Corners of His Mind
I laugh out loud as my partner gives me his sterling advice. Turn myself in. If I didn't know better, I'd swear Brad was developing a sense of humour, but he's not laughing. He's got that 'save the world' look in his eyes again - that idealistic streak that led him to becoming a cop is now leading him to try and 'save' me from myself. I told him that streak would get him killed one day.
"If you turn state's evidence you can help stop these guys!"
His hand's on my arm, his eyes fixed on mine. Smiling, I shake my head.
"They'd never let me live. And if they did, what would I have to look forward to? A short stretch in prison - you know how long bent cops survive in there - or spending the rest of my life looking over my shoulder hiding in a witness programme. I don't think so."
His hand falls away from my arm and I can tell he's disappointed in me.
"If you won't turn yourself in, I'll have to."
I nod. "I know that, Brad." With one swift movement there's a gun in my hand and pointing straight at his face. The penny's dropped. Now he knows why I insisted on meeting away from the station...now he knows why I said I'd talk it over with him, and only him. "You see, I like the money I get. Do you know how much money my dad had to leave after a lifetime of serving the public? It was just enough to bury him."
"You don't have to do this."
I ignore him, focussing instead on the power I can feel spreading through me. In all my time as a cop, and as a bent cop, I've never felt so strong, so powerful, so in control. "When I go, I'm leaving a lot of money behind - of course, that's assuming I won't have spent it all first." I laugh. For a second the look in his eyes hurts me - but that hero worship of his wouldn't have lasted anyway. It never does. "And I can't let you stop me, Brad."
His hands are raised in surrender, hoping that I'll put the gun down, but I can't. It's gone too far. I've never killed for personal reasons before. I mean, I've killed suspects in shoot outs, killed to save my partner, this partner, but I've never committed murder before. Only, I don't have a choice now.
"Don't do this. You do this and they'll never stop looking for you."
"Who's going to look for me? I'm going to be the bereaved cop who's just lost his partner. You won't believe the sympathy I'll get."
I can see the anger in his eyes and I relish it, letting it feed my feelings as I move around behind him, trailing the tip of my gun across his ear. One false move from him and he's gone - and he knows it.
"They'll identify the bullet. Ballistics will know it was your gun that shot me."
I can hear the panic in his voice and I sigh. I really did like Brad. He was a good partner, before he tried to stop me. Moving back around in front of him, I let him get a good look at my gun and I smile again as the hope fades from his eyes. The gun's not mine - I'm not stupid enough to shoot anyone with my police issue revolver. It's one I confiscated from a perp awhile ago - you never know when an anonymous gun will come in handy.
"Time's up, partner."
A groan forced its way out of him, and Blair Sandburg slowly opened his eyes then quickly shut them again as a white ceiling slid into view - slid being the operative word.
"How you doin', Chief?"
Sandburg groaned again hoping the voice would go away and let him retreat into the darkness.
"You were clipped by a car and hit your head on the kerb. You can consider yourself fortunate."
Opening his eyes again, and fervently hoping the ceiling stayed still, Blair tried to focus on the speaker.
"Yeah, I know that look on your face. But if that car had been going any faster you could have ended up with a lot worse than a bruised hip and a concussion."
Blinking to clear his vision, Blair stared up at the man by his side seeing a tall, military looking man with cropped brown hair and icy blue eyes. And a look of fond exasperation on his face.
"You still with me, Sandburg?"
The man's hand moved past his head and touched something near the top of the bed. Blair tried to follow the movement of the hand but lost it in a vision of sparkles. He frowned and shut his eyes again.
"Here comes the doc now."
One hand patted his arm and the man moved back to give the medic room to work.
A woman's voice sounded from the other side of the bed and Blair opened his eyes again, then opened them wider to gaze at the pretty doctor at his side.
Producing a penlight, the doctor checked out his vision. "I'm Doctor Graves. Can you tell me your name?"
"And your date of birth?" The woman listened, then nodded. "You're very lucky, Blair. If that car had hit you any harder, you might have spent more than just a few hours unconscious."
"Lucky me." The grin Blair directed at the woman was full of meaning, and he won a smile in response.
"We'll be keeping you in overnight for observation, but you'll be able to go home tomorrow. I'm just going to give you a painkiller for that headache." Turning, she injected something into the IV by his bedside, then smiled at the pair of them. "Ring the bell if you need anything. I'll be back to check on you later."
Once she was gone, the man moved back to his bedside. "You're slipping, Chief, you didn't get her phone number." He grinned then added, "I'm just gonna let Simon know you're okay, then I'll be back."
Blair's eyes followed the tall man as he made his way out of the room, but the frown on his face remained. Shaking his head slightly, then wincing at the twinge it caused, he turned his face towards the window and relaxed as the pain subsided. Whoever that was, he obviously thought it was important that he come back, although Blair couldn't think why. He'd have to remember to ask the guy later.
Jim didn't get to make his phone call. As he made his way to the phone on the wall further down the corridor, he was surprised to see Simon arrive in the elevator. "Simon? What are you doing here? I was about to phone you."
The police captain frowned as he followed Jim back up the corridor to Blair's room. "How's the kid?"
"He's fine. A minor concussion and a bruised hip."
"Yeah, he knows." Stopping, Jim touched Simon's arm. "So why are you here?"
Sighing, Simon stepped closer to Jim and kept his voice quiet. "About an hour ago we got a call from dispatch. Some kids found a dead body - a uniformed cop. He'd been shot."
"Who was it?" While he knew that it couldn't be one of his colleagues from Major Crime, Jim was also hoping that it wouldn't be a cop he knew. While death was a constant danger in their line of work, it didn't make losing a friend any easier.
"Brad Mendelssohn. He's only been out of the Academy a couple of years, but he was a good cop with good instincts."
Jim shook his head. He might have known Brad's face, but the name meant nothing to him. "I didn't know him."
"As I said, he's...he was only out of the Academy a couple of years. He was partnered with Tony Allerton."
"Yeah, I've seen Tony around the station." He knew exactly what was going through Tony's head right now - losing your partner was every cop's nightmare.
"Anyway, his body was found just around the corner from where Blair was knocked down."
"And you think he might have seen something?"
"Can you think of any other reason why Sandburg would go racing out straight into a laneful of traffic?"
Jim shook his head. "No." Focussing briefly on his partner, the Sentinel smiled. "He's still awake. Let's go ask him."
Blair turned his gaze away from the window and towards the door to see a tall dark man, presumably the Simon mentioned earlier, approaching the bedside, the other man just behind him. "Hey."
"So how are you feeling?" The dark man took off his coat and placed it over the back of the visitor's chair before settling down on the seat.
Blair watched as the other man perched himself on the windowsill then turned back to the guy in the chair. "I'm fine."
"You don't look fine."
Blair could see the frown on Simon's face as he looked at him. "Well, I am." He pulled himself up a bit straighter in bed. "Did you guys want something?" His hands gestured back and forth between them, the IV lead swishing gracefully with his movements.
The two men looked at each other, puzzled looks on their faces.
"Sandburg, are you sure you're all right?" Standing, Simon leaned over the bed slightly to gaze into Blair's face.
Blair retreated into his pillows, not liking the way the stranger was invading his personal space. His eyes avoided the bigger man's gaze and slid down, coming to rest upon the shiny badge on his hip, and he gasped, panic taking over at the sight. Shoving the man and the bedclothes away, he rolled out of bed, swinging his feet to the floor hurriedly and stumbling to take refuge by the window, yanking the I.V. stand over as he went. "You're a cop! Oh my God, you're a cop!" His back was pressed against the window sill as he tried to get as far as possible from the man at the other side of his bed.
Simon caught the IV stand before it fell completely, while the other man grabbed for Blair, exclaiming, "Sandburg, what the hell's the matter with you?"
Panicking even more, Blair elbowed the man sharply, trying to make him back off. He didn't. The man fell back slightly, his hands reaching for Blair's arms, catching one but missing the other. Instead, Blair felt the man's free arm wrap itself around his waist and hug him tightly. He felt trapped. His shoulder was tucked into the taller man's chest and the arm around his waist was holding him firmly. The IV line flew free and Blair lashed out wildly. His fist slammed into the tall man's eye and he hoped, for a second, that the shock of it would allow him to break free from the hug holding him prisoner. Blair felt the man release his arm that was, in any case, trapped between their two bodies; instead the large hand snapped out, grabbed Blair's other wrist and held onto it. His mind still clouded with panic, Blair refused to accept that he'd lost, continuing to struggle wildly, trying to wrench himself and his arm, free.
"Sandburg, calm down! It's all right, it's all right! Simon's not going to hurt you."
The shouted reassurance finally got through to him, and the adrenalin rush that had fuelled his struggling faded, leaving Blair worn out and gasping for breath. He sagged in the taller man's arms, finally realising that he wasn't going to be able to break free from the man's strong hold.
He heard Simon say something about the doctor, and when he looked up the cop had gone. Blair sighed with relief as the tightness in his chest relaxed. He really didn't know why he'd panicked that much - it wasn't like he'd had a lot of trouble with the cops before. Okay, he'd been arrested during a demonstration or a protest a couple of times, but he'd never resisted arrest and once the protest was over, he'd been released without charge.
Not bothering to resist as the large man at his side settled him back on the bed, Blair slumped into his pillows. His heart was pounding as if he'd run a marathon, and, glancing up, he realised that he had an apology to make too. "I'm sorry about your eye, man. I - I don't know what got into me."
Jim frowned as he regarded his partner, who looked pretty embarrassed as he hunched himself up against the pillows. He suspected he was going to have a black eye in a few hours, but he didn't really care; he was more interested in figuring out what was going through Sandburg's head.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, he leaned forward, then straightened again as Blair leaned back into his pillows as if to maintain the distance between them. "So what happened? You've never had a problem with Simon before now."
Blair's eyes shot up at that point, and he stared at the large man with confusion written all over his face. "Before now? What do you mean 'before now'? I've never met him before!"
"What?" Jim shook his head slightly then continued, "Sandburg, you've met Simon plenty of times - at the loft, at the station... Are you telling me you don't remember any of that?" He stopped for a second, his eyes searching the face in front of him, then asked, "Do you remember me?"
Blair shook his head slightly, but stayed silent as the doctor came in alone. Jim sat back, feeling as though someone had punched a hole in his heart, but keeping his face calm, although he could feel his jaw working over time in the clenching department. Whatever had happened, it wasn't Blair's fault that he couldn't remember his friend... his Sentinel, and Jim wasn't about to try and lay the blame on him.
Raising her eyebrows at the state of the room, the doctor glanced at Jim's soon-to-be bruised eye then turned her attention to her patient.
"What happened?" Noticing that Blair's IV was swinging free with no patient to attach itself to, she added, "Hang on," before bustling out of the room. Coming back with a fresh needle, she readjusted the IV before hooking her patient up to it. "Okay. Now tell me what happened."
Jim sighed as Sandburg remained silent. Obviously he wasn't prepared to explain himself again. As the doctor glanced towards him, Jim inclined his head towards the corridor before getting up and leading her out to where Simon was waiting out of sight of the patient in the bed.
Icy blue eyes fixed her with a stare. "He doesn't remember Captain Banks or myself."
His voice was calm as he made a mere statement of fact but, after a few seconds, Simon's hand grasped his shoulder comfortingly.
She frowned. "And how long have you known Mr. Sandburg?"
"Just over a year."
She nodded, then left them to return to Blair's bedside.
Blair looked up as the doctor returned and watched warily as she pulled out her penlight.
Checking his eyes once more, she asked, her tone casual in the extreme, "Blair, can you tell me what year this is?"
Blair frowned and shifted uncomfortably in bed, suspecting that he was wrong about something but not sure what. "1996."
"And the exact date?"
"February 27th, 1996."
She smiled and put her penlight away. "Just relax. Your headache won't last for too long."
Watching her leave, Blair snuggled down under the blankets. His head didn't hurt at all, although he suspected that was due to the painkiller in the IV, but it felt fuzzy, and he definitely felt shaky. Hoping that he wouldn't have to face either of those two men again, at least, not for the foreseeable future, he leaned his head back against his pillows and tried to listen in on the conversation outside his room but he could only pick up the murmur of their voices; the words were indistinct.
"Well?" Jim looked down at the woman in front of him, hoping for an explanation even though he guessed that the doctor wouldn't have that many answers to give.
"As you heard, he believes that it's February 1996." The doctor shook her head. "Amnesia is quite common with head injuries, although the memory loss is more usually restricted to the accident in question, possibly the few hours beforehand. In spite of how things seem in the movies, it's not that common for people to lose more than a few hours of their memories."
"So why this year?" Jim's tone was demanding. "Why has his memory taken him back to when he didn't know me or Simon?"
"That, I don't know. Were either of you involved in Mr. Sandburg's accident?"
As Jim shook his head, Simon spoke up. "The kid ran out into traffic and was clipped by a car. We don't know for sure, but we suspect he may have witnessed a cop being killed before it happened."
"He did have an extreme reaction when he saw your police badge, Simon," Jim pointed out.
"That's got to be it, then." Simon shook his head and turned away. "Damn."
"If Mr. Sandburg did witness this killing, it could be that his mind is trying to forget what it saw and anything related to what he saw."
"But will he remember?" Jim's jaw was rigid as he waited for the answer. Given Sandburg's new aversion to cops, if he didn't remember their past friendship and exactly why he now hated the police, the detective suspected that that would put an end to their friendship - and he wasn't sure if the kid would be willing to work past the revulsion to recover it.
"Give him some time," the doctor advised. "Once his subconscious has had time to process what's happened, his memory should return. In any case, we'll keep him in overnight, checking him every couple of hours, and see how he's doing in the morning." Accepting the thanks the two men offered her, she added, "And if you'd like to follow me, Detective, I'll give you an ice pack for that eye."
"I'll wait here until you get back."
He was back within a few minutes, one small ice pack pressed to his face. Glancing into the room, he could see that Blair was curled up on his side, his face turned towards the window, his relaxed heartbeat and breathing telling Jim that he'd fallen asleep.
Simon looked over his shoulder, obviously being careful to keep out of sight if Blair looked around. "He'll have to have police protection, Jim. Whoever shot Brad could come back and try to finish the job."
Jim rubbed the back of his neck. Giving Sandburg police protection while the mere sight of a police badge sent him into a frenzy could prove difficult, but there was no other way. "You'd better make it someone in plain clothes, Simon. I have no idea how he'd react to a police uniform."
Simon rolled his eyes at the thought, then grinned as he looked at Jim's eye. "I agree. I'll warn them to keep their badges out of his sight too. We don't want half the station sporting black eyes."
"Good idea." Fetching Simon's coat for him, Jim handed it over then returned to Sandburg's bedside. Discarding the ice pack, he slid off his own jacket and draped it over the back of the chair, then glanced down and felt grateful that he hadn't taken off his jacket beforehand. If the sight of one police badge was enough to send Blair into a panic, the sight of two would have put him into the stratosphere. Unclipping his badge, Jim stowed it away in his pocket out of sight, before settling down by the bedside to wait out the next two hours.
Damn. Damn, damn, damn. I recognised Sandburg from the start, although I'm pretty sure he doesn't know my face - us uniformed cops all look alike. Well, Brad, you might win after all. I bet you had no idea that Sandburg was going to turn that corner just in time to see me blow your head off. I certainly had no idea or I would've chosen somewhere else for our sweet goodbyes.
Jesus! If it's not bad enough that someone witnessed it, it had to be a guy who's working in Major Crime and is partnering Ellison. I know Ellison from years back. No buddy, buddy stuff - I'm a uniformed cop while he's a high and mighty detective. But I've worked here long enough to know his face and he knows mine...and the whole station knows of his protective streak where that civilian observer is concerned.
Joel Taggart, or rather, Captain Taggart, thought he was making me feel better when he dropped that little bombshell on my desk. I must have gone pale when he told me that they suspected Sandburg witnessed Brad's death because Taggart asked me if I was all right. Oh sure, Captain, I'm just fine. My first murder was witnessed by someone who works in Major Crime. How much better could I be?
Why couldn't Sandburg get himself killed by that car and save me the trouble of tracking him down and putting him out of the picture? Well, one saving grace, for now anyway, is that he has no idea what he saw. I can't take the chance he'll remember, either. Good thing I kept the gun.
Sorry, Ellison. Looks like you'll be in need of a new partner.
Simon Banks stared down at the grief-stricken policeman in front of him. He understood Tony Allerton's motives for wanting to be one of Blair's guards, but there was no way he could acquiesce to his request. "No."
"I said, no. Tony, you're too involved in this case. Jim's not going to let anything happen to Sandburg and as soon as he gets his memory back we'll know who killed Brad. In any case, the kid's going to a safe house in the morning - he'll be safe there and we have the whole station volunteering to watch his back. Everyone liked Brad and we all want his killer to be caught." His voice softened as he laid one hand on Tony's shoulder. "Go home. Get some rest. I'm going back to the hospital now, and we'll let you know if anything happens."
"Okay. Thank you, Captain." Glancing back at the determined police captain behind him, Tony shut the door carefully and left.
"C'mon, Chief, wake up. You've got a concussion, remember?"
Jim looked down at his partner as Blair woke and blinked a few times before looking around. The look of relief on his face told Jim that Blair was glad Simon had gone. He couldn't blame the kid for that, he was probably still feeling embarrassed about his extreme reaction.
Blair pushed himself up in bed. "So...you get to wake me up then, huh?"
"Yeah, it's always the way with a concussion."
Blair avoided his gaze as he looked around the room, and Jim guessed he was wishing for a TV or a radio to break the silence, and save him from any conversation. Sorry, kid. We gotta talk. "My name's Jim, by the way. Jim Ellison." Holding out his hand to shake Blair's, he wondered if the kid would respond. Fortunately, Blair's manners won out over his obvious reluctance.
"Blair Sandburg." Releasing Jim's hand as quickly as he could, Blair leaned back into his pillows.
"Yeah, I know. We've met before."
"Oh?" Confusion crossed his face. "I uh...don't remember."
"No, I know." Getting up, Jim moved back to the window and leaned on the sill, his gaze fixed on Blair's face. Noticing how uncomfortable it made the younger man, he turned his head and looked out of the window.
"So, how do you know me?"
"We work together." Jim's voice was steady, and he felt quite proud of that considering the shock Sandburg had given him earlier.
"We? Work together? You're at the university?" Blair sounded surprised.
"No." Jim shifted on the sill, then moved back to stand at the end of the bed. If Sandburg was going to panic again, his position would give him time to stop the kid whichever direction he made for. "We work together for the police force - I'm a police detective." He heard Blair's breath catching in his throat, and caught the panic that flashed into his eyes.
Blair gave a half-laugh that contained a note of hysteria. "Me? Work with the police? I-I can't see that happening, man. Plus, you know, I think I would have noticed if I'd been working with the p-police."
"You have amnesia." Jim watched Blair intently as he shifted uncomfortably under the stare.
"I don't think so, man! I know my name, I remember -"
"Do you remember when the doctor asked you today's date?"
There was silence for a few seconds, then Blair raised his eyes and stared back at Jim. "Yeah."
"You said it was February 27th, 1996."
"So?" The jaw was set at a defiant angle, as if daring Jim to contradict him.
"It's March 19th, 1997."
Blair snorted, his disbelief evident. "Why would I forget a whole year of my life? What's so important about this year?"
Jim ground his teeth slightly. He really hadn't wanted to get into that part of it tonight, but the kid was too stubborn to drop the subject - he knew that from past experience - however, he felt bound to try. "Why don't we discuss this tomorrow?"
"Why don't we discuss this tonight?" Blair retorted.
Jim grasped the rail at the end of the bed and leaned on it, gaining strength from the cold steel beneath his hands. "Maybe you're not up to it tonight?" Blair opened his mouth to argue, but Jim talked over him. "You might be back to normal tomorrow, in which case this would be a wasted conversation."
"Or I might not. In any case, I'm awake, so let's talk."
The Sentinel sighed, disliking the hostile look in Blair's eyes. Jim was tempted to tell Blair the truth about himself and their relationship, but he wasn't sure how Blair would react to the necessary secrecy involved. Painfully, he had to admit that he wouldn't trust this antagonistic, distrustful Blair to keep his secret. And since the kid was so insistent on finding out the truth now, he guessed he might as well face the storm and tell him what they suspected.
Straightening up, he altered his position so that he was ready to move quickly if he had to. "When Simon was here earlier, he came to tell us that a policeman had been shot and killed near to where you were hit by that car." Even if the Sentinel's hearing hadn't caught the sudden spike in Blair's heart rate, the terror that filled his face would have been obvious to any observer.
"Th-that doesn't mean I s-saw -"
"Then there's the fact that every time you see or hear something related to the police, you panic." That panic was back on Blair's face and Jim readied himself. He wasn't going to let the kid run with a possible killer out there after him.
Blair gulped, and Jim heard the shuddering inhalations catching at his lungs. "Th-that doesn't...." Again, he tried to deny it, but his voice trailed off.
The eyes met his, the darker blue eyes filled with a desolation that tore at Jim's heart.
"This is probably temporary. Once your subconscious mind has processed what you saw, your conscious mind will remember."
Blair took another harsh breath. "Psychologist too, huh?"
"Not me. You." Jim gave a quirky smile. "You talk a lot. Some of it had to sink in."
There was another half-laugh at that. Jim's eyes followed Blair's gaze down to his fists, the blanket beneath them twisted up into knots. He saw Blair's attempt to calm himself as the hands purposefully smoothed the blanket, but they clenched up again as Simon appeared in the doorway.
"Sandburg." Simon nodded calmly to the police observer. "Jim, can I have a word?"
"Sure, Simon. Chief, I'll be right back."
Blair gave a nod as the two of them disappeared out of sight, then sighed and relaxed into his pillows. If people felt at a disadvantage when someone they didn't know knew their name, he wondered how much more of a disadvantage they'd feel if someone they didn't know had a whole year of a relationship on them. Probing at the memories, Blair realised that he had no idea if there was a missing gap. It didn't feel like there was - so far as he was concerned, it felt like February 27th, 1996. He knew it was a Tuesday. He'd had a class in the morning and had been on his way to a class he was giving in the afternoon, although he couldn't remember getting there. For a few minutes confusion overwhelmed him, and he decided that he must have been on his way to that class when he was hit by the car. Sitting up straight in shock he realised that he was missing his date with Juliet, the gorgeous blonde he'd run into at the health food store. He hoped she wouldn't think that he was standing her up and wondered if she'd hear that he'd been hit by a car, or if she'd assume that he'd changed his mind. Maybe he could use a payphone in the hospital and call her to let her kn-
With a jolt, as though he'd missed a step in the dark, he remembered what the guy had said. It was 1997, not 1996.
He sank back into his pillows and wondered how his date had turned out. Had he seen Juliet again? Glancing down he checked his wedding ring finger. No ring. Well, he didn't think he'd forget being married - actually, he wasn't sure he ever would marry. Commitment really wasn't his style. With a half-smile, he guessed he had his mom to thank for that.
Naomi! Where was she? Did he know? Was he supposed to know? He usually knew vaguely which area or country she was in - it was disconcerting to realise that everything he knew was a year out of date. And as for that whole other matter, he wasn't even going to think about that. The feelings that surged up in him every time his mind wandered in that direction weren't pleasant and he was hoping to leave them in the darkest corner of his mind for as long as possible. He decided that letting them build up a good layer of dust would be beneficial.
Looking around for something to distract him, he realised that there was something else he didn't know. His backpack. He was sure he would have had that with him - he rarely left it behind anywhere. So where was it now? Glancing back at the door, he realised that that...Jim would probably know, but he wasn't sure he wanted to ask him. The guy knew too much about him already, and until he started remembering some stuff, he didn't want him knowing more, or knowing how alone Blair felt.
Raising his chin, Blair squared his shoulders. No matter how hard life got, he could face it. And he could face it alone. In spite of his wide circle of friends and acquaintances, he'd always faced the hard stuff alone. That was just how he was. And he'd be fine.
"So how are you feeling?"
A woman's voice intruded on his thoughts and Blair looked up in surprise to see Doctor Graves at his bedside. He'd been that deep in thought he hadn't noticed her come in. Shaking off his despair, he gave her his brightest, most charming smile. "I'm fine. And how are you?"
"Hmm." The look she gave him showed that she wasn't fooled, but she still smiled in response. "I'm fine too, thank you, so why don't I check you over while I'm here? How's your head?"
"It's fine too."
Blair smiled widely and lied through his teeth. "None at all."
"That's good...and surprising." The tone in her voice showed that she wasn't fooled, but she let the lie slide. "I'm going to leave the IV in for tonight, but you'll be able to go home tomorrow. I'll give you a prescription for some painkillers for your non-existent headache. If you do get a headache, don't be a hero. Just take a painkiller."
"Riiight. Try and get some more sleep now. Someone will wake you up in two hours' time to check on you. If your headache returns, ring the bell. There's no point in suffering."
"I'll remember that."
She smiled and turned away, then turned back at his whispered, "Doctor?"
"What is it, Blair?"
"What's today's date?" Blair tried his best to make the question sound casual, but he knew he'd failed.
Her answer was quiet, but it sent his heart plummeting. "March 19th, 1997. I'm sorry, Blair."
"Hey, just checking."
"You know, your memory should return. Just give it a little time."
"Sure." Blair kept his smile on his face until she'd gone, then the smile disappeared and the desolation in his heart took control. It was real. That guy had told the truth. He was missing a whole year of his life.
Snuggling hurriedly under the blankets, he shut his eyes. Maybe he could get to sleep before...Jim returned. If not, maybe he could just convince him that he was asleep so he wouldn't have to face any more revelations for now. With any luck, Jim would go, and he'd have checked out of the hospital before the guy came by in the morning. He wanted to figure a few things out before he started trying to act friendly with the guy.
"So how is he, Doc?"
The doctor looked up at the pair of men who both towered over her, then glanced over at the dark, bulky man who was quietly sitting in a chair by Blair's door. "He's fine, well, he says he's fine. I've advised him to get some sleep. Sleep can do far more for him right now than anything I can give him, although he still needs to be woken up in two hours' time. I'll give him a prescription for painkillers tomorrow; he can go home then."
Jim nodded and let her go. Even while he was talking to Simon, he'd been aware of Blair's heartbeat. It had slowed almost to normal after he and Simon had left, then spiked again. Shaking his head, he realised that Sandburg was probably trying to process everything he'd been faced with. And from the way his heartbeat had leapt when the doctor confirmed the date, Jim didn't think he was doing a particularly good job at the moment.
"Are you going to tell him about the safe house tonight?"
Jim shook his head and murmured, "He's falling asleep now. He might feel better in the morning."
Nodding, Simon continued, "Taggart will stay until the morning. He's wearing his badge, but he knows to keep it out of Sandburg's sight. Rafe will take over at 0600, and I'll be here with Brown to escort you and Blair to the safe house once the kid's been checked out."
"Thanks, Simon, Joel, I appreciate it."
As Joel shook his head and smiled, Simon replied, "Hey, don't thank me. I've got a station full of volunteers. Everyone likes the kid. Now if only I could get them to volunteer for when the Mayor's wife is holding one of her parties and insisting on full protection in case someone steals the cutlery...."
"Not gonna happen, Simon."
"Tell me about it. If I wasn't a kind, understanding police captain, I'd run them in for insubordination."
Blair's eyes flickered, then opened as he stared resentfully at the man by his bedside. Although Jim had still been there the night before, he had been absent when the doctor had done her first early rounds, and Blair had been relieved to find the large man gone. Relaxing, he'd drifted back into sleep for a couple of hours. However, when he next woke, he realised that the man was back again and he'd kept his eyes closed hoping Jim would think him to be asleep. No such luck, he guessed. "Hey."
"The doctor said she'd be by in about ten minutes, so you might want to be up and ready for when she says you can go."
"Okay." Pushing back the bedclothes, Blair was doubly glad that the I.V. had been removed from his hand earlier. Apart from it being rather restrictive as regards how far he could get, he hadn't been looking forward to trying to get dressed with the thing still connected to him. He took a step towards the bathroom then stopped and headed for the chair. "My backpack!"
"It was left down in ER. It wasn't until later last night that they realised it was yours."
"Oh. Okay." Picking up the pile of clothes on the chair, Blair paused. "Where did these come from?"
Jim shrugged. "I picked them up for you. You'd better get a move on."
"Okay." Deciding that he didn't want to ask why Jim had a key to the warehouse, Blair took his clothes and retreated into the bathroom to get washed and dressed in there. He'd just finished when the doctor arrived, so he hopped back up onto the bed while she checked him over.
"Remember what I said, Blair: if you have a headache, take a painkiller. And if you lose consciousness for any reason, come back to the hospital."
Blair batted his eyelashes at her, hoping she'd buy his assurances. "Sure thing. I'll pick up the pills before I leave."
"Already done, Sandburg." Jim's eyes met Blair's steadily. "I got the prescription filled out before you woke up."
"Oh. Okay. Thanks." Blair was a little stymied. He guessed he wasn't getting rid of this guy as easily as he'd hoped. Picking up his backpack and slinging it over his shoulder, he smiled at the pretty doctor. "Thanks, Doc. See ya around."
"I don't doubt that, Blair."
Blair waited until she'd gone then he held out his hand. "So, can I have my pills?"
Jim's hand rested on his shoulder and steered him towards the door. "I'll give them to you once we get to the safe house."
"Wh-what? What safe house?" Pulling his shoulder free from Jim's grasp, Blair stopped in the middle of the room. "What are you talking about?"
"You're a witness, Sandburg, remember? Whoever killed that...Brad, is bound to come back and try to silence you."
"But I don't know anything!"
"You don't know anything now. Once your memory returns, there's every chance you'll be able to identify the killer and he won't be able to take that risk."
Jim's eyes were intent on Blair's face and the student inwardly squirmed. He wished the guy would stop staring at him - and he really wished this guy would just back off and give him some time to get his head together. Taking a calming breath, Blair opened his mouth to argue further.
"We're not discussing this, Sandburg. You're hardly in a condition to be making decisions like this - and seeing as I have power of attorney, I can and will make those decisions for you."
"Power of attorney? How the hell did you get -"
"You gave it to me."
"You're wrong, man! I'd never -"
"Well, you did. You're going to the safe house, Sandburg, if I have to pick you up and carry you there. So don't bother arguing with me."
One heavy hand on Blair's shoulder steered him back towards the door, Blair allowing himself to be pushed along in a stunned silence. What the hell had led him to giving this guy, he refused to even think the word 'cop', power of attorney?
Jim presented a calm face to Rafe once they were outside in the corridor, but inwardly he was kicking himself. He'd hoped to try and gain Sandburg's trust sooner, rather than later, and he really doubted that coming down on the kid like a ton of bricks was the way to do it. And judging from the look in his eyes, any overtures of friendship were going to have to wait until Sandburg had calmed down a little. At least he'd managed to avoid mentioning the word 'cop'. He had no doubt that if he had slipped up, Sandburg's heart would be doing the Macarena yet again. The kid still wasn't ready to come back to 1997 and face whatever it was he saw.
Blair was dismayed to see Simon, and another guy, waiting for them by the elevators, and he guessed this was his escort to their un-needed and un-wanted safe house. Fuming silently, he allowed himself to be pushed into the elevator with them.
The four men formed a protective guard around Blair as they headed towards the main exit. Blair's eyes were darting every which way, but with Jim's hand on his back and three other men to contend with, he suspected he wouldn't get very far if he did try to make a break for it. Sighing, he guessed he'd have to go along with them for now and hope he could get away later. All he wanted to do was to find some quiet place where he could let his head catch up with whatever was going on - and being surrounded by these four wasn't where he wanted to be.
Blair's eyes opened wide as he saw what was waiting for them by the exit. For a second he stopped, frozen to the spot as he stared at the uniformed cop carrying a boom box, then Simon's hand on his shoulder spun him around and pushed him up the corridor away from the main entrance. Again, panic flooded his mind, but this time there was no IV to slow him down. With a shove to either side of him, Blair fled.
The side exit doors flew open as Blair barrelled his way through them; the only thought on his mind was escape. He crashed into a car parked illegally by the doors and bounced off, barely noticing the collision. Throwing himself over the hood, and losing his backpack in the process, he hurled himself into the road and tried to pick up his pace, but was thwarted by Jim.
Cursing as the shove from Sandburg sent both himself and Brown crashing into the walls, Jim recovered quickly and gave chase. He flew down the corridor as the kid practically threw himself through the doors and into the car. His outstretched hand almost had Sandburg as he thudded into the parked car; Jim had felt the cloth of the kid's jacket brush the tips of his fingers as he fled, but he wasn't close enough to make a grab. Swerving to avoid the car, he managed to catch up with Blair and yank him into a bear hug just as the kid's feet touched the ground.
Jim held on as he swung him back towards the car. Recognition was beyond the kid: the only thing Jim could see in his eyes and his face was sheer terror. Focussed on holding onto his partner, the sound of a safety catch being removed almost escaped him, but his instincts kicked in and he forced Blair down beside the car even as the windshield exploded from the bullet.
Looking up, he saw Henri race past them towards the speeding car, but then the cop was forced to dive into the nearest bush to avoid a swerving ambulance. Jim cursed. He hadn't had a chance to see who was in the car or even to catch sight of the licence plate. As Henri jogged back towards Blair's abandoned backpack, Jim pulled Blair to his feet.
"Is he okay?"
Jim nodded. Physically, Sandburg was fine. Mentally, well, there was a blank look on Sandburg's face that Jim didn't like one bit. Helping the kid stand up straight, Jim kept one hand holding onto Blair's arm firmly. If he tried to take off again, he'd be taking Jim's hand with him. "What about the car? Did you get the licence plate?"
Brown shook his head. "Didn't get a chance."
Heading back into the hospital, they met Simon coming out.
"Is he all right?"
The stunned look was fading from Blair's face, but the kid still looked shook up, and Jim wasn't surprised. "He's fine, or at least, he will be once we get him to safety."
Simon nodded. "Let's get him inside for now. Rafe's taking care of that...whoever that guy is."
Wrapping his arms around himself in an effort to stop shaking, Blair allowed Jim to direct him back into the side entrance with a heavy hand on his shoulder. Inwardly, he was furious with himself for over-reacting, yet again, to something so innocuous as the sight of a police officer, but he was also feeling incredibly resentful at being pushed around from pillar to post with no say in where he was going. Jim's hand was still on his shoulder, and while the contact warmed him, he didn't want the comfort being offered by a total stranger. He also had no idea how to respond to it. How well did this guy know him anyway? You could work with someone and not know them at all, but this guy was acting as if they were best friends...or family. And judging from the way Jim was interacting with the others, he wasn't that touchy-feely a kind of guy. Glancing up at the tall shadow hovering over him, Blair wondered exactly how close they were then dismissed it. He knew where his interests lay, and he couldn't see himself swapping teams for anyone, let alone a military type. Which left him with the question: why was this guy so...protective of him? Albeit in a very overbearing way that Blair felt he could well do without.
Damn and blast! How the hell did Ellison know I was about to shoot his precious partner? I had him in my sights - there was no way I could fail! And all I hit was a car window. Ellison, you're a pain in the ass.
I have to admit though, the look of panic on Sandburg's face was pretty damn funny - sending that strippagram cop in was one of my better ideas, I do believe. Who says I don't have a sense of humour? I guessed he'd have an extreme reaction to it judging by the way he reacted to Banks' badge. Pity Ellison had to catch up with him just as I was ready to shoot him.
I could get the address of the safe house from the police computer but that kind of information is password protected and accessing it would lead directly back to me. I've stayed alive and out of jail because I'm not stupid, and using the department computer system would be very stupid. It wouldn't be my first choice but I guess I'll have to follow one of our brilliant detectives and let them lead me to the safe house. It's more risky, of course, as it gives Sandburg more time to remember, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I've gained a lot from my liaison with Danny Morello and his pathetic thugs and I don't intend to lose it.
I could tell Morello and let him deal with it - I'm sure he'd be more than willing to protect his direct line into the police department - but that would show him that I made a mistake. And I don't make mistakes.
"Wait here." Leaving the other three behind, Simon stalked towards the exit of the hospital, his dark eyes scanning the reception area as he went. There was no sign of any uniformed cop, with or without a boom box, and there was no sign of Rafe either. Stepping outside, Simon looked around carefully. Rafe was there, pushing a handcuffed and very unhappy looking cop into the back of his car. Simon grinned. He was looking forward to interrogating that prisoner himself.
He waited until Rafe's car was out of sight then returned to the hospital corridor. Looking at Blair's face he could tell that the kid was uncomfortable with the level of protection being forced upon him, but as none of them wanted to lose him he was just going to have to put up with it. Hopefully his memory would return soon and then life could get back to normal...or as normal as life ever got with one over-protective Sentinel and his trouble-magnet of a Guide around.
For a second Simon mused on that thought. Was that why Blair had ended up being a Sentinel's Guide? Had the Fates decided that he'd need someone around who had the ability to pull him out of whatever trouble his natural curiosity would get him into? Realising that he was wondering about a variation on that age old question 'which came first, the chicken or the egg?', Simon shook the thought from him. He really wasn't comfortable dwelling on what these two were; he was just glad whatever they were worked so well. Or at least, had worked until the kid's memory disappeared.
That jagged little thought made his voice more brusque than normal. "He's gone. Let's get going." Keeping slightly ahead of the threesome, Simon made sure that he was in front of Sandburg the whole time. If someone wanted to take the kid out, they'd have to go through him to get to him. Even though he'd never admit it, not even under torture, Simon had a sneaking affection for the normally exuberant grad student who was right now walking dolefully behind him. He was conscious of an urge to wrap an arm around Blair's shoulders and tell him that everything would be all right, but he repressed it. The kid wasn't his kid, although he sometimes seemed not much older than Daryl, and right now, there was no way Sandburg would accept that kind of approach from him - not that Simon was into being demonstrative with long-haired students who pinched his coffee when they thought they could get away with it.
Settling himself into the back of the car, Blair sighed for what felt like the fifteenth time that day. Simon seemed to be rather annoyed that this whole thing was taking up his time. Undoubtedly, he had far more important things to do, and Blair would have been only too glad to see the back of him...and the other two. After one quick glance around the car, Blair's eyes dropped to the backpack he was holding as a barrier between himself and the, again his mind skittered away from the word 'cops', men surrounding him. Suddenly realising that their attention, for the first time since he'd left his hospital room, wasn't riveted upon him, he cautiously looked around again. He saw that they were checking out the area for anyone who might be trying to silence him, and his mind flew through the possibilities. Someone had already tried that day, and failed; it was doubtful that they'd have had a chance to set up a second attempt already. His breathing quickened as he realised that this might be his only chance to get away - he had no doubts that escaping from their safe house would be well nigh impossible - and his hand shot towards the door handle and yanked at it, with him rolling from the car as the door opened. As he rolled, he shoved his backpack towards the man at his side, knowing that it would stop him from grabbing for his shoulder.
Blair knew that his manoeuvre with the backpack had only gained him half a minute at best, but his mind was clear and he was sure he could out-think the guys behind him. All he had to do was get out of sight long enough for them to have to start searching for him. Once he'd done that, he could make his way to the edge of the parking lot and be gone before they realised it. He wasn't planning on disappearing forever, but he needed time to get his head together and he wanted peace in which to do it, without having one, two or three people breathing down his neck as they tried to keep him safe. He was sure he could disappear enough for the killer to be unable to find him - he just had to lose the guys pursuing him first.
Reaching the mass of parked cars, Sandburg ran haphazardly through them, turning left or right at whim - his only objective right now was keeping his distance from his pursuers. With a few cars between them, he made his move. Making a feint to the left, he ducked and scuttled to the right, threading his way between cars. He could feel the ache in his hip building but he ignored it. He could rest it later.
Looking up from the ignition, Simon realised that they'd lost the kid, again. His side mirror showed Sandburg's rapidly disappearing back, and a slam of the door from the other side told him that Jim was already out of the car and after him. Exchanging a glance with Brown, Simon waited until the detective had joined the pursuit, then he started the car, did an illegal u-turn, and drove off after his men, muttering a mantra of his own that promised death and destruction to Sandburg.
Jim cursed as he found his hands full of backpack and not full of Sandburg, and, throwing the ill-treated backpack on the seat, he leapt from the car. He ran, with Brown behind him, as Sandburg disappeared into the maze of cars and vanished out of sight.
Brown stopped for a second then continued running, obviously hoping that luck would bring him to their objective, but Jim never hesitated. Following Sandburg's heartbeat like a tracking device, he made his way closer and closer to his Guide, a grim smile on his face. Ironically, the very thing that was making Sandburg run from them - his memory loss - was obscuring the fact that running wasn't going to be enough to keep his Sentinel from finding him.
His smile growing, Jim rounded a car just behind Sandburg, his tread silent as he neared his prey. He stooped suddenly and straightened, his arms wrapped around Blair's chest, pinning the Guide's arms to his sides.
"Relax, Sandburg, it's me."
Blair gasped as he felt a pair of arms snake around him and grasp him tightly, lifting him from his stooped position. His breath caught in his throat at the taunting remark and, not surprisingly, he refused to relax. His feet flailed, trying desperately to find a foothold to push against to throw Jim off balance, but he might as well have saved his efforts as he was half-carried, half-dragged back to the car, with Jim's arms still clamped around him.
His face was flushed with exertion, and humiliation. Bad enough that he'd been caught - but being practically carried back to the car was more than he could bear. Gritting his teeth, he forced a, "Put me down," out between them.
His order was obeyed - once the car had been reached. Avoiding his eyes, the other detective opened the back door for them, then retreated to the other side of the car and got in, plainly not wanting to add to Blair's embarrassment.
The heavy hand on his shoulder gave him no choice, and Blair sank into the car.
Giving him no chance to try and escape again, Jim added, "Move over."
Silently, Blair picked up his backpack and slid over the seat into the other corner as Jim joined him on the backseat. As soon as the door slammed shut, there was a 'thunk' as Simon hit the central locking button. Turning in his seat, Simon glared at the recalcitrant witness and asked, "Are we ready to go now?"
Blair's gaze avoided his, and Simon turned back, anger written on every inch of his face.
The drive to the safe house was completed in silence.
Once inside the safe house, Simon rounded on the younger man, his fury still very much in evidence. "You listen to me, Sandburg, while you're in my custody you will not, repeat *not*, attempt to escape. I don't know what you thought you were doing but you could have ended up being killed! You are a material witness and you will do as you are told! Do you understand me?" The last sentence was bellowed in Simon's usual way.
Blair flinched as he muttered, "Got it." If he really knew this guy, (which he wasn't convinced about because, really, how much could they possibly have in common?), he hoped the guy didn't normally act like this around him. He was a heart attack waiting to happen.
"I can't hear you, Sandburg!" The tone was a warning to at least sound cooperative.
"I hope you do!" There was a sigh, then the man's voice dropped back to a quieter register, "Brown and Ellison are staying with you for the first shift. H., Joel will be here at ten tonight then you can head off home. Jim, will you be all right staying until tomorrow?"
"I'm not going anywhere, sir."
"That's what I suspected." He turned towards the door, then stopped and turned back. "Oh, Ellison."
"Keep him," one long finger pointed at Sandburg's chest, "out of trouble."
"I'll do my best, sir."
There was a hint of amusement in Jim's tone and Blair scowled, caught on the raw by it. He'd been looking after himself long enough to know that he didn't need someone looking over his shoulder all the time - he was quite capable of keeping himself out of trouble, thank you very much.
The door shut behind Simon, and Blair glanced around as Ellison watched him go from the window.
"C'mon, Hairboy, Ellison brought some of that tea you like. I'll show you where the kitchen is."
"Yeah...that's what I call you."
"I know you?" Blair was honestly surprised. How many of these guys did he know?
"Yeah. You partner Ellison, he works in Major Crime and so do I. You know me."
"P-partner?" His voice went up as he repeated the word.
"Well, you're a...uh....." A panicked look crossed Brown's face.
"You're a police observer, Chief. Remember I said we both work for the police? You ride with me."
Blair practically spun on the spot to stare at the other man as he suddenly remembered Jim's statement from the day before. He'd forgotten about it after finding out about that missing year. "A...observer?" He missed out the 'p' word on purpose, his heart skipping a beat. "I work in Major Crime?"
Jim grinned. "As a volunteer. You don't get paid for it."
"But...what...why?" The last word was almost wailed in his confusion.
"You're doin' your thesis on closed societies in the uh...force," Brown told him, skipping a word in his turn.
Blair didn't assume he was referring to the Star Wars force, but he was still stunned. When had he changed his thesis?
"H., why don't you make tea and I'll show Sandburg where he's sleeping?"
"This way, Darwin."
Jim led the way upstairs, considering exactly what to say. He should have guessed he'd end up having to tell Sandburg the truth; he'd just hoped it wouldn't be this soon. Opening the bedroom door, he ushered Blair in, then shut it carefully behind them. He really didn't want Henri to overhear if Sandburg got excited.
Sandburg's attention, however, was on the duffle bag that was in the middle of one of the beds. "That's mine!"
"Yeah, I packed it for you and Simon dropped it off this morning. We didn't think you'd want to wear those clothes all the time you're here."
"How...you have a key to the warehouse?"
"The warehouse?" Jim looked confused, then he realised. "You moved out of the warehouse months ago, Chief. There was a drug lab next door and it blew up." Grinning at Blair's stunned face he added, "It's kind of hard to live in a place without a roof and with half the walls missing."
"Yeah...it would be."
Anticipating the next question, Jim continued, "You rent a room from me. I have an apartment over on Prospect."
"I...I *live* with you?" Astonishment coloured every word.
"Yes, you live with me."
Blair sank down to sit on the bed, confusion evident on his face. "I guess a lot of things have changed." He sounded lost.
Jim took a seat on the other bed. "We'd already started working together when the warehouse blew up. I had a spare room, you had a Barbary Ape; it seemed like fate."
There was a snort of laughter. "A Barbary Ape?"
"His name was Larry. You were writing a paper on how violence on TV affected him. After he trashed the loft twice, you decided it was affecting him just fine and gave him back to his owners." Jim grinned again.
"I'm not surprised!" Blair grinned in his turn, then it faded. "I just can't believe I work with...you. I-I can't believe I changed my thesis!"
"Officially, your thesis is on closed societies within the police force. In reality, you're still writing about Sentinels."
"I don't understand."
Jim took a deep breath. He never thought he'd have to tell Sandburg what he was - after all, Sandburg had known before he did. "I'm a Sentinel."
Blair's eyes widened. Surprise filled his face, followed by joy then by excitement. "You're a...I found you!"
Ellison nodded. "Persistent, aren't you?" He could see the cogs turning in the kid's mind.
"So that's why! No one else knows!"
"Only Simon. We had to tell him to get him to agree to you riding with me."
"You're a Sentinel. You're really a Sentinel!" His voice dropped to a whisper as his hand stretched out to touch Jim gently on the shoulder, as if afraid he was going to disappear. "This is...awesome!" The excitement poured back into his voice.
"Just remember: no one else knows. So don't mention it in front of Henri."
"That's cool, man, I can understand that. I mean, people would treat you differently, and with you being a cop and all, you don't wanna tell the 'criminal element' about the edge you've got! You're a walking crime lab!"
Jim grinned widely. Trust Sandburg. His reluctance to say any word related to the police had vanished in the light of his excitement, and the Sentinel realised that he had no need to worry. This Sandburg would protect his secret just as much as the other Sandburg had.
"Oh man! This is the greatest!"
Ellison sat back and watched as Blair paced between the beds, his hands flying with his words as he babbled about Sentinels, zone-outs, senses, and the dreaded 't' word: tests. Finally, Jim interrupted. "Yes, you've done tests - thousands of the things!"
Sandburg turned to stare at him, his eyes the brightest that Jim had seen them since before he woke up in that hospital bed with no memory of Jim, his Sentinel, or their friendship.
The grin on Blair's face was huge, then it disappeared as a wistful look entered his eyes. "I wish I could remember, man. I really do."
"You will. Just give it a bit of time." Jim stood up and stretched. "Now let's get downstairs and see if H. has managed to make a decent cup of tea with some of that herbal stuff you drink. With your luck, he's probably put milk into it."
Fortunately for the tea, H. was still at the 'check the label and hope for instructions' stage, and he cheerfully admitted that he hadn't been sure what to add to it, so he figured he'd wait until they came down and let Blair make his own. Blair hid his smile as he moved to take control of the teabags. Then, with a serious look on his face, but a gleam of humour in his eyes, he carefully took them through an impromptu lesson on how to make a cup of herbal tea. Looking at the glazed looks on Jim and H.'s faces, he curtailed his lecture on the long history of tea and let them take their cups of coffee in peace.
Brown grimaced as he headed for the sitting room, his cup clutched protectively to him. "I'm so glad Hairboy remembered how to make tea, Jim," he muttered.
"I'm just hoping he doesn't remember any more of the history of tea," Ellison replied, the glazed look still firmly in place.
Blair grinned as he followed them out. If the conversation lagged, he still had a few hundred years of tea history to tell them, but he suspected that once they knew, they'd never let it lag that much.
It was a few minutes before ten that Joel arrived, saving Henri from any risk of hearing more about tea. Blair grinned as he noticed the speed at which Henri said his goodbyes and left - he guessed the detective really hadn't wanted to hear the rest of that lecture.
Looking at his new babysitter, Blair held out his hand politely. "Hi, I'm Blair Sandburg."
"Sorry, Chief. This is Captain Joel Taggart."
Joel smiled as he shook his hand. "Just call me Joel. How are you feeling, son?"
"I uh...I guess you know me too, huh?"
"Yeah, I do. We've worked together."
Blair shook his head. "Man, I've gotta..." His voice trailed off, then he continued, "I'll make some tea." He shook his head again as he went into the kitchen, hoping he hadn't turned red with embarrassment. He felt like an idiot every time he met yet another person who seemed to know him perfectly well while he couldn't remember them at all.
"How's he doing, Jim?"
The voice of the dark man was filled with concern, and Blair paused, eavesdropping shamelessly.
"He's okay, Joel. I think it just catches him on the hop every time he realises he doesn't know who we are."
Understatement of the year, man! Blair thought. He hated this. He hated feeling out of control and lost in a life he didn't know any more. Taking a deep breath as he filled the kettle with water, he tried to calm his nerves, reflecting that he must have done something right to have found his Sentinel. That bubble of excitement filled him again. He'd done it; he'd found his Sentinel. He grinned as he put the coffee pot on.
Pulling out the cutlery drawer, he grabbed for a spoon for his tea, his mind filled with ideas for tests. He knew he'd probably done a ton of tests before, but he couldn't remember them...maybe he'd made notes - he would have made notes, wouldn't he? He'd have to try and remember to ask Jim if he had made notes about what tests they'd done and when. Suddenly he froze. Tests.
His mind whirled dizzyingly as a memory floated to the surface. As if it was happening right at that moment, he could see Jim complaining about tests as he fed part of his unhealthy hotdog to a dog in the park they liked to go to. The sun was bright in his eyes as he tried to convince Jim that tests were necessary and didn't he gain from them in the end? For a second he wondered why Jim bothered fighting him on this issue, he always won. The Sentinel would listen to his Guide, no matter how much the man complained.
Through the roaring in his ears he heard Jim's voice shouting at him, and Blair slid down to sit on the floor, his body shaking as a year's worth of memories surfaced and took their place in the kaleidoscope of his life. Suddenly the colours flowed together and the shattered mosaic became a recognisable pattern. He remembered, of course he remembered, how could he have forgotten? His old memory slotted smoothly into place, the strains and stresses of the past day and a half disappearing from sight.
Blair blinked a few times as his sight returned to normal and the dizziness faded. He slumped against the cupboard door as he stared frowningly at the hand Jim was waving in his face.
"Chief, are you with me? How many fingers?"
"Three." Blair shook his head, wondering why he sounded so breathless. He also couldn't think why he'd turned so dizzy. "There's nothing wrong with my head."
"That makes a change. C'mon, up you get."
Regaining his feet and rubbing at his oddly aching hip, Blair made to stagger towards the couches, then stopped as he met an unexpected wall. "Jim? When did we get an extra wall put in the loft?" Looking at it, he was surprised; he really didn't think Jim was the type to go for flowery wallpaper.
"The loft? Blair, we're in the safe house, remember?"
Turning to look into Joel's concerned face, Blair let his gaze sweep over the totally unfamiliar kitchen. "Safe house? Why are we in a safe house?!"
He watched as the two detectives exchanged looks.
"Chief," Jim sounded cautious, which was never a good sign, "what date is it today?"
"March 19th, Jim, and that doesn't explain this kitchen!"
"Banks!" Simon glared at the wall as he answered his phone. All he wanted to do was go home and sleep for awhile - didn't people have anything better to do than phone him up?
"Simon, it's Jim."
"Hey, Jim. How's the kid doing?" Simon's tone softened a little, but not too much. He didn't want people to think that he actually liked Sandburg.
"He's fine. Sort of."
"Care to explain that, Detective?"
"He's got most of his memory back."
Simon removed his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. "Don't tell me, he doesn't remember the actual shooting."
"He doesn't remember much of that day at all. He remembers getting to Rainier in the morning, but that's it. And he doesn't remember anything about waking up in hospital."
Simon put his glasses back on and glared at the offending wall again, his concern growing. "Is that usual?"
"I phoned the hospital and checked with them. While they wouldn't have expected something like this, anything's possible where the memory's concerned."
"Great!" Simon was less than thrilled. "So we have no idea if he'll remember anything about that day at all? Hang on a second, Jim." He put his hand over the mouthpiece. "What can I do for you, Tony?"
"I was just wondering how Sandburg's doing, Captain."
"He's okay. He doesn't remember the shooting yet though."
Tony nodded, his grief evident. "Okay. Thanks, Captain."
Simon waited until the door shut then turned back to the conversation. "How's the kid feeling, Jim?"
"He's fine. He's planning on reading up on amnesia."
"Only Sandburg." Simon sighed. Next thing you knew, the kid would probably be writing a paper on it and insist on questioning them all to get their viewpoints.
"He's asking Joel now what it was like meeting a friend with amnesia."
Simon stared at the phone for a second wondering if he'd spoken out loud or if Jim was reading minds now. "Just make sure he doesn't try interrogating me."
"I'll try and hold him off, sir."
"You do that, Detective."
So Sandburg's still in the dark, huh? Lucky me. Of course, I can't be sure how long my luck's gonna hold out. Fortunately for me, Banks is such a conscientious captain, that I know he'll be going over there to see how Sandburg is in person. For some reason he considers that guy to be one of his men. Sandburg isn't even a cop, for God's sake, he's just a grad student! But there he is, swanning around in Major Crime like he actually belongs there. Little punk!
What with High and Mighty Ellison and Captains Taggart and Banks falling all over themselves to kiss his ass, it's only a matter of time before he ends up as Chief of Police!
Okay, Tony, keep calm. Sandburg isn't going to end up as anything but dead and buried, with all his fine police friends mourning their loss.
Banks will go either tonight or tomorrow to see how that worthless piece of shit is, so all I have to do is follow him, then "bang bang, you're dead, Sandburg".
"Simon's here." Jim stayed in place by the window as Joel headed towards the door.
"Cool!" Blair looked up from the couch, a plate of toasted bagel balanced on one knee, a notebook and pen on the other. "I can ask him some questions."
"Not a good idea, Chief." There was a gleam of mischief in Jim's eyes that Blair caught easily.
"Aww, man, you warned him."
"I have to. He's my boss, remember?"
Blair was still chuckling to himself as he put his notebook and pen down. He could wait until he was out of the safe house before questioning Simon. Maybe he'd do it over the phone for safety's sake.
Joel waited until Simon was almost at the door before opening it, then closed it as quickly as he could. "Hey, Simon."
"Joel, Jim. How are you doing, Sandburg?"
"Fine, Simon, just...fine." The smile faded from Blair's face and he tilted his head slightly, chasing the elusive memory.
"Something wrong, Blair?"
"No...it's just...." Blair shut his eyes, a frown on his face. It was there, he knew it, but what was it?
"Well, I just thought I'd call in and see if you were all right."
Simon sounded concerned, and Blair knew that if he opened his eyes he'd catch the three of them watching him with similar looks on their faces.
"Yeah, thanks, Simon." Opening his eyes, Blair put his plate down so he could stand up and move away from the tall man looming over him. He wasn't hungry any more, his stomach was churning too much for that. Stepping out of Simon's personal space, he shook slightly. He'd had a panic attack at some point, he knew that; he'd panicked because the cop was standing over him, too close, too....
He gasped, veering back to avoid Simon's outstretched hand. The two halves of his memory met and clashed, fighting to integrate themselves into one existence. Memories of emotions flashed through him: joy at realising he'd found his Sentinel, terror at seeing the boom box carrying officer, panic at having a cop standing over him, shock at seeing the car that was about to hit him, and horror at seeing a young cop's brains splattered across a piece of waste ground. "Oh my God, oh my God!" Hands grabbed for him and he swung away, his chest heaving as he tried to breathe. "He shot him!"
Two hands grasped his upper arms firmly, holding him in place as the memories threatened to split his mind in two again. Frantically he stared up into Jim's face, trying to tell him before it was all gone again. "He shot him! 'Time's up, partner', then he shot him!"
"Who shot him?" Simon was there, closer than before, his dark face filled with worry even as his voice demanded an answer.
"Yeah, Sandburg, we know." Jim's voice had a reassuring tone. "You saw a cop get shot. But who shot him?"
Blair practically danced on the spot in spite of Jim's hold. Didn't they understand? "The cop!"
"The cop shot the cop! 'Time's up, partner', then he shot him!" His hands grabbed at the backs of Jim's arms as he tried to shake the bigger man into listening to him. "The cop shot the cop!"
"Oh dear Lord." Simon's voice was quiet but horrified.
"Allerton? Chief, was it Tony Allerton?"
Blair shrugged, or tried to, Jim was still holding him too tightly. "I don't know his name!"
Jim's tone turned soothing. "Okay, okay. Shh, it's okay."
Joel looked confused. "But why would Tony shoot his own partner?"
Blair shrugged again. He knew what he'd seen, now that he remembered it, but he didn't have any other answers.
Jim's head tilted and he released Blair to move away towards the window. "Could Tony find out where this safe house is?"
Simon nodded. "Easily. If he was willing to look it up on the computer system."
"I just heard a car door. I think he's here." Jim stepped back from the window and his arm snapped out to latch onto Blair's arm and yank him forwards into the protection of his own personal space.
"Damn!" Simon grabbed for his cell phone and hurriedly dialled. "Jim, you take Blair upstairs. Joel and I will cover the doors down here." Leaving the front door to Joel, he headed towards the back, barking a demand for back up into his phone as he went.
Simon didn't even glance their way. "Do it, Jim."
Pushed by an unhappy Jim towards the stairs, Blair went blindly, almost stumbling on the bottom step. Everything was happening too fast, he didn't have time to put it all into place. He really needed to process things and right now wasn't a good time. He guessed Jim wouldn't be too happy if he started meditating either.
Simon ignored Jim's unhappiness at his orders. If Allerton did come through those doors while Jim was downstairs, they'd have no chance of taking the bent cop alive as Jim would kill him in order to protect his partner. Simon shook his head. That wasn't what he had a problem with. It was the strong suspicion that the Sentinel would kill Allerton in order to avenge the attack upon his Guide that was unsettling him. The police captain took a deep breath. There were times when he really, really hated knowing things about Sentinels and Guides.
He found a secure spot that afforded him some shelter while giving him a clear shot at anyone coming through the back door and waited. With any luck the back up he'd called for would arrive in time to put Tony off, if anything would put Tony off. Dear Lord, the man must have been mad to shoot his own partner, to say nothing of this vendetta against Sandburg. And if Jim was right and Tony was outside waiting to attack a safe house which contained three cops and a police observer, well, Simon could only think that the man had gone totally insane.
Okay, Tony, this is it. I haven't had a rush like this since I faced down my first perp. Course, back then, I was squeaky clean and totally believed in the 'them and us' mentality. Now I know it's not like that at all. It's just about power. Those who have it and those who don't. Jesus, look at me. I'm getting philosophical in my old age!
Fortunately for me, our high and mighty detectives would never think that someone would tail them - I mean, they're cops, for Christ's sake! They'd know if any perp was following along just waiting for the opportunity to put a few holes in their pet observer. Sure, course they would. And that's why I'm outside and they're inside, probably drinking coffee and patting Sandburg on the head.
That little punk. If anyone had to witness Brad's shooting, I'm glad it was him. Who the hell does he think he is? He's no one, a nothing. Just a brain trust on legs and yet he's off working with a cop who's driven off more partners than I've had hot dinners. Fucking punk! Fucking shit-faced little bastard! This is going to be pure pleasure, even if I do have to go through three cops to get to him.
Taking a deep breath, Simon tried to calm the beating of his heart. If there was one thing he hated, it was waiting for a perp to make his move. A perp. Simon thanked God that Allerton wasn't one of his team. Seeing a cop go wrong was bad enough without it being someone you'd personally worked with, relied upon to watch your back. Someone whose life you would have defended with your own. He hated bent cops, hated the feelings they engendered - the trust they eroded. If you couldn't trust one of your own, who could you trust?
A sound from the back yard caught his attention and yanked him out of his own mini zone-out. Shaking the pointless thoughts from him, he concentrated. It looked like this was it.
For a few seconds there was nothing then, with a suddenness that would have made Simon jump if he hadn't been waiting for just such a move, the back door was kicked in and a blur rolled through the doorway and away to one side. Simon fired. He knew from the grunt that he'd hit the killer, but he had no idea where he'd hit him. Allerton had been moving too fast for Simon to take careful aim.
"Give it up, Tony. It's over."
Movement behind him told Simon that Joel had hurried over to back him up, taking a position that still allowed him to watch the front door in case Tony had brought back up with him.
There was silence apart from the noisy sound of Tony's breathing, then a laugh floated through to the waiting cops. "I guess the kid got his memory back then, huh?"
"Yeah, he did. He knew it was you."
Another laugh. "I'm impressed. I didn't think Sandburg could tell us uniformed cops apart."
"It's better to never underestimate Sandburg, Tony." In spite of himself, there was a hint of sympathy in Simon's voice. Tony was trapped and Simon couldn't see any way that this would end well.
"Score one for the geeks, huh?" Tony's voice sounded tired. "Who'd have thought it? One day, they'll be running the world."
A hitch in his breathing showed that his wound was paining him, although neither of the listening cops had any way to tell how serious it was.
"So what now, Banks? You expecting me to throw down my gun and come out with my hands up?"
"You will if you're wise, Tony. There's no way out."
Another breath, another hitch. "Ask anyone who knows me, wisdom has never been one of my virtues."
"Don't do this, Tony." Joel's voice was almost pleading. "Just throw down your gun."
"And what? You'll make a deal for me?" Tony laughed, sounding almost genuinely amused. "I killed a cop, Cap'n Taggart," his biting tone changed to regret, "I killed a good cop. No amount of plea bargaining is gonna change that." There was a sigh and silence for a few seconds.
Simon wracked his brain for some argument that would persuade Allerton to give himself up. He couldn't think of one. And he was damn sure Allerton couldn't think of one either.
"Well, procrastination was never appealing. This is where I'm supposed to say something witty, right?"
"Don't do it, Tony."
Simon's order was ignored. "If I'd guessed this was how it was gonna end, I would have taken the time to think up a good epitaph for myself. They always do it in the movies."
"Say hi to Sandburg for me."
"Jim? What's going on?" Forced down between the beds by his Sentinel, Blair was wishing that his hearing was as enhanced as that belonging to a certain someone he knew.
"He's in the kitchen. Simon's got him pinned down, he's trying to talk him out."
"Are Simon and Joel okay?"
"There was only one gunshot. I'd guess that was from Simon."
Blair started to get to his feet.
"Stay down, Chief."
"But he's no threat now."
The blue eyes that turned to meet his had the intensity of lasers. "We don't know if he has back up. Stay down."
Blair subsided reluctantly. He hated this. He hated hiding upstairs while two friends he cared about were putting their lives at risk protecting him. He had no idea how Jim felt right now. The protector in him would be screaming to be down there, in the thick of it, not hiding upstairs ready to protect only *if* the first line of defence fell. Agitatedly, he listened to the silence. "Jim?"
"They're still talking."
Taking a calming breath, Blair tried to centre himself then gave it up as a bad job. He'd have to meditate for hours to process this one. His leg jiggled impatiently. Glancing over at Jim he noticed the battle ready stance the man had taken. He knew without a doubt that if anyone came through that door unannounced, the well-trained ex-soldier was ready to burst into violent action to protect his charge.
"Sandburg, stop fidgeting."
Blair stilled, biting his lip. The waiting was almost unbearable. His thoughts ran on as his mind tried to analyse everything within reach, put it all into some kind of perspective that could make some kind of sense of it all.
The second gunshot made him jump, and without even thinking about it, he got to his feet. Only Jim's quick actions stopped him from reaching the door, one arm snapping out to push him back.
"Get down and stay there!"
"But Simon, Joel -"
"Can take care of themselves. Get *down*, Sandburg."
Despite his own wishes, Blair found himself back on the floor between the beds, one firm hand in the middle of his back keeping him there. Realising that he was stopping Jim from doing his job, putting them both at risk if Allerton came through the door, he gave in. "Okay, okay. I'm sorry. I'm down." While he would never forgive himself if anything had happened to Simon and Joel, losing Jim would kill him.
The hand left him and Jim silently turned back to the door. Agonised seconds stretched out into minutes then, "Jim, Blair!"
Blair sighed with relief. Joel was okay, at least, and the tone in his voice didn't suggest that Simon was anything but alright as well.
"Allerton's dead and back up's here. You can come down."
Blair scrambled to his feet, not surprised when Jim pulled him behind his back before opening the door slightly. It wasn't until Jim had checked out the stairs and the hall that he opened the door wider and allowed Blair to follow him out.
Simon met them at the bottom of the stairs. "There's no sign of anyone else. Looks like Allerton was working alone."
Jim nodded. "Stay here." Giving Simon a glance that clearly said, 'mind Sandburg for me', he headed towards the kitchen. He needed to see for himself that the threat had been neutralised, one way or another.
It gave Jim quite a jolt to see the body in the same corner of the kitchen that Blair had been sitting in after his memory returned; but instead of one dazed partner, leaning against the kitchen cupboards, there was one dead cop, his body sprawled on the floor, a pool of blood under his head.
Allerton's gun was on the floor, not far from the dead man's hand, and the Sentinel listened carefully to make sure that there was no heartbeat, no risk of the man reaching for the weapon that lay so near to hand.
"It was suicide, Jim. He knew there was no way out." Joel gestured helplessly. "He shot himself rather than give himself up."
Jim nodded. He was glad the son of a bitch was dead. He wasn't sure whether it was the cop in him or the tribal protector, but either way he felt personally offended by bent cops. Instead of upholding the law, protecting the tribe, they took for themselves. He glared down at Allerton's body. He was no loss.
He left the kitchen and returned to the hallway where Simon and Sandburg were still waiting.
Simon glanced at him, but left the subject of Allerton alone. "If you're ready I'll drive you and Sandburg back to the loft. You can come into the station this afternoon and make your statements then."
Sandburg's face was filled with concern. "You okay, Jim?"
Jim nodded. "Let's go." Sandburg looked like he had a thousand questions to ask, but he didn't ask them. Jim guessed he'd take the opportunity to corner him in the loft and bombard him with them then. Casually draping his arm across the kid's shoulders, he steered him through the front door, following Simon out to his car. "Sandburg?"
"Are you likely to do another runner from Simon's car?"
Blair chuckled. "I'd forgotten about that, man. No, I think I can manage to stay in the car this time."
He tightened his arm briefly, giving his friend a one-armed hug. "Good. I'd hate to have to chase you again."
21st September 2004.
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