, letting Kincaid lead him where he would, knowing the man was insane, knowing he couldn't be reasoned with, only placated.

"Good man. The way I see it, you want something from me and I want something from you." Kincaid moved in - impossibly closer, his body pressing into Blair's, who was no longer wondering what the hell Kincaid could want from him - he now knew.

"You give me what I want, no fighting, just surrender, for as long as I so choose, and I'll let 'em walk out with the others. I don't believe in taking what can be so freely given, so just nod, 'Lieutenant' Sandburg, just nod if you like my deal."

"After," Blair managed to rasp out.

Kincaid's eyes narrowed, but then an ugly smile spread across his face. "You watch 'em walk and then you and I will have our little 'talk'? Is that it?" At Blair's painful nod, he said, "You've got yourself a deal."

He pulled Blair roughly away from the wall and literally threw him at his men. "Take him up to the video room and secure him to the console, but I want him facing the monitors. Just cuff him across the control board and turn on the stadium floor monitor for him."

With that, he walked off with three of his men.

Blair was taken up to the VR and, after one of the men unlocked the door, he was yanked inside and, just as ordered, cuffed to the console, arms spread wide. One of the men threw a switch and the monitor flickered to life, revealing the stadium floor and all the 'hostages'. The two men left, the door snicking shut and automatically locking behind them.

Alone, Blair immediately thought about Daryl and Simon, about doing whatever necessary to keep them alive. He just really hoped that Jim and the others would stop Kincaid before doing it became necessary.

Turning his head, he focused on the monitor. The cheerleaders were performing, at Kincaid's command, their fear evident in their now clumsy moves and horrified expressions.

Just as his arms were starting to shake from the strain of his position, the door opened and Kincaid walked in.

"Are you watching the monitor, Lieutenant? I think you'll like what you see. Check the side door there, on the bottom left of the screen."

Blair did as instructed…and suddenly the doors were thrown open and Kincaid's men began firing into the air as they yelled for everyone to move out. He watched as people turned into animals in their desperate attempts to escape. Then another door opened and several people were ushered out. With relief, he spotted Simon, his arm around Daryl, and followed by the Jag players. As poor as the camera angle was, Blair could still see Joel Taggart as he ran up to meet them and get them quickly out of harm's way.

Just then, Kincaid reached over Blair and flicked off the monitor.

"I kept my word. Now it's your turn."

Blair found his body immediately covered by Kincaid's as the man reached between Blair and the console, grasped his zipper and pulled.

"Don't struggle, I want it easy, I don't have to fight for what I want. But note, I'm leaving you cuffed because, after all, I'm no fool. I'm afraid I don't have much time for our first 'talk', so finesse is out the window."

Blair had done his best to mentally prepare himself in case there was no last minute save, but now found there was no such thing as being prepared for this.

No such thing….



***

The present returned, oddly quiet, for Thomas and Beverly, signaled by the sudden absence of Blair's voice. Thomas blinked, glanced quickly over at Beverly, and found her eyes swimming with tears as yet unshed. He watched her blink them back - hard, noticed her hands, clenched tightly, so tightly her nails were digging into her flesh.

For Thomas, Blair's simply told narrative had left him exhausted, feeling intrusive. What had happened to Blair was so unspeakable, he'd yet to let it penetrate, and if asked to speak, he knew he wouldn't be able to utter a sound. The tightness in his throat, the hard, knot of pain in his stomach, bespoke an anger, a hatred for the man who'd used his son. It was hatred he'd felt before and if he gave it a name, it would be unleashed and he would kill - as he'd done before.

Suddenly Blair started speaking again, his gentle wounded voice in sharp contrast to Thomas' anger.

"When he was d-d-done, he left, b-b-but c-came b-back to unc-cuff me. He was g-gloating about Crawford, about how C-crawford b-b-believed he was in charge, how he was about t-to find out how little c-c-control he really had, even over his own d-d-death. K-kincaid p-pushed me out of the room and, from t-t-that point on, it's pretty hazy. I…I.... know I was p-put in a van with Simon, D-daryl and the others, and t-t-that we ended up at the d-d-docks, b-b-but I don't remember much after that."

***

Blair expelled a harsh breath as he finished, and felt some guilt over the fact that he did remember more, but it had no bearing on this moment, on the trial. His remaining memories were for him, and him alone.

Memories of the pain, embarrassment, the voices yelling, the gunfire, Jim tossing him a gun and his using it, actually aiming for Kincaid and cursing himself for missing. Then it ended with a gassed sub, Jim making like Tarzan and finally hauling Kincaid out of the sub as Blair sank down on a barrel, virtually unnoticed.

Blair remembered watching, in a detached way, as Simon faced a stunned but still fighting Kincaid. He watched the terrorist spit out words at Simon, and then watched the taller man, his rage uncontrolled, drawing back his arm in preparation for striking Kincaid, and Joel stopping him, holding the arm back while Rafe and Brown quickly hustled Kincaid off and stuffed him into a waiting squad car. Simon, still angry, had turned and spotted Blair at that moment, and even now, in Beverly's heated office, Blair shivered in memory of that look. The disappointment, anger and frustration aimed at him…then Simon and Jim had started yelling and snatches of Simon's words were caught on the wind….

"...keep Sandburg away from me - just keep him away, Jim."

That's when Blair realized Kincaid had told them, understood he'd made the wrong choice, done the wrong thing, and his world kind of crumbled into itself so he looked to his friend, to Jim. He found him pushing Simon away, soothing him as he glanced over at Blair, frowned, and finally turned his back on him.

He supposed now, as he allowed himself to remember, that was the moment he might have died.

Eventually someone had dropped a blanket around him and he'd spotted one of the officers walking toward his squad car. He got up, pleaded for a ride and was granted asylum.

On the way back to the station, Blair had realized he needed a doctor, thought of the clinic near Rainier and his friend, Doctor Paul Olson, so had the officer drop him at the University instead of the station. He'd then walked the two painful blocks between the school and the clinic and into the building. He'd lied, told Paul things had 'gotten rougher than intended', been lectured to, had blood drawn for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and eventually released with a pain medication and an antibiotic. Paul even arranged for a ride home.

But neither Beverly nor his father needed to know any of that. Although later, Beverly might need Paul's information, but until she asked, he'd stay quiet. He was finished, there was no more to tell. Maybe he could go back to his father's place now, see Joey.

***

The silence was almost painful until Beverly broke it with another question. "Blair, why did you leave Cascade?"

He thought it was obvious, but if not….

"I c-couldn't s-s-stay. T-t-too hard. So - I left."

Thomas knew instinctively that he wasn't hearing everything, and, judging by Beverly's expression, she had the same suspicion. Sure, they had all the pertinent facts for the trial, but not everything pertaining to Blair himself. Unfortunately, Blair's body was screaming "Stop now," so he put up a hand in warning to Beverly and said, "Is there anything else for the trial?"

She gave him a thoughtful look, caught his clue, and nodded. "Just one more thing. I think we need to take the wind out of the Defense's sails and address this ourselves by allowing you to tell it as simply as you told us. I can certainly understand why this isn't in your statement, why it isn't in any statement, I'm sure no one believed it would ever be required. But here we are, and to not address it ourselves, well, it could give us the upper hand."

Blair nodded. After all, it was no more than he'd expected, and saying it again tomorrow, well, he'd manage. It wasn't as if the people he cared about most didn't already know. Now if he could just go home…. '

Thomas got to his feet then and said, "Come on, Blair, let's go. Joey must be going crazy by now."

As Blair stood, Thomas added, "Bev, you'll let us know when you think you'll need him? He isn't going to have to come every day, is he?"

"No. I estimate late Monday or first thing Tuesday, but yes, I'll keep you posted."

"Great, and thanks." He opened the door and, as Blair started out, said,
"Give me just a minute, Blair, all right?"

Blair nodded, glanced back at Beverly, then walked out.

Thomas shut the door and turned back to Beverly, his expression unreadable. "There's something else you need to know now. While I was in San Francisco, Blair and I discovered that I'm…I'm his father."

Beverly felt the air whoosh out of her lungs as his words made it to her brain. She slumped back and finally said, "I don't know what to say - except - maybe, congratulations?"

"That'll do for starters. I just figured you needed to know since my objectivity is kind of useless right now. I can't be your investigator on this, not that you need one now."

"I understand and agree." She waved a hand in the direction of the door and said, "Go, take him home, take care of him. If you think he needs to see anyone, I can recommend someone."

"Thanks. I'll let you know."

"Thomas, you don't have any frame of reference where Blair is concerned, so listen. We don't have it all. The Blair I saw today is the product of more than he told us. I don't know what, but I do know Blair and he's a fighter. But the version today? He's not fighting, he's given up. See if you can find out the whole story."

***

Blair could feel his strength ebbing, flowing out of him like milk from a tipped-over bottle, trickling, then gurgling and bubbling out, making that weird sound that only milk can make as it exits a bottle or carton. Only problem was, this wasn't the time for spilt milk and crying. He had at least four, maybe five days to get through before his turn to testify.

Damn, if only people came with plugs for stopping that spilt milk.

He gave a quick, hopefully unobserved glance over at his father, saw the grim line around his mouth, and gave an internal shrug. It had been nice while it had lasted, this having a father thing. Very nice. He was pretty sure his father liked Joey, maybe he'd take him, take care of him. Yeah, he would. Joey would be okay.

So evidently he'd made his decision. The how and where were the only parts unresolved…then he remembered a nice spot at the beach, a spot where a reckless person could be trapped by the tide if not careful. That thought soothed him and he relaxed, sliding down in the seat, checking the view, watching as his city flew past, noting recognized shops like Jon's Butcher Shop where he used to buy the ground chuck just for Jim, and there was the drug store and the Nature Aid where he used to buy the all herbal indigestion remedy for both of them, usually needed after Blair's juicy ground chuck hamburgers….

He was glad he was seeing Cascade one more time. It had become a real home - for a while. Three years to be exact, even though he'd lived here for over fourteen.

Home.

Did people truly understand how powerful a word it was? How wonderful a home could be? So great that even leaving it to go to work could be hard?

Especially if the person who made it home was going somewhere else? Of course, when he went to the station with Jim, he'd been taking home with him because, well, Jim was there.

He gave himself a mental shake because he needed to concentrate, pass the thread through the needle just one more time, for a few more days, and then he could rest for as long as he wanted.

"Blair?"

His father's voice brought him back and he turned in his seat to smile his 'what?' response.

"Are you okay? You going to make this?"

A few more words, he could get out a few more words, right? "I'm f-fine. No - worries."

"I wish I could believe that. I figure that if I'm having trouble with what happened, it has to be worse for you. You've been carrying this around for months now." He gave him a sideways glance and asked, "Did you see anyone after? Someone to help you through it?"

The question surprised Blair, floored him really. "D-d-deal with it? You d-d-don't deal with a choice, a m-m-mistake. You just m-m-move through it. I made a choice, a b-b-bad one. I live with it. I've made a c-c-career of b-b-bad choices. I'm a m-m-master of bad choices."

Okay, that was a lot of verbiage for the Blair he'd known for fifty-some hours. Was this a good sign? Did he just hear a bit of anger? Was this the opening he needed?

Yes.

"Blair, I'm confused. What choice did you make? I listened to you, lived it with you as you retold it and at no time did I hear that you had a choice."

"T-t-that's you."

He swung into the underground garage, pulled into space 17, shut off the engine and twisted in his seat to face Blair. "That's not just me, Blair, that's anyone. There was no choice."

Blair popped open the door and was out and striding to the elevator before Thomas could even swallow. He recovered quickly and, just as quickly, followed.

Nearing the elevator, Blair started to shake because his father wasn't reacting as he should. He knew the truth and he was damned if he was going to explain it to a man who'd been his father for what, three days? Hell, Jim knew, understood. So did Simon.

"Blair, wait up. I have the elevator key. You can't go up without me."

Blair slowed down and let him catch up, watched as he stuck the key in and pushed the up button. He tried to control the tremors, figured they were out of anger, nothing else, and for a moment, he actually hated his father, hated the emotions he was forcing out of him.

Hated himself for feeling them.

***

Blair was shaking and Thomas wanted to take him in his arms, hold him again, but damn, Blair was almost thirty.

There was no argument that the day had been hell, and yeah, they were just getting to know one another, so hellish day or not, he just wasn't sure if that kind of affection, from a newly discovered father, would be wanted.

Things had seemed so much easier in San Francisco. He'd had no trouble holding him, albeit briefly, back there. Of course, he hadn't known the truth then - hadn't been full of anger and hatred for the man who'd hurt his son. Hadn't been worrying about how he could make up to Blair for something that had happened before they'd even known each other.

The elevator finally reached them, the doors sliding open. He was glad it was empty, no one getting off or joining them to go up. They stepped inside and he punched his floor. As the elevator climbed, he stayed quiet, giving Blair his space.

When they exited on his floor, both men smiled because the only thing that could be heard was Joey - complaining.

"Your neighbors are going t-t-to b-be mad," Blair said knowingly.

"Yeah, maybe. He's not the only dog, though."

"No, b-b-but he's t-the only one b-b-barking."

They both picked up the pace, Thomas unlocking the door quickly and then wisely stepping aside so that when Joey launched himself, it was at Blair, who caught him easily, wiggling butt and all.

Blair's laughter bubbled up and Thomas couldn't help his own smile. Finally he said, "You want to take him down, or shall I?"

"I'll t-t-take him."

"I'll put something together for lunch, then."

Blair nodded, got Joey's leash, attached it to the collar, and headed back out, a very eager Joey taking the lead.

By the time Blair returned, Thomas had a nice shrimp salad waiting. Okay, the shrimp was crunchier than one would expect, but Thomas figured that their being still half frozen added a nice touch to the salad.

They both sat down at the small kitchen table, Joey making himself comfortable on Blair's feet. They ate in surprisingly companionable silence, Thomas pleased to see Blair actually finish his salad along with a couple of chunks of French bread. When they were finished, they did the dishes together and then moved into the living room. Joey trotted along behind them, clearly finding the bottom of Blair's jeans fascinating. Seeing the pup's attraction, Blair gave in and sat down in the middle of the floor to play with him.

To Thomas, he looked all the world like a relaxed, happy man as he teased and wrestled with Joey. As Thomas watched, the day washed away in the face of the simple joy of his son and a dog.

Eventually the fun had to end as Joey, like all puppies, ran low on energy and flopped down, mid-toe chasing, to take a nap. For a few minutes, Blair remained on the floor, obviously enjoying the sight of the sleeping puppy, but soon he got up and joined Thomas on the couch.

"I g-g-guess I'm going t-t-to be a guest a b-b-bit longer than you t-thought," he said.

"Not long enough," Thomas said honestly.

Blair smiled and indicated his surroundings. "If I hadn't already known you were m-m-my f-f-father, your p-p-place would have c-c-clued me in. We're b-b-both p-pigs."

Thomas took a good look at his apartment, trying to see it through Blair's eyes, and had to admit, while not dirty, it was messy. He tended to drop things and leave them, be it clothing, work, books, or dishes. But he'd always felt he was highly organized in his disorganization. He thought back to Blair's small apartment - his neat and tidy - apartment, and said, "Hey, your place was clean as a whistle."

Blair shrugged and indicated Joey. "The g-guy at the p-pound said order was important t-t-to p-pets."

"Liar," Thomas said fondly.

Blair actually laughed. "Okay, small white lie." His expression changed, like a sunny sky suddenly filled with clouds blocking the sun. "D-d-don't have the same l-l-life anymore. Easy t-to k-k-keep things c-clean." He got up then, stretched and said, "T-tired. D-do you mind if I t-t-take a nap?"

"No, no, of course not. I've actually got some work to do and I promised I'd call Lily today. She's in-"

"I remember. T-tacoma."

He nodded. "I really hope she returns before…you know, before you're done. I want you two to meet."

"D-d-don't tell her about m-me…yet, okay?"

"Why not?" he asked, surprised by the request.

"Just…j-just don't, okay? After this is all…over?"

"All right, if that's how you want it," he agreed.

Smiling, Blair nodded, clearly relieved. "See you in a c-couple of hours."

***

Blair's nap moved through the afternoon, during which time Thomas made his call to Lily and cheerfully listened to her excited voice as she regaled him with tales of her adventures in Tacoma. He would never have figured Tacoma for such a wild and woolly place, but according to Lily, it was hopping. He'd been on the verge of telling her she had a brother more times than he could count, but Blair's simple request not to - held his tongue each time.

When they finally said their goodbyes, Joey woke up and, finding himself without Blair, had sniffed him out, nose to floor, and ending at the closed bedroom door. Afraid he'd start whining, Thomas, as quietly as possible, opened the bedroom door enough so Joey could wiggle through. He watched as the puppy trotted over to the bed and managed, with the help of the overhanging blanket, to climb up. Once there, he snuffled a bit, did some crazy rotations, then finally settled into the curve of Blair's body and closed his eyes.

Closing the door, he regretted not taking Joey out first, but hey, carpet cleaners were much better products nowadays.

At six, Blair finally got up and, yawning, walked into the living room, Joey behind him and looking desperate.

Grinning, Thomas grabbed the leash and said, "My turn, sleeping beauty."

"Ha-ha." Blair walked over to the couch and sat down even as he started running his fingers through his hair, trying to work out the knots and snarls.

Thomas got the door open and in spite of Joey's impatient tugging, asked, "How does Mexican sound for dinner?"

"G-good."

"Great, I'll order when I get back. TV remote is in the end table drawer next to you."

In the hall, Thomas smiled as he walked to the elevator. He didn't know what the next three days would hold, but he'd value them, cling to them, use them to get to know his son.

And maybe - at one point - he'd give Naomi a call.

Or not.

***

The weekend went all too fast for Thomas. Friday had been a rather odd day, uncomfortable, both of them knowing that the trial was in progress, both waiting for Beverly's call. They chose to stay in, although Thomas had asked Blair if there weren't some friends he might want to connect with, but Blair had shaken his head and given him a quiet, "No."

They'd played cards instead, watched a couple of movies, talked (okay, Thomas had talked, Blair had listened), taken Joey for a multitude of walks, and, finally, at five-thirty, just as they'd decided on cooking up a couple of steaks for dinner, Beverly had called. The trial was moving faster than expected, with only had two witnesses left; Blair and Daryl. Monday morning, Thomas would need to have Blair at the courthouse, eight sharp.

Somehow the news settled them both, allowed them to relax. They knew now, it was set. The weekend was theirs and they'd face Monday when it came.

On Saturday, they took a day trip up into the Cascades, to some of Blair's favorite spots. Thomas finally learned more about Blair's life at Rainier and his experiences on various digs and expeditions. He'd been pleased to note that when talking about those days, the stutter, while there, had been greatly reduced. For a few hours, he caught a glimpse of the man Beverly had described, lively, full of stories, hands waving as they battled words for
supremacy.

On Sunday, they went to the Marina, both having a yen for fried clams. The subjects of their conversations remained distant; Blair sharing his life before working with the Cascade PD; Thomas talking about his naval days and years as a private investigator.

But, like all good things, their weekend came to a close. Monday arrived all too soon.

***

Trials were strange creatures, Thomas thought as he parked in the courthouse garage. Stranger still if notoriety were a part of the proceedings. Garett Kincaid certainly fit that bill. A man who'd taken an entire stadium hostage was now on trial even though he was a convicted felon - an escaped, convicted felon. Proof positive that this trial definitely fell under the heading of 'notorious'. If you added Washington's wealthiest man, Preston Crawford, to the mix, if you implied that he was behind everything, well, you had a news person's dream trial.

O.J. Simpson was a cheap flea circus compared to this fiasco, he figured. The only thing that really saved Cascade in this case, kept this particular trial from becoming the media darling, was the judge assigned.

Judge Betty Rawlings was a tough old bird who despised the media and all that they represented. She'd made it clear from the first day of jury selection that only media artists would be permitted in the courtroom, and even then, only one from each of the big three networks. She further ruled that the media would be restricted to a cordoned off area outside the court, not in. Her tight media rules had proven a Godsend for all involved except the Defense, who eagerly sought them out at every opportunity and, in fact, were keeping them busy when Thomas turned into the driveway leading down to the garage.

Yep, he owed Rawlings big time. Not once in the preceding days had he or Blair been bothered even though he knew the news that Blair Sandburg was in Cascade had been leaked. Of course, his whereabouts had been rumored to be at the Connaught so he'd have bet his paycheck that the hotel had been staked out.

"You ready?" he asked as he parked and shut off the engine.

Blair shrugged…but got out of the car.

Right. Message received. Time to face the music.

***

Jim and Simon waited outside the Courthouse, Simon's anger at his ex-wife evident in his stance and the unlit cigar he was chewing like a steak. On both sides of them, the media, held back by tape, nevertheless shouted out questions and stuck microphones out to catch any kind of sound bite. The two men ignored them, ignored the flashing cameras and bright lights for the television cameras.

"She's late," Simon hissed out.

"No, she isn't. It's only seven forty-five," Jim shot back.

"She was supposed to be here at seven-thirty."

"According to you."

"I hate you, Jim."

"Yeah, yeah. And I think that's her," Jim said as he indicated a long, sleek black car pull up to the curb.

"For God's sake, that's a limousine," Simon huffed out.

"Knowing Beverly, she arranged it."

"Goody for her."

Taking his arm, he pulled him down the steps. "Come on, they're going to need our help. These media sharks aren't going to stay back for long if we don't hurry."

Moments later they had Joan and Daryl fitted snugly between them as they hurried them through the media gauntlet. Once inside, the silence was a major relief.

They paused a moment, all four trying to catch their breaths. Finally Simon gave his son a hug, acknowledged Joan with a tight smile, and said to Jim, "I'm going to take them upstairs, get them settled and I'll meet you inside the courtroom."

Jim nodded, watched them go, but stayed where he was. He'd testified on Friday, as had Simon, and he'd waited throughout the day for Blair to show up. When he hadn't, he'd urged Simon to talk to Beverly and find out if, in fact, she'd found him, if he'd be here at all. The answer had fueled his hope that he'd have the chance to make things right for the two of them. Blair was in Cascade, well protected, and he'd be testifying on Monday, along with Daryl.

Now Jim waited, wondering if Blair would walk in through the lobby doors any moment or if he might already be upstairs, in a waiting room, alone. Not for the first time, he wished he had his senses back so that he could use them to find Blair.

But he didn't. So he'd wait.

***

As Simon guided Joan and Daryl to the elevators, he gave a last glance back at Jim, who hadn't moved an inch, and he knew exactly why. He was waiting for Blair, looking for Blair. Seeing his friend, the lost expression on his face, Simon he wondered yet again if his anger, his original anger at Blair, had been out of bounds. Anything that had caused so much damage had to be questioned.

The elevator door slid open then and, just as he was about to guide them inside, Joan said, "I'll take him up, Simon. Miss Sanchez told me where to meet her. It will be okay."

Searching his ex-wife's face, he was surprised to find only sincerity and, perhaps, understanding. He smiled and said, "Thank you, Joan." He then turned to his son and asked, "You okay?"

"I'm fine, Dad. Honest. As long as I know you'll be there, in the courtroom, I'll be fine."

"I will, Daryl, I'll be right beside you."

They hugged and Joan moved her son into the elevator. Giving him a smile, she pushed the button for the third floor. The doors closed and he turned back to join Jim.

***

"He's probably already upstairs, Jim," Simon said from behind him. "Beverly said her investigator, Thomas Magnum, would be bringing him in early."

"I thought you were-"

"Joan suggested I stick with you and join them inside the courtroom."

"That was…decent of her. And I know you're probably right, but I had to look, you know? Wait? See if he… Oh, hell, you know what I mean."

"Oh, yeah, I do indeed. Let's go upstairs, see if we can't find him, all right?"

Nodding, Jim let Simon take control, lead him to the elevators.

***

Blair sat in the anteroom, hands crossed and resting on the table. His head was bowed and anyone who didn't know better would swear he was praying. He wasn't, he was attempting to meditate, but it wasn't working.

Suddenly the door opened and he was surprised to see Daryl walk in.

"Blair!"

Blair got quickly to his feet and, a moment later, found himself engulfed by the now taller-than-him teenager.

"Oh, man, have I missed you."

"Same here, Daryl. How are you?"

But he wasn't given the opportunity to answer as Joan came through the door and spotted Blair, the man she believed responsible for putting her son in danger.

Grabbing Daryl's arm, she pulled him away from Blair as if he were some kind of monster and turned to Beverly, who was just behind her. "I want another room, Miss Sanchez. I won't have my son here with Mr. Sandburg. Move us, now, please."

Completely stunned, Beverly nevertheless nodded. She turned to the officer with her and said, "Please, would you escort Mrs. Banks and her son to number three?"

He immediately stepped back to allow Joan, who was now tugging on a confused Daryl, to precede him into the hall. Once they were out in the corridor, Beverly said in an apologetic tone, "Blair, I'll be right back, let me just calm her down, all right?"

Face ashen, Blair nodded and sank back into his seat.

As the door shut behind Beverly, he dug deep, trying to find his center, to somehow find the strength to do what still had to be done. Visions of his quiet beach, the tide moving in, beautiful and relentless, finally did the trick.

He could wait now, wait his turn to testify.

***

In spite of the Judge's ruling barring the press, the courtroom was still full. Jim was seated with Simon and Joan, just behind Beverly's table. He now knew that Blair was here, in one of the anterooms. Unfortunately, and he should have figured this out earlier, he wasn't allowed to see him until after he testified. Rules were rules and Lady Justice had more than her fair share. The jury door opened and the jurists, all undoubtedly hoping today would be their last, filed out and took their seats. They'd been sequestered from day one, another of the Judge's clever rulings.

Jim found himself restless, edgy, the need to see Blair almost all-consuming. But damn it, he didn't want his first - their first - view of each other to be here, in the courtroom. He wanted privacy, but now that would have to wait. The Fates, as usual, were conspiring against him.

The side door opened and the bailiff said, "All rise for the Honorable Judge Rawlings."

The spectators rose, as did the jury, and Judge Rawlings entered the room, black robes swirling as she stepped up and took her seat. With that, the second day of The State of Washington versus Garett Kincaid, began.

As the Judge reminded everyone of the rules, Jim thought back to both Beverly's opening remarks and Walter Turnbull's. Beverly had been brilliant and brief. She'd promised a short list of witnesses while stating that no more were really needed, that she trusted the jury to sift through the many mystical misdirection's they'd be bombarded with by the Defense. She'd expressed total confidence in their abilities to find the truth and ensure that justice would be served. From the time she stood and spoke her first word, to when she finished and took her seat, fifteen minutes had ticked by.
The jury had loved her.

Walter Turnbull, on the other hand, had taken over forty-five minutes and managed to say nothing. But even Jim had been forced to admit that the man was a master at saying nothing while making it sound like God's own words. And of course, he'd gone to great lengths to explain to the jury just what 'reasonable doubt' meant.

In the end, the score, in Jim's opinion, had been Prosecution: 1; Defense: 0.

"Miss Sanchez, you may call your first witness for the day."

Jim's walk down memory lane was interrupted by Rawling's voice. Giving himself a mental shake, he turned in his seat as Beverly stood and said, "The State calls Daryl Banks to the stand, your Honor."

The doors were opened and a Sheriff of the Court escorted Daryl in. Walking straight and tall, he nevertheless looked exactly like the teen that he was. He paused as he reached them, gave his parents a smile, then proceeded through the swinging gate and up to the witness stand. His voice, as he took the oath, was strong and loud.

Beverly deftly took him through his arrival at the stadium, to the take-over, and his capture. Daryl seemed to lose focus for a couple of minutes, jumping back and forth in his narrative, so Beverly took back the reins of questioning.

"It must have been very frightening, Daryl, what with being separated from your father, and yet so close," she acknowledged gently. "What happened after your father's attempt to stop Kincaid?"

"Blair got us seated in the first available row and told me to scrunch down in my seat - he was worried Kincaid might figure out that Dad would be at the game with his son, see?" At Beverly's encouraging nod, he went on, gaining strength again.

Jim thought he'd be ready to hear Daryl, but as the truth of that night was revealed, he felt as though he were bleeding to death - slowly. He was dizzy, lightheaded, sweating.

Blair hadn't risked Daryl's life - he'd been trying to protect him.

To protect.

Daryl continued to talk and Jim found himself looking away, down, at his shoes, because the mistake, the misunderstanding…and it was all too foolish and lost and stupid.

Because they'd never asked, never talked. Never opened their goddamned mouths. None of them.

He was suddenly and painfully aware of Simon next to him, stiff and still. He glanced sideways and could see Simon's large, dark hand, fingers gripping the material of his slacks, and the skin beneath, gripping hard, ferociously.

The truth didn't always set you free, Jim thought. Sometimes it left you bleeding in the dust.

***

Thomas would never have considered himself overly sensitive to the moods of a room full of people - unless there was some kind of danger. But from his seat at the prosecution table, (something he'd insisted on so that Blair would be able to see him) he felt a climbing tension coming from behind him as Daryl talked.

He had an overwhelming urge to look back, try to pinpoint the source, but he didn't dare move, not now, not when Daryl was winding down, when anything that caught his eye might disrupt the hold he had on the men and women of the jury. He tried to remember who was behind him, knew Joan Banks was just to his left…would have to assume that Daryl's father, Captain Simon Banks would be as well, although he hadn't seen him upon his own arrival.

On the other hand, he'd been a bit miffed that Blair had wanted to be alone in the anteroom, so probably hadn't been seeing all that clearly when he'd joined Beverly. His vision had been further impaired when Kincaid himself had been led in, cuffed and in the orange prison uniform. No suit for him, thanks to already being a convicted felon serving time. At seeing the man in person, a red film had descended across his eyes.

Just like in books.

Red for blood, for rage.

But he'd controlled himself, kept himself in check.

So missing Simon Banks didn't really surprise him. He figured Jim Ellison had to be back there too, so maybe all three were the source of what he was experiencing - it couldn't be easy to relive it through a teenaged boy - or to hear it, maybe, for the first time, as was likely with Joan Banks.

But still - they weren't hearing anything new….

Daryl was done with his straight testimony and Beverly was now asking a series of questions geared toward making sure the jury understood that Daryl's life had been threatened, that he'd believed with all his heart that he would die, that Kincaid intended on killing him, his father and the players he was holding. Which brought her smack up against the one question that plagued the jury and gave the Defense some power: why had Kincaid let everyone go?

She asked it, a move that, judging by what Thomas could see of Turnbull, shocked the hell out of him.

"Daryl, if you were so certain you were going to die, had heard the discussion of how and when, why are you here, now, alive?"

"I think Blair convinced him not to. He's a good talker, could've talked King Kong down from the Empire State Building," Daryl answered, the pride in his voice evident to everyone.

There were more than a few chuckles at that, but there was also surprise as Daryl related what had happened when he and Blair had been caught.

For Thomas, he thought Beverly had scored a hit with Daryl. Unfortunately, while his answer was youthful and honest, it also left the door wide open for the Defense to shut - on Blair. And for a moment, Thomas was angry with Beverly in spite of knowing her strategy. He glanced over at the jury, saw them smiling and nodding. They were ready, primed for Blair, the hero as painted by Daryl's brush. The new hero, one to add to their collection that included Detective Ellison.

And Turnbull was ready to destroy that same new hero.

Thomas just prayed this whole game plan of Beverly's wouldn't blow up in Blair's face.

***

Satisfied with Daryl's testimony, Beverly moved toward her chair as the Judge said, "Mr. Turnbull, cross-examine?"

He stood, straightened his suit jacket, looked at Daryl, and said, to everyone's surprise, "Not at this time, Your Honor, but we reserve the right to cross later."

She nodded and addressed Daryl. "Mr. Banks, you're dismissed."

He got up and, since he could be called back, was escorted out, but not before connecting with his father, both reaching out and clasping hands. Joan started to get up, to join him out in the hall, but he shook his head and, seeing his need to be alone, she wisely sat down again.

Beverly glanced over at Turnbull, could see the anticipation in his face. She knew he'd forgone the opportunity to do a cross on Daryl because he had bigger fish to fry. After all, why destroy a teenager when you can take down a hero?

It was up to her to make sure he failed.

"Ms. Sanchez, does the Prosecution have another witness?"

She got to her feet. "Yes, your Honor, we have one final witness. The Prosecution calls Blair Sandburg."

A few moments later, Blair was escorted into the courtroom.

***

He kept his eyes focused on the Judge as he approached the witness stand. Even so, he was fully aware of Jim and Simon, both seated behind Thomas, which almost caused him to stumble as he walked. All three of them separated by a railing and nothing more.

That might be more than he wanted to handle.

He took his oath, hand on the bible, his voice almost as strong as Daryl's.
As he took his seat, he couldn't help but glance - albeit briefly - at Jim, and he almost froze, but a gentle cough from his father refocused him on the matter at hand. He straightened his shoulders, indicating that he was ready.

After identifying himself for the Court, Beverly got to her feet, smiled, and, with the Judge's permission, approached the stand. As planned, she took him through the events that mirrored Daryl's earlier testimony with a few questions, letting him explain the thought process that had him heading into the bowels of the stadium with Daryl.

Blair knew this was the easy part - wasn't in any way eager to get to the hard part.

When he reached the point where he was separated from Daryl and had to explain the 'bargain' between him and Kincaid, he was grateful that Beverly continued to lead without appearing to, without Turnbull rushing to his feet to object. He didn't think about the stutter, didn't care how he sounded, he just concentrated on telling what happened.

He finally got to the hard part.

He described the video room, kept his eyes on Beverly, was grateful that she kept her body between him and everyone else - including Kincaid himself.

Later, he'd have to thank her. He detailed how he was cuffed, the monitor, and finally…Kincaid's entrance.

When he started to describe the release of the spectators, Beverly interrupted him with a couple of questions he hadn't been expecting, but oddly enough, had thought about a great deal.

"Blair, your deal with him aside, did you believe he'd really release your friends and the players?"

"I p-p-prayed he would, b-b-but a part of m-m-me…maybe a g-g-good chance he wouldn't."

"So why do you think he did?"

At that point, Turnbull got to his feet. "Object, your Honor? Mr. Sandburg is hardly-"

"Judge Rawlings," Beverly smoothly interrupted. "Mr. Sandburg has three years of working closely with the Cascade Police Department. He's also an anthropologist and minored in Psychology." She didn't have to say anything else.

The Judge nodded and said, "Objection overruled, Mr. Turnbull."

Turnbull took his seat and Beverly nodded to Blair, giving him permission to answer.

"It was...I b-b-believe…a d-delaying tactic. The resulting p-pandemonium p-prohibited the police from immediately pursuing K-kincaid and his men, m-many of whom m-melted into the c-crowd."

"Rather intelligent of Mr. Kincaid. Doesn't sound very 'insane', does it, Mr. Sandburg?"

Turnbull was on his feet instantly, his objection strong and clear, and this time his objection was sustained, but not before Beverly had gotten her point across.

Blair watched as Beverly moved to stand even closer, placing herself squarely between him and Kincaid. He could see his father now, but as he'd been doing from the beginning, he kept his gaze fastened on Beverly. Once again she led, even more gently, back to the moment when the hostages had been released and then let Blair tell the jury what happened next.

The gasps in the jury box, the exclamations from the spectators, startled Blair, but Beverly just smiled gently and nodded slightly, reassuringly. He took a deep breath and gave her a small "I'm okay" look.

"So Garett Kincaid raped you?"

Puzzled by that question, Blair shook his head. "N-n-no."

"Blair, why not rape?"

"I s-said…yes. N-n-not rape."

"I see. So, in the hopes of saving several lives, the lives of your friends, you said yes?"

"T-that's c-c-correct."

"Thank you, Blair." She turned to the Judge and said, "That's all for this witness, your Honor."

"Mr. Turnbull, do you wish to cross-examine?"

"Oh, yes, your Honor, the Defense will cross-examine Mr. Sandburg."

While Turnbull took a few seconds to gather his paperwork, a tactic designed to unnerve his prey, Blair looked to his father…but somehow his gaze moved beyond…to Jim.

Jim didn't look right - he didn't look angry or disgusted or….

Blair frowned because…Jim was…there were tears rolling down his cheeks and his expression…and all Blair could see was…love. So much love, it left Blair almost breathless. He didn't understand it and he thought he might…but he couldn't, and Turnbull was looking at him, he could feel the man's steely gaze, but all he cared about was Jim, seeing that look…for him.

"Mr. Sandburg, you were an observer with the Cascade Police Department at the time this incident took place?"

Tearing his gaze away from Jim, Blair looked at Turnbull and said, "Yes."

"You were also an anthropologist and graduate student at Rainier University, going for your Doctorate, I believe?"

"Yes."

"But you no longer live in Cascade, correct?"

"Yes."

"You stated you're now a resident of San Francisco, California, correct?"

"Yes."

"Are you attached to any school in California?"

"N-n-no."

Turnbull smiled slightly as he asked, "Permission to approach the witness, your Honor?"

Rawlings nodded and, dropping the legal pad, Turnbull approached the witness stand.

As he moved closer, Blair couldn't help but compare him to a rattler - no, a sidewinder. Yeah, a sidewinder. That cheered him up for some strange reason and he felt himself straighten in his seat.

"Are you, perhaps, teaching now?"

"N-n-no."

"Then what are you doing?"

"I'm a b-b-bartender."

Turnbull paused long enough to let that bit of information sink in. He also seemed to expect Beverly to object, and when she didn't, he went on.

"A bartender? I'm surprised. Or maybe not. Isn't it true that you were fired from Rainier for failing to turn in your dissertation and for excessive absenteeism?"

"N-n-no."

"Excuse me, Mr. Sandburg, did you say 'no'?"

"Yes. I was n-n-not fired. C-c-couldn't get fired. Released from m-my contract."

"For failing to turn in your dissertation."

"N-n-no. My choice."

Turnbull was too confident, Blair could see that and thus anticipate what was coming next. He wasn't disappointed.

"Mr. Sandburg, did you or did you not turn in your dissertation?"

"I d-d-did. T-t-two weeks after the K-kincaid-"

Turnbull didn't let him finish as he said snidely, "So what, should I call you Doctor Sandburg?"

"Yes."

Walter Turnbull was a master at his craft, thus the fact that he was rattled - very rattled - didn't show. He maintained his cool façade even as he asked, "Mister Sandburg, are you trying to tell this court that you weren't fired? That you received your doctorate?"

"I'm not t-t-trying, I'm saying it."

"I think I need some clarification here. You testified that you requested to be allowed out of your contract - as opposed to being fired - so why would you do that? Why aren't you still with Rainier?"

Blair paused, but not out of nervousness. Rather, he was very aware of both Jim and Simon, aware that they were leaning forward, and he knew what they had to be thinking. "They wanted me t-to give p-p-permission for my p-paper to be p-p-published - by Simon and Schuster. I refused. We c-c-came to a m-mutual agreement and they released m-m-me."

Turnbull shouldn't have walked into it, but hell, even he wanted to hear the answer, so he asked. "You're telling this court that you refused to have your paper published by Simon and Schuster? That's a major publishing firm." He glanced at the jury, as if including them in on his disbelief. "Gosh, now you've really got me interested. Why would you refuse such an honor? Not to mention the fame and obvious money."

"The p-paper was on the C-c-cascade PD. They d-d-don't need that kind of 'n-notoriety'. It would hurt them, interfere with what they n-n-need to d-d-do. It was n-never intended for that kind of p-publication so I refused. The men and women I worked with - they work hard t-t-to p-p-protect us, and while I'd love t-the world t-to know...that wasn't the way t-t-to do it."

Blair watched a dull red creep up beyond Turnbull's collar, watched as the man struggled to regain a toehold on his cross. He didn't know what would come next - but he was feeling better than he had in months - he was ready. He glanced over at both his father and Jim, saw pride in the hazel eyes of one, shocked surprise in the blue eyes of the other.

"I see. Very interesting. Very noble." He managed to make the word 'noble' sound like a communicable disease.

Turnbull walked back to his table, slipped on his reading glasses, appeared to check his notes, then said in a deceptively easy voice, "Mr. Sandburg, how many times have you met Preston Crawford?"

"Never."

Turnbull looked up at that and whipped off his glasses. "Mr. Sandburg, Preston Crawford was both an alumnus of Rainier and one of its major benefactors. It's also well known that he favored the Anthropology Department, was a major contributor, financially speaking, to the Department.
I would have assumed that at least one meeting with the man would have been nearly impossible to avoid."

"It was also well known that he rarely left his home," Blair answered.

Turnbull picked up a piece of paper and slipped the glasses on again. "My records indicate, and I'm sure I could easily bring forth witnesses to corroborate this, that Preston Crawford expressed to the head of your department, his desire to meet you in," he glanced down at the paper, "October of 1996 at a special party prior to the opening of an exhibition you worked on for the University." He let the paper drop to the table. "An exhibition on Mayan art, I believe."

"That m-may be, but we never met."

Turnbull grinned. "But we just have your word for that, don't we?"

"No, you have police records and my p-passport. I was in P-peru at the time of both the p-party and the opening. One of my many unauthorized absences."

"Peru?"

"Yes, a friend was in t-trouble and Detective Ellison traveled to P-peru in order to help. I went with him."

Turnbull's hand was shaking ever so slightly, but it made Blair feel even better. He watched as the man pulled out another piece of paper and, confusion written all over his face, seemed to be puzzle over it before finally saying, "What about a specially requested meeting between you and Mr. Crawford on May 7, 1997. A private meeting with only one purpose: to meet you. What about that one? Were you also in Peru then?"

The sarcasm wasn't lost on anyone.

Blair frowned as he thought back to the date mentioned…and a vague memory surfaced.

"No, n-not Peru, and yes, I remember that invitation. It was for d-dinner at Professor Buckner's home, but I d-didn't make it."

"You didn't make this one either? Um, you were, perhaps, in the Andes this time?"

"No, the hospital. B-b-bullet in the leg. Actually, not the hospital. At the t-time of the p-p-party, I was several hundred f-feet in the air, screaming obscenities at my p-partner. I had t-to be airlifted out and I'm n-not too k-keen on flying, let alone swinging from a g-gurney while hanging from a helicopter. Then I was in the hospital."

"I assume this happened while rescuing another friend, no doubt?" Turnbull spat out.

"I was just t-t-tagging along, Detective Ellison d-did the rescuing." Blair couldn't help it - he smiled. Proudly.

He figured that maybe the conspiracy theory Beverly had told him about - just went swirling down the drain. An expression started repeating over and over in his mind: Heads will roll.

He realized a moment later that he was celebrating a bit too soon as Turnbull asked, "Do you do drugs, Mr. Sandburg?"

Beverly jumped to her feet. "Objection, you Honor. Relevance?"

"It goes to credibility, your Honor," Turnbull answered smoothly.

"Objection overruled." Rawlings looked at Blair, smiled, and said pointedly, "Doctor Sandburg, you need to answer."

"No, I've never d-d-done drugs. Don't even like using aspirin." He thought it was probably a good thing Turnbull didn't ask about weird-assed medicines from the Rain Forest.

Turnbull pulled out a sheet of paper and said, "Your Honor, the Defense would like to enter this as evidence to be marked 31D. It's a hospital bill for Mr. Sandburg."

The Bailiff took the offered document and handed it to the Judge. She read it, frowned, handed it to her clerk for marking and said, "So entered."

When it was handed back to Turnbull, he said, "Mr. Sandburg, on January 12, 1997, you were admitted to Cascade General Hospital for a drug overdose. You overdosed on a designer drug called Golden. Do you deny this?"

"No, b-but-"

"Thank you, Mr. Sandburg, that's all."

***

Angry at not being allowed to finish, to explain, Blair felt his face heat up. He glanced worriedly over at Beverly, saw Jim leaning forward, whispering in her ear, watched as she nodded and jotted a few things down on her legal pad.

"Mr. Sandburg, you said you work as a bartender. Could you tell us where?"

The question was another surprise and, wondering where the hell this one was going, he answered, "The Deep Six."

"And where is it located?"

"On Harold Street in San Francisco."

"Harold Street...isn't that in the Castro District?"

"N-no. T-two b-b-blocks east."

Angry now, Blair could feel what little control he'd had on his stuttering - collapse.

"The Castro District, that's primarily known for the gays who now live and work there, isn't it?"

"Yes."

"And your club? Frequented by the gay population?"

"Yes, b-b-but-"

"Mr. Sandburg, are you gay?"

"Objection, you Honor! Mr. Sandburg's sexual orientation has no bearing-"

"Your Honor, he claims to have been sexually assaulted by my client. I believe his sexual preference is extremely relevant and has a direct bearing on this case."

Looking thoroughly disgusted with Turnbull, the Judge took a moment to ponder the issue before saying, "Mr. Turnbull, find another way to make your point."

Appearing only mildly upset by the instruction, Turnbull paused thoughtfully before asking, "Mr. Sandburg, have you, or had you, indulged in sexual relations with men before or after the alleged assault?"

During the exchange, Blair's brain had been running on all cylinders while trying to figure out how to answer - if forced to - but now, now he'd been given the out he needed, the question that would allow an honest answer.

"No," he said simply.

End Part 2

Chapter Text

 

Turnbull was out of ammunition and he knew it. Out of ammo and only one bullet had struck home. But at least it had done some damage to Sandburg's credibility, would possibly save his closing. He'd seen the expressions of the jurors and they were still reeling from the Golden incident. It would have to be enough to help the jury discount "Doctor" Sandburg.

"I have no further questions, Your Honor."

***

As Turnbull took his seat, Beverly rose to her feet and said, "Redirect, your Honor?"

She nodded and Beverly, with a glance back at Jim, said, "Regarding the incident with the Golden…did you ingest this drug? This Golden?"

"Yes."

"Was it voluntary?"

"No."

"Tell us what happened."

"Detective Ellison was after the manufacturers and distributors of Golden but his cover was compromised and they struck b-b-back by buying several p-pizzas, loading them with the Golden before having them d-d-delivered to Major Crime. I t-took delivery and ate a piece. I d-d-don't remember anything, b-b-but they told me I nearly b-b-blew up the garage when I g-g-got a hold of a weapon. Jim…D-d-detective Ellison, t-talked me d-down."

"Were you hospitalized?"

"Yes. F-f-four days."

"You almost died, didn't you?"

"So they t-told me."

Beverly started back to her table, but stopped, turned and addressed Blair again. "Just one more thing, Blair. What do you believe would have happened to your friends and the players if you'd told Kincaid to go fly a kite? If you'd refused his 'deal'?"

Frowning, Blair said, "I…he would…I b-b-believe he would have k-killed them."

"I see. And you? What would have happened to you if you'd said no?"

He blinked at that, dug his fingers into his pants leg. He felt his breath hitch as he answered, "I d-d-don't-t…know…d-d-didn't think about that."

"But Simon Banks, his son, and the players would have been killed, right?"

"Yes."

"So, you had no choice, did you?"

He stared at her, his lips parting...

"I…n-n-no."

"And isn't that rape, Mr. Sandburg?"

"I… Yes."

"Thank you, Blair. I have no further questions for this witness, your Honor.
The State rests."

Judge Rawlings looked to Turnbull, her expression daring him to cross-examine again.

Looking very uncomfortable, Turnbull said, "The Defense requests a short break, your Honor?"

"Very well. Mr. Sandburg, you may step down. Since it's close to the lunch hour, this court will recess until one-thirty. Court dismissed."

***

The jury was gone and, as the Judge disappeared into her chambers, the courtroom remained oddly quiet and still. Only Turnbull, his people, and Kincaid - a very upset and angry-looking Kincaid, moved, all escorted through the side door that would lead them to one of the conference rooms. When the door shut behind them, it seemed to signal a return to life and the spectators rose, almost as a single entity, and began to move out, all eager to get down to the cafeteria.

Blair walked unsteadily to the gate, the time on the stand seemingly eternal. His legs had cramped up and he knew his hands were shaking. Beverly and Thomas both moved quickly around the table to intercept him, help him, but he supposed the expression on his face, along with where he was focusing his gaze, stopped them both.

Jim was standing at the gate, waiting, his eyes drinking their fill of him, seeing only him, his body language urging Blair to hurry…so Blair did. Jim pushed the gate open and Blair walked straight into his arms.

As Jim's arms came up, as he felt them encircling his body, he marveled at how they'd always been able to say so much with a few looks - and yet - had been unable to adequately communicate when it had been vitally important to do so.

A deep voice, Simon's, Blair realized, said, "Let's get them out of here."

He supposed he and Jim were 'them'…his supposition quickly proven as Jim moved one arm down and around his waist as they started moving toward the doors. Somehow, Beverly and Thomas were ahead of them, Beverly leading the way.

They ended up in the same anteroom as earlier, all of them crowding in. Blair was vaguely aware that Daryl had joined them, but of course, that made sense. He'd probably been waiting just outside.

"Look, how 'bout we go get some food and bring it back up here," Beverly suggested.

Since Blair hadn't stopped staring up at Jim, he was barely aware of the quiet agreements, the shuffling of bodies as they all turned and walked right back out. No one asked what they might want for lunch, but there was no real need. Simon knew what they liked - he'd order correctly.

Only when the door snicked shut did Blair remember his father, but then Jim pulled him close again, and he was right where he wanted to be and that was all that mattered - for now.

***

Jim couldn't take his eyes off of Blair's face, his body thirsty, needing this time to drink in the man he thought he'd lost. They were both holding on to the other, holding on as if each was their lifesaver, the buoy thrown into the water, their only connection to rescue.

The years of their friendship, the months of their separation, all seemed to funnel down to this one moment, this instant as it all changed. Blair still didn't understand everything, didn't get what had happened in the courtroom during his testimony to alter things between them, but finding out wasn't exactly paramount at the moment. No, this was more elemental, basic. This need to touch, look and feel was primal, spiritual. It went back to man's first steps on this earth, to his understanding that, no matter what, he had to connect, find the other part of himself.

Blair was looking at his other half, and seeing the same mirrored back at him.

They finally got it.

***

Jim's world was in his arms, and sappy though that might sound, it was true. As he held Blair, and in turn, was held by Blair, something shifted inside of him, surrendered, let go. And when it did, when he let it happen, he could suddenly hear Blair's heartbeat, could feel the blood moving beneath the skin, could listen to his lungs, the sound of air moving in and out. He could hear the clicking of heels outside, a woman walking down the hall, leaving the scent of Chanel in her wake.

He could smell the slight trace of leftover fear on Blair, the coconut-scented shampoo and the aftershave. He knew that Blair hadn't had anything to eat yet, as nothing was interfering with the Colgate and Lavoris. His fingers could feel every strand of material in Blair's jacket, he could hear, if he so chose, every conversation in the building.

His senses were back.

A sentinel will always be a sentinel -- if he chooses to be.

Evidently, he was choosing - again. For good this time.

***

Blair should have felt anchored, solid, real and complete. Instead, he felt remarkably light. A phrase, a movie title, came to him then: The Incredible Lightness of Being. He thought maybe he understood the title now, at least as it could pertain to him. Being with, in, and attached to Jim, being one with Jim, as complete as it was possible to be with another individual, gave his life a lightness and brightness that couldn't exist without Jim but would never dull as long as they were this one being. Separate, and yet, not.
Okay, this was far too philosophical for the moment, hell, for any moment. He'd simply content himself with feeling Jim, breathing in his aftershave, knowing that talking would come later.

Blair finally pulled back a bit and, at Jim's groan of loss, whispered, "Want t-t-to see your face, man."

Jim smiled down at him, a less than certain smile, as he said, "I should have known, should have asked, should have come-"

Blair grinned and put his hand over Jim's mouth. "Should have, c-c-could have, would have...means nothing n-now, for either of us. How many of those have there b-been, in three years? In the last eight months? In a world of living?"

"But you need to know, to... No, that's wrong, I need you to know what happened, need you to understand that Simon believed you went after Kincaid and took Daryl with you, that you endangered Daryl, that you didn't think about the consequences. All I could think about was his anger and how it could result in your pass being revoked, so I went along with keeping you away until things got back to normal. But today…damn it, we should have known better, should have known you would only be thinking of Daryl."

Blair frowned at Jim's words and, even though the answer to what had happened in the courtroom had been given him, he was having trouble understanding. He felt like there was a marble in his brain, rolling down slides and runways, through tunnels, around curves and clover-leafs, additional cylinders firing up, illuminating its travels…and finally all the pieces clicked and the enormity of the miscommunication hit him. Months of loneliness following what had to be the complete collapse of a support system he hadn't even been aware he had, let alone needed, and all because no one had stopped, yelled a time-out and talked.

And now that he knew, understood, the only emotion he could feel, the only thing he wanted to do, was laugh. Instead, he grinned and said, "For w-want of a nail, Jim, for w-want of a nail."

"Yeah, we seem to have a great deal of trouble with that damn nail, don't we?"

"Oh, yeah. And each time, w-we come closer to l-losing the war. I think this time we'd better pound that nail into the wall above the d-door or something, you know?"

"Maybe attach it to our key rings so we never leave home without it," Jim suggested with a smile. "And give it its own basket by the door."

"I think the w-wall is best - then it's always there, coming or g-going or sitting, we can always see it, r-remember, and then talk," Blair offered.

"Yeah." Jim shook his head in wonder. "So much unsaid and so damn much time lost. I look back to that night, to the docks, and I can see you sitting there, that blanket wrapped around you and now I see what I missed. The pain and shock, that God awful lost look in your eyes… Damn it, Chief, what kind of sentinel am I? How did I miss all the clues? How could I have failed to see the truth of what was happening with you, the one person I care about the most?"

"Isn't that how it s-s-so often happens, Jim? Haven't I had m-more than m-m-my share of losing sight of you, the person I care m-m-most about? B-b-but we haven't lost the war, have we? We've b-been given a second chance, right?"

The word 'we' was so powerful, Jim realized. It was also a word Blair had always used a great deal. They were 'we' to him, not 'me and you', but we. A cube, equal sides, equal blame, equal success.

Equal.

"I'm beginning to understand that with you, I have No Fault Insurance."

"You have m-more than that - you've g-g-got the d-deed to the farm, man."

"The farm, eh?"

Grinning, Blair nodded. "The f-farm."

Jim rubbed his thumb very gently over Blair's lower lip just before bending and touching his own lips to the same spot.

What he'd intended to be a simple overture, a promise for later, quickly changed as Blair tugged at him, pulled him closer, opened his lips beneath Jim's. The kiss surprised him, he'd been so prepared to go slow, to give Blair time…and here they were, kissing like there was no tomorrow…and now would be a good time to stop thinking….

***

"Love you," Blair mumbled against Jim's mouth when they finally separated.

"Me too, Chief, me too."

"Yeah, but d-do you love me?" Blair asked, a mischievous gleam in his eyes.

"Okay, I missed that," Jim said affectionately. "Big time."

They could have stayed like that, in each other's arms, grinning like goons, but Beverly chose that moment to stick her head just inside and say, "I hate to intrude, but you'll thank me for it."

At Jim's nod, she stepped inside, Simon and Thomas right behind her, both carrying bags of food and a carton of drinks.

Simon put his on the table and said, "We figured we'd given you two more than enough time and that, by now, you'd be hungry." He glanced up, grinned, and added, "For food, that is."

Thomas pulled out a chair and said, "Come on, sit. Eat."

Shrugging at each other, and admittedly lured by the smell, both men took their seats. When Thomas sat down next to Blair, Beverly said, "Jim, this is my investigator, Thomas Magnum. Thomas, Detective Jim Ellison."

Jim reached over and shook hands with the tall, rangy, good-looking man. Blair was tempted to say something, to identify Thomas, but decided now wasn't the time. He wanted privacy for the three of them - although he couldn't have said why.

Simon took the seat next to Jim, Beverly next to Simon, and the hamburgers and fries were passed out, along with the iced teas. For the next several minutes, silence was golden as the food was happily and greedily consumed.

***

Thomas watched his son eat with a gusto that had been missing in the last few days, and figured that he had the tall, lean man beside him to thank for it. Jim Ellison seemed to be the medicine Blair needed - or at least one of them. And if he were any judge of people, there was now more than mere friendship between them. The small shared glances, the intimate smiles, the fact that they couldn't not touch - oh, yeah, way more than friends. He wondered why Blair hadn't said anything about their relationship, but figured it was for a more private time - and he couldn't really blame him. In the last few hours, things had changed radically for Blair, that much was obvious.

They were all just finishing the last French fry when a bailiff looked in and said, "D.A. Sanchez, the Judge would like to see you in chambers."

Surprised, she scooted back from the table and got to her feet.

"Bev? What does this mean?" Jim asked even as he covered Blair's hand with his own.

"I'm not sure, but I guess the fastest way to find out…."

She let her words trail off and, giving them a jaunty wave, followed the Bailiff out of the room.

Giving the closed door a thoughtful look, Thomas said, "I'm thinking…a plea?"

Simon nodded in agreement. "Makes sense. Turnbull lost it all."

"Yeah, the conspiracy theory was a crash and burn," Thomas added with an evil grin.

"Hey, where are Daryl and Joan?" Blair suddenly asked.

"They stayed in the cafeteria, didn't want to…intrude," Simon said, head down, eyes fixed on his empty hamburger wrapper. "They'll rejoin us in court - if it's necessary."

Blair's gaze softened as he said, "Everything all right between you guys?"

That brought Simon's head up as, with some degree of shock, he nodded. "Yeah…it is. Joan is seeing things a bit differently…now." He cleared his throat and added, "As am I."

Before Blair could answer, Beverly walked back in, although burst in would have been a more accurate description.

"It's over," she crowed. "He's pleading guilty, the trial's over."

***

Blair felt suddenly weak as Beverly, her face alight with the triumph, chattered on about what had occurred in the Judge's chambers.

It was over. He didn't have to go back into that courtroom, wouldn't have to see - without seeing - Garett Kincaid. Wouldn't have to put up with Turnbull.
Thomas reached over and tugged his shirt sleeve. "You okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I am," he said. And…he was.

He glanced back at Beverly, smiled at her infectious mood, glanced at Simon, who smiled back, eyes still a bit wary, his demeanor uncertain. Blair gave him a small nod and an easy smile, watched as Simon got the message, his shoulders relaxing. They still had a great deal to say to one another, but damn it, the bridge was there, slightly damaged, but passable.

***

"The media is in a feeding frenzy," Beverly said as she glanced at Blair and Daryl. "I'm thinking the back way out?"

"Yeah, they're really going to want to talk to you two," Simon said, his arm protectively around Daryl's shoulders.

Daryl and Joan had joined them only a few minutes after Beverly's announcement but now they were all ready to get out of Dodge. Now that the trial was over, the news media had no restraints and were crawling all over the courthouse, looking for the two witnesses responsible for bringing Kincaid down.

"We're going to need help," Jim said. "They've probably got every exit covered."

Simon smiled, a Cheshire cat smile. "No worries. A few of Cascade's finest should be here any minute. We'll do an end run, fake 'em out."

"I like the way you think," Thomas said.

True to Simon's word, Joel, Megan, Rafe and Henri Brown showed up with a couple of traffic cops and, after hugging Blair, shedding more than a few tears and congratulating him on 'saving the day', they got down to the business of getting everyone out clean and without the media.

Blair was glad he hadn't had to say anything, because his old friends had done all the talking. With a few one word answers, he'd been able to hide his stutter. Now he watched as they put their plan into action, amazed as always at the energy they put into everything. God, he'd missed them. All of them.

His family.

Blair glanced over at his father, who was watching with a bemused expression on his face, and quickly amended his last thought.

Part of his family.

A few minutes later, Megan and Rafe, with coats over their heads and accompanied by the two traffic officers, headed out with Simon. The hope was that they'd be mistaken for Joan and Daryl and thus, when going out the front way, would bring all the news people running, allowing Jim and Thomas, with Joel, to get Blair, Joan and Daryl down to the garage. Joel would then take the Banks and meet up with Simon at his home, while Jim, who'd come with Simon, would ride with Thomas and Blair.

While waiting for the all clear sign from Beverly, Joan walked over to where Blair sat and smiled somewhat sheepishly. "I'd like to apologize for my earlier behavior, Blair. I didn't know-"

He got hurriedly to his feet, touched her hand. "It's all right, honest. I understand what happened now, and w-we're good."

Smiling her gratitude, she said, "We're going to stay on…for a bit…Daryl and his father - they have so much to catch up on, and maybe…well, I know Daryl-"

"Mom," Daryl almost whined.

Chuckling, Blair said, "I hope w-we can all get t-together before you head b-back to Oregon. I'd like to hear how things are g-going in school, Daryl."

Joan glanced down at her son, squeezed him hard, and said, "Things might be changing…but no matter what happens," she looked back at Blair, "all of us getting together is a must. Thank you, Blair, for everything."

With that, she leaned in and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

Before the moment could get any more awkward for Blair, Jim said, "Okay, folks, time to move out."

***

With a sigh of relief, Blair sat back in the seat and closed his eyes. They'd made it without so much as a single flash bulb going off in their faces. The media had been thoroughly bamboozled by the 'Megan, Rafe and Simon Show', thus allowing Blair, Joan and Daryl a clean getaway as planned. Of course, he doubted that Rafe would hear the end of the fact that he'd 'played' Daryl.
Henri Brown would probably use it as joke fodder for next couple of years.

Next couple of years. Sounded good to a man who'd planned on meeting the tide on a quiet, private beach a few days ago.

He opened his eyes and glanced down at his hand - which was being firmly grasped by Jim.

Nope, he thought, no lonely beach for him.

Sounded way too easy, but there you go. The road was by no means smooth up ahead, but it was a road and not water rising slowly and inexorably upward.

And he had a father he could keep now.

***

It had been decided that they'd seek temporary refuge at Thomas' place, figuring that eventually the media would flock to Jim's loft. Thomas pulled the car into his parking spot and, glancing in the rear view mirror, said, "Home, sweet home, gentlemen."

Jim got the door open and slid out, Blair right behind him. As the three walked toward the elevator, Jim said, "This is pretty nice of you, offering up your home for a few hours."

Looking at Blair, Thomas shrugged, not sure what to say, let alone how much to explain. This was pretty much Blair's thing now.

"Uhm, you two d-did meet, right?" Blair asked as they reached the elevator.

"Yeah, hello? You were there," Jim answered, grinning. "But I can see how you missed it - under the circumstances."

"Is there an implication in there that I was t-t-too focused on your hunky self?"

"TMI, guys. TMI," Thomas said with a chuckle.

The elevator opened and stepping inside, Blair said, "Well, if I m-missed your intro, maybe I should d-do it again." He was flanked by both men, and feeling a lot like peanut butter squeezed in between two slices of really tall bread as he said rather smugly, "Jim, this is m-my father, Thomas Magnum."

The elevator doors slid shut.

***

Jim was a cop and an ex-Ranger. Surprises he could handle - or so he thought. He should have known that if anyone could shake his world, it would be Blair. He stared over Blair's head at the man opposite and said, "Father?"

"Yep. This is my d-dad. We discovered our relationship when he c-came after me in San Francisco. And g-guess what? I have a sister. Her name's Lily and you won't b-believe this, b-but she's a student at Rainier. That's why Thomas is here, in Caaa-ascascade. He was living in Hawaii and you'll never guess where - on the estate of my favorite author, man! Isn't that c-cool?"

Grinning, Jim said, "Yes, Mr. Magnum, this is the real Sandburg. Breathing was never a requirement for him when talking."

Blair poked him in the ribs and said, "I'm not d-done, there's more."

Humor giving way to suspicion, Jim said, "You'd better not tell me you have a wife, that you got married while in the City by the Bay."

"No, but I d-do have a son…his name is Joey."

Jim stared at him - hard - finally caught the glint of humor - and said sarcastically, "Four-legged, I presume?"

"Four legs, four p-paws, one tail, a lethal weapon, I might add, and the fastest t-t-tongue in the west. A real, honest-t-to-god m-mutt."

"Wait, you said…Joey?"

Grinning a bit self-consciously, Blair nodded. "Yep. Joey - Joseph - as in James Joseph."

"He doesn't have blue eyes, does he?"

"Nope, b-brown. He's got short hair - very short, receding even - and a c-cold and very wet nose. He also s-s-squats instead of lifting but, thank god, no longer d-d-does it on the rugs." Blair gave a hopeless shake of his head. "He really m-must learn to lift, m-macho d-dog that he is."

The elevator opened on Thomas' floor and as they exited, Jim began to mutter about the sound of nails on his hardwood floor, not to mention the scraping and scratching and yapping, which he could already hear, and why did mutts have to yap and what was wrong with a good, strong bark, anyway? Another sharp poke in the ribs stopped him, but as they approached Thomas' door, he murmured, "I will not walk the dog - ever."

"Always knew you weren't the d-diaper changing t-type. Too - aloof."

Satisfied that he'd shut Jim up, he dragged him inside where the mutt immediately launched himself into Jim's arms.

***

Okay, he was smitten. Could admit it. His namesake was…cute, damn it. It was also currently sound asleep on his lap. But no matter what, he was not going to go all goo-goo over it. No way. Just no way.

"You like him, Jim?" Blair asked trying hard to hide his worry.

"Your dad's great, of course I like him," Jim said, biting back his grin. If he was going to inherit both a dog and a father-in-law, he could at least get a little something back.

"You know d-damn well I meant Joey."

Realizing that he was absently petting the sleeping mutt, Jim stopped, shrugged, and said as if it didn't matter in the least, "He's okay - for a dog. With fleas."

"He d-does not have fleas," Blair said indignantly.

"Who's the sentinel here, Chief? He has fleas."

"Well, d-damn."

***

At a little after six that evening, they got the all-clear from Joel that the media had finally drifted away, that both Simon's place and the loft were now newshound-free zones. Thomas knew he was about to lose his son, that he'd be going home with Jim, but decided to stretch his time out a bit more by suggesting they stop for dinner on the way to Jim's. Both his guests liked the idea and Murphy's, one of Blair's favorites, was chosen.

Now, tucked into a corner booth in the back, they ordered corned beef sandwiches, Murphy's special homemade spiced potato chips and the bottomless green salad. Thomas wanted to get to know the man his son was obviously in love with, and being a private investigator, knew how to ask the right questions to get the most information in the smallest amount of time. Only thing was, while he was trying to do just that - Jim Ellison was doing precisely the same thing. It would have been humorous if he weren't so worried.

Things might have taken a turn for the better in Blair's life, but facts were facts and Blair was going to need support and professional help and he wanted to be sure that Jim was the kind of man who'd make sure that happened.

Damn sure.

***

"I hope J-joey is okay," Blair worried as he dug into his salad.

"Sound asleep," Jim answered easily, glad once again that his senses were back. Not that he'd ever admit that - to anyone. He glanced up at Magnum and observed, "Must have been difficult to acclimate yourself to our weather after Hawaii."

"Nope," Blair answered for his father. "Same rain, after all."

"Yeah, but we have cold rain," Jim argued. "Very cold rain."

"B-but we have great coffee," Blair countered.

"Hawaii has Kona coffee," Jim shot back.

"Excuse me, would you two like some privacy? A room?" Thomas managed to get in sideways.

"Oh, that was cute, D-dad, very cute."

There was a moment of silence while Blair and Thomas stared at each other, both surprised at not only what Blair had said, but at the ease with which it had come out. Finally Thomas said, a sense of wonder in his voice, "First time."

"Yeah," Blair said, suddenly and awkwardly shy.

"So," Jim said as he glanced from one to the other. "I'm guessing he's figured it out."

Eyes still on his father, Blair said, "He's a p-private investigator, of c-course he figured us out."

Smiling gently at Blair, Thomas said, "Hate to break it to you, but a four-year old could see what was happening between you two."

Laughing, Jim said, "Good point."

The mood considerably lightened, and with Jim and Thomas calling a silently agreed upon truce on information gathering, the three men went back to enjoying their meal.

***

"What happens now?" Thomas asked as he sat back to enjoy his coffee.

Jim looked at Blair, his arched eyebrow asking the same question, his eyes telling Blair that whatever he decided, Jim was there.

"Well…I g-guess…I c-come home?"

"Is this your home, Chief? Because if you're happy in San Francisco, I can-"

"I wasn't," Blair said, his voice dropping. "It was…a good p-p-place to hide, that's all. Everything I want…is right here."

Blair didn't think it was possible for two grown men, one is his fifties, the other almost forty, to preen like peacocks over nothing, but evidently he was wrong - they could. He grinned and conceded the fact that he was probably looking a bit like a peacock himself at the moment.

***

While finishing their coffee, plans were made to get anything Blair wanted from San Francisco up to Washington without requiring Blair to go back. He'd make a few phone calls, including one to his boss in order to quit, but mostly to say his goodbyes. Thomas offered to fly down and pack his stuff up.

Touched by the offer, Blair nodded his acceptance, his voice choking up.
Then, with a sneaky grin, he said, "Jim, you got a p-pen?"

Puzzled by the request, Jim nevertheless reached inside his jacket pocket and pulled one out. Blair took it and, grabbing one of the paper coasters under a glass of water, tore off a dry edge, wrote something down, then slid it over to Thomas.

"Mom's number. She's in B-big Sur…will be until the end of the m-month."

Thomas stared at the small bit of paper…then picked it up and tucked it carefully into his wallet.

Blair just smiled.

***

Thomas pulled up in front of 852 Prospect, put the car in park and shut off the engine.

"You'll c-come up, won't you, Dad?"

Smiling back at his son, he shook his head. "I'll help carry, but then I'm thinking you two really might want to be alone. You have a lot to…discuss. And we have a lifetime now, so there's no rush. I'm not going anywhere and neither are you."

Ridiculously relieved and pleased at the permanence implied by his father's words, at the promise they held, Blair nodded and, together, all three got Joey, his gear, and Blair's stuff up to 307.

Once settled inside, and while Jim called Simon about taking some time off, Joey began the process of sniffing the place out. While he moved along the walls, under tables, over shoes and finally up the stairs leading to Jim's room, Thomas hugged his son. "How 'bout breakfast tomorrow?" he asked as he let go and reached for the door.

"We'd like that," Blair said as he stepped back. "You know M-molly's on Beach?"

"Oh, yeah. The deck?"

Jim, who'd just hung up, now walked up to Blair and, with his arm around Blair's waist, said, "Best spot. Ten?"

"Ten it is."

Thomas gave Blair a knowing grin, the kind fathers tended to give their sons on wedding nights and, at seeing it, Blair almost burst out with a bark of laughter at the idea that Jim was a bride, let alone one that was about to be deflowered. Then his father was gone and they were alone.

Jim sighed and said, his words mirroring Blair's thoughts, "Alone at last."

Now Blair laughed.

***

Blair looked around the place that had been his home for almost three years - and sighed happily. He picked up his duffel bag and pushed open the French doors - only to find himself rooted to the spot.

Everything he'd packed up and stored before leaving…was back.

Everything.

"A statement came about a week after you left - from the storage place you used," Jim suddenly said from behind him. "I'm not ashamed to say that I used my badge to get into it and get your stuff out. It was a totally despicable act, using my position that way."

"D-despicable, yes, that's the word," he said as he stared into what had been his old room. "You…jerk, you."

"Chief?"

Blair turned away from the room to face Jim. "Say that again, please."

"Chief."

"I m-missed that almost as m-much as I missed you. How d-do you always manage t-to make it sound like the m-most wonderful word in the English language?"

"It's all in the man the nickname belongs to, not nickname."

Blair arched an eyebrow in an "Oh, yeah?" way.

Jim wrapping his arms around him, resting his face against Blair's and asked, "You going stay in one spot all night?"

"I'm thinking about it. I'd forgotten how g-g-good it smelled. Of you."

The clicking of nails alerted the men that Joey, who come back down to settle by their feet, was on the move again. He'd evidently decided that upstairs was where they all belonged because, on his way up, he stopped, yipped and waited, tail wagging vigorously.

"Good dog. Knows where we belong. Shall we?"

"Yes."

***

They walked up slowly, savoring the moment. At the top, they moved to the bed, where Jim, a bit worried after all that Blair had been through, took loving charge. He pulled Blair's sweater over his head, unbuttoned his shirt and slipped it off, then pushed him gently down until he was seated on the edge of the bed. He undid Blair's belt, the button and then pulled the zipper down. Monitoring Blair's reaction, he was gratified to sense only trust coming from his partner. He removed Blair's shoes and socks and then slid his slacks off over Blair's hips and finally off altogether. As Blair got under the covers, Jim draped the clothing over the desk chair, ignoring Blair's snort. He felt pretty damn good that he hadn't taken the time to hang them all up.

Once that was done, he got his own clothes off - and yes, hung them up, damn it. He then joined Blair and, after a few awkward moments spent deciding who fit where, Blair, sighing with impatience, finally pulled Jim's right arm up and put it around him.

Turning into Jim, he said contentedly, "Now don't move, this is p-perfect."

Grinning, Jim just shook his head in wonder. He was still monitoring Blair and, when he kind of molded himself to Jim's body, Jim let out with an audible sigh of relief. Blair brought his arm up and rested it possessively across Jim's chest - at which moment Jim realized that no one had ever fit with his body as well as Blair. Nothing - and no one - had ever felt this good to him, this right. He tightened his arms around Blair - not hard, just more - and felt Blair's return squeeze.

He let several minutes pass, minutes they both needed, knowing that sleep wouldn't come for either of them for a while. But eventually, he knew that he had to talk - they had to talk - and now, holding each other like this, was the perfect time. He'd been so damned shocked at his first glimpse of Blair in the courtroom, at his weight, the pallor, and of course, the stutter - which had scared him more than any other physical sign of what Blair had been through. As a result, he'd made himself a promise that no matter what ultimately happened between them - they would talk.

The time was right - now.

Voice soft and gentle, he said, "Blair, I think you need to see someone. Talk with someone, maybe Angela Kirby, the psychologist Rafe saw when he shot that boy?"

"What, you d-d-don't think love c-conquers all?"

"Do you?" Jim asked as he tilted his head to look down at Blair.

"No, b-but it helps. It's n-not the c-cure, but it helps." He paused a moment…and then added, "It's t-true that I haven't been exactly with it, mentally s-speaking. And you'll p-probably find this hard to b-believe, but I haven't been t-talking much."

"No, really?" Jim answered with a soft grin. Then the shadow of the last months passed over his face as he said, "I killed off my senses while you were gone. Simon assigned me to desk duty, said I was a hazard."

"D-d-damn, I should have known…should have…m-m-my faul-"

Jim placed his hand gently over Blair's mouth. "Don't even go there, Chief, they came back today when you and I touched." He took his hand away, kissed the lips he'd been covering, and repeated, "You need to talk to someone."

Blair relaxed again and, slipping his leg between Jim's, he considered Jim's words…and finally said, "I'll c-c-call her tomorrow - make an appointment."

"And I'll take you and make my own appointment," Jim said as he rested his cheek on the top of Blair's head. He felt Blair's smile against his chest and asked, "What? You don't think I'm capable of seeking help?"

"Now where w-w-would I g-get an idea like that? After all, aren't you the g-guy who n-never failed t-to seek out my help? Aren't you the m-man I n-never had t-to nag or p-plead with t-to accept my help?"

"Funny, Chief, very funny. So - tomorrow you call."

"Tomorrow."

The shadows were lengthening with the encroaching darkness and, as they both fell silent, Jim watched the shadows creep across the room and into their usual corners. So many nights alone - doing just this - but with Blair in his arms, the shadows no longer left him cold and shivering in his bed. They now signaled nothing more than the advent of night. He watched them easily as Blair slipped into sleep.

***

Thomas Magnum sat in the dark living room and contemplated the small paper he held in his hand. Slowly, he reached over, picked up the phone and dialed.

"Hello?"

"I'd like to speak with Naomi Sandburg, please?"

"Just a moment."

Feeling like a teenager making his first call to a girl, he drummed his fingers nervously on the arm of the chair.

"This is Naomi."

"Naomi? It's - Thomas. Thomas Magnum."

***

Blair's hand, running slowly up and down his thigh, woke Jim. He couldn't find fault with the method - not one bit. It was a damn fine way to wake up.

"Is it morning?" he rasped out.

"Somewhere, I'm s-sure."

"Still dark."

"G-good little sentinel, always s-so observant."

Blair slid his hand up a fraction and began to slowly caress Jim's dick.
Groaning, Jim said, "I figured...you'd sleep...around the clock."

"You know m-me and unfinished b-business. Can't sleep until it's r-resolved."

"We had…no unfinished…you know…."

"Sure we d-did - you were just t-t-too uncertain about me."

Jim closed his eyes and sighed. When Blair had a point, he had a point. But Jim had his own point, no pun intended. "Are you…sure, Chief?" he finally managed to ask.

"S-stop worrying and just…enjoy."

He could do that…because he'd heard the confidence in Blair's voice, the lack of a tremor in his very talented hand. And where the hell had he learned this, anyway?

And more importantly, wasn't it time for Jim to get a bit more involved?

Damn right.

***

Jim had his fingers buried in Blair's hair and Blair had his head on Jim's chest, right over his heart. The sound, thrumming against his cheek, made him feel warm and at peace. For now, Blair was pretty sure he'd be able to sleep, a long, dreamless, safe sleep.

It was good to be all the way home.

***

The sound of Joey barking and someone hammering woke Blair from a sound sleep. He cracked open one eye and found himself alone. He heard a loud curse from downstairs and, curious, he pulled himself up to the rails in order to look over the edge.

Joey sat at Jim's feet, looking up at him adoringly while watching Jim's every move. Blair frowned as he realized that his partner had just finished hammering a nail in the wall above the door. What the hell? He watched as Jim pulled a red piece of string from his pocket and loop it around the head of the nail. He stepped back and nodded, clearly happy with his work.

Blair couldn't believe it - Jim had hung a nail above the door.

Smiling, Blair got back under the covers, pulled Jim's pillow over, tucked it under his chin and promptly went back to sleep.

 

-30-