Innocence

by MyMom

What right did you have?

Why did you have to hurt me?

I was an innocent child

You took my innocence!!

I have lived with guilt

Because of what you did

But why should I feel guilt

When you were the one

You misused your trust

And I couldnít tell

You had no right

To change my life!!

The past is all gone

The darkness has passed

I have recaptured the innocence

And I have won!!

- "Innocence", Merri Lyn Lamb

It had been a stressful seminar Friday -- child abuse and molestation were always dark topics people didn't always want to hear about but police and public officials had to be on top of. Jim was sickened by man's inhumanity to man and this especially sickened him. He could also tell that Blair had been especially upset by this.

Trying to lighten Blair's spirits, Jim had found a Jags game on the TV and in the pleasure of good companionship the light back and forth bantering began.

"Wow!" Look at that shot!" Blair was bouncing up and down on the couch, popcorn going

everywhere but in his mouth. "This should be at least a ten point spread!"

Jim sat on the other end of the bouncing couch, little trickles of beer dripping from his chin down to his sweatshirt. He reached out to hold down the energy ball he called his partner. "Easy, Chief. If you accidentally get any of that popcorn in your mouth, you'd probably choke and CPR can be messy." Jim looked back at the game. "Maybe we can get you some lessons."

Blair raised his eyebrows at Jim. "What?"

"Yeah," Jim continued. "He can get that ball in the basket from across the court with all those distractions and you can't get a piece of popcorn into your mouth."

With that he looked directly at the anthropologist, trying to look stern. But the young man's wide blue eyes and the piece of popcorn he held in mid-air caused the older man to crack a smile. "Oh, well. You get cleanup detail."

Blair leaned back and giggled and tossed the piece of popcorn he was holding at Jim, thus beginning the great popcorn fight.

AAAAAAA

The popcorn had been cleaned up and the lights had been out for about an hour when Jim awoke to screams from Blair's room.

"Help him! Help him please!! Let me out!"

Jim, out of instinct, grabbed his weapon and hastened down the stairs, his bare feet barely touching the cold floor.

Opening Blair's door, he saw his roommate -- fists flailing in the air, hair plastered with sweat, breath coming so hard and fast, being gulped between screams.

Jim quickly put the gun down and grabbed Blair's arms and firmly, but gently, called his name.

"Blair..Blair...it's okay. It's Jim. I'm here. Wake up...it's just a dream."

His heartbeat still racing, Blair cracked open eyes that had been tightly shut and saw the dark figure before him. "J-Jim?"

Jim realized that his friend didn't have his Sentinel vision and reached over to flip on the lamp.

"Yeah, it's me." Sitting back down, he asked, "Chief, are you okay? What's happening?" Jim still kept a hold of one of Blair's arms to assure his friend that he was all right.

Blair tried to catch his breath. "I don't know. It was dark and I couldn't get out. I had to help someone, but I couldn't get out and yet I was afraid someone would come in." Blair looked up at the Sentinel, his eyes wide with the trails of the nightmare.

"Who couldn't you help? Who couldn't come in?" Jim asked, releasing his hold on Blair's arm, satisfied that he had calmed down.

"I don't know...I just...I...ummm..." Blair tried to remember. "...don't know....something when I was little...I can't remember..." Running a hand through his sweat drenched curls, and taking a deep, calming breath, Blair looked up at Jim. "I'm okay, now, Jim. Go on back to bed."

"Sure." Right.' Jim looked around the anthropologist's room and grabbed an extra blanket.

Then he sat down by the bed.

"Hey, you don't have to do this."

"Yeah, I know." Jim looked at his young friend and was rewarded with a smile that spoke louder than words.

AAAAAAA

Monday morning saw a bleary-eyed Jim trudging into work, followed by Blair, who was dragging behind. Blair sat in his chair next to the detective's desk and let his backpack just slip off his arm and lay where it landed on the floor.

Jim noticed Simon beckoning to him as soon as he started to sit down and instead went to the captain's office, leaving Sandburg to begin the paperwork on his desk.

"Geez, Jim, you look rough...Sandburg too. Late night parties..." The tall dark captain smiled lightly, but knew deep down that there was something else going on with his best team.

Jim ran a hand over his tired face. "Blair's been having these nightmares. It's the same thing over and over." He sighed. "I'm sure there's more to it than just bad dreams, but we can't seem to get a handle on it."

Simon listened with concern. What bothered his best team and good friends bothered him, too. "Keep me informed." At Jim's nod, he continued. "I know you, Jim. If you think there's something there, you will get to the bottom of it."

Jim rubbed his tired eyes with his hand. "Hopefully before we lose too much more sleep." Getting back on task, he said, "So, what's going on?"

"Well, we've got a political hopeful coming by with his campaign manager. You know it looks good on the Get Tough on Crime' platform to visit the local police stations." Simon then handed Jim a file. "More important, we have a young boy that was grabbed last night. Someone tried to drag him away. Only the yelling of a man walking his German Shepherd scared the perp away."

With that he sat down. "That was one lucky boy."

Jim listened intently as he flipped through the file. "Did we get any description?"

"Not much. The boy was too shaken up and couldn't help much. The good Samaritan said it was too dark to get a good description. The only thing we could put together was he was approximately six feet tall and, by the way he was handling the kid, fairly well built." Simon sat forward in his chair. "Y'know, Jim, molesters tend to hit until caught, and I want this one caught ASAP!"

Jim nodded solemnly and clenched his jaw. Molesters were the dredges of even criminal activities.

Simon looked past Jim. "I believe our dignitaries are here."

As Jim and Simon walked out of the captain's office to greet the visiting politicians, Jim's cop senses unconsciously sized up both men. The one running for mayor was a distinguished, middle-aged man of average height and weight, but he had a warm smile and eyes that, when contact was made, held that contact. The second man Jim scrutinized was the campaign manager.

He was a good-looking man, in a pale sort of way, about Jim's height and physique. He had an ingratiating smile which Jim noticed didn't reach his cold, calculating eyes. ĎPolitics sure make strange bedfellows.' Jim noted, then shook himself as he realized he was being introduced to them by Simon.

"Jim, this is mayoral candidate, Evan Henslowe and his campaign manager, Gregg Stanis." Simon was saying. "This is Jim Ellison, one of my best detectives."

Jim reached out to shake hands.

"And this is his partner, Blair Sandburg."

Blair had come from behind the desk, where he was still fighting to keep his eyes opened, and shook hands with Mr. Henslowe. But when he went to shake hands with Mr. Stanis, his eyes traveled up to the face of the campaign manager and froze. Blair's whole body froze. He knew this person, but from where....when... He only felt, knew somehow, that it hadn't been pleasant.

Jim watched as every bit of color drained from Blair's face and he could hear his friend's heartbeat speed up. Ok, what's this?' thought the detective as he stepped between Blair and Gregg, effectively disconnecting the handshake.

"Mr....Sandburg, is it?" questioned the campaign manager. "Have we met before?"

Blair couldn't answer, couldn't think. ĎWhy can't I think? Come on, brain, function. Something function.'

Jim took his partner by the arm and steered him around. "Come on, Chief. We have places we need to get to. Nice meeting you gentlemen." With that, he propelled Blair out of the door, down the hall, and into the truck, where there was finally the privacy the detective needed. "Ok, Chief, what is it with that guy? You look like you've seen a ghost."

"Jim, I know him." Blair looked at the older man, his eyes wide. "I *know* I know him, but I don't know how or why. I can't place him." The smaller man looked down at his lap. "What's the matter with me, Jim? I'm scared of him." Blair looked back up at Jim with those haunted blue eyes, looking for answers.

The Sentinel looked back at his young friend and gave his shoulder a squeeze. "I don't know, but we'll find out," he said. "I promise."

Blair took a deep breath. ĎRelax, Sandburg. Jim promised and that's good enough for me.'

AAAAAAA

Back in the Major Crimes bullpen, Simon had also noticed the young police observer's reaction and wasn't quite sure what to make of it. But he knew Jim would find out, and the captain would, of course, find out as well. At the moment, however, he had to concentrate on his campaigning visitors, making the usual small talk when he glanced over and noticed Blair's backpack. ĎBlair left his backpack behind and I bet all his books and notes for class are in it.' Simon thought. I'll call Jim and let him know it's here.' The captain shook his head. "Kids always running off without their schoolbooks, no matter how high the education degree."

Candidate Henslowe raised his eyebrows. "Schoolbooks?" he quizzed, curious.

Simon smiled. "Yes, Blair is Jim's partner, a civilian police consultant who is also a research assistant at Rainier University."

Stanis had been very quiet during this time, listening to all that was being said, while trying to place the kid's face. His thoughts were racing with the captain's comment of kids and schoolbooks. ĎKids....schoolbooks....place him younger....big blue eyes...curls..curls...My God! It's him! If he remembers, he can stop my fun! Got to get him first before he can tell on me...what did he say? Rainier University?' His mind churned. ĎAccident...that's the ticket...'

"Ready, Gregg?" the mayoral candidate called out, on the way to the door.

Gregg shook himself from his thoughts. "Yes...ummm...what?"

"...to go? We've other appointments, y'know," continued Paul Henslowe. Then he turned to Simon. "Thank you, Captain, for your time."

Simon watched them leave. Mr. Henslowe seemed to be a good man. The dark captain was pretty sure he didn't like the other one, though, then he shrugged. "Gotta go call Jim about the backpack."

AAAAAAA

Jim had already arrived with Blair at the University when he got the call from Simon on the cell phone. The captain told him about the backpack and Jim spared a quick glance to his young partner. "Okay, Simon, I'll get it." he said and hung up.

Blair was curious. "What's up, Jim?" he asked.

Jim looked at him, amused. "You left your backpack at the station. I'll drop you off here and go get it."

"Jim, that's a lot of trouble, man, it's okay." Blair tried to stifle a yawn and failed.

"It's ok, Chief. No trouble. I can check through some of my case files, then get back here. Will about an hour and a half be okay?"

ĎHere was Jim, going out of his way to get the absent-minded professor his books -- not wanting to inconvenience me.í thought Blair. ĎWhat a friend.í "Jim, a whole day would be okay. Just let me know when youíll be back and Iíll come out here and get it from you, so you donít have to waste time out here...." Blair looked directly at the detective. "Jim, thanks, man....for everything."

Jim looked at Blair, cleared his throat and gave him a playful push. "You better hurry or youíll be late and weíll work out that other problem this afternoon."

Blair hopped out of the truck and sprinted across the parking lot to the Anthropology building.

AAAAAAA

Jim had been at the office half an hour, sending out inquiries about Campaign manager Gregg Stannis to many different police departments. Where was he from and did he have a police record?

Satisfied that the initial inquiries were set in motion, there was just the waiting to be done. Then he saw Simon pass by. "Simon, Iíve sent out some inquiries about our friendly campaign manager." Standing up and grabbing his jacket, Jim said, "Iíll be back after Iíve dropped Sandburgís backpack off."

Simon nodded as Jim grabbed the backpack and left.

AAAAAAA

As Jimís truck pulled out, a black sedan pulled out and followed. Jim, unaware that he was being tailed, pulled out his cell phone and keyed in the anthropologistís phone number. "Hey, Chief. Iím on my way with your gear. You havenít lost or misplaced anything else, have you?" He said with a smile.

Blair giggled. "No, not yet. We potential absent-minded professors usually start out misplacing one thing at a time. Iím on my way down now to meet you in the parking area. Thanks again, Jim." Then he hung up.

The detective smiled and put up the cell phone. He then started thinking about Blairís dreams. He was so focused on the dreams that Jim never noticed the same black car that followed him from the police station.

AAAAAAA

In RainierUniversity parking lot A, Blair stood on the side of the curb watching as Jim pulled into the entrance of the lot. "Hey, Jim!" yelled the grad student, giving a quick wave, then started off at a quick pace.

He had just gotten halfway across when an alert student noticed a black car picking up speed. The student yelled out a warning to Blair. "Look out!!"

Jimís head shot up when he heard the shouted warning. At the same time, the squealing sound of tires made him spin the truck around and saw what was about to happen. ĎJump, Blair.í he cried silently.

The studentís warning came in just enough time for Blair to jump back, but not in enough time to avoid being clipped by the oncoming car. It sped away as he connected hard with the pavement.

Jimís truck squealed to a stop next to his prone partner. The detective didnít even remember getting out of the truck. He was just suddenly by Blair. Hands shaking, he gently rolled Blair over, his mind praying silently, ĎPlease be all right.í

Big blue eyes opened and looked up at the Sentinel. "Whooa, that was close."

Jim let out the breath he was unconsciously holding. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I think so." Blair said as he sat up, looking at his skinned palms. As his partner reached for his hands, Blair let out a hiss. "Ow! My wrist hurts some, but itíll be okay." He looked up at Jim. "Lemme up."

Jim frowned, but reluctantly helped his friend stand. As soon as the young man was vertical, however, Blairís knee gave out.

Blair grimaced as his knee refused to accept any weight. He put most of his weight on his left leg, trying not to upset Jim. "The knee hurts a little, but I think itís just twisted...ow...ow...when we get home..."

"Hospital." Jimís voice cut across Blairís as he half-carried his Guide back to the truck.

Blair rolled his eyes. "Aww, Jim, Iím okay...ow...ow...ow..."

"íOw owí is not okay, Chief. Hospital, period." Jim was firm.

Blair closed his mouth and held onto his owís and waited for the inevitable. Jim had spoken.

AAAAAAA

As Blair was being checked out in the ER, Simon rushed in to find Jim in the waiting room. "What this? Blair was hit by a car?" The captain shook his head. "Kidís having a really bad day."

"Yeah, and it gets worse." Jim said. "I think it was done deliberately."

"Why?"

"Iím not sure..." Jim said, pondering the puzzle. "But I have a feeling the dreams, the strange interaction and this accident are all tied together. I just donít know how yet."

They were interrupted as Blair came hobbling out with the doctor into the waiting room.

The doctor briefed Jim and Simon. "He should be fine if he leaves that brace on his knee for at least two weeks and the ace bandage on his wrist for a week. There were no internal injuries. He was real luck." He turned to Blair. "Just donít play football or climb mountains for a month."

"Iíll make sure he follows directions," Jim said, with that Ďyou will follow directionsí look.

The doctor handed Jim a prescription bottle. "Hereís some painkillers to help him sleep. If anything gets worse, come back."

Jim took the bottle. "Thanks, Doc." Turning to his partner, he said, "Now, Chief, itís home and to bed." To Simon, he said, "Simon, Iíll call you first thing in the morning to see if anything came out of those inquiries I sent out."

"Sure, Jim. Iíll walk out with you and Hopalong here." The dark captain was rewarded with that rolling of the eyes and quick grin look that only Blair could give and Simon returned the grin.

AAAAAAA

Back at the loft, Jim and Blair ate a light meal. Then Blair took the painkiller Jim gave him and went to bed.

Jim situated himself on the couch to watch a movie. He couldnít have dozed off more than thirty minutes when he was awakened by the now familiar, panicked cry of his partner. Racing in, he listened again at Blairís yelling for help for him and someone else. The frantic beating of his hands, the tightly squeezed eyes now a familiar sight. Jim firmly, but gently, held the flailing hands.

This was tearing Jim up; he couldnít help, he couldnít protect Blair from this. What could he do? He had to try something. Slowly, he pulled up Blair and comforted him like a child. To Jimís amazement, Blair grabbed him and cried like a child.

"I couldnít help him, Uncle Ty," Blair cried. "I couldnít help him. Please donít let him come back and get me too..." After a moment more, Blair sighed and drifted back to sleep.

Jim eased Blair back into the bed and covered him with the mussed blanket. He looked around the room and found Blairís address book. Making sure his friend was sleeping peacefully, the detective quietly left the room, leaving the door slightly ajar. This was something he could act upon. Now he had a name. Flipping through the small book, he found the name that could possibly help him. Uncle Ty. Jim then picked up the phone and dialled the long distance number.

"Hello?" A manís voice crackled on the other end of the line.

"Hello...Iím Detective Jim Ellison, a friend of Blair Sandburg...would you be Uncle Ty?"

"Yes," replied Blairís uncle. "Is Blair okay?"

"Yes and no." Jim said and quickly outlined Blairís problem. Did Uncle Ty have any knowledge about what might be causing these nightmares? Jim fervently hoped so.

Uncle Ty paused slightly. "Oh my God...I wondered when that memory would finally surface. We tried real hard, detective, to get him to deal with it, but he buried it way too deep. I blame myself. I shouldíve been more alert, but we werenít as aware back then of the terrible things that seemingly good people could do. This may take a while..."

"Go on." Jim said.

Blairís uncle took a deep breath and released it. "One summer, when Blair was eight, Naomi brought him for a visit. He was the cutest little boy, so outgoing and full of energy. One afternoon, he and another boy he had become friends with were out playing with the teenage friend of a neighborís son. He was a nice looking young man, into sports, the kind young boys would really look up to. After about an hour or two, I got to missing them. The other boyís dad and I looked around. We called out their names. The neighbor didnít have any idea where the teen would have gone with the boys. There was an abandoned home down at the end of the street we hadnít checked and we decided weíd try there. We were really getting scared about this time, detective. When we went up to the door and banged and yelled out the boysí names, we heard what sounded like a back door slamming shut. Frightened at what might be happening, we kicked the door in and rushed from room to room looking for them. Then I heard a sound coming from one of the bedrooms. Someone was banging on a closet door. Then I heard a voice calling out. It was Blair. I pulled the door open and there was a hysterical Blair. I just held him while he cried. Then I heard my friend cry out; he had found his son. I donít think I need to go into detail here, detective. I think you can imagine."

Jim remained silent.

Uncle Ty continued. "The other boy was in a catatonic state for two years and therapy. He never really recovered. The teen wasnít seen again. But then, there was only two witnesses and neither one was in any conditions to testify. Detective, if we had found him, I wouldíve killed him with my bare hands. I honestly believe Blair would have been next if we had been just a little later."

Jim didnít know when he had caught his breath -- when he had grasped the phone so tight his knuckles turned white or when he started clenching and unclenching his fist. The pieces to his puzzle were falling into place and he had a feeling the remaining pieces would be found in the replies to the inquiries that should be on his desk in the morning. This was going to be very personal. Just one more bit of info, if he was lucky. "Uncle Ty, I know itís been a while, but could you remember anything about this guy? What he looked like, anything?"

"Yeah," replied Blairís uncle. "Itís one of those things thatís been branded in. He was blondish, nice, clean cut looking, athletic build....letís see, what did they call him....I swore I would never forget...just in case I ever came across him again...ummm....Gregg...yeah, thatís it...Gregg." His voice sounded very confident with that information. "I hope Iíve been able to help."

Jim took a swift intake of breath at the description and name. "Thank you, sir. Youíve been more help than you can ever know." Even as Jim was hanging up, his mind was racing. To keep Blair safe, Jim would have to get Mr. Gregg Stannis, whom Jim was sure was trying to get rid of loose ends. And the Sentinel was extremely determined to keep his Guide safe.

AAAAAAA

The next morning, Jim and Blair had a quick breakfast. Then Jim made sure Blair knew he was to stay in and rest his leg. "If you need something, call or wait Ďtil I get home."

"Yes, Jim," acknowledged Blair as he hobbled to the couch.

"Keep off your leg as much as possible," Jim continued.

"Yes, Jim." Blair settled into the couch, looking up as Jim with raised eyebrows.

"...and catch up on your sleep."

"Yes, Jim."

"Any questions?" Jim asked and gave the young man his most commanding stare.

"No, Jim." Blair looked up at the Sentinel and smiled.

"Iíll see you later," Jim said and prepared to go out the door.

"Yes, Jim," Blair replied, with a fond smile and wave of his hand towards his best friend, partner and protector. As soon as Jim left, Blair sat back against the cushions and flipped on the television. "Aaah, now, letís see...local news channel."

AAAAAAA

At the police station, Jim headed straight to his desk to see if he had received any answers to his queries. Yes, there was a stack on his desk, waiting for him. As he picked up the first reply, Simon came over.

"Jim, a boy has been reported missing. Iíve got a feeling we need to find him quickly. It was in the same area as the boy that got away."

Jim picked up another folder and flipped through it. "Simon, is this area where the boys disappeared close to Evan Hensloweís headquarters?"

Simon looked at Jim. Then he nodded slowly. "Yeah....now that you mention it..." the captain said. "What have you got?"

"The replies I got to those inquiries I sent out. I had a hunch about Gregg Stannis and followed through on it. If anyone did a background check on Mr. Stannis before he became the campaign manager, they did a sloppy job." Jim waved a hand over the stacks of answers on his desk. "Folder after folder on Mr. Stannis. He traveled a lot. He inherited money, had political asperations, but was kicked out of college for indecent behavior, was brought up as a suspect in child molestation cases several times in difficult areas but released because of lack of witnesses capable of testifying. One department even enclosed a note from the investigating officer." Jim handed the note to Simon.

Simon took the offered note and read it, and felt the helplessness of the detective who had to release a suspect whom he knew to be guilty because... "The only witness was emotionally unable to testify and his parents couldnít bring themselves to subject the child to that kind of pressure." The officer in his note extended his hope that maybe they could get the evidence needed to finally put this criminal away.

Simon looked up at Jim. "I think we need to go talk to Mr. Henslowe and find his manager."

Jim nodded and they grabbed their coats and left.

AAAAAAA

Blair was watching the news when the camera panned to Gregg Stannis, who was representing the mayoral candidate. Blair sat up and stared. ĎWhat was it?í he thought. ĎSomething, so close I can almost touch it. Iíve got to get to their headquarters to see him.í he decided. ĎJim will understand. Well, actually, maybe I can get back before he finds out Iíve even gone.í Hobbling as fast as he can, pausing only to grab his coat and check his wallet for cab fare. When he found he had enough money, he left.

AAAAAAA

The cab pulled up in front of the campaign headquarters. Blair looked out of the window in a moment of indecision. ĎMaybe this wasnít such a good idea.í he thought. ĎOh, well, since Iím already here...í Paying the cab driver and getting out, Blair noticed a lot of workers hadnít arrived yet. ĎMaybe itís a little early.í There were a couple of cars parked in the area, one of which, Blair noticed, was a black sedan. There was something about it... Curiosity reared its head and Blair couldnít resist getting a little closer to the car. Placing his hand on the right fender, Blair nearly jumped out of his skin when an unexpected voice behind him spoke.

"Like my car?"

Blair looked around and found himself face to face with Gregg Stannis.

"Little boy, your curls got a little darker."

Blairís eyes grew wide as the memory flooded back to him.

Gregg chuckled and he decked Blair in the chin, sending the anthropologist into unconsciousness. Then he quickly gathered up the unconscious man and bundled him into the front seat. Then the campaign manager hopped into the driverís seat and drove off down the street.

AAAAAAA

Jim pulled up in front of the campaign headquarters and got out of the truck as Simon pulled up behind him. As they head in, Jim paused, taking a deep breath and looking around.

Simon turned around to look at him. "Jim?"

"I swear I could smell Blairís shampoo..." he said. ĎCanít be...í he thought, then turned to follow the captain into the building.

Mr. Henslowe came out of the side office and greeted them.

Simon quickly briefed the mayoral candidate of their suspicions.

"No, I had no idea about Greggís past," said the mayoral candidate, shocked. "He had come with great references. I know that Gregg came from a good family, attended a good college, looked nice, contributed handsomely...Are you sure?" At their nod, Henslowe slowly shook his head, then thought of something and looked at the two men. "If he were that much under suspicion, Detective Ellison, why would your friend be in the car with him?"

Jim and Simon exchanged surprised looks. "What are you talking about, Mr. Henslowe?" Simon asked as Jim pulled out his cell phone and dialled the loft.

There was no answer at the loft. Jim, concerned, hung up and looked at the mayoral candidate.

"I went over to the window and saw Gregg drive off with your friend sitting beside him," Evan explained.

"Which way did he go and how long ago did they leave?" Jim asked as he and Simon followed Henslowe out of the building.

Evan pointed down the street. "He left about ten minutes ago."

Jim and Simon hopped into the captainís car and sped off in the direction that Henslowe had indicated.

As the captain drove, Jim opened up his senses, looking for any clues that would lead him to his Guide. His mind was churning over where Stannis may have gone with Blair. ĎSomewhere deserted, and close to his stalking area...í He looked around. "Wait, Simon! Stop!" he exclaimed, then pointed out the window. "Down that alley! Thereís a black car by a deserted office building! Hurry!"

AAAAAAA

Stannis carried Blair inside the deserted building and propped him against a wall. "Well, well, Curly Locks. Looks like I get to tie up loose ends after all."

Blair shook his head to clear his vision and checked his jaw. ĎYep, still there.í He watched the man who had haunted his subconscious for so long. It had been probably jostled loose by that seminar. ĎJimís gonna really be pissed when he finds Iím not at home.í Blair thought, then chuckled to himself. ĎWhat strange things flit through your mind when you get yourself in these positions.í Blair became aware then of a banging sound on the other side of a locked door, accompanied by muffled cries and the memories came flooding back to him. ĎMy God, heís got someone in there!í

Greg looked down and saw the realization in the young manís eyes. "Yeah, Curly Locks, I canít be stopped. Iím too smart -- pick on those who can be intimidated, confused, manipulated, terrified, then no reliable witnesses. Itís so easy."

Blairís mind started thinking fast. ĎIíve got to do something to help this kid. Iím on this side of the door now. But do what?í He thought for a few moments. ĎWhat would Jim do?í The idea dawned on him then. ĎTry to keep him talking then fight, make noise, anything Ďtil Jim gets here. I just need to give Jim some time.í

Blair shifted and felt a piece of pipe pressing into his back. He slowly reached back and took it in his good hand. "You creep! Someone shouldíve stopped you a long time ago." Blair seethed, pushing himself up until he was standing, putting his weight on his good leg.

"You gonna do something, Curly Locks?" Stannis sneered. "Protect the weak? You gonna come at me? Ha!" The campaign manager faced Blair and drew back his fist. "Still,...might be fun to start with you." With that, he swung at the anthropologist with his fist, but Blair ducked under it and hit Gregg low with the piece of pipe. Gregg gasped in mixture of surprise and pain.

Blair hobbled far enough to toss the pipe through a window and yelled out for anyone to hear.

Gregg recovered and grabbed Blair and spun him around. The move caused Blair to unconsciously shift his weight to his bad knee and pain shot up through his body, throwing his balance off. As he started to fall, Gregg grabbed the smaller man by the throat and pulled him back up, all the while tightening his grip on Blairís throat.

Blair tried to push Greggís hands away, but his strength was fading along with his ability to breath and a pink haze began to form in his vision. The sounds around him started to become muffled. As darkness encroached, the hands around his throat were released abruptly, accompanied by a yell. That was all Blair remembered as he sank to the floor, unconscious.

AAAAAAA

As Jim and Simon approached the car, the Sentinel paused to listen to the sounds around him and caught the sound of voices coming from the deserted building. Blairís voice. His guide in trouble. Jim was in action in an instant. Just as Simon and Jim got to the door of the building, an object flew through a window, shattered glass falling everywhere, followed by a yell. Without hesitation Jim and Simon, as one, hit the door.

Jim focused on the man standing there with his hands around Blairís throat. The Sentinel raged with only one thought on his mind -- remove the man from Blair as quick and efficiently as possible.

Gregg felt powerful fists slam into his sides and his hands released his prey as he was spun around. An elbow to his diaphragm removed more of his air. The relentless machine-like man grabbed him by the arm and flipped him through the air. Gregg heard his arm pop as his body slammed into the far wall and he slid down to the floor, unconscious.

Jim quickly pulled out his handcuffs and secured the unconscious campaign manager to a steel pipe running along the wall. His ice cold eyes then warmed as he turned to see Simon beside Blair, coaching air back into the young man.

Blair soon began to cough and gulp in air as his hands reached up shakily to massage his sore, bruised throat.

"Blair! Blair! Come on, Chief." Jim sat beside him while Simon continued to massage Blairís chest and throat.

Blairís eyes blinked, then opened, searching for that familiar voice of his Blessed Protector. "Jim....S-..Simon..." Blairís voice was a hoarse whisper. He was rewarded with a broad smile from the detective.

"Itís okay, Chief. Donít talk now." Jim soothed, his body feeling the relief that Blair was all right.

"No..." Blair said weakly, shaking his head. "The closet...the....closet...please..."

Jim leapt up and ran towards the old coat closet. Opening the door, he saw one small boy, tied up and gagged with duct tape. The boy was trembling, almost too terrified by all the sounds to breath, much less make any more noise.

Jim squatted down before him and in his calmest, gentlest voice, identified himself. "Itís okay, Iím a police officer." He reached over and untied the frightened child. "Itís okay...itís all over...youíre safe now..." Jim soothed, holding the childís hands and giving the boy his strength.

Blair smiled and closed his eyes, thankful that it was over. This time he was able to help; this time he was on the other side of the door. And this time someone helped. He knew the dreams would be gone now. ĎThanks, Jim.í

AAAAAAA

Back in the emergency room, while waiting for Blair, Jim thought about how lucky everyone had been -- Blair was safe, the boy had checked out okay and the boyís parents had just left with their son. Gregg would be held over for trial with plenty of witnesses this time.

Simon walked over and placed his hand on Jimís shoulder. "That was close, Jim. You and Sandburg did a good job. You saved that boy and countless others by getting that slime off the streets. Tell Blair I said so."

"Thanks, Simon." a hoarse voice replied. They looked up to see Blair and the doctor approaching them. Blair was on crutches and his knee was in a brace.

"Now, Mr. Sandburg, youíll be using the crutches with the leg brace for two - three weeks at least. Please try to stay off that leg this time."

Jim walked up and stood next to his partner. "You are listening, right, Chief??"

Curls bounced as Blair nodded and the corners of his mouth tightened into a grin that said Ďof course I amí.

The doctor continued. "Your throat may bother you for a couple of days, but there was no serious damage. Youíll probably find warm liquids and soft food best for a while. If anything gets worse, call me."

"Thanks, Doc," said Jim, setting all the instructions in his steel trap memory. "This time he follows instructions to the ĎTí. Right, Chief?"

Blair nodded as Jim fell in beside him as they left the hospital ER.

"If you need something, Iíll get it," Jim started instructing him.

"Yes, Jim."

"Keep off that leg."

"Yes, Jim."

"Stay where I tell you."

"Yes, Jim."

"And...." Jim paused and placed a hand on his friendís shoulder. "Good work, Blair." With that, Jim smiled and put his arm around the young man, and gave him a brotherly hug.

Blair looked up at the older man with a smile that lit up his entire face. "Thanks, Jim."

 

The End

 

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