Seven years ago my wonderful mother, a single parent, died, leaving a large hole in my heart. I miss her more than words can describe and dedicate this story in her memory. No child is ever ready to lose a parent.

Disclaimer: The boys and the world of 'The Sentinel' are not mine so don't sue me.

No beta was used here - sorry. I have tried to muddle through the errors and if I have missed some I apologize to those of higher intelligence but, hey, I don't make money over this, just do it for the pleasure of sharing.

I am eternally grateful to Starfox for giving these stories a home.

Another AU. (Hey, can't help myself!) This time Jim meets a child who challenges to live a different life.

Steps

by K-Lyn

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

The divorce papers had been finalized in court and were finally received by both parties. James Ellison was officially no longer a married man. He gazed at the papers in disgust and looked away. He had failed in this stage of his life. He did love Carolyn but obviously that hadn't been enough and he felt foolish for believing otherwise. It was a mistake he didn't want repeated.

The once again single man sat alone in his loft on Prospect Avenue. A twenty-nine year old decorated military man, who had also worked in covert opps for a time and currently a well-respected detective at the Cascade Police Department, his career life was not a problem. He gazed at his immaculate and somewhat empty residence and then down at the legal documents he held in his hands - he had failed at having a decent marital life and it hurt.

He closed his eyes and heard the man below come into his apartment to be greeted by his wife and their dog. The two were expecting a child soon and had been searching for a larger place to live. James wished he didn't have to hear beyond the walls of his simple dwelling, but life wasn't fair.

The man was fast becoming an oddity. Psychologically speaking he was of sound mind and medically speaking he was a healthy specimen of a human male. Still the outward appearance hid the fact that he wasn't quite - normal. He knew that he shouldn't be able to hear the people in the apartment below with such unbelievable clarity, shouldn't have to eat extremely plain, tasteless foods due to the fact that his taste buds reacted strangely to any type of additive or preservative, and he shouldn't be able to see his superior's notes from across the room - he just wasn't quite normal.

Though his career was in control and on the right track, his co-workers somehow sensed his strangeness and distanced themselves from him. He didn't mind this and in fact preferred it that way. He was a private man and he liked solitude. Less noises, smells and less questions. Even though he had loved Carolyn, his now ex-wife, it had been trying at times to co-exist with her and even more difficult trying to maintain an air of normalcy when the man's world was methodically crumbling around him.

Though the poor woman tried to get her husband to discuss his problems he remained silent. He preferred to handle his situation his way - secretively and in doing so forced a gap between he and Carolyn. Judging his behavior to be one of distrust she soon stopped trying to help him and began to care less about what to do. A man who cannot trust his wife with his problems cannot share his love. Reluctantly she decided to search for trust elsewhere.

Ellison's one tie to control was the fact that he had his career. Here he knew what to expect and what was expected of him. So he existed as best he could. Still he felt his world slowly and continually slipping away. The struggle to be - normal was wearing on him. He was afraid that one day someone would discover his strangeness and he would become an object of ridicule or worse - pity. His love of the job forced him to participate within the world but he now wondered how long he would be able to do so.

Ellison glanced around his loft again and noted that everything was in its place - that left his gun. The weapon currently lay on the table before him, clean and ready for use.

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

Being told that you had one year to live at the most was both difficult and frightening. Still the young woman wasn't concerned about the hereafter and the various questions and doubts that accompanied such thoughts, her thoughts were focused on her first-born - her son. He was a special child filled with love, life and energy. She wanted to give him the world but now had such a short time to provide for him. Thoughts that she never considered filled her mind. Who would care for him? Love him. Nurture him. She did consider her parents but they had turned their backs on her long ago, not wanting to even meet their grandchild. They would not do.

She then considered her many loves but none seemed the type to entrust her only child's life to. She looked at the young boy sleeping on the futon in the room beside hers, as thoughts continued to flow through her mind.

Adoption was a gamble but fast becoming her only option.

She walked back to her room and remembered the Chopec Shaman she had met in Peru earlier that year, back when she thought she had all the time in the world to care for her son. She remembered the words and the serious way that they were delivered, "Your son is very special. He must be protected. You worry for his future - you waste time. His watchman will protect him. You need to ensure his happiness."

She smiled at the wise man, taking his words to heart, "How is he special?" She loved her boy but knew that every mother sees 'specialness' in their own child that was not necessarily shared by the outside world. She was curious to know as much about the man he would be as she could. She was now grateful for her curiosity.

The Shaman handed the five year old a medallion and the boy giggled as he held it. "Momma the panther is purring to me."

Naomi didn't know what her son spoke of; she only saw an old piece of metal but smiled at his delight.

The Shaman smiled knowingly and proceeded to place the ancient piece of metal on a leather tie and to secure it round the happy child's neck. He then looked at Naomi and spoke softly, "He is a Shaman. One of pure heart." The older man placed his hand on that of the young mother's, "You will meet the watchman and you will know he can be trusted."

Naomi Sandburg was a great believer in fate and spiritual dealings. She made sure her son wore the gift from the Shaman always and often relaxed when the boy said he saw the panther. The panther gave her hope that he would be protected. Still time was growing short.

The tumor had grown half of its original size and was causing discomfort. She was getting more headaches and tired easily. She needed to know her son had a place where he'd be cared for. Slowly she lay on her bed hoping to still the relentless thoughts that flowed into her mind. She didn't believe in pity and wanted none but she worried for her son and wished desperately for his future to be dealt with.

She reached for her headache pills and took one more than allotted. She needed to sleep, tomorrow she was going to visit the adoption agencies in Cascade. Maybe she'd find one that seemed suitable for her son.

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

Capt. Banks looked at the man before him. He really didn't like the detective all that much. Never trusted a man who kept to himself and this man could be the spokesperson for the secret service. "Ellison, I need you to interview a few witnesses out in the Marquee district. Seems only one man saw the murder of a mother and her child but was too far away to give any substantial information."

Ellison looked over the file, "This happened at noon in a public park?"

Banks nodded, "The woman and child were attacked in broad daylight and no one wants to admit to seeing this. Seems the crime doesn't warrant any concern amongst the people living that area. It's unbelievable. Poverty is no excuse for the lack of empathy regarding this matter. It's simply unacceptable."

Carolyn Plummer walked in at that moment, "Here is that autopsy report you wanted on the mother." She looked at her ex-husband and smiled. He nodded at her.

Banks looked the report over, "A poison dart?"

Carolyn nodded, "Yes. Poison extracted from the black mamba. Quite exotic and a long way from home. The dart came from Peru. A dart, mind you, that is normally used by the people there to protect their community from danger."

Ellison frowned, "I have to agree, if you will recall I've spent time in Peru, sir. This looks like a dart from the Chopec Indians. They would never use such a weapon against a woman or a child. Also, they'd never leave their village and come here. They simply haven't the means or the inclination."

Banks nodded. "I knew you'd feel that way and that's why I want you on this. You are our resident Chopec specialist at the moment and maybe you'd find the niche we need to solve this. Speak to this witness and see what you can get out of him."

Ellison left the office but his hearing turned up. Carolyn spoke to Banks, "He's not the most tactful person for this."

Banks sighed, "He's available, he's familiar with the Chopec and hopefully he can intimidate something out of this guy."

Carolyn giggled, "So you still up for a double date? The Jags look good."

Banks laughed, "My son and I will be there. You still dating..."

Jim somehow forced his hearing away. He knew Carol was dating but it stung - it had only been two months since the divorce proceedings began and now ... He gazed at the file in his hand and forced his mind to concentrate on the task at hand. He remembered the Chopec and his time in Peru several years ago. Ellison was captain of a covert operation. He had lost 6 men in that mission. The Chopec were the most peaceful people he had ever met and helped him to survive by offering his shelter. In fact, Ellison remembered it was then that his senses began to act differently and that these people accepted him without question.

He shook himself out of his revelry and left to interview the witness.

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

An hour later, the detective left the witnesses' apartment with not much to go on. The witness saw the young woman with her small daughter from the window of her second story apartment. The mother bent down to tie the shoelace on the child's sneaker and suddenly dropped to the ground, the child followed soon after. Neither got up. No one stole anything. Nothing was disturbed.

He walked to the park to get an idea of where the murder occurred. He eventually sat on one of the benches to review his notes and to enjoy the quiet.

"Hello."

Ellison sighed, so much for quiet. He turned and came face to face with the small face of a child. The child was thin and his face framed in unruly curls, dressed in a brown coat two sizes too large, jeans that looked like they had been worn several times too many and toting a small leather backpack, which seemed filled to capacity. The boy hopped up on the bench where Jim sat and pulled his backpack close to him. "My name is Blair. You waiting for someone?"

Ellison shook his head. A murder happens in this very park and here is some kid unattended and speaking openly to strangers. "Didn't your mother ever teach you not to speak to strangers kid?"

The boy frowned, "Yes, but how do you make friends when you don't speak to anyone? What if no one spoke to each other? How would you get a job or buy things at the store?"

Ellison sighed at his sudden ability to attract the attention of some kid who was apparently openly friendly and a wise ass, "That is what an adult is for. To watch who you talk with and to keep you safe. You are too young to be out here by yourself."

The boy slid off of the bench and pulled the large jacket close. "I didn't mean to bother you. Sorry." Though the words seemed to provoke guilt from the detective, the child seemed content to move along and not concerned with the professional advice of the grumpy detective.

He watched the small ragamuffin walk away and wondered where the kid's mother was. He was about to question the kid when a bus stopped at the corner and the child ran towards a young woman stepping off of the bus. "Momma!!!"

The young woman seemed tired but happy to see the kid. Her face held undisguised joy in it. "Hi baby! Have you been good?"

The boy looked away. "I didn't cause no trouble but I spoke to some strangers."

The woman walked the child to a bench near the bus stop and sat him next to her. "Blair, I told you about speaking to strangers. You have to be more careful."

The boy nodded. "I'm sorry momma. It's just sometimes I want to know the people. Hear what they have to say."

Determined to prove his point, he pointed to a lady feeding pigeons. "She doesn't have a home and says the government stinks, and that man over there by the fountain works for some college, he has ancient artifacts from natives to show there and," Ellison flinched under the unwanted scrutiny as the child pointed at him. "the big man over there is lonely, he just doesn't know how to talk to others." The boy whispered to his mother. "He told me not to talk to strangers too, he said this park is not safe just like you said momma."

The woman pulled her son in close not wanting to destroy the curiosity she saw there "Just try better next time, alright?" The boy nodded and the woman spoke to him softly. "I went to see those people I told you about."

The boy nodded and suddenly became serious. "The adoption agency?"

The woman nodded. "Tomorrow we will go together." She looked at her son. "It's almost time."

The boy placed his hands on his mother's. "Don't be afraid momma, the panther will protect you too."

The woman shook her head, "The panther is yours alone baby. I will have a different protection."

The boy looked away and again spoke softly. "I wish we didn't have to do this. I love you momma."

Just then the cell phone in the detective's pocket rang. "Ellison."

By the time the call ended the detective found himself no longer an object of observation. The woman and boy were gone. He looked around once more and shook his head as he headed back to the station for the evening.

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

Carolyn Plummer watched her ex-husband from the doorway. The man seemed to carry on as though nothing could ever penetrate him emotionally and it was one of the reasons she could no longer stay married to the man. He just seemed too cold. "Hi Jimmy, how's it going?"

Ellison looked up from his paperwork and spoke in a businesslike tone. "Fine. Got a lot of paperwork to do."

Carolyn nodded and was about to walk away when Ellison spoke again, "Carolyn, if you had a child, what would force you to give it up for adoption?"

Carolyn paused, "That's an odd question. I suppose, if I had no money and was a single parent, maybe or, well, I don't know. I guess I'd hope I'd never have to do such a thing."

Ellison stood and looked at the time on the clock. "Thanks."

Carolyn considered asking the man out to lunch but decided against it. He had that blank look on his face. The look he wore at times when she wanted him to pay attention to her but instead got indifference. She walked away wondering what she saw in him in the first place and why he had asked that particular question. Jim was too cold to be a parent and thoughts of children were something she had decided against ever having with the man.

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

It was stupid really. He didn't understand why he came here again. He could be researching a case or catching up with the avalanche of reports forming on his desk but he felt compelled to be here in the park. The voice of the young boy followed him home that night and angered him, "(he's) lonely, he just doesn't know how to talk to others." What right did this pesky kid have to judge him? No wonder the woman was giving him up for adoption - too much noise. Still, the kid was intelligent. Why give him up for adoption?

Ellison's own father hadn't spoken to him for more than 8 years and his brother was the same way. Love was too high a price to pay to his two sons, yet never once had William Ellison given he or Steven up for adoption. Now here was this child, one with an apparently loving mother. A child so full of life and promise. Smart. Happy. Why give him away? Is the world really that out of wack?

"Mister?" Jim turned and was once again faced with those intelligent blue eyes. Except this time the eyes were filled with tears and though the weather was extremely cool, the child had no coat on. "Please mister, momma won't wake up. I tried to call for an ambulance but the voice keeps saying that they are busy and to hold." The boy sniffled, "Please I-I don't know what to do?"

Ellison stood and felt the boy immediately place his smaller hand into his own. He followed him to an apartment building across the street and up four flights of stairs. The building wasn't up to code but Ellison assumed it was affordable to the tenants in this area. The child released his hand and opened the door to the apartment. Grasping the larger hand the boy led the detective to his mother who lay unmoving on her bed.

Jim took her pulse and noted that her skin was cold and clammy. Part of his military training included medic training. Medical knowledge that indicated that the woman was very ill and the fact that she was bleeding through her nose was not a good sign. The boy placed a paper in front of the detective. "This is her doctor's name and number."

Ellison opened his cell phone and called for an ambulance using his badge number and then called the doctor's number. The child pulled on his coat and got his mother's wallet and placed it into his backpack. He then uncovered his mother and attempted to comb her hair. Ellison reached out and pulled the boy away from the unconscious woman but he moved back, "No, momma likes her hair combed."

Jim gently turned the boy around and looked into the tear filled eyes, "She looks alright Chief. I need you to go downstairs and tell the paramedics where the apartment is. Can you do that?"

The boy nodded and walked away, then stopped and turned around, "Thank you for helping mister. I am really sorry I had to bother you again."

Ellison nodded, speechless, and waited until the boy was gone. He quickly placed the woman into a robe that lay at the foot of her bed and waited.

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

Two hours later

Jim sat beside the young boy in the Waiting Area. The child seemed strangely familiar with this sort of thing and came prepared. He answered all the medical questions with accuracy and clarity, knew the name of his mother's doctor and her social security number. Apparently, the young woman had a trust fund and was using that to pay for her medical bills. Ellison marveled at the child's reserve. Most boys would be sobbing, but Blair simply held onto his backpack and waited.

"Mister?"

"Yes."

"I don't mean to be nosy. I just wanted to know your name."

"I'm a detective."

The boy continued to stare. "So what is your name?"

Ellison smiled, still the kid was being a wise ass. "My name is James Ellison."

The boy looked away and then back, "Blair Sandburg." He extended his hand and shook the larger one when it joined to clasp his. "Thank you again for your help."

Ellison nodded, "It really was no bother Blair."

The detective's cell phone rang and he answered it. He concluded his discussion and looked at the child beside him. "I have to go to the station. Will you be alright here-by yourself?"

The boy smiled confidently, "Sure, I'll be alright. I'm not a kid you know. I can behave."

Jim chuckled at the remembered commentary he overheard in the park between the young boy and his mother. Quite the man he had here. "Well Mr. Sandburg try not to speak to too many strangers."

He then walked to the nurses' station and left his cell number, they assured him that the boy would be watched over and that this had not been the first time the young waif had been in the hospital with his mother. Still, he suddenly felt overwhelmingly protective of the boy and had no idea why. He looked back once more and noted that the kid was reading a large book and had settled into the seat. He looked away and decided it was time to get back to work.

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

Banks read over the reports he received and noticed that Ellison was preparing to leave. The man had an eventful day; four arrests and one assist to a civilian. He was a good man, no doubt about that but he was also a difficult man to work with. No one wanted to be his partner because he seemed too unbending and cold. Things had to be done his way and no other. Difficult.

Simon rose and went to the door. "Ellison, big plans for the weekend?"

Ellison paused. "No sir. Just a little home downtime."

Banks nodded, "Well have a nice weekend." Too damn secretive.

Jim drove to his loft, showered, ate some toast and went to bed. He dreamed that night of a black panther. The panther seemed to be searching or hunting for something. Slowly the creature crept into a clearing and tilted its head. There in the jungle was a small wolf cub. The panther's reaction to the other seemed feral at first but calmed as it got closer to the smaller creature. The wolf pup gazed into the yellow eyes without fear and seemingly with complete trust. The panther crept closer as the pup lifted its head and howled. The panther purred in response, picked up the pup by the gruff of its neck and leapt into the jungle foliage. In the distance another wildcat cried out and Ellison suddenly woke.

It was 5 a.m. and all was calm and silent at Prospect Avenue. Just then the phone rang, shattering he stillness of the early morning. He pulled on his robe and walked to the lower level of his loft to answer the phone before the answering machine picked up. "Ellison."

"Det. Ellison? This is Nurse Dana Grier at Guardian Angel Hospital? You left your number at the nurses' station?"

Jim nodded suddenly very awake, "Yes, Ms. Grier. Is everything alright?"

"Yes detective. It's just, well the boy - Blair? Well, he left here because the doctor told him he couldn't stay overnight. The doctor didn't notice that he was alone and I'm afraid he scared the child. Blair left a few minutes ago. I knew the doctor was wrong to send him home alone, I wanted to get the boy and take him home myself but ...well he had already left."

Ellison suddenly felt a surge of anger, "He's just a child."

"I know that sir. But... "

Ellison sighed, "Never mind, we're wasting time here. I'll find him. Thank you for your call- I appreciate your concern." Ellison hung up the phone and quickly dressed. I knew I shouldn't have left him alone. I knew it.

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

Blair tried to stay but the doctor told him he had to go and the dude had a serious attitude problem. Blair didn't want to upset the man, he was too red in the face already and he had promised Naomi he'd be good, so he went to catch the bus home. Momma always had change in her purse and he did know the way home.

The bus stop sign read 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. Blair looked at the digital clock in front of the hospital and realized he had a two-hour wait; it was 5 a.m. He decided to start walking home. It couldn't be that far, just follow the bus stop signs. Slowly he pulled the coat tightly around him and secured his backpack. It was cold out but he was too nervous to notice, he just wanted to get home.

He suddenly smiled when it occurred to him that this was an adventure, just like momma always said when things were new and sometimes scary. Blair decided he would face it like one.

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

Ellison drove to the park, then to the hospital and searched every floor. The later it got the more he felt an overwhelming sense of panic. This was a child. What if he was hurt? What if someone took him? Where the hell would he be?

Jim slowly drove along the bus route and noted an all night bakery. He parked the truck and walked inside. He sighed in relief when he saw the child was there; sitting in a corner booth reading and sipping a drink. Ellison headed towards the table.

The boy looked up in surprise and smiled. Ellison was relieved and furious. As he neared the boy, the ex-military man found himself blocked by a chubby female employee of the bakery, "Hey back-off mister, leave the kid alone."

Jim lifted his eyebrow, "Hey hold on, I'm a cop."

The lady stepped back and smirked, "So? The worst perverts are usually cops."

"It's alright Dotty, I know him. He's a friend. Thank you."

The lady looked back at the boy and smiled. "Alright honey but let me know if you need anything." She looked back at the detective and gave him an angry look, "Some friend. That boy should be at home not on the streets alone. It's too damn dangerous out here."

Ellison opened his mouth to respond but the woman had already walked away. He turned and headed to the table. "What the hell do you think you are doing? It's 6 in the morning."

Blair yawned and then patiently answered the question. "I am going to my home and then I'll come back later. The doctor told me to scram so I scrammed." He looked away and then back up at the tall, large man. "I didn't do nothing wrong. Honest. The buses don't run til 7 and I got hungry. All I have is enough for lunch so I bought a hot cocoa for now."

Ellison sat at the table and began to lecture to the insolent child. "Kid, it's against the law for a child as young as you are to travel alone at this hour anywhere and especially in an area like this." He looked away and then back at the boy. "How old are you anyway?"

Blair met his gaze defiantly, "I am nine and a half and I do know the law. I'm not dumb. That's why I came in here. Off the streets." The boy stood. "The buses should be running pretty soon." He moved to leave and was pulled back.

Ellison looked into the defiant blue eyes and sighed, "Look you little hippie brat. It's too dangerous out there. You could get hurt."

Blair pulled away. "I know that. I do and soon, real soon, I'm going to be alone out there all the time. I gotta learn how to do this now. So don't you tell me what to do. Cops are supposed to help people not harass them."

Jim watched the defiant little would-be man walk to the door and then noticed the chubby waitress looking at him, again with an angry glare. Ellison rolled his eyes. "I know. I know." He stood, followed the kid outsid and again pulled him back. "I'll take you home."

Blair looked away. "Hey I don't need any favors, man. I can handle myself."

The detective smiled in utter exasperation at the incredibly stubborn boy, "I'm not offering any favors, just a ride. Like you said I'm a cop, I'm helping keep you and your smart mouth off of the street."

Blair shivered. Maybe a ride wouldn't hurt. It was a bit cold out and the cocoa was not doing its job. He looked at the man in front of him and decided he could trust him but tried to act like it didn't matter. "Okay, if you want."

Jim drove the still defiant little man to the apartment and smiled at the kid's polite invitation inside. The boy quickly took off his coat, washed his hands, retrieved a pan of something from the fridge and placed it on the stove. He used a small stepladder to do all this and seemed quite familiar with the routine. He then turned on the stove and stirred the food. "I'm making a plate of vegi-pasta. If you'd like I can make some for you too."

Ellison nodded and watched the kid take an additional food out. The boy cleaned off his hands on the small rag he wore as an apron and looked at the older man, who stood in the same spot, " Oh hey, make yourself at home, I got to - you know."

Jim again nodded and moved about. He paused at the boy's bedroom, or at least he thought it was the kid's. There were the usual action figures here and there but mostly there were maps, books and textbooks. Could the boy have read all of these?

Blair came back into the main room and watched the tall man move about. It was like he was searching for drugs or something. Momma had said not to trust cops but he seemed all right. Just nosy. He quickly went to get the hot pot from the stove but was prevented from doing so by the taller man who helped pour the contents into another pot. "Thanks."

He made two plates of the vegetable pasta and set one out for the detective. "Try a bit. It's my own recipe."

Ellison thought about refusing to eat the strange smelling food but decided against it. He was curious but wanted to be cautious. The kid probably put bubble gum in it. To his surprise the pasta was delicious. Really, really good.

Blair smiled, "Good, huh?"

Jim nodded. The two ate in silence. When the plates were bare again, Blair stood and placed the dishes in the sink. Ellison looked at him. "Don't you think you should take a shower and then go to bed?"

Blair scrunched his face, "I'm not sleepy, but I guess I'll take a shower. Feel free to watch television or read a magazine. I'll be right back."

Ellison washed the dishes; he hated to leave things til the next day. He then proceeded to straighten up the small apartment a bit and waited til the kid emerged from the shower moments later dressed again for outdoors. God he is a ball of energy and when does he sleep? "Kid, visiting hours are not til noon. Take a nap."

Blair shrugged and went to the refrigerator to look at a note stuck there by a magnetic tack. He walked to the phone and made a phone call, "Yes, my name is Blair Sandburg, this message is for Ms. Laner. Ms. Naomi Sandburg will not be able to meet with you today. She will call later to make another appointment to meet with you and the Adoption Agency. Thank you."

He hung the phone up, walked to the couch, sat down and sighed. Ellison shook his head, nine years old and the kid was so mature it was scary. The child behaved like an adult but his small body betrayed him. That and those huge expressive blue eyes, which seem so openly expressive. Ellison went to sit near the boy.

Blair wondered if he should do or say something. Momma always took care of the 'uncles' and Jim wasn't an uncle. "If you have to go it's okay. I mean it was nice of you to bring me home and I really appreciate it, but I don't need a babysitter. I'll be alright."

The detective shook his head. "I'm off today."

Blair nodded, suddenly feeling tired. He didn't need to listen for strange noises or check the locks, he had someone with him. "You gonna stay?"

Jim looked at the sleepy, trusting eyes beside him, "Yes. I thought I'd give you a lift back to the hospital and I'd meet your mother."

Blair yawned, "Alright."

Ellison was watching the news when he felt the boy slump against him. Slowly he lifted the small body and took him to the futon in the room in the back. He tucked the child in and smiled at the trusting face. He brushed away some of the unruly curls that drifted across the small face and shook his head, "You are too young to be alone kid and you are too trusting." He stood and wondered what would have happened if some creep had come to this home or if someone had taken the kid during his walk from the hospital. Blair needed to be protected and he needed to learn that people in general couldn't be trusted so easily.

After making sure the kid was warm and safe, Ellison returned to the couch and decided to wake the boy later. It was then that it occurred to him that he was getting too involved with this child. Why? The kid's mother could easily call child's services. Right?

Jim thought about that idea and the idea that Blair's mother was going to place the child for adoption. It wasn't right. The boy needed attention, needed to be taught about trusting people and about curfews. The list continued as he nodded off, never really understanding that fate and circumstance were playing with his future.

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

Blair found himself lost in darkness. He searched for his momma but no one answered. He looked for the panther but he didn't come. He reached out, "Please don't leave me. Momma? Please?"

Jim had wakened after a short nap and was cleaning the fridge - hey he figured he owed the boy for the terrific meal - when he heard the boy cry out. He quickly went into the room and knelt beside the futon. He reached out hesitantly, not wanting to startle the child but wanting to stop whatever it was that disturbed him. "Blair wake up." The boy jumped as he opened his eyes, tears slipping down his cheeks and he quickly hugged the older man, "No one came. No one heard me. I don't want to be alone."

Ellison didn't know what to do. When he was little and he had a nightmare, no one held him. It was all so very confusing, the desire to make everything all right and the helpless feeling of not knowing where to start. Awkwardly he patted the child on the back and waited until he calmed down.

Blair pulled away shyly, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to freak you out."

Jim sighed as the boy slowly pulled away making him feel suddenly alone, "I'm not freaked."

Blair wiped his tears away and looked at the man sitting beside him, "Have you ever seen someone die?"

Ellison frowned, this kid thinks way too fast, "What?"

Blair looked at his hands, which now lay in his lap, "My momma is dying, she told me so, and I don't want her to see me afraid." He paused and swept a stray curl away, brushing his wet face in the process, "She is all that I have you know? I don't want her to die and I don't know what to expect at the adoption agencies." Blair shrugged and looked at the older man, "I don't want her to know I'm scared."

The detective looked away and then back. "Where is your family?"

Blair got out of the bed, walked to the window and picked on a piece of peeling paint on the windowsill, "I'm a bastard Jew." He waited a moment and then spoke again; I heard one of momma's friends call me that. She slapped them but, I realized that - that is how people see me. I also know people prefer to adopt cute babies not some older boy with a-a history and memories to deal with. No- - no one wants a kid with no father." Blair looked back at the older man who looked surprised to hear the words he had just spoken. Blair didn't want him to feel uncomfortable, "It's alright - honest. I can handle that and I will be ready for this when I have to be, it's just hard to do things for the first time, you know?"

Ellison looked away amazed at the awareness the child showed for his situation. The boy didn't know it but he was definitely touching some very sensitive points in Jim's life. He decided to be honest when he spoke, "It's hard to face death kid. You're so young to have to do this but I can tell you that no matter how old you are, it's never easy to handle and when it comes to someone you care about, it's very hard."

Blair looked out the window and sighed, "We should get going."

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

Naomi woke and found herself in the hospital. "Blair?" The nurse told her that her son was home. She was about to get out of the bed and search for her boy when she heard his voice coming from the doorway, "Momma!!!"

Naomi reached out for her boy and smiled, "Oh baby. Momma is so very sorry. Are you alright?"

Blair nodded, "I'm just fine." He hesitated, "Momma, you know that man I told you about? The one on the bench? The big guy sitting alone?"

Naomi smiled and nodded. She listened to everything her son said, memorized it hoping to take the memories with her to the next world, "What about him baby?"

Blair went to the door and waved the detective in. Ellison paused at the door and then felt small hands grab on to his right hand and tugged him forward. He walked up to the bed and smiled hesitantly.

Blair smiled proudly, "Momma, this is Det. James Ellison. He helped me get you to the hospital." Blair smiled smugly when he delivered the next line. "I told you talking to strangers is a good thing."

Naomi looked at the man. Tall, muscular, strong, proud and at the moment uncertain about the attention he was getting. She then looked at her son smiling proudly and at the way her only child's hand seemed safely tucked within the taller man's hand. She smiled, "Hello Jim, please stay a bit, oh, and please call me Naomi."

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

Part 2

Naomi listened as her son told her how the detective assisted in getting her to the hospital. How the doctors had asked him to leave. That was when her son slowly told her that he had walked the Cascade City streets at 5 a.m. and that the detective had found him at a donut shop and taken him home.

Naomi looked at her son, "Blair Sandburg, the next time anyone tells you to do something you know is wrong, you tell them no. I raised you to stand up for yourself."

Blair looked down at his feet and fidgeted with the sleeve of his oversized coat. Naomi smiled at the sight and found it hard to stay angry long. "Now why don't you get some money out of my wallet and go down to the cafeteria and get something to munch on. I want to speak with the detective and hurry back you hear?"

Blair nodded and stepped close to his mother, "I am sorry momma."

Naomi reached out, brushed the unruly curls aside from the precious face and smiled, "I know baby, I'm not angry at you but you have to do better."

Blair smiled and turned to look at the detective, "Would you like for me to bring you anything?"

Ellison shook his head, "Thanks."

Blair kissed his mother on the cheek and left.

Naomi reached for the controls to have her bed rise and smiled when the detective moved to assist her. "I am sorry about involving you in our little soap opera but I do appreciate your assistance."

Jim smiled at the warmth in her voice. "You have a smart child there."

Naomi nodded, "I know he's a bit too trusting but he does try."

"I spoke to the doctors about your condition. I am sorry."

Naomi looked away, "I appreciate that." She looked at the door leading out of her room, "Blair seems to be handling it. I just wish..."

Ellison nodded, suddenly wanting to leave the pair. It was too much information and he had his own life to deal with. He stood and cleared his throat, "I should get going." He reached into his pocket and handed her a card. "If you need anything please call me."

Naomi tilted her head knowingly. Some people didn't like to be in the presence of those who were dying. It was depressing. She smiled as she took the card. "I will and again thanks."

Jim paused at the door and looked back, "For what its worth I wish you well Ms. Sandburg."

Naomi smiled softly, knowing all the wishes in the world couldn't stop what was about to happen. "Thank you detective - for everything."

Ellison walked out the door and brushed against a woman. She looked up at the detective and spoke hurriedly, "Oh hello, my name is Sylvia Stonage an associate of Ms. Laner, from the Sunflower Adoption Agency are you a friend of Ms. Sandburg?"

Jim looked at the woman in distaste as he held open the door to the room behind him, "Naomi Sandburg is inside."

He turned back towards the exit and saw Blair standing a few feet away. The kid met his gaze and then looked away as he took a deep breath. Forcing a brave smile on his face, the child started down the hall, "You leaving?"

Ellison heard the slight waver in Blair's voice but pretended not to notice, "Yeah kid. You behave."

Blair smiled, quickly put his bag of banana chips on a seat nearby and held his arms in the air. Jim slowly bent forward and was given a strong hug by the boy, "Thank you. Take care of yourself. I hope the good favors you did for me are returned to you."

Jim didn't know what to say so he patted the child on the back and the pulled away. He watched the boy reclaim the bag of chips and slowly walk away. The youngster paused and took another deep breath just before entering his mother's room.

Ellison looked away. He had a life to live, this was just one of a million other sad occurrences in the world. Somehow it would all work out. He walked away and tried to put the whole thing behind him. He had helped when needed and now it was time to move on.

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

Naomi listened to Ms. Stonage expound on the wonderful facilities her agency had to offer. Blair had tested three grades ahead of his age. By the age of sixteen he could file for independency and enter college, her son was a scholastic prodigy. Brochures, pamphlets, all good presentation techniques from schools in the area were competing for her son's attendance.

Naomi glanced at her son during the presentation. She watched as he sat quietly by, listening to adults decide his fate. Naomi needed to make him an equal participant and decided now was as good a time as any. "My son will be the judge. If he finds your agency suitable then we will see." Naomi looked away, "I won't be able to leave for another two days. Is it possible for you to allow him to stay in one of these dorm rooms and then be brought to me during visiting hours?"

The lady quickly picked up a cell phone and made a call. Ten minutes later Ms. Stonage smiled. "It will be no trouble at all, however I need to leave with him now."

Blair looked at his mother. It was time to go and he suddenly felt terrified but he tried hard to hide his feelings. Naomi, being a mother knew better and pulled her son close. "You tell me what you think of this place and be honest. Be a good boy Blair and do as you are told. I will see it with you later."

Blair hugged his mother tightly hoping she would still be there the next morning. The doctor had said her cancer was unpredictable, "I love you momma."

Naomi smiled, "I love you too baby." She watched as her son gathered his backpack and followed Ms. Stonage to the door. Naomi closed her eyes and whispered in the silence, "It'll be alright baby. It has to be."

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

Ms. Stonage took the young man on a quick tour of the adoption facility. She spoke about beds, money, number of orphans and such. Things a corporate investor might find fascinating but nothing a nine year old cared about.

Still he followed her around, nodding when he thought was necessary. Meanwhile, Blair noted her perfectly manicured nails, her clean suit devoid of wrinkles or pet hairs, her demeanor, which was that of some of those up-town types like from Chicago. Blair smiled at the thought.

Chicago was beautiful at fall time and he remembered his mother taking him along the lakeshore to see the trees. People rushed to work oblivious to the beauty around them and Naomi had said that everyone should stop to enjoy life. She said that it was nature's gift to man and we'd be rude if we didn't enjoy it every now and again. Blair asked why and Naomi smiled brilliantly, "Baby if you go to work, home and repeat this without a moment for your spiritual self, life will be over before you know it. Over in one big dull blur."

Blair wondered if Ms. Stonage ever looked at tree leaves or walked along the beach with her shoes off and her toes lost in the sand. Soon the tour was over and Blair was left to do his own entertaining. One of the taller boys came over. "Girls go next door."

Blair met his gaze, "I am not a girl."

From there on in things didn't get much better.

Blair lay on the small bed he had been assigned to and sighed. He already missed his momma and he didn't like it here. Sure the caretakers tried to watch over the boys as best they could but the babies were the ones that were truly cared for. They got adopted quicker. The other kids said older children rarely got adopted and most ended up leaving when they were old enough to make it on their own. This was the place you spent time hoping to leave.

It seemed the tallest and oldest boy took a special disliking to Blair. George, the largest and fattest boy, had made it known that Blair didn't have the right to make any friends and no one disputed this. Someone had taken one of Blair's magazines out of his backpack. The day progressed and Blair remained ostracized.

Then, shortly after dinner one of the boys got two others together to trap Blair in the shower and punched Blair several times in the stomach and once on the cheek. Dinner was soon forced out of him. He didn't think it would be a smart idea to tell - snitching was bad karma and he did get in a few good punches as well so technically he was fighting too deciding silence was best.

Now he lay in the bed sore, scared and miserable. He decided now was a good time to let his guard down and allowed himself to fall asleep crying.

Softly he whispered, "Momma I'm so scared."

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

The next morning.

Naomi listened to her son. He acted happy, he acted content but that was how he was acting. Ms. Stonage left to make another phone call and Naomi pulled her son in close as she noted the reddened cheek, "Blair tell me the truth baby. No lies."

Blair looked away, "I'll be alright momma. I promise."

Naomi pulled her son in closer and whispered, "I know you will but I want you to be happy too."

Blair closed his eyes and breathed in the scent that was his mom's. Sage, earth and, well, mom. He screamed in his mind. If you want me to be happy. Don't leave me. Outwardly he whispered, "I am happy."

Naomi pulled away, "No lies between us baby. Promise?"

Blair nodded. He had learned a new word today 'obfuscate' - to cloud or confuse. "I am content momma."

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

The next day Naomi found herself deeply worried. He son was bruised and acted strangely when she hugged him. Naomi pulled out the card from the detective. "No harm in asking."

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

Part 3

Ellison buried himself in his work. Lately he had felt in better control of his senses and, though still on guard, he hoped that maybe the worst was over.

Another woman and child had been murdered. The two immediately reminded the detective of Naomi Sandburg and especially of Blair. Of course there seemed to be reminders of the two everywhere and each time Jim thought of the boy, he wondered about his condition. Was he sleeping? Did he eat? Was he safe?

The detective also wondered what type of man would have impregnated someone like Naomi and then just walk away. He wasn't naive and knew that this happened often but Naomi was so different and seemed the type to attract the opposite sex with ease. She just didn't seem the kind of women a man walks away from easily. Ellison wondered if the man even saw his son and if he loved the kid. He even wondered about the child's grandparents. If they knew the kid, they'd love him. Who couldn't? Most of all Jim wondered about the small boy who pretended to be tougher than he was. The child who reminded him of his youth.

Son of a wealthy businessman. James Ellison had it all, good clothing, food, all the toys one could ask for and still was never truly loved. His mother had disappeared early in his life and William Ellison was left to raise his two boys in the only way he thought possible. He raised Steven and James to be competitive. "If you want something in this life you have to fight for it. Earn it." Always trying to be what his father wanted, James was adult-like and yet afraid to fail.

Though he fought for his father's love and he never truly got it so he moved out and joined the military.

Capt. James Ellison fought to save the six lives of the men he served with on a mission while in the army and one by one each man died leaving the man alone in the jungle, hoping to find his way back to his home.

He returned home and tried to live a normal life. Ellison fought to have a good marriage, but Carolyn walked away and again he was left alone. Life was like that sometimes. It wasn't fair, it just was. Still this was a lesson he didn't wish for someone like Blair to learn so early in life. Late at night Ellison could almost hear the sounds of the child's heart beating and wished the stubborn ragamuffin well.

Lost in the creation of yet another report Ellison was startled out of his thoughts by his ringing phone. "Ellison."

"Jim? This is Naomi Sandburg how are you?"

Ellison stuttered, shocked to hear from the woman, "I'm alright, are you ... I mean is Blair ... What can I do for you Naomi?"

"Oh bless you. Jim, I hate to ask this of you. You've been so kind already and this is really something a relative stranger shouldn't ask of another person. It's just, well Blair knows you and I feel that I can trust you with him and..."

Jim interrupted her, suddenly concerned and hoping to end the endless chatter, "Naomi, is Blair alright?"

Naomi sighed audibly, "Jim, he is at the adoption agency, the Sunflower Adoption Agency on Stanton and Glendale. I was supposed to visit the facilities with him but the doctors advise against me moving around right now. The tumor, well, it's moved and they're afraid too much physical activity might, well, it'll be bad. Anyway the agency doesn't have anyone available to bring him down today and, I was hoping ... do you think you could pick him up and bring him to see me so I can explain things to him? Unless you have other things, being a cop and ...."

The detective looked at his desk, the stack of reports there and then at his watch, "I can be there in fifteen minutes. Will you inform them at the agency that I am coming to get your son?"

Naomi sighed, "Yes, thank you, Jim. Again I am sorry to disturb you with this."

Jim felt himself relax at the idea of seeing the kid. "It's not a bother - honest."

Naomi smiled as she hung the phone, this felt right. The shaman had said she would know when it was right, when the watchman would care for her son. James Ellison felt right. Hopefully this was a true feeling and not one borne out of desperation and hope.

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

Ellison knocked on the captain's door and was told to enter. Carolyn was going over some forensic data with the man and he seemed thankful for the break. "Yes Ellison. What can I do for you?"

Jim looked at his watch, "I need to take some personal time off sir."

Banks was stunned. Sure his people had personal time but Ellison, Detective James Ellison, the one who had accumulated two years vacation time, never once taking so much as one vacation day much less personal time off, well, except for his wedding a while back but ... The guy never seemed to get ill and it was just so out of the norm. "Uh, sure, how much time?"

Ellison considered his response, "Two days, I'll call in if I need more."

Banks nodded, "Sure take them. I hope everything is alright."

Jim nodded and left.

Carolyn watched her ex-husband leave and frowned, "He never ever takes time off and his family is not very close."

Banks shrugged, "I do know he was given a clean bill of health recently. Maybe he's got a girlfriend."

Carolyn frowned but said nothing.

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

Jim arrived at the Agency and was impressed with their thorough security check on his identification. He was also impressed with the cleanliness of the facility and the friendly staff. Suddenly his hearing spiked.

"Just give it back to me man. It's not yours."

"What're you gonna do if I don't shorty? Cry?"

"George, just give me the book. You can have anything else of mine. Please that book is special to me."

Ellison took off leaving a confused staff member to follow him.

Blair pleaded but George stuck his hand holding the book over a toilet. A toilet filled with - stuff.

Suddenly George was pulled out of the stall and the book yanked out of his hand. Jim handed the book to an equally stunned Blair and pinned the taller boy with a glare, "You ever touch this boy again - ever - and I will make sure you get reprimanded for it. Now leave."

George took off but not before he gave Blair a warning glance. Ellison swiftly stepped between the two effectively blocking the bully's glare. "You heard me, now leave."

The detective turned and looked down at the silent boy. He found himself smiling at the careful way the kid slipped the book back into his ever present backpack. He then noted the tears in the boy's eyes and the bruised cheek. He knelt on one knee and placed a hand on the child, once again wanting nothing more than to make the child's world right, "Are you alright Chief? Did he hurt you?"

Blair met the concerned gaze with an equally concerned look, "No. Is-is momma, is she...?"

Jim smiled as he pulled out a tissue and wiped the tears from the boy's eyes, "No kid, she sent me here to bring you over for a visit. The doctor says she has to stay in bed a while longer so today I play chauffeur."

Blair looked deeply into the older man's eyes and for a moment Jim felt unbearably exposed. The kid capable of seeing deep into his soul and Ellison felt helpless to stop it. Then just as suddenly the saddened face brightened. Blair blew his nose and smiled, "Cool. Let me get my coat."

Jim decided not to mention this 'George' for the moment but the two would have to talk. As they walked to the dorm area the detective could smell the scent of freshly prepared cafeteria food. "Have you eaten?"

The kid appeared lost in thought and didn't seem to hear the question. Ellison figured they'd get a bite to eat elsewhere.

As Blair walked up to the bed he had slept in to get the rest of his belongings, Ellison noted once again that the place was very clean and neat. Blair dropped his jacket on the floor and winced when he bent down to retrieve it.

Ellison frowned and knelt in front of the boy. "Let me see under your shirt."

Blair pulled back and looked away. "I'm alright. Honest."

Jim tilted his head and Blair rolled his eyes giving into the stern look he was receiving. Slowly he lifted his shirt. Ellison touched the bruised rib cage. Nothing broken but the bruises were pretty bad. "George?"

Blair lowered his shirt and looked away. Ellison sighed, "Come on kid let's get out of here."

It wasn't until Blair had been seat belted in Ellison's truck that he spoke, "No."

Ellison looked at the kid, "What?"

Blair looked out of the window and spoke, "I haven't eaten."

Jim smiled, "So what would you like to eat?"

Blair looked at the older man and returned the smile, "Carrots and water."

Ellison chuckled, "Maybe next time Bugs. How about some Chinese food?"

Blair bounced in his seat, "Really? Can I have Chicken Subgum?"

"All right. Chinese it is."

The meal was the best Jim had ever eaten. The kid was well versed in menus and used chopsticks to eat with. Ellison also noticed the stares he got from some of the patrons at the restaurant. Military guy eating with a Muppet character. Still Jim couldn't remember a time when he felt so at ease. Blair spoke of topics that any adult easily related to and Jim found it easy being around the boy, not at all awkward.

Ellison slowly found himself wanting to be around the child more and more.

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

Naomi smiled joyfully as her son bounced into her arms, "Hi, momma Jim took me to eat at Chin's Chinese Restaurant in China Town. Oh momma it was so nice and I even brought you a fortune cookie. Jim let me have two and he let me eat with chop sticks..."

Naomi placed a hand on her son's mouth and spoke, "Did you thank Jim?"

Ellison smiled, "Yes he did Naomi. Several times."

Blair rolled his eyes. Grown-ups. Always talking about you like you weren't there. Someday he'd have to tell them to knock it off.

Naomi took her fortune cookie and read the fortune 'The future will take care of the present.' She smiled and looked at Ellison smiling a the secret she held in her heart.

Jim pulled the small boy away for a moment and whispered something to him. Blair quickly ran out of the room. Naomi looked up questionably and Ellison shrugged. Then Naomi smiled, "So Jim, how was he at the agency?"

Jim looked away, "I don't think that I'm the one to discuss this with you. Don't you have a close friend or a family member to speak to?"

Naomi looked away. "My family turned their back on me a very long time ago. Since then it's only been Blair and I." She looked back at the man and smiled, "So from one loner to another. Please, how is he really?"

Ellison wondered how he ended up here. How did a small boy manage to pull him into this situation? This really wasn't any of his business. Still he didn't want the boy to suffer, he needed to be cared for and, well, Ellison decided to hell with delicacy, "He isn't happy. The facility is perfect, clean, safe, and well provided for. Still they lack on supervising the social habits of the children. There are boys older than your son and one in particular was picking on him." Ellison paused, "Surely your family ..."

Naomi shook her head, "My family told me to take myself and my child and to never speak to them again." Naomi looked at the man beside her bed and sighed, "He is special. He sees the world as a place to help others. I don't want him to lose that caring side of him." She looked at Ellison and smiled, "Sorry, I truly didn't mean to drag you into all of this. I really don't want you to think I am taking advantage of you kindness detective. I'm just a bit desperate, my son deserves the best care there is and I am on a limited schedule."

Jim was about to reply but was interrupted as the door opened and Blair walked in with a large floral arrangement. "For you momma."

Naomi smiled and looked at the detective, "You shouldn't have."

Ellison blushed and looked at Blair, "He picked them out." He moved away from the smiling woman to quickly take the flowers and place them near a window.

Naomi looked at the arrangement, the exotic flowers and the daisies, and then smiled proudly at her son, "My baby has such wonderful taste."

Blair hugged his mother tightly, reached out and held onto the older man's hand.

Ellison looked down at the small hand grasping his and smiled. He didn't know how he ended up here but for the moment he was all right with it.

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

Blair was slowly falling asleep, save in his mother's arms, and visiting hours were ending. Naomi smiled as she shook her son, "Sleepy head, it's time for you to go."

Slowly blue eyes opened as he sat up and yawned. He looked at Jim and smiled, "Oh - okay." Blair brushed his hair back and tilted his head at the concerned gaze directed at him, "Momma, you don't have to worry 'bout me so much. I can stay at the agency and we can visit over the phone. I don't have to come here every day-honest."

Naomi frowned, "What? Why baby?"

Blair looked at Jim shyly and then at his mother. "Momma, Ms. Stonage says that the visiting can be um, pri-ceee and she says I should be able to skip sometimes, so you can rest. That it was selfish to make you spend money when I could help out by calling instead." Blair looked down at his feet and then back at his mother, "Momma I don't want to be selfish and I do want to help out."

Naomi sat up feeling nothing but anger, "Did she? Well you tell Ms. Stonage that I want to see you every day. I can afford it and I demand it."

Blair looked down. His mother was talking in anger and he knew money was a problem. "Honest momma, I can skip sometimes. What if you get better? We can save the money for sometime later."

Ellison saw the pained look on Naomi's face and stood, "I'm going down the hall." He quickly left knowing this was something personal to be discussed between mother and son.

Naomi waited until the man was gone. She looked at the hopeful eyes of her son and laid his head on her chest. She placed her arms around him and began speaking softly while rocking back and forth, "Baby, momma looks better because she is getting drugs and is under bed rest but I am not getting healthier." Naomi closed her eyes, "I know this is so very hard on you my baby. I don't know any better way to do this. Please believe me, I hate to leave you but we don't always have a say on how long we get to be on this earth."

Blair held onto his mother and sniffled. "Everybody dies."

Naomi nodded, "Yes honey they do but until then we have to enjoy the time we have together. Make memories to keep tucked away in our hearts for the future and onto the next life."

Blair pulled away from his mother and wiped his eyes, "I'm sorry for upsetting you."

Naomi pulled her son in for a kiss. "Don't apologize and you are not upsetting me at all. You are my son. We do this together case we are family."

Blair nodded, "Alright momma. I better get going though." He jumped off of the bed and walked to the door. "I'll see you later. I love you."

Naomi smiled, "Now remember, I want to see you tomorrow and every day and remember that I love you too Blair." She paused and then smiled. "Thank you for the flowers they are so very pretty."

Blair walked out to the hall and allowed more tears to fall. Ellison had heard everything. He cursed his hearing which wouldn't allow him an out. Feeling awkward and yet wanting to offer comfort, he went to the child and placed a hand on Blair, "Let me say goodbye to your mother and we'll leave."

As Jim walked into the room he found Naomi wiping her tears away. "Sorry Jim."

He shrugged, "It's alright, you're entitled."

Naomi smiled knowingly at the stoic man. "Liar. You're about as comfortable with emotional scenes as I am with wearing a suit."

Jim smiled at the analogy and wondered if Naomi ever tried wearing a suit. "He'll be okay. He's a survivor."

Naomi nodded, "I just wish I could be with him more often. These are battles he shouldn't have to face at such an early age. Silly but it's how I feel."

Ellison considered his next statement. "I'm on vacation for the next week. How about he stays with me for a while? I mean it would be easier on you both and he would be able to stop in for a full day of visits." He paused wondering if he over-stepped his role in this. "I mean if you want, if you trust me with him."

It was then that Naomi knew. Her son had found his watchman. James Ellison would watch over her son.

"Jim, he can be quite a handful."

"Don't worry, I'll take good care of him. Besides I was a boy once and we guys stick together."

Naomi looked deeply into the pale blue eyes before her and for the second time in one day Ellison again found himself feeling inexplicably exposed. The woman smiled sadly. "I trust you Jim. I just wish I didn't have to impose."

"It's not a bother besides the only thing I was planning to do for the next week was to clean the tiles in my bathroom."

Naomi chuckled, "Oh well taking came of my son will be much more exciting." She nodded, "If you really want to then - yes, please take him. Thank you."

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

Blair sat again in the truck and absently rubbed his sore stomach. He wished his momma would get better then he wouldn't have to deal with George. He wondered if there was a way he could join her so they could go to the 'other side' together. There just had to be.

So deep in thought was the young boy, that he hadn't noticed where the truck had stopped nor that he was nowhere near the agency or George.

Ellison stepped out of the truck and opened the passenger side. Blair looked around and back at the older man, "Where are we?"

Jim smiled, "My loft."

Blair stepped out of the truck and tugged his backpack with him, "You picking something up here?"

Ellison felt the cold smaller hand grasp his and smiled at the now familiar action, "No Chief. Naomi and I spoke and she thought you'd like to stay with me for a couple of days. I'm on vacation and, well, I was just planning on relaxing, nothing special."

Blair trotted beside the older man as they entered into the building while processing this sudden change in his life. "Momma's paying you?"

Ellison shook his head. "No kiddo, I offered."

They entered the elevator in silence. Blair considered the answer he had received and then tilted his head as the elevator stopped, "Really? Why? You're not one of my uncles and ..."

Jim led the chatterbox down a hallway and opened the door to his loft. He closed it behind he and the boy, making sure to secure the locks. "Let's just say I wanted to do it and leave it at that."

Blair paused a few feet from the doorway and looked at the clean almost bare living space. "Did you just move in?"

Ellison shook his head. "Now I don't have an extra room prepared but I figured the couch would be big enough for you."

Blair nodded and went to sit on the couch. Ellison followed him, "How about you take the coat off Chief."

Silently he removed his coat and gave it to the older man. He looked around and shook his head. Ellison saw this action, "What?"

"Don't know. I just figured a bachelor's pad would be filled with chic pics and stuff."

Ellison chuckled at the statement. "Alright Romeo while you are staying here I have a few ground rules. No loud noises of any kind after 9 p.m. No sneaking out for a walk, we go together. No playing with the stove. You want to cook; you wait for me to be around. The upstairs area is off limits. It's my bedroom and it's private, oh and out there are doors that lead to a balcony, if you want to look out you ask and I will go with you." He tilted his head, "Any questions?"

Blair shook his head, paused and then nodded.

The older man smiled at the child's actions, "And what would that be?"

Blair looked at the detective shyly, "Can I call my momma and tell her good-night. Ms. Stonage said it was unnecessary but momma always wishes me well and I feel better saying good-night to her."

Jim smiled, "The phone is over there and you may call her as often as you want but remember your momma needs to rest so the 9 pm rule applies to phone calls too."

Blair stood and frowned. He didn't own a watch and had no idea what time it was. "Is it okay to call now?"

Ellison nodded, "I am going to take a shower. Remember, stay put."

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

Two hours later, Blair lay on the couch, fed, clean and dressed for sleep. His eyes remained open as he looked around at the loft. He wondered what his momma would have said about the place. Needs the Sandburg touch. Blair smiled at the idea of just what that particular touch required. Jim had left a dim light on and was now upstairs.

Still the boy couldn't sleep so he sat up and sighed. He wore a large T-shirt of Jim's and his extra underwear momma told him to always carry in case of an emergency. Jim had washed his clothes and laid them on the second couch on the other side. Still he felt so alone.

Blair looked at his hands and wondered what the future held. Who wanted a fatherless and soon a motherless orphan? His tears filled his eyes and he brushed them away. Momma said she'd always watch over you so just knock it off. He sniffled and looked up at the second floor then back. He whispered, "I can't help it momma. I'm afraid."

Slowly he lowered himself back on the couch, silently crying. Eventually, he drifted off to sleep.

Ellison crept down the stairs and sat next to the sleeping boy. He wiped the tears from the child's eyes and tucked the boy in. He smiled when Blair curled on his side, facing the older man and sighed. He stared at the boy's face and wondered what it would have been like had Carolyn given birth to a child of their own making. He wondered if he would have been a good father. Feeling a strange protectiveness while gazing at the trusting boy the man knew he would have tried to be the best father ever.

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

As Jim woke the next morning he smelled coffee cooking and toast being made. He stood and pulled on his robe while descending down the stairs slowly.

Blair was already dressed and had the toast on the table and the coffee pot was brewing. Ellison looked at the boy sternly and the child immediately spoke up, "Hey, man, you said not to touch the stove. I used the toaster and the coffee maker. I know how to cook a terrific omelet but you told me not to touch the stove so it's your loss."

Nodding, Jim sat down at the dining table and rubbed his unshaven face, "Alright, but please just be careful. I don't need to tell your mother you were electrocuted."

Blair rolled his eyes. "I'm 9 1/2 not four you know."

Ellison grunted, "Yeah, you're an old man already."

"Did you know that in some countries kids my age are already preparing for marriage and in other countries some kids are expected ..."

Jim stood abruptly; he was never any good without coffee and preferred silence in the morning. That was one of the reasons Carolyn used to start her day a half hour after her ex-husband. "Look right now I could care less what kids elsewhere do. Just-just go sit and let me have a few minutes to wake up."

Blair looked at the floor and the hole in his socked foot and nodded, "Sure man. Whatever."

Ellison watched as America's latest addition to flower children walked away. He sighed and went to the washroom to shave and wash up. A few minutes later he stepped out feeling more human and less agitated.

The kid was sitting on the couch reading the same book that he had rescued from the bully the other day. The boy seemed oblivious to his presence. "So what's the book about Chief?"

Blair looked up and smiled shyly, "About Sentinels. Guys who had special sensory abilities. They were people who protected their tribes from oncoming dangers like storms, village attacks and stuff. This book is really old and momma found it for me at some garage sale. Some guy was going off to college and the family was selling some of his things. Momma says ..." Blair noticed that Ellison wasn't really paying attention. In fact he seemed bored. "Sorry."

The older man frowned. Even though he wasn't really paying attention but found the kid's voice calming. "Sorry? For what?"

Blair swept his ear length hair off of his face and shrugged. "One of my momma's uncles told me that I talk too much. Called me an egghead." Blair looked down at his book and shrugged once more, "Momma says I just like to learn but, well, most of my uncles left and I get the feeling it was because of me. So 'sorry'. I'll try to keep quiet."

Ellison sipped his coffee and was about to say something when his phone rang. "Ellison."

"Ellison it's Banks, I hate to ask but I need for you to come down. The witness you spoke with said he remembers something more and wants to see only you."

The detective looked at his charge, "Captain I have a guest and..."

"Bring them along. It shouldn't take more than a half hour."

Jim looked at the boy again, "I need an hour."

"Alright, one hour. Again Ellison I am sorry but if it helps at all you do have full clearance for the next week."

"Thanks sir, I will need it."

Ellison hung up the phone, "Blair, I need to go to the station for a while."

Blair carefully closed his book and nodded with an adult-like look of understanding. "I'll be fine."

"No - no way. You're coming with me."

Blair bounced in anticipation. "To the police station? Cool."

Ellison looked at the child's appearance. His clothes were clean but he was still underdressed. The temperature outdoors was much too cool for a top and slacks. Then there was that hole in one of his socks. "First we go to the store then the station."

"The store?"

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

The nearest clothing store was Rainier University's Bookstore. Jim remembered the place had clothing because Carolyn once came here to buy some jackets or something for her nephews. He smiled at the way Blair seemed to relish the world around him. Everything was fascinating, new.

While the boy stared at two college girls looking at a booklist, the detective made his selections, hoping he guessed correctly and then pulled the youngster into a dressing room. "I want you to put on this sweater and change those socks."

Blair looked up at the detective in shock. "For me? Really?"

Ellison chuckled, "Hurry up Chief. Times a-wasting."

Blair pulled on the sweater and noticed it was a little large but oh so warm. He liked to be warm. Then he changed his socks and pulled on his sneakers. He looked at the sweater reflected in the mirror and smiled proudly. The sweater had a message woven into the garment and read "Rainier University's Future Prodigy". He looked at his reflection and smiled even more as he whispered, "Someday."

Jim watched as the little ragamuffin stepped up to him. Well the sweater was a bit large but he looked better suited for the chilly weather. "Alright college grad let's move it."

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

Carolyn wandered into Major Crimes and noticed Rafe and Brown staring off at something in the corner. She quietly walked up behind the two and whispered. "What's up detectives?"

Brown looked at the woman and tilted his head, "Check out Ellison's little friend."

Carolyn didn't know what to expect but certainly not some long-haired nine year old. "Who's the kid?"

From the seat in the corner of the room, Blair noticed the three staring at him and he felt uneasy. He hopped off the chair Jim expressly told him to stay seated on and looked at the three, "My momma says only ignorant people stare and rude ones whisper. If you have something to say to me then say it to my face."

Brown chuckled at the little pit bull of a child, "Easy hairboy. We were just wondering who you were."

Blair walked up to the three. He paused as he looked up at the tall, black man and held his hand out, "My name is Blair Sandburg and you are?"

Brown looked back at his partner and chuckled as he took the child's hand, "I am Det. Brown, Henry Brown and that overdressed fashion victim is my partner Rafe."

Carolyn walked up to the child and held out her hand, "My name is Carolyn Plummer - I work in the labs."

Blair took her hand and shook it, "Beautiful and intelligent. It is a pleasure to meet you."

Carolyn actually blushed, the kid was really good, "And you sir are quite a flirt."

Blair looked at the closed door where Jim went and then at the three, "I better get back in my seat. My friend Jim will be mad if I don't stay where he told me to."

Brown looked at the other two and then they followed the kid to his chair. "Jim is your friend?"

Blair nodded as he resituated himself on the slightly taller seat. "He bought me this sweater. He's a great guy. Momma likes him too."

Carolyn was about to ask a question but was interrupted when the boy suddenly jumped off his seat. "Oh I am sorry." Blair paused, "It has been a treat meeting all of you." He walked past the three and up to the detective who now stood in an open doorway. He silently waited until Jim concluded his discussion. His eyes drifted into the room Jim and the other taller man had been in and he noticed a man sitting inside, "Mr. Mora?"

The man met his gaze and then looked away, "Oh, God. Go away kid."

Blair looked back at Jim and the taller man and then back at the man in the room, "Mr. Mora have you sent that blow gun from the Chopecs to the museum? Cause I was thinking..."

Suddenly the two men behind him stopped speaking. Ellison pulled the boy out of the room, "What did you say?"

Blair looked away, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to disturb you guys."

Ellison looked at his captain and back at the boy, "Blair please, what did you just ask Mr. Mora?"

Blair noticed that Mr. Mora looked ill and wondered if it was a secret, "He never told me it was a secret. I'm not a snitch."

Banks sighed, "For christ's sake."

Ellison ignored his superior and spoke softly, "Chief, please repeat what you just asked Mr. Mora, it's important."

Blair nodded willing to comply, Jim might get mad again and Blair didn't like him much when he was angry, "Okay. I was in the park a couple days back and Mr. Mora was in some bushes behind the two oak trees. He was holding something like a pipe. I spent time with my momma in Peru and recognized that the pipe was a blowgun used by shaman to kill large animals. It was for protection only. Mr. Mora had gotten some of the green stuff on his hands and I told him he needed to wash the stuff off right away. I remember the shaman telling me it was real strong stuff and could kill people."

Blair paused and looked at the man in the room as he suddenly started to cry. "Mr. Mora said he was getting ready to send it in to a museum. He said his wife and son had left him and he wanted them to remember him." Blair shrugged. "I guess he was going to put their names on the display or something." Blair looked at Jim expectantly. "So can we go now, I want to go see momma?"

Banks was stunned. The boy appeared so young and small yet he spoke like a teenager. Clear, distinct and what the hell was he doing with Ellison?

Ellison pulled the kid in close to him and looked at his superior. "Sir I think we should get a warrant to search this man's apartment."

Banks nodded. "Ellison, who is this kid?"

The child in question stepped forward and extended his hand. "My name is Blair Sandburg, sir."

Simon took the offered hand and shook it. "Ah, well young man it is nice to meet you. My name is Capt. Simon Banks."

Jim pulled the kid once again to the side and then bent down to speak to him softly "Chief, I need for you to sit on that chair for just a few minutes longer then I'll take you to see your mom."

Blair nodded, "Sure Jim." He looked back at the other man, "It was cool meeting you Simon."

Banks raised an eyebrow, such informality, his son knew better. "Same here kid. Same here."

Blair walked past all the other detectives who had now formed a small gathering to decipher why Ellison had brought the child to the station. He then sat on his designated chair and silently pulled a book out of his backpack to continue reading.

Banks looked back at Ellison who was now on the phone calling for a unit to report to the suspects address and await further instructions.

The captain went to call a judge and was soon told the warrant would be ready in two hours. Mora would remain under arrest until his attorney arrived. Banks then saw Ellison speaking to the child who nodded and hopped off his chair.

"I'll be back in an hour sir." The two were gone before Simon could respond.

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

Part 4

Naomi folded the documents into an envelope. The remainder of her trust was now passed on to her child. She looked at the last set of documents and quickly folded them and slid them into another envelope. She had just placed the manila folder on the table beside her bed when her energetic son walked into her room. "Blair sweetie."

Blair bounced into the room, "Momma. Look what Jim bought for me. Isn't it cool?"

Naomi laughed at the sweatshirt that her son wore. "Very cool baby."

Ellison placed a hand on Blair, "Chief could I just have a few minutes with you momma alone?"

Blair waited outside and began daydreaming. In his secret world, the sun was always warm and the nights always breezy. He lived in a nice house in the forest, momma was healthy, her red hair vibrant and flowing in the breeze. She was sitting on a pillow filled couch and laughing. Blair was on the floor near her legs laughing as well.

They were happy in this pretty place but his dream was always missing something. Now he had Jim in the dream. He sat on the left of Naomi and he was laughing too. Blair smiled inwardly at the mental vision. He had a family.

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

Naomi clutched the documents in her hand in anger. "Wait, you're telling me you took my baby to the police station. That you exposed him to negative surroundings, and then you allowed him near a suspected murderer? What the hell is wrong with you?"

Ellison was caught off guard and reacted without thought, "You should be the last to judge my actions. You left that boy unwatched in that park. The very place where he first spoke to and then befriended a murderer simply because he thought the guy was lonely. The man could have harmed him. No child should be left unwatched. He could have been murdered that day and simply because you neglected to keep him safe."

Naomi was furious. The man had no right to pass judgment. "I will raise my boy as I see fit. Maybe I was wrong to trust you. If this is how you 'take good care' of my son then you are sorely mistaken. Now please leave and stay far away from my son."

Jim suddenly felt panicked; he didn't want to stop seeing the boy or the woman. "Naomi I didn't mean to ..."

Naomi looked at the man with an expression that held no compassion. "He is my son, detective. Mine. I have done the best I can while I am in this condition and though you may not approve, I think I have done quite well. Now, please, I apologize for bothering you with all of this, it won't happen again. Please leave."

Ellison turned and opened the door. He exited the room in silence.

Blair bounced up towards Jim, "So you coming back to pick me up later?"

Jim looked away from the happy face. "Look kid I have to work. They're shorthanded down at the precinct and, I-I just don't have the time I thought I'd have to take you on. It'll be best if you stay with your Mom and behave yourself." He was about to walk away when he felt a hand slip into his.

"Did I do something wrong? I told you I was trying to stay quiet." Blair's lower lip trembled, "Honest, I can be good."

Jim looked down into the now tear filled eyes and felt his own heart break. The man was never good at this touchy feelie stuff but he suddenly knew that this was very important. He knelt down and looked at the boy. "None, absolutely none of this is your fault. You have been a great guest and a good little helper. Now go be with your mother and be good."

Blair hugged the older man and smiled when he felt Jim return the hug. He pressed his face into the other's neck, "Be careful Jim. I-I'll miss you."

Ellison released the child and walked away quickly. His hearing could pick up the sounds of the boy crying and he forced himself to continue on.

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

It had been two days since the kid had stayed over. Jim had decided against taking his cleared vacation time choosing instead to immerse himself once again into his work. He called the hospital twice and spoke with the nurse there. Naomi was doing worse. The detective decided against going to see the woman again. He didn't want to cause her more undo stress.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mora had been indicted of eight counts of manslaughter. He had murdered his wife and son and had placed their bodies in a large freezer, which he kept in the child's bedroom. Ellison was one of the first to see the bodies. The two looked asleep huddled in the freezer and for one moment he saw the face of Blair replace the face of the dead child. The murderer continued to cause harm to anyone who remotely resembled his wife and son. He had become insane from the evil he had done.

Ellison should have been able to move on but instead he felt suddenly incomplete and lost. The kid came into his life and in just three days, the lively youngster somehow made the detective realize just how painfully alone he was.

Carolyn had never been able to fill that void she was simply outside stimulus. Ellison looked up from his work and watched his ex-wife from across the room. He did love her once but she never seemed to understand him even though she did try. Still for some reason she never succeeded in reaching his soul. Blair was only a child. The man wondered if maybe he was just having parenting issues.

Still the kid had touched his soul so easily it was unnerving.

Jim completed his reports. He stretched and yawned. It was time to go to the loft and try to get some sleep. He hoped tonight his mind wouldn't wonder what the kid was doing and wonder how the kid was feeling. Face the facts mister you miss the little termite.

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

Blair watched as his mother continued to sleep heavily. She looked so pale, like she wasn't alive, like a glass doll. Suddenly the machine, the one marked EKG started beeping. The room soon filled with hospital staff members. Blair moved to a corner and tried to remain quiet and calm. Tears fell from his eyes. His mother flat lined but they revived her and the doctor soon ordered some kind of medication to be given. As the commotion died down, the doctor noticed the small boy in the corner and cursed, "Get that damn child out of here."

A nurse pulled the shocked boy to the Waiting Area. "Blair, wait here until someone comes for you. I'll call Child Services and have someone come take you."

Blair's chest heaved.No one wanted him. He looked down at his Rainier sweater and his eyes teared up. He tried to remain calm as he wiped his eyes on his rolled up sleeve but the pain in his heart was too hard to silence. He needed to figure out a way to join his momma because she would be gone soon.

He waited until the nurse left and quietly walked out of the hospital. No one noticed - no one cared.

The boy walked for a long time and the sunlight slowly faded away. It was beginning to mist and Blair was thankful he had the heavy sweater on. He pulled the sleeves over his hands and smiled when he finally reached his destination.

He sat on the bench beneath a large tree and waited. It was quiet and he felt safe here. Momma had once said that she felt safe here too and that her spirit felt free when the park was quiet. Blair figured, if he waited, he would see her spirit and then he would follow it to wherever it went next. He closed his eyes and tried to stop his sniffles choosing instead to envision his perfect home and his perfect future. Soon, momma, no more hospitals, no more doctors and lots of time to spend together. Together momma.

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

Jim tossed and turned. After several sleepless hours he dressed and decided to go for a drive. A choice he found strange but decided to go with. His body seemed to have a will of its own.

He found himself at Cascade Memorial Hospital. It was midnight and he figured he could stop in to inquire about Naomi and the kid and then slip out unnoticed. Sure, he could have called but he couldn't sleep and he was here anyhow, so what was the harm?

He walked into the hospital and found the entire staff running about. Just then a nurse tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me sir, have you seen a small boy about three feet tall, messy brown hair, he seems to have stepped away and ..."

Ellison ignored the nurse, quickly strode to Naomi's room and found the woman sobbing. "You will not put me to sleep. I need to find my son." She turned her head and saw the detective, "Jim, oh God, please. He disappeared, yesterday. My baby has been missing for one day and two nights."

Ellison nearly exploded in anger over the missing youth and the obvious lack of humanity in this facility. "What? Why didn't anyone call the police?"

The doctor related all the events that led up to the boy ending up in the Waiting Area. "Nurse Anderson had a patient collapse on her and became so engrossed that she simply forgot about calling Child Services."

Naomi cut the man off, "When I woke this evening and asked for my baby, Jim they lost him. He could be hurt or ..."

Ellison placed a hand on hers, "I'll find him."

Naomi placed her other hand on his and looked deeply into the eyes of the detective. "I didn't mean to yell at you before. I was just so jealous because he - he likes you and I'm not going to be around and..."

Jim squeezed her hand. "Rest." He left the distraught woman and strode down the corridor with a feeling of anxiety building within. Where would he go?

Jim entered his truck just as his cell phone rang. "Ellison."

"Banks. Ellison, Mora escaped from his holding cell."

"What? How the hell did that happen?"

"Some kind of screw up. Wrong prisoner being mistaken for another. Anyway I called to ask you to check on the kid. Just in case."

Ellison smacked his steering wheel in frustration. "He's missing."

"What?"

Jim sighed, "It looks like he ran away yesterday and went unnoticed until now. Captain, I'm going to try to find him. Let me know if anything comes up."

"Will do. I'll place an APB out on the boy as well. Jim, let me remind you that Mora is desperate and insane. Call me if you need assistance and good luck in your search."

Ellison needed no reminder as to the state of Mora's mind. If the boy was harmed in any way, Mora would never again be able to see the inside of a padded cell.

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

The detective looked everywhere. It was 2 am and he was becoming completely frustrated. The kid wasn't at the bakery, or his mother's apartment.

The worried man paused as his hearing spiked and he heard a familiar voice from the building he was exiting. It was the voice of Blair. "Please, mister, I want to go to my momma. I don't feel so good."

"No. Just relax."

"No lemme go. Ouch! Don't!!!"

Ellison ran up four flights of stairs and down a hall. He heard glass break and was hit with a wave of panic, which forced him to knock the entrance door down. He heard someone yelling from the window and ran towards the sound. Mora was dangling from the ledge with one hand as he was reaching out to Blair with his other.

Blair was hanging from the ledge beside the suspect trying to pull away and seemingly oblivious to his current predicament. "Lemme go. No." Mora reached out to pull the kid off of the ledge and away from the building. He grabbed the child and pulled hard. The boy kicked at the man.

Jim soon moved close, yanked the boy's hand out of Mora's grasp and then tried to pull him into the apartment. He didn't notice the blowgun that was attached to the suspect's belt and which was now being retrieved. The weapon was being raised and carefully aimed.

Blair saw the man try to hurt his friend and lunged away from the detective and from the ledge he clung to and grabbed the hand with the dart. "No, no more hurting."

Mora swung his arm with the boy and blowgun away from himself - trying to fling the boy down to the ground. Ellison had to make a decision and knew in his heart that there was only one correct choice. Mora saw the gaze and also made his decision.

Once more the man flung the arm that held the dart and the boy out. This time he was successful and Blair became airborne. Mora then turned to grab onto the detective. Survival of the fittest.

Ellison would never truly remember how he did it but somehow he kept away from the suspect's desperate attempt to survive and reached out for the terrified boy. Mora had been unable to grab onto the detective and instead plunged to his death.

Blair was pulled out of the air and swiftly pulled into the apartment. Ellison closed his eyes in relief as he held on tightly to the child. He looked out of the window and down at Mora's broken body below. The man was dead. Satisfied that all was well with the world the detective carried the boy away from the window.

Dispatch was informed to alert his captain of the situation and to ask for an ambulance. During all of this the detective carried the child closely and deeming the area safe, he attempted to lay the boy on the couch. Blair cried out and held on tightly to the detective, refusing to let go. "Chief, you're safe. Come on now, let me take a look at you."

Blair looked at the man and then nodded as he slowly let go. Ellison again tried to place him on the couch but the boy refused to remain on that piece of furniture. Jim sighed in frustration as he placed the kid on the floor and watched as Blair again pulled away. "No. I don't wanna." Terrified blue eyes filled with tears gazed up at the older man as the boy continued to back away.

"Blair look at me. Son, please."

Blair stilled as he looked at the detective and shuddered, "Yes?"

Ellison heard the ambulance arriving along with two other cars. None of this mattered as he knelt in front of the child. "Chief, did Mr. Mora hurt you?"

Blair shook his head and shrugged. "H-he made me drink something bitter. I-I feel so funny." Blair looked around the room and then up as he sniffled. "I don't want to be here no more."

Jim needed to know if the boy had been physically harmed in any way. If Blair was... "Chief did Mr. Mora hurt you or touch you anywhere?"

Blair looked at the floor and again shrugged. "He wanted to take my clothes, cause they're wet. I told him no. He put me on the couch and made me drink the bitter water and then he took my sweater." Blair looked around and then back at the detective, "I don't know where it went."

Ellison pulled the boy closer. "Never mind the sweater. I'll buy you another. Did he touch you anywhere?"

Blair shook his head, "N-no way man. Momma told me to run if anyone ever tried to touch me anywhere I didn't want to be touched. I did that too. I-I kicked him in the, you know, and then I ran out the window and then he followed me; tried to toss me out." Blair sniffled, "Is he alright?"

Simon walked in just as Jim pulled the kid in for a tight hug. Ellison looked at his superior. "I'll explain everything later, sir. Right now I'm taking the kid to see his mother and to be checked out. Mora gave him some sort of drug. Says it's making him feel funny."

"Maybe you should let the paramedics look at him."

"No, not til he is with his mother and feels safe."

"Fine, report in in two hours. I.A. is going to want to know what happened here."

Ellison lifted the boy up and smiled as two small arms hugged him tightly. The tiny face nuzzled into his neck as a voice whispered. "Thank you Jim."

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

A week later

Naomi decided to move into a hospice. It had been a risky idea but there she could watch her son and release life slowly - on her terms. The hospital was filled with too much negativity and here her spirit would be free of such things. Blair seemed to have forgotten the whole ordeal with Mora and being drugged but Naomi knew that if it weren't for James Ellison the boy might have been seriously harmed. She looked at the documents she held in her hands and knew she was doing the right thing.

Still there was one more problem to be corrected.

Det. Ellison had stayed away, not because he was asked to but because he blamed himself for involving her son, for almost endangering a life of someone so young. He also remembered how the kid had risked his own life to save the detective by pulling the blowgun away from his direction. A chance no child should ever take.

He had to stay away. The kid deserved a quiet and happy life. Not some cop with a bad temper who didn't even realize the child could end up in harm's way.

Looking down at his left hand he remembered the feeling of a small hand clasped in his, blue eyes that gazed with trust at him and a smile that invited similar reaction from the once stoic man.

Jim missed the boy - a lot.

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

Part 5

Blair watched as his mother weakened to the point that she didn't want to eat and slept more than not. It frightened him to see her slip slowly away. The hospice was warm and inviting and the staff thoughtful and pleasant but Blair felt so alone. He never wanted to go to that adoption agency - they were so cold to him, sure he had a bed to sleep in and plenty of food, it wasn't a Charles Dickens type of place but emotionally the place failed. It was during his time at the agency where he thought a lot about James Ellison. The man never called or visited and Blair figured Jim probably didn't like him any more. It was, after all, Blair who had run away and caused so much trouble. Mr. Mora was probably in jail or something, his mind was a bit confused about that night but he remembered being the reason for Mora becoming upset and for Jim having to come by. Jim only stayed a few minutes after Blair was handed over to his mother and was gone before he turned to say 'goodbye'.

What he did remember was that Jim had called him 'son'. Sure other people called him that but usually to get him out of the way for one reason or another. Sometimes it was used as a pet name or because they were dating his momma and wanted to appear caring.

Jim wasn't dating his momma and he wasn't the sort of guy who used 'son' for a pet name. Jim called Blair 'son'.

Still Jim didn't call or visit and momma had said to leave the man alone. "Give him time to process, baby. He'll come around." So Blair left the man alone. Meanwhile, Momma sent Blair to be tested for school, since she could no longer teach him herself. The situation was getting desperate and with no other adults to watch over him, Blair continued to visit several Adoption Agencies secretly hoping that if he didn't find one - momma would stick around longer. Still reality forced its truth onto the boy who knew that his wish wasn't working - Naomi was slipping away little by little. Being a child didn't mean he couldn't hope.

So Blair tried to be on his best behavior. He stayed indoors. He studied. He assisted the staff with his mother's care. He held his momma's hand during the bad times and stayed away when she asked. Blair also went to the adoption agencies and even told his momma the Lotus Daycare Center was his favorite. He lied but the smile on her face made it worthwhile.

He had been tested and placed into classes for high schoolers. These older kids, kids who had not been adopted, were angry at the world. Most just couldn't wait to become adults and give up hoping for a home or a family.

None wanted to spend time with a smart younger kid and some actually enjoyed picking on Blair.

The boy learned to step away from the older kids, choosing to get lost in a good book. Blair was becoming reclusive.

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

Time passed and it was nearly a month later. As he prepared for school, Blair still wondered about the detective. He wondered if Jim ever thought about him. Well at least once in a while. Blair looked down at his Rainier, now extremely well-worn, sweater and smiled. He wore it almost every day while ignoring any remarks from the older kids. It made him feel special, especially when no one spent any time with him and it was still chilly out anyhow.

The days began to blend into one another. Nothing new. At the end of the school period he was taken to the hospice. Momma was still sleeping a lot and as usual Blair had finished his homework, ate his dinner and decided to watch the news. It was then that he saw one reason why Jim hadn't stopped by.

"This is Bill Haas speaking to you from the Cascade Memorial Hospital. The latest update we have on Detective James Ellison is that he is still in a coma and in serious condition. Det. Ellison, as you may recall was able to come to the aid in the capture of the bomber known to us as the Switchman. Det. James Ellison was able to subdue the suspect and then assisted a busload of people in their escape from the Switchman's final bomb. Unfortunately, and according to a source in the department Ellison was unable to escape in time to avoid the affects of the explosion. As I said the detective is still in a coma - has been for two days now and the doctors are uncertain as to his outcome."

Blair turned off the television, Jim was in trouble. What should I do? He went to see his mother to ask for her opinion but she was still sleeping. Jim needs someone to talk to him, he'd be here if it were me. Blair looked at his mother and decided he had to do something - now.

It was 7 p.m. and the hospice staff had made their last rounds. The agency would be by in an hour to pick Blair up and take him to his bed.

Blair quickly wrote a note to his mom, letting her know he was all right and he'd be back as soon as possible and then snuck out of the hospice. It was a mile walk to the hospital and Blair made sure to bundle up. He wasn't running away, he was going to help his friend. He just couldn't let another person, who was close to him, die. He just couldn't.

Of course he knew where the hospital was located. The bus driver even let him ride for free. It was easy to sneak into the hospital's critical care floor. All that time with his momma taught him the hospital's routine. He was just outside the detective's room now waiting for the right moment. Blair wondered what Jim would say if he knew he was about to have an unscheduled visitor. It was strange but for some reason Blair felt he had to be here. For some reason it seemed extremely important and momma always said to trust your instincts and his instincts screamed for him to come to see Jim.

The nurse left the room and Blair scrambled inside, unnoticed, just before the door closed. He almost started to speak to his friend but before he could get closer to the detective he heard voices coming from the hallway and quickly hid in the closet near Jim's bed.

Capt. Banks walked in with another man. "How long has he been like this?"

"Since they pulled him from the bus. Doctors say they can't figure out why he is like this. It's like he's shut down or something."

"Where is his family?"

"I called his father and was told he couldn't be bothered but he was aware of the situation. Carolyn has been by but she kind of mentioned that their relationship isn't very close." Simon sighed, "The man is so anti-social, no one visits. Kind of sad really and he doesn't deserve this. He saved so many and the guy has no one."

The two left a few seconds later and Blair stepped out of the closet. He pulled a chair over to the bed and climbed on it. "Don't worry Jim. What do they know? I care and I am here. So come on and wake up and yell at me cause you know I shouldn't be here alone." Blair knelt on the chair and reached over and pulled the larger man's hands into his own, "Oops, sorry, my hand is as cold as yours." Blair blew warm air on his palms and rubbed them together, "There that should be better." He sighed, "I heard the doctors say once that it's good for people to talk even when their friend is out cold." Blair looked around and then smiled, "So let me tell you how I got here..."

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

Ellison felt disconnected and lost. He tried and failed to somehow break away from this darkness that surrounded him. He heard voices but none seemed to draw him out. His control was shattered and he felt frightened, a feeling that he didn't accept willingly. His struggle was slowly surrendering to the void. There was no way out.

It seemed like forever before a voice did reach him. A calm, almost melodic voice speaking words that weren't as important as the sound and person they came from. He felt his mind eagerly reach out towards the sound drifting towards him in a gentle rhythm. Slowly the voice drifted away and Jim panicked but calmed when the voice was replaced by a soft but constant thrumming sound. A sound that enabled the man to slowly open his eyes and visually seek out its source.

At first the hospital room came into focus, bright at first but then dimmed a bit. Jim noted he was alone and for a moment he felt saddened by this. Then he looked down and saw a head of curls lying on his chest. He looked to the left and noted that the small body was kneeling on a chair and was partially propped up on his bed. He carefully pulled Blair onto his bed, making sure the legs and arms were safely tucked close and smiled when the boy reached across his ribs and hugged him tightly.

Ellison tilted his head and looked at the sleeping face. No fear, just peace and complete trust. "Hey kid."

Blair heard the voice but refused to wake. Instead he snuggled closer. Ellison gently pulled the boy up, "Hey Blair. Come on now wake up."

Round drowsy blue eyes looked upwards and smiled brightly, "Hi."

Ellison chuckled, "Hi back. Chief does your mother know you're here?"

Blair looked down, "No but I didn't run away, I promise."

Jim sighed and slowly sat up. He didn't feel drained. He felt quite the opposite; awake and aware. "Let's get your butt home."

Blair yawned, "I left her a note. I had to come. Simon and some other guy said you didn't have anybody." He looked away and then back, "I care so I came."

Jim didn't know what to say or do. It was just what he needed, what he wished he had and the boy said it so simply, yet it meant so much to know someone cared. Blair noticed the confused look and smiled. He reached around the older man to hug him and sighed, "I'm glad you're better. I didn't want you to go away too."

Jim patted the kid on the back, "Let's get you home before your momma makes me disappear."

Blair chuckled. The heart monitor alerted the floor staff that the patient was awake and astonished all with his alertness. The man was now determined to leave and behaved as though the past two days didn't happen. Except for a few cuts and bruises, James Ellison was healthy.

As he exited the hospital, a group of media people and camera crews swarmed around him. Jim suddenly felt trapped and overwhelmed. Perfume, lights, shouting - it all seemed too much. He felt a tug on his hand and pulled the boy beside him up into his arms, Blair hugged him tightly and as he did so everything around the detective slowly tapered off. Ellison felt the child's heart beating through their clothing and it comforted him. He hugged him tightly and smiled as Blair whispered, "It's alright Jim. You're doing fine."

He took a taxi to the Hospice and was grateful that none of the news people had followed him. As he entered Naomi's apartment he noted that the woman was awake and silently watched as he brought the now sleeping boy in and laid him on the couch inside her room.

Naomi smiled at the care the man took to lay her son on the couch. "He has missed you." When he met her gaze she smiled softly, "I saw the news and his little note. He should have been more careful and could have waited for me to get someone to take him." She paused and then, "How are you, Jim?"

Ellison shrugged, "I'm alright. Somehow he was able to wake me. I don't know how he does it."

Naomi looked away, knowing that her child's gift was in his sharing. Her son had picked the person he wanted to share his future with. She took a deep breath and smiled sadly, "Have you ever considered having children Jim?"

Ellison walked to the chair beside her bed and sat, "I-I have but my ex-wife thought it best to wait. Guess she was right. Look I didn't know he was going to do this, I never would have let him."

Naomi smiled, "My son likes you a great deal. You do know that don't you?"

Jim looked at the sleeping figure and nodded, "Yes, I do."

Naomi looked away, "He's been tested at school and he's graded at high school level. He's been attending high school classes but has been very lonely." She looked at her son, "He thinks I don't see. I do." She looked at the detective, "They want to send him to a boarding school."

Ellison felt his stomach tense. Why did it matter? It was best for the kid, he'd get a good education. This had to be better than an adoption agency. Still maybe he could do some checking around.

Naomi seemed to echo his thoughts, "He would get an excellent education." She looked at her sleeping son and smiled, "He needs a great deal more than just schooling don't you think?"

"He needs someone to keep him in line. He has to stop sneaking out like he did tonight. There are rules and things he needs to accept."

Naomi laughed, "Never happen sir. That child is too willful and, well, I love him too much to change that about him. Who knows? He may need that stubborn will some day."

Jim looked away. His father believed in discipline and following the rules. Still his father didn't care to even see his son when he was hospitalized - he wasn't even there when he woke. "He still needs to know the dangers of doing that sort of thing. He could have gotten hurt Naomi."

Naomi sighed, "I have a good friend who lives in Montana. She's a bit preachy but she has four kids and runs a small farm with her husband. She's willing to take him in."

Jim stood and walked to where the boy was. He watched as the small body turned on the couch and started sliding towards the floor. He carefully pulled the child back onto the couch and smiled when he mumbled thanks. "Will she care for him?"

Naomi nodded, "He'll be fed, go to school and have a great deal of responsibility."

Ellison met her eyes and spoke, "I had a great home, food, school but nothing more. Will he be - loved?"

Naomi looked away as tears formed in her eyes. "I am his mother Jim. No one will ever love him as much as I do but I can only hope so."

Jim looked at the boy who twitched as he slept and reached out to brush away a strand of curly hair that had landed on the small nose. He shook his head. "Would you - Could you consider me as an option?"

Naomi met his gaze and smiled, "Really? You? Why Jim? Why would you want to?" Naomi waited hoping what the man was about to say would be the right words.

Ellison never knew how to speak from the heart. He spoke through actions. Again, he reached down and pulled the curls from the sleeping boy's face and smiled. "I don't know how to tell you that when I am with this child, he makes me feel whole. His joy, sorrow, his excitement, his sadness - I just want to keep him safe from harm, make him know he's important because he is important. I..." Speaking from the heart was hard and Ellison felt he was losing the battle on this idea anyway. He looked at Naomi and saw her wipe a tear away.

Naomi felt as though her heart would burst. "Yes, Jim. You don't have to go on. I understand. The answer is - yes. Yes - I would consider you."

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

Part 6

Blair was tired of the tests and the different schools. It didn't matter. His momma was getting even worse. None of this mattered.

He walked towards the school bus and paused when he spotted a familiar figure leaning on a tree nearby. "Hey squirt, want to take a walk with me?"

Problems forgotten in that simple way that separates adults from children. The boy smiled brightly - he hadn't seen Jim in a week and was elated to see him now, he looked over at the school's principal and was waived off. Jim had permission to take the kid, "Sure Jim. You working on something? How you feeling? Did you eat lunch? I've got an apple here, want to split it?"

Ellison placed a hand on the boy's shoulder and slowed the onslaught of words that flowed from his mouth, "Let's walk in the park across the street."

Blair smiled and followed the man, his hand slipping into the larger one. Ellison waited till Blair was seated on the bench beside him and began, "Your mother is having a great deal of trouble trying to find a home for you. She says she just wants you to be happy."

Blair looked away, "I keep hoping that if she doesn't find me a home, she'll live longer." He looked up at the detective and smiled shyly, "Stupid huh?"

Jim felt privileged that the boy spoke from his heart and sighed, "No son wants to see his mother die. It doesn't matter how old you are."

Blair nodded.

Ellison looked away and spoke again, "She wanted to send you to that boarding school you tested for or to that friend of hers in Montana."

Blair sighed, "It doesn't matter, I'll go wherever she feels is best."

The detective sighed again, "Okay, well then her third idea won't matter either will it?"

Blair looked up, "Third idea?"

Jim looked at the boy and suddenly felt nervous. What if he doesn't want this? What if he says no? He's just a boy what does it matter? It matters. Why does it matter? It matters. "Yeah, well, Naomi thought and, well, I asked her first. See, we wondered if you'd considered allowing me to adopt you?"

Blair's eyes lit up and positively sparkled, "Yes!" He jumped up on the bench and hugged the detective. "Yes, yes and yes again."

Ellison laughed as he returned the hug. "It won't be easy, kid. I haven't the first idea how we are going to do this and this will be all new to me. I could mess up."

Blair nodded and spoke confidently, "Momma says the best things are never easy Jim. Together we'll make it work."

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

Naomi watched as her son bounced into the room and knew he had decided to stay with the equally cheerful looking man behind him. "So you've decided to take on this live wire."

Blair rolled his eyes as he moved in to hug his mother, "Momma, I'll behave."

Naomi pulled her son into a hug, "I know you will." She pulled a packet of documents out from beneath her sheets and handed them to Ellison. "You'll need to sign those."

Ellison looked at the papers and then at Naomi, "These were drawn up a month ago. How? I didn't even know - I."

Naomi chuckled, "Jim don't question things, just go with the flow."

Ellison was stunned. How did Naomi know? He watched the boy speaking to his mother and wondered if this was the right thing to do. Raising a child would be hard as a single parent and this wasn't his son. He looked around the room and noticed a drawing in the corner. It was a simple picture. One of which depicted what looked like Blair smiling broadly as he looked up at the figure beside him and his hand being held in a drawing of a rather tall, barely smiling police officer, uniform and all. An arrow next to the picture said Heroes Exist- Me and Jim. Ellison felt his heart swell with pride and with love. He had to do this, it was the right thing - the only thing. He signed the papers and then handed them to Naomi.

In the days that followed Jim spent most of his time in the hospice. Naomi shared memories of her son's life with him and answered any and all questions. Blair seemed to attract a bit of trouble but none of his own choosing. He was a healthy kid and hated hospitals and his life was one of a carefree spirit. No curfews, no rules on his dress, no boundaries and no spankings. Ellison marveled at the fact that the kid was so well behaved.

Naomi stressed that her way of life was up to Jim to either accept or change. She relinquished her child and all the rights to Jim. She trusted that he would do the right things by her son. "I detach with love and hope that you only love my child. The rest is additive."

Jim realized that he enjoyed the woman's presence and envied Blair for having such a wonderful loving mother. She was only nine years older than Ellison but so young to have her life end so soon. He also thought she was a beautiful woman and wondered how she managed to escape marriage and having a permanent home. When questioned about her past, Naomi evaded a direct answer. "The past has been dealt with, it's the future that matters."

When questioned about Blair's father, "It doesn't matter who he was. Who he is - is you and I expect you to be the best you can be."

Of course, Naomi felt compelled to ask about Ellison's youth, his growth, his dreams and his idea of a future. It did stun her that Jim was brought up in such a cold manner. The man seemed so compassionate and willing to help when needed. As he spoke she heard the hesitancy in his voice. The man didn't know how to open up easily and she hoped that her baby would be able to help his new father with that. When he did open up, his eyes shone like a clear sun filled day.

Ellison told her of his mother's abandonment in his youth, told her softly of the harsh way he and his brother were raised and how none of his family kept in touch. He then spoke of his time in the military, his loss of those he worked with in Peru, his time in Peru, his time back in the states. Jim quickly spoke of his marriage and the divorce. He blamed himself for all his failures and never gloated about his victories. He was brave, loyal, honest, and afraid to open up but so willing to love if he were loved.

James Ellison was complicated to anyone who didn't look deeply, to Naomi he was a man in need of love and understanding. He was a man capable of so much. She soon found herself feeling a love for him and wondered what her life would have been like if he and she had been more than just friends.

The detective was the right man to raise her son. Sure he had faults, we all do but he was a special man and special enough to raise her boy.

Of course reality did interrupt the three lives. After his hospital stay, Ellison returned to work on a part-time schedule, never mentioning why the shift in his schedule and his superior accepting the fact that eventually he'd return to his original work schedule. Jim was changing and if a different schedule was all that it took, then Capt. Banks saw no harm in it.

Days passed and Ellison watched as the sparkle in Naomi's eyes slowly dimmed and watched Blair try hard to pretend he didn't notice as well.

The boy bravely went about his chores. He helped Naomi eat, read to her and spoke softly to her when she was in pain. He never complained and never cried. He was being brave in the face of every child's, young or old, ultimate fear. Through it all, the boy also showed concern for Ellison whenever the man seemed to be having difficulties with his senses. His voice soft, his touch calming and his attention endearing. Ellison wondered why Blair was so attuned to those around him and thanked God for the precious life.

The three souls shared moments of laughter, sadness, spoke of fears and now faced heartache.

Jim had become part of a family. For better or for worse.

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

Part 7

Naomi felt a sharp pain in the back of her head and suddenly felt detached from the world around her. Ellison had fallen asleep sitting up on the couch across from her bed and Blair had fallen asleep beside him. Naomi felt sadness that she would not be there to see her son become the man he so desperately wanted to be now. She would never see her son graduate from college, marry, never see him with his first-born and never see her son gray and age. Jim would be there. Jim would see it all and she wondered if he would cherish it like she would have. She hoped for the umpteenth time that Jim would be able to provide for the boy in every way possible. What was left of her trust was to be given to Blair when he was eighteen but the boy needed so much more money. Blair's thirst for knowledge needed to be satiated but so did his heart.

Naomi watched as Blair shivered from a chill and how Jim pulled him closer without consciously knowing he had done so. She smiled and knew Blair was in safe hands. Papers filed, witnesses provided and her son's happiness was ensured. Naomi once again looked at her sleeping child and smiled.

Blair thought he heard his mother call to him and he slowly slipped off of the couch and walked towards her. He stood on the chair beside her bed and smiled at his mother. "I love you momma."

Naomi nodded, "I love you too. Be good my baby. Remember, I will always be with you." Naomi brushed away the brown curls from her son's tear filled eyes and held his face in her other hand, "Each time the wind touches you here, it will be me kissing your cheek."

Blair nodded as a tear fell from his eyes, "I'll miss you."

Naomi smiled, "I will always love you sweetie." She smiled broadly as she saw a panther standing protectively beside her son. The panther turned into James Ellison who smiled back at her.

Her smile grew impossibly wider and remained as her hand dropped to the bed and a breath escaped her body. Blair stood there in silence. She was gone and he was alone. He felt more tears fall and then felt a hand on his back.

Blair turned and met the eyes of his new parent. Not a replacement but the next step in life. Not alone. He reached up and was immediately pulled into a tight hug. He held onto Jim and whispered softly, "My momma..."

Jim felt tears fall from his eyes and brushed the face of the woman who had passed on her most precious possession to him. An honor passed and a promise issued, he would never take the boy for granted nor the woman who had honored him with such a welcomed responsibility. "I am so sorry Chief. I am so very sorry."

The two held on to each other for a while and then notified the staff that Naomi had passed on.

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

Part 8

The funeral was held two days later. People from all walks of life attended, notices had been issued by her attorneys in accordance with their client's wishes. Naomi had touched quite a few lives. She had been cremated and her ashes had been scattered at a national park. A park she and her son walked many times.

Blair didn't cry at all during all of this and that concerned Jim. It was as though the boy was closing himself off. Naomi wouldn't have wanted that and neither did Jim.

Naomi's possessions were given away to the Salvation Army except for things Blair wanted to keep and a few things Ellison was given by the special woman herself.

Though he hadn't had time to create a place for Blair at the loft, they decided that the boy would continue to sleep on the couch until they had time to clean out the spare room and buy a bed to put in there. Jim, after conferring with Naomi a while back, enrolled the boy at Rainier Preparatory School. The place was a school of advanced grade jumpers and attempted to provide a casual atmosphere to ensure the child grew educationally as well as socially strong. Blair seemed all right with the choice and Jim felt secure in his decision.

Ellison and Naomi had even located a nurse who worked days and was home nights, lived two block away and would baby-sit for Blair should Ellison be away at nights. Blair insisted this wasn't necessary and even Naomi agreed but the overprotective new parent was against the idea of a minor being alone and unwatched at night. So Irene Reynolds agreed to be on call.

Blair still wasn't his typical self and this concerned the older man enough to seek out the precinct psychiatrist. He was assured that the boy just needed time.

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

Jim returned to work on a more regular schedule and was immediately assigned to a case of warehouse thefts. He along with Rafe and Brown were able to apprehend the suspects at they tried to escape with the goods. The detective had no difficulty tracking down a suspect who was kind enough to have dropped a case of cheap perfume on himself in his mad dash for freedom.

Ellison was able to track the suspect down by his scent and found himself wondering why it had suddenly become easier for him to control his sense of smell. Easy, but not without a bit of suffering. Four hours later he had a raging headache and simply wanted it to go away.

Jim walked into his loft and stepped into chaos. Food strewn everywhere and in the middle of it was Blair. He turned and met the tired man's gaze with a bright smile. "Hi Jim." He jumped down from a chair he had placed next to the stove and quickly cleaned the dining room table of his homework. "Have a seat, I cooked some dinner."

The detective was tired and his head was pounding. He didn't think, he reacted, "What the hell did you do? Damn it Blair I come home and this is what I find? I told you to stay away from the stove and just look at the mess."

Blair placed the dinner on the table and stepped back. "I'm sorry. I'll clean it up right away."

Ellison was too tired to notice the paper Blair quickly pulled from the table and tucked away. Blair swiftly cleaned up the area, washed the dishes and then went to shower. He hated taking showers but it gave him time to rethink what he wanted to talk to Jim about. No biggie, momma wouldn't have made it anyway. He quickly dressed for bed and then went to the couch to read the Jack London book his teacher gave the class to read in three days - he only had one more chapter left.

Jim hadn't eaten and instead went up to bed. He'd talk with the child later.

Eventually Blair fell asleep.

Jim tossed and turned and only hours later he realized the tone he had used on Blair had been harsh. Slowly he rose and went to check on the boy. He found him on the floor surrounded by his comforter and asleep.

He carefully lifted the boy and placed him on the couch. Blair curled into a ball and whispered, "I love you momma."

Ellison sighed as he tucked the boy in and removed the book the child had been holding on to. "I'm sorry Chief."

He went to take two Tylenol and sat at he table. A few minutes later a small head poked out from the comforter on the couch, "I left you some pasta in the fridge. If you want it."

The detective rubbed his head and smiled, "What are you doing awake?"

Blair lowered down on the couch, "I'm sorry."

Ellison sighed, "Blair, please come here."

Blair slowly unwrapped himself from the blankets and walked towards the man, wishing his momma was around to run to. "I cleaned up. I won't do this again."

Jim pulled the boy towards him, "Blair I'm the one who's sorry. You did nothing wrong kiddo. I just have a really bad headache. I had to smell some really bad perfume for hours today and now my head is killing me."

Blair placed both his hands on the side of Ellison's face and spoke softly, "Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Try to relax Jim."

Ellison was about to pull away but saw the solemn look the child was giving him and complied. He heard the boy's voice, "Just relax and breathe. Concentrate on, well something you like to hear."

Jim felt his mind relax and his muscle ease. His breathing slowed, his body felt less tightened. He felt less stressed - calmer. The pain in his head lessened and then stopped. He opened his eyes minutes later and looked at the boy smiling up at him. "Did it work?"

Ellison rolled his shoulders and sighed, "It did. How? How did you do that?"

Blair giggled, "Basic meditation skills man. You really should consider reading up on it. Momma made me read all sorts of techniques for pain and stress. I helped her with her pain managing stuff." Blair tilted his head, "You're real sensitive to outside stimulus, and you should learn to handle that."

Ellison pulled the boy closer and smiled, "I guess you'll have to teach me."

Blair shrugged, "I wouldn't mind." He yawned and Ellison hoisted the boy into the air. "Let's get you to bed."

Blair laid his head on Ellison's shoulder and sighed, "I'm not really tired."

Jim paused, "Did you eat?"

Blair yawned and nodded. "Irene wouldn't let me have any tea."

Jim chuckled at the fact that the nurse just didn't want the boy drinking green tea. "I'll have a talk with her."

Ellison carefully placed the boy on the couch and tucked him in. He watched as Blair fell asleep again and wondered how the kid knew that his senses were giving him trouble and just what to do about it. It also fascinated him how the kid seemed to forgive so easily.

Slowly he went back to the kitchen and drank a glass of milk. Noting the backpack on the floor he went to pick it up. A paper slipped out of it and he picked it up. It was a note to parents inviting them to a Teacher-Parent Get Together. Sunday at noon. This Sunday. Ellison looked at the couch and sighed. He had screwed up and hoped the kid was still willing to work with him on trying to become a better parent.

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

Ellison arrived at work and frowned. It was going to be one of those days. No outside work, just plenty of desk work. Two hours later he noted that Simon had Daryl in the office with him, his captain's five-year-old boy currently sitting across from his father's desk.

The two made Jim smile and had given him an idea, at 2:30 he decided it was time to surprise Blair. He drove to Rainier Prep and waited. Blair was speaking to a small red headed girl who seemed infatuated with the boy. Ellison groaned, he really wasn't ready to talk about sex just yet. He stood outside his truck just as his hearing spiked, "No, my, Jim is busy and well it's alright, I'll skip it this year." The conversation came to a halt as Blair spotted Jim and smiled, "Hey, he's here. I got to go see you around."

Jim noted the young girl sigh as Blair walked away. Thankfully the boy was still too young to realize the effect he was having on the young female. "Hi Jim. Where is Irene?"

Ellison shrugged, "I thought you and I could spend some time at the precinct, then take a trip to the dreaded mall to buy you some new clothes and maybe look at some of those beds."

Blair smiled, "Really?! The precinct! You haven't taken me there since... since..."

Hoisting the kid into the truck Jim smiled, "Well I figured it's about time you hang out with me and see some of what I have to do."

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

Ellison walked into Major Crimes with Blair holding his hand tightly. Though the kid had been there before, he was still a little nervous, he didn't want to make Jim embarrassed. Henry Brown was the first to see the child, "Hairboy, how's it going?"

Blair sighed, "My name is Blair, Henry."

Brown chuckled but then noted the serious look Ellison was giving him. "Oh, hi Ellison."

Blair sighed, "His name is Jim. What is up with you guys?"

Ellison placed a hand on Blair's shoulders, "Ladies and Gentlemen, listen up please."

Everyone paused and even Capt. Banks walked to the doorway of his office. Ellison smiled, "I'd like to introduce you to my son. This is Blair. Please introduce yourself to him should you have the time."

Blair chuckled, "Hi everybody."

Everyone laughed, "Hi Blair."

Ellison smiled just as Blair took his hand, "That was so cool Jim. I'm your son?"

Jim took the boy's jacket and looked him in the eye. "You were my son the moment I met you in the park kiddo. I want you to know that and I want the whole world to know it too."

Blair hugged the taller man and caused a round of "Ahhs" to be heard. Ellison pulled a chair next to his desk and began typing while Blair did his homework. Ten minutes later the detective was called into Simon's office and Daryl, who found his father's work boring with a capital 'B', wandered over to where Blair was sitting.

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

Simon was stunned and well, for I.R.S. purposes, he decided to find out where this father-son idea came from.

Ellison walked into the office, "The reports are almost completed sir."

Banks waved him off and motioned for him to sit. "So, if you don't mind me asking, isn't this the boy that was involved in the Mora case?"

"The same one sir."

Banks frowned, "His mother was dying of some sort of cancer. Correct?"

"She passed away a week ago sir."

Simon leaned forward with a concerned look on his face, "You recently got a divorce and now you take on the responsibility of raising a stranger's child. You think you're ready for this?"

Jim tilted his head and stood, "Sorry. Excuse me for just a moment." He opened the door and called the child in question over.

The boy nodded and looked down the hall, "Alright Jim. I'll be right back."

Jim returned and sat, "Sorry. Yes I am ready for this responsibility."

Banks opened his mouth again and noted that Ellison watched as the child left to go to the Men's Room. "I guess you are." He pulled out some papers from his drawers and handed them to Ellison, "Well I suggest you make a few changes on your W-2s."

Ellison chuckled as he took the papers and began to read them.

Just then the suspect Rafe was questioning stood up and threw a chair through the department window. Ellison was out of the office and running down the hall immediately.

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

Blair felt practically ten feet tall. Jim called him his son. Son, not my boy, my adoption child or even just Blair, no - he had called him his 'son' and in front of all his friends. WOW !

As Jim went to talk to the head honcho, a small boy walked up to the smiling 'son'.

"My name is Daryl."

Blair extended his hand, "My name is Blair." Blair liked the kid immediately, he was younger and shorter which meant he was in charge. Blair hated being the shortest all the time, most of the kids teased him about the fact that he might never grow. Momma had said size didn't matter but momma didn't play basketball.

"I got to go to the bathroom. Can you take me?"

Blair sighed, "I don't know where it is."

Just then Jim opened the door and called him over. Now - he knew where to go and was even prouder that he was going unattended. Jim worried too much.

The two boys were just leaving the Men's Room when Blair heard shouting and saw a man pick up a chair and pull back. Blair grabbed Daryl and pulled the boy to the ground beneath him just as the chair crashed through the window, showering the two and a nearby officer with glass. Blair slowly sat up and smiled as he noticed Daryl was unhurt and was smiling back at him.

Jim pulled his son away from the other just as Simon pulled his own son up to his feet. Both men noted that neither was hurt and sighed, "Chief that was smart thinking."

Blair smiled, "Daryl didn't see it coming so I figured I should help him just like you do me." Blair wiped his face and noticed blood on his hand, "Dad, my hand. Oww."

Ellison quickly looked at the hand and found a piece of glass in it. He lifted the boy and took him into the Men's Room. Banks handed his son to his secretary Rhonda and took the First Aid Kit she was handing to him. He entered the Men's Room and saw Ellison carefully extract the sliver of glass from the boy's hand turning and gratefully taking the First Aid Kit. He immediately applied antiseptic to the cut. Blair tried to remain quite but a few tears slipped down his eyes.

Ellison placed a bandage on the cut and smiled at the teary eyes in front of him. "You are one brave young man."

Blair smiled and didn't notice as the detective wiped away the tears. He looked at his hand and then smiled even more brightly, "I got injured in the line of duty."

Ellison and Banks laughed. Banks shook his head, "You are definitely going to be a handful aren't you?"

Deciding the kid had had enough for one day, the detective completed his report to the captain and then returned to his son's side. "What do you say we get out of here a bit early and go eat at that pizza place on university row." No words were necessary as the boy was grinning from ear to ear.

Jim stood and looked at his captain. "Going shopping for some new clothes for the kid."

Banks winced, "Don't envy you."

Blair rolled his eyes, "Momma liked to shop. I don't need much."

Banks nodded, "Sure I've heard that before. Oh, and Blair?"

"Yes?"

"Thank you for protecting my son."

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

Jim didn't realize it until the boy pulled him into a computer store. It didn't hit home until the young child was looking at some obscure computer program. Blair had called him 'Dad'.

It suddenly didn't matter that the boy spent two hours looking at all the programs or that the two didn't get home until 8 pm. Jim was a Dad.

Pizza, shopping and a scoop of ice cream for each was just what the day called for.

Later at the loft, Blair showered and pulled on his new PJs. He came out and noticed that Jim was on the couch waiting for him. "Let me see that hand."

Blair winced when the bandage was removed, "Oww Dad ... I." Blair froze and blushed. Ellison met his gaze and Blair looked away, "I didn't mean to call you that. I mean I did but I didn't know if you'd want me to ... I was going to ask first and then if you didn't ..."

Jim placed a hand on each of the boy's shoulder, "It would make me very happy - ecstatic, if you would call me Dad."

Blair smiled. Ellison continued, "After all no son of mine calls me Jim."

Blair smiled broadly, "And I am a son of yours."

Jim nodded, "Exactly, now let's re-bandage that hand and get you into bed."

Blair crawled onto the couch and sighed, "Dad, the school is having a parent-teacher get together at noon on Sunday. Would you? Do you want to go?"

Ellison smiled as he tucked the youngster into bed, "I would love to."

Blair smiled and then yawned, "Tomorrow, I'll tell the teacher you're coming."

Jim nodded, "Then you can introduce me to your little girlfriend."

Blair frowned, "Who?"

Ellison smiled, "The red head."

Blair rolled his eyes, "Oh, that's Megan. She is always trying to get next to me at lunchtime. She's a pain."

"Better watch it pal. That's the pain we bachelors have to endure."

Blair yawned again. "I'm not going to. Never." He closed his eyes and dozed off. Ellison stared at the little munchkin and then walked up to his bed.

As he lay on his bed he whispered softly, "Thank you Naomi, I love my son." Ellison found himself hearing his son's heartbeat and fell asleep to the rhythm.

END OF PORTION 1 - Steps

Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail K-Lyn.

Back to K-Lyn's page.