Disclaimer: The Sentinel, Blair Sandburg, Jim Ellison, Simon Banks, and all other characters are property of Paramount and Pet Fly. No copyright infringement is intended, and no money has exchanged hands.

Warning: Spoilers for TSbyBS.

Processing

by Starfox

********************
It was late afternoon when Blair Sandburg entered the loft. He wearily dropped his keys into the basket by the door and proceeded towards the couch where he slumped down with a desperate sigh. He rubbed his hands over his face while dark thoughts whirled through his mind. He couldn't go on like this; that was for sure.

It had been a month since he had started at the Police Academy and each day it was getting harder to endure the snide remarks from the instructors and the other cadets. Since it had leaked that he'd become a member of the Major Crime department immediately after graduating, the harassing and the pranks they pulled at him had been almost unbearable.

But today had been the icing on the cake.

During a lunch break Blair returned to the locker room to retrieve a book he had forgotten for his next class. When he entered the room, he surprised two other male cadets who had cornered a female cadet and were groping her. As they noticed Blair, the two took off.

The young woman was badly shaken, and it took Blair a few minutes to calm her. He comforted her and accompanied her over to the main offices to report the incident.

The instructor they talked to didn't take it seriously. Disgust clearly showed in his face when he asked Blair why he should believe a fraud like him. Before Sandburg could digest this comment and recover enough to give a suitable response, the instructor turned to the young woman and asked her about her dating habits and her behavior to the two cadets. It was clear that he was thinking she had been a willing participant.

Both of them argued with the instructor, but finally had to accept that he 'would look into it' and if there were any more questions he'd get back to them.

Blair's confidence in the police was badly shaken. If, even at the Academy, prejudices and injustice ruled, what sense did it make for him to become a cop? Would he make any difference on the streets? He desperately wished Jim was there so he could talk to him, but his friend had to attend a seminar in Washington D.C. and wouldn't be back for the next three days.

Sighing, he pushed himself up from the couch. He had been so lost in thought on his way home that he had forgotten that they needed milk, bread, and eggs. Shoving the dark emotions aside for the moment, he took the keys from the basket and pulled the door closed behind him to make a quick run to the convenience store.
********************
As Blair pushed the cart through the aisles, a young girl of maybe four or five years drew his attention. The child was with two women who were engrossed in conversation. They didn't notice that the girl smiled and waved at Blair.

Tentatively, he smiled back and the child giggled in delight.

The child's reaction drew the attention of the mother and she gently scolded her child, "Angie, I told you to not talk to strangers." She gave Blair a disapproving frown and turned away from him.

"Do you know who that is?" her friend whispered loud enough for Blair to catch every word. "It's this fraud. The story was all over the papers. He faked..." They were getting out of earshot and her voice dropped to a low murmur.

Blair closed his eyes against the pain that shot through his gut. He would never be able to recover his reputation here. The realization that he had no future in Cascade hit him with full force. With a shaky breath he abandoned the cart and exited the store. He knew what he had to do.
********************
Four days later Jim Ellison pulled his truck into the parking lot in front of the loft. It was early afternoon, so he expected to have a few hours before Blair returned home from the Academy. He had missed his friend over the past few days. He also was worried for him. Although Blair never said a word, Jim knew that he went through hell at the Academy. He wished he could do something to make things easier for his friend, but confronting the other cadets or the instructors was not an option.

He exited the truck and headed into the building. During the ride up in the elevator, he continued his silent musings. Watching the strain his friend was under since the press conference hadn't been easy. It became worse over the last few weeks and now they reached a point where Jim seriously considered going public. At the time Blair's dissertation was leaked, he'd been too angry and too focused on the case to think things through. He only felt an immense relief as Blair declared his work fraudulent. The realization of what that admission cost his friend came later as Jim saw how Blair was treated by the public after his conference.

As he entered the loft, he decided that it would be best to talk with Blair about going public. Jim already had revealed his talents to the Chief of Police when he and Simon arranged for Blair to get hired by the PD. The Chief had ordered for Jim's old cases to be reviewed, to make sure they could hold up against any complaints of improper search and seizure.

Jim absentmindedly hung his jacket on a hook and tossed his keys into the basket. He stepped towards the kitchen when his gaze fell on an envelope lying on the coffee table.

A feeling of dread settled into his stomach as he slowly reached out and picked it up. It was addressed to him in Blair's neat handwriting.

He ripped the envelope open and retrieved a folded piece of paper. Sinking onto the couch he unfolded it and read the message Blair had left him.

'Jim,

I'm sorry to leave like this, man, but I can't do this any more. I don't have a future in Cascade. Thank you for the past years and your friendship. Tell Simon I'm sorry and thanks for sticking to me. I left most of my things. You can throw them out if you want.

I'm really sorry that it has to end like this.

Blair'

Jim stared at the letter for at least ten minutes, trying to grasp the meaning. Blair was gone. He left without talking to Jim and, if his message was any clue, he had no intention of making contact again.

The ringing of the phone jolted him out of his stupor.

Dazed, he took the receiver and spoke into it absently.

"Ellison."

"Jim, it's Simon. What the hell is going on with Sandburg? I got a call this morning that he quit at the Academy."

"He's gone Simon," Jim choked out. "He left me a message saying he couldn't do it any more."

There was stunned silence as Simon tried to digest the news. Finally the captain said: "Hang on Jim, I'm on my way. We'll figure it out." With that the line was disconnected.

Jim slowly put the receiver down and moved over to Blair's room. Pushing the French doors open, he took in the room. Blair's clothes were missing, as were some photos, some artifacts and a few other things. Most of Blair's possessions were still there. Jim guessed that Blair had packed only enough to easily transport in his car. Jim turned away, still in shock over the disappearance of his friend and the sight of the half empty room added to his feeling of loss.
********************
Simon arrived twenty minutes later. He read Blair's note in silence, a frown growing on his face. Finally he looked up at Jim.

"This could be tied into something that happened at the Academy. The Academy Commander is a friend of mine.

He called me yesterday to tell me about an incident Sandburg was involved in. Apparently two male cadets were harassing a young woman in the locker room when Sandburg surprised them. They took off, and Blair and the girl reported the incident to an instructor. The guy wasn't very cooperative. He told Sandburg that he didn't believe a fraud and accused the girl of teasing the cadets. She was so angry that she asked my friend for an appointment and filed a complaint against the instructor. The man has been reprimanded and the cadets were suspended pending a formal inquiry but Sandburg turned in his resignation early the next morning. I think the instructor got to him with his fraud-comment."

Jim clenched his jaw. "This has to stop, Simon. Blair has been through hell the last weeks. He can't take any more. I thought about going public before but now I'm sure that's the right thing to do."

Simon was shocked into silence by Jim's statement. He stared incredulously at his detective. "May I remind you how you reacted when Sandburg's dissertation was first leaked to the public? I thought you'd rip the poor guy's head off. Now, after all Blair has been through, you decide to admit to being a Sentinel?"

"Because of all that Blair has been through," Jim stated adamantly. "Look, when the whole dissertation mess started, I was taken totally by surprise. The reporters clung to us like fleas to a dog, and followed us wherever we went. They interfered with the case, hindering me from getting Zeller. Now that I've had time to think about it, I can deal with the results. Everyone who makes the effort to dig deeper will discover anyway that the dissertation was true. The guys at the station already know that Blair was right about me. Hell, they're detectives. If they haven't it figured out by now they wouldn't deserve their titles.

"We already made sure that my previous cases are safe. If it helps Blair to get his life back, I'll gladly admit to being a Sentinel. Simon, if you would have taken a good look at him the last time, you'd have seen how it affected him to be labeled as a fraud. It's time that I do something to pay him back for his sacrifice."

Simon pinned Jim with a long look. "I see that you gave this a lot of thought. Yes, I noticed how the loss of his reputation and his academic life affected Blair. I hoped that by offering him a job as a cop we could fix things, but we both know that didn't work. You have my total support if you go public. We just have to find a way to break the news to the Chief."

"Thank you Simon. But the most important thing right now is to search for Blair."
********************
And search they did. Simon put out an APB on Blair's Volvo while Jim contacted the friends that had stood by Blair after his press conference and asked them for any information they might have about Sandburg's whereabouts. He even tried to get in touch with Naomi but couldn't find her.

Joel and Megan volunteered to track Blair's financial transactions, only to discover that he withdrew all his money and closed his account. His credit card also turned up empty. If Blair didn't want to be found, they'd have a hard time doing so, since he learned all the tricks from his time with the Cascade Police Department.

It had been two days since Jim came home to an empty loft and he worked nearly full time in his frantic search for a clue. The hours were catching up to him. With each passing hour, it was becoming harder to concentrate and stay focused. Ellison wearily rubbed his face and got up from his desk to get more coffee.

Just as he made the first step away from his desk, his phone rang.

Hoping for good news, he snatched the receiver up from the cradle.

"Ellison."

"Jim, Joel here. We found Blair's car."

"Where are you?"

"At 'Jack's used cars and accessories'. Looks like he sold it."

"I'm on my way."
********************
By the time Jim arrived, Joel and Megan had already examined the car without finding a clue.

Joel briefed Jim. "The car is totally empty. The owner here says that Blair showed up four days ago and asked for a price for the Volvo. They settled on $2,500.00. According to him, Blair had only his backpack and a duffle bag with him. He doesn't know which direction he was headed."

Jim briefly talked to the business owner himself but didn't get any more information. As he examined the car, the residual faint smell of Blair kept distracting him. But even with his heightened senses he couldn't discover any hint of Blair's whereabouts.

Slowly, doubt began to gnaw at Jim. It seemed as if Blair had managed to disappear without a trace. Since he had gotten rid of his car, it would prove to be even more difficult to find him. Now the APB Simon had put on it was fruitless.

Jim hit the roof of the Volvo in frustration. If only he hadn't attended the seminar, things might not have gotten so out of hand.
********************
Blair ate his dinner silently. He had been on the road for the last 6 days, stopping in small towns to stock up his supplies and fill up the tank of the old Rover he bought after selling his beloved Volvo. It had been hard to sell his car but he knew that Simon would put an APB on the vehicle. The Volvo was too easy to track. Besides the new car had cost him only $1,800.00. With the money he got for his laptop, he could cover his expenses until he got settled in a new place.

Finally, he reached Boston and decided to stay there for a while. The dissertation mess hadn't made the news here, so he was confident he could get a decent job. He would try to settle down a bit, get a grip on his emotions, and consider his options carefully. It still hurt to think about the friends he left behind and, especially the way he'd taken off on Jim. The Sentinel must be turning the city upside down in his search for him. But Blair didn't want to be found. He had arranged his disappearance carefully. Being on the force for over three years taught him how to cover his tracks.

Blair shook himself out of his thoughts and concentrated on his dinner again. There was no sense dwelling in the past. He had to concentrate on the present and think about his future.
********************
Sarah Thompson eyed the young man in front of her critically. He ordered lunch at her small diner and, since there were few customers at the moment, she had time to play her favorite game; categorizing people.

This young man was hard to assess. At first glance, he seemed to be not much more than one of these young students that hung around her diner occasionally. His clothing especially reminded her of them. He was wearing slightly faded jeans, a blue-checked flannel-shirt over a gray t-shirt, and a black leather-jacket. His long, curly hair was tied back into a ponytail. But, on closer inspection, there was something that wouldn't quite fit into this image. He seemed more mature than most of the students she knew. He looked very serious and there was a distinct hint of sadness about him. The earnestness and wisdom in his eyes spoke of a life-experience that contradicted his youth. It'd be interesting to hear his story.

Since he'd finished his dinner, she went over to him to see if he wanted anything. "Can I bring you something else?"

He looked up at her and smiled. "A coffee'd be nice."

Sarah poured the coffee and set the mug down in front of him. "Be careful, it's very hot."

The young man wrapped his hands around the warm ceramic and took a look around. "It's nice here. Are you the owner?"

"My husband bought this place 7 years ago. He died shortly after that in an accident. Now, it's mine."

"I'm sorry for your loss," he said compassionately. "It must've been hard for you."

"Yeah, at first it was rough. It took me some time to get accustomed to all the paperwork, and bookkeeping that goes with a business. I learned a lot."

They chatted a few more minutes, exchanged recipes and Blair told some stories from his travels. During their small talk Sarah mentioned that she was understaffed at the moment and could use someone to help her with cooking and managing the business.

To Blair, it was a golden opportunity to settle down and get back on his feet. He also needed some downtime to make arrangements for paying back his student loans. After mulling over it for a minute, he decided to offer his help.

"Maybe I can help you out for a few weeks. I have nothing pressing on my hands, and I have some experience with working in a restaurant. My mom and I stayed with a friend of hers who had an Italian restaurant when I was twelve. He let me help out sometimes, and even manage the cash register."

Sarah was enthusiastic. "That'd be great. I'd really appreciate your help. I've only got one problem; I can't pay you much."

Blair shrugged his shoulders. "I'm in the process of relocating. If you have a room where I can stay and let me eat at the diner, that'd mostly cover it."

Sarah agreed, and so Blair gained a temporary new home.
********************
Ellison nervously paced the confines of the small room. Usually used for interrogations, today he used it to gather his thoughts and kill time before his big entrance.

He mused silently over the last days.

Two weeks had passed since Blair's departure, and he wasn't any closer to finding him than the first day they started looking for him. Jim nearly lost all hope that he'd see his friend and partner again. His only chance was to contact Naomi on the chance that Blair had called her and she'd tell Jim about it. He hadn't succeeded in locating her yet. Despite the uncertainty of Blair ever returning to Cascade, Jim decided that enough was enough and he made arrangements to restore his friend's reputation.

The reason for his nervousness was the huge crowd of reporters gathered in a room nearby. Every news agency in Cascade received an invitation to a press conference hosted at the Cascade PD, featuring Jim Ellison. They all knew about his involvement in this whole dissertation-mess a few months ago and were curious about this conference.

Jim finally had decided to go public. After a long talk with Simon and the Commissioner, they decided that they could handle the turmoil that would rise with the revelation of Jim's abilities. Betting on the short memory of most people, he hoped that the worst of it would be over after a few weeks. He couldn't go undercover anymore, anyway, since his picture had been plastered all over the media.

He took a last sip of water from the glass sitting on the table, took a deep breath, straightened his shoulders, and began the short trek to the conference room.
********************
As Jim entered the room, the noise level dropped immediately, fading to an almost eerie silence. He positioned himself behind the podium and let his gaze travel over the assembled faces. Quite a few he recognized. The most familiar was Don Hass, who had reported about the first serial-murder Jim and Blair worked together. Jim shuddered inwardly. That particular case nearly cost Blair his life. The murderer, David Lash, managed to fool the police by pretending to be a doctor whom they asked to help with the case. For days, he participated in their attempts to solve the case while silently choosing his next victim--Blair Sandburg. Lash had abducted Blair and nearly succeeded in killing him. Jim showed up at the nick of time to rescue his friend.

Shoving his distracting memories aside, Jim focused on the people in front of him and gathered his thoughts. Finally, he spoke.

"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I arranged this conference to tell you the truth about the events of a few months ago.

"At that time, most of you witnessed the turmoil surrounding a paper written by Blair Sandburg. In his manuscript, he described me as a Sentinel, a person who can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel better than average people.

"The media circus caused by the leaking of the dissertation, interfered severely with the case I was working at that time. It enabled Klaus Zeller to avoid arrest, which caused serious injuries to two cops who got hit by a bullet from his weapon here in the station.

"As a result, Sandburg gave a statement at Rainier University, declaring himself a fraud and saying that he faked the facts about me being a Sentinel.

"Blair Sandburg is only guilty of one thing: lying about faking his dissertation, which he did in an attempt to repair the damage caused by the leaking of his dissertation. He did what most people wouldn't be able to do: He threw away an offer of three million dollars and the chance of getting a Nobel Prize, along with the academic career he worked on for a long time. He showed an integrity, loyalty and responsibility that renders me speechless."

Jim paused for effect.

"What he wrote is true. I'm a Sentinel. A few months ago I wasn't ready to admit it to the public. Now, after seeing what my friend went through in order to protect me, I can't deny the truth any longer. My senses are more accurate than average people's. That doesn't make me Superman, so don't be too excited about it."

Ellison cleared his throat and looked at the stunned faces of the reporters.

"I met Sandburg over three years ago when I started to have severe problems with my senses. He explained the concept of Sentinels to me and signed on as an observer with the PD, so he could help me with coping. In exchange, I agreed to become his thesis subject. Over the course of the three years we worked together, he became my friend, and even if his status at the PD didn't change, he participated actively in solving our cases, acting more like my partner than just an observer.

"Blair left Cascade two weeks ago, so he is not available for interviews. I was lucky to call him my friend these past few years and it saddens me that he felt compelled to leave. Maybe it's too late to say thank you, but it is not too late to restore his reputation.

"If you have any questions, or need prove to my remarks, I'm now available for it. Thank you for your attention."

He stepped back from the podium and waited for the first reporter to speak.
********************
Blair put the finishing touches on the meal he was preparing as a lunch special in the diner's kitchen. He lived in a small room at the back of the diner for the past 5 weeks now. After his arrival, he helped Sarah with managing the place, trying some of his recipes to draw in new customers, helping her with the accounting, and generally lending a hand wherever it was needed. They had developed a friendship over the course of these weeks, and after Sarah had asked him why he seemed so sad, he had finally partially confided in her. Since he still wanted to protect Jim, he told her that he lost his former job due to unfortunate circumstances.

Sarah had been very understanding. She noticed that he didn't want to talk about it, so she didn't press any further. The work helped him to get his mind off his past. He got up early to prepare breakfast for the customers, often working 'till late in the night doing the cleanup or some paperwork. Sarah was grateful for his help, since it allowed her to take some time off and reconnect with old friends and her family.

This afternoon it was quite busy, so they both served the customers. Blair had just prepared two more plates and set them on the counter for Sarah, when another customer entered the shop.

At first glance there was nothing suspicious about him. He was a middle-aged, lean man of average height. The only conspicuous thing was his nervousness. His eyes darted across the room looking at the customers as he slowly made his way over to the counter.

Sarah, who had just served a young couple near the back of the diner, intercepted him, "One person, sir?"

Suddenly the man withdrew a gun from under his jacket, grabbed her and put the gun against her temple. "Shut up. Everybody stay seated." He pulled Sarah with him and they arrived at the counter. "You," he waved at Blair with his other hand, "take the money and put it in a bag."

Blair watched the whole scene with disbelief. Everything happened so fast, he barely had time to push the alarm-button Sarah had installed after two former robbery attempts. Now he hastily pushed the no-sale button to open the cash register and started to retrieve the money. Finding no bag in the immediate vicinity, and not wanting to aggravate the robber's nervousness, he decided to use a takeout-container to stash the cash. Finally, the money was transferred and Blair lifted the container to hand it to the robber.

The man shook his head vehemently and pressed the gun even harder against Sarah's temple. "No, come on around the counter so I can watch you."

Blair complied and slowly rounded the counter.

The robber yanked the container out of Blair's hands. With the other hand he pushed Sarah against Blair. As soon as he released Sarah and he went over to the door, one of the female customers started to scream and dove for cover beneath the table.

The robber snapped. "Shut up," he screamed. Turning around, he aimed at Sarah and pulled the trigger twice.

Blair's reflexes kicked in and he pushed Sarah to the ground. He was able to get her out of the line of fire, but wasn't so lucky himself. A searing pain shot through his chest and he collapsed heavily to the ground before everything went black.
********************
Ellison threw his keys in the basket by the door, hung his jacket on a hook, and crossed the living room to drop tiredly on one of the couches. It was four weeks since his press conference and, like he'd hoped, the media slowly lost interest in him. After his speech at the conference, he answered questions and proved his abilities for over half an hour. Finally the reporters were satisfied and left. The next day, the headlines screamed the news along with the glowing praise for one Blair Sandburg, who sacrified everything to protect his Sentinel.

The evening news had shown a very flabbergasted Chancellor Edwards. She stuttered around, only to finally admit that Rainier was involved in leaking the dissertation, and the resulting media circus. She stated that the University had left Blair little choice about keeping a low profile. They had pressured Blair into publicity.

The chancellor looked straight into the cameras after she digested the first surprise. "I can only apologize to Mr. Sandburg for the way we treated him. We set him up for the reporters and did everything to increase the media attention. After he finally saw no other escape other than to declare his work fraudulent, we dropped him faster than a hot potato. I'm ashamed for the role I played in this whole disaster. I had only the interest of the University on my mind but that doesn't excuse the way I handled the situation. If Mr. Sandburg decides to come back to Cascade, we'll gladly offer him a job as professor at Rainier's Anthropology department after he defends his dissertation. I apologize again for forcing Mr. Sandburg to his announcement."

Jim had to give her credit for the way she handled herself in front of the cameras. She seemed to be sincerely sorry for the way things had turned out.

His hope that Blair would see the news announcement and decide to come back slowly shattered over the course of the weeks. He also had no luck in locating Naomi.

Jim took in the interior of the loft. Although Blair had taken a few items with him, there were still several things left that reminded him of his friend. He couldn't bring himself to change anything in Blair's room yet. It was hard to bury the hope completely. It also astonished him how much he missed his friend. He found himself thinking of Blair as a younger brother.

Jim turned the TV on and began to flip mindlessly through the channels. His whirling thoughts didn't want to settle down.

The ringing of the phone pulled him out of his reverie. He snatched the receiver out of the cradle.

"Ellison." Since there had been a lot of calls from reporters, his greeting was harsher than usual.

"Is this detective James Ellison?" a female voice asked cautiously, obviously intimidated by his barking.

"Yes, speaking."

"This is nurse Watson from Cascade General. You're listed as emergency contact for Blair Sandburg, is this right?"

Jim caught his breath. Blair wasn't in Cascade, he was sure of that. So what was it with this call? "Yeah, that's correct. What do you want?"

"I'm calling to let you know that Boston Community has requested his files. He has been hospitalized after he got shot during a robbery. I'm sorry, but according to them it doesn't look good. As his emergency contact we have an obligation to notify you. It'd be best if you contact Boston Community directly. We'll give them your name, so you won't have any problems."

Jim was dazed. After all this time he finally knew where his friend was, only to discover that he could lose him forever. He hastily jotted down the phone number the nurse gave him, thanked her, and disconnected the line.

After he digested the news, he called the Boston hospital to get information about Blair's condition. The news wasn't encouraging. The bullet had nicked the young man's heart and as a result, he nearly bled to death before the hospital was able to stabilize him. Now he was deeply unconscious, bordering on coma, and the doctors weren't sure whether he'd pull through or not.

Jim arranged for a flight to Boston within the hour, and then called his captain.

"Banks," the voice on the other end of the line barked.

"Simon, it's Jim. Listen, I know where Blair is."

"What?" Had Jim not dialed down his hearing in anticipation of his captain's reaction, he'd be deaf now.

"Cascade General called. Blair forgot to remove me as his emergency contact, so they felt obliged to notify me that he has been admitted to Boston Community. Simon, he's critically injured. They don't know if he'll pull through."

There was shocked silence before Simon managed to say, "I assume you called me to tell me that you're leaving with the next plane."

"You know me very well, sir." Despite the situation, Jim managed a grim smile.

"Keep me informed. I'll tell the guys at the station. Sandburg'll need every prayer he can get."

"Will do, sir." Jim hung up the phone and hurriedly packed a bag with the necessities he'd need for his trip. Twenty minutes after receiving the disturbing phone call, he left the loft for the airport.
********************
When he finally entered the hospital in Boston, Jim's emotions had already been on a wild roller-coaster ride. The overwhelming relief that he finally found his friend was drowned by worry. He just wanted to see Blair. After all the weeks he'd spent searching, he wouldn't have dreamt that he'd see him again in a hospital, and at death's door.

He went up to the admission desk and showed his ID. "James Ellison. I'm here about Blair Sandburg. He was shot during a robbery."

The nurse took a good look at his ID and handed it back. "Are you family, sir?"

Jim tried to suppress his impatience. "I'm his emergency contact. I also have his power of attorney."

"I see." The nurse turned towards the computer, hit a few keys, and finally looked back up at Jim. "He's in ICU. Third floor. I'll notify his doctor and he'll fill you in and show you the room."

"Thank you," Jim nodded gratefully and walked quickly to the elevators.

When the doors opened on the third floor, a man in a lab coat was just leaving the ICU area.

"Mr. Ellison?"

Jim nodded.

"I'm Dr. Mitchell, Mr. Sandburg's attending physician." The man pulled his hand through his short brown hair and hesitated a moment before he continued. "He was hit by a bullet during a robbery. The projectile nicked his heart, causing severe blood loss. We had a hard time stabilizing him after he was brought in. He needed four pints of blood and even then it was touch and go for a while. His condition is still very critical. We had to put him on a respirator because he is too weak to breathe on his own. I'll be honest Mr. Ellison. His chances to survive are 50/50."

Jim was shocked by the news. It was worse than he'd feared. "Can I see him?"

"Of course. Mrs. Thompson is with him right now. I hope you don't mind that I let her see him, but since he risked his life for her, I thought it wouldn't do any harm." Dr. Mitchell motioned for Ellison to follow him and led the way towards the ICU-room.

As they entered the room, Jim's heart dropped to his stomach. Blair was lying on the bed, his face as white as the sheets, hooked up to several monitors. Two IV-lines were connected to his arms, administering medication and nutrition.

A woman about the age of 38 was seated in a chair by his bedside. At the sound of the door she looked up, gazing at them with red-rimmed eyes.

Dr. Mitchell cleared his throat. "Mrs. Thompson, this is James Ellison. He's Blair's Power Of Attorney."

Sarah stood and took the two steps required to meet Jim at the doorway. She took a deep breath and offered a shaky hand. "Hello Mr. Ellison, I'm Sarah Thompson. It was my diner that was robbed."

Jim took her hand and shook it gently. "Can you tell me what happened?" He turned his attention back to Blair. It was impossible to get a clear look at his friend due to the respirator and the wires that hooked him up to the machines, but it was obvious that Blair had lost some weight. The seriousness of his injury showed in his complexion and the slackness of his features. He seemed to be deeply unconscious, if not comatose.

Unnoticed by Jim or Mrs. Thompson, Doctor Mitchell left the room.

Sarah sighed and wiped her nose with a handkerchief. "Blair was a customer at my diner five weeks ago. We chatted a bit, and I mentioned that I could use a hand right now. He told me that he was in the process of relocating and volunteered to help me out for a few weeks. He's been a big help. We became friends and he seemed to lighten up a bit. You know, he looked really sad when I first met him."

Sara told him the events that led to Blair's injury.

"Mr. Ellison it was terrible. He didn't move and there was so much blood. Thankfully, the police were already on their way, since Blair managed to push the alarm button. They immediately started first aid. I think that's what kept him alive until the ambulance got there. At least they caught the robber. I hope they'll put him in jail for a long time."

She couldn't suppress a sniffle and Jim gently laid a hand on her shoulder, offering silent comfort.

"He is a fighter, Mrs. Thompson. If anybody can pull through, then it's Blair. He survived other situations which I didn't think possible, so don't give up on him now."

She gazed up at him and nodded gratefully. "You're right. It's too soon for that." Sarah stood, brushing the tears from her cheeks." I'm sure you'd like some time alone with him, so I'll go home. Could you tell me if anything changes?"

Jim was touched by her concern. "Of course, I'll let you know." He took the card she offered him and placed it carefully in his shirt pocket. "Thank you for staying with him."

She looked down at the unconscious young man who lay motionless on the bed. "He's become a good friend, you know." With that, she turned and left the room, closing the door silently behind her.

Jim settled himself in the chair near the bed, staring helplessly at his injured friend.
********************
Four days had passed since Jim's arrival in Boston, and to the amazement of the doctors, Blair survived and showed signs of improvement. He'd been unconscious the whole time but his vitals slowly climbed and today they were able to take him off the respirator.

Jim rubbed his face tiredly. He'd spent as much time at the hospital as possible, leaving only for the night and when the nurses kicked him out.

He contacted Simon daily, keeping him updated on Blair's condition. Sarah kept him company sometimes, exchanging stories with him, trying to distract him from his worries.

Jim thought about Blair's progress the past few days. His friend's face had recovered some color. He stirred a little now from time to time and Dr. Mitchell was confident that he'd wake soon.

A slight noise pulled him out of his musings. As he turned his attention towards it, two unfocused half-closed eyes greeted him.

Jim immediately got up and leaned over his friend, anxious to see if there was any recognition. Although brain damage didn't seem likely, Dr. Mitchell hadn't entirely ruled it out.

Blair blinked and his gaze cleared, slowly giving way to confusion. His eyes focused on Jim and widened slightly.

He tried to speak, but his voice was hoarse from disuse and his throat raw from the respirator tube. The noise he managed to choke out wasn't recognizable as words.

"Easy, Chief, don't try to speak." Jim pressed the call-button for the nurse's station.

The disbelief was clearly written on Blair's face. It was obvious that he was completely taken by surprise at Jim's presence.

Before Ellison could say any more, the door opened and a nurse entered. At the sight of Blair awake, she stopped dead in her tracks, looked at Jim and announced: "I'll get Dr. Mitchell."

She hurried out and Jim returned his attention to Sandburg, only to watch Blair's eyelids droop heavily. His eyes closed completely and he slipped back into sleep.
********************
The next two days, Blair slipped in and out of sleep. He was coherent when he woke, but he couldn't stay awake longer than a few minutes. Any longer conversation had to wait until he improved more. So Jim only told him how he'd been able to locate him. They transferred him to a private room on the evening of the second day.

Finally, on the afternoon of the third day, Blair opened his eyes, turned his head towards Jim, who sat in a chair beside his bed and greeted: "Hi, man. I thought they would have kicked you out by now."

Jim, who sifted through a magazine, looked up and grimaced. "They tried. Dr. Mitchell threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't take a break. I'm not here all the time, Chief. I'm staying nights at Sarah's diner."

Blair tried to sit up a little and sank back into the cushions with a moan. "You met Sarah? How is she? She wasn't hurt, was she?"

Jim reached for the control and raised the head of the bed a bit, so Blair could sit up. "No, she wasn't hurt. You managed to get her out of the way. The police arrived shortly after the perp shot you and they managed to arrest him."

Blair sighed. "I'm glad they caught him. The guy lost it, you know. He was already near the exit when he suddenly turned around and fired at us."

"Sarah said that a girl started screaming and he snapped. She was here earlier and asked me to tell you to take it easy and rest."

Blair smiled. "She's a nice lady. It was fun working with her the last few weeks." Suddenly he got serious. "So what happens now? You know I can't come back to Cascade."

Jim grinned inwardly. His friend was in for a big surprise. "You up for some news? If you're tired we can continue this later."

Blair shook his head. "No way man, the last few days I slept enough to last for two months. I can go on a little longer without falling asleep on you."

Jim nodded, but took inventory of Blair's vitals, nonetheless. His heartbeat was a little weaker than usually, but stronger and steadier than a few days ago. The faint lines in his face proved that the pain medication didn't help completely.

After he was satisfied that his friend was indeed up to talking, Jim started to fill Blair in on the events that had happened after he left Cascade.

"I suppose that your sudden leaving had something to do with the happenings at the Academy, huh?"

Blair closed his eyes for a moment. Pulling at a thread in the blanket that covered him, he murmured. "It was one of the things that led to my decision. Come on, even at the Academy they call me a fraud. You should've seen this guy. Melissa told him that two cadets molested her and he acts as if she asked for it. How can we make a difference when, even at the Academy, things get swept under the carpet?"

"You're wrong, Chief. Things didn't get covered up. Melissa complained to the Academy Commander. Your instructor got reprimanded and the cadets eventually got expelled."

"I'm glad they didn't get away. Can you imagine what kind of cops they'd make?"

I'm glad we don't have to find out. Anyway, one good thing happened because of all this. I thought about it for some time, but after Simon told me what happened at the Academy, I finally decided to go through with it."

Blair stared at Jim suspiciously. "What did you decide? What did you do?"

"I went public." Jim raised a hand to stop the exclamations Blair was about to utter. Judging by the look on Sandburg's face, they wouldn't be nice comments. "Just hear me out, Chief. When your diss was leaked, I was totally surprised and didn't have time to process it. It took awhile to get me to the conclusion that it wasn't so bad for the public to know. Anyone who goes to the trouble to check, would find the proof anyhow. Now I can at least testify in court and they'll believe me.

"But the most important thing is that your credibility has been restored. I couldn't stand the thought that everybody thought of you as a fraud and a liar. You should've seen Chancellor Edwards' face when the press got a hold of her. Embarrassment doesn't begin to cover it. They offered you a job, by the way. The Commissioner also asked me to offer you a job as consultant to the PD as my permanent partner."

The look on Blair's face was almost comical. The young man stared at his friend as if he'd grown a second head. A multitude of emotions flashed over his features and his eyes glistened suspiciously. "I can't believe it. After all that happened, this is like a dream."

"Don't expect to wake up from it, 'cause that won't happen." Jim gently cuffed Blair on the back of his head.

Sandburg scowled at him, but a huge yawn destroyed his efforts to look stern.

Jim noticed that his friend was getting tired and lowered the head of the bed again. "Now what about getting some more sleep. You look like you need it."

Blair nodded sleepily and closed his eyes. Within minutes, he was sound asleep.
********************
Over the next few days, after Blair assured Jim that he wanted to come back to Cascade, Jim made the arrangements for their departure from Boston. With Blair's agreement, he sold the Rover and brought most of his friend's things to the hospital. The news coverage about the robbery hadn't been too big but, nonetheless, Jim had to fend off some reporters.

Sarah visited sometimes, and thanked Blair for saving her life as soon as she saw him awake. She and Jim grew to like each other and they became friends quickly.

In Cascade, however, things weren't so quiet. The news that Sandburg was recovering was greeted with big relief by the guys at Major Crime. Somehow, the press got wind of the story and, again, Blair's image was plastered all over the newspapers. Simon had a hard time keeping Major Crime functioning due to the phone calls and hovering reporters.

When Jim told Blair about the circus his unlucky captain had to deal with, the young man laughed heartily about the mental image.

"Oh man, I can imagine how pleased he is with the whole situation. Poor Simon, I almost feel sorry for him."

Jim smirked. "He gets the big bucks. He can handle it."

"Don't let him hear that or he'll assign you the paperwork for the whole bullpen."

"Hey, that's what friends are for, don't you think? Of course you'd be eager to help me." Jim added, slyly.

Blair laughed. "Only in your dreams, man. Don't count on me." He moaned suddenly. "Jim, can you please call the nurse? I think the pain meds are wearing off. It hurts, man."

Ellison immediately pressed the button for the nurse. "Hang on, Chief. She'll be here soon."

Two minutes later a nurse entered the room, and after Jim explained the problem, injected the pain medicine into Blair's IV-line. She smiled down at him. "It'll help soon, so just try to relax."

She didn't promise too much, because shortly after, the pain vanished and Blair got sleepy again.

Jim got up. "Go to sleep, Chief. I'm going to eat something at the cafeteria. I'll be back later."

Blair nodded and obediently slipped into sleep.
********************
When he woke, Jim was seated in the chair beside his bed, reading the newspaper. Obviously he had monitored Blair closely because he immediately lowered the paper and smiled at him.

"Hi Chief, how're you feeling?"

Blair stretched carefully and noticed only a dull ache. The pain medication did a pretty good job. "Better. It doesn't hurt any longer." At Jim's disbelieving look, he hastened to assure, "Really it's nearly faded completely. Do you know when I can leave?"

Jim continued to study him critically. "I talked to the doctor. If everything goes well, they'll discharge you the day after tomorrow."

Blair closed his eyes in relief. "That's good. I'm really tired of the hospital and the experiment they call food here." He opened his eyes again and locked his gaze with Jim. "I'm really glad I can go home."

Jim smiled gently at him; a brilliant smile that could light a dark room. "Yeah Chief, you're finally coming home."
********************
Simon Banks took one last deep breath before he opened the door to the conference room. Casting a quick glance at the assembled reporters in the rows of seats, he made his way to the podium in front of the room.

He positioned himself behind the podium while Henri and Rafe, who had entered behind him, stood to the left and the right.

Making eye contact to the men and women in front of him Simon started to talk.

"Welcome ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming. As most of you know, I'm Captain Simon Banks from the Major Crime department of Cascade PD. I arranged this press conference to make a few things clear.

"Over the past few months you all witnessed and sometimes participated in the events surrounding Blair Sandburg's dissertation.

"I'm sure most of you were present at Jim Ellison's press conference. I don't have much to add. Jim Ellison is indeed gifted with heightened senses. I've known about them since the day Sandburg started as an observer at the station.

"But that's not the point here. You all know that Blair Sandburg left Cascade over two months ago because he could not see a future here. You also know that he was critically injured two weeks ago protecting a young woman during a robbery at his new work place.

"I'm also sure that the information has leaked already that he has recovered enough to come back to Cascade tomorrow; now that he is reinstated at the university and at the station. I arranged this conference to let you all know that, if even one of you shows up at the airport, I'll personally arrest you for public nuisance. Believe me, Judge Reynolds would be pleased to give all of you a few days in jail."

The reporters had been listening silently to Simon's speech but now they began to murmur and a few started to voice loud protests.

Simon raised his hands haltingly.

"I can not prevent you from writing about this, but Blair has been through hell these past few months and he deserves his peace. If you need pictures of Sandburg for your articles you can use the ones my detectives are handing out to you."

Rafe and Brown, who were standing quietly behind Banks, moved to the front row of seats and began to distribute stacks of photos.

"In consideration of your involvement in this whole situation I expect you to honor my request." Simon leveled a glare at the assembled reporters to make sure they understood his determination. "Thank you for your time."

With that, he nodded to Rafe and Brown, and the three left the room together.
********************
The next day, Blair was released from the hospital and the time for his return to Cascade had finally come. Jim arrived at the hospital early to help him with packing his things and prepare for leaving.

"Hey Chief," he greeted cheerfully. "Ready to go home?"

Blair was in the process of eating his breakfast, or to be more precise, pushing his food around on the plate. He stared in disgust at the yellow mass that pretended to be scrambled eggs and pushed the plate aside with a sigh.

"As ready as I'll ever be. Just get me out of here before I turn cannibal on you."

Jim laughed. "Come on Chief, it's not so bad."

Blair grimaced. "Be glad that you don't have to eat this stuff or your senses would turn off in sheer self-defense."

Just as Jim was about to reply, the nurse entered with Blair's discharge-papers.

It took them another 20 minutes to finally make it to the hospital exit. They were both surprised to see Sarah waiting for them at the admission desk.

She pushed away from the counter and met them in front of the exit. "Did you really think that I'd let you leave without saying goodbye?"

Blair smiled. "Sarah, it's good to see you. How're things going?"

She bent down and hugged him carefully. "Everything's fine, thanks to you."

Jim cleared his throat. "I think we should move, 'cause we're in the way."

Sarah straightened. "You're right. I've got the car outside. I'll drive you to the airport."

Jim helped Blair out of the wheelchair and lent him a steadying arm. He flashed Sarah a grateful smile. "Thank you. We really appreciate it."

"Blair saved my life. I'll never be able to pay him back for that. So at least I can give you two a lift."

Blair was shuffling slowly towards the door with Jim's help. He met Sarah's gaze solemnly. "I'm just glad you're alive. You don't have to do anything to thank me."

Sarah held the door for them with a smile. "I wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to enjoy your charming personality a while longer."
********************
The flight from Boston to Cascade was uneventful. One of the flight attendants recognized Blair from the article about the robbery and, since there were a few empty seats available, had cleared a complete row for him.

Now the young man was stretched out across the seats, covered by two blankets and sound asleep. He still tired quickly and hadn't recovered his full strength. It would take a few more weeks for him to heal completely.

Jim, who had settled himself in the row in front of the sleeping young man, surreptitiously checked on him every few minutes.

He still needed time to process the events of the last few months. Everything had happened too fast. He never again wanted to feel that helpless again. First he'd lost all hope of seeing his friend ever again, only to receive the call from Cascade General revealing Blair's whereabouts and telling him that there was a good chance he'd lose him for good. He had thought he'd never get a second chance with Blair.

Again Jim glanced at Sandburg. The young man had fallen asleep within the first five minutes after he lay down. The pain medication he was still taking helped him to relax enough for sleep, but added to his almost constant tiredness.

For Jim, it was a miracle that they were actually together and returning to Cascade. Everything had turned out okay. Blair would start as a part-time professor at Rainier after defending his thesis, which was just a formality. He also would become an official consultant to the Cascade PD and assigned to Jim.

Ellison leaned back in his seat and sighed in relief. Life was good.
********************
While walking the jet way to the airport terminal in Cascade, Jim watched his friend worriedly, ready to offer support should the need arise. Blair was a bit unsteady on his feet but managed to work his way slowly towards the gate.

As they neared the exit, the familiar sight of Simon Banks greeted them.

Despite his exhaustion Blair smiled up at the captain. "Hello Simon, it's good to see you again."

Banks eyed Sandburg critically, noticing the still too pale complexion and the loss of weight. He took Blair's offered hand and gently drew him in for a careful hug. "Welcome back, son. You had us worried." After a few moments he released the surprised young man and smiled at him. "Let's get you home so you can get some rest."

Jim greeted Simon and leaned in to whisper: "I'm impressed, sir. How did you manage to keep the reporters away?"

"I threatened to arrest them for harassment. They were very cooperative after that." He smirked at Jim's disbelieving look. "Now come on let's get a move. I don't think it's good for Blair to stand here all day."

Jim and Simon gathered the luggage and the three slowly made their way over to Simon's car.
********************
At the time the three men entered the loft, Blair was ready to crawl into bed and sleep for the whole week. He was so exhausted that he nearly didn't notice the banner hanging from the loft ceiling.

In big, bold letters it spelled: WELCOME HOME BLAIR! -- THE BULLPEN GANG.

He stopped dead in his tracks until Jim gave him a gentle shove in the direction of the couch.

Simon looked up at the banner and then turned to Blair. "They missed you, son. They'd have thrown a big party if you were up to it but since that isn't the case, they wanted to let you know that they're happy you're back."

Blair swallowed hard against the emotions tightening his throat. "Tell them I appreciate it. As soon as I'm better I'll personally thank them."

Simon nodded solemnly. "They also stocked the fridge so you shouldn't have a problem making dinner."

Jim locked gazes with his captain, the gratitude shining from his eyes. "Thank you Simon, for everything. Tell the guys we'll arrange the party later."

"All right, I'll let you two get settled. Jim, you have the week off. Call me in the morning and let me know how things are going. If reporters are bothering you just let me know. Sandburg, you take it easy." With that Simon turned towards the door and left the loft.

Blair reached the couch and settled himself with a small groan. His gaze wandered around the loft, taking in the familiar surroundings he hadn't seen in over two months. It was good to finally be home again.

His gaze settled on a newspaper lying on the table and he found his picture staring back at him. The headline read:

CASCADE'S HERO IS COMING HOME.

Jim had followed his line of sight and smiled. "Looks like they couldn't let the story slide. But at least it's a good conclusion to the articles in the past."

Blair looked up at him and smiled. "After all this trouble and uproar, it's good to know that everything is going to be all right."

He couldn't suppress a huge yawn and Jim immediately picked up on it. "Okay junior, time to get you to bed. You're still recovering, remember?"

Blair slowly got to his feet and gratefully accepted the supporting arm Jim offered him. They made their way to his bedroom and Jim helped him to take off his shoes and jeans.

Finally Jim draped the covers over him and Blair snuggled contently deeper into the blankets.

Jim silently moved to the doors, casting a last glance back. His friend's slow breathing signaled that he was almost asleep. Satisfied that Blair was resting comfortably, Jim pulled the French doors nearly closed, and left the room.
********************
Epilogue

A month had passed since Blair came home and a few things had happened in that time. Blair was nearly fully recovered from his injury. Except for an occasional soreness, he didn't have any lingering effects.

Jim took care of his loss of weight, coaxing Blair to eat regular, substantial meals. He looked rested and healthy and everyone in the department breathed a sigh of relief as they witnessed his recovery.

Blair had also defended his thesis this past week, earning his doctoral degree and assuring himself the part-time job as a professor at Rainier. He was offered a full time position, but he declined since that would have left him nearly no time to work with Jim. Since his job as consultant with the department included a salary, money wasn't a problem. The Chief of Police had given the badge that identified him as an official consultant to him personally, two weeks ago.

Today they planned to celebrate his doctorate and his homecoming with the guys from the PD.

"Come on Chief, hurry up," Jim called in the direction of the partially closed French doors.

"Hey, man, I wasn't the one who insisted that the truck needed cleaning up," Blair retorted slightly muffled. He appeared in his doorway, dressed in black jeans and in the process of pulling a gray t-shirt over his head. He looked up at Jim who was standing in the living room, waiting impatiently for his friend to get ready to leave. "What do you think, blue shirt or red?"

Jim looked heavenwards and prayed for patience. "We still had nearly an hour left after washing the truck, Chief. I didn't know you'd take so long." He looked Blair over and suggested: "Blue shirt."

Blair returned to his room, quickly dressed in the blue shirt he had considered a few times before and went back to the living room where Jim was already holding his jacket out to him. He took it and both men quickly left the loft, closing the door behind them.
********************
They arrived at 'The Amalfi', a favorite Italian restaurant of both of them. Luigi, the owner, immediately waved them through to the back room. "Everything's ready. They're waiting for you. Just go on in."

Jim opened the door and held it for Blair, letting him go first.

As Blair entered the room, Simon looked up and noticed him. He alerted the other assembled cops and suddenly the whole crowd stood up and began to clap, giving Blair a standing ovation.

The young man blushed in embarrassment. He looked around, noticing how many people were here to celebrate his achievements. He stood rooted to the floor until Jim gave him a gentle shove from behind to move him further into the room.

"Hey, Hairboy, did you lose your ability to speak?" Brown teased. "You look kinda overwhelmed."

"Sandy, come on, take a seat." Megan had moved towards them and gave Blair a quick hug. "Congratulations," she whispered.

Blair returned the hug and, after much whistling and howling from the guys, released Megan to took his seat as the guest of honor, while Jim settled beside him.

Dinner was served shortly after that, and slowly the noise level in the room dropped as everyone began eating.

Finally Simon pushed his plate away. "Okay, time to come to the fun part. Let's give Blair his presents."

Brown and Taggert got up and uncovered a table in the back of the room that Blair hadn't noticed before. The table was covered with packages in all shapes and sizes.

Brown retrieved a small red-wrapped packet and handed it to Blair. "Here you go. That's from me."

Blair curiously gazed at the present and then began to rip through the paper. He retrieved a compass and a map.

As he examined it closer, he noticed that Cascade was marked with a bold, red circle.

Over the questioning comments from the others Henri explained: "That's in case you take off again. So you'll always find your way back home."

Blair was touched. He looked up at Henri with shining eyes. "Thanks man, I can't tell you guys how much this all means to me."

Brown patted his knee in understanding. "Don't worry, Hairboy, we know. You're pretty special to us, buddy."

The somber mood lightened as Blair received the next gifts. He got two matching desk sets for both his desks at the U and at the station (Simon), a beautiful dreamcatcher (Joel), a book about shamanism he wanted to buy for months (Rafe), a heavy crafted frame for his doctorate (Megan), season tickets for the Jags (another gift from Henri), and a few other presents.

Finally Jim retrieved a heavy-looking, big package. He put it down on the table in front of Blair. "Here you go, Chief. That's a little something from me."

Blair glanced curiously up at Jim who returned his gaze with an unreadable expression. Turning his attention back towards the package, he began to slowly unwrap it, ignoring the curious comments and the urges to move faster from his other friends.

Finally he pulled back the paper to reveal a brand new laptop. He was totally speechless by this gift. Again his gaze traveled back up to Jim and this time the Sentinel grinned broadly.

"It was partially my fault that you had to sell your old one, so it's only fair that I take care of a replacement. It has an internal modem and the fastest processor available at the moment."

Blair was still at a loss for words. His eyes glistened with unshed tears. "Thank you," he finally managed to choke out.

"That's not all," Jim explained. "There's one more thing I have for you." With that he pulled a small box out of his jacket pocket and handed it to Blair.

Blair just stared at it for a moment, then he pulled himself out of his paralysis and opened it. Inside it, on a small cushion, rested a set of keys. They looked familiar but it took him a moment to place them. His eyes went wide with disbelief. He stared at Jim. "You didn't."

There was definitely a smirk on Jim's face this time. "Look outside."

Blair hastily got to his feet and hurried out of the room, followed by the members of the PD.

Jim took a moment to grab Blair's jacket which hung forgotten over the back of a chair, then he followed the crowd outside.

As he joined his friends in front of the restaurant, Blair had already discovered the Volvo, neatly parked a few spaces down the street and decorated with a huge red bow. It was apparent that the car was in mint condition; the result of hours of labor. He let his hand slide carefully over the hood of his beloved vehicle.

His voice was rough with emotion as he addressed Jim. "That's too much, man. I can't believe you did this for me. Thank you for giving me my life back."

Jim's voice wasn't too steady either. "You deserved it. It's about friendship, remember? That means giving and taking. It was my time to give."

Blair laughed despite the tears threatening to overflow. Suddenly he pulled Jim into a firm hug. "When you do something, you sure do it the whole way. Don't ever change, Jim Ellison."

Jim tightened the embrace for a moment then they released each other, turning slightly embarrassed towards their friends. Obviously their short emotional display was infectious. Many of them wiped surreptitiously at their eyes.

Simon cleared his throat. "Now Sandburg, looks like everything turned out just fine."

Blair couldn't help the mischievous grin that spread across his face. "That's Doctor Sandburg to you."

END

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