This story is based on an actual Supreme Court case, California vs. Hodari (1991). This is just a short story. I could have made it longer, but then I'd have to skip some schoolwork *grin* Rated PG-13. Minor references to Blind Man's Bluff, Cypher, and Sentinel Too. Beta'd by the wonderful, astute, witty, clever, marvelous, patient, awesome Hephaistos!

Truth and Technicality



Blair Sandburg only minored in psychology, but he didn't need a PhD in the subject to know that the man standing in front of him could not be reasoned with. He also knew that he was no match for the six-foot, two-hundred-and-fifty pound cop... and his buddy. So it was with an eerie calm that he viewed the two menacing figures. Well, perhaps "calm" wasn't exactly the right word, because his heart was pounding frantically, threatening to leap right out of his chest. The proper term would be "acceptance." He couldn't run, and he sure as hell didn't stand a chance fighting, and, unless God bestowed a miracle upon him, there'd be no rescue. He swallowed, backing up against the wall as the two men, their faces etched with anger, advanced on him. So he accepted the fact that he was going to get hurt, and the best he could hope for was that whatever ended up getting hurt would eventually heal.

"You really are a stupid fuck," the large, dark man spat, his eyes blazing.

"We're gonna give you something to think about, Sandburg," the shorter, fair-skinned man with the buzz cut added, his blue eyes glinting with anticipation. "See how goddamned sure of yourself you are when you're blubbering like a baby and calling for your mamma."

"It won't change anything, Simmons" Blair told the darker man, amazed at how steady his voice sounded. "All I did was tell the truth."

"Yeah, that's all you did. Now we're gonna dish out a bit of our own justice. You know what you've got coming, Sandburg," Simmons said. "You take it like a man and keep your mouth shut, that'll be the end of it. You don't, bad things will happen. You got that?"

"Look, man, I --"

The steel-toed boot slammed into his groin, sending bright, hot pain shooting through his body and dropping him to the ground like a sack of lead. Panic bloomed with the pain as he struggled to breathe and found he couldn't. His last thought before the beating began in earnest was a wish that he'd never insisted on tagging along with Jim that night...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Two months earlier...

"Okay, just let me grab my jacket," Blair said, as he closed his laptop.

Jim frowned, glancing at the stack of papers on the kitchen table next to the computer. "You sure, Chief? Aren't those midterms?"

The young man shrugged. "Yeah, but you may need me on this," he said, rising from the table and yanking his jacket off the rack. "So let's go."

Jim managed a small smile. "Okay, but you know you don't have to. Nothing's likely to go down tonight."

"Famous last words, Jim," Blair grimaced as he ducked into the hallway.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

An hour later, the two men found themselves heading back home. Jim glanced at his partner, seated quietly in the passenger seat, his eyelids drooping heavily.

"Sorry, Chief."

Blair yawned, waving a dismissive hand in the air. "No big deal, Jim. You didn't know he'd be a no-show. Besides, I only lost an hour."

"Yeah, but--" he cut his sentence short when he spotted a group of five young men huddled around a car.

The silence caught Blair's attention and he perked up visibly, following Jim's line of sight and squinting through the darkness. "What's up?"

Jim cocked his head. "Drug deal."

He pulled the truck up alongside the car and placed the police light on the dashboard, setting the flashers to pulse silently. With one hand on his gun, he cautiously slid out of the seat, glancing at Blair.

"Stay put. Keep your head down," he instructed the young man. "And call for backup."

Blair nodded, sliding lower in his seat and withdrawing his cell phone from his jacket pocket.

The kids seemed stunned, but their inaction lasted only a moment. Then they scattered just as Jim was about to announce, albeit unnecessarily, that he was a police officer. The Detective cursed and took off after a tall, dark-skinned boy. The kid looked to be no more than 19 years old, and he ran like the wind, taking the corner with agility born of adrenaline. Jim took a chance and ducked through the alley, emerging at the other side just as the kid rounded the corner.

"Hold it! Police!"

The kid's face flashed with surprise, and he tossed a small rock into the alley just as Jim tackled him. The Detective flipped the kid on his stomach and pulled his hands behind his back.

"Hey man, ease up!" the youngster protested.

"You have the right to remain silent," Jim informed him, snapping the cuffs into place. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law." He leaned over and retrieved the rock. It was encased in plastic, and he turned it over in his fingers as he inspected the object. "Well, well, cocaine." He shook his head, pocketing the small rock. "You have the right to an attorney," he continued. "If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided to you by the court. Do you understand these rights?"

"Fuck you!" the kid spat, his cheek pressed into the blacktop.

"You okay, Jim?"

Jim looked up, scowling when he saw Blair standing a few feet away. "Damnit, Chief, I told you to wait in the truck!"

Blair took a nervous step back. "You didn't say how long."

The look on Jim's face motivated Blair to make a hasty retreat back to the safety of the Ford truck.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Six weeks later...

"Are you asking me to lie?"

Banks shook his head. "No, Sandburg, I'm not asking you to lie. I'm saying that if you're not 100% sure, just say so."

Jim sighed, sinking lower into the chair in Simon's office. Officer Simmons sat next to him, his eyes hot with anger and tracking the anxious movements of the young anthropologist.

"I'll say it was dark, whatever, but I won't say I don't know or that I'm not really sure if he threw the stupid rock before or after Jim tackled him! If he asks, I have to tell the truth! I'll be under oath."

Banks took a slow deep breath and looked at Jim. "Will you talk some sense into him?"

Jim shifted in his chair to look at his angry partner. Blair was pacing a path into the carpet next to Simon's desk. "Look, Chief, all we're saying is that if you don't say that you aren't sure... If you tell them what you think you saw, Terry will probably get off. He's killed three people, Chief, and he'll likely kill more if he's put back on the streets. The D.A.'s never been able to pin anything on him before, and this is our chance to put him away -- at least for a little while. You don't have to lie, just take that 1% uncertainty you have and go with it."

"Obfuscate, Sandburg," Simmons growled. "I hear you're good at that. That bastard killed my partner less than a year ago! He got off once and you're gonna set him free again! If Ellison hadn't stumbled across that little deal, he'd probably still be out on the streets. You --"

"Enough!" Banks barked.

Blair threw his hands up in the air. "I've had it! I can't believe you're telling me to lie. First the D.A., then you--" he jabbed a finger at Simmons. "Then you, Simon! I can't believe this!" He turned his gaze to Jim, his voice lowering a notch. "And now you, man -- Mr. 'By the Book.'" He shook his head. "I'll go up there and say what I saw. No more. No less. I'm not lying under oath, man."

He whirled around and stormed out of the office before anybody could say another word.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Blair fidgeted in the chair of the witness stand, glancing nervously at Jim. He hated courtrooms. He hated testifying. He really hated lawyers. One stood a few feet away from him at the moment, poised like a cat about to pounce.

"Mr. Sandburg, what was Mr. Terry doing when Ellison stopped his truck?"

"He was standing around a red car with four other men."

"Did you see any weapons?"

"No."

"Did they appear to be engaged in any illegal activity?"

"No, but it was late at night in a bad part of town and --"

"Thank you, Mr. Sandburg, but just answer the question asked."

"Sorry," Blair muttered, glancing anxiously at the judge.

"Do you know why Detective Ellison pulled over and then ordered Mr. Terry to submit to his authority?"

"Uh," Blair looked at Jim, "Well, I think he was just suspicious." He swallowed. He certainly couldn't tell them that Jim had heard the kids' conversations.

"So he had a hunch?"

"Objection!" the prosecutor yelled. "He's--"

"Sustained," the judge said.

The defense attorney nodded respectfully at the judge. "So, Mr. Sandburg, after Ellison stopped the truck and chased my client, you disobeyed his orders and followed?"

Blair nodded. "Yes. It was late at night, he was chasing a suspect. I thought he might need help."

The attorney nodded. "Did you see Mr. Terry?"

"Yes, I did."

"Did Mr. Terry throw something away?"

"Yes, he tossed what appeared to be a small rock."

"Was this before or after Ellison tackled him."

"Uh... After. He tossed it just after Ellison tackled him"

"You're sure?"

"Um," he glanced again at Jim, then his eyes shifted to Banks and Simmons seated on either side of the Detective. "I'm almost positive, yes."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Detective Ellison, why did you pull over next to Mr. Terry and order him to stop?"

"I suspected a drug deal going down."

"Why?"

Jim hesitated only a moment. He was under oath, but he couldn't tell the man that he'd heard Terry and his friends talking about drugs. He'd already been down that road with Internal Affairs, and he had no desire to repeat the experience.

"I saw them huddled around a car, late at night, in a bad part of town. I just wanted to ask them what they were doing there."

"And when you stepped out of the truck, what happened?"

"The young men scattered. I took off in pursuit of Mr. Terry."

"Did you identify yourself as a police officer?"

Jim shook his head. "I was just about to when they ran, but I did have the police light flashing. I saw Terry round the corner, and I took a short cut through an alley. I yelled for him to stop and identified myself as a police officer just as I tackled him. He tossed something and practically ran into me."

"Did he toss this item before or after you made physical contact with him?"

"I'm not exactly sure. It was just about the same time."

"If you had to guess, Mr. Ellison?"

"I'd say he tossed it just before I collided with him, but I was too busy tackling him at the time. I don't remember if it was just before, during, or just after."

"I see. Thank you, Mr. Ellison."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mr. Terry. Did you hear Detective Ellison order you to stop?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Did you?"

"No."

"Why?"

"The police don't like blacks. I had a buddy get beat up by one of them a year ago." He shrugged. "I got scared."

"Did you have anything on you at the time?"

Terry nodded. "Yeah, one of my buddies slipped me a rock of cocaine when he saw the police lights. It wasn't mine, and I didn't even know he had it on him. I dropped it, though, right after the cop tackled me."

"Why didn't you toss it before he touched you?"

"Um... I was so scared I forgot I had it in my hand."

"So you still had it in your hand when Ellison tackled you?"

"Yes, I did. I remember because when he tackled me, it got knocked out of my hand."

"Thank you, Mr. Terry."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The defense attorney stood at the table, his eyes on the judge. "Your Honor, I move that the rock of cocaine be suppressed as evidence under the standard adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States under California vs. Hodari. Detective Ellison had no reasonable suspicion with which to stop my client. His tackling of Mr. Terry therefore constituted an unlawful seizure, and, since the rock of cocaine was not discarded until after that seizure, the cocaine was also the product of an unlawful seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and must therefore be excluded."

Blair looked at the judge, noting with something akin to academic interest that the woman looked quite upset. Make that pissed. He shifted in his seat, glancing anxiously at Jim in the chair next to him.

"Motion granted," the judge announced, slamming her gavel down. "I'm not happy about it, but the law is the law." She looked directly at Ellison. "Detective, in the future I suggest you keep the law in mind when making arrests."

Jim clenched his jaw, offering only a curt nod in response.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The ride back to the station was made in tense silence. Banks was behind the wheel, his back rigid. Jim sat in the passenger seat, his jaw clenched so tight that the muscles in his neck popped out like chords. Blair sat in the back seat, his seat belt securely fastened. No use tempting death anymore than he had to. He'd already tempted it enough by telling the truth in that courtroom. He was sure he'd just turned the entire police force against him.

He thought back over the events that had brought him to such a point. Jim had overheard a drug dealer and stopped to investigate. He hadn't known it at the time, but the kid he'd tackled had been Daniel Terry, a gang member who'd killed one of Cascade's own officers, Samuel Hammond, nearly a year before. Unfortunately, there hadn't been anywhere near enough evidence to sustain a trial, and Terry had gotten off free and clear. Cops, understandably, hated cop-killers. There was nothing that would inflame the rage of a police force more than watching a known cop-killer go free and being unable able to do a single, lawful thing to avenge the death of their own. Unfortunately, Blair now found himself in the middle of the war. His testimony proved the difference between Terry being held over for trial and being released due to lack of evidence.

Blair glanced nervously into the rearview mirror up ahead. Simon's dark gazed remain fixed on the road. The young man shifted his eyes to Jim, but the Sentinel sat like a statue, his jaw carved in stone. Suppressing a sigh, Blair settled for staring out the window.

After fifteen minutes of the thick silence, Blair was ready to jump out of the moving vehicle. "I'm sorry," he muttered. "I'm sorry he got off, but all I did was tell the truth. I don't see why it makes such a big difference if he tossed it a second before you tackled him or a second after."

When Jim spoke, his voice was low. "I told you, Sandburg. One's abandonment. The other's a seizure."

"Yeah, like that makes sense," Blair grumbled. "He tosses it just before you catch him, and it's like he just threw it away. He tosses it just after, and all of a sudden it's an unlawful seizure."

"Welcome to the real world, again, Sandburg," Simon growled. "A murderer and drug dealer is free now."

"Simon," Jim warned. "Let's just drop it, okay?"

The Sentinel glanced in the rearview mirror and Blair caught the look of anger in those blue eyes. The grad student sank lower in his seat. He was NOT looking forward to going home with Jim. Neither was he looking forward to stepping foot back in the station.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The elevator made its ascent to the seventh floor with agonizing slowness. While Blair was in no great hurry to arrive there, neither did he relish the tense silence that promised to fill the lift. He glanced discreetly at Jim and Simon, but both men kept their gazes fixed at indistinct points on the elevator door, doing a good job of pretending he wasn't even in the elevator.

The young man pursed his lips angrily and glanced up at the numbers above the door. Excuse me for telling the truth. He watched the numbers light up as the elevator moved upward. Four... Five... Six... He swallowed. Seven.

The elevator languished to a halt, and the doors opened. Simon and Jim stepped out, and Blair trudged behind. His gaze stretched ahead, through the glass of the bullpen, to see how many people he'd have to be dealing with. He spotted Brown at one desk, his legs propped on an open drawer as he chatted with Joel Taggart. Johnson, a large man with a buzz cut who towered a full three inches over Simon, stood next to the two men.

Blair's stomach churned. Johnson was Simmons' current partner, and neither man would likely be all that happy with him at the moment. Simmons had been at the courtroom, and was probably on his way back to the station himself. If Blair was lucky, he could get in and out before the man arrived. He had no desire to find himself in a confrontation with the officer.

The three men entered the bullpen, and all eyes turned to greet them. Joel's dark gaze fell to Blair, and the bomb expert offered a sympathetic smile. The anthropologist took a deep breath, forcing his own smile in reply, then looked to Brown.

"Hey, Hairboy. How are you?" Brown asked.

"Feel good about yourself, Sandburg?" Johnson snarled, taking a step toward the grad student.

Jim promptly stepped forward to block his path. "Back off, Johnson," the Sentinel warned.

The larger man seemed unintimidated as he stared down at Ellison. "Your hippie partner just freed a drug dealer. Why the hell do you let the fag tag along with you?"

"Enough!" Banks boomed, and the violence of the man's order caused Blair to flinch involuntarily.

"But--"

"Out, Johnson," Banks warned, gesturing to the hallway. "I don't want you here right now. You're not going to start anything with my men. Got that?"

Johnson clamped his mouth shut, but turned furious eyes onto Blair. He stormed passed the smaller man, and Blair had to slide quickly out of the way to avoid a collision with the angry officer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The present...

Jim signed the report and placed it in the out stack. He glanced at the clock, his lips pressed into a tight line. Damnit, Sandburg, where the hell are you? The kid had been due at the station over an hour ago. He rolled his chair back and reached for his desk phone, intent on dialing Blair's cell number again, but the phone rang just before he snatched up the receiver.

"Ellison. Cascade PD." He tapped his fingers impatiently on the desk

"Mr. James Ellison?"

"Yes."

"This is Nurse Jane Hephas at Cascade General. We've admitted a Mr. Blair Sandburg, and you're listed as his emergency contact."

Jim's fingers stopped their drumming, and he stiffened, almost dropping the receiver. His throat tightened, and, when he spoke, the words came out clipped and strangled. "What happened?"

"It appears that he's been beaten. He's in serious condition, and they've had to begin emergency surgery to repair one of his lungs. He's listed you as having power of consent, so we need you to come down and fill out some paperwork."

"On my way."

He hung up the phone and rose slowly from his chair, his eyes settling on the door to Simon's office. The blinds were drawn, so he couldn't see inside the room, but he knew Simon there. His legs felt like Jello, but he forced them to carry him to the office. He knocked twice on the glass.

"Come in."

The Sentinel pushed the door inward, but remained standing in the doorway, his back rigid. "Sir, Sandburg's been admitted to the hospital. I'm on my way there now."

Banks shot to his feet. "What happened?"

"He was beaten, Sir. He's in surgery with a torn lung. That's all I know."

"Let's go, Jim," Simon said, grabbing his jacket from the rack as he maneuvered around the desk.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Jim stormed up to the nurse's station. "Blair Sandburg! Where is he?"

Simon frowned, glancing at the Detective before turning his attention to the stunned nurse. "Sorry, ma'am," he said, withdrawing his badge and showing it to the young brunette. "I'm Captain Simon Banks. This is James Ellison. We're--"

She nodded. "Yes, I know. I recognize you." She typed a few keys on the keyboard, her eyes flickering over the screen. "Mr. Sandburg is still in surgery. I'll make sure someone comes out to speak with you as soon as possible. Please have a seat." She gestured to the rows of brown seats against the wall.

Banks nodded, forcing a smile. "Thank you, Ma'am." He grabbed Jim's elbow and steered the man over to a chair. "Sit, Jim."

Wordlessly, the Detective complied, sinking into the chair. They waited only an hour before the squeak of rubber against tile signaled the arrival of a doctor. A petite woman with brown curly hair and large blue eyes walked up, and both men rose to their feet.

"You're here for Mr. Sandburg?" she asked.

Jim nodded. "Yes. How is he?"

The woman smiled. "I'm Doctor Delman, his surgeon." She gestured to the chairs, and the two men sat back down. She took the seat next to Simon. "Mr. Sandburg has three broken ribs, one of which punctured his lung. We repaired the damage to his lung, and wrapped his ribs. He also has several torn muscles in his back and torso, not to mention a collection of cuts and bruises. He sustained a mild concussion and dislocated his right shoulder."

Jim closed his eyes, leaning back against the wall.

"Don't worry, gentlemen," the doctor continued. "It sounds bad, and, believe me, looks worse. Let me assure you, however, that Mr. Sandburg is out of the woods and should make a nice recovery. He's not going to be very mobile for a few weeks, though. With his broken ribs and torn muscles, he won't be able to move for days. He'll have to stay here until we can get him home, then he's to remain in bed for at least a week."

Jim opened his eyes, nodding quickly. "I understand. Can I see him now?"

"Yes, but only for a few minutes. He's pretty out of it, so he probably won't even know you're there."

"That's okay." I'll know.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

God, she's right, Jim realized. He looks like shit. He dropped into the chair, his chest tight. Blair lay motionless in the bed, a sheet draped over him and covering most of the injuries. His face, however, looked like it had been used as a soccer ball. A large bandage covered his temple, just above his left eye -- an eye that was swollen shut. His bottom lip looked two sizes too big, and a collection of cuts and bruises tarnished the rest of his face. A thick plastic breathing tube protruded from his mouth, and Jim listened to the steady, mechanical sound of air being pumped in and out of his friend's lungs. Anger flared in Jim's chest. He had no idea who was responsible for Blair's injuries, but he sure as hell intended to find out.

The Sentinel leaned forward, releasing a slow sigh as he rubbed his hands over his face. When he looked back at Blair, he was surprised to see one blue eye open and staring at him. Jim sprang out of his seat, placing his hands on the bedrail.

"Hey, Chief. Doc says you're gonna be okay, but you'll feel like shit for a while." He forced a smile. "You have a few broken ribs, but nothing that won't heal. One of them nicked your lung, so that's why the breathing tube's there. You --" He stopped when Blair grimaced, raising his good arm and slowly moving his hand around. It took Jim a second to realize Blair was requesting a pen. "You want to write something?"

Blair managed a single, slow nod. Jim reached into his pocket and withdrew a pen and pad, two things he almost always carried with him. He handed the pen to Blair and held the pad beneath the pen.

"Here you, go, buddy," he encouraged. "But make it fast. Don't want you wearing yourself out."

Blair's eyes drifted closed even as he moved the pen over the pad. He scribbled one word, almost illegible, but Jim was able to make out the name. For just a moment, white hot rage consumed the Sentinel, wiping out all conscious thought as his eyes focused on that single word. Simmons.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Speak of the Devil, and the Devil appears. Jim Ellison couldn't believe his eyes. He had barely returned to the waiting room when he spotted Officer Simmons and his partner saunter into the waiting room. Simon sat in one of the hard chairs, but he rose to greet the two officers.

"Son of a bitch," Jim muttered, and, before he realized it, he was flying down the hall toward the new arrivals.

Simon saw him coming, and apparently realized Jim's intent, because he shifted in front of the two men and faced the approaching Sentinel. The Captain missed the look of fear that crossed the two men's faces, but Jim did not.

"Ellison! Hold it!"

Jim slid to a halt, his eyes daggers as they pinned Simmons. "Captain, Sir," he began, automatically assuming a military stance, his voice rigid, "Sandburg informed me that Officer Simmons is responsible for the attack."

"What?!" Simmons stepped back, doing a good job of feigning surprise. "That's absurd! The little bastard's just --"

"Cut the crap, Simmons," Jim barked.

He knew Simmons had shown up to check on his handiwork and to find out if Sandburg had regained consciousness. He just couldn't believe the arrogance of the man. He's probably surprised, too. Probably threatened Sandburg and figured the kid would never rat him out.

"I didn't touch him," Simmons protested. "Johnson here will vouch for me. I've been with him all day."

Johnson nodded just as Banks turned to look at the two men. "Yes, Captain, Sir. It's true. He was with me all day."

Banks did not look impressed. "I'm sure." He looked back to Jim. "Sandburg positively identified Simmons?"

Jim nodded, his eyes hooded. "Yes, Sir. He couldn't talk, but he wrote Simmons' name down on a piece of paper." He reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew the folded sheet, handing it to the Captain.

"Did he in any way indicate that he was accusing Simmons," Banks asked, glancing at the scribbled name.

Jim struggled to maintain control, feeling the slow rage rise in his chest. "Sir, he's too out of it to do or say much of anything. Writing that name took all his energy. What the hell else do you think it means?"

Banks' face flashed with anger. "Watch it, Detective," he warned. He turned back to the two officers. "Okay, Simmons, Johnson. I want you both to return to the station. I'll be calling your Captain and recommending you two be placed on paid leave until Sandburg's coherent enough to make a formal statement. Understood?"

Simmons nodded, but he looked on the verge of taking a swing at someone. "Yes, Sir," he snapped. "We're leaving." He threw an angry glare at Jim as he and Johnson headed out.

Jim watched the two men walk through the front doors, then looked back at Simon. "I'm standing guard on Sandburg until those two are in custody, Sir."

Banks sighed, raising one hand to rub his temple. "I think that's a good idea, Jim, but I'll be assigning shifts between you, Brown, and Joel."

Jim shook his head. "Captain, I --"

"Don't argue, Ellison." Banks ordered, but his voice sounded flat, deflated. "Right now I just haven't got the energy." His expression softened, and he took a deep breath. "So how is the kid?"

"He looks pretty bad, Sir."

Simon nodded sadly. "This whole situation has gotten pretty bad."

Jim clenched his jaw. "We're the only ones to blame for that, Captain. You know Sandburg did the right thing. I may not like it. You may not like it. I sure as hell know that Simmons and Johnson don't like it, but the truth is that there's no one to blame for this situation but me. I'm the one who made the arrest. I'm the one who acted on these senses even though I knew I couldn't bring it up in court. It's my fault. All Sandburg did was tell the truth, and I think it's pretty damn unfair the way we've been treating him, Sir."

Simon nodded. "Yeah, I know. I don't blame the kid."

"With all due respect, Sir, you've been acting like you do. So have I. I was pissed, and I let it spill over onto him. I didn't take the time to tell him that it wasn't him I was mad at." His throat tightened, and he looked away quickly, struggling for control. "Some partner I turned out to be. I let him down, I didn't see the danger, and now he's paid the price -- again."

Simon placed a reassuring hand on the Detective's shoulder. "I think we're both to blame here, but don't go beating yourself up more than necessary, Jim. Yeah, we've both been pretty shitty to the kid lately. We've both been under a lot of stress with the trial, the D.A., and the Commissioner. I laid in a little hard on the kid. I wasn't telling him to lie, but I was encouraging him to be less than completely truthful. I'm damn proud, though, that he stuck to his guns and did what he thought was right. Sure, Terry got off. It doesn't make me happy, but I had no right to lay that on Blair. It wasn't his fault, and I knew it wasn't his fault. He was just the easiest scapegoat for some reason."

Jim nodded. "Let's wait until he's feeling a bit better to apologize, Sir." He managed a small smile. "I wouldn't want to send him into shock by having us both apologize to him at the same time."

Simon chuckled. "Good thinking." He grabbed Jim's elbow and steered the Detective back toward the hall. "Why don't both of us go check up on him, and I'll tell the staff you've been assigned as protection?"

Jim's smile grew a little wider. "Thank you, Sir."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Simon thought he'd prepared himself, but the moment he caught sight of the young man in the hospital bed his gut twisted and his stomach threatened to expel the remnants of the breakfast it had ingested hours ago. Dear Lord. He glanced anxiously at Jim, gaining a new appreciation for why Jim had gone after Simmons with such rage earlier. Hell, if he'd seen Sandburg before finding out about Simmons, he'd likely have gone after the guy himself.

His legs suddenly felt weak, but he forced them to carry him the few feet necessary to reach the chair next to the bed. He sank down in the seat, grabbing the bedrail with one hand.

"Poor kid," he muttered.

Jim looked down at the Captain, his eyes hooded. "What I'm really having a hard time with, here, Sir, is the fact that two of our own men did this to him."

Simon nodded, wincing inwardly at the vengeful strain in his friend's voice. "I know, Jim. They'll be dealt with. I promise."

"Suspension won't cut it, Sir."

Simon took a deep breath, quelling the frustration and anger that threatened to bubble to the surface. "Careful, Jim. I know how you feel right now, but don't start telling me how to do my job. I don't decide what ultimately happens to them. You know that."

Jim nodded once, sharply. "I know, Sir. Sorry, Sir."

The Captain sighed, deciding to let the matter drop. Ellison was putting on his military act, which meant he was trying to keep a rein on his emotions. Simon figured it was best just to leave the man alone for the time being.

He rose from the chair, his gaze lingering on the battered young man in the hospital bed. "I'll call Captain Pierson and let him know about Simmons and Johnson. You stay here and keep an eye on the kid. Okay?"

Another curt nod. "Yes, Sir."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The pain dragged him to awareness, filling his chest, radiating down his arm, and wrapping itself around his back and torso. His tongue felt like glue, and he tried to swallow, but something painfully hard filled his throat, preventing the motion.

He tried to move his right arm toward his throat, but found he couldn't, and even his minuscule attempt sent shards of pain into his shoulder. The combination of pain and immobility, along with the unnerving mass in his throat, caused him to panic, sending his heartrate skyrocketing. Through a fog of consciousness, he registered a frantic beeping sound, and, a moment later, a familiar voice.

"Sandburg?" A warm pressure touched his forehead. "Take it easy, Chief. You're in a hospital."

The Sentinel's voice brought coherency to his murky thoughts and eased the clutch of fear in his chest. Jim? With a monumental act of will, he lifted eyelids of lead. The blurred image of his friend swam into imperfect focus. A smile touched the Sentinel's lips, but worry shadowed his eyes.

"I don't know if you remember what happened," Jim continued, "but you were beaten up. Doc says you're going to be fine. I rang the buzzer, so someone should be here soon. Maybe we can get them to take that tube out of your throat, okay?"

Blair flinched inwardly at the sudden resurgence of memory Jim's explanation evoked. Johnson. Simmons. He didn't remember when, exactly, he'd lost consciousness, but he thought he remembered most of the attack. He certainly remembered the pain. He closed his eyes. At least it's over now. It's over, and I made it through, and Jim says I'm going to be okay. But I don't feel okay. And why can't I move? A dark sense of dread pressed down on him, and he tried an experimental twitch of his toes, but he wasn't sure if he succeeded in his attempt. He could barely feel his feet. The panic resurfaced, echoed by the heartmonitor, and he tried to bend one knee, but a sharp slice of pain shot up his back and robbed him of breath, bringing instant tears to his eyes. Nauseating dizziness washed over him, and, for a horrifying moment, he thought he would throw up the bile in his stomach; but, he fought back the surge of sickness, knowing that the tube in his throat would make the regurgitation hell.

The hand stroked his forehead. "Take it easy, Chief. Don't try to move."

Now you tell me, Blair groaned inwardly.

"Mr. Ellison?" a woman's voice inquired. "You buzzed?"

"Sandburg's awake. Can you get a doctor and take out this tube?"

"I'll call the Doctor immediately."

"Thank you."

Blair blinked, trying to get Jim's face to shift into focus. He needed the anchor the image would give him. While he definitely wanted the tube out, he was not looking forward to it coming out. He'd experienced that particular sensation one too many times already, and it had never been pleasant.

The doctor arrived much too soon for Blair's taste. He hated the feeling of helplessness that washed over him as the doctor checked him over. A small light pierced his left cornea, then his right, as the doctor conducted his quick examination.

"We'll be taking that tube out now, Mr. Sandburg," the Doctor droned, his voice flat. "Just relax."

Blair forced his eyes to focus on the Doctor. The man looked to be in his sixties, and had grey hair and a goatee. Dull green eyes hid behind thick glasses, and a prominent nose jutted out from his face. The physician grabbed his stethoscope and placed the cold metal on Blair's chest, avoiding the electrodes attached to the heartmonitor. Blair laid still as the man conducted his investigation. He couldn't have moved even if he'd wanted to, and it was that fact that gave rise to the feeling of helplessness that made him cringe inwardly. It was maddening to be a prisoner in one's own body, unable to raise even an arm in defense.

He couldn't ever remember feeling such unease before meeting Jim, but then, he'd never had so many serious hospital visits until he'd met up with the Detective... Alex. The Golden. Lash. He still shivered at the thought of being strapped in the dentist's chair, drugged, unable to move his arms or legs.

"Okay, sounds good. I'm going to take the tube out now. I want you to relax, and I'm just going to slide it out."

Relax. Right. Easy for you to say, Doc. Ever had one of these things shoved down YOUR throat?

The Doctor grabbed the tube, and Blair felt the hard plastic lurch upward in his throat. He gagged, the bile threatening to spill over into his mouth. A second later, the tube was out, and he was almost sure it had taken his esophagus with it.

"There, all done," The Doctor reassured him. "That wasn't so bad, was it?"

Blair closed his eyes and sank deeper into his pillow. Yeah, right. Just take your torture devices and leave me alone. He really was beginning to hate hospitals. Granted, he owed his life to them several times over, but he'd had his fill of white rooms, bedpans, orderlies, drugs, and needles.

"You okay, Chief?"

Blair cracked his eyelids open, gazing at the Sentinel through a blur of lashes. Why is it everyone insists on asking me questions when they know I can't answer them? He couldn't talk when the tube had been in his throat, and he sure as hell couldn't talk now. His throat felt raw, on fire. He really wanted some water, but he had no way to convey that request.

"Water?" Jim asked.

Blair blinked, almost managing a smile. Becoming psychic, big guy? He forced a shallow nod, but the motion required more effort than he expected, as if his head had grown three sizes too big.

"Coming right up."

"Just a couple of sips for now," the Doctor warned. "I'll have the nurse bring a glass of water and some ice chips." He turned on his heels and hurried out of the room.

Jim sank into the chair next to the bed. "Do you remember what happened, Chief?"

Blair responded with a tired nod. His eyelids hung low, heavy, and he fought against the firm tug of sleep.

"Simmons and Johnson did this to you?" Jim confirmed.

Blair forced another small nod, his eyelids falling another notch.

"They're on leave right now, pending your formal statement."

A petite nurse with short brown hair and dark, round eyes entered carrying two small cups. She smiled at Jim as she walked up to the bed. "Water and ice chips," she announced. The cup in her right hand spouted a small straw. She set the container of ice chips on the table and placed the straw in the other cup against Sandburg's lips. "Here you go. Easy sips."

Blair had no trouble following her orders. All he could manage was one very small sip, and even that attempt left him hurting and breathless. Although he had little trouble breathing through his nose, sucking in air through his mouth proved much more painful.

He closed his eyes, taking a moment to catch his breath.

"You okay, Chief?"

Uh-uh. He was most definitely not okay. He didn't have the chance to reply, however, because the thick fog of sleep enveloped him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Two days later...

Simon glanced at Jim as he pressed the stop button on the recorder. He dropped the small device in his jacket pocket. "That should do it, Sandburg," he said, his voice tight. His eyes softened as his gaze lingered on the battered young man. "I'm sorry this happened, Blair, and that it was two of our own men."

Blair stifled a yawn. He still had quite a lot of drugs in his system, but the pain persisted, albeit at a dull ache. His chest, back, and shoulder hurt the most, which pretty much meant that his whole body hurt.

"Well, I'll leave you to get some sleep," the big Captain said. "Don't you worry about Johnson and Simmons. They're going to be dealt with. Once you're feeling better, we'll need you to testify in front of IA, but that can wait. The D.A.'s considering criminal charges, as well."

Blair nodded somberly, shifting a bit in his bed to try to ease the pain in his back. His legs were elevated by a thick pillow, but it did very little to relieve the discomfort. "Great," he muttered. Truthfully, he wasn't feeling all that ecstatic about the situation.

"What's wrong, Chief?" Jim asked.

The young man shrugged his good shoulder. "This whole thing started with my testimony setting a criminal free, and it's gonna end with me putting two cops in jail. I'm sure that'll go over real well with the rest of the guys at the station."

"I didn't say they'd be going to jail. That's for the D.A. to decide, if he presses charges, then a judge and jury," Simon replied. "Besides, they did this to you, Sandburg. Remember? They dug their own graves. And as for the guys at the station, there's a line of them wanting to take pieces out of Johnson and Simmons."

Blair raised his eyebrows, managing a small smile. "Really? How long of a line?"

Simon chuckled. "Very long, kid. Huge." His smile faded and he glanced anxiously at Jim. "Um... There is one more thing."

"Yeah?" Blair prompted, his voice low and fogged with the effects of the medication.

"Well, I..." Simon shifted on his feet. "I owe you an apology, Sandburg. I had no right to come down on you like I did. You did the right thing. You told the truth. We had no right to ask you to perjure yourself." One side of his mouth turned upward. "And you stood up to me, the D.A., and everyone else. That takes guts." He glanced at Jim. "I must be losing my edge."

"Not at all, Sir," Jim replied. "Sandburg's just stubborn, that's all." His eyes twinkled, and he glanced at the young man. "That apology goes for me, too, Chief."

Blair stared at the two men, half-wondering if he was experiencing a drug-induced hallucination. "Thanks, Simon. That means a lot to me." He looked at Jim, not willing to let the Sentinel off quite that easily, even if Jim hadn't outright told him to lie. "So, what are you saying, Jim? Are you saying you agree with Simon's apology, or are you making one of your own."

Banks barely managed to stifle a chuckle.

The light in Jim's eyes faded, and he glared at the Captain before turning his gaze back to Blair. He took a deep breath, his shoulders sagging a fraction. "I'm sorry, Blair. You did the right thing. I messed up."

Blair nodded, struggling to suppress a smile. "It's okay, Jim. You too, Simon. Really. I've gotten used to it by now, anyway."

"What's that supposed to mean, Sandburg?" Simon growled.

"Come on, guys. I mean, do I need to start keeping a written list of all the times I've been right and you two have been wrong?"

"Oh really? It'd be a short list," Simon insisted.

"You think?. Let's see, there was the very first time I met you. I was right, Jim, you didn't want to listen to me, and Simon didn't want to let me work with you. Then there was Bobby, and several woman you fell way too hard for, Jim, and I tried to warn you, but you didn't listen... and you talk about me. Then there was the rape at the university that I wanted you to look into, but you didn't want to be bothered. Oh yeah, and then there was the --"

"Okay, Sandburg," Jim interrupted. "We get it. We're sorry. We'll listen to you more from now on. Happy?"

Blair grinned. "Can I get that in writing?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ten days later...

Blair stepped off the elevator, glancing at Jim as the two of them headed toward the bullpen. The Sentinel caught the look and sighed.

"Will you relax, Chief? I wonder about you. You've worked here for four years."

Blair swallowed and shrugged. "I know. But cops are tight. I'm not worried about Brown, Rafe, Joel, or any of our friends, but this is a big police station, you know. Johnson and Simmons had a lot of friends."

"Yeah, well, that was before they decided to use you as a punching bag. Cops don't exactly approve of other cops beating up on unarmed civilian partners of ex-covert ops, special forces officers."

Blair narrowed his gaze. "Tell me you didn't give any of your infamous 'speeches.' Please, Jim."

Jim cracked a smile as he pushed Blair gently through the doorway into the bullpen. "Not at all, Chief. That wouldn't be cool, right?"

"Right," Blair grumbled, just before being surrounded by a swarm of bodies.

"Hairboy!" Brown slapped him on the shoulder. "Welcome back."

"Easy, Henri," Joel admonished. "Don't tackle the kid."

Brown's face suddenly melted with worry. "Oh, sorry, Sandburg. I didn't hurt you did I?"

Blair chuckled. "No, H. I'm all healed. Thanks."

"All right, folks! Back to work," a deep voice boomed.

Blair looked past Joel to see Simon standing in his office doorway, grinning. "Welcome back, Sandburg."

Blair smiled, ducking his head. "Thanks, Captain."

~~~~~~~~~~ The End ~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, as Hephaistos said when she beta'd this, shameless plug time! *grin* (She's such a brat! LOL!)

All comments are welcome, good and bad. You may critique this story on Senfic or on the newsgroup. I'm also making a request that you may not expect. :-) Call it the price of admission. However, since you were told the price after consuming the "goods", it's more like a "donation" really. Don't worry, it's not money. It's your e-mail! But not to me! To the DISCOVERY Channel's "Animal Planet." They did a show called "Breed All About It" that focused on Bull Terriers, and they made some pretty bad comments about my favorite breed: The Pit Bull. Fitz is so upset, he can't eat his dogfood. Okay, he *does* eat his dogfood, but I swear he eats it more slowly than he used to! Well, um, okay he still scarfs it down, but I know he's just putting on a brave front for my sake :-)
 

The narrator basically distanced the Bull Terrier from the Pit Bull by saying that the Bull Terrier wasn't vicious like the Pit Bull. Puhlease! Anyway, if this is something you feel you can, in good conscience, protest, then please contact the DISCOVERY Channel and let them know that you don't appreciate such breed-discrimination. And if you want to drop me a line about the story, or to let me know that you contacted the Discovery Channel, I'd love to hear from you! Nawdc@yahoo.com

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