A Matter of Trust: Undercover Disaster

by Debbie Tripp

EMAIL: Debbie

This is written in response to Demeter's April Themefic in which her request was: I'd also like stories where, in a dangerous undercover situation, Jim has to be really mean to Blair in order not to blow his/their cover(s). How are they dealing with the aftermath? I'll leave it up to you to define 'mean'…

WARNING: There is a distinct breach of trust between Jim and Blair in this story.

Rating: PG-13

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Jim sat in his truck, watching as Blair walked from his car and into Hargrove Hall. The young man still had a distinct limp and Jim closed his eyes as he remembered the reasons why. It had been wrong to keep the information from Blair. As a result of Blair's blissful ignorance, he had gotten mixed up in the middle of the takedown Jim had hoped to keep Blair out of.

+++++

SIX MONTHS EARLIER

Simon Banks had decided that Jim Ellison was the man best suited to do the job. He told the Robbery detectives that. They whole-heartedly agreed with Simon. Simon looked out through the windows in his office and saw Jim sitting at his desk, with Blair Sandburg in the chair beside him.

Simon turned back to the Robbery detectives. "What about Ellison's partner?"

"What about him?" There was barely any tolerance in the voice.

"Sandburg has turned into a fairly decent detective himself since he's come on board."

"No Sandburg. He's not a detective. And he can't be told about the operation. It stays between us and Ellison."

"But Sandburg will want…"

"We don't care what Sandburg wants! Too many people know what's going on and the element of surprise is gone. Now, can you get Ellison in here so we can explain things?"

Simon didn't like it. Not one little bit. And he already knew what Jim's reaction was going to be. But he knew he had to go through with this. The Chief of police was the one who had approved the operation. Simon opened his door and called out to Jim.

"Ellison! I need you in my office! Right now!"

Simon noticed Blair got to his feet at the same time Jim did. "Not you, Sandburg. Just Ellison."

Simon could tell there was a short conversation between the two men before Jim came towards his office. Then Blair sat back down, this time in Jim's chair and took over the typing at the computer.

+++++

"Ellison! I need you in my office! Right now!"

Jim groaned and Blair chuckled. And both of them got to their feet, prepared to see what Captain Banks needed now.

"Not you, Sandburg. Just Ellison."

Jim and Blair exchanged looks. "What did you do this time, Jim?"

"I'm not sure. You've been typing up all the reports. I'll go see what he wants. I shouldn't be too long."

"Okay, Jim. I'll finish up the search on Dayton and make whatever notes are necessary."

Jim walked towards Simon's office, wondering what was going on now, especially when he saw the two detectives from Robbery inside the office. Jim walked into the office ahead of Simon and Simon closed the door behind him.

"Jim Ellison, this is detectives Ron Monroe and Pete Gordon. They're from Robbery."

"Yeah, I've seen them around." Jim took his eyes off the two detectives and looked at Simon. "What is going on here, Simon?"

+++++

Blair typed away at the computer for some time before he looked up and over at Simon's office. He had recognized the two detectives from Robbery. Blair wondered what was up now. It appeared as if Jim was going to be in the captain's office for some time. Blair decided to type up his notes into something that was halfway coherent.

+++++

"You want me to WHAT?" Jim wasn't happy with the request from Robbery. Sure, he had done his share of undercover work before, when he was in Vice, but always with someone he could trust as a backup and a failsafe. Never had he gone into a situation where he was basically on his own and so out in the open. Not to mention that nothing had been said about Sandburg.

"You heard us, Ellison. We want you to go undercover as an arms dealer from out of town and get the trust of whoever is behind this rash of robberies and killings."

"Why not your department?"

"Because everyone in our department would be fingered as soon as they showed up. With a slight disguise, you'll be able to come in and establish yourself. We need someone we can count on, Ellison. And the Chief has given the go-ahead for this."

"And what do I tell my partner?"

"You don't tell your partner anything! There's only room for you. Two people would attract too much attention."

"Look! I don't do anything without my partner! I at least have to tell him…"

"No! Just you, your captain and us will know what's going on. We don't care what you tell Sandburg, as long as it's not the truth. Make something up, Ellison. You're bright."

Jim looked over at Simon with a confused expression on his face. "I can't do this to Blair. He deserves an explanation."

"The Chief approved this, Jim. And we can't let everyone know about it. And that includes Blair."

"What am I going to tell him?"

Simon just shook his head. "I don't know, Jim. You'll come up with something."

"When does this 'undercover' assignment begin?"

"We'd like to get you set up and established by the weekend."

Jim closed his eyes and shook his head. He and Blair had made plans for the weekend. They were going to get out of the city so Blair could run some additional tests on Jim's senses. Jim was really going to have to come up with a story now.

He opened his eyes and looked at the two detectives, then over at Simon. "Okay. I'll need the rest of the week off, sir. In order to help establish my cover story."

"Sure, Jim. And I know Monroe and Gordon need to lay some groundwork also."

"Fine. I best start on my act for my partner."

Gordon spoke up. "We'll need to talk to you about the specifics in the case."

"Sure. I'll be in tomorrow. I'll meet you in Robbery."

"Good to have you on board, Ellison."

Jim looked from Monroe to Gordon. "Yeah." Jim was anything but pleased about the prospect. He turned and left Simon's office. He looked over at Blair, sitting in his chair, typing away like he didn't have a care in the world. Jim wondered if he'd be able to do this to his best friend.

+++++

Blair hadn't heard the door to Captain Banks' office open. But he could definitely hear Jim's rumbling as he got closer to the desk. Blair looked up at Jim as he approached. He could tell Jim was not a happy camper. Blair went back to his typing, but covertly kept an eye on Jim. He noticed Jim grab his coat and put it on. Blair couldn't let the moment pass.

"Um…Jim? You going somewhere?"

"I've got to go home and pack."

As if that explained it all. "Pack? Do I need to go with you?"

"Nope. Just me. Look, Sandburg. I'll explain later. Okay?"

"Sure, Jim. Do you want me to do the interviews on the contacts I came up with?"

"Go ahead. Just take someone else with you."

"Sure, Jim." Blair noticed during the entire conversation that Jim didn't even make eye contact with him. Something was definitely up. Something Jim couldn't talk about at this time. Blair only nodded his head and looked back at the computer.

Jim walked out of the bullpen, not giving Sandburg any more of an explanation. Just from the short explanation, he knew Blair wasn't happy. Well, he wasn't happy either so the feeling was mutual. He had to give Blair the cold shoulder. It was the only way this all was going to work. After it was done and the case was concluded, he'd be able to make it up to Blair.

+++++

Jim stood in the middle of his bedroom and looked around. He had packed most of what he wanted. He had made the decision to leave before Blair made it home. He knew if Blair was following up on leads from the Dayton case, he would be late in getting home. Blair stayed on a case until all the leads were exhausted and an answer was found. He was much like Jim in that regard.

Jim marveled at the enigma that was Blair Sandburg. He wasn't a cop, and yet he did more than most cops working full time. Blair had been hired as a consultant with the Cascade PD, but still kept his ties to Rainier as a professor. As Blair had explained it to Jim, he couldn't just do one job after all these years. He was meant to do numerous things. Blair put his all into whatever job or activity he pursued.

Jim wanted to do nothing else but defy Monroe and Gordon, and Simon, and fill Blair in on what he was going to do and to possibly even bring Blair along as his backup. But he knew he wouldn't do that, mainly because he didn't want Blair involved in the situation. He had heard about the robberies and killings, even though Robbery was handling the case. It involved big time gun runners and it appeared, at least from the outside, that someone was eliminating the competition. Definitely not something Blair needed to be involved in.

But Jim still hated to have to lie to the young man. The two of them had reached a level of trust and honesty between them that had taken a long time to establish. It wasn't easy for either of them. But it was there. Now, Jim was about to erode all of that trust with one fell swoop.

Jim carried his bags downstairs to the living room. He went over to the kitchen and grabbed the notepad by the phone and sat down at the table. He knew what he wanted to write -- the hard part was the actual writing.

+++++

Blair had a long list of potential contacts and interviews he wanted to go through. Even though Jim's sudden 'trip' was still a mystery to him, Blair knew he had to continue on with the Dayton case. He had helped Jim from the beginning on the case and since it appeared as if he was going to be the only involved in it for a while, he didn't want to shirk his duty. Even though he wasn't technically a badge-carrying cop, he was still associated with the Cascade PD, so whatever he did in his capacity as a consultant, reflected upon the department. He didn't want to let Jim, or Simon, or anyone else, down. He'd do the job, even if it was as a solo performer.

Blair couldn't find anyone to help with the interviews, so he told Captain Banks he was going out on his own. Simon said it was fine, so Blair left the PD. It was going to take some time, as the list was long. He thought about calling Jim and letting him know he might be late, but decided against it. He could take care of himself and didn't need Jim yelling at him for doing the interviews alone.

Everything went smoothly with the interviews. That made Blair happy. Of course now he had more information that he'd have to input as far as the case was concerned. And he really needed to know just how long Jim was going to be gone. Just from the information he had received, Blair could tell the case was moving forward and there were several people that needed to be looked at more thoroughly as suspects in Dayton's killing.

Blair returned to the PD to finish the job he had started. He wasn't one to let things hang. He decided to call Jim from the station to let him know he'd be late.

+++++

Jim finished the note, placing it on the kitchen table, propped up between the salt and pepper shakers. He had put Blair's name on the outside. And he had fabricated a lie that even Blair would be proud of. Jim was just disgusted that he had to do such a thing to his best friend. But as soon as he left the loft, he would cease to be Jim Ellison. He'd be whatever cover name Monroe and Gordon came up with, and with a reputation as an arms dealer. He'd stay the night in a local low-rent hotel and then meet with Monroe and Gordon tomorrow to get the specifics.

Jim picked up his suitcases and looked around the loft one last time. Then he left, hoping that when this was all over, he still had Blair as a friend and a partner.

+++++

Blair was surprised when the answering machine picked up at the loft. But he went ahead and left a message.

"Hey, Jim. I'm going to be a while longer here. Tell you what. I'll bring home Wonder Burger when I come home. How's that sound? See ya soon."

Blair hung up the phone. And got back to work on the interview notes. There was even more he'd have to follow up on, but he'd have to leave that until tomorrow afternoon, after his classes at Rainier. He'd make sure to tell Jim about the follow-ups, in case he had time to do them before he left. Blair realized he didn't even know anything about where Jim was going, when he was going or how long he was going to be gone. Or anything about the nature of why he was going. Blair hoped Jim had answers for him when he got home.

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Blair got to the door of #307, surprised when it didn't automatically open from inside. Blair unlocked the door, even more shocked that it was dark inside the loft. He flipped on the lamp on the small table by the door, giving the room a small measure of illumination. He closed the door behind him once he was inside. He went towards the kitchen, turning on more lights, bathing the area with light so he could see. As Blair was walking towards the living room to turn on more lights, he spotted the note between the shakers. He picked it up; knowing instinctively it was from Jim and it probably wasn't good news.

'Blair,

Sorry about not sticking around until you got home. I got a phone call and needed to leave immediately. Don't worry about me; I'll be fine. It's a family matter and I need to leave Cascade for a while. I'm not sure how long I'll be gone. I'll try to contact you to let you know an update, but don't expect it. Hopefully, I can explain things when I get back. Run over whatever you have on the Dayton case with Simon. He may pass it on to Rafe and Brown. It's okay with me. I know you did a lot of the work on that one; maybe they'll let you help to finish it up.

Again, I'm sorry I'm leaving you high and dry here, Chief. But it wasn't my choice. I had to make a decision right away. I'll see you soon.

Jim'

Blair couldn't believe the note. Jim was running out without an explanation. Family matter? How lame of an excuse was that? Blair didn't buy it for one minute. But there was no way to contact Jim to get the full story. Blair knew Jim wouldn't contact him at all. And Blair wasn't so sure he wanted an explanation when Jim got back. Would Jim even tell him the truth? Blair was doubtful.

Blair sat down at the kitchen table and started eating the Wonder Burgers he had bought. He needed a little comfort food right about now. And he didn't care what it was. He'd talk to Simon when he got to the station tomorrow. Obviously, Simon knew what was going on. Maybe he would give Blair a straight answer.

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Jim sat in the dark room, not even bothering to turn on the lights. He didn't need them anyway. He just dialed up his sight and was able to see everything clearly. He knew it was late and that Blair had probably seen the note he'd left behind. Jim hoped Blair didn't question things. Although, given the younger man's curiosity, odds were that he didn't buy a word of what Jim had written in the note. And he would go to Simon.

Jim knew this was going to go badly. Maybe not the undercover assignment, but his friendship with Blair. Jim still had regrets about agreeing to participate in such a thing and leaving Blair totally in the dark about what was really going on. Blair wasn't stupid and he'd realize something was going on other than a family matter. It had been the wrong explanation to write down. And Blair was going to see through it.

Jim wondered what Simon would tell Blair. He was as adamant as Monroe and Gordon that Blair not be told the true nature of things. And what about the reason Monroe and Gordon were in Simon's office and Jim was called in? Yeah, Blair was going to have a lot of questions and Jim didn't envy Simon's position in trying to explain and give an answer to Sandburg.

+++++

In the morning, Blair had thoughts of foregoing the university and going to the PD right away and demanding an answer from Simon. But Blair knew he couldn't abandon his students. At least teaching anthropology would distract him for the morning and keep his mind occupied.

Blair checked the phone, in case there had been a message from Jim, saying where he was and what he was doing. But the only message there was the one Blair had left the night before. Blair cleared the message and then toasted a bagel for breakfast. As he stood at the kitchen island, eating the bagel and drinking coffee, he planned out his day. He would do as Jim had suggested and run the Dayton case past Simon, but also he would tell Simon he wanted to keep up the investigation of the possible suspects. He was sure Simon would let him do that, maybe as long as he kept in touch and told someone if he got in over his head. He would agree to those terms. At the same time, he would ask Simon about what had happened in his office yesterday; who the other officers were and where Jim had gone. He'd see if Jim and Simon had gotten their stories straight before Jim had taken off.

Blair shook his head. He couldn't believe he was thinking such things. There had been such trust between him and Jim for some time now. Blair thought they were past keeping things from each other. Maybe Jim was telling him the truth. Maybe there was a family matter and Jim didn't feel comfortable talking to Blair about it. Who was Blair to judge such things? Blair was getting himself worked up over this whole incident. And if it turned out to be nothing, then Blair knew how he would look because of his reaction.

Blair finally decided not to think about it again. He had to get to the university and his classes. He didn't have time to debate whether or not Jim Ellison was giving him a snow job. He'd find that out soon enough when Jim decided to come back.

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Jim had put on the disguise to go to the PD. And apparently it worked. No one noticed when he walked in and the officer at the front desk stopped him.

"Can I help you, sir?"

"Yeah," started Jim, in a gravelly voice. "I need to see someone about a robbery. You do have a robbery division, right?"

"Yes, we do, sir. You'll need a visitor's pass. Just a minute." The officer handed Jim the tag. "You need to wear that as long as you are in the building and you need to turn it in when you leave. Robbery is on the fifth floor. Someone up there will be able to help you."

"Thank you." Jim clipped the visitor's pass on the lapel of his jacket and smiled as he made his way to the elevators. He knew the officer at the front desk -- Mike Adams. But he hadn't been recognized. He'd see what Monroe and Gordon thought of this disguise.

He rode in the elevator with several other officers he knew, but none of them recognized him. He'd have to mention this to them after this case was over. It would be good for a lot of laughs. He knew he'd never get this disguise past Blair, though. Blair was too observant to be fooled by a wig and some minor cosmetic changes.

At the thought of Blair, he felt another pang of regret that he was even doing this. That he had even agreed to this. The deeper it got, the more Jim realized it was going to take more to get Blair to understand, if he ever would.

Jim walked into the Robbery division and saw Monroe and Gordon sitting at their desks on the other side of the room. "Detectives Monroe and Gordon?" Jim saw both men look up at the mention of their names. They got to their feet and walked over to Jim. Neither one indicated that they recognized him.

"Can we help you, sir?" Gordon spoke.

"It's Jim Ellison," said Jim, barely above a whisper.

Jim was satisfied with the shocked look on both men's faces as he was escorted to an interrogation room. It gave them the privacy they needed.

"Good disguise, Ellison. You going to go with that undercover?"

"I was thinking about it. It fooled everyone here at the PD. Even the officer at the front desk, who I've known since I started on the force."

"Here's the file we have so far, including the major players and the ones we think are eliminating the outsiders. We've arranged to get a sample of weapons and a cache of money for you to show around."

"Any background information for me to go with?"

"We have some in the file, read through it and get to know it backwards and forwards. We have you coming in from Canada, Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories. You're looking to expand your region and figured the United States was a good place to start. We'll leave the details up to you."

"Sounds good. And after I establish myself, how long until the takedown?"

"We'll see how it goes. We'll be your contacts, but don't make it obvious."

"Look! I've done undercover assignments before! I don't need to be told the ground rules!"

"Chill, Ellison! We just want to make sure you understand things. I guess I won't mention anything about your partner then."

"What about my partner?"

"No contact with him either."

"I understand things perfectly, guys."

"We'll need you to come into town by plane. Can you arrange to do that?"

"Sure. No problem."

Gordon handed Jim a piece of paper. "That's my cell phone. In case you need something before you get back to Cascade. And," he handed Jim a small bag, "this is a fake passport, all the documents you need and some spending money."

"Where are the weapons and the cache of money?"

"We'll get those to you once you get back to Cascade. We're thinking Monday."

"Sounds good to me. I'll contact you when I get back to Cascade?"

"Yes, that's the plan. If you want to wait, we'll take your picture and put it on your documents."

"Ah-- a full service department, I see. You guys are as good as the Feds."

"If we were as good as the Feds, we'd have the evidence already to shut down these guys. This is our last shot at it before the Feds are called in. And we don't want them coming in and taking all the glory."

"Believe me; I understand when you say that. I've had that happen on a few of my cases over the years. It's not a pleasant process to go through. I'll do all I can to help you get these guys. I take it the brains behind the operation haven't shown up yet?"

"Yeah, that's it. We hope with you and this operation, we'll get him out in the open."

"I'll do my best."

Jim was with Gordon and Monroe for about an hour more before he left. He thought about going up to Major Crime and talking to Simon, but didn't want to risk anyone up there figuring out who he was. He decided instead to call Simon and talk to him.

Jim got in his truck and drove away from the PD. He called Simon on his cell phone.

"Banks."

"Simon? It's Jim. I just finished up meeting with Gordon and Monroe. The operation is going into full motion on Monday. I suspect Sandburg is going to be bugging you about what went on in your office yesterday."

"I'm sure he will, Jim. What do you want me to tell him?"

"I told him it was a family matter. You can tell him that I requested personal time off, but didn't tell you why. You could even say I got a phone call while in your office. He was working on the computer and not monitoring me."

"What about Gordon and Monroe?"

"We could have been going over an old case, some new aspect or something. You're the captain, you think of something!"

"You know if Sandburg finds out about this before you have a chance to explain it to him, there's going to be hell to pay."

"Believe me; Blair's not going to like it when I do explain it to him. We're supposed to trust each other."

"He'll understand that you couldn't tell him, though, won't he?"

"I can only hope so. Well, I have to catch a flight to Canada."

"Good luck, Jim. I hope those guys in Robbery know what they are doing."

"I do too, Simon."

+++++

Blair finished talking to the students who wanted to ask questions after the class. He wasn't scheduled to be at the PD until 1:00 and it was only 12:30 now. He had just enough time to whip through a drive-thru somewhere and get something to eat. After indulging in Wonder Burgers last night, that was the last place he wanted to go today.

He got back to his office and walked inside. He just had to grab a few things and then he could go to the PD. But he noticed the message light was blinking on his phone. Maybe Jim… But Blair didn't get his hopes up. He picked up the phone and pressed down the message button. There was just silence there. If he had Jim's enhanced hearing, maybe he could hear breathing or something else. But to normal hearing, there wasn't anything there. He cleared the non-message and hung up the phone. He got what he needed and then left the university.

He pulled into the underground parking garage beneath the station. Before he got out of his car, he clipped his consultant's badge onto the lapel of his coat. As he left his car, he pulled his backpack with him. He went up to the sixth floor and Major Crime. Brown and Rafe greeted him when he walked in. He walked over to his desk, depositing his backpack on the floor beside the chair. He looked towards Simon's office, pleased to see the Captain inside. He grabbed his notes from the Dayton case and walked towards the office, stopping at Rhonda's desk first.

"Can the captain see me for a few minutes?" Blair gave Rhonda his best smile.

"He should be free, Blair. Go on in."

"Thanks." Blair knocked on the door and heard Simon say 'enter'. Blair walked into the office and saw Simon looking over several reports. He looked up at Blair.

"If you're busy, I can come back later."

"No. No, Sandburg. Have a seat? What can I do for you?"

"Well, Jim told me to run the Dayton case by you and what I've done."

"You talked to Jim?"

"No, he was gone by the time I got home last night. But that was only because I spent so much time doing the interviews in this case. The case Jim left in my lap."

"Blair, it couldn't be helped. Jim got a phone call yesterday while he was in my office. And then, all of a sudden, he's asking for personal time off and vacation, saying it was urgent that he leave town."

Blair digested what Simon had said. It was indeed plausible. Jim had been in Simon's office for an undetermined amount of time. Blair had to admit he hadn't been paying attention, as he was working on the Dayton case.

"Okay. He didn't tell me all of that. He just told me that he had to pack. He left me a note, telling me it was a family matter. No further explanation at all. But I guess that's Jim. It's still a chore sometimes to get things out of him."

"What do you have on the Dayton murder case, Sandburg?"

"Oh, sorry about that, Simon. I got side-tracked. I ran through it all yesterday and got a list of people to interview and did that."

"You did the interviews on your own?"

"Yeah, I was going to get help with them, but everyone else was busy at the time. It was no big deal. After I finished the interviews, I came back and typed up my notes. Basically, there are three or four people I'd like to investigate further. If you'd let me, sir."

Simon looked at Blair and then indicated for him to hand over the file. Blair leaned forward and put the file in Simon's hand. Simon opened up the file and looked over the work that Blair had done on the case. It was impressive. Blair was as good as any of his detectives. Of course, Simon had known this for years, almost from the first time Blair had arrived at the Cascade PD. He had proven himself over the years. Simon closed the file and put it down on his desk.

"This is good work, Sandburg. I suppose you want to continue this on your own?"

"I can do it, sir. I know I'm not a police officer, but I've had all the training. And if things got to be a little hairy, I would definitely call in for back-up." Blair was hoping he was making his case for keeping the investigation.

Simon thought about it. It would keep Sandburg busy while Ellison was doing his undercover stint. And an occupied Blair Sandburg was better than one asking questions about his partner.

"Okay, Sandburg. You can continue the investigation. But I want you keep me up-to-date with everything you do. And if there is even the slightest hint of trouble, you call in. We'll get you back-up, no matter when it is."

"Thank you, Captain. And I promise no heroics. Can I ask another question?"

"What is it, Sandburg?"

"Who were those two men in your office when Jim was there?" Blair knew who they were, but he wanted to see what Simon would say about it.

"Detectives Gordon and Monroe, with Robbery. They wanted to ask Jim about a past case."

"Oh. A past case. Okay. I thought maybe something had come up."

"No, nothing has come up, Sandburg. I would suggest you get busy on this case. I'm sure Jim will expect you to keep busy while he's gone."

Blair got to his feet and picked up the file again. "Will do, Captain. And I will keep you updated."

Blair left Simon's office, going back to his own desk. He knew Simon was hiding something, but knew it was because of Jim. Something was going on, and Blair only hoped Jim had the good sense to let him know what it was.

Simon knew he hadn't fooled the younger man. Blair Sandburg was a keen observer and he knew when people were giving him a snow job. Why he hadn't called him on it, Simon didn't know. He'd have to make sure Blair kept busy with his current case and anything else Simon could come up with for the young man to do.

+++++

Jim looked over the credentials Gordon and Monroe had made up for him. His name was George Peterson. As he sat in his room reading over everything, he wanted to do nothing else other than to pick up the phone and call Blair, explaining the whole situation to him. Gordon and Monroe be damned. But Jim knew he wouldn't do that. He couldn't do that. He only hoped his friendship with Blair would survive the deception and the lies.

His flight back to Cascade was to leave the airport in a couple of hours. He got to his feet, making sure he had everything packed and ready to go. He went into the bathroom to look in the mirror once more. The disguise would even fool Blair. Jim shook his head and turned away. He had to get to the airport.

When he arrived in Cascade, he would contact Gordon. And find out where the weapons and the money were. Of course, he also had to establish himself as a major dealer, make some sales and some buys and find out the players involved. He was hoping to get the job done, find out the head of the operation and bring the whole thing to an acceptable conclusion.

Jim went to the airport and was soon on the plane heading to Cascade. He relaxed as best as he could. But every time he closed his eyes, he saw Blair there. He finally opened his eyes and concentrated on his dials, making sure they didn't fluctuate out of control. This was all so much easier with Blair by his side, instead of solo. But there was no way he was going to bring Blair into this whole complicated situation, when he didn't even understand it himself.

When the plane landed in Cascade, Jim was one of the last off the plane. He went to the rental car outlet and got himself a non-descript car that would fit in throughout the city. He went to a low class motel on the outskirts of town, got himself a room and called Detective Gordon at the PD.

"Yeah, this is Peterson. I'm in town. Ready to start my move."

"Meet us at the diner on Madison and 5th in an hour."

"I'll be there." Jim hung up the phone and really wondered how this was going to work.

+++++

Blair had four people he wanted to investigate further into the murder of Richard Dayton. They were, in no particular order: Anthony Rounder, Lonnie Michaels, Oscar Finch, and Vinny O'Neill. In fact, Blair had found evidence to suggest that all four of them might be involved in dealings together. It just was a matter of doing good investigative work, something Blair was sure he could do even without his partner. After all, over the years, Blair had learned a lot from Jim.

He was confident he could do this without Jim. Let Jim go off to wherever he went off to and Blair would survive just fine, thank you very much! If it was indeed a personal, family matter, Blair could have checked that out with Jim's dad or brother. The truth was, though, Blair just wanted to solve the murder of Richard Dayton.

Blair got on the computer and typed in the four names, whistling softly when he came up with the fact that Finch and O'Neill had both done stints in the state prison during the same period about six years ago. Definitely a link that needed to be explored further. Blair looked around the bullpen, noting no one was available to go with him to check out his list. Oh well.

Blair got to his feet and mentioned to Rhonda that he was going out to track down some leads and that he would keep in touch. He left the bullpen, knowing he'd be gone most of the morning. He had gotten quite a bit of information about Rounder and Michaels and wanted to see if he could connect them with Finch and O'Neill and see if they all linked with Dayton somehow.

+++++

Jim watched as Gordon and Monroe came into the diner and sat down at the same table as him. Jim was still a little uneasy that his health and well-being were being placed in their hands, but he had agreed to do this. Under duress, yes, but he still had agreed to it.

Pete Gordon slid the envelope over to Jim's side of the table. "There's the key to a locker at the bus terminal. The number's on the key. Inside the locker is the money you'll need to flash around to show you mean business. The other key is to a storage facility two blocks from the terminal where the guns and ammunition are located. There's also a cell phone there that you can use to keep in touch and can be used to record transactions you make and any meetings that you feel are relevant. As you know, we can't very well send you in wired because they'll suspect something like that. This way you may be able to get something. When you feel you have something significant, you can contact us and we'll be there as your backup."

"Sounds good. How long do you think it will take?"

"If you make a big enough splash, I would say it shouldn't take long to get the head honcho interested in you."

"I'll be in touch, guys." Jim finished his coffee and got up from the table and left the diner.

He got in his rental car and drove around the city. He ended up parked down the street from the loft. He looked at his watch. It was almost 5:30 PM. Blair would be coming home soon. Jim knew it was dangerous to be here and risk Blair seeing him. Not that Blair would recognize him. At least Jim didn't think Blair would recognize him. On the other hand, this was Blair. Blair, who would know his partner, no matter what disguise he was using.

Jim was brought from his thoughts by the familiar sound of Blair's car coming down the street. Jim focused his eyesight on the car and on the man driving. Blair looked tired and had a grim expression on his face. Usually when Blair looked this grim, that meant he was trying to solve a problem. Jim wondered what problem Blair was trying to solve -- the murder of Richard Dayton or the sudden disappearance of his partner. Jim watched as Blair pulled into the lot beside the apartment building. There wasn't anything else to see. Jim left the area, returning to his motel.

+++++

Over the next several days, Jim was able to get the names of low-level gun dealers and made four buys and three sales. It brought him the attention of other dealers higher up on the food chain. Jim was pleased with himself.

He was sitting in his motel room, plotting out his next move, when his cell phone rang. He answered it.

"Peterson." He wondered who it was.

"Any progress?" The voice was abrupt and gruff.

Jim recognized the voice of Ron Monroe. "I'm making some progress. I'm waiting to hear from one of the guys I've already done business with -- a Vinny O'Neill. He's supposed to call me about meeting some of the other dealers. I'm gaining their trust."

"Good. Can you meet us at the diner?"

"Sure. Give me a couple of hours. I'll be there." Jim closed the cell phone.

+++++

Blair looked over the information he had accumulated. It would have been a lot easier to do all of this if he had Jim with him. It had been five days and there had been no word from Jim. Not that Jim had to check in with Blair on every move he made. But on this action, it would have been a nice reassurance to hear something from Jim.

Vinny O'Neill was definitely an interesting person to look at further. He had no plausible alibi for the day Richard Dayton was murdered. Of course, neither did Anthony Rounder. And it seemed the two men knew each other. They were both members of the Cascade Gun Club. A place Blair was trying to arrange to get into. It would have been a lot easier to have Jim help him get entry. Blair knew there were other ways to get in, ways that didn't include going through the front door. He would stakeout the club and wait for either O'Neill or Rounder to show up. Blair was sure the gun club was involved in some way also. Dayton had also been a member. Blair had double-checked the effects they found on Richard Dayton's body and the membership card for the gun club was amongst the other things.

Of course, with all this information, Blair's mind was racing with the possibilities and the reasons for Richard Dayton's murder. His thoughts kept coming back to the gun club and the illegal weapons that always seemed to be coming in and going out of Cascade. Blair was able to do some checking and found there had been several robberies over the past six months of guns and ammunition throughout the area.

Blair went to update Simon on his activities and his proposed stakeout of the gun club. He didn't want the captain to accuse him of not keeping his word and keeping him updated.

"Captain, I'm going to do surveillance on a man named Vinny O'Neill. I have a strong feeling that he's involved in Dayton's murder somehow. I just want to track him for a while and see where he goes and who he sees. I don't anticipate confronting him."

"Okay, Sandburg. But if there's more to it than that, I want to know right away. And if he's to be brought in for questioning, I want you to have one of the detectives with you."

"Right, sir. I wouldn't dream of doing it on my own." Blair left the captain's office. Well, it wasn't exactly the whole truth, but Blair didn't think Simon would appreciate a consultant with the department doing the kind of stakeout Blair had planned. Even if that consultant had years of practical police involvement and knew procedures backwards and forwards.

Blair decided to run by the loft before going to the gun club. It might be a long wait and he wanted something to occupy his time. He had lesson plans for his classes he had to do and papers to grade. Blair had been on enough stakeouts over the years to know he needed something to keep his brain occupied. Especially when you were doing the stakeout by yourself.

+++++

Blair grabbed bottled water, energy bars and a box of animal crackers, stuffing them all into the left side of his backpack. He put his papers and pen and a notebook into the right side. He looked at the answering machine once more before he left. He willed the phone to ring and have it be Jim, telling him he was fine and would be back soon.

The phone didn't ring and Blair had to get going. He turned off the lights, grabbed his jacket, slipping it on, hefted his backpack over his right shoulder and left the loft. He made sure the door was locked and then went down the stairs to the lobby. He paused a moment before leaving the building, debating what he was going to do. No, he wanted to do this. He wanted to solve the murder of Richard Dayton. He wanted to prove himself.

+++++

Jim had received the call from Vinny O'Neill. He wanted Jim to meet him at the Cascade Gun Club and gave Jim directions. Vinny told Jim to be there at 8:30 PM. Jim knew that was after the gun club was closed, but he didn't mention that to Vinny. He'd go, hoping this was his meeting with the head honcho.

Jim had made arrangements with Gordon and Monroe that if he needed backup or help, he'd dial a prearranged code on the cell phone to alert them. Jim had told them he thought he was getting close to meeting the leader. Jim was ready to get this over with. It had already been eight days. Eight days without talking to Blair. Eight days without talking to Simon. Eight days without anything familiar in his life and he was ready for it to end. He was beginning to forget who he really was.

Jim drove to the gun club. As he turned the corner, he thought he spotted Blair's Volvo. But it couldn't be. Blair was home, in the loft, probably grading papers or watching television. Jim wanted to check out the car, but he was due at the gun club. He parked in front of the building and was wondering how he was going to get inside when he saw Vinny O'Neill open the front door.

"In here, Peterson," Vinny yelled to Jim. Jim walked up the stairs and inside the building, taking one last glance towards the Volvo parked at the end of the block.

+++++

Blair had noticed when Vinny O'Neill arrived at the gun club around 7:00 PM. What Blair hadn't noticed was that Anthony Rounder had noticed Blair watching Vinny and had come up beside Blair's car. Anthony opened the driver's side door, pressing the gun against Blair's chest. Blair raised his hands and looked up.

"What are you doing here?" Rounder demanded as he pressed the gun a little harder.

Blair hissed in pain. "Nothing, man. I was just sitting here, waiting."

While Blair was answering, Rounder found Blair's wallet and opened it up with his free hand. He found Blair's PD pass. "You're a cop?"

"No, no. I'm no cop. I work as a consultant with the police department. They are investigating Richard Dayton's murder. I was just following up on a couple of leads."

"You sound like a loose end, Mr. Consultant. Why don't you come with me?"

Blair wasn't going to panic. It wouldn't do anyone any good. "I have a better idea. Why don't I just leave and forget all about you and your gun?"

Anthony took his free hand, grabbing onto Blair's upper arm and pulling him from his car. Blair went along, not wanting to end up with a bullet in his chest just yet. As they walked towards the gun club, Blair wondered just how he was going to get out of this. He didn't have his cell phone; it was in the side pocket of his backpack.

Of course, when he didn't show up at the station, people would start to worry. Blair hoped one of those people was Simon. Blair knew Simon worried about him and thought about him almost like another son, although he had never admitted that out loud. Blair knew it from the older man's actions and deeds. He didn't need to say it out loud. Of course, after this incident, things might change drastically between the two of them.

Blair was pulled down a hallway and shoved into an office. A man looked up from counting piles of money on a desktop. "Who the hell is this?"

"The name is Blair Sandburg. He claims to be a consultant with the Cascade Police Department. He's looking into leads from Richard's murder." Anthony pushed Blair down into a chair on the other side of the desk.

"Oh really? Well, I suppose we could always use a hostage if need be." Vinny looked over at Blair. "So, now the Cascade Police Department is using consultants to do detective work?" He laughed at his own comment.

Blair wasn't sure if he was supposed to answer or not, but he did. "I've been associated with the police for several years. I know procedure and protocol."

That made Anthony laugh right along with Vinny. "Obviously not, Mr. Sandburg or you wouldn't be here by yourself." He turned back to Vinny. "Take him into one of the storage rooms downstairs. I'm having a potential buyer show up in a little while. Maybe he can take care of our problem."

Vinny got up, pulled Blair to his feet by his arm and dragged him out of the office. Blair knew he was in trouble now. It sounded as if they weren't going to use him as a hostage as Vinny had originally mentioned. And another gun buyer was on his way. As Vinny pulled him into a storage room, binding his hands and legs tightly and placing a gag in his mouth, Blair officially knew he was in over his head. As Vinny left him on the floor, and left the room, locking it behind him, Blair wished he would have insisted on someone else to go along with him. And as the time passed and Blair had nothing better to do but think, he was thinking it would have been really nice to have waited to do all of this when Jim got back to Cascade.

+++++

Jim suspected immediately that Anthony Rounder was the head of the operations. Just the way he spoke and the way he showed interest in Jim becoming a part of their operation.

"Just think of it, George. You join our operation and we can expand into Canada like we've been thinking about. You could be our Canadian distributor."

"I'm not sure, guys. I mean I've always been a loner, a solo act. With partners, there's the whole matter of a split and sharing and…"

Vinny interrupted him. "Ah, c'mon, George. You can't honestly expect us to believe that you've been buying and selling on your own all these years."

"Believe what you want to, Vinny." Jim looked at both men. "I have a reputation. And I'm starting to make my own reputation in your fair city and I've only been here a week."

"He does have a point, Vinny." Anthony walked around the office, turning suddenly to face Jim. "Would you like to test the weapons you are willing to buy?"

Jim frowned. Something was going on. He did a quick sensory scan of the building and had to control his gasp when the familiar heartbeat came to his ears and the ever present scent tickled his nose. "I don't usually sample the merchandise. My buyers trust me. I trust you."

"Well, we have something we need help with and I think you can help us." Anthony walked over to Jim, putting his arm around Jim's shoulder. "If you help us, you can join our operation and we'll leave you to yourself. It's as good as being on your own. No worries about splits and sharing and such things."

Jim shrugged away from Anthony and looked from him to Vinny. They were testing him. To see if he was like other gun runners, like they were, willing to kill without a thought of the consequences. Jim knew he'd have them wrapped up fully if he did this. The only problem was Blair. Would Jim be able to convince Blair that this is what he had to do? That he had been recruited and Blair wasn't to be included in the need to know category. He'd have to go along with things and hope there would be time enough afterwards to explain the deception and mistrust.

"Okay. I have a question though. What do you need me to do?" Jim betrayed nothing with his response. He could show no emotion, no thought about what he was about to do.

"It's a matter of elimination. Just a loose end we need tied up." Anthony snickered at his choice of words.

Jim wanted to squeeze the life out of Anthony for the way he was talking about his partner. He would do that later, once he was in custody. "What kind of elimination?"

"It seems a cop wannabe has been spying on us. He was following up on leads on a murder case. It was another loose end we had to take care of."

"This guy's a cop?" Jim wondered how much they knew about Blair. His worry was growing by the minute.

"No, he had credentials saying he's a consultant. He claimed to know police procedure and protocol. Pretty lame, if you ask me. I can't imagine the Cascade Police Department sending a consultant to do a detective's job or even to send him on his own. Not very smart of anyone."

Jim had to agree with that statement. It wasn't smart for Blair to have come alone. Jim was furious at Simon for allowing it to happen and at Blair for doing it, forgetting his training and all common sense Jim had tried to pound into the young man through the years. Jim had a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that Blair had done part of this on his own. He'd wring the younger man's neck if they made it out of this and things got back to normal.

"He sounds like an idiot. I'll do it. It wouldn't hurt to test the merchandise." Jim was all business-like, not letting his inner turmoil show.

"Good, George. I was hoping you'd say that. I'll have Vinny go get you one of the top of the line models and then I'll take you to where we have him."

+++++

As they were walking down to the basement to the storage rooms, Jim was running the scenario around in his mind. Of how he could make it look real, make the call to alert Gordon and Monroe and the rest of their backup and how to avoid getting killed himself. It was going to be a fine line and no mistakes could be made.

Jim put his hand in his pants pocket, his fingers finding the cell phone. He was able to concentrate enough to get it turned on, dial the code number and press send. He had memorized where the buttons were and the feel of them so it was no chore to send the code. By now, the backup should be on their way. Jim hoped it didn't take too long for them to show up. They would be able to trace the cell phone signal and find out where he was.

Anthony turned to Jim as they paused outside a door. Jim could hear Blair inside the room. He was trying to get out of his bindings. His voice was muffled and Jim figured there was a gag in Blair's mouth. The edge of Jim's mouth quirked into a half-smile. If it wasn't such a dire situation, it would be funny that Blair had been silenced. Granted, it took a gag, but he was effectively silenced.

"You take care of him and then we'll get out of here. I'll have Vinny leave the body on the shooting range. It will look like an unfortunate accident when the morning crews come in tomorrow."

Anthony unlocked the storage room door and pushed it open. He patted Jim on the shoulder. "I'll wait for you upstairs. That weapon will be more than adequate to do the job."

Jim watched as Anthony left, going back up the stairs. Jim turned back to look at Blair, his eyesight adjusting in the darkness. Jim walked inside the room and over to Blair. He aimed the gun, knowing he had to make it look good if they checked on him.

"I'm sorry, Chief," Jim said as he pulled the trigger and heard the bullet as it slammed into Blair's right leg, cutting through flesh and shattering bone. Jim saw Blair's eyes open wide to stare at him when he spoke and then close against the pain with the realization that this was his supposed best friend and he had just shot him in the leg. The scream was caught by the gag in his mouth and Blair was thrashing on the floor.

"Don't move, Blair. I hear the cavalry coming." Jim knelt down beside Blair and touched him on the shoulder. Blair shook away from the touch and started yelling again into the gag. Jim could make out some of what he was hearing. He got to his feet and walked over to get material to bind the wound. Blair still tried to pull away. "Just calm down, Blair." It was just possible that this was never going to be okay.

Jim heard someone approach. "You okay, Ellison?" It was Ron Monroe.

Jim shook his head and looked over at Monroe. "Yeah, but we're going to need paramedics in here. I had to shoot Sandburg." It sounded unreal to Jim's ears to say such a thing.

Monroe frowned. "Blair Sandburg? Your partner? What the hell is he doing here?"

"It's complicated, but apparently it had something to do with the murder of Richard Dayton. Somehow, it was all linked together."

"And why the heck did you shoot him?" Monroe had walked inside the storage room, seeing Blair lying on the floor, still bound, blood pooling on the floor.

"To gain the trust of the head of the operation. Sort of an initiation." Jim couldn't believe what he was saying. It all seemed surreal. But the smell of Blair's blood seemed to surround him. He got to his feet and walked away.

Monroe, meanwhile, was calling for paramedics and his partner to come down to the basement. By the time Pete Gordon made it to where his partner was Jim was standing by the stairs, trying to get away from the overwhelming smell of Blair's blood. The paramedics rushed down and were starting to treat their patient.

Monroe and Gordon removed the bindings from Blair. Blair was partially aware, but didn't say anything, not even from prompts by the two detectives. They concluded the guy was in shock. It was no wonder, having your partner shoot you in the leg, had to be traumatic.

Pete looked at Jim, then back to Ron. "Why did he shoot him?"

"He told me it was to gain the trust of the head of the operation and that it was some type of initiation. I don't know why he didn't just shoot into the wall or the floor or anywhere else. I guess we should be lucky he just shot Sandburg in the leg and not through the heart." Ron shook his head, not understanding the whole dynamic, feeling something was missing.

+++++

When Simon Banks got the phone call and heard the particulars of what had happened, he cursed out loud. He slammed down the receiver of the phone and left his house, going to the hospital. Pete Gordon had told him all that he knew. That Blair Sandburg had been at the gun club when the bust of the gun runners had gone down, had been shot in the leg, by his partner, Jim Ellison and wasn't saying anything. When Simon asked about Jim, he was told that Jim was being escorted to the station to write up his statement on what had happened.

Simon knew he could deal with Jim later. He was surprised that Jim hadn't demanded to go to the hospital, but also understood there would be problems between Jim and Blair, especially if Blair knew Jim had shot him. Not to mention the whole idea that Jim was in Cascade, undercover, when he had given Blair a totally different story about what was happening. Simon realized he was involved in the cover-up also and knew he would have to come clean to the young man.

Simon reached the hospital and asked about Blair. He was told Blair was still being evaluated. Simon would have time to decide about what to tell Blair. It didn't take him long to decide to tell him everything.

+++++

Jim sat in the interrogation room, sitting on one side of the table, with Gordon and Monroe on the other side, asking questions and writing down Jim's responses. It felt just like when Jim would do it to perps. That just the way he felt; like a criminal. He supposed in a way, he was. He deserved to do time for what he had done to his partner. He knew he could blame it all on detectives Gordon and Monroe, but the part about shooting Blair was all his. He could claim he had been pushed into it by Rounder and O'Neill, but the fact was he had been the one to pull the trigger, and he was the one who had aimed for Sandburg's leg, hitting it with precise accuracy. It would have been just as easy to shoot at the floor beside Blair's body, to hit the wall on the far side of the storage room, or even to aim at the ceiling. No one was going to know whether or not he shot Blair. Rounder had already left to go back upstairs to rejoin O'Neill. And O'Neill was going to place the body on the shooting range afterwards. Before that was going to happen, Jim knew backup was going to arrive.

There had been no reason to shoot Blair. Jim was sobered by that realization. It didn't have to be done. He had gotten carried away by his undercover persona. Jim had gotten lost in the undercover assignment and what needed to be done. He was more concerned about pleasing Rounder and O'Neill and nabbing them for gun running and murder. He had gotten the evidence, but at what cost?

Detectives Gordon and Monroe were finished with the questions and had recorded all of Jim's answers. Ron Monroe stood up from the table and grabbed the notebooks and the tape recorder.

"I'm going to type up your statement and then you can read it over and sign it. I'm not sure what is going to happen, but we'll have to turn this over to IA so they can investigate. You understand that, right, Jim?"

"Yeah, I understand that. I really don't have any real answers as to why I shot Sandburg. I just knew I had to make things realistic or he would have been killed by either Rounder or O'Neill."

"You're probably right, Jim. I won't be very long and then you should be able to go to the hospital to see about Sandburg."

"Yeah, I'm sure he'll want to see me." Jim mumbled the sentiment to himself. Neither Gordon nor Monroe seemed to notice it.

+++++

Simon waited for word, concerned the doctor hadn't been out to talk to him yet. He was also wondering why it was taking Jim so long to come to the hospital. He was sure Jim wanted to know Blair's condition, even if he was responsible for the shooting. Of course, there was also the rift between Jim and Blair that Simon had noticed from the way Blair had acted around the station. The young man had always worn his emotions out in the open and it was easy to tell when he was happy or when he was upset.

Blair had pushed on with the Dayton case. Simon could tell Blair was trying to impress him with his ability to do things on his own and to come up with a solution. Now, it had turned out that the Dayton murder case had been tied into the gun running activity Gordon and Monroe recruited Jim to find the leader for. It was obvious to Simon that Blair should have been brought in on the whole undercover operation from the beginning and what had happened might have been avoided.

Simon saw a doctor come out and talk to one of the nurses and the nurse pointed towards him. Simon hoped it was Blair's doctor. He got to his feet and waited for the doctor to come over to him.

"I understand you are here for --" the doctor looked at the chart, "Blair Sandburg?"

"Yes, I'm Captain Simon Banks with the Cascade Police Department. He's a consultant with the department. How is Blair?"

"I'm a little concerned about his mental state. He hasn't said anything since he arrived at the hospital. Are you a friend of his?"

"I guess you could say I'm his friend, doctor…"

"I'm Dr. Miller. Would you be willing to try to get through to him, captain?"

Simon debated about doing that. It was really Jim's position to do this. Simon did understand though that Blair hadn't responded to Jim at the scene of the bust. It must have something to do with the shooting.

Simon looked at the doctor and nodded. "I'll try to talk to him. What room is he in?"

"Exam room four. We have him stable right now and have stopped the bleeding. He needs to go up to surgery to repair his leg, but we can wait a while for that. I'd really like him to respond to the staff so that we know he understands what is going on."

"I understand your predicament, Dr. Miller. I'll see what I can do."

Simon followed the doctor to the examination room. Dr. Miller opened the door and let Simon go in by himself. Simon noted there wasn't anyone else in the room. He walked over to the examination bed and looked down at Blair. Blair's eyes were closed and Simon could see the pain lines on Blair's face. Simon reached out and touched Blair on the arm. The eyes slowly opened, as if Blair was afraid of what or who he was going to see.

Simon saw traces of fear in Blair's eyes. "It's okay, Blair. You're in the hospital and they are going to take care of you. And Jim is nowhere nearby. He's still at the station, giving his account of what happened. You know, I'm going to have to let them get your side of things too. In order to do that, though, you need to communicate. The doctor is a little concerned that you haven't said anything since arriving at the hospital. One of the detectives also mentioned you didn't say anything at the scene." Simon paused, hoping Blair would decide to say something. It looked as if he wanted to.

Simon frowned and then let a small smile come across his face. "C'mon, Sandburg. This isn't the consultant and friend I know. Usually, you are talking nonstop and we have to tell you to shut up. I know it was a traumatic incident, but I really need to have you give us your side of the story. Plus, I know Jim will want to talk to you, too."

Blair closed his eyes and Simon thought Blair was going to ignore him. But a few minutes later, he opened his eyes, opened his mouth, and spoke. "Why?" It was said almost whisper soft.

"That's a loaded question, Sandburg. Jim was undercover to try to draw out the leader of the gun running ring that had been targeting Cascade with robberies of guns and with various murders. Which I take included Richard Dayton?" Blair nodded his head. "Jim had no way of knowing that. And you didn't know about Jim's undercover assignment."

"That's why the Robbery detectives were in your office? You knew about it? Why wasn't I told?" Simon could hear hurt and frustration in Blair's voice.

"Detectives Gordon and Monroe told us you weren't to be told. The only ones who were to know were them, Jim and I. Both Jim and I tried to fight that, but the go ahead for the operation had been approved by the Chief and Gordon and Monroe were running the show. We couldn't take the chance…"

"That what? I'd leak the information? I'd contaminate the operation? What did they think I'd do, Simon? What did you and Jim think I'd do?" Blair's voice increased in volume.

"Blair, you've got to calm down! The doctor wants to take you up to surgery to repair your leg."

Simon turned to go get the doctor, but Blair's derisive laugh stopped him.

"You know Jim did this to me? He SHOT me, Simon! He was in disguise, but I recognized him, especially when he said, 'I'm sorry, Chief' right before he pulled the trigger. I wouldn't need my leg repaired if the asshole hadn't shot me!" Blair closed his eyes and Simon saw the increase in breathing and the sweat breaking out on Blair's face.

"I'm going to get the doctor. You try to calm down." Simon left the examination room, finding Dr. Miller standing nearby. Simon walked over to him.

"Did you have any luck, Captain Banks?"

"Yeah, he's talking again. But I'm afraid I got him a little worked up because of the circumstances of the shooting and the one responsible."

"Well, I'm glad to know he's with us again. He seemed like he was lost in his mind somewhere."

Simon didn't mean to, but he snorted. It sounded just like when Blair explained about when Jim went into a zone out. Maybe that was Blair's version of the same thing, guide style instead of sentinel.

"Are you okay, Captain?" Dr. Miller was concerned.

"I'm fine, Dr. Miller. I just remembered something. Are you going to take Blair up to surgery now?"

"As soon as I explain about what we have to do. It's going to be a delicate operation and he may need more in the future."

Simon shook his head, understanding the seriousness behind what had happened. He watched as the doctor went back into the examination room to explain things to Blair. Simon would wait until Blair came out of surgery. Hoping Jim would show up sometime soon.

+++++

Jim read over his statement and signed it. Gordon and Monroe told him he could leave. He got to his feet, left the interrogation room and walked to Major Crime. He looked at his watch, noting it was just past 11:00 PM. Jim walked into the bullpen of Major Crime and over to his desk. He sat down, wrote out the resignation letter, and placed it in an envelope, along with his badge. He went to put it on Simon's desk and then left the PD.

He had really thought about going to the hospital. He knew he could never make up all the hurt and pain he had given Blair, but he did want to make sure the young man was going to be okay. After several minutes, though, he knew he couldn't go. Simon was already there and he would make sure Blair was okay. Jim would only upset Blair.

Jim kept driving, not sure where he was going. After several hours, he ended up back at the motel room he had taken when the undercover assignment was put into motion. He walked into the room, locking the door behind him. He went into the bathroom, removing the disguise he had hidden behind. It hadn't fooled Blair. Blair knew exactly who was shooting him.

Jim took a long shower, hoping to wash away the guilt and disgust he felt at himself. He stayed in the shower until the water started to run cold. He climbed out, realizing he had zoned. It had been the first real zone out he had suffered for quite some time. Blair never allowed him to zone anymore. The guy had what Jim could only describe as a sixth sense about such things. He knew exactly what was going on with Jim before Jim did.

Jim went to sit on the bed after he had dressed in a pair of sweats. There was no excuse for what had happened. There was no reason for him to have actually shot Blair. Some best friend he had turned out to be. It wouldn't surprise him if Blair sued him or had him arrested.

"You really screwed things up this time, Ellison," Jim spoke out loud to the room.

+++++

Simon was given the word that Blair had made it through surgery just fine. He was going to be kept in recovery overnight and moved into a regular room in the morning. Simon was encouraged to go home. He left his card with instructions he was to be called if Blair needed anything.

Since Jim hadn't shown up, Simon assumed the detective wasn't going to. Just as well, thought Simon. He wasn't sure he could be civil to Jim after what he had done. Simon kept thinking about what the doctor had said -- Blair might need more than just the one surgery.

Simon left the hospital, going home to get some rest. He'd be able to check up on Blair tomorrow. As he drove home, Simon kept seeing the despair on Blair's face over the fact that his best friend had intentionally shot him. Jim couldn't even claim it had been an accident. Simon also decided to talk to Gordon and Monroe to see if they could wait on getting Blair's statement. He definitely needed a couple of days to try to come to terms with what had happened.

+++++

There was a definite fog surrounding him, preventing him from opening his eyes. He finally was able to pry the left one open, closing it shut almost immediately against the onslaught of light. He moaned and felt something heavy on his right leg. Actually, it felt more like something surrounding his right leg. He tried to remember what had happened, but his brain wasn't cooperating with the request.

Suddenly, there was another intrusion. "Mr. Sandburg? Are you awake? Mr. Sandburg?"

"no…" It was said softly, but whoever was disturbing his sleep had heard him.

"We need you to open your eyes, Mr. Sandburg. We have to check on you."

"'m fin…" Blair just wanted to drift off. The person was persistent though. Blair finally opened his eyes, pleased to see the light wasn't shining directly into his eyes.

"Wh're 'm I?" Blair's mouth felt like it was full of cotton. Speaking was rough.

"You're in the hospital, Mr. Sandburg. Do you remember why?"

Blair wanted to deny that he did remember. "Shot. 'm doped up."

"It's just the pain medications, Mr. Sandburg. Do you remember where you were shot?"

"Leg…?" A chuckle escaped Blair's mouth. He wasn't sure why that was funny.

"Yes, your right leg. We have it immobilized and we don't want you moving around too much in the bed. They're getting a room ready for you and you'll be moved there shortly. Just relax."

Blair closed his eyes again and soon had drifted off. He'd find out more after he got more rest.

+++++

Jim woke to the sun slanting in from the gap in the curtains, hitting him in the face. He sat up and got to his feet. He looked at his watch -- 6:00 AM. He had gotten a few hours of sleep, after finding the all-night liquor store down the block from the motel. Jim had bought himself two bottles of whiskey, downing one very quickly after getting back into his motel room.

But the liquor hadn't done its job. Jim was hoping it would blot out what he had done and the feelings he had over that. And he was hoping it would numb his body enough so he could get to sleep without dreams. As Jim stumbled from the bathroom, he was dismayed to learn he still remembered shooting Blair in the leg and the dreams that had arisen from doing such a thing. One vivid dream he remembered was him standing over Blair, shooting him over and over until Blair's identity was blurred beyond recognition.

Jim changed his clothes and decided to go by the hospital. He didn't actually have to see Blair; he could just ask about him and find out how serious his leg was.

+++++

Simon decided to go into the station first and tell everyone about Blair and Jim. As he walked into his office, he saw the envelope there. He opened it, pulling out Jim's badge and the resignation letter. He wasn't going to let Jim do this. He knew he had to talk to his detective and hoped Jim decided to go by the hospital to check up on Blair.

Simon told the rest of Major Crime about Blair getting shot and Jim's role in the shooting. Both Rafe and Brown wanted to string Jim up and knock some sense into him. Simon assured them that Jim probably felt bad enough without others giving him grief over it also. Secretly, though, Simon wanted to help his detectives.

Simon explained he was going to the hospital to check up on Blair. Everyone asked him to tell Blair they were thinking about him and would stop by soon when he was up to having visitors. Simon promised to pass on the well wishes and get well requests. It showed Simon just how popular Blair was when others stopped Simon before he left the station in order to ask about Sandburg.

When he arrived at the hospital, Simon found out Blair's room number, noting it was a regular room. At least it wasn't Intensive Care or even Intermediate Care. Simon took the elevator to the third floor and when he got off the elevator, he was surprised to see Jim Ellison standing in the hallway.

Simon walked up to his detective, surprising Jim when he placed his hand on Ellison's shoulder. Jim whirled around, looking at Simon.

"Captain." Jim looked down at the floor.

"I'm not going to accept your resignation, Jim. It's as simple as that."

"Then I'll just leave. I can't continue to be a detective. Something happened during that undercover assignment."

Simon could hear doubt and hesitation in Jim's voice. "It seems to me you should have had a backup." Simon paused for a couple of seconds. "You should have had your partner."

Jim's head whipped up, his glare burrowing into Simon. "My partner was SHOT! I did it, or didn't you hear about that little detail?" Jim stalked away down the hall away from Simon.

Simon kept in step with Jim, not wanting him to block him out now. "Yes, Jim. I heard that you shot Blair. He told me himself. And he's pissed off at you and me to some extent."

"You? Why would he be mad at you?"

"He made me tell him why you were on an undercover assignment by yourself. He thinks he was omitted because he couldn't handle it. Even though I tried to tell him otherwise." Simon shook his head. "Why didn't you stop by the hospital before now?"

"I couldn't. I knew he wouldn't want to see me. Hell, if the roles were reversed, I wouldn't want to see him. I betrayed him, Simon. For all the times I vowed to keep him safe, and then I just disregard all that and shoot him! I actually thought getting drunk last night would help me to forget. But he was in my dreams, which were much worse than the real thing."

"Have you been in to see him?" Simon got in front of Jim to look him in the face.

Jim lowered his head to regard the floor once more. "I couldn't," he mumbled, barely audible.

Simon leaned in and whispered, "Can you say that a little louder? I'm not a sentinel."

"I said I couldn't." It was a little louder, but Jim still kept his head down.

"Well, why don't we go in together and see how he's feeling this morning?"

Simon took two steps forward before he realized Jim wasn't following him. He turned to look at his detective. "You coming, Jim?"

"I can't, Simon. He's got to hate me! I saw the look he gave me after the shooting. I can't get it out of my memory."

"Jim, just come in with me."

Jim took a tentative step forward and followed Simon to Blair's room. Simon walked in first and Jim hung behind, standing just inside the room. He extended his hearing and knew Blair was awake.

Simon looked back at Jim and realized the man wasn't going to move any closer. Simon walked to stand by Blair's bed. He noticed Blair's right leg was elevated on several pillows and Blair was partially awake. Simon patted Blair on the shoulder. "How are you doing, Sandburg?"

"'m doped up to the gills. There was a slight pro'lem movin' me."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Has the doctor been in yet?"

"no." Blair closed his eyes.

Simon took the cue. "I won't bother you any longer, but the gang in Major Crime sends their well wishes and hopes that you are better soon and that they hope to stop by soon when you're up to having visitors. And you wouldn't believe how many others throughout the station were thinking about you. You've touched a great many people."

"Wha' 'bout, Jim?"

Simon turned to look at the detective. Jim shook his head furiously, not wanting to be acknowledged as being there.

"What about Jim, Blair?"

"Did he come?"

Simon looked back at Jim again. He looked about ready to bolt. "He was here earlier, Blair. But he needed to go and get some rest. It's the same thing you should do. I'm sure Jim will be back later."

"Good. Cause I want to thank 'm." Blair drifted off before he could finish what he was going to say.

Simon turned to leave the room, noticing Jim had already slipped from the room. Simon reached the hallway, seeing Jim looking out the window there. Simon went to stand beside him.

"Did you hear Blair?" Simon knew it was probably a silly question.

"Yeah, I'm screwed. But it's not like I don't deserve it. I do. I deserve his condemnation and anything else he wants to throw at me."

"He said he wanted to thank you. How do you get condemnation out of that?"

"I know how his mind works, Simon. He wants to thank me for ruining his life."

"Why don't you stay here and wait for him to wake up? Then the two of you can have a talk about what happened and why it went down the way it did."

"Except that I don't know exactly why I shot him. I wanted to make sure it looked good for Rounder and O'Neill. Neither of who were nearby when I went to take the shot. How can I explain it to Sandburg when I don't understand myself?"

"Just stay, Jim. He acted as if he wanted to see you."

"Okay. I suppose I need to confront him sooner or later. I might as well get it over with."

Simon watched as Jim went back into the hospital room. He was worried about both Jim and Blair and what the future would hold for both of them.

+++++

Jim determined Blair was asleep when he walked back into the hospital room. He neared the bed and looked down at his former friend. Jim saw no way he and Blair would be able to get past what had happened, even though Jim did want to give it a shot. He was sure Blair would balk at any attempt to just forgive and forget. Jim didn't want Blair to do that anyway.

Jim got a chair from the other side of the room and brought it over to the bed. He sat down on Blair's left side, staring at the right leg, wondering about the amount of damage. He could sense the heat rising off the wound, a small amount of infection had penetrated inside. That was the reason Blair was on high amounts of pain medication and antibiotics. Jim couldn't take his eyes off the leg, knowing it was his fault that it had happened.

There was no way for Blair to forgive him. Jim didn't want Blair's forgiveness. He wanted Blair to place the blame where it belonged. Jim deserved nothing less.

It was later that morning when Blair woke up again. He was able to look around the room and noticed Jim sitting in the chair by the bed.

"What are you doing here?" Blair's voice was calm and rational. Not at all what Jim expected.

"Simon thought maybe you wanted to see me."

"Not really. I'd just as soon you leave me alone." Blair closed his eyes, blocking the sight of Jim Ellison.

"I'm sorry, Blair. I-I…" Jim stopped, not knowing what to say. He still didn't know why he had shot his best friend.

"What, Jim? I can't forgive you. You shot me, practically point blank! What I'm supposed to do? Say, 'I forgive you, Jim. I know you didn't mean it. We'll just forget it and soon it will be in the past and we'll never speak of it again.' I can't do that, Jim." Blair opened his eyes, gazing intently at Jim.

"I know you can't forgive me, Chief. And I don't deserve it. I can't even tell you why I shot you. I was lost in the undercover assignment. Gordon and Monroe wanted me to get the leader of the gun running operation. I had no idea it was tied in to Richard Dayton's murder. How did you end up at the gun club?"

"I was tailing Vinny O'Neill. He was one of four people I suspected of being involved in the murder. The others were Anthony Rounder, Oscar Finch and Lonnie Michaels. I wanted to see if either O'Neill or Rounder showed up. I was watching O'Neill and Rounder surprised me, pointing a gun at me."

"You did that on your own?" Jim couldn't believe that Blair would do that or that Simon would let Blair do that.

"Don't sound so accusatory, Jim. Compared to what you did, my little transgression was nothing."

"Your little transgression led to you being grabbed by the head of the gun running operation, which in turn put you in the path to be shot."

"Don't try to rationalize it, Jim! You still didn't have to shoot me! You didn't have to aim the gun and shatter my leg!"

"Speaking of your leg, what's the prognosis?"

"I'm not sure exactly. Before surgery, the doctor mentioned there was a lot of damage, both to the bone and to the muscle. I may need more than one operation. And I may have pain for a long time." Blair looked away from Jim, closing his eyes.

"Chief…" Jim closed his mouth, not sure what he was going to say. It would be his fault if Blair didn't come back 100%. Jim had aimed the gun and shot it, listening in morbid fascination as the bullet did its damage.

The door to the room opened and Jim turned around to see the doctor walk in. Jim got to his feet.

"I'm Dr. Fisher. I operated on Mr. Sandburg. And you are…"

"I'm Jim Ellison. I'm Blair's…" Jim couldn't say friend. "…um acquaintance. I'll see you later, Blair."

"Bye, Jim." Blair opened his eyes, watching as Jim exited the room. He turned his attention to the doctor. "How did the operation go, Dr. Fisher?"

Jim tuned out the rest of what the doctor said. He thought about listening, but didn't want to know the truth. He knew it wasn't going to be good. Jim reached the elevator and escaped from the hospital.

+++++

"You're going to need a couple more operations, Mr. Sandburg."

Blair absorbed the news. "Please, Dr. Fisher, call me Blair. Mr. Sandburg is just so formal. How long until you can do the operations?"

"Well, there's a slight infection in the wound right now and we'd like to wait until it heals before we proceed. It could become worse if we didn't wait."

"And I'd have to stay in the hospital all that time?" Blair's good mood was rapidly fading.

"I'm afraid so, Blair. We need to monitor you closely. We'd be able to transfer you to our rehabilitation facility. That way, once you're ready, you can start rehab right away."

Blair mulled over what the doctor was proposing. It wouldn't be a bad thing to do. After all, he had decided he didn't want to go back to the loft. It would give him extra time to find his own place, something by the university. He was rethinking his position at the PD also. He needed to talk to Simon about that. He didn't want to abandon the PD, just maybe Major Crime.

"Okay, Dr. Fisher. I'll stay until you finish with my leg. Am I going to be able to lead a normal life?"

"You'll be able to walk. You may have a limp. You may make a full recovery. It's hard to say right now."

Blair accepted what the doctor was telling him.

+++++

Jim went back to the loft. When he walked through the door, he zeroed in on the Blair scent throughout the place. It seemed to overwhelm Jim all at once. Jim decided to eliminate it.

He started by boxing up all of Blair's things out of his room and the rest of the loft and placing the boxes outside the loft. That done, Jim washed down Blair's bedroom, going over it again and again until the scent was a distant memory and didn't assault Jim's nose. Jim methodically went through the entire loft, eliminating the smell of Blair and the scents Jim associated with him.

Jim also cleaned out the refrigerator and the cabinets, getting rid of anything he associated with Blair. Jim knew Blair wouldn't be coming back to the loft. Blair would never be able to forgive Jim and wouldn't even be able to be in the same vicinity with the man who had shattered his leg.

It took Jim most of the rest of the day before he had finished with the cleaning of the loft. He then transferred the boxes of Blair's possessions to the basement with the thought of moving them to a storage facility tomorrow. Jim would pay the rent until Blair had a new place to move into.

On one level, Jim realized he was compounding the problem by kicking Blair out of the one permanent home the younger man had lived in. On top of shooting him and shattering his leg, Jim was now making Blair homeless. He was a real sweetheart. Jim believed Blair would want it that way. He just hadn't bothered to ask Blair about it.

+++++

It was early evening when Simon stopped by to check up on Blair. Blair plastered a smile on his face when Simon walked in, but it wasn't fooling Simon for a minute.

"What's wrong, son?" Simon was hoping Blair would feel comfortable talking to him.

"I'm glad you stopped by, Captain. I really need to talk to you. You have to get Jim another partner. I would suggest Megan. After all, she knows about his Sentinel abilities and I can work with her to learn to help Jim. She won't be a true Guide, but I can't…" Blair looked pleadingly at Simon, hoping he understood.

"Blair, did you and Jim talk?" Simon saw Blair's distress, vowing to have a word with Ellison. He didn't want to mention anything about Jim turning in his resignation.

"For a while. He left when the doctor showed up. I can't forgive him, Simon! I can't forget what he did. He didn't even tell me why! He couldn't tell me! It was some lame excuse that he was lost in the undercover assignment. He still knew it was me he was aiming the gun at."

"What did the doctor say?" Simon felt the need to change Blair's focus, if only for a little while.

"I'm going to have to stay in the hospital. He wants to do at least two more operations. I'll be placed in the rehabilitation facility. I don't know how long it will be before I get out. But when I do, I'll need to find another place to live. I'm thinking somewhere near the university. I still want to be a consultant to the PD because I know how hard everyone fought to get me accepted. I'm just thinking maybe I'll expand things and include other departments besides Major Crime. Of course, depending on the outcome of my surgeries, I may have to limit myself to in-house research and forego the field work."

"I'm sure we can arrange things accordingly. But let's wait to see how many limitations you have." Simon didn't want to think of Blair in a reduced role.

"I'm going to ask the hospital personnel if they can keep Jim out of my room." Blair had voiced his biggest concern.

"Are you sure you want to do that, Blair?" Simon questioned the young man.

"I have to, Simon. He…it's just that he did this to me. I can't fathom a reason why he would ever do that. I thought he was my Blessed Protector. He's told me in the past that I'm the most important member of his tribe to him. If that's true, how could he even aim the gun, let alone shoot it? And he can't give me a reason. Not that I would accept any reason from him." Blair shook his head, looking bewildered.

"I'll see what I can do about getting Megan and Jim together as partners. I'll also ask the Chief if we can expand you consultant's description to include all of the PD."

"Thanks, Simon. You're a real friend." This time Blair's smile was genuine.

+++++

Simon Banks noticed when Jim Ellison walked into the Major Crime bullpen. 'He must have gotten the notice about talking with IA,' thought Simon as Jim spoke to a few of the people there.

Simon had gotten the notice that Jim was scheduled to talk to IA at 9:00 AM this morning. And Jim was early. Simon also got notice that Jim was scheduled to talk to the staff psychologist after his IA session. Simon knew Jim was going to be a real happy camper after all of that. He decided to talk to Jim before he had to go to IA.

"Jim, can I talk to you a minute?" Simon didn't even yell his request.

Jim detoured from his desk to the office of his captain. He still wanted to retire, not wanting to have to endure flak about what he had done to Blair.

"Something I can do for you, Captain?" Jim stood at attention in front of Simon's desk.

"Have a seat, Jim." When Jim didn't move, Simon sighed. "I'm not going to do anything about your resignation request until after IA finishes with you. I've had another request -- this one from Blair." Jim's eyes flicked towards Simon at the mention of Blair's name. "He wants you to have another partner. He's suggested Megan and I've been thinking it over. I think it would be a good partnership. After all, she knows about your Sentinel abilities and Blair said he'd be willing to work with Megan to help her help you."

"With all due respect, Captain, I don't need a partner. I can function on my own." Jim was defiant, adamant.

"No, you can't, Jim. I've seen you on your own. I've seen what an overload of stimuli can do to your senses and your ability to function. Either you accept Megan as your partner or you'll be riding a desk."

"I'll resign first, sir." Jim was pushing all of Simon's buttons. Simon sighed again.

"Jim, I don't want to lose you as a detective. You're the best I have. Megan's not that bad."

"And what about Sandburg's consultant position?"

"That's on hold for the time being. He and I discussed things, but that was between the two of us. It has no bearing on you."

Jim could tell he was being shut out of Blair's life as effectively as he had shut Blair out of his. When had it all gone so wrong? Jim knew exactly when it had changed.

"I've got to get to IA, sir."

"Go, Jim. Maybe we can talk later." Simon watched as Jim left the office, wanting to have his detective back. Wanting to have his whole squad back, but realizing it had been shattered.

+++++

IA kept Jim waiting when he arrived, which didn't help his disposition. As he sat waiting, Jim's thoughts were on Blair. Of how Jim had tried to shift the blame to make it Blair's fault -- even though Jim didn't believe that for a minute.

Jim was in with the three IA officers for close to three hours. Jim sat in the room alone after everyone else had gone. They told Jim it would be a few days before a determination would be made. As Jim sat there, he decided not to fight whatever discipline they wanted to give him. After all, it was his fault. He was the reason Blair was in the hospital, struggling to regain full mobility of his leg.

It was several minutes later when Jim was interrupted. There was a knock on the door and then the door opened, revealing a woman, probably some secretary.

"Detective Ellison, Dr. Craig just called, wondering where you were."

"Thank you. Tell him I'm coming." The woman left, shutting the door behind her. "Shit!" Jim spoke to the empty room. "I forgot all about the psychologist. Better go face the rest of this."

Jim got to his feet and went to the staff psychologist, Dr. Michael Craig. Jim had dealings with the man before. The doctor had always seemed like a straight shooter, willing to listen. Blair had gotten Jim to go to the doctor several times over the years. Blair had even gone to Dr. Craig a couple of times himself when things had gotten a little overwhelming. Jim was thinking Blair might spend several sessions with the good doctor after he got out of the hospital.

+++++

Jim returned to the Major Crime bullpen after his two hours with Dr. Craig. He had scheduled several more sessions with the doctor over the next couple of weeks. Dr. Craig had been able to get Jim to open up about the undercover assignment. And Jim had given the doctor a possible reason for shooting Blair. Jim wanted to gain the trust of the head of the operation. It was like an initiation into a gang or club. Jim wanted to belong. He had seen that as being his best opportunity to get in good with the leader. Even if it took betraying and hurting his best friend.

Jim knew there was a lot more to work out with the psychologist.

Jim walked straight to Simon's office, knocking before opening the door and going inside. He walked to stand by the windows.

Simon looked at his detective when he walked in. Jim looked exhausted and beat down. Of course, going round and round with IA and then having a stint with the staff psychologist would do that to a guy. Even someone as strong as Jim Ellison.

"Why don't you have a seat, Jim?" Simon tried to coax his friend to relax.

Jim still looked out the window, not turning around. "It was intentional. Not on a conscious level, but subconsciously. I knew I had to make it look good." Jim stopped talking.

Simon was a little confused. "What in the world are you talking about, Jim? What was intentional?"

"My shooting Blair. I was trying to impress Rounder and O'Neill. They told me I'd be included in their operation if I did the job. They wanted me to kill Blair. I was caught up in the undercover operation, trying to gain the trust of the leader." Jim still stood looking out the window.

"Jim, the undercover operation is over. There's no need to dwell on it anymore. You know, looking back on it now, both of us should have been a little more forceful when we protested about Blair not knowing. Had Blair have known, things would have been different."

"If he wouldn't have been following up on leads by himself, he would have never been caught by Rounder and O'Neill." Jim turned around to face Simon for the first time. "Why didn't Sandburg have backup when he was doing surveillance on O'Neill?" There was a slight accusatory tone to Jim's voice.

"Blair told me it was just surveillance, that there wasn't going to be any confrontation. I made it clear to him that if it was supposed to be more than that, then he needed to call for backup. Sandburg knew it was something I was adamant about. He wouldn't have defied me on it."

Jim knew it was true. Blair had cop instincts, even thought he wasn't a cop. Blair knew right from wrong and knew to cut your losses when necessary. He would have never knowingly gotten trapped by O'Neill and Rounder. It had been just the way Blair had explained it to him.

"So, am I on paid leave until IA makes their determination?" Jim walked over to stand in front of Simon's desk. He slipped into the chair there.

"Yeah, they told me it would take several days. Go home, get some rest and decide how you and Blair are going to be civil towards each other."

"I don't think that can happen, Simon. He didn't seem real thrilled to see me before." Jim was focusing on the carpet in Simon's office.

Simon remembered what Blair had said about banning Jim from his hospital room. He wondered if the young man had done that. He could understand Blair's reasoning, but also knew it would just be another blow to Jim to be denied access to Blair. Simon was torn as to whom to back on this one. It was a no-win situation.

"Go home, Jim. Get some rest, clear your mind and wait for the decision. I'm sure IA isn't going to kick you off the force. And I'm not going to accept your resignation. When you're back full-time, I'll have you and Megan officially paired up."

Jim only nodded his head as he got to his feet, leaving Simon's office. He walked straight out of the bullpen and went down to the garage. He'd go back to the loft. It wasn't a home anymore because he knew Blair wouldn't be coming back there.

+++++

Jim had been suspended by IA for a month without pay and placed on probation for the next year. He accepted his punishment without a word. He had tried repeatedly to go see Blair in the hospital, and then to the rehabilitation facility he had been placed in afterwards. Blair had left explicit orders that Jim not be let in. Jim understood.

Jim wrote out the letter, giving it to Megan, his new partner. It was addressed to Blair and Jim was hoping Blair would at least read the letter. In it, Jim had reiterated the undercover assignment, the fact that Blair wasn't to know anything about it, and if it had been left up to Jim, he would have told Blair despite the consequences. Jim also told Blair about boxing up his belongings, putting them in a storage facility and that the rent was paid for several months in advance. Jim had included the key to the storage facility in the envelope.

+++++

Blair had to endure four operations and had been in the hospital, then the rehabilitation facility, for almost six months. He had to relearn how to walk and even with that, he still had a limp, as there had been extensive damage not only to the bones, but to the muscles. It was an ordeal going through rehab, but he knew he had to do it.

Everyone from Major Crime had stopped by to see him, to encourage him to continue on. Well, everyone except Jim, who he had banned from seeing him. He just couldn't take Jim's continual apologizing.

Megan had given him Jim's letter and Blair had read it. It didn't surprise him that Jim had boxed up all of his belongings and placed them in a storage facility. It would save Blair that awkward moment of returning to the loft and getting his things together on his own. Of course, just getting out of the rehab facility, he didn't have any immediate place to go. That was quickly remedied when Simon Banks offered to put him up until Blair could find his own place. Blair accepted the offer, avoiding any mention of the length of time he would be there.

Megan spent a lot of time with Blair, going over ways to help Jim with his senses. Blair expressed his relief that Jim would have someone to help him who understood.

"I'll never know as much as you do, Sandy." Megan got up to get both of them more tea. Megan had stopped by Simon's place after work.

"Most of it is just common sense, Megan. Although with Jim, common sense doesn't always work and you have to get in his face to get him to accept something. He's the most stubborn man I've ever known." Blair chuckled with a memory.

"More stubborn than you? I find that hard to believe." Megan smiled as she sat back down opposite Blair.

Blair returned the smile. "Yeah, we were compatible that way." Then the smile disappeared. "I just wish he would have told me about the undercover assignment. It was all a matter of trust, you know? He couldn't trust me to understand what was going on. Even if those detectives from Robbery told him not to tell me, he would have done it, if he trusted me. It hurts to know that, to realize that. More than the shot in the leg and the pain associated with that. It hurts more to know that he didn't trust me enough to tell me."

"Maybe I should go?" Megan got up and Blair struggled to his feet to give her a hug.

"Come back again or call if you need more pointers, okay, Megan?"

"Sure, Sandy. Are you coming back to the station?"

"Yeah. Soon. I've been talking to Simon and the Chief to decide what I want to do. I'm returning to Rainier on Monday. I hope with my continual rehabilitation that I'll be able to go without the cane at some point."

"You've made remarkable progress over the past six months. I'm sure you'll be able to do anything you put your mind to."

+++++

Jim sat watching Blair until he disappeared inside the building. Decision made, Jim got out of his truck and walked towards Hargrove Hall. He knew it wasn't a smart move, but he wanted to talk to Blair. Jim walked inside Hargrove Hall and directly to Blair's office. He could hear the music playing as he approached. Underneath the music, he could hear Blair's voice, going over the notes for his class.

"…with the many rituals that are associated with the seasons. It's just like riding a bicycle, Blair. You don't forget the basics. You're just a little nervous after so much time off. Unexpected time off. It'll all come back." Blair paced the room.

Jim knocked on the door, not comfortable with just walking inside. He could hear Blair coming over to the door and opening it. They stood there, looking at each other, neither one knowing what to say.

Blair cleared his throat. "Jim." He shuffled to the side. "Come in."

Jim kept his eyes on Blair as he walked into the office. He watched as Blair moved over to his desk, sitting down in the chair, flipping off the music. Blair looked up at Jim.

"Have a seat. Something I can do for you?"

Jim sat down in the chair there. "I wanted to thank you for helping teach Megan how to help me. She's not a guide, but she knows the basics."

"There was no need to stop by. I was happy to help her and I'm glad you accepted her as a partner. She can be everything I never could be."

"Blair…you were more than a partner. You understood all this sentinel stuff, the senses, the visions, and the dreams. You made me look at it all in a different light, made me take it all seriously. Can we be friends?" Jim was hopeful as he waited for Blair's response.

"Jim, I'll always be here for you, if you need me. And on some level, I'll always be your friend. I've had time to think about all that has happened with us. I want us to be friends. But I'll never be able to forgive you. Every situation is a chance to look at things and to adjust your life and your thinking. I'm going to devote more time to my teaching here at Rainier. I'll still be at the PD, but not as much. I've talked it over with the Chief and he's approved my suggestion that I be available to all departments and not just Major Crime. I think I'll be able to help more people this way and that's all I've ever wanted to do." Blair looked up and over at Jim. He noticed Jim nodding his head in agreement.

Suddenly, Jim got to his feet. He shifted his weight back and forth. "Would you like to have lunch with me?" Jim knew it was probably too much, but he had to ask.

"Sure, Jim. And maybe I can pick your brain about the other departments at the PD. After all, you know most of the personnel there. You can tell me who to avoid and who to make friends with. Your treat?"

"My treat, Chief."

As they left Blair's office, Jim shortened his stride so the younger man could keep up. He listened as Blair outlined his thoughts about what he wanted to do at the PD, his classes at the university and even a planned expedition he was thinking about doing. Jim could only smile, happy that Blair hadn't been totally destroyed by his actions.

The End