This is part of a series of short stories I have written in which Jim has been brain damaged in a car wreck. Nothing original or earth-shattering other than that. If you donít like one of the guys permanently damaged, pass on this story and all the LBJ (Little Boy Jim, not Lyndon Baines Johnson) snippets that will turn up here. Iím working on and off on a longer story that deals with the beginning of the AU.

This all happens post TS by BS, by the way, and includes a romance between Megan and Blair.

These were all posted to the SA list some time ago, but Iíve added a little here and taken out some there so they are a tad different from what was posted.

I have no knowledge of treatment of head trauma or custody procedings and quite honestly, donít plan to research either one.

By the way, most of these were written out of order. Iím also still looking for a couple of snippets that were posted (I think) to SA but that I haven't found on my disks yet.

Anyway: the characters are not mine and never will be. No money is being made and, considering the time I spend on these silly things, it could be argued that they cost me money. Anyway, on with the stories. Oh, yes, not betaed, either.

The custody battle for a child-like Jim Ellison goes before a judge.

Making Decisions

By Madraf

********************

Dr. Blair Sandburg, one-time police officer and at long last a doctor of anthropology, looked over the top of the magazine he held and watched his friend work diligently at the table. The head, crowned by thinning hair, was just barely off the table while struggling fingers worked to hold the pencil and bright blue eyes concentrated on tracing the dotted lines of the alphabet in the tablet. One arm curled over the top of the book, hiding his progress from prying eyes. Blair watched the hand come up and rub an exposed ear while the head dropped to rest a cheek on the table, hands still trying to follow the simple lines.

"It's easier if you sit up, Jim," Blair said. The older man at the table turned his head so it rested on the other cheek and he could look at his friend.

"But my head's heavy," Jim said.

"You'll be able to leave soon," Blair said. He went to sit by his friend, brushing his hand lightly over the scar at Jim's hairline. It was almost gone, Blair noted to himself, even it the effects would never go.

"And I can go home with you?" Jim asked, eyes wide and hopeful.

"Probably not today, Buddy. Maybe soon, though."

Jim sat up and leaned into Blair. He was silent as he pondered the situation he had been in since leaving the hospital. He had lots of questions but no answers. He never asked his father because the man would sometimes get angry, but he could ask Blair anything. Only, he didnít want to ask Blair anything just now, he just wanted someone to know what he wanted. His father had brought him to the judgeís office this morning. Blair had arrived before William Ellison had gone into his appointment with the judge and Jim had greeted him happily. Blair not only was better company as far as Jim was concerned, Blair had brought an activity book. His father never seemed to think about those things.

Jim didnít know for sure what was going on. From listening, he knew Blair and Megan had asked William Ellison if Jim could come live with them. Jim thought that was an excellent idea, but William and Jimís brother Steven werenít so happy with the idea. Jim knew coming to see the judge was just one step in some process that might get him into Blairís home. He thought it was kind of silly. He had told everyone when he was still in the hospital that his home was with Blair, but they had still made him live with his father and sometimes with his brother.

"But I want to go home with you," Jim whispered.

Blair rubbed the back of Jim's head gently. "It'll work out," Blair said. "I promise." Jim greeted his assurance with a sigh but didn't pull away. "Why don't you lie down on the couch for a while? You missed your nap today, didn't you?"

"I'm not sleepy," Jim protested automatically.

"I didn't say you had to sleep," Blair said. "Just lie down."

"But I'll fall asleep."

"Not if you're not sleepy." Blair grinned at his friend's grimace. "I think the judge will want to talk to me by myself anyway when your dad is finished." He stood, took Jim's hand and tugged him toward the couch. "Come on, lie down for a while."

"Tell me a story?" Jim asked.

"What kind of story?"

"One where I'm a hero. I save your life."

Blair spent a few minutes getting Jim and himself situated on the small couch while he pondered Jim's request.

When he had first come back to town and begun working on getting Jim back to this world from his coma/zone, Blair had relayed many of their adventures from when he followed Jim around. He had been surprised at how much the man had remembered.

The Cascade detective's life was forever changed when he eventually woke from the two-month coma, even more so than when his heightened senses had reappeared in his life. For four years, Blair Sandburg had followed the detective around the city and even outside the country, helping him deal with the re-emergence of hyper sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. Genetically hard-wired to be the "organic crime lab" Blair had dubbed him, the detective had been unprepared for the return of abilities he had forgotten he possessed.

When Blair's dissertation on Jim's abilities had been inadvertently released before Jim's identity could be protected, Blair had claimed his work was fraudulent rather than make his friend put up with the media circus that had surrounded him. The move ended his academic career, and Blair had joined Jim on the Cascade Police Force. When all was said and done, Jim's co-workers in the Major Crime Division had welcomed Blair into their ranks, but the rest of the force and the city was less than pleased with the presence of an admitted liar on their force. Eventually, after an injury-filled year, Blair had opted to leave the force--and the city. He had sued the publisher who had released the rough draft of his dissertation in blatant disregard of his wishes, had sued Rainier University for working with that publisher when the dissertation had not been taken through proper channels, and had won the right to complete his doctorate on a slightly altered topic and at a different university.

But as Blair was restoring his reputation and evaluating the chance to return to anthropology as researcher and teacher, Jim had wrapped his truck around a telephone pole and suffered serious head injuries. Blair had returned to Cascade when Simon had called him and eventually planted himself at his friend's bedside, refusing to believe the ever-worsening predictions of his doctors and co-workers.

"Blair?" Jim asked, breaking into the younger man's time traveling. Blair looked down at his child-like friend. "Will you tell me a story?"

"Sure. What do you want to hear?"

"Iris."

"Iris?" Jim nodded enthusiastically. "Why Iris?"

"I like it."

"Okay," Blair agreed. Jim listened eagerly as Blair told of his ill-fated meeting with a new neighbor, the dinner date arranged, the change in plans when her car was towed and he agreed to pick her up. Blair told how Iris had asked him to take her to meet a friend and how the friend and she had stolen some drugs from another bad guy. He told about how Iris and her friend Chance had forced him to drive them all night. He glossed over the number of times he'd felt really endangered and frightened for his life by Iris, Chance and Parker, the man from whom they'd stolen the drugs. He told how Jim had suspected Iris wasn't all she appeared and checked her at the police station, how he and Simon had discovered Blair's predicament and how Jim had followed a trail of oil only he could see and smell to the train station. He told of how relieved he was when Jim had stopped Parker from hurting Blair, and then he scolded Jim for letting Simon book Blair when all was said and done.

"The end," Blair said with a smile.

"And then..." Jim prompted.

"And then what?" Blair asked.

"And then. You fixed us dinner and we ate the moldy dessert and you got us good." Jim laughed as Blair smiled.

"Yeah, I got you guys good."

Jim's forehead creased in thought and Blair waited for the question that was brewing in his friend's confused mind.

"Is that story true?" Jim asked.

"Yes, it's true," Blair answered.

"I decided things, didn't I?"

"What do you mean?"

"I..." Jim bit his lip in thought, "I made good choices when I was looking for you?"

Blair nodded. "Very good choices."

"Why can't I make choices now?" Blair pondered how to answer as Jim went on. "I choiced you. I want to live with you."

"I want you to, too," Blair assured him.

"I'm not a tu-tu," Jim replied, face solemn but eyes glinting with laughter at the joke Blair had pulled on him weeks ago.

Blair laughed, and Jim joined him happily before sobering again.

"Why can't I live with you?"

"That's something the judge will decide," Blair said.

"Today?"

"I don't think so."

"I could listen and see what she says?"

"No," Blair said sternly. "We'll just wait."

"But if we know that she says no we could run away before Dad comes out or Steven gets here."

"We can't do that, Jim."

"Why not?"

"Because we'd just have to keep running and that wouldn't be fair to you."

Jim sighed and looked toward the door, smile faltering a little.

"What's up?" Blair asked.

"Daddy's coming."

"Alone?"

Jim paused, tilting his head slightly to focus his hearing, then nodded. "His 'turney said bye."

Blair smiled and patted Jim's hand. "I'll probably have to go talk to the judge alone," he reminded his friend. "You'll have to stay here with your Dad. Maybe he'll let me take you to the park or something before you go home. You gonna be good for him?" Jim nodded, and Blair smiled. "Knew you would."

Judge Mary Pierson watched the tape of two men on the monitor in her office. The tape had been taken last week when the two had met with a social worker. She considered the evidence on the screen and what she felt instinctively from the meeting she had just concluded with William Ellison and his lawyer.

She had heard of Jim Ellison from other judges in the city, had remembered the uproar more than two years ago now that had followed the release of the grad student's dissertation. She had seen tapes of William's interaction with his son, as well, and it was no where near the level Blair Sandburg demonstrated with his friend. What she had to decide is whether the difference was genuine or simply the way the two very different men reacted when they knew they were being watched, and which home would be best for this new Jim Ellison.

William Ellison had been very concerned about his son's welfare. His attorney had raised some valid concerns about Mr. Sandburg's financial ability to care for Jim as well as his physical ability to care for and control the much larger man. Jim Ellison's injuries had left him somewhat weakened physically and lacking in coordination, but he seemed to making great strides in recovering that coordination and strength. The same question could be asked of the elder Ellison, actually, she'd challenged them, only to be told Mr. Ellison planned to hire whatever aides his son might need.

However, the judge considered, the former detective's physical, and mental, strides had taken place only with Blair Sandburg's return. His doctors, his family and his friends had given up on the detective, and even today, Judge Pierson wondered if she hadn't heard a touch of "it would have been better if he'd never woken up" from the elder Ellison. That thought alone was chilling.

Next up was a chat with Dr. Sandburg.

Pierson looked up as Blair Sandburg entered the room, and she caught just a glimpse of Jim Ellison's fretful face as Blair closed the door behind him.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Sandburg."

"Good afternoon, Your Honor. And it's Dr. Sandburg."

Pierson looked behind Sandburg. "You have no legal representative?" she asked.

"Not yet," Blair said. "This is just an interview, right?" Pierson nodded. "I thought I'd save my money until I saw if I have a chance of winning this."

"And if you don't?"

Blair shrugged, but declined to answer. Pierson pointed to a chair in front of the desk. "Can I get you something to drink?" Blair shook his head. She bent her head to read through the papers on her desk although she'd been through them before and knew the contents well.

Blair waited impatiently in the chair.

"As I understand it, you once worked with Jim Ellison?"

"Yes," Blair said. "I was an observer with the Cascade Police Department and spent all of that time working with Jim. When my place was destroyed, he allowed me to rent a room from him and we spent a great deal of time together."

"And after you declared you dissertation a fraud...."

"After it was released inadvertently and without my permission," Blair added.

"....you were offered a position with the police department and you were a detective for a year," Pierson continued.

"Yes."

"Why did you leave the police force?"

"It became apparent that other officers resented my position on the police force. I felt I was a danger to my fellow detectives, and so Jim and I agreed I should find another career."

"And you went back to school?"

"Yes. My dis was released to a publisher and by a publisher to the media without my permission. It was never formally submitted for consideration to the doctoral committee. When the media circus died down and these facts came to light, I was allowed to enter the doctoral program at Oregon University. I completed my degree requirements last spring."

"Why didn't you bring the facts surrounding your work to light in the first place," Judge Pierson asked, leaning forward to listen to the young man.

Blair's hands escaped his careful control as he went on with his explanation. "It was a media circus. Two of my friends had been hurt because of the distractions. Jim wasn't able to concentrate on his job. I had to do something to get the pressure off of him. I figured, in a few months, I could approach another university with this plan."

"But you joined the police instead?"

"Yes."

"And you were injured in the line of duty," she glanced at her papers, "four times in one year."

"It was part of the reason Jim and I decided another option was needed."

"I see." She looked back down at the paperwork. "And you returned to Cascade when?"

"I visited several times while studying, but I came back to stay when Captain Simon Banks told me Jim had been injured in the wreck." Blair stopped, unwilling to voice the events of those two months.

"And you spent a great deal of your time with Jim after learning of his prognosis."

"Yes."

"Why?" she asked.

"Pardon me?"

"Why?" she repeated. "From all reports, you have a chance for a respectable career in the field of anthropology. You have turned down several teaching positions at small, but respected colleges to teach part-time at Cascade's community college. You spend all your free time with Jim, who is hardly your intellectual equal. If he ever was. I understand you recently married, as well. What does your wife think about this?"

"Jim is my friend. He has always been a friend. Whether he thinks like an adult male or a five-year-old child, doesn't matter. He needs my help. Megan Conner is also a close friend and former partner to Jim. She supports my decision. She planned to be here but her father is quite ill and she went to see him. Between the two of us, we are quite capable of taking care of Jim.Ē

"His father is economically able to care for him."

"His father can't help him the way I can," Blair responded quickly.

"And just what is that supposed to mean, Dr. Sandburg?"

Blair hesitated.

********************

Jim smiled hesitantly at his father as the older man came toward him. Jim had risen from the couch when Blair had stood up to greet Mr. Ellison and had followed Blair to the door of the judge's office, stopping only when his father's wrinkling hand landed awkwardly on his shoulder. Jim had tried to smile for Blair when the door closed, but it had been weak.

William Ellison released his son's shoulder when the door closed and took a seat on the couch, picking up the newspaper on the end table. He looked up after a minute to see Jim still standing, watching the door.

"Jimmy," William called. "Sit down." He watched his son until the younger man moved to obey, then went back to his paper.

Jim sat on the couch and scanned the room again. He saw nothing of interest. His foot began to jiggle restlessly and soon his knee was bobbing up and down. He searched the room for something to occupy him while he waited for Blair to come out.

Jim nearly jumped from his seat when a hand clamped down on his knee. He froze and looked quickly at his knee, following the hand to the arm to the shoulder and eventually to the face of his father where he had no trouble reading the strained smile there.

"Be still, Jimmy," William requested quietly.

Jimmy nodded and immediately froze.

William looked over into the wide eyes of his son. He looked away in shame at the shock and near-fear he saw in those innocent eyes. His eyes fell on the coloring and activity book Blair had brought with him to the waiting room. He hadn't thought to bring anything to occupy Jim while they waited, and Jim had pounced on the book when Blair brought it out.

"Why don't you work some more in your book?" William suggested.

Jim slipped quietly from his seat to the floor and picked up the pencils and colors he'd been using before. He soon lost himself in the task of coloring a new picture for Blair. Jim barely acknowledged when his father rose and walked to the other door of the room. He looked up only when he heard his father call his name.

"Jimmy," William called from the door. "The secretary is getting me some coffee. Do you want anything to drink?"

Jim shook his head and returned to the picture of a jaguar. Blair liked black jaguars, and Jim wanted to color this one good for his friend. The two men waited in silence, Jim coloring diligently and William examining the paper for a couple of minutes. Jim reached for a color that had rolled off the table and accidentally jarred the coffee table, spilling William's coffee onto his hand. He looked up and cringed slightly at his father's stern look and cradled his coffee covered hand next to his chest.

William watched, concerned as Jim cradled his hand. William reached out and forced the hand away from his son, examining the area. He used a napkin to dry the hand and let it go. Jim continued to cradle the hand and scooted back until his back was against the door his friend had gone through minutes before. He began rocking back and forth on the floor, evidently in pain. William, concerned again, took another look at the area and then sat back, eyeing his son suspiciously. Jim continued to rock back and forth while William tried to assure him the coffee wasn't hot enough to hurt. William rose, however, and walked to the secretary's office to ask for some help in cleaning up the spill.

Jim bit his lip and continued to cradle the hand as he heard his father explain the incident. He leaned his head back and felt it hit the door behind him. The feeling took his mind off his hand, and he repeated the movement.

********************

Inside the judge's office, Blair was having a difficult time thinking of a reason he could give the judge as to why he was more capable of helping Jim than Jim's own family. He looked up at the sharp knock on the door.

Judge Pierson cast an annoyed look at the door. When the knock repeated, but no one entered, she pushed the intercom to her secretary.

"Who's knocking at my door? I don't want to be disturbed," Judge Pierson asked.

Blair heard the reply then heard William Ellison sharply tell his son to "Stop that."

The words barely followed a third knock at the door and Blair was out of his chair in a flash. Judge Pierson wasn't far behind.

Blair pulled open the door and saw Jim hunched on the floor. He cast an irritated glance at William Ellison who was leaning over his son trying to pull him to his feet. William stopped abruptly and stepped back, irritation showing in his own gaze.

"Hey, Buddy," Blair said, sitting on the floor in front of Jim, who had scooted away from the door and into a corner. "What's up?"

Jim sniffed. "It hurts," he whispered, still cradling his hand.

"Can I see?" Blair asked, reaching out. Jim shook his head and started rocking again. "Okay. Hey, let's try that dial thing, okay? Do you remember?" Again Jim shook his head.

"You're only encouraging him," William said from behind him. "It went away before. It'll go away again in time."

"Maybe, maybe not," Sandburg said, careful to keep the anger he felt toward William from sounding directed at Jim. "But they weren't as strong before, and he hadn't really accepted them." He turned back to Jim, speaking gently. "Remember your radio?" Jim nodded as he slowed his rocking and focused on Blair. "Remember how you can make it louder or make it quieter?" Again Jim nodded, now sitting still as Blair whispered only to him. "You can do that with the pain, too. Just turn that dial and you'll turn down the pain, too."

Gradually, Jim stopped sniffling, and he dried a few stray tears with his uninjured hand. He tried a shy smile at Blair and let it grow when Blair returned it.

"I knew you could do it," Blair congratulated him. "Can I see it now?" Jim wordlessly held out his hand, still trying to breathe normally and stop crying. Blair carefully looked at the red skin and gently kissed it. "I've got something in the car that will make if feel better. Can you wait while I go get it?"

"I wanna go with you," Jim blurted. His eyes darted nervously to his father then found the woman standing in the doorway. He hadn't noticed her before.

Judge Pierson recognized the signs of intimidation in Jim's eyes as he saw her tall figure in the doorway for the first time. She was speechless at his trust in Sandburg, and she understood.

"Can it wait a moment, Dr. Sandburg?" she asked.

"I'd rather not." He looked back at Jim. "I'll be right back, I promise. 'Kay?" Jim nodded, and Blair raced out of the room.

Pierson watched the man huddled on the floor and considered what she had seen and what she had read before now. She looked at William Ellison, who had the decency to look ashamed.

"Dr. Sandburg's dissertation was real, wasn't it?" she asked the elder Ellison. Her gray eyes held his for a long moment until he nodded. She knelt down before the former Cascade detective. "Hi, Jim," she greeted him with a smile that he returned slowly. "Can you talk to me for a minute?" He nodded slowly, biting his lip. "Do you want to live with Dr. Sandburg?" He wrinkled his forehead at the question, and she amended it. "With Blair?"

Jim's face lit up with a smile and he nodded enthusiastically before sobering and casting a glance at his father.

"You don't want to live with your father?"

"No," Jim whispered.

"Why not?"

"He can't make the hurt go away," Jim explained. "Blair can."

"What hurt?" The judge hadn't suspected any abuse from either party.

"Sometimes, things are so loud and they hurt my ears. And sometimes, things are too light and they hurt my eyes. And sometimes, things hurt. Blair can make it go away."

"How?"

Jim shrugged. "He talks to me."

"Don't you think Blair could teach your Dad, or your brother?"

"No. He tried. I heard him. Daddy..Dad tried," Jim assured the woman. "He did." Jim looked down. "But it doesn't work."

Blair returned within five minutes, out of breath from his mad dash outside to grab an herbal salve from his car. As he knelt in front of Jim to soothe lotion on the reddened skin, Pierson asked William Ellison to return to her office.

Pierson waited for Ellison to take the seat he'd had earlier.

"How long have you known about your son's senses?" Pierson asked.

"He experienced them as a child," William admitted. "They went away for a long time. They came back about the same time he met Mr. Sandburg."

"Have you tried to learn to deal with them?"

"Yes. But Mr. Sandburg seems to be the only one who can really reach him. Megan Conner, a member of the Cascade PD, has some success, and Captain Banks has limited success. Even Steven, my other son, has limited success."

"Do you love your son?"

"Yes."

Pierson paused. "What would you have me do, William? Give your son back to you, or let Blair Sandburg be legally responsible for him?"

"You and I both know what the answer has to be, Your Honor," William said.

"Yes, we do." She stood and shook William's hand. "Would you be kind enough to ask Jim and Blair to come in?" William nodded, smiled sadly at the judge and left the room.

Jim Ellison, towering over his shorter companion, still managed to look like he was hiding behind Sandburg when the two entered Pierson's office. Jim had a hand latched on to Blair's arm and wouldn't let go. Not that she noticed Sandburg trying to get loose. She motioned them to chairs, and Jim shoved his as close as he could get it to Blair's.

"Having reviewed the evidence and the testimony from your friends and from family," Judge Pierson said, "I have determined legal responsibility for Jim Ellison belongs with Blair Sandburg."

She watched the stunned look on Sandburg's face and saw it mirrored on Jim's as he waited for his cue on how to take whatever was happening from his friend.

"But I thought you weren't going to make a decision today?"

"I didn't think I was either," Judge Pierson said. She looked Sandburg firmly in the eyes. "I understand more now than I did. So does Mr. Ellison. He agrees that you are able to help his son in ways he can't. He agrees there is only one decision to reach."

Sandburg release a sigh of relief and reach over to grab a firm hold of Jim's hand. Jim took his cue from Sandburg and smiled, too. Pierson pushed a sheaf of papers to Sandburg.

"I suggest you look these over and have an attorney review them," she said. "Congratulations, and good luck."

"We can go?" Blair asked, looking over the papers briefly as he took them. Pierson nodded. Blair stood, thanked her and turned to Jim. "Let's go home, Jim," he said.

"I can go home with you?"

"Yeah."

"Thank you, Judge Pierson," Blair said. He nudged Jim who looked over Blair's shoulder at the woman.

"Thank you, Judge Pierson," he repeated quickly, then turned his full attention to Blair.

Pierson watched the two men leave, laughing at their departing words.

"Blair?" Jim asked as they walked through the door.

"Yes?"

"Can I have a puppy?"

End

Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Madraf.

Back to Madraf's page.