"Babycakes, you don't know *how* I wish I knew. I don't even know if we *can*. We're supposed to be fighting the bad guys here, and all we see are damn *cops*. How *can* I stay on the force? How can *you* stand it?"

"I can't even *think* now. I don't know."

"Detective Ellison?" A woman in a scrub suit came out.

"Yes, sweetheart? I'm Jim Ellison."

She frowned at the endearment. "I'm Dr. Enghart. I'm taking care of Detective Green."

"Thank God! How is he?" Blair had to keep himself from shaking her for information.

"And who might you be?"

"Blair Sandburg. We brought Matt in."

"Dr. Sandburg is my partner." Blair mouthed "Ph.D." She nodded.

"Mr. Green is in...guarded condition. We replaced his blood and fluids and he's not in shock anymore, but he's still unconscious and we don't know how much use he'll get back in his right arm."

"The poor thing *did* get a tendon? I was *so* hoping I was wrong." Jim shook his head.

Enghart blinked her eyes for a moment. "Okay." She shook her head. "Yes, I'm afraid so. Somebody hurt him badly."

"Thank you, doctor. We're notifying his next of kin now."

She nodded. "Good. I'll keep you posted, and when his family show up, have me paged." She walked back to the main department.

"Poor Dave." Blair didn't want to face calling him again. They walked to the public phone. Jim took out one of Blair's quarters and made the call himself, his hand on Blair's shoulder. When he finished, he gathered Blair in his arms as tightly as he could, and kissed him on the forehead.

Blair sighed and leaned into him. "What was that for?"

"Just so you know how much I love you, and how glad I am that you love me."

"Dave didn't take the news well?"

"You know Dave. He feels responsible. He just wants to rush right over here."

"Please, James, tell me you got him to stay home."

"I did. But I *hate* the way I did it. I told him he would only hurt Matt if he did. I mean, darling, I might as well have been holding a *knife* to his *heart*. But what *else* could I have *done?"

Blair had no answer for him. He just hugged him. As he did, he felt the edge of an adhesive bandage at Jim's elbow. "What's this for?"

Jim shrugged. "I was all *icky* with blood. It was *all* over me. They took some of mine to test...just in case Matt was carrying something - hepatitis C - that I could catch just by *touching* it."

"When do you find out?"

"A few weeks. Meanwhile, babycakes, we have to be *extra* careful."

"Oh, man. We are *never* going to lose the condoms...and I *hate* the taste of latex." Blair grinned despite his words.

After a final squeeze, Blair dropped to a seat next to another man. He pulled out his computer from his backpack. Jim sat next to him. "Got anything for me to read in there, Chief?"

"Yeah...I found something the other day." As he rummaged through the pack for the book of essays he'd picked up, he heard the men next to him get up.

"-king faggots everywhere."

"Yeah...no decency any-" The two men moved out of earshot.

Jim sat perfectly still next to Blair. If he hadn't been clenching and unclenching his jaw muscles, even Blair wouldn't not have known he was still listening to those two men.

"Tune them out, James. Listen to me, not them."

"I can't help it. It's so *ugly*. It's why Matt's in there, and why we lost Miss Freddie and...it's everywhere. I can't even *hug* you in public, in a place you *need* a hug. And they're *still* ranting. Not that they're saying *anything* original. Just ugly."

Blair stroked his arm. There was nothing he could say.

Time passed. Jim calmed down enough to start reading the book, so Blair could relax and start organizing his notes for his next paper. Even so, they looked up every time someone entered the waiting area. Dr. Enghart walked in an hour or so later.

"We're taking Mr. Green up to ICU. His family hasn't appeared yet?"

Blair shook his head. "I'm going to call our boss again, and see what happened. We really should carry beepers, you know?"

He walked up to the phone, past the two homophobes, and dropped in a quarter. "Banks."

"Simon, have you found out anything?"

"Yeah. Ron Hart is as big a jerk as ever." He sighed. "Green has no next of kin in state. His parents moved to Arizona a couple of years ago. And Hart would be just as happy if Green joined them there. To be precise, he said, 'Maybe you can stand having a queer in your department, but I'd be just as happy if the little fruit had offed himself.'"

Blair winced. "I'm not surprised. I met the man. Matt's being taken up to ICU now. We'll keep you posted."

"Thanks. Don't stay up too late...I'm still going to need both of you tomorrow."

"Great. Just what we need. We'll be there, Simon. Bye."

"Good night, Sandburg."

Jim was still talking to Dr. Enghart. "So, we might as well go home?"

She nodded. "If there is any major change, we will call you, Detective, but for now, he's probably not going to wake up for hours."

"Thank you, Doctor. I guess you're right."

"Simon says that there are no local next of kin. And that he still wants us bright and early tomorrow."

"I'm outnumbered." Jim smiled. "Let's go, angel. I can't wait to get the rest of this ick off me."

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

"Why did you set it that *loud*, James?"

"Because nothing *else* would get you out of bed." Jim looked entirely too well rested. He'd obviously been up for a while, since he was fully dressed - he did look wonderful in that pink tank top - and Blair could smell coffee.

Blair, on the other hand, as the bathroom mirror told him, had serious bedhair. By the time he'd showered, scraped off his morning overgrowth, and pulled on clothes, Jim had made breakfast, too.

He squinted at the sunlight as it poured onto the table. "Who made it so bright?"

Jim laughed evilly. "I did, darling. Just to *torture* you. Drink your coffee."

Blair just sat and watched Jim move from the kitchen to the table with his mug. He was wearing *those* jeans again. And Jim wanted them to stay *out* of bed?

Jim put the mug in front of Blair and then went to get the dish of French toast.

The coffee made it all better. The sun dulled to a bearable level - who ever saw *sun* in Cascade two days in a row? And Jim just kept looking better, so he knew he was waking up.

"Eat up, baby. We have a long day of paperwork ahead of us."

"Call the hospital first? And Dave?"

Jim paused while pouring the syrup. "Good idea, Chief." He got the cordless phone and dialed the hospital.

Blair managed to finish his breakfast, have a second cup of coffee and begin clean up before Jim found someone willing to give him Matt's condition. "He is? That's fabulous news. And his parents called? We should be around this afternoon, if he's up for non-family. You are a *doll*, sweetheart. Thank you!"

"Well? Well? How is he? Can we see him? Is he going to be okay? Is he awake? Jim, don't leave me like this!" He jittered around the kitchen, about to burst from curiosity.

"Calm *down*. Give a girl a *chance* to *breathe*, okay? Matt is awake. He's weak, he's not happy and they still don't know about his hand, but he's completely out of the woods."

Jim mopped up the last of his syrup with a final piece of toast and cleared the rest of the table.

Blair took the plates and silver from him, rinsed them off and deposited them into the dishwasher. "Can we see him?"

"Not today, Chief. His parents are coming by, and that's enough pressure. She said she tell him we called, though." He picked up the phone again. "Dave? Did I wake you? Oh, fudge! Well, I have good news. That should make it a *tiny* bit better."

He relayed the news once more. "Yes, I promise, I will keep you updated. Yes, I have your cellphone number. *And* your beeper number. They're all on that handy little card you gave me. I can even *email* you, darling. Really. No, I don't think he'll mind if you pray for him. I *promise*. Good-bye, Dave." Jim closed the connection firmly.

"Poor guy."

"Yeah. He's taken it too hard. I wish we could help him." He bit his lip and then looked around the kitchen. "Looks *wonderful*, sweetie. We should be going, or Simon will bite our heads *off*." Jim grabbed a pale pink silk shirt to wear over his tanktop, tucked his gun and holster in his jeans with some difficulty and gestured to Blair, who sighed at this display of energy and followed him out.

Simon shook his head at Jim's attire. "I should be used to it by now." He sighed. "I got all the dispatch records. I looked over about a fifth. Today, this is *all* you are going to be doing."

"Are the data already on the computer?" Blair tried to see the computer over the reams of paper towering over the monitor.

"The data...are...on those sheets you see piled on Jim's desk."

"Simon, you *have* to be joking!"

Simon let his expression do all the talking. Blair took one look and dragged Jim over to the desk.

"He is *so* butch." Jim stared after him as he disappeared into his office.

Blair chuckled. "Down, girl. You're taken and I'm *not* sharing."

"I *love* it when you get territorial." Jim batted his eyes.

Blair shook his head, sat down at the desk and picked up a sheaf of printout. "Let's get to work, James. We'll play...later."

"Spoilsport." He sniffed once before settling down to his own sheaf of paper.

The PD was still using a dot matrix printer, and they hadn't changed the ribbon in years. Blair looked up from the faint listings twenty minutes later and rubbed his eyes.

Jim was rifling through the listings with ease. "This one of the times I really wish I were a Sentinel, man."

"Found it!"

"James?"

"This is when Miss Melly said she'd called. And here is dispatch calling someone in the area. See? Acknowledgement to the address. And then nothing until over an hour later...a call about Miss Freddie."

Blair looked at the printout. It was yards long, and it had taken him twenty minutes to puzzle out five inches.

"Why couldn't they just give us the material for *that* day? Why did they print out a month's worth of stuff?"

"*Six* months, sweetie." Jim pointed to the beginning date on the material Simon had already examined.

"Sheesh. Okay. Now what?"

"Now we find out exactly who took this call. For that, we should use the computer."

Blair nodded, and logged them in. He hacked into the call sign data base and followed it to the car and then to the guy using it that night. Out popped Officer Christopher Milton, a uniformed officer assigned to the 21st precinct. Blair printed out a copy of his picture and his record. Milton was strictly middling as a cop - he had no commendations, but nothing negative, either. Nor were his arrests anything major - just an average cop doing an average job. Maybe, some day, he'd make desk sergeant and finish his career there.

They showed it to Simon, who frowned. "No one could be *this* average. Something is up, gentlemen, and I expect *you* to find it - but first confirm this guy with Melly."

Jim nodded. "Chief, why don't you call the hospital while I see if Miss Melly is available for an audience?"

"Good idea." Blair punched in the number and persuaded the switchboard to connect him with ICU, where he learned that Matt had been discharged to the psyche ward. And there it stopped.

"If you wish to see Mr. Green, you can come to the ward yourself, in groups of two or less. We do not give out information regarding our patients over the phone to non-family members." The nurse sounded apologetic but firm. Blair felt no need to cross *him*.

Blair walked over to Jim, who, judging from his voice and his gestures, was having a quite an animated conversation.

"Darling, did you *see*? It did absolutely *nothing* for her. Someone has *got* to show that girl how to *dress*...No, sweetie, someone *else*...Show *him*? Miss Melly, even if I *wanted* to...Why should I? He's *adorable* just the way...he's listening right now." Blair shook his head with a smile, and thought about all the clothes Jim had tried to buy for him in the past year, all of his arguments prefaced by, "But, Chief, you'd look *so* adorable in this." Dragging himself back to the present, he mimed looking at his watch. Jim nodded and told Melly they'd be there soon.

"You ready to go, James?"

Jim smirked. "You'll never know *how* ready I am...but we have to see Melly."

"I *can't* know how ready you are?" Blair pulled Jim closer and ran his hands under his silk shirt until he could feel the smooth expanse of back exposed by the tank top. Jim shivered at his touch. "I *always* know."

"Ahem." Blair turned his head. There was Rafe, a sardonic smile on his face, finishing up some paperwork. "Could you ladies be *ready* some place else?"

"Oops. Sorry, guy." Blair didn't feel too apologetic, but he did let go of Jim, carefully and discreetly brushing his nipples as he did, just to see Jim almost jump.

Rafe shook his head. "You guys are lucky you work with friends."

Blair nodded. "We know." He placed his hand on the small of Jim's back and left with him.

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

"Melly, this was delicious." Blair wiped his mouth and stared morosely at his empty soup bowl. Melly immediately refilled it.

"Absolutely, Miss Melly. Angel, we have *got* to try making this split pea with turkey."

Melly bit his lip. "It was Freddie's favorite, baby girl."

Jim caught his breath. "You haven't called me that since..." He sniffed.

So did Melly. "Since you joined the army. It...didn't seem to fit. I remember your first leave...you were *so* different, baby girl. Freddie cried that night."

Jim pushed away his bowl. "I'm so sorry, darling. If I'd have known..."

"No, no, it was right. You grew up - Freddie was *so* proud of you, and *so* worried about you *all* the time you were missing. Oh, those *terrible* months. She said a novena for you *every* morning. And then you came back and...you wouldn't *talk* about that time."

Blair watched Jim get up and take Melly's hand. He wanted to do the same, but he sensed this moment was for *them*.

"I couldn't." Blair watched as Jim's face closed down. He still didn't say much about those long months.

Mel saw it, too, and turned to Blair. "I'll never forget her *eyes.* We couldn't find our baby girl in them. They were...lost. I think she still saw the jungle."

Blair nodded. He'd seen the magazine covers and that beautiful, haunted face. "What happened?"

"You *never* told him?" Jim, his face still shut, shook his head.

"Oh, Jimmy. May I?"

"Yeah." His voice was hoarse, as if he'd forgotten how to use it.

Melly took Jim's hand and squeezed it. "Jimmy came back from Peru. We knew *right* away she was different. Before, she'd come home on leave or college break, and she'd take off her uniform and be *herself* again. But not this time. Darling, we were so worried about you."

Jim bit his lip.

Melly patted the hand he held. "We had to watch as she...she..."

"I slept with *anything* on two legs, Blair. Male, female, in between, in transit - *everything*. And *forget* condoms." Jim sounded like he was forcing the words out.

"Oh, my God. What the hell were you *thinking*?"

Go to Part Ten.