Warning: I am not a doctor. I don't pretend to be a doctor. So, please just go with the flow with any medical explanations. :)
Acknowledgments: First off, thank you D.L. for allowing me to use Mandy in this story. Secondly, a big round of thanks goes to Aly who not only gave me permission to parallel her wonderful slash story, but encouraged me to write this gen reversal. This is probably the best beta'd story I've ever sent out. I could never have done it without Lola and Iris (my detail goddesses), Lisa, Almond, Mal, Ruth, Autumn, and as always, Beth.
Spoilers: Set one week after "Remembrance."
Disclaimers: This story is not intended to infringe on any copyrights belonging to the PTBs. No money was made in the writing or sharing of this story.
James Ellison, Major Crimes detective and sentinel of the great city, glanced across the cab of his truck at his unofficial partner and noted the younger man was not asleep as he had expected. "Deep thoughts, Chief?"
"Yeah, something like that." Blair Sandburg smiled briefly. "Any sign of Wilson?"
"Nothing. If it's any consolation, Rafe and Henri will be relieving us in about a half hour."
Jim turned back to the warehouse, although his mind was not on the wannabe gunrunner trying to make a name for himself, but on Blair's stillness. The grad student had been unusually quiet for the past week, as if turning some problem over and over again in his mind. "Want to talk about it?" he asked, not turning to look at his friend.
"No, not really," Blair responded quietly, although the warmth in his tone indicated he appreciated being asked. Several minutes passed before he said in a voice only a sentinel could hear, "Just contemplating 'what ifs'."
A full minute passed before the grad student sighed. "Yeah."
"What sort of 'what ifs'?"
"Look, Jim. I don't want to ruffle any feathers. Why don't you--"
"C'mon, Chief. It'll pass the time," Jim said, finally turning and shooting his friend a lop-sided grin.
Another moment of silence passed.
Blair looked out the window toward the warehouse, not making eye contact with the sentinel. "I... I was just wondering how your life might have been... different if Bud hadn't been killed or if your father had encouraged your senses instead of forcing you to repress them."
Silence filled the cab for several minutes as each man contemplated how his life might have turned out had fate guided the sentinel down another path.
"All my life I've been an outsider," Blair said in a quiet, factual way, breaking the silence. "There's a line in Conan the Barbarian -- the movie, not the book," Blair grinned at him, "where Valeria talks about looking into the huts and the tents of others in the coldest dark and seeing those within while she walked by. That was me. Always too short. Too different. Too smart." Blair closed his eyes, as if momentarily allowing himself to touch the pain from the past. "But the one thing I always had in my life was Naomi. She always believed in me. She always made me feel I could do anything I set my mind to." The observer turned, finally, to face his friend. "But until recently, I never gave much thought to what it would be like to be on the inside with no one who believed in you. I don't know how you survived it, man."
Jim stared at the warehouse, saying nothing.
"I wish... I wish I could have been there for you."
Jim turned and smiled gently at the younger man. "Well, beside the fact you were a toddler..."
"You know what I mean."
"Yeah, Chief. I do. If it's any consolation, I wish you had been there, too." The sentinel patted the observer's shoulder, then stiffened, his whole body suddenly alert. "It's going down. Call it in."
Blair automatically made the necessary calls, then slipped from the truck and followed after the detective.
Jim sighed and rolled his eyes as Blair caught up with him, but said nothing to the student about going back to the truck. He had already learned that lesson in futility. Holding one hand up, he stopped and cocked his head to the side. Noises echoed and reverberated around the warehouse, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact locations of the gunrunners. Sliding one hand against the wall, he began filtering out the echoes, grateful for the steady presence of his friend behind him.
As he turned the corner, he was aware of something moving swiftly toward his face moments before his world exploded in pain.
"Jim!" Blair shouted as his friend crumpled to the concrete floor in a heap. The rifle butt swung again and Blair felt the bone in his left forearm crack as he raised his arms to protect his head. Roaring in rage and agony, he used his broken arm to elbow his attacker in the face, losing himself in the red fury that screamed to protect his sentinel no matter what the costs.
Dr. Amanda Cuthbertson raced down the hospital corridor, one hand pressing the stethoscope to her chest as she dodged nurses and patients in her path.
"What do we have?" she demanded as she skidded around the corner into the emergency room.
"Ellison. Head injury. He's been unconscious since it happened. His vitals are good, but he has yet to regain consciousness. We can't get Blair to calm down or to leave his side and there's evidence he's been injured, too," head emergency nurse Sandra King said quickly and efficiently. "Williams wants to either call Security or have him sedated. I 911'd you."
"Thanks, Sandy. I'll take it from here."
"Under NO circumstances will you give him ANYTHING until Dr. Cuthbertson arrives," a polite but firm voice resounded around the emergency room from the furthest cubicle.
Taking a deep breath to center herself, Amanda strode forward, pulling the white curtain aside to find the young anthropologist standing between Dr. Marc Williams and the unconscious patient. "What's going on, Marc?"
The tall blond doctor turned, frustration clearly written all over his face. "I want this man removed from the ER," he gritted out, pointing at Blair.
"Sorry. No can do. If you had taken the time to pull Ellison's chart, you would have noted the instructions--"
"I didn't have time to pull his charts."
"Marc, literally every nurse in the ER knows these two and knows about the instructions in the file. Do me a favor and move aside so I can deal with my patient." Amanda stepped around the sputtering man and gently patted the anthropology student on the shoulder. "What's the situation, Blair?"
The grad student ignored the other doctor who stood indignantly for a moment then abruptly left the cubicle. "He was hit in the temple with a rifle butt and went down like a rock. He hasn't regained consciousness yet. I'm scared, Mandy. It's not like him to be out for so long." Blair tenderly ran his right hand through his friend's hair.
"What's wrong with your arm?" she asked, noting the way Blair held it to his chest.
"Don't you think--"
"Not until we figure out what's wrong with Jim."
"Then you'll let me x-ray your arm?"
A small groan issued from the man on the bed.
Blair leaned over the bed. "Hey, buddy."
"What happened?" Jim asked, though his voice seemed different, lighter, almost younger.
"You were--" Blair started, but stopped as the doctor gently placed her fingers over his lips, her eyes never leaving her patient's face.
"Do you remember how you got here?" she asked gently.
"No," the man in the bed said in a small, quiet voice.
"Do you know who I am?"
Jim shook his head, clearly upset.
"My name is Dr. Cuthbertson, but you can call me Dr. Mandy. I'm going to be your doctor while you're here. Okay?"
Her patient nodded nervously.
"Do you remember your name?" she asked kindly, putting the stethoscope into her ears and laying the other end on the man's chest.
Amanda rolled her eyes. "Will you tell me?"
"Sure. Sorry. It's Jimmy. Jimmy Ellison."
Amanda gently ran her fingers over his head. "How old are you, Jimmy?"
"Ten?" Blair blurted out in astonishment.
"Where do you go to school?" Amanda asked quietly, ignoring Blair as she looked into the injured man's eyes with a penlight.
"You play any sports?"
"Any good at it?" she asked while she continued with her examination.
"Quarterback," Jimmy grinned smugly, then his smile faded. "Was I hurt during the game? We got a championship coming up in two weeks. I will get to play, won't I?"
"I'm sure you will, Jimmy. Do you know where your dad is by any chance?"
"He had to go out of town on an important business trip. Sally should be home, though."
"And Sally is..."
"Our housekeeper. She looks after Stevie and me."
"I'll see if we can contact her. Will you be okay by yourself for a moment? I'd like to talk to Blair, here, for a sec."
Jimmy turned to face the man beside him. He looked curious, but not frightened. "Sure."
"Thank you. We'll be right back," Amanda said reassuringly, then gently guided the pale grad student out of the cubicle and into the small nurses' station.
"Physically, he seems fine," she said as she laid a hand on his uninjured arm. "I can't detect any fractures, but, of course, I'm going to order a series of x-rays, just to be on the safe side. As I'm sure you noticed, he appears to have lost a great deal of his memory."
Blair looked back at the curtain separating him from his friend as if trying to see through it. "He... he will get better, won't he?"
"Statistically speaking, he should. Memory loss is not uncommon with head injuries, but I'd like to run a CAT scan to make sure there isn't any other damage. I'm a little concerned that he's having a regression of this magnitude -- not that he won't recover, but it's unusual to see decades disappear instead of days or hours."
Blair closed his eyes, but they snapped back open almost immediately. "He's giving me a chance."
"I beg your pardon?"
"Earlier this evening... last night... whatever, I made the comment that I wished I'd been there for him while he was growing up. He's giving me a chance to put my money where my mouth is," Blair said in a quiet, almost frightened, voice.
Amanda looked at him skeptically and sighed. Nothing with these two was ever simple or to be taken at face value. She knew better than to ask for an explanation, especially when she knew the answer would only serve to confuse her more and leave her with a headache. "Why don't you go back and see how he's doing? I'll schedule the x-rays and the CAT scan, then we'll take a look at your arm, okay?"
Blair nodded and headed back toward the cubicle.
"Hey," Blair called out softly, stepping back around the curtain.
Relief flitted briefly over Jimmy's face but was quickly replaced by feigned disinterest.
The grad student pulled up a stool and sat next to the bed. "Do you remember me?"
Jimmy stared at him for several moments, then shook his head in apology. "No, I'm sorry, I don't -- other than you were here when I woke up."
"That's okay. My name is Blair. I'm a friend of... your dad's."
"I don't think so."
"I beg your pardon?"
"My dad doesn't like hippies."
Blair chuckled. "Well, that may be, but we're still friends."
"She and Steven went to visit her sister for a few days, but she left you with me because... of the game yesterday."
Jimmy gazed at him steadily, as if trying to assess the truth. His brow creased slightly. "What's wrong with your arm?"
"I, uh, broke it."
"So I got knocked out and you broke your arm?"
"I'm... not supposed to say. Dr. Cul--Mandy... wants you to try to remember things on your own," Blair obfuscated.
"You gonna get a cast?"
"Does it hurt?"
"Yes. It hurts like hell."
Jimmy opened his mouth, startled. He appeared to want to say something, but seemed to change his mind and closed it again.
"I'm sorry," Blair apologized quietly. "I shouldn't have said that."
"That's okay. I won't tell anyone."
"Thanks. You're a good kid... Jimmy."
"So how is everyone?" Dr. Cuthbertson asked as she came back into the cubicle.
"Pretty good," Blair answered with a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Do you think there's any chance I'll be able to take Jim... Jimmy home with me after we run the tests?"
The doctor looked at both of her patients for several moments, then nodded. "Yes. I think that can be arranged... AFTER Jimmy has his CAT scan and we've put a cast on your arm."
"I'm down with that." Blair grinned at Jimmy. "Umm, Mandy, do you think you can run interference for me with Captain Banks? You know, get him up and running on the situation."
"Is he here?" she asked, looking around, slightly startled.
"Not yet, but I'm sure he's on the way."
"Gotcha. Of course," she said quietly, understanding this situation was not something that should be sprung on the over-worked police captain. "I'll do what I can. In the meantime, Sandy's going to come in and start taking care of your arm. I expect you to give her your full cooperation."
Mandy shot him a look which said he better behave then left the cubicle in search of the nurse.
Blair sat lost in contemplation, trying to get his mind around the situation.
A quiet voice interrupted his reverie. "So, you come here a lot?"
"Not re-- why?"
"I got the feeling that Dr. Mandy and the nurses know you -- more than other patients."
Blair chuckled. "Yeah, I guess I have spent a fair amount of time in this ER in one capacity or another. But, hey, I get great service when I come, seeing as I'm putting most of their kids through college with my visits." Blair ruffled Jimmy's hair briefly, then went back to his worrying. When he looked up again, he noted he was being studied by his friend. He smiled tiredly and asked, "So what color cast should I get?"
"Color? I thought they all came in white."
"Naw. I bet you anything this hospital does colors."
"What's wrong with white?"
"White's boring." Blair chuckled as a thought occurred to him. "However, it is easier to see phone numbers."
"Why would you put phone numbers on your cast?"
"Stick with me, kid, and I'll show you."
In the end, Blair let Jimmy pick out a light blue color for his cast and even convinced him it was okay to write on the hardening plaster; in fact, it was expected. After several minutes of pondering, Jimmy finally wrote 'Whatever you did, don't do it again' and signed his name.
Simon Banks took several deep breaths after Dr. Cuthbertson filled him in on the status of her patients. "So he should regain his memory... in time?"
"Yes, I believe he will. The scan results are back and there's a slight indication of swelling, but nothing life threatening or even considered dangerous. Blair has asked to take Jimmy home, and given Jim's intense dislike for hospitals and considering the fact that I can't really put him in the pediatric ward, I think it'd be for the best. Blair has all my numbers."
"So Jim will come back?"
"Yes, I believe his memories will gradually return."
"Can I take them home now?"
"Yes, please do." Dr. Cuthbertson smiled gently as she patted his arm. "The sooner they get out of here, the faster I can get back to my normal chaotic life."
Simon grinned in understanding. "They do have a way of intensifying any given situation."
"It's all a part of their charm." She chuckled, then made shooing motions toward the door. "Now get out of here."
"Banks' Taxi Service," Simon announced as he peeked into the curtained-off cubicle.
"Hey, Simon," Blair called out in greeting. "You've talked to Mandy, I take it?"
"Yes." Simon decided to keep his answers simple until he got a feel for the situation.
"Jimmy," Blair said quietly as he turned to the man lying on the bed, "this is a friend of ours, er, mine. His name is Captain Simon Banks and he's a police officer."
Jimmy sat up, his feet dangling over the edge of the bed as he reached out to shake the older man's hand. "Pleased to meet you, sir."
Simon shook the offered hand. "I hear you boys had a bit of excitement."
"Yes, but I can't remember anything and no one will tell me what happened." Jimmy shot Blair a slightly miffed look.
"Don't worry, son. I'm sure it'll all come back to you soon enough. Are you two ready to blow this popsicle stand?"
"More than words can say." Blair sighed wearily as he moved around the bed and helped Jimmy to his feet. "Take it easy, big guy. We don't want any more accidents."
Jimmy swayed slightly. "I do feel a little dizzy."
Both Simon and Blair reached out and supported their friend.
"We're not in any sort of time crunch, so let's just take our time," Blair said.
They started out of the cubicle, only to be met by Sandra and a wheelchair. She smiled brightly. "Your chariot, milord."
Jimmy returned the smile. "Cool."
Simon raised one eyebrow in surprise.
"Kids love them," Sandra explained, while she made sure Jimmy was secure in the seat then started pushing the chair toward the exit. "Technically, you should be in one too," she said, shooting Blair the evil eye. "But the fact I got Jimmy to voluntarily ride to the door will win me mondo points in the nurses' pool, so I'll let it slide this time."
Simon jogged ahead of them to get the car.
"I know Mandy gave you her numbers, Blair, but if you need anything, feel free to call me, too," Sandra said quietly as she slipped her card into his shirt pocket. Blair waggled his eyebrows at her suggestively and she laughed. "Now, none of that. I'm a happily married woman."
Simon's car pulled up to the sidewalk. "Bye, Jimmy," Sandra called out while Blair and Simon helped their friend into the car. "You take it easy now."
"Yes, ma'am. I will."
"He's certainly a polite boy," Simon said over Jimmy's head to Sandburg.
Jimmy's stomach growled loudly, causing his cheeks to tinge pink with embarrassment. He scrambled into the backseat of Simon's car and made himself comfortable.
"Seatbelt." Blair shut the door and made his way to the passenger side. "Simon, could we stop off somewhere on the way to the loft, and pick up something to eat? We haven't had anything since last night."
"Sure. Where to?"
"Where would you like to go, Jimmy?" Blair asked, turning in his seat to face his friend.
"Wonderburger?" came the hopeful response.
Blair sighed in fond exasperation. "You're killing me here, Jim."
Jimmy blushed again. "Whatever you'd like to have, sir."
Blair growled slightly. "Wonderburger it is. Just remember this the next time I suggest something healthy. Okay?"
Jim graced him with a brilliant smile. "Whatever you say, sir."
"And stop with the 'sir' thing. You're making me feel prehistoric." Blair frowned at the captain who was chuckling under his breath.
"Tired, Jimmy?" Blair asked as he watched his friend struggle to stay awake over the decimated remains of his meal.
Jimmy's head jerked up and he blinked several times, trying to focus on the grad student. "Yes, sir. I think I am."
Blair pushed his chair back and walked to his friend's side. "Come on, let's get you to bed then."
"You need any help, Sandburg?" Simon asked when they reached the bottom of the stairs.
"No, sir. Thank you," Blair replied, guiding Jimmy up the stairs, one hand gently pressing in the small of his friend's back.
"Whose room is this?" Jimmy asked when he reached the top of the steps.
Blair steered his charge to the bed and indicated for him to sit. "It belongs to my roommate. He's out of town for several days, but I know he won't mind your staying up here." Kneeling in front of his friend, Blair untied Jimmy's shoes, took them off, and placed them by the bed stand. "Belt," he said and watched as Jimmy removed the leather belt and handed it to him. "Pants, then under the comforter." Jimmy blushed slightly, but complied.
"B-Blair?" Jimmy called out quietly once he was settled.
"Yeah, Jimmy?" Blair responded softly, sitting on the edge of the bed beside his friend, his hand tenderly rubbing his charge's arm.
"I'm sorry I don't remember you."
"That's okay. The important thing now is that you feel comfortable staying with me."
"I do," his friend assured him quickly.
Blair sat for several moments, running his hand over Jimmy's forehead and through his shortly cropped hair, watching as the eyes began to droop into slumber.
"I'm a little scared," Jimmy whispered, barely conscious.
"So am I," Blair admitted quietly. "But we'll get through this together. Okay?"
Jimmy hummed in response, almost a contented sigh, before his breathing evened out.
Simon Banks watched Blair slowly descend the stairs. He had always thought of Sandburg as a kid but was shocked at how young and vulnerable his observer currently looked. "Is everything okay, Sandburg?"
Blair looked back over his shoulder, upstairs. "Yes, for now."
"How's the arm?"
The student blinked in confusion at the blue cast, as if just remembering he had broken his arm. "It itches a little."
"Are you going to be okay?"
"I think so," Blair said, walking back to the kitchen table and gathering the trash from their lunch.
"I just thought he'd remember this was his home once we got here," Blair admitted quietly after a moment of silence.
"Dr. Cuthbertson said it would take some time."
The observer gulped several times; his eyes clearly showing the fear he felt. "What if I screw up?"
"What are you talking about, Sandburg?"
"I told Jim last night I wished I had been there for him as a kid, so he'd have had someone in his corner, so he wouldn't have felt the need to repress his senses."
"And you think he's giving you that opportunity now?" Simon asked gently.
"Kind of a coincidence he lost nearly three decades of his memory, wouldn't you say?"
Simon started his denial, but stopped short, knowing full well his detective was probably doing just that. "Do you want me to stay for a while?"
"Thank you, sir, but there's no need. I'm going to bed myself in a little bit."
"If you need anything, Sandburg, you call. No matter what time of the day or night."
"Thank you, sir."
"And try to get some rest soon, son. You were hurt last night, too," the captain said quietly as he rose and gathered his coat.
"Simon... about the man who did this to Jim?"
"He'll be fine. Although I'm happy Rafe and Brown got there when they did. For an anthropologist, I hear you've got a pretty mean elbow." Simon grinned wickedly at his friend, pulled a cigar from his coat and headed toward the door. He turned just before the door and stared at the younger man, who was staring up into Jim's bedroom. "Sandburg?"
Blair returned his gaze to the captain, his face a little paler than it had been just moments before. "What if I only make it worse, Simon?"
"You won't, kid. I have faith in you, and deep down in his subconscious so does Jim."
Blair moved to open the door. "Thank you, Simon; that means a lot."
"I mean it, Sandburg, you call if you need anything. You hear me?"
"I hear you, sir," the observer whispered, shutting the door behind his friend.
"Blair?" A soft voice called to him as he swam through the realm between sleep and consciousness.
Blair blinked awake and noticed the smooth, earnest face of Jimmy, staring down at him from beside the couch.
"Hey, buddy," he said, rubbing his face with one hand. "What time is it?"
"About six a.m. I'm sorry to wake you, but the alarm beside my bed went off a few minutes ago."
Blair sat up, putting both feet on the floor and slowly stretched, pushing his arms out from his body. "I'm sorry, Jimmy. I should have turned it off last night. I wasn't thinking." Looking up into his friend's face, he asked, "Do you want to try and catch another hour or so of sleep?"
"No, sir," Jimmy said quietly, nervously shifting back and forth from foot to foot.
"Is something wrong?"
Jimmy blushed slightly. "I'm kind of hungry."
"Oh man. Where's my head?" Blair stood and put his hands on Jimmy's shoulders. "I'm sorry, buddy. What do you feel like having?"
"What do you have?"
Blair chuckled. "I don't honestly know. Why don't you go into the kitchen and try sniffing something out. I'll join you in a second."
Blair ducked into the bathroom and quickly made his morning ablutions. When he came out, he found Jimmy standing by the kitchen island, nostrils flaring slightly.
"What do you smell?" he asked softly, not wanting to make Jimmy self-conscious about what he was doing.
"Chocolate," Jimmy replied dreamily. "Godiva Chocolate."
"Are you sure?"
Jimmy sniffed again and smiled, lighting up the room.
"My roommate swore he didn't have any in the house." Blair sighed in exasperation, but after a moment, grinned mischievously. "I think we need to root them out."
"Won't we get in trouble?"
"Naw. He's not supposed to have them in the first place. I say, finders keepers, losers weepers. Soooo? Any idea where they are?"
Jimmy sniffed again. "I can smell them. I know they're in the kitchen, but I can't figure out where."
Blair came up behind his friend and laid one hand on Jimmy's shoulders. "Close your eyes."
"Shh. Trust me."
"What do you smell besides the chocolate?" Blair asked as he stood to one side, studying his friend's face intently, his hand never leaving Jimmy's shoulders.
"You need to filter through that smell."
"How do I do that?"
Blair stood silent for a moment, then grinned as the solution came to him. "I want you to picture a giant spaghetti strainer."
"Oh-kay," Jimmy said suspiciously.
Blair laughed. "Don't be that way. Now pour the smell through the strainer. Imagine the strainer catches all the coffee. What comes out the bottom?"
Jimmy took several deep breaths, his face pinching in concentration.
"Not so hard," Blair said in a soothing voice, gently rubbing Jimmy's shoulder. "The coffee's flowing. Don't push anything. What do you smell now?"
"Vanilla soap," Jimmy whispered in awe.
"Good. That's me. Now pour that through the filter, too." Blair watched Jimmy's face relax more. "How does the chocolate smell now?"
Blair gently turned Jimmy toward the sink. "And now?"
"A little weaker, but not a lot."
Blair urged his friend to take a few steps toward to the refrigerator. "Now?"
"Okay, open your eyes."
Jimmy did as instructed, his open face waiting expectantly.
"You did a wonderful job, Jimmy. My guess is the chocolate's in the basket on top of the refrigerator toward the back. I don't think I can reach it, though." Blair tried standing on his toes, but couldn't even touch the basket. "Okay, I'm too--"
"Short," Jimmy supplied helpfully.
Blair rolled his eyes and ignored Jimmy's grinning face. "Yes, thank you very much," he said sarcastically, but the laugh ruined the effect. "Okay, Paul Bunyon, you try it."
Blair stepped out of the way as Jimmy reached above the refrigerator and stretched all the way back, his fingers scrabbling at the wicker edge.
"C'mon. C'mon. You can do it. Yes!" Blair crowed as Jimmy got a fingerhold and pulled the basket forward, obediently handing it to his mentor. Blair accepted the basket and put his hand up for a high-five, which Jimmy happily slapped.
"Aha," Blair said triumphantly when he spied the shiny gold box in the basket. Teasingly, he waved the box under his friend's nose.
Jimmy grinned happily. "Chocolate."
Hooking Jimmy's arm, he moved them back toward the kitchen island, took the box out of the basket and opened the lid to reveal six pieces of chocolate.
"So what do we have?" Blair asked quietly.
Jimmy bent slightly, and sniffed appreciatively over the basket. Pointing to the first piece, he said, "Carmel." In succession, he added, "Dark chocolate truffle. Honey Walnut. Cherry. Orange Creme and Hazelnut."
"Which one do you want?"
Jimmy pointed shyly toward the dark chocolate truffle. Blair picked it up and held it to Jimmy's mouth, playfully popping it in when his friend opened his mouth wide. Jimmy laughed, holding his hand up to catch any falling pieces.
"Which one was the orange creme?" Blair tried not to laugh at the look of ecstasy settling over his friend's face. Jimmy pointed out the correct piece, and grinned as Blair nibbled on his selection.
Blair grinned back and asked, "So, what do you want for breakfast?"
"The hazelnut?" Jimmy said hopefully.
"No way, boyo. Especially not after that short crack," Blair teased, poking Jimmy in the ribs, causing him to laugh and dance out of reach. "I say we save these for lunch."
"Oh-kay." Jimmy shuffled slightly. "Are you sure your friend won't be coming home before then?"
"I'm pretty sure."
"'Cause we could always eat them now if you're not. You know, make sure about the whole losers weepers thing."
Blair chuckled, putting the lid back on the little box. "I think we can take the risk," he said as he set the basket aside.
"Oh-ka-ay." Jimmy grinned, as if he wanted to tease more but was holding back. His tongue danced over his teeth, making sure he got every iota of chocolate.
"So any requests for breakfast?"
"After chocolate? I think not. How about scrambled eggs and toast?"
Jimmy nodded agreeably, bouncing happily on his toes.
"You set the table. The silverware's in that drawer and the plates and glasses are up there. I'll start on the food."
Jimmy did his assigned chores quickly, then presented himself back in front of Blair when he was done. Blair took one look at the eager face and rubbed his friend's hair affectionately, wondering how William Ellison could ever have made this overly eager boy compete for his affection. "That was quick."
"Wasn't that hard."
"So it wasn't. How about you put the butter, milk and preserves on the table?"
Blair popped the bread into the toaster, then cracked several eggs one-handed into a small bowl. "Bring me the milk after you've poured our glasses, okay?" Blair looked up after tossing the last shell into the trash.
"Sure." Jimmy turned slightly to face his friend, causing the milk jug to slam into the glass he had just poured. "Oh God!" Jimmy gasped, all but dropping the container on the table, his hands pushing the milk away from the edge. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he chanted.
"Hey, no problem, bud." Blair quickly retrieved a kitchen towel and moved to the table.
Jimmy visibly flinched as he approached, his head ducking forward slightly as if he expected to have the back of his head slapped.
"It's okay, Jimmy." Blair laid his cast-covered arm on his friend's shoulder.
"I wasn't paying attention..."
"It was an accident. They happen. No need to beat yourself up over it."
"I'm so clumsy..."
"Hey." Blair turned Jimmy to face him. "You're a growing boy. Accidents happen. It's okay." The look in Jimmy's eyes nearly broke his heart; the desperation to believe what Blair was saying versus the truth he already knew. Without hesitation, Blair pulled Jimmy to him and tightly hugged him. For a long moment, his friend stood stiffly, which only made Blair squeeze him harder. Slowly, Jimmy's arms came up and wrapped around Blair's waist, and he laid his cheek on his shorter friend's shoulder.
"Blair," he said in a soft voice after a few moments.
"The milk is dripping onto the floor."
Blair squeezed Jimmy one more time before releasing him. "So?"
"It'll ruin the floor."
"Only if we leave it there for hours." Blair gently took Jimmy's right hand and laid it flat in the milk.
Jimmy gasped in shock. "What are you doing?"
"Nuffin," Blair said innocently as he put his fingertips in the milk, then flicked the droplets at his friend. Jimmy's eyes widened in disbelief.
"You flicked milk at me," Jimmy said in outrage.
"That's udderly ridiculous." Blair put his fingers back in the white puddle and drew a smiley face on the table. "Get it? Udderly."
"And you're moooooooooooody." Blair hummed to himself, his face bland as he wrote "Jimmy is moody" on the table.
"Am not," Jimmy protested, but the edge of his mouth twitched upward.
Using his arm with the cast on it to pull back his hair, Blair bent forward and slurped some milk off the table. Looking up at his friend, knowing he had milk on his unshaved lip, he asked, "Got milk?"
Jimmy laughed. "You're really milking this for all it's worth."
"Oh, and you're so proper, Hugh Heifer."
Jimmy picked his hand out of the milk and shook it in Blair's direction, laughing as he watched his friend dodge out of the way.
"So, should we go to the beach today?" Blair grinned as he came back to the table and laid the towel on it. "I know this beautiful little cove where there's all sorts of sea life. We can even take the football if you'd like. I don't know how well I can throw with a cast on, but we should probably let you get some practice in. Can't have you getting out of shape before the big game, now can we?"
Blair finished cleaning the table, and looked at the floor critically before looking up at his friend. "What?" he asked as he wiped the glass that had been knocked over, unable to interpret the look on his friend's face.
Jimmy continued to look at him for a moment longer, then shook his head, smiled and said shyly. "I'd love to go."
"Great. We'll head out after breakfast. Bring me the milk after you repour the glass. Okay? Do you like your eggs wet or dry? What?" he asked again as Jimmy looked at him with the same unreadable expression. "Do I still have milk on my face or something?"
Jimmy laughed, opened his mouth to say something, but closed it again. "Naw."
Blair rubbed one hand over his mouth which made his friend peal out in laughter. "You're such a spaz." Blair walked into the kitchen and tossed the towel into the sink.
"Oh, yeah? Well, you're a dork," Jimmy teased back as he poured the milk.
"Why, thank you." Blair laughed and waggled his eyebrows.
"For what?" Jimmy asked as he brought the jug to his friend.
"For the compliment."
"For calling me a dork."
"And how is that a compliment?"
Blair took the jug and poured a tiny bit of milk into the eggs. "You do know what a dork is, don't you?"
"Sure I do. It means you're a goof."
Blair whipped the eggs, barely keeping the grin off his face as he awkwardly held the bowl. "Oh, I assumed you meant the other meaning."
"What other meaning?"
Blair poured the eggs into the pan. "My mistake, of course. Sorry."
Jimmy watched quietly as the eggs slowly coalesced, shifting from foot to foot. Blair served the eggs on the plates, put a piece of toast on each plate and put two more slices of bread into the toaster. He handed one plate to Jimmy and indicated that he should go sit down, then followed with his own plate.
"What's the other meaning?" Jimmy burst out, unable to suppress his curiosity any longer, when Blair sat at the table.
"Dork is another name for a whale's penis."
"So, then, how is that a compliment?"
"I just assumed it was because I'm so--" Blair started slowly, but stopped as Jimmy waved his hands frantically to get him to stop, then laughed when his friend blushed.
"You're so weird," Jimmy said at last, shoving a forkful of eggs into his mouth.
Blair laughed. "You have no idea, my friend. No idea at all."
Blair looked over at his friend after he pulled the old Ford truck to a stop on the small, rocky beach. Jimmy was bouncing slightly on the vinyl seat, taking in the cove. "So, what do you think?" Blair asked as he put the keys in his pocket.
Jimmy tore his eyes away from the surf lapping up onto the tiny beach. "This is so cool. There's no one here but us."
"So are we actually gonna get out and look around or would you rather explore from here?" Blair teased, opening his door to get out of the truck.
Jimmy shot him a goofy grin and scrambled out of the cab, then reached over into the bed of the truck to get their supplies.
"Don't worry about those for now. They'll keep where they are. Why don't we go check things out for a bit first?"
Jimmy nodded and ran around the truck to join his friend. Blair grinned at the open happy face, knowing he was going to get a lot of mileage out of Jimmy's bouncing once Jim returned -- for he had no doubt that Jim would eventually return. But in the meantime, he found he was enjoying his time with Jimmy. His friend was such a serious child, but once he felt safe he blossomed into a energetic ten-year old, with all the normal questions and enthusiasm for life.
"There should be some shallow pools over there if I recall right," Blair said, pointing to a series of large boulders that formed a barrier at the north side of the cove.
Jimmy ran ahead of him, excitedly, then stopped abruptly, something at his feet catching his attention. Blair joined him and noticed a small starfish resting in an even smaller depression of seawater. Blair squatted down and examined the creature closely. "Looks like it got caught on the beach when the tide went out," he said quietly as he ran his fingers lightly over the top of the sea star.
Jimmy knelt down beside him and hesitantly reached his finger out to touch the creature. "It's soft," he said, surprised.
"They don't dry up until after they die," Blair explained.
Jimmy looked up and down the beach. "It looks like a dozen or so of them got stranded."
Blair nodded. "Nature in action. Tomorrow, there'll probably be another dozen." He looked over at Jimmy and was touched by the look of distress he found in his friend's eyes -- the helplessness of the creatures' plight warred with what William Ellison would probably say about this situation. "While we can't save those that'll wash up on shore tomorrow, maybe we can do something about these guys," Blair said, slowly rising to his feet and bending to pick the little star up. "Who knows, maybe he'll go home and tell the others that staying out past curfew is so not cool." He grinned, then turned and walked into the surf, gently put the creature into the water.
"But what difference will it make if they're only going to end back up on the beach tomorrow?"
"In the grand scheme of the universe it probably won't make any difference at all," Blair said, returning to his friend's side. "However, it made a difference to that one... today... now."
Jimmy stood very still for several moments, then looked down the beach. "It'd probably make a difference to that one, too."
"I'd say you're probably right."
Jimmy turned and ran to the closest star and gently returned it to the ocean as he had seen Blair do. For the next several minutes they both loped up and down the beach, finding stragglers and returning them to the safety of the sea.
"I think that's all of them," Jimmy puffed, partly from excitement, partly from the exertion of their efforts.
"Let's take one last look." Blair put his hand on his friend's shoulder and said softly, "Remember, they're mostly orangish-red or yellowish-white in color. Now look along the beach and contrast that with the stones and pebbles. Do you see any we might have missed?"
Jimmy turned and scanned up and down the beach. "There's... lemme go check it out." He jogged down the beach, stopped and knelt onto the rocks. He reached out to touch the starfish, then stiffened. His shoulders sagged slightly, his sad face immediately seeking Blair's. With a sigh, he reached down and picked up the harden remains of a starfish and returned to his friend's side, handing him the dead sea creature.
"He's been dead for a while now, Jim; probably over a week."
His friend nodded sadly.
"We can't save them all, you know. We can only do the best we can with what we have. Your awareness today saved over a dozen of these little guys. Be happy with what you accomplished and don't beat yourself up over what you can't control," Blair said, returning the starfish to his friend. "Besides, he's kind of cool. Why don't we take him home as a reminder of what you did accomplish today?"
Jimmy looked into his friend's eyes, then smiled shyly. "We did do good today, didn't we?"
"We did great." Blair smiled back and rubbed his friend's head. "Now, why don't you put him in the back of the truck and we'll go take a look at those shallow pools."
Blair munched slowly on his chicken salad sandwich, momentarily lost in the dance of the seabirds playing in the thermal breezes above the ocean.
"You know, don't you?" Jimmy asked quietly, breaking through his reverie.
Blair blinked slowly as he looked at his friend. "About?"
"Ah." Blair placed the sandwich on the napkin in his lap. "Yeah, buddy, I'm afraid I do. Does that bother you?"
Jimmy hesitated for a moment. "I don't know. You haven't treated me like a freak yet."
"And I'm not going to either," Blair said, a little hotly.
"I don't know why not."
Blair turned to face his friend. "Jimmy, you are not a freak. I don't ever want to hear those words pass over your lips again. Do you understand me?"
Jimmy folded his arms protectively over his chest. "It's you who doesn't understand."
"Oh, really?" Blair's eyebrows shot up into his hairline. "I'll have you know I wrote the book on freakdom."
"But you're cool."
Blair laughed out loud. "Oh, so I'm cool now, huh? I thought I was a dork this morning."
Jimmy blushed, then blustered, "Well, you're sort of a cool dork."
Blair laughed again as he gently hooked an arm around Jimmy's head, careful of his cast, pulled him close and gave him a noogie. Jimmy protested, but his grin ruined his attempt to look outraged.
After a moment, Jimmy asked quietly, "So how were you a freak?"
Blair sighed heavily, thinking back to the loneliest time of his life. "When I was sixteen I tested out of high school and got to go to Rainier full-time."
"Well, that just means you were smart."
"Were?" Blair arched an eyebrow at him and feinted a punch at his friend's arm, causing Jimmy to laugh again as he scrambled out of reach.
"You know what I mean."
"Yeah, and I was smart, too. The problem was I was skewing the curve for all the older kids. No one likes to be shown up by a snot-nosed, curly-haired, son of a hippie."
"So they gave you a hard time."
"Some did. Basically, most of them just ignored me."
"I could live with that."
"No, you couldn't. For one thing, human contact is a scientifically proven necessity. Plus, it's not any fun. Imagine being sixteen, the time when most young men start seriously thinking about dating, and everyone you know is at least two to six years older than you. I was cute enough to study with, but not to date."
"It was at the time. But as with most things, that which does not kill you makes you stronger."
"I'm surprised you know that."
Jimmy grinned at him. "Hey, I'm a pretty smart guy myself."
"Yeah, if you're so smart, then why were you laying all that freak bull hockey on me?"
Jimmy shifted nervously on the rock. "I'm tired of being different."
"Are your gifts really that hard to accept?"
"No, it's just that no one believes me."
"I believe you."
"I'm not your dad," Blair finished softly, in understanding.
Jimmy nodded miserably.
"Did you know that I work with people with enhanced senses?"
Jimmy looked at him skeptically. "Really?"
"Does Dad know you know?"
"Yes. I'm pretty sure he knows I know, you know?" Blair grinned at his friend, trying for a little levity.
Jimmy smiled sadly at him. "So, are you gonna teach me how to get rid of them?"
"Nope. You see, Jimmy, they're a part of you. You can't just turn them off. What I'd like to do is teach you how to use them to your fullest ability."
"Dude," Blair said in comic exasperation, "use your head. Just think of all the wonderful things you could do with your senses?"
"Like you could be a doctor. How cool would it be to be able to feel if a bone had a hairline fracture or a break or be able to smell if someone was starting to get sick? Or how about being a forest ranger who could smell smoke from miles away and prevent thousands of acres from being burned because you could stop it before it got out of hand. Or how about being in a search and rescue unit and being able to find someone under a collapsed building because you could hear their heartbeat? Or even a police detective because you could find clues other people missed?"
"That would be pretty cool."
"Yeah, and all it takes is for you to believe in yourself."
"And you'd help me out, if I wanted?"
"Anytime. Any place. Anywhere."
Jimmy gave a small shrug as he contemplated the possibilities. "Cool," he said finally. After a moment, he turned and grinned playfully at his friend. "So did you bring the chocolate?"
"I don't know, did I?" Blair asked innocently, and smiled as he watched his friend tip his head back and sniff.
"You're gonna drop something."
"I'm not gonna drop anything," Blair countered as he juggled the blankets, the cooler and a plastic sack filled with their lunch remnants in one hand while trying to get the key out of his pocket and into the front door.
"Yes, you are."
"Well, I'd let you do it, but you're carrying just as much as I am."
"We could've made two trips."
"You're such a pain," Blair teased, taking any sting out of his words with the smile he graced his friend with. "Besides, I'm not making two trips up and down those stairs. I hate it when the elevator's out."
"It's good exercise."
"Bite me, Jimmy."
Jimmy started to laugh, then hesitated for a moment. "Um, Blair..."
"Ta-da! I did it! What did I tell you?" Blair said triumphantly as he pushed himself backward into the loft.
"SANDBURG, WHERE IN THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?"
Blair dropped the items in his arms and spun to face the very irate captain of Major Crimes.
"Geez, Simon. You damn near gave me a heart attack." Blair breathed out in relief, then shot Jimmy a withering look.
"There's someone in the apartment." Jimmy smiled apologetically, shrugging his shoulders. "And you dropped everything after all."
"Only because of extenuating circumstances."
"Doesn't matter. Still counts."
"Why don't you make yourself useful and start putting this stuff away," Blair said, gently pushing his friend toward the kitchen. Turning, he took a deep breath and addressed the captain quietly, "Is there any particular reason you felt the need to shout at me as I entered my own home, Simon?"
"I've been trying to reach you for over four hours."
Blair began picking up the dropped items off the floor. "We went to the beach for a picnic."
"It's October, for Pete's sake!" Simon shouted in exasperation, his arms raised briefly to the ceiling. "It would've been nice if you'd let me know, Sandburg. I guess I can cancel the APB I have out on the two of you now."
"Look, what was I supposed to think? With your luck, you could have been captured by Mexican gunrunners, sold into slavery and escaped, only to have had your ship sink on the way home, all before noon," the captain groused, trying his best glare on the anthropologist in front of him gasping in laughter.
"You're right, Simon. I'm sorry. It was thoughtless of me," Blair said, trying not to chuckle as he wiped his eyes with his right wrist. "I should've given you a call before we left."
"So did you two at least have fun while I was having my stroke?"
"Yes, sir," Jimmy answered brightly, taking the cooler and plastic bag from his friend. "Would you like to see my starfish?"
"I think I'd like that." Simon watched Jimmy put the items on the counter, then unwrap one of the towels with exaggerated care.
"He got caught on the beach. Blair thinks it probably happened sometime last week," Jimmy whispered in reverent awe as he showed the captain his prize.
"It's beautiful," Simon said in the appropriate tone to make a ten-year old smile. "And all of his limbs are intact. I'd say you have yourself a pretty good specimen there, Jimmy."
Jimmy nodded happily, lightly running his fingers over the dried out creature.
"Why don't you take him upstairs and put him on the dresser," Blair suggested, while gently pushing his friend toward the stairs. "I don't want to take the chance that we might accidentally knock him off the counter."
"Okay," Jimmy agreed obediently.
Simon watched his friend walk up the stairs slowly, then turned toward the anthropologist. Blair simply shook his head at Simon and tugged on his ear, telling him that Jimmy could hear everything they said. Simon nodded his understanding.
"Other than... you know, everything pretty much status quo?"
"What are you going to do?"
"Wait it out."
"Do you need any help?"
"Not at the moment, sir, but thanks for asking."
"Okay, well, I guess I should be going back to the station. I do have a department to run after all. I can't be wasting any more time on the two of you if you weren't kidnapped by pirates."
Blair grinned at his larger friend. "I'm sorry, Simon. I really wasn't thinking."
"A pleasant change of pace, I'm sure," the captain teased as he headed for the door. "But if you have the urge to let your wandering feet take you out of this loft again--"
"I'll call you immediately. I promise."
The captain opened the door, then stopped and looked back. "You're doing a good job, Blair. I can tell by just looking at him."
"Thank you, sir," Blair whispered.
"Just calling them like I see them," Simon said, before shutting the door behind him.
The phone ringing by his head woke Blair from his nap on the couch. He fumbled for the receiver, looking up toward Jimmy's bed, making sure he wasn't awake.
"Yeah?" he greeted groggily into the phone, rubbing his left hand stiffly over his face, flinching slightly as pain shot up his injured arm.
"I'm sorry to wake you, kid, but I need your help."
Blair put his feet on the floor and braced his elbows on his knees. "What can I do for you, sir?"
There was a brief silence on the other end of the phone before the captain spoke again. "We've lost Rafe."
"What do you mean, you've lost him?" Blair asked, his mental fuzziness suddenly gone, his heart sinking into his stomach.
"He and Brown were chasing two armed robbery suspects through the warehouse district near the commercial wharves. The suspects split up and so did Henri and Brian. Henri reports that Brian radioed in to say he had caught his suspect and had him cuffed." There was another moment of silence. "Brown heard a gunshot shortly after that and we've been out of contact with Brian ever since."
"Oh my God, Simon. What can I do to help?"
"I need Jim."
"I know," the captain interrupted him. "I don't have any other choice, Blair. You indicated earlier that Jimmy's senses were online."
"Yes, sir. But you can't possibly be suggesting that I take Jimmy into a potentially dangerous situation. With all due respect, sir, Jimmy's not a cop."
"Neither are you, Sandburg, but you go into dangerous situations all the time, or have you forgotten the cast on your arm so soon?"
"No, sir. But Jimmy's only ten years old."
"And Brian Rafe may be bleeding to death even as we speak."
Blair swallowed hard, torn between keeping his two friends safe. "Where do you want us to meet you?" he finally whispered.
"At Pier 3, off Manchester. We're in front of Derbin's Imports."
"We'll be down as soon as we can."
"I'll be with you every step of the way, son. I know what I'm asking and I'm sorry I have to ask it. But if we can save--"
"I know, Simon. I know." Blair hung up the phone and closed his eyes for a moment to center himself, wondering how he could even think about exposing Jimmy to the horrors of the adult world. But he also knew that Jim would never forgive himself if Brian were to die of his injuries and he hadn't at least tried to find him. Pushing himself off the couch, he headed up the stairs to wake his friend.
"Jimmy," Blair whispered, touching his friend's cheek, trying to wake him as gently as possible.
"Hmmm?" the guileless eyes blinked up at him. "What time is it?"
"It's about five p.m. I'm sorry to wake you from your nap, buddy, but I need your help."
"On what?" Jimmy asked as he sat up in bed, his back resting against the railing.
"Remember this morning when I told you there were a multitude of things you could do with your gifts?"
"Well, a situation has come up where you could really help me out if you were to use them."
Blair gulped and shut his eyes briefly. "Remember how I told you I worked with the police department."
"Well, one of my friends, a police detective from Major Crimes, is missing. Everyone thinks he's been hurt, but the warehouse district is a warren of alleyways and hidey-holes and they can't find him. I think... I think you could find him if you were to use your senses."
"But I don't know what to do," Jimmy protested.
"I know, but I'm not asking you to do this by yourself. I'll be by your side the whole time."
Jimmy looked into his friend's eyes. "You're scared," he said in surprise.
Blair took Jimmy's hand in his and said quietly, "Yes. I am. I'm scared for Brian, but more importantly I'm scared for you. I'm asking you to do a very grown up thing and I know you're scared, buddy, believe me, I know. I just don't know what else to do."
Jimmy squeezed his hand in return. "I can do it, Blair."
"It's not a matter of your being able to do it. I know you can. The question is... should you?"
Jimmy sat silently for a moment. "I think I should," he finally whispered. "Like you said this morning, I need to save the ones I can. Maybe... maybe I can save your friend."
Blair sighed deeply. "If we do this, you stick by me like glue. You do what I say, when I say it and you don't give me any crap. Understand?"
"Okay, let's get you a sweater and a jacket. It's going to get cold this evening and the last thing I need is a sentinel with a cold."
"That's what Sir Richard Burton, an adventurer who lived over a hundred years ago, called people with heightened senses."
Jimmy grinned. "A sentinel, huh? Cool."
"Like that, do you?" Blair returned the grin as he pulled his friend off the bed. "Get your shoes on."
Jimmy picked up his shoes. "Yeah. It's nice to know I'm not the only one, you know? It's cool to think there are other people like me."
Blair handed him a sweater. "But even if you were the only one--"
"I know." His friend grinned at him. "It's just nice to know."
"I'm down with that. Come on, let's get going."
Simon saw the blue and white pickup pull up behind the command post and walked quickly to meet his friends. He watched the pale anthropologist get out of the truck and motion for Jimmy to slide across the seat toward him. "Like glue, Jimmy," Blair reminded his companion.
Jimmy scrambled out of the truck and stood right behind Blair, his chest leaning against the observer's back.
"I really appreciate your coming so quickly," Simon said. "Rafe has been missing in action for about fifty minutes."
"Can you take us to where he and Henri split up?" Blair asked.
Simon nodded, then handed Blair a suede jacket. "It's Brian's. I thought--"
"Good thinking," the observer said. "Okay, let's get this show on the road."
Simon led the silent pair through the alleyways, only to stop at a nondescript intersection of corridors. "Henri went north, Brian went east."
"Okay. Let's get to work. Simon, I don't want anyone else around until we find Brian," Blair said with quiet authority. The captain nodded. The observer turned to face his friend. "You ready, Jimmy?"
"As ready as I can be, I guess."
"Okay. Remember the spaghetti strainer this morning." Jimmy nodded. "I want you to sniff this jacket. Brian likes to wear a fragrance called Calvin."
"You mean he wears perfume?"
Blair grinned, despite their circumstances. "It's not called perfume when men wear it. It's called cologne."
Jimmy smirked. "Oh-kay."
"Anyway, you should be able to smell the cologne on this," he said, handing his friend the jacket.
Jimmy sniffed the inside of the jacket deeply.
"Yeah, it smells kind of nice."
Blair grinned at him. "Okay, now starting small, I want you to pour everything through the strainer one at a time until all you have is the fragrance. Don't push too hard. Just let it flow naturally."
Jimmy nodded and stood for several moments, his face contorting every once in a while as something disagreeable washed through the filter. His features instantly relax whenever Blair touched his arm.
"I got it," Jimmy said excitedly, opening his eyes.
"Can you follow it until the scent gets strong again?" Blair asked, looking at Simon, appearing to want to say something else but refraining from doing so.
"I think so."
"Okay, let's do it then," Blair said as he grasped the arm of Jimmy's jacket. "You lead."
Simon fell into step behind them, amazed at the give and take between his friends. Blair was content to walk beside his friend until Jimmy's features began to strain, then he would whisper words of reassurance until the taller man relaxed. Jimmy's gaze would never leave his friend's until Blair nodded for him to begin again.
They started walking past a dead end alley, when Jimmy stopped abruptly and looked down the dark alcove. "It's really strong in here."
Blair looked expectantly at Simon.
"I'll check it out. You two stay here." The captain withdrew his gun from his holster and slipped into the alley.
Blair gently guided Jimmy up against the brick wall of the alley entrance. "Stay here." Turning to look down the alleyway, he pressed his back against Jimmy's chest. His friend held on to his shoulders, the contact comforting them both.
"He's here!" Simon shouted from the depths of the alley. "Call an ambulance!"
Blair pulled his cell phone from his jacket and dialed. "Where are we, Jimmy?"
His friend looked around frantically for landmarks. "A block south of Hoover. We're in back of a building that says Jernos."
Blair leaned back briefly in thanks and relayed the information. When he was done, he turned and smiled at his friend. "You did good."
"Is your friend going to be okay?" Jimmy asked in concern, looking back into the darkness.
"I hope so."
An ambulance screamed around the corner and slid to a stop in front of them.
"There's so much blood," Jimmy said in a small, frightened whisper, his gaze frozen, watching the activity at the far end of the alley.
Blair immediately grabbed his friend and turned him away from the scene. "Don't look down there. You've done your job. Turn it down. Turn everything down."
A violent shiver racked Jimmy's frame, but he nodded to show that he had complied with Blair's demand.
Moments later, several police cars showed up. Henri Brown was out of the car before it had come to a complete stop and raced down the alleyway to his partner.
Several minutes later, two uniformed officers brought the handcuffed suspect out of the alley and put him in the back of the squad car. Paramedics followed with the gurney in between them and quickly loaded the wounded detective into the back of the ambulance.
Henri Brown, who had been walking beside his partner, hit the back of the ambulance with his fists twice as soon as the doors were closed, then started toward his car, stopping briefly in front of his friends. "The paramedics say he's gonna be okay. Apparently he got the suspect handcuffed to the scaffolding, but there was some sort of scuffle and Rafe's gun went off. If it hadn't been for his cell phone, he'd be dead right now. As it was it took most of the impact but knocked him into the brick wall. He's got a pretty deep graze, has lost a lot of blood, but he's gonna be okay. Jim, my man, I don't know how you did it, but you ever need anything... anything, man, and it's yours. Anytime, day or night. Ya hear me?"
Jimmy nodded. Henri patted his cheek then turned and raced to his car to follow the ambulance to the hospital.
Blair turned to his friend and hugged him tight for a brief moment. "You did it, Jimmy. You saved Brian."
Jimmy blinked in surprise. "I did, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did." Blair crowed in delight. "Still think your senses make you a freak?"
Jimmy shook his head adamantly.
"I'd say this calls for a celebration." Blair laughed as he high-fived his friend.
"Whatever it is, it's my treat," Simon said with a broad grin as he walked out of the alleyway. "You did good, son. I'm very proud of you." Simon clasped Jimmy's shoulders and squeezed gently. "I'm thinking a Glutton's Delight at Tasty Freeze is in order."
"Now you're talking, my man." Blair laughed, hooking both of his friends' elbows and heading back toward the truck.
"I can't believe you ate the whole thing." Blair laughed quietly as he indicated that his friend should proceed him through the door into the apartment.
Jimmy's only response was to burp.
Blair rolled his eyes, then moved into the kitchen to put his leftover pints of ice cream into the freezer.
Jimmy moaned slightly, throwing himself onto the couch.
"You okay?" Blair asked with concern as he closed the distance between them and sat on the coffee table.
Jimmy laughed, patting his slightly extended stomach. "I can't believe I ate the whoooooooooooole thing."
"Well, you certainly deserved it." Blair reached forward and lightly rubbed his friend's stomach. "So, how do you feel otherwise?"
"I feel great. Tonight felt even better than this morning did," Jimmy said with a huge smile.
"You were awesome tonight, Jimmy. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do if you'll allow yourself to explore your talents. Will you let me help you figure out what to do with them?"
"What about Dad?"
"You let me worry about your father, okay?"
Jimmy nodded. "If we practice, then maybe when I grow up, I could be in a search and rescue unit?"
"If that's what you want to do. You know, you can do anything, be anything you want to be. You just have to believe in yourself, Jimmy. Don't let other people determine your path. You have a good heart," he said quietly, tapping his friend's chest. "You're a good boy and I'm proud to call you friend."
Jimmy blinked, his eyes suspiciously moist. "I like you too, Blair."
"As well you should. After all I'm the coolest dork in Cascade." Blair tickled his friend, just to watch him squirm.
Jimmy laughed, his hands desperately trying to keep Blair's fingers away from his stomach. "So what are we going to do tomorrow?"
"Well, there's a carnival in town and I thought we might go check it out. You know, see how your senses can help us win the really cool toys?" Blair waggled his eyebrows mischievously. "Chicks dig guys who can win the huge stuffed animals."
Jimmy grinned back at him. "I'm down with that."
"But for right now, I think we need to get to bed. Your dad would kill me if he knew how late I was keeping you up every night."
"I won't tell if you won't," Jimmy said solemnly.
"Deal." Blair took his friend's hand and pulled him off the couch. "Go take care of business and let's get some sleep. Tomorrow's gonna be a big day."
Shuffling toward the bathroom, Jimmy asked, "Bigger than today?"
"God, I hope not!"
Blair cracked another egg into the bowl, and smiled when he heard Jimmy groan and stretch in bed overhead. "Come on, sleepyhead. We've got a big day planned, but first I've got to run by the university and drop off some books for a friend." He awkwardly held the bowl on the counter at waist level and began whipping the eggs.
"You can set the table after you finish in the bathroom," Blair called out, reaching over and putting two pieces of bread into the toaster. "And don't dawdle. Breakfast's in five."
Three minutes later, Jimmy moved around him to get the plates and glasses. Popping the toast out and onto a plate, Blair slid it over to Jimmy. Moments later he lifted the skillet and carried it to the table, putting it on a hot pad between the two plates.
Blair started to speak, but noticed the lines around his friend's world-weary eyes. Blue eyes blinked back at him. "What? Do I have something on my face?" the baritone voice asked in annoyance as a hand unconsciously wiped his jaw.
"Yeeeeesss," the older man said slowly, eyeing his friend suspiciously.
"How... how... how are you feeling, man?"
Jim scooped a spatula full of eggs onto his plate. "Hungry. Why?"
"Do you remember anything about the last forty-eight hours?"
"What are you -- how'd you break your arm?" Jim asked, standing abruptly and walking around the table to look at the cast on his friend's arm.
"We were on a stakeout, Jim. Do you remember?"
"Yeah, we were watching a warehouse, waiting for O'Malley's buyers to show up."
"Right. Right. Do you remember anything after that?"
Jim's eyebrows pinched together in concentration. "A rifle butt. Pain."
Blair jumped up and gently eased his friend into the closest chair. "Do you remember anything that happened after that?"
After a moment of concentration, Jim shook his head. "No. I just woke up this morning feeling a little bloated."
The phone rang and Blair absently answered it. "Sandburg. Oh hi, Simon. No. No. I mean, Jim's back. Yes, really. Okay. Bye."
"What was that all about," Jim asked when his friend put the phone on the table.
"Simon's on his way over."
"Why's he coming over here? I could just talk to him when I go to work."
"I'm sure he just wants to verify that you're okay. In the meantime, why don't you eat?"
Jim looked at Blair for a moment, then shrugging, did as he was told.
Blair nibbled at his toast until a knock interrupted his thoughts. He quickly got to his feet and answered the door, letting the captain into the loft.
"How's Rafe doing?" Blair asked.
"He's lost a lot of blood, but the actual wound wasn't too bad, just needed a few stitches. He had a nasty concussion, but other than that, he should be out sometime tomorrow. They're holding him today for observation."
"What happened to Rafe?" Jim asked, startled, getting up from the table.
"He doesn't remember anything about the past forty-eight hours," Blair explained. Going to the table by the front door, he gathered his backpack. "Hey, look man, I've got to drop some books off for a friend. I'll meet you at the station around noon. Okay? Cool. See you then."
And with that, he was gone.
"Sandburg, my office, please," Simon called from his doorway the moment the grad student entered the bullpen.
With an sigh of resignation, Blair complied, his shoulders slumped slightly forward as he moved slowly toward the captain's lair.
"He's down in records," Simon said when he noted the observer glancing toward Jim's desk. Closing the door after his friend, he pointed to a chair next to his desk. "Want to tell me what this morning was about?"
"I'm sorry, Simon," Blair apologized, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. "I... he just... I had... so much..."
Simon sat in the chair beside him. "Jim coming down those stairs instead of Jimmy threw you for a loop."
"Yes, sir. I had so much to show him, so much to teach him..."
"I know, son, but maybe you showed Jim what he needed to see. He was a much different person last night than he was when he came home from the hospital. In less than forty-eight hours you showed him what a blessing his senses could be. Maybe that's all he needed."
"But he doesn't remember any of it," Blair almost wailed.
"I know, but one day he will."
"I'm sorry, I know I'm being selfish. I just..."
"He was a good kid."
"I can't understand how William twisted that enthusiasm, that joy... how could he force Jim to live behind walls, to deny what he was."
"He was trying to protect his son, Blair. The seventies, while a time of great change, would not have been kind to a young sentinel. Bill did the best he could with what he had."
Blair brushed the angry tears from his eyes. "But Jimmy was opening up... he was accepting..."
"I know, son, but Jimmy doesn't get a second chance to live life again. He grew up a long time ago. He did what he had to do in order to survive -- until you could find him. Nothing you did in the last two days can change those cold, hard facts."
Blair opened his mouth to argue, then stopped. "I know. You're right. I'm sor--"
"Don't be," Simon interrupted him. "Just go find your partner. He was worried about you this morning."
Blair got out of his chair and headed for the door. "Thank you, Simon."
"And kid," Simon called out when Blair's hand closed around the doorknob.
"You did good. Real good. I would sell everything I own if there was a way to allow you to go back through time and be there for him as a child. You would have made a difference."
Two days later:
Blair pushed his way into the loft, dropping his backpack and his books on the table by the door, and looked at his watch. He still had twenty minutes before Jim came home -- plenty of time to get dinner started.
He struggled out of his jacket and headed toward the kitchen, bending over to pull the pasta pan out from under the island cabinet. He froze as he stood, finally noticing Jim sitting on the stairs to his bedroom, gently holding the dried remains of the starfish in his hands.
"Damn, my watch must be slow. Did you get home early? I'm sorry, man. Dinner will be ready in just a few."
"Actually, I was hoping we might eat out tonight," Jim said, standing and moving into the kitchen.
"Cool. I'm down with that. Where to, buddy?"
Jim grinned. "Well, I've heard there's a carnival in town and I've always wanted to win one of those really, really big stuffed animals. It supposedly impresses the heck out of chicks."
Blair looked up into his friend's face, seeing the creases around his eyes but realizing they weren't nearly as deep as they had been a week ago. "A carnival, huh?"
"Think of it as a voluntary test of my sentinel abilities."
Jim nodded, swallowing hard. "If it's any consolation, Chief, I wish you had been there while I was growing up. I can't even imagine where I would be now." Jim gently put the starfish on the counter. "But I can't live my life in the past and talk about what ifs and what could have beens, I can only take each day as the gift it is and live it to the fullest -- proud to be what I am."
Blair nodded, unable to speak.
"So, all I had to do was believe in myself, huh?"
"And you'll still help me out if I want?" he asked, repeating Jimmy's words.
"Anytime. Any place. Anywhere."
Jim gave a small shrug, contemplating the possibilities. "Cool," he said finally.
"Yeah, cool." Blair grinned back.
"Now, about my chocolates...."
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