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.

Rated: Rish

Feedback: sure, at dawn_twilight@hotmail.com.

Warning: This is a story that I have been working on forever. The whole story, which is almost finished, has Blair owies, Jim and Blair angst, and medical stuff and contains a non-graphic, non-consensual sexual act and I'm working on a sequel....

Random

by Twilight (Dawn)

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

Part One

Jim rolled onto his back, snuggling deeper under his blanket. He woke up feeling completely relaxed; his body heavy, limber, and warm. He'd slept so well...

It had been a very long week, working fifteen-hour days, but Simon had given him a few days off and he planned to make the most of it.

He pushed his head deeper into the pillow, sighing. The smell of fresh coffee and sizzling bacon tickled his sensitive nose.

Shifting to his side and pulling his comforter up around his neck, glancing up at the over cast sky. Gray, blues, and blacks...raindrops quietly pelted the skylights.

"Hope that's not any indication as to what kind of day this is going to be." He mumbled, rolling back over.

The shower was running when he finally rolled himself out of bed. He shuffled slowly down the steps and straight to the coffee pot, filling his favorite mug. A plate loaded with eggs and bacon sat in the microwave, waiting for him.

Smiling, he pulled some flatware from the drawer and took his mug and still warm plate into the dining room where the morning paper waited.

Steam wafted out of the bathroom door when his roommate emerged, wrapped in a terry towel, drying his hair with another. Blair smiled at Jim on his way to his bedroom, "Hey, morning, sleepy head."

"Morning, yourself," Jim mumbled around a spoon full of eggs.

"Thanks for saving me a plate." He spooned another forkful into his mouth, "and the bacon," he added, washing the bite away with a swig of coffee.

"No problem," a muffled voice drifted from the partly open French doors. "I just got up a little while ago." Blair came out of his room fully dressed a minute later, zipping his jeans, tucking in a few layers of shirts. He poured a mug of coffee before joining Jim at the table. "I thought after this week of hell, you deserved a little treat."

They sat in comfortable silence and after finishing his plate; Jim pushed it aside to open the paper. He scanned the sports section, "hey Chief, want to try to get tickets to tonight's Jag's game?"

"Can't man." Blair gulped the last of his coffee on his way to rinse the mug in the sink. "I have to take a fifteenth century clay pot over to Central University. I'm helping an old friend catalog some artifacts from South Africa. Then we're going to grab dinner. I probably won't be home until late."

"How about tomorrow then?" Jim rinsed his plate as Blair grabbed his pack and jacket from the hooks by the door.

"Sorry, Jim. I have a date with Molly." Blair shouldered his backpack. "A rain check?"

"Sure, whatever."

"'Kay, later." Blair closed the door quietly behind him and Jim went into the living room, taking his paper with him. He settled onto the sofa, scanning the entertainment section.

There was a new art exhibit at the museum or maybe he could catch the new Tom Hanks movie. But then again, it probably wasn't a good way to spend a Friday, watching some actor pretend to be stranded in a plane terminal...maybe he could clean the loft?

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

Blair pulled into a spot on the fourth floor of the faculty-parking garage. There were a few cars parked close to him, but the garage was mostly empty.

He gathered his leather coat a little tighter around him, glad that the heavier rain didn't start until he pulled into the garage.

The hour ride had passed quickly as Blair thought about his upcoming weekend. It was nearing noon and he planned on meeting his friend at his office in the Anthropology wing.

They had decided to spend the day cataloging a huge shipment of artifacts that Central and Rainier where sharing. Blair's old friend, Chuck Thomas, was heading the joint study. He and Chuck had met when they where both freshmen. Chuck decided to do his thesis fieldwork at Central and now worked at the University full time.

Blair's friend had just defended his dissertation the prior month and Central offered him a job. Blair was happy for his friend and was glad when he called to ask him to head up the Rainier end of the project.

Jogging across the chilly parking complex, Blair found the entry and pushed the heavy metal door open. Scanning the hall, he followed the signs to the Anthropology wing.

Students were scattered throughout the halls, talking and laughing. Blair continued down the corridor and around the corner until he reached the end. Confused, he turned to walk the other way when someone tapped him on the shoulder.

"Excuse me, sir? But you seem lost." A tall, skinny man stood before him and Blair had to crane his neck to look up at him.

A huge, toothy smile peeked out from a bushy, blonde beard and mustache. "Perhaps I can point the way out to you...I'm excellent with directions."

"Yeah, right, man. That's why we rode around Chinatown for three hours looking for that carry out you swore was on the corner of Chelsea and Eighth." Blair reached up and grabbed his friend's shoulders, pulling him into a brief hug. "Great to see you, man."

"You too." Chuck patted his back and then wrapped his long arm around Blair's shoulder, leading him back down the hall to his office. "You walked right by me. Seems you were a little distracted by the beauty in the red blouse."

They both laughed as his friend led the way through the door and Blair stood, looking around the cluttered space.

Chuck pulled down a mug and poured Blair a coffee. "You have got to try this. My brother sent this to me from Brazil."

Reaching out for the steaming brew, Blair dropped his coat over a huge, brown leather chair. He walked around the small office not unlike his own, drifting from picture to picture, looking at a few strange artifacts and souvenirs that Chuck had collected from his world travels. His fingers brushed over the tops of several books, reading the spines. "So what's it like?"

"What?" Chuck asked, seated behind his oversized desk, sipping his own coffee, watching Blair over the rim of his mug.

Blair turned, sinking into a near by chair. "What's it like to finally get there, man? Is it what you thought it would be?"

"Hmm..." Chuck stood then, setting the cup down, sloshing the coffee onto some file folders stacked on his desk. "Come on, let's get to work and save the philosophical questions for when we have a few drinks in ya after dinner."

Chuckling, Blair stood and ran to catch up with his friend who was quickly disappearing down the hall.

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

Jim was just putting the cleaning supplies away when the phone rang. "Ellison."

"Hey, Jim."

"Sir, something wrong?" Jim looked at his watched. It was only 3:00pm and he fervently hoped that he wasn't needed to come into work.

"Nope. But I thought you'd like to join me."

"Join you, sir?" Jim asked, shifting the phone to the other ear while stowing the bucket under the kitchen sink.

"Yes. I was thinking about making a weekend out of it. My uncle called and had to cancel. It's perfect."

"What's perfect?" He straightened, joints popping and muscles pulling. Jim rubbed the bridge of his nose, wondering how tired he really was. Maybe cleaning wasn't such a good ideas, he was supposed to be relaxing after all.

"Aren't you listening? We could leave in the next hour and have the place to ourselves until Monday night. What do you say? I know a wonderful fishing spot."

"Fishing?" That got his interest, sure did beat cleaning Sandburg's room.

"Yes, fishing. I'll pick you and the kid up in an hour."

"I'll go, but Blair can't. He's booked." Jim carried the phone to the closet, already pulling out his gear. "I'll call him and tell him the plan and I'll meet you at your place in an hour."

Forty-five minutes later Jim pulled up in front of Simon's house and beeped. Simon came out carrying a small bag and his fishing gear; his favorite fishing hat perched sideways on his head. Tossing his stuff into the back of the truck he joined Jim in the cab. "Did you make Sandburg jealous?"

"Shit." Jim fumbled for his cell phone. "In the rush to pack, I forgot to call him." He punched in the speed dial and waited for Blair to answer.

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

Blair sat stiffly on the floor, hunched over another box. They had been at it for hours now and his back was complaining loudly. His right leg was joining in on the fun too. Finally giving up, he stood and stretched out, working out the stiffness.

"Getting old?"

Boxes and straw packing muffled the voice of his friend and Blair had to search the room to find him. He was in the far corner, unpacking the last box. "Yeah. Thirty is a bitch, man."

Well, thirty something and getting shot in the leg didn't help any.

"Well, this is the last of it. I figure we can get this wrapped up in a jiffy and then we can grab dinner." Chuck stood up and placed a large plate carefully on a stand, its deep blues and yellows reflected the light. It was a shame that a large crack ran through the center.

The room was finally in order; the artifacts were all cataloged and placed so they could be studied. The only thing left to do was to clean up the crates.

The chirping of a phone sounded and Blair had to dig through the rubbish to find his backpack, digging deep to pull out his cell. "Hello."

"Hey, It's Jim."

"Umm...Hi." Blair shifted the phone to his other ear and moved to the other side of the room, trying to hear his roommate over the sliding crates that Chuck was moving across the floor.

"I just wanted to tell you that you would have the loft to yourself for a few days. Me and Simon are going fishing and I won't be home until Monday night."

"Oh, okay. Have fun." Blair turned back when the noise stopped to see his friend standing in the middle of the room, hands on his hips with a look of deep concentration on his face.

"I left the number on the fridge and the answering machine in case of emergency."

"Okay. Be careful and I'll see you on Monday." Blair was about to hang up, but Jim was still talking, saying something about cleaning up the loft.

".... got that, Sandburg?"

"Yeah, Jim. Bye." Blair hung up then, looking back to his friend still in the middle of the room. "What's wrong?"

"Umm....nothing. You ready to eat? I'm starving." He clapped Blair on the back, pulling him out of the room and down the hall to get their coats.

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

The sun was just setting when Jim pulled the old blue and white pickup in front of the cabin, dust kicked up as his tires stopped.

It was set back off an old dirt road, a few other cabins could be seen, but they were spread pretty far apart. A large deck wrapped all the way around and the front porch had a few old rockers swaying in the breeze.

Jim smiled as he started unloading the truck. This was just what he needed; a few days away from the hassle of city life, just him and nature. He just hoped that he would be okay, he would have to remember to keep his senses on an even keel so he wouldn't overload any one of them.

Simon was trying to open the front door, a hands full of brown paper bags clutched in one hand. Jim relieved him of a few, dropping their duffels on the rocking swing.

"About time, Jim. I thought you where going to take forever getting your butt over here." Simon grumbled; pushing the door open with his foot, he scanned the large front room, happy to see that the kitchen was connected.

"Sorry, sir." Jim grabbed their bags, opting to leave the gear for a second trip, bumping the door closed with his behind.

The bottom floor was bigger than he would have thought, with a large living area and fireplace nestled in the far corner. An archway led to a small, clean kitchen. Jim passed it on his way down a hall finding a bathroom and two bedrooms. It was comfortable, not too sparse, kind of cozy.

He went back to the truck to grab the gear and put everything in a mudroom he found just off the kitchen.

Simon was putting the last of their supplies away, opening and closing cabinets and drawers. "Are you hungry? I saw a little diner about a mile up the road?"

"You buying?" Jim teased, ducking as a towel came sailing at him. Sentinel senses did have their advantages.

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

"Sir, can I get you another beer?" Blair looked at his half empty glass.

"Umm...no thanks." A deep chuckle drifted across the table "What?"

"Nothing. Just don't think I've ever seen you stop at one and a half beers before, that's all." Chuck took a long drag from his own bottle. "So, my friend. Tell me all about you. We talked all about me. I want to hear about what's going on with you."

Blair shifted a little in the booth, watching as the pretty redheaded waitress cleared away their dinner plates before he began. "Well, I'm still working on my dissertation. I really could be done, but..."

"But what?" Chuck shifted forward, resting his elbows on the table, his chin in his hands. He always did that when they where younger. Blair called it his studious mode and that meant that he was really interested in what he was saying and that felt really...nice.

"But, I don't know. It got complicated. I probably could have finished it by now, but then I wouldn't really have a reason to..."

"You know, it might be a good idea to take a step back." Chuck sat back in his seat, taking another drink. "Sometimes when you feel like maybe you've lost your objectivity or..." he plowed on before Blair could insist that wasn't it, "Or you just need to step back and get your bearings straight, you know, a little break."

"I don't think I need a break, really, man." The pretty redhead was back with a dessert menu and a smile, and how could a man resist that, so they decided on sharing a bowl of rice pudding.

"You know?" Chuck said, licking the cinnamon from his spoon, "Next month I'm going to African to a little village in the South. I'm taking a class, it's only for two weeks and I think you should go?"

Blair nearly choked, the pudding sliding down much too fast. "That's a great offer, but I can't, really."

Chuck looked at him for a beat or two, really looked at him. "Just think about it, 'kay?"

"Okay."

"Well, my friend. I know it's still early, but you have an hour drive ahead of ya and I, my man, have a date." His eyebrows waggled as he wiped his mouth and tosses his napkin on the table. "You seeing anyone special?"

Blair smiled, "yup, she's a beauty, too. She's a TA in the Psych Department."

"Oh, man. Must be serious if you're dating in the Psych department pool."

Blair didn't answer, and he could tell that Chuck was studying him again. It wasn't really serious, but it could be. He could tell that Molly was moving in that direction. She was beautiful and smart and fun to be with. They had a lot in common and Blair found that he could talk to her about all sorts of stuff and she was really interested in what he had to say.

And then there was the sex. He had missed that. It wasn't as if he had been lacking in that department, well, that's not entirely true, he had been, but it was by choice. He could have had sex, if he really wanted it. But that was just it. It was just casual sex with the flavor of the week and that's not what he really wanted anymore. He and Molly had just started to sleep together and it was...

"Earth to Blair? Come in Blair." Chuck sat across from him with his hands cupped to his mouth, talking in a high-pitched whiny voice and a huge, goofy grin on his face.

"Sorry, man." Blair, grinned, digging in his jacket pocket for a few rolled up twenty-dollar bills. "I was really spacing there for a second."

He tossed the money on the table and stood, pulling on his coat.

Chuck stood too, waiting as Blair lifted his hair out from his collar. "Okay, don't be a stranger. Call me, and Blair, think about it, okay?"

"I will and I'll call you next week, promise. We still have to work out some of the details on the artifacts." Blair patted his old friend on the shoulder, but Chuck pulled him into a quick bear hug, nearly lifting him off his feet.

"I mean it, Blair." Chuck thumped him on the back a final time, before grabbing his jacket and joining a rather small Asian woman sitting at the bar on the other side on the restaurant.

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

"So, Jim. What are we going to do this whole weekend without Sandburg?" Simon sat in the booth across from him, his arm draped casually on the back of the bench.

Jim scooped the last of his apple cobbler in his mouth, savoring the sweet bits of fruit before answering. "Hmm...well, the usual. I just won't have to listen to why I shouldn't be doing it."

Simon pushed his dessert plate away, shaking his head. "Does seem kinda too quiet, doesn't it?"

Smiling, Jim stood, searching his pocket for his wallet.

"Don't think that I'll be fooled into believing you're actually searching for your wallet." Simon snatched the bill from the table and grumbled all the way to the cash register.

They both took a few minutes to enjoy the night sky once outside, the swinging screen door screeched shut behind them.

Simon stood by the passenger door, breathing in the fresh air before patting his coat pocket and pulling out a cigar. Jim shook his head at the way he held it, sniffing the aroma before lighting it and taking a deep puff.

"Don't think you're getting in my truck with that thing."

The captain gave him a mock growl and then stepped a few feet away. "Just taking a minute to enjoy the fresh air...go look at the stars or something. I'll be done here in no time."

Before Jim could protest, Simon had walked away toward the side of building, muttering as he went. Jim had to strain to catch what he was saying.

"....besides, can't smoke in the cabin either..."

"Might as well enjoy the night sky," he sighed. It really was beautiful. There wasn't a cloud to be found and if he looked really closely, he could make out most of the craters on the surface of the moon.

The air was cooling off, but it wasn't cold and it was suppose to be mild the next day. The perfect conditions for fishing....

"Okay, Jim."

He was startled to find his friend standing next to him, not even hearing him walk up.

"Umm...okay." They both got in and Jim started the truck up. "Let's get settled in and make it an early night. I want to get up by four." Jim would have laughed at the look Simon gave him, but thought better of it. "Did I say something wrong, sir?"

"No, Jim. I was just hoping to at least get to sleep in a little."

The truck bumped down the old dirt road toward the cabin. "Ya know, I thought I left Sandburg at home," he teased. "But you're in luck, Simon. Just so happens I packed the fishing spear."

"You're a laugh a minute, Ellison," his friend warned. "Keep that up and you'll be cleaning all the fish I catch."

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

Blair drove down the road with the defroster on full blast. It was cool outside and the rain had started up again, misting the windows. He turned on the radio, flipping the dials, then turned it off again. He got mostly static.

He had too much to process. He knew his place was with Jim. That was what he wanted, but he had to keep up his work on his dissertation or there really wouldn't be a legitimate reason for him to be riding along with his partner.

And how did Molly fit in?

He liked Molly, a lot.

Bright lights in his rearview mirror suddenly blinded him, a van came barreling around the Volvo and he had to swerve on to the shoulder of the road. "Jesus...Is that guy in a hurry, or what?"

He drove a few more miles. Up ahead he could see the lights of a gas station and decided to fill up his tank and pick up a cup of coffee. It was only 10:00 but he did have two beers and forty-five minutes until he would be home.

And then what was he going to do? He had the whole weekend to himself, the whole loft to himself. A grin pulled on the corners of his lips. Maybe he would invite Molly to come over for a nice romantic dinner at the loft. She had been there a few times and even had watched a movie one evening with him and Jim, but they had never been alone. He could put out candles and have a fire going. Maybe a blanket in front of the windows, the view was pretty incredible....

Stepping out he noticed the rain had slowed, that was something, at least. He ran his bankcard through the reader and started the pump, jogging to the small store to purchase his coffee.

Back in the car he spotted a payphone on the other side of the lot and decided to drive over. The only other car in the lot was parked on the side of the building and probably belonged to the kid working the counter.

He stepped out, digging in his jeans pocket for change. After a few rings, a light, familiar voice answered.

"Hey, Mol."

"Hey, Blair. Where are you?"

He was pleased to hear the excitement in her voice.

"I'm almost home. I just wanted to call and see if maybe you wanted to come to my place tomorrow for dinner. Jim's out of town." He held the cradle close, as if it could bring her close.

"If you're sure that's okay? What time?"

"I'm sure. How about eight."

She sighed and he could feel it. It felt nice. It felt right. "I'll see you at eight."

"Okay, night, Mol."

"Night, Babe."

He hung up with a huge goofy grin, but that was okay, because it felt good. As he turned to go back to his car a cracking noise made him jump. He quickly scanned the lot, but didn't see anything, so he walked a little faster, reaching for the doorknob.

The same noise, only louder came again and this time a huge light was shined into his eyes. Someone grabbed him from behind by the collar and hair and dragged him away from his car.

He struggled, but the iron grip on his hair tightened more and his head was pulled back so far he thought that his neck was going to snap. The next thing he saw was the side of the Volvo as it rushed toward his face and then there was nothing.

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

Part Two

Simon stood in the rushing river casting his line again. They had been at it for hours and he had caught a few small trouts, but Jim was seriously getting on his nerves. It would almost be funny if it weren't him that Jim was making fun of. Okay, he really wasn't making fun...it was just the little looks he was getting as Jim was reeling in the twenty pounders, the eyebrow lifting and the tiny smirks. If Sandburg were here, Jim would be busy busting his chops.

"Hey, Simon. Get the camera ready." Jim called over his shoulder, clearly amused.

"I don't think so, we wouldn't want any photo evidence when it goes to trail." Simon whispered to himself, casting his line again.

"I heard that."

"I bet you did." Came an even softer reply. "Hey, Jim. How about we call it a day and get some lunch. We can clean the fish for dinner. Maybe take a hike before dark?" Simon was already making his way over to the detective, even as he was asking the question. "Hmm...how about it, Jim?"

"Sounds good to me." Jim lifted his tackle line full of fish and started to make his way over the slippery rocks to shore.

Simon caught up with him, fishing rod and camera in hand. "I'm starved. How about I make sandwiches and you can clean the fish. Only fair, since you're the only one who caught them and all."

"Now you're sounding like Sandburg." Jim huffed; walking away toward the truck parked a few yards ahead of them.

"Always said he was a smart kids." Simon smiled, doubling his stride to catch up with Jim.

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

The car ride was agony...every fiber of his body hurt. It was all he could do to lie in the back, starring at the washed out red upholstery of the driver seat.

The car skidded to a halt, tires squealing, right outside the emergency room door.

The guy who found him wondering down the road came around and opened the back door, but he pushed the helping hands away. "No..."

Minutes later a young nurse appeared, touching his arm gently. "Let me help you." She said and Blair tried hard not to let the tears fall.

She managed to help him scoot off the seat and stand on wobbly knees. A wheelchair appeared behind him and he sat gingerly, shivering as he was briskly pushed through the halls.

A room at the end had an open door and she stopped just inside it, urging him up once again. "Let's get you into a gown."

His fingers fumbled his shirt buttons, so she helped, easing the layer off and over abused flesh, handing him the gown to cover with.

He managed his jeans, realizing the belt was gone.

"I need your underpants too." Her tone was super soft. He pulled down the soiled boxers and watched as she stuffed all his clothing into a brown paper bag.

Evidence.

He was evidence.

She helped him up onto an exam table and a thin sheet was draped over him.

"Someone will be right in," she assured, quietly closing the door behind her.

He hurt all over...wasn't even sure where he was or what day it was.

The nurse returned with another women, similarly dressed.

Nurses.

The new one introduced herself as Pam and asked him his name.

"Blair."

"I just need to ask a few more questions and then we need to take a look at you."

He wasn't listening, already thinking ahead, knowing that the police would be called.

He remembered that a man had found him, John, maybe. The guy was lost. Out in nowhere, he had said.

"Where am I?"

"You're at General Memorial." One of the women left, taking the brown bag with her.

"Can we call anyone for you?"

"No." Blair pulled his legs up, wincing, but not caring. He wrapped his arms around his legs and rested his head on his knees. "No one."

"It's okay," she whispered. "No one will hurt you. But we need to make sure you're okay and then you can go home."

The small part of his brain that was thinking more clearly agreed. He knew that he needed medical attention and the sooner he got it over with the better. He only nodded and she helped him lay back on the padded exam table.

"Okay," she patted his arm softly. "I'm going to take your temperature and blood pressure. Do you think you can give an urine sample?"

"No," he whispered.

"That's okay, we'll try once the IVs have had a chance to get some fluid into you." She pulled the curtain around the table, writing his results on a chart.

The other woman came back, carrying a white box. "The doctor will be in shortly, he's talking to a few police detectives."

Blair shuddered from head to toe.

"Don't worry, we'll take good care of you and you don't have to talk to the police until you're ready."

Like he would ever be ready.

An air vent above him was pumping out heat, but he still couldn't stop shivering. Shifting to find a more comfortable position, he pulled the sheet up over his shoulder, and snug around his neck.

Still uncomfortable, he moved again, but both his legs felt like rubber, pins and needles, prickling his thighs and he could hardly feel his feet. The pad that was placed under him kept sticking to him each time he moved. No matter how he shifted, it hurt. Finally he managed to roll awkwardly onto his left hip away from the curtain.

He drifted off for a while, but when the curtain was pulled open he jumped, craning his neck to see who was coming into the room.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Sandburg. I didn't mean to scare you. Can you roll onto your back?" A voice behind him asked and he carefully rolled over to see a room full of people.

A man in a white lab coat stood beside the exam bed. He was older, tall. Salt and pepper hair and a beard and mustache covered chubby cheeks. "I'm Dr. Anders and you've already met Linda and Pam."

Linda, yeah that was her name. He looked over to the woman who helped him undress earlier and than back to the doctor.

"Before we start, Mr. Sandburg, are you sure there isn't anyone you want us to call?" the doctor asked. "Sometimes it helps to have a friendly face."

Blair looked away from them, shaking his head.

"Okay, if you're sure. Linda is going to draw some blood. Pam is going to help me and no one is going to touch you without telling you first, okay?"

Blair nodded and eyed the doctor nervously as he pulled a stool closer to the exam bed. He could see the other two out of the corner of his eye, pulling things down out of cabinets on the other side of the small room.

"First I need to ask you some questions, answer the best you can."

Things felt as if they were moving in slow motion and the room would sometimes tilt awkwardly. The noises of the hospital drifted away and the room was closing in on him, making him feel small and very much alone.

The first couple of questions were about his medical history. Blair kept his answers brief, unable to meet the doctor's eyes. He couldn't stand the sympathy he saw in all their eyes.

"When was your last consensual sexual experience?" the doctor asked.

"What?" Blair asked; surprise etched into his voice. "Why is that important?"

"I just have to get a complete history." The doctor explained, his voice patient and neutral.

Blair jerked away from a soft touch to his arm.

"Relax Blair," Linda soothed with a pleasant smile. "Remember, I'm just looking for a vein, I won't stick you until I find a good one."

"Jesus. Give me a little warning next time." Blair tried to slow down the jack hammering in his chest, taking deep breaths even as she wrapped the rubber strap around his arm.

"Can you make a fist for me?" the nurse asked, ignoring his outburst.

Linda found a vein and drew several tubes, she announced when she was finished and the soothing banter of her voice was making him very angry.

The questions continued and some were more then personal, but he did his best to answer. When it seemed that the questioning was done, he got a little antsy, squirming on the table.

"When can I get out of here?" He suddenly asked, panic creeping into his voice.

"Soon." The doctor rose from his stool, walking over to the sink to wash his hands before snapping on a pair of latex gloves. "You're doing fine. We're almost done."

He was shivering again; it must be the cold chill of the IV fluid. He had one in each hand and he heard Linda say they were wide open. God he hated hospitals. The smell of antiseptic was making him sick. He just wanted to go home.

"Okay, Mr. Sandburg. We need to have a look. As I'm examining you, I'll also be collecting some samples, taking some pictures. If anything hurts too much or if you need us to stop and take a break, just tell us." The doctor took a small packet from Pam and opened it, laying out specimen containers on a nearby table.

"Do you know if the perpetrator used a condom?" The doctor asked.

Blair's eyes widened and he looked around frantically. He hadn't even thought about condoms. Oh god...what if, what if...he couldn't breathe, couldn't think... "I don't...I don't know if..."

When Blair couldn't finish, Pam spoke up. "It's okay, you're doing great." She placed her hand on Blair's shoulder. "Take a deep breath and blow it out slowly."

Blair pulled away violently, knocking some containers onto the floor. "Don't touch me, man."

"I'm sorry." Her penetrating green eyes never left Blair's angry face.

It felt almost surreal to Blair. He was exhausted and sore and he just wanted to be alone. Why couldn't they understand?

After a minute of silence, the doctor repeated the question.

"He umm...I do-don't think so...I'm not sure...it's all a little fuz-fuzzy. When ca-can I go home?" he asked again.

The doctor nodded encouragingly. "Soon. It won't be long, okay?"

"Okay," Blair answered doubtfully, breathing in deeply and released a shuddering breath.

God, let this be over soon!

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

Jim put the last of the fish guts in the trash, wondering again how it was that he got stuck with this stinky job. Good thing he could turn down the smell a little. Simon came out onto the porch just in time to take the fillets in to wrap up. They put a few in the fridge for dinner and the rest in the freezer.

Jim found the lava soap in the mudroom to wash his hands and did a quick change before joining Simon in the front room. They decided on a few rounds of gin rummy before loading the hiking gear. It was still pretty early, just after lunch, so they had plenty of time to make it up to the lookout spot that Simon's uncle raved about and back again before dark.

Jim pulled a few water bottles from the fridge and packed a couple baggies with jerky and trail mix. He handed a bottle to Simon, smiling. "Ready?"

"Yup. What are you smiling about?" Simon wanted to know, tucking the bottle into a small pocket in his pack before slinging it over his shoulder.

"Nothing. Let's go." Truth be told he was thinking about Blair. It was Blair who had so neatly put all the trail mix into the air tight baggies when they went shopping a few weeks ago. He was always doing stuff like that. It wasn't like he was neat or anything, or even all that organized. Just the little things he did for Jim. Trying to make life easier for him. He would have to remember to say thank you more often.

The sun was still pretty high, but once they got into the cover of the trees, it wasn't so bad. They walked in silence, each man lost in their own thoughts, taking turns taking the lead. Jim breathed in deeply, smelling the woods around him, practicing the techniques that Blair had taught him. He started with just the general smells, the trees, water, animals, Simon, himself. Then he started to filter past them, breathing in deeper, searching.

"Hey, Jim?" Jim looked over to where Simon was standing.

"Yeah?"

"Would you look at that?" Simon pointed and Jim followed his finger. They were standing at the base of a huge rock. He and Jim started to climb; it wasn't very steep. Once at the top, they sat on an outcrop to enjoy the incredible view. It was as amazing as Simon's uncle had insisted. Jim could literally see for miles. Trees and wild flowers, a mountain to the north tapered down into the valley below them. Jim could make out the steam that wound its way into the river they were fishing in earlier.

"It's beautiful." Simon said. "We'll have to come up her again and bring Sandburg."

Jim grabbed his bottle of water and wiped his brow with his sleeve before taking a long drink. "I'm sure he would love it, communing with nature." Jim smiled at him own joke, but Blair would love it.

"I wonder what the kid is doing now?" Simon wondered, taking out the trail mix and offering it to Jim.

"Probably slobbing up the loft and having the time of his life." Jim munched on his snack, scanning the view. They would come up here again. It wasn't too far away and there were a few good places they could pitch a tent or two.

Simon laughed. "What's that they say about the cat being away, Jim. I'm sure he's breaking all the house rules by now."

"I'd take you up on that wager, sir. But I know when I'm beat."

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

Although the doctor was being careful, it hurt, but he was basically forced to endure.

A large swab was produced and its purpose explained, but that didn't stop Blair from gagging when it was pushed into his mouth and ran along his gums and behind his teeth.

The swab was placed into a small plastic container and handed back to Pam for labeling, only to produce another for his throat and this time he couldn't help but to be sick. Linda held his hair and patted his back as he dry heaved into a basin.

Once his stomach stopped rebelling and he was able to keep a few sips of water down, Pam held up a sheet of paper to his head and combed some of his hair, pulling a few strands.

Next his hands were examined and again a small sheet of paper was held while the doctor scraped under his fingernails.

Once done, Pam reclined the exam table, pulling away the thin sheet, Blair's only protection.

The pastel, hospital gown creeped up his thighs when he lay back and he could feel the hairs on his legs and arms stand up, dreading what was coming.

He expected the doctor to get right to it, but first the man uncovered his body in sections, looking at him closely, rolling him from side to side, and carefully marking a diagram with every bruise and welt on his body. Photos were also taken and he could see the magnified images on a nearby monitor.

Once the diagram was done, Dr. Anders slipped his hands up under Blair's gown and pressed into his stomach. "I'm going to feel your tummy."

Blair's stomach muscles tensed.

"Try to relax," the doctor soothed, his voice was smooth, silky and it was really annoying the hell out of Blair

"Relax?" he grounded out between clenched teeth. "I can't relax, man."

The doctor continued to palpate his stomach, squeezing in small circles inward toward Blair's navel.

It hurt...it hurt a lot.

He gripped the sheets with both fists, but couldn't stop the shaking.

Suddenly he could see his attacker's leering, crooked toothed smile flashing in and out of his field of vision. He could smell the gasoline and duct tape and hear the rumble of the gravel as the van rode over it. Could feel the crisp night air as he was tossed out of the van onto the cold, hard ground; the sound of the shovel digging into the dirt and the crunching of leaves under the man's feet.

"Get the hell away from me!" Blair roared; sitting up suddenly and pushing the doctor away, unable to breathe, sweat pouring from his face, down his neck and back. Lightning danced across his eyes and then it was quiet. He could only hear his own gasping breaths.

Pam came into Blair's field of vision, pushing his head downward between his knees and the dizziness faded.

Someone was rubbing soothing circles on his arm when he came back to himself sometime later. "You're doing fine," the voice was saying.

Blair nodded, realizing he was lying on his side. Pam was standing in front of him, rubbing his arm and side. The sheet was back and he was glad, because he was so cold, for some reason he just couldn't get warm.

"I'm sorry," Blair said, looking around the empty exam room, wondering where everyone went.

"It's okay. Dr. Anders went to check on your lab reports. Thought it might be a good time for a break. Try to rest."

A short time later Blair started awake. Dr. Anders was back, conferring quietly with Pam in the corner of the small room. Linda was back too, setting up more supplies on a nearby table. Blair felt a little muzzy and wondered if he had been given drugs.

"Okay, Blair." The doctor moved toward him. "I just need to make sure they aren't any internal injuries and I want to get a better look at your genitals."

Blair blanched, dry swallowing, but he knew it was coming. The doctor asked him earlier during the diagram marking if he was having any pain and made the comment that he looked a little swollen.

They helped him get into position so the doctor could get a look. His legs and butt were sticking to the pad again, but Linda made quick work of smoothing it out and Pam pulled the blanket up, so basically Blair couldn't really see anything even if he did look down.

He tuned his head toward the side, preferring to stare at the bright geometric shapes that covered Linda's lab coat, focusing on the pattern until his vision blurred. Her hand rested lightly on his arm, giving comfort.

He winced when the doctor took hold of his penis, rubbing his fingers over the sensitive surface, and then rolling his testis one at a time between gloved fingers. Blair drew in a ragged breath when the doctor moved his hands lower and gently parted him, rubbing a thumb over Blair's very tender opening.

Blair's sphincter spasmed and he felt his stomach do a slow roll; he fought back the urge to vomit.

Why the hell were they touching him there?

Okay, he did know...

His eyes stung as he tried to hold back the floodgate of tears.

I am not going to cry.

I am not going to cry.

The doctor lubricated his gloved finger with saline solution and inserted it deep inside Blair's tender rectum. He jumped at the stinging intrusion, biting his bottom lip hard.

"You're doing great...just relax your bottom." Linda soothed, rubbing his arm, absently. "Almost done." She wasn't even looking at him. She was using her free hand to pass God knew what to the doctor.

He nodded, swatting at the traitorous tears leaking from his tightly closed eyes.

"This is going to be a little bit uncomfortable," the doctor informed him. "Just try to relax as much as you can, it will make it much easier."

Blair nodded, after a time he was gently turned to his side and his knees where drawn up toward his chest. He felt a thick swab inserted into him and moved around to collect samples. When it was removed another took its place. Through it all, Blair kept his eyes tightly closed.

The finger was reinserted and rubbed blindly. "I need to insert a flexible tubing. It has a scope so I can get a better look. Just relax." The voices seemed far away again, so he let himself float for a while, trying to imagine himself somewhere else. Maybe fishing with Jim and Simon. He should have went fishing...

He came crashing back when he felt a deep cramping seize his gut and gasped.

"I'm sorry. I know that hurts, but I have to make sure you're not bleeding anymore."

Bleeding? Was he bleeding?

Something seemed to be pulled from him and then he felt the doctor pressing around his pelvic bone and stomach.

"Does this hurt?"

Blair grunted when the doctor hit a tender spot. "Yes."

"And here?"

Again he nodded, watching the doctor through heavy lidded eyes as he removed the bloodstained gloves and tossed them into the trash. The older man talked quietly to Linda before she left the room with the samples in a box.

Pam was cleaning up, throwing out empty containers left on the bed before covering Blair back up. "I'll be back to help you get cleaned up in a few minutes," she said, before walking over to talk to Dr. Anders.

The doctor nodded in agreement to whatever Pam had said before she slipped from the room and then the doctor came back over to sit by Blair.

"Well, it's mostly good news," he smiled. "Although there is some tearing, they should heal on their own. In addition you have some swelling and deep bruising, so we'll want to keep an eye on you for a few days to make sure there is no internal bleeding. The bad news is that you can expect mild to moderate cramping, but we'll give you something for the pain. As soon as Pam comes back, she'll move you to a semi-private room and help you clean up. Do you have any questions?"

"No." What was there to ask?

"I want to do some tests in a few hours and keep an eye on those cramps." The doctor picked up the chart as Pam entered. "If all is well you can go home in a day or so. I talked to a few police detectives earlier. They've already taken the statement of the young man who found you and I told them it would be best to wait until later before they talked to you."

Blair nodded and closed his eyes.

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

Part Three

The smell of fresh fried fish permeated the small living room. Jim leaned back, inhaling deeply. It was only fair; after all, that Simon would have to prepare the whole dinner. He was the one that had to gut the fish.

Mumbling and soft curses drifted his way and Jim smiled a smug little smirk. He listened for a second about Sentinels and non-stick frying pans and forgetting the aluminum foil. Another soft curse as hot potatoes were shifted from hand to hand, then dumped onto a plate, "...No stupid potholder, either."

Jim shuffled through some of the old magazines sitting on the coffee table, mostly Field and Stream, but a few hunting mags thrown in for good measure. A fire blazed in the old wood stove on the other side of the room, casting shadows across the wood floor.

"Okay, Jim. Dinner is served." It was hardly a whisper, but Jim jumped right up and jogged to the small kitchen. Simon pulled out a cheap bottle of red wine and two paper cups, filling them nearly to the top. "Cheers."

"Cheers." Jim repeated, tapping the rim of the flimsy cup to his friends. "So what's on tap for tomorrow?"

Simon was busy pulling tiny bones out of his dinner. "Well, maybe some more fishing, you seem to enjoy that. I was thinking I'd like to go into town and do some shopping. There's a little bait and tackle shop I scoped out yesterday while we where in town."

Jim slathered butter onto his potato, getting a raised eyebrow from Simon. "Give me a break, the kid's not around," he whined. "But that sounds like a plan. I might do a little reading. I brought a mystery book." When he looked up again, Simon had a strange look on his face. "What?'

"Mystery, Jim?" His friend said it with such vehemence, like just getting the words out of his mouth would contaminate him.

"Yeah, you got a problem with that?" Jim dumped more butter on his bread, making a show of spreading it thick.

Simon smiled, "Not me. Read whatever you like, but if you drop dead of a heart attack, I'm telling Sandburg you wouldn't listen about the butter."

After the dinner plates where neatly placed in the trash, Jim and Simon took their paper cups and bottle of wine into the living room. Simon started piling wood and kindle in the stove to stoke the fire and Jim went back to change into sweats and a t-shirt.

By the time he returned, Simon had a cozy fire going. His friend excused himself to change for bed. They decided to relax, do a little reading, a friendly hand of cards and then go to bed early so they could get up at the crack of dawn and hit the river.

Simon had told him he was determined to bag a big one and have it mounted over his desk. Jim just wanted to catch a few more so Blair could come up with a few interesting ways of cooking them up.

Blair...wonder what he is up too? Probably having the time of his life, out with Molly, no doubt. Jim liked Molly. She seemed good for his friend.

"Jim...did you hear a word I said?" Simon was standing right in front of him, deck of cards in hand.

"Hmm...sorry, Simon. What was that?"

"I said, do you want to play a game of cards, or are you more interested in that paperback on your lap?" Jim looked down at the unopened book. He didn't even remember picking it up.

"Cards."

"Care to make a gentlemen's bet?" Simon asked, pulling the small table between them.

"Since when do you have an expendable income, sir?" Jim smirked; he couldn't help it.

"Funny, Jim. Laugh a minute."

"I'll deal." Jim said, grabbing up the cards, putting aside his book. "You in for Black Jack or Texas Hold 'um?"

"Texas Hold 'um," Simon said, picking up the book and reading the spin. "James Cash?"

"Yeah, it's some import that Blair found. The main character has hyper senses that came on line after an explosion, worked for the CIA...Blair said it was a little eerie, but I just don't see the connection."

Tossing the book aside with a roll of his eyes, Simon slapped the table and said, "Shuffle up and deal."

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

"Blair?" he poked his head from under the thin sheet. The doctor had left him a while ago. The young nurse stood leaning over him. "I need to get an urine sample. Do you think you can give me one?"

"I don't have to go," he pulled the sheet back up; a riot of curls sticking out to cover the flimsy pillow. They had told him that they were getting a room ready and that once he was settled the police wanted to talk to him.

He wanted to sleep and take a shower...

"If you can't go, I'll have to put in a catheter," she paused. "I'll help you to the bathroom so you can try."

Blair relented, allowing her to help pull his weight up to a sitting position. He swung his legs to dangle over the edge of the table, spotting a few rivets of dried blood on his legs.

He sat there for a few painful moments before taking Linda's offered hand and tentatively sliding to his feet, swaying until the woman put her arm around his middle, steadying him.

The room spun and he clutched her hand on his waist. "I'm going to black out."

"It's okay." She eased him back onto the bed. "I'll be right back."

He watched her from the cocoon of his sheets as she rummaged through a small cabinet, pulling something out and unwrapped its clear package. When she returned, she handed him a plastic urinal and then pulled the curtain to give him some privacy.

He looked at the clear container for a long time before pushing it under the sheets and between his legs. After a few calming breaths he finally managed to squeeze a little urine out, but God did it hurt.

His hands shook as he set the container on a nearby table.

A few minutes later the nurse retuned. "Okay, ready for a ride?" She pushed his gurney through the cold halls and into a small elevator at the end, punching the button for the second floor, moving back to allow another person on.

A few nurses stood around the alcove as they entered the ward. Linda stopped at the desk to drop off his chart before continuing to a room about mid way down the hall. The room had two beds, but they were both unoccupied. She rolled him to the one closest to the window and he saw that the sky was getting dark.

With a little help he scooted over to the other bed, allowing Linda to rearrange his twisted gown.

The nurse was just covering him with a thicker blanket when another nurse came in. She had a bright smile and her graying hair was pulled back into a loose bun at the base of her neck "How are you doing, love? I'm Judy." Her voice was soft and she spoke with a slight British brogue...it reminded Blair of Molly's grandmother.

Molly! He forgot all about Molly.

"Um... what day is this?" Blair asked, looking at the darkening sky through the open blinds by the bed.

"It's early evening, Saturday." Linda handed Judy his IV bag and she quickly hung it on the pole by his bed, winding the lines so they wouldn't tangle.

"I need to make a call." Blair told them. "What time is it?"

"Who do you want us to call, love?" Judy asked, opening a drawer beside the bed. She pulled out a wrapped basin; breaking the seal she set a toothbrush and paste on the tray table.

"I um...I need to do it myself." Blair could feel the heat rising to his cheeks.

"Okay...we'll get you a phone in just a moment." Linda stepped out and Judy went to the washroom. When she returned she was carrying the small basin with soapy water and a few towels. "Just going to freshen you up a bit."

He stayed quiet as she washed him down, trying not to flinch or pull away.

He gagged on the toothpaste, but managed to rinse and spit with the mouthwash, finally taking away the horrible taste in his mouth.

He was almost feeling human again.

A newcomer entered his room, carrying a small white bag. Judy took it and went back to the bathroom.

Blair tried to shift, wanting to lie on his side.

When the nurse returned she pulled the tray table over his lap and clipped the call button onto his pillow. She turned on the TV, volume low and handed him a little cup with a few pills.

"What is it?"

"It's just something that will make using the bathroom easier."

The same person who brought the bag came back with a pitcher and lidded paper cup. Judy pulled a straw from a side drawer and placed everything in front of him on the table. "You need to drink all this," she told him. "We want to keep your kidneys working."

Blair swallowed the pills, watching as another small bag was hung from his IV pole. "That's just antibiotics, love." Judy told him. "When you do need to use the bathroom, I want you to use the call button for a few hours."

She pulled a needle from her pocket and lifted the blanket from his hip.

"No, I don't want...." But before he could get the protest out he felt something cold swipe over his skin and a pinch as the needle glided in.

"It's just going to help you relax so you can rest." Judy soothed, running her fingers through his curls.

The blanket wasn't put back and Blair's heart skipped "What are you doing?" He could hear latex sliding over skin and tried to turn to see the nurse.

She held him by the hip. "Relax...I'm just applying an antibiotic cream your doctor ordered."

Something cool pressed into him and he cried out, "Please..."

"All done." The blanket was swiftly tucked under him. "I'm going to put the tube in the restroom. You'll be needing it, okay?"

Blair nodded, feeling heavy.

She left him with a promise of returning with a phone.

He closed his eyes, but he wasn't tired, not really.

Later someone touched his arm and he reacted, digging his fingers into soft flesh. "NO."

"It's okay, love. You're safe now." The nurse patted his hand were he held her forearm.

"I'm sorry," he said, opening his eyes, but still he held on.

Let go. Let go. Let go.

"Relax, Blair." She rubbed his arm and little by little he relaxed, letting his hand drop back to his chest.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." The tears started, but he wouldn't let them fall.

"It's okay. My fault." She smiled kindly at him, squeezing the hand resting on his chest.

"I should have waited until you were completely awake."

She moved around his bed, bending briefly from his sight. "Now, I brought in the phone so you can make that call and in a little while someone will bring in a dinner tray." She handed him the receiver. "Try to eat. I'll be back to check on you in a little bit." Before she left she refilled his cup.

Blair looked at the phone, taking in a shaky breath before dialing the well-known number.

On the second ring it was picked up, "Hello."

"Hey, Mol." His voice trembled slightly, but he hoped she didn't noticed.

"Hey, baby. What's wrong?"

"Umm...well...I," he twisted the cord around his finger. "I'm real sorry Mol, but I have to cancel..."

"What is it, Blair? Are you okay?" Her voice hitched and Blair thought he was going to lose it.

After a second, he went on, "I'm fine, really. I just can't tonight. I, I um...um, was in an...an accident."

Dumb, dumb, dumb!

"Blair! Oh, my God. What happened? Where are you?" Now she was frantic.

"I'm fine, really," he soothed. "Just a little banged up and I need to rest."

"Blair, where are you?" She demanded and Blair shifted, feeling really hot.

"Um...I'm at the hospital, Mol. But they'll be letting me go home tomorrow. I'm fine, really." He could hear her breathing into the phone, too fast. "Mol, I'm fine."

"You sure, baby? Do you want me to come?"

"Um...Not that I don't Mol, but I'm coming home tomorrow and I..."

"Shhh...It's okay, Blair. Call me when you feel up to it and I'll come over to visit." And then she hung up.

"Damn..." Now the tears did fall. He rolled onto his side, twinges rippling and rolling up his spine as he placed the phone back on the table. He gripped the raised bed rail and waited, trying to ride out the cramps in his lower stomach.

He lay there still panting when an orderly came in with his dinner tray. Blair didn't even look up; his face was buried in his pillow.

He could feel his arms trembling and it seemed to spread throughout his whole body. His hips and legs were shaking too, but the movement was slight, so maybe the guy didn't notice.

"What's wrong, Blair?" Judy came in a minute later, adjusted a few monitors around him, sticking a thermometer in his mouth and putting a blood pressure cuff around his arm.

He shook his head, watching her closely as she moved around the room. After recording his vitals she lifted his blanket and delved her hands under his gown, pressing firmly into his stomach.

"Owwww."

"I'm sorry, love. I know that hurts. Feels like you're having some muscle spasm. The doctor left orders for a relaxant if you need it." She walked away for a second, returning with a hypodermic, plunging the contents into his I.V. tubing

"I'm hot..." His hips ached and his lower back burned...

"That will help you relax, maybe make you a little sleepy."

She stayed with him for a few minutes and when his breathing evened out she asked, "Better?"

He blew out a puff of air. "Yeah."

"Excellent," she uncovered his tray holding his dinner, raising the head of his bed.

Blair looked blankly at the chicken noodle soup.

"Eat what you can, love." She left him to his dinner. "I'll be back in a little bit."

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

Part Four

Jim and Simon sat across from each other at the small kitchen table. They had just had breakfast and Simon was still scowling at Jim.

"Look Simon, it's not my fault."

"Not your fault, not your fault, Jim?" His friend's voice rose with each and every word. "I don't know how you do it. Hell, if Sandburg were here he would probably explain it in excruciating detail...and you know what? I don't care how you do, but you do not have to gloat!"

"I didn't say a word, sir."

Simon had been grumbling since they got up. Jim had won eighteen out of twenty hands of Texas Hold 'um.

"Sir, now it's sir? I bet that's your guilt talking." Simon pushed back from the table and grabbed his coat. "So in order to make it up to me, we are going to ride into town and go shopping at the bait and tackle store."

Simon was out the door before Jim could say a word.

The ride in had been pleasant and they took their time exploring the small town. The tackle shop proved to be their longest stop, as Simon had to check out each and every aisle. His friend finally settled on two new lures and some crickets to use at bait.

With purchases in hand they headed across the square and into a wooden furniture shop. Jim had spotted a nice desk. It was unfinished but sturdy and Blair really needed something better than the piece of junk he was using in his bedroom.

They had been talking about finding something better for months. Blair had to use a few phone books to hold up one end of his old one, the leg had fallen off even before he had moved in with Jim years ago.

Mind made up he purchased the desk and a chair, planning on staining them and presenting them as a birthday gift.

"I didn't know you were looking for a new desk, Jim." Simon waited outside the shop, sneaking in a smoke.

"It's for Blair." He said, helping the shop owner to lift the heavy wood into his truck and covering it with a tarp. "His birthday is in a few weeks and I thought it would make a nice gift."

Simon butted out his smoke and held it as it cooled. "Nice."

They climbed into the truck and headed back to the cabin. Half way there Simon opened a small bag and pulled out his snack...Doritos, cool ranch.

Jim watched as his friend savored each bite, licking the orange residue off his fingers every so often. "I can't believe you're eating again."

"Hey, don't give me any guff about my cool ranch." Simon extended the bag. "You want some?"

Jim shook is head, "No thanks. I'm an original kind of guy."

A few more miles down the road, Simon suddenly said. "Hey, Jim. Why do you think the inside of a Doritos bag has this shiny lining?"

"Don't know..." Jim smiled, thinking back.

"What are you smirking about?" Simon asked, hand deep into his bag.

"Well, I don't want to admit this but I zoned on the shiny lining a few years back." When he looked, Simon had his mouth hanging open. "Come on, it wasn't that bad. Sandburg had a bag...three cheese I think, and he left it on the couch when he went to take a shower. I decided I'd give it a try, right. Sneak a few when he wasn't looking."

Jim looked toward his friend again before turning back to the road. "Anyway, I remember hearing the shower come on and then I reached for the bag and the lining caught the light...Blair came back out because he forgot something and when he walked by to go to his bedroom he called my name."

"What did he say?" Simon asked.

"Nothing. I jumped when I heard him coming from the bathroom and dropped the bag on the floor. He didn't even know. I scooped all the ones that fell out back into the bag."

"Man, you ought not mess with a man's Doritos." They both laughed and Simon rolled down his bag, stowing them away for the return trip to Cascade.

The truck pulled up in front of the cabin and they both hopped out. Simon made right for his pole and Jim followed along with his own, hearing his friend muttering about his new cool advantage, shaking the box of live crickets.

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

Bright sunlight spilt in between the slates of his blinds. Blair moaned and arched his back slightly, rolling over to find a pillow wedged behind him.

He looked around, rubbing his hands over his face. His tongue felt fuzzy, thick and he had a god-awful taste in his mouth. The TV was on and the volume was on low. He could hear people talking on the other side of his door.

The tray table beside the bed had a fresh covered plate on it, so Blair gingerly reached around and removed the pillow from behind him and shifted onto his back, raising the head of the bed, so he could sit up a little.

A little gasp came out and he realized that he was much more sore today than he was yesterday. He found a little cup of apple juice on the tray and tore off the wrapper, greedily drinking it down.

God he was thirsty.

"Mr. Sandburg?"

A small petite woman with wire rim glasses stood attentively in the doorway. "I don't want to interrupt your breakfast, but I was hoping you could take a few minutes to talk to me?"

"Um...sure." But he wasn't. He knew who she was.

"My name is Detective Siller and I was hoping you would be up to giving a statement." She moved closer to the bed, but didn't sit. Her features were tiny, her hands almost the size of a child's. She wore a flowing, flowery dress, but she was still a cop.

"What precinct do you work out of?" Blair asked, pulling the blanket up at bit.

She rested her hands on the bed railing, "I work out of the west side. Do you mind if I sit?"

Yes.

"No. Sit."

She smiled, then sat in the visitor chair, crossing one leg over the other. "You can eat if you want."

He looked at the plate and the runny eggs and soggy toast. He was sure the coffee was cold too. "I'm not really all that hungry," he confessed.

"Hmm...hopefully lunch will be more appetizing." She leaned forward a little, resting her hands on her knee. "I would like to tape your statement...if that's okay with you?"

"Sure." He picked up his fork and dragged it through the egg, spinning it round and around until the goop stuck to the prongs, sliding and congealing as he tapped it along the plate.

"Do you have any questions about the process?" She sat the tiny recorder on the tray table, not far from his plate.

"Um...no. I think I understand how this goes."

"Okay, let's get started. Please state your name for the record."

"Blair Sandburg." After she questioned him about his address and occupation, she continued. "Mr. Sandburg. I spoke with John MacReany yesterday afternoon. He is the man that brought you to the hospital. He informed us that he found you walking on a dirt road off of Kilamore." She looked down to a notepad that rested on her knee. "Can you tell me how you got to that location? And the events leading up to the time you were picked up?"

Blair took a deep steadying breath before starting. "I remember meeting my friend at Central U. We had dinner at Victor's and then I left."

"Did you see anyone out of the ordinary at the restaurant?" She slipped a pen from her pocket, writing something on her notepad even though what he was saying was being recorded.

He thought a moment, "No...I don't think so. I ah...I consult with the Cascade P.D. and I'm pretty good about noticing my surroundings."

"The Cascade P.D.?" Again her pen flowed across the sheet. "Is it possible that whoever did this to you knew you? A case you were working on perhaps?"

He had thought about that too, but the face he sees in his sleep is not familiar. "I don't think so."

"Okay, what happened next?"

"I ah...I was coming home on the I-5, but I stopped at a Mini Mart off of exit twelve..." the night was a little fuzzy. He knew it had been raining and he remembered calling Molly from the pay phone. He told the detective about all that and how he got gas and coffee.

"I'll send a unit over to see if your car is still there." She said, looking back to him to continue.

"I was at the pay phone and I'm not sure, but I think I heard something. I remember someone dragging me by the hair, but that's it until..."

She sat up a little, taking a quick breath. "Go on."

"I woke up and I thought I was in a moving vehicle. I remember the rocking motion was making me sick...my head was pounding, but I couldn't see anything. I had something sticky over my eyes and mouth...duct tape, I think." He went back to playing with his eggs.

"The motion stopped and a door was pulled open." He closed his eyes, thinking about that very moment. "It slid, like a van door."

"That's good, Mr. Sandburg. Were your hands free?"

He shook his head, opening his eyes. "No, I think they were taped too. I'm not sure about my feet, but I couldn't move them."

"When the door opened, what did you hear?"

He dropped the fork, picking up the edge of his blanket. "It was really quiet. I couldn't hear any traffic...just the sound of wind blowing through the trees and it was cold. I don't think I had my coat on."

"What happened next?"

Blair didn't look up, "I could hear him breathing...you know, close to my face. He didn't say anything, but his breath was bad...smelt like beer. He touched my hair, kept running his hand though it." Tears burnt the back of his eyes, but he held them back.

"He put his tongue in my ear." Even as he said the words, he reached up and ran a finger along the edge of his lob, feeling the pierced holes. "He kept sucking on my earrings...I don't know why but I felt like I was floating. I don't even think I tried to shout or push him away."

Now the tears streamed and the detective stood to turn off the recorder. "The doctor said you had a few bumps on your head and we're still waiting on the results of your blood tests..."

He nodded, wiping his eyes and nose with the back of his hand. "I could have been drugged, but..."

"You want to go on?"

He sighed, but nodded, so she turned the recorder back on. After a few deep breaths he went on. "I'm a little fuzzy but I remember he unbuttoned my shirt, just sorta pushed it off my shoulders. I though I had on another shirt, but I guess not... Anyway he liked my piercing there too." He convulsed as he thought about what had been done to him, how he couldn't seem to pull himself away from roaming fingers and biting teeth.

"He bit me." The memory cleared. "He bit my chest."

"Yes," she said. "We have the pictures."

Right, the pictures.

"So I'm not sure...I think I blacked out, but I was moving again. I remember my shirt was still open because the air was cool on my chest. The van slowed and the door opened again." This was the part he wasn't sure he could say. "I remember jumping when I felt a hand on my waist ban. I think I was crying because the adhesive on the tape got gooey."

"What happened next?"

"He ah...he pulled down my zipper and he ah...he touched me."

I can't do this...I can't.

"Where did he touch you, Mr. Sandburg?"

Don't make me do this...

"Mr. Sandburg..."

Blair picked up the fork again. "He touched mm..my genitals...with his hands and mouth. He hurt me. I'm not sure, but I think he liked that...after a while he got up, scooted back and I could hear him...he was taking off his clothes. I freaked... I know I wanted to get away but I just couldn't. He dragged me out the door. I remember hitting the ground and it was cold. He pushed me back and sat on me, pulled the tape off my mouth and..."

"What did he do Mr. Sandburg?" Her voice was small, like she wasn't even in the same room.

"He made me...he put his..." The egg was almost unrecognizable, the yellow overlapping the whites and the toast was pierced through with the prongs of his fork. "He made me perform oral sex on him. He held my face and made me...I think he ejaculated because I remember this terrible taste. Sometime later I was back in the van. I know that something more happened, but I don't remember that. I remember the van stopping again and the door opened. I didn't move but I could hear him. He pulled something from the van and then I heard this noise, like someone was digging. I got really scared and then I got really mad. I remember he pulled me out again and dumped me on the ground. I was sitting on gravel, cause I picked up some, even with my hands behind my back."

He dropped the fork and pushed the tray away. "That's it. The next thing I know a guy pulled over to ask if I was okay..."

She reached for the recorder but stopped. "You did very well. I need to know if at any point you saw the perpetrators face?"

He thought about the face in his dreams...was that really the man that hurt him? "I keep seeing this man, but...he had crooked teeth, blondish hair...it was dirty and he had a mustache...but I don't know if that's really him."

Now she did turn off the recorder, sliding it into her coat pocket. "Thank you, Mr. Sandburg. You gave us a lot to follow up on." She pulled a business card from her pocket and sat it on the tray table. "I can understand you might not want your coworkers to know about this, but we might have to consult with the Cascade P.D. since this happened pretty close to the city."

"I understand. Can you do me a favor and only speak with a detective I can trust?"

She nodded, placing pen to notepad. "I can. Give me the name."

"Detective Joel Taggart, Major Crimes." And then he put the bed down and rolled away from her, shaking so hard that he was sure he was going to fly apart.

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

Part Five

"I can't believe this." Simon huffed, listening to the radio. "Just doesn't figure."

Jim looked up from his book, creasing the page. It was an okay read as far as those types of books went.

Can't believe it's a whole series.

He and Simon had retreated into the cabin shortly after they hit the lake. The downpour was unexpected, nothing on the weather channel and even Jim didn't see it coming.

"The weather guy says it's supposed to rain all night and into tomorrow." Simon grumbled all the way into the kitchen and returned with two beers. "And I hardly had a chance to try out my new lures."

"I'm sorry, Simon." Jim accepted the beer. Quickly looking back at his book to avoid the death daggers being thrown at him.

"Well, if it's going to rain, you want to head back?" Simon plopped onto the sofa across from him. "I mean I can be home fixing the sink instead of sitting around here watching you read your mystery novel."

Jim shut his book and stood. "That sounds good. I have some things I can do around the loft."

So they packed up, cleaned the mudroom and kitchen, before making a mad dash to the truck. Jim checked the tarp, making sure the desk was staying dry.

It was slow going but the rain slowed once they made it to the I-5.

"So you want to bet Sandburg messed up the loft?" Simon smirked, plucking his Doritos from under the seat.

"No thanks, I know when to bet and when not to bet." Jim smiled. "I'm sure he made an effort to clean up. If I'm lucky he stayed at Molly's all weekend."

"Is this Molly thing serious?" Simon sat sideways in the seat studying Jim.

He shrugged his shoulder. "I don't know dad, why don't you ask him?"

"Cause he's your partner, that's your job. Do you like her?"

Jim shrugged again. "Do I have to?" Simon shot him a look. "I like her, okay?"

"Okay. It's just I've never known Blair to date someone this long, that's all I'm saying."

The conversation died, the only sound coming from the radio and Simon's munching. Another hour and they pulled up in front of Simon's place.

His friend opened the door, and jumped out to grab his gear. "Well, thanks Jim. Lets do this again, soon."

"Yeah. It was fun." He watched as his boss went into his home. That's were he was heading now...home.

The traffic was pretty light for a Sunday afternoon. After pulling up, he took the elevator down to the basement to open his storage unit. Once back in the lot he uncovered his gift, wondering how he was going to move it by himself. A guy from the sub shop on the corner was walking to his car and Jim enlisted his help.

"Thanks, Mike." Jim situated the desk toward the back, covering it again so Blair wouldn't see it.

Together they rode back to the lobby and Jim said goodbye as he continued up to his apartment on the third floor.

The loft was quiet as he entered.

Quiet and clean.

With a small smile he stowed his gear in the closet under the steps and then went upstairs to get a change of clothes.

Once showered and shaved, Jim did a quick circuit of the loft. The sink was dish free and the fridge was just as he had left it. A quick peek into Blair's room revealed the basket of clothes still on his roommate's bed.

Back tracking he plopped on the sofa, picking up the remote. A few minutes passed and then he picked up the paper, right from where he had left it a few days before. After scanning the movie times, thinking that Tom Hanks couldn't be all that bad, he grabbed his keys.

Might as well enjoy a little free time...apparently his partner was having a good weekend.

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

A tall black woman, pushing a stand with a portable blood pressure monitor and thermometer, entered Blair's room.

"Hello, Mr. Sandburg. I'm Zalma. How do you feel this morning?" She adjusted the cuff around his arm and slipped a thermometer into his mouth.

"m'kay," he mumbled.

She smiled, pulling the velcro strap from his arm. "I have it on good authority that they are going to let you go home later this afternoon."

Blair nodded, wondering if that was good news.

She moved around the bed, unfastening wires and lead, peeling the tape back that held the I.V. into place. With a quick pull the tiny tube came out and she covered it with a piece of gauze, stanching the bit of blood that oozed out.

"How about I get you up to use the bathroom?" She was already pulling back the blankets and sheets. Blair was grateful that his gown wasn't up around his armpits.

He had made it to the commode a few times during the night, but this morning he was thankful for the extra support.

His body felt a little better standing upright; the aching in his hips settling down with each step he took.

He looked longingly at the shower stall as she turned him around to face her.

"When can I take a shower?" He asked.

She was helping him to sit down before he even realized it. "I can go get what you need and be back in a few minutes."

"I think I can handle it from here." He could feel the blood rushing to his face.

"You know how to use everything?" She asked, turning her back to lower the seat in the shower stall. "Just tap yourself with the witch hazel pads after you use the wipes, it will take the burning away. And don't forget the cream." She turned on the water before stepping out, pulling the door almost all the way closed, creating the illusion of privacy.

He could hear her changing the bedding, stripping away the sweaty sheets and replacing them with clean ones. He did as directed and it did burn, but not as bad as the night before. When he was done she was at his side before the toilet was done flushing, it was a little unnerving. He briefly wondered if she had Sentinel hearing.

"Just step in and then hand me the gown." He slipped past the curtain and sat on the stool, pulling the gown off and handing it through the slight opening.

"I'll leave you a few towels and a clean gown on the sink." And then she left him.

The water felt nice, he notched the dial over a bit, liking the temperature a little more hot.

After enjoying the heat for a time, he shifted the nozzle up to run over his head and down his back and then took it off the hook to direct at any little pains as they popped up.

He hadn't noticed many bruises as he was washing, but when he stood to get out he could see a few on his wrist and ankles. Once out and sitting on the commode lip, he studied his skin a little closer, seeing a few yellow and black marks on his legs and thighs. One near his belly button and a huge mark on his chest, near his nipple.

Deciding that looking wasn't helping, he stood and put on the fresh gown.

The nurse sat in the chair near the bed, waiting for him to emerge from the restroom. The bed was clean and comfortable when he climbed back in...he thought about asking if he could sit in the chair, but that was probably a bad idea.

He maneuvered onto his side, facing away from the door and Zalma stuffed a few pillows behind his back. "I'll take this tray if you're done and I brought you another pitcher of water to sip on." Before she left, she shifted the table and chair around to the other side of the bed. "Be back in a little while."

He closed his eyes and tried to sleep, but he wasn't tired anymore. The halls seemed a bit quiet, but he could hear soft shoe footsteps stop outside his room. The door squeaked open and someone approached his bed. Blair looked over his shoulder at his visitor and then turned a little to dislodge the pillows. "Hey, man."

"Hi, Blair." The big burly detective sat in the chair, looking down at his dark hands.

"It's okay, Joel. I'm okay." But even as he said it, tears welled up and his throat tightened. "I ah...I should be able to go home in a little while."

"Yeah." The older man finally looked up. I talked with your doctor and he said he would be in with the discharge papers. I can give you a lift home."

In no time he was settled in his friend's car, watching the trees fly by on the interstate. The trip thus far had been quiet; in fact Joel had hardly spoken at all, only asking if Blair was okay or if he needed anything.

Nearing the city limits Joel turned his way, dividing attention between him and the road. "Your car was still at the Mini Mart. The owner had called a tow, but we got there in time."

"When can I get it back?" He asked, fiddling with the dial for the radio.

Joel took the exit to Chelsea going around a slowly moving church bus. "It will take a few days. So far forensics hasn't found anything helpful...but your backpack was in the car and I can tell you your wallet was sitting by the gearbox, between the seats."

A few minutes later they parked in front of the apartment. Blair opened the door to the loft with a sad sigh, he was glad that Jim wasn't home. Joel closed the door behind him and helped him take off his borrowed coat. "Thanks for the ride."

"Not a problem. It wasn't like you were out of the way."

A few minutes of uneasy silence and then Blair said. "Look, Joel. I appreciate you helping me out. But I think I need a little time alone." He hurried on, noting the look on his friend's face. "I promise to call if I have any problems."

His friend looked doubtful, but turned back to the door. "I'll do the best I can to keep this quiet, but you're going to have to tell Simon and I really think you should tell Jim."

He looked down then, but nodded.

"Okay, Blair." Joel said, opening the door. "I'll get in touch when I have anything."

As soon as he was through it, Blair threw all the locks and leaned heavily against the hard wood.

God, what was he going to do?

He looked down at his scrubs, thinking it would be a good idea to get changed.

They had taken all his clothes, even his shoes as evidence. And his jewelry, his necklace was missing, but they took his bracelet and earrings...

A sudden urge to vomit overtook him and he bolted to the bathroom, doubling over the toilet. He put his hand over his ear, remembering a warm tongue sucking, toying with the tiny hoops.

After losing the juice he had for breakfast he dry heaved a few times, willing his stomach out of his throat.

Calm down, calm down.

Feeling a little more in control, he blew his nose and splashed cold water on his face. Looking into he mirror, he could just make out a faint bruise under his hairline, wondering how he was going to explain what happened to Jim.

The phone rang and he jumped, but let the machine get it.

"Hello, Blair? It's Molly. Just wanted to see if you were home yet and to make sure you're okay. Call me when you feel up to it. I'm sorry, baby."

Walking to the living room he sighed, erasing the message.

What was he going to say to Molly?

He got a trash bag from under the sink and went to his room to change. A basket of clean clothes sat on his bed and he dug through them until he found a t-shirt and the pajama pants he got for Christmas from Molly.

The scrubs went into a trash bag and Blair changed, carrying the bag to the trashcan in the kitchen.

Feeling a little hungry he rummaged through the fridge, but all the leftovers had been thrown out. He checked the freezer and found some noodle soup he had frozen the week before.

While his food was defrosting in the microwave, he warmed some apple cider in the kettle.

It took a while for the soup, but once done he carried his dinner into the living room, popping open his pill bottles and taking out a pill from each one. The doctor made it very clear that he needed to follow the instructions and finish each bottle...an antibiotic, a muscle relaxant and a pain pill.

Later he would take the other things, the cream and wipes, and stow them in the canister on the back of the toilet.

After taking his pills, he sipped his cider and picked at his food, hungry, but not really feeling like eating.

He channel surfed for a while, but nothing was appealing and the drugs were making him tired. Soon his eyes drooped, so he carefully shifted down to his side, pulling his afghan down on top of him. He listened to the TV drone on in the background for a while, before dropping off into a restless sleep.

Later Blair rolled over in his sleep, his heart pounding a little faster in his chest. He knew he was dreaming, but he couldn't wake up. He was outside a tiny store talking on a phone. The hair on his neck stood up and he knew he should get in the car and drive away, but he didn't.

The cracking noise made him jump and he knew he jumped in his sleep too, but he still couldn't wake up.

Get in the car.

Get in the car.

Someone grabbed him by the hair hard, yanking his head backwards...

Then everything was dark...he thought that he was going to wake up, but then he saw him. A leering face...his filthy hands tangled in Blair's hair, fingers fisted by his scalp. The face was covered with whiskers and they burned as they ran along Blair's cheek, teeth nipping at Blair's neck.

Blair tried to push him away and he thought that his body arched as he slept on the couch.

His hands were tied tight behind him, but his feet were free and he kicked up at his captor, realizing he was laying flat on the ground, surrounded by trees.

The man pulled something to Blair's right and his air supply decreased. Not understanding what was happening, he tried to kick again, but each time something tightened around his neck and then he would be forced around again, pulled into place by his hair. Turned over and pressed into the ground...

"NO!" Blair flew from the couch and fell to the floor with a hard thump, twisting and fighting against the afghan. Finally free, he took off for the bathroom, bringing up everything he had just eaten. Rocking back on his heels, he ran a shaky hand through his tangled hair...his hair.

A minute later he rinsed his mouth and looked in the mirror.

His hair.

He backed away and opened the linen closet, pulling out towels and sheets, searching. Not finding what he wanted he opened the cabinet under the sink and then the medicine cabinet.

There on the shelf lie the scissors.

With shaking hands, he reached for them. Carefully closing the mirrored door, he grabbed a handful of hair. Slowly the blades moved into place...squeezing the handles he began to cut when the front door slammed open, echoing down the hall.

The scissors clattered to the floor and Blair jumped, pressing his body against the sink.

"Chief? Are you alright?"

It took a full minute to calm down and answer, knowing that his friend was standing outside the door.

"Ah...yeah. I'm fine. I'll be out in a minute."

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

Part Six

Jim stood outside the bathroom door listening to his friend's sky rocketing heart and short gasps for air.

He had just cleared the third landing, still eating his box of bite size butterfingers, when he heard a commotion coming from his apartment. Pushing quickly through the door he found the living area empty, but someone occupied the bathroom.

"You sure you're okay?" Jim stepped a bit closer to the door, hand resting on the knob. The sickly sweet smell of sweat and fear permeated the hall and was coming through the closed door.

His roommate cleared his throat a few times and then told him again he'd be out in a minute.

Jim backed away; deciding that Blair needed some time and would hopefully tell him what was going on when he came out of the bathroom.

Walking back toward the bay doors, he scanned the loft. It was still tidy; except a blanket was tossed on the floor by the sofa and a few pillows were arranged on one end like Blair may have been lying down. He moved closer and felt the sofa; it was still warm with Blair's body heat.

A bowl with the remains of Blair's dinner was still sitting on the end table and a mug was perched on top of a few magazines on the coffee table. Jim picked it up and gave it a small sniff. Apple cider?

The TV was on the nature channel, but the volume was turned down low, so he doubted that Blair was actually watching it. More then likely his friend must have dozed off. Maybe he had a nightmare... But Blair hadn't had any nightmares in a while.

Jim scooped up the mug and bowl and walked into the kitchen, dumping the congealing soup and rinsing the dishing in the sink. He peeked into Blair's bedroom before going back to the bathroom door, noting that nothing had changed, except the clothes basket had been rummaged through.

"Blair?" Jim tried to keep his voice neutral. He knew something was off, but he didn't want to browbeat Blair into telling him. Maybe it was something as simple as Blair having problems with his love life. Jim knew that he had big plans with Molly this weekend.

The door creaked open and Blair emerged. His hair was loose and unruly, a few shorter pieces stuck up at an odd angle.

"You're home early." His friend moved into the living room, slumping onto the sofa. He looked a little pale, tired...maybe he was getting sick.

"Yeah, it started to rain, so we decided to come home early." Jim sat in the yellow chair, watching as Blair picked the blanket up and pulled it over his legs. "Cold, Chief?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah? A little." Jim noted the fine tremors coursing through Blair's body, but something else seemed off.

"Do you need anything?" Jim asked, getting up and going into the kitchen to unpack the cooler. He had forgotten it, but was happy to find that the ice hadn't melted He put the fillets in the freezer then filled the teakettle. "I'm going to have a cup of tea, do you want some?" Blair didn't answer, so Jim called him again. "Blair?"

"Hmm?"

"I said do you want some tea?"

"Ah...yeah. Thanks, man."

Something was wrong, Jim was sure, but he wasn't going to push. Blair would tell him when he was ready.

The phone rang, but Blair made no move to answer. The machine picked up before he got to it. "Hey Blair, It's Mol. Just checking to make sure you're doing okay and to tell ya I love ya. Call me."

"Don't you want to talk to Molly, Chief?" Jim sat a mug in front of his roommate, making himself comfortable on the other couch.

Blair leaned forward and picked up his mug. There was even something off about his movement and Jim wondered if his friend had gotten hurt.

He watched as Blair sipped his tea, spotting a tiny bruise by his friend's neck and another one on the wrist that held the mug. He even wondered why Blair's earrings were gone.

About to ask, the phone rang again. This time when the machine picked up, it was the voice of Joel Taggart and Blair nearly tripped to get to the phone.

"Hey, Joel." With a pleading look at Jim, Blair turned away from him, shoulders hunched "Yeah, I'm fine."

Another look from Blair and Jim got up to rinse his mug. He listened to his friend's end of the conversation, listened as his voice notched up and turned in time to see the phone hit the floor.

"Oh God," Blair said. "I killed him."

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

Blair scooted down the back of the sofa and sat with his head in his hands. He knew he was shaking again, but his eyes stayed dry.

Jim ran over, kneeling down. "Blair...what's wrong?"

When he didn't answer, his friend snagged up the phone and demanded that Joel tell him.

"What do you mean?" Jim's voice was angry, but Blair didn't want him to take it out on Joel.

"Jim." He sat up a little, touching his friend's arm "It's okay, Jim. I'll tell you." He plucked the phone from his partner. "Joel. I'll be down in a little while. Yeah, I'll be fine." He dropped the receiver into his lap, wondering where to even start.

"Let's get off the floor." Jim stood and extended his hand.

Blair took it and stood, tiny ripples if pain shot down his legs, but he ignored them and walked stiffly to the couch.

Jim hung up the phone, but followed, sitting close to him on the sofa. "Please tell me what's wrong. You can tell me anything, Chief."

He nodded, but it was...hard. "I guess I should start at the beginning."

He could feel his friend shift a little closer, but it was okay, he wanted Jim close. "I'm listening, whatever it is, I'm listening."

He laid his back on the sofa, breathing deep. "I was on my way home from Central on Friday evening. I stopped at a Mini Mart and I ah...I used the pay phone to call Molly...my cell phone wasn't getting good reception." He sat up and looked at Jim, not sure how to say what he needed to say.

"What happened?" Jim asked, moving his arm up to rest on the back of the sofa.

Tears threatened, "I don't remember everything, but ah...I was attacked."

The arm along his neck tensed, but Jim didn't say anything. "I lost some time, but I know I was assaulted. I've been in a hospital and Joel picked me up today. He said...he said that Detective Siller's team found a body..."

The arm behind him moved and Blair was scared that Jim was pulling away, but he didn't. Jim pulled him closer, wrapping him in a hug. He couldn't help it when the tears fell this time, nor could he help the sobs.

Jim held him close, running hands over his head and hair, but that was okay.

This was Jim.

After a time, Blair pushed away. "I need to go to the station and make an ID."

"I'll drive," but it was a few more minutes before either one of them moved.

Once in the truck, Blair managed to calm down a little. Jim kept shooting covert looks his way, but Blair wasn't ready to talk yet.

At the station, Joel met them in the basement morgue. Detective Siller was standing off to the side, but Blair introduced her to Jim.

"Okay, Blair. You ready?" Joel escorted him closer to a large curtained window, tapping on the glass. The curtains were pulled back slowly and Blair could make out a covered body lying on a table on the other side. A woman in scrubs stood beside the body, waiting for Joel's signal to uncover the cadaver.

Blair nodded, feeling Jim place a hand on his shoulder. The sheet was pulled back and Blair got a look at the man on the table. His shoulders slumped. The dead man had dark hair and a mustache, but no beard. His face was fuller than Blair thought, but the teeth were crocked, the top sticking out of the slightly opened mouth. "I don't know."

"We already collected some evidence." Joel told him, turning him from the window. "Let's go up to the captain's office."

Blair moved through the halls, not paying much attention to who was around him. The bullpen was mostly empty as was Simon's office. Sinking into a chair around the conference table, he waited as Jim and Joel sat. Detective Siller stood at the end of the table, tiny hands resting on the tabletop.

"We found a white van not far from where you were found." She began.

Jim sat forward, but Blair shook his head. They would have time to talk later.

"Time of death is estimated to be sometime Saturday morning."

God, his attacker had him for the whole night and morning. What else had he done to him?

"We found a necklace in his hand." She held up a tiny evidence bag, but Blair didn't have to look, he knew it was his. "Also a belt was found nearby, forensics is taking a look at it now."

"How did he die?" Blair asked.

She leaned on the table a little more, "Blunt force trauma to the head...probably the shovel that was found a ways down the road."

"I don't...I don't remember what happened." Blair sat up a little to take the pressure off his tailbone. "What happens now?"

"Well, we are working on reconstructing the crime scene. I'm sure the evidence will point to your version of the events, even if you can't remember everything. We found a place where the earth was disturbed, we have your necklace and I'm sure your DNA will be on the belt."

And other places, Blair thought.

"Once we have all the reports in, we can close the case."

Blair nodded, standing to leave. "Can you keep me informed?"

She followed them to the door of the office. "I'll let you know what we find."

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

Jim paced the confines of the living room. It had been three weeks since he had come home to find Blair panicking in the bathroom. After his friend had told him what happened Jim went into a tailspin. He read the crime report and questioned Detective Siller, but he didn't really talk to Blair. Not about what happened anyway.

They had polite conversations, about work and school, about Jim and Simon's fishing trip...

Heck, Blair was doing a good job of acting like nothing happened, returning to work a few days later.

The phone rang, but Jim let the machine get it.

"Blair. It's Molly. Please call. I want to...I want to know why you are avoiding me."

Outside in the hallway the elevator dinged. Footsteps stopped outside his door and a key was jammed into the lock. Blair came in, walking to his room and dumping his pack. Jim noticed that his hair was pulled back again and even though he had gotten his jewelry back a few days before, he hadn't worn them. "Hey, man."

Jim smiled, making for the kitchen to check on dinner. "How was your day?"

God, it was like they were an old married couple.

"Good, man. You?" Blair opened the fridge and pulled out a beer. "Want one?"

He already had two, but what the heck.

"I'll take one."

Blair had a doctor's appointment earlier in the day, but Jim didn't want to push for information. The man who had attacked Blair...Maxwell...he was clean...at least that was something.

His roommate gulped the beer and then headed for the shower. When Blair emerged, he told him that Molly had called.

"I'll call her later." Blair went back to his room and closed the door.

This was not going well.

A little later he called his partner to dinner. They ate in silence so Jim finally asked, "So how did your appointment go?"

"Okay," Blair didn't even look up from his plate.

"Well," Jim said. "That's good."

After dinner, he settled on the couch, flipping on the TV. He was a little surprised when Blair joined him.

"Hey, you have any plans for the weekend?" Jim asked, finding a movie on Lifetime.

Blair shook his head, "Nope...why?"

"Well, your birthday is Sunday and I know a good fishing spot, beautiful views, fish practically jumping into your net."

Blair seemed to debate about it, but agreed. "Okay, I could use a little vacation."

"Good, get to bed. I want to leave early."

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

The truck bumped along the dirt road and finally pulled off to a camp area. A few other people milled around, a few tents peppered the forest.

They unloaded and walked back a ways, closer to the lake. Jim pitched the tent and Blair piled a few rocks to enclose the fire.

"Let's hit the water." Jim said, picking up their poles.

Blair followed along behind, carrying the tackle boxes. They scouted a good spot and waded into the water. "Hey, Jim?"

His friend looked up from casting.

"Thanks again for the desk. It was way too much, but I really appreciate it."

Jim ducked his head a little. "We should drive into town and look for a matching book case."

The fishing was slow going, but Blair managed to bag two. Jim threw a few back...they still had some fillets in the freezer.

"Ready for lunch?" His friend called and Blair reeled in his line.

They made their way back to camp and Blair started on gutting the fish. Soon lunch was ready and they ate in silence.

It seemed like that was par for the course.

Setting his plate aside, he looked to Jim. "There was nothing you could have done."

Jim looked down to his plate, picking at the fish with his fork. "I know. I wish I was there, but I know."

"It was no ones fault." He assured Jim.

And maybe himself.

"I know that too." Jim sat aside his own plate and scooter closer to him.

"I mean the guy...he didn't have a record and and he had drugs and alcohol in his system...it was random." He was cold, grateful to feel Jim's arm snake up around him.

"I know. A random act of violence."

"But why, man? Why did he have to pick me?" His friend pulled him closer and he rested his head on Jim's shoulder.

"Who knows what he was thinking. He was high and even though he didn't have a record, people we talked to said he was known to be violent."

Blair stilled, lifting his head a little. "You talked to people, Jim."

The arm around him stiffened, but his friend took a resigned breath. "I talked to people, I went to the crime scene, I dug into Maxwell's past...I just had to."

Blair settled back against his friend. "You had to?"

Jim tightened his hold. "Yeah, Chief. I had to. You're my..."

"Best friend, partner, roommate, guide?" Blair asked.

"Yes, yes, yes, and yes. You're...well, you're mine." Jim chuckled. "You're all of those and more...does that make sense?"

It did.

Jim meant a whole lot to Blair...and he had always known that the same was true for Jim.

After a few minutes of comfortable silence Jim said, "Okay, enough with the mush."

He laughed...and it felt good.

They sat for a while longer and then Jim got up. "Let's go into town and take a look at the furniture store. And, " he paused. "I promised Simon I'd pick him up a new lure."

He helped Blair up and they tidied up a bit, making sure to douse the fire before heading out.

"So," Jim said casually. "Have you talked to Molly?"

Blair sighed but his friend went on. "I mean I know you were pretty serious for a while and I thought..."

Blair nodded, jumping into the truck. "I will, Jim. I need to."

Jim smiled and pulled out, heading into town.

Molly...now that's a whole other story...

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The End

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