The Jester

Part Four

By Demeter

They'd been hiking for a while, when Chris led Trina into a cave that was partly hidden by dense bushes. To her surprise, there was a sleeping bag, enough wood for a fire, and some food, all neatly stacked against the rocky wall. He'd prepared this place.

For the first time since she had known him, she was feeling honest suspicion. When had he taken these precautions? Why?

Noticing her gaze on him, Chris Foley just shrugged. "I found this place a few months back, and it's perfect. I need to get away from the city every now and then, you know? I'm not the fancy hotel type either."

She laid down her own sleeping bag and backpack. "It's nice. So what did you want to show me?"

***

They hadn't gotten any closer to finding the diary, but Rafe had returned, not explaining where he had been. His first reaction at finding his co-workers in his apartment had been unnerved, but when he learned the reason, he'd restricted himself to asking a few precise questions. Jim didn't buy the cold act for a minute; Rafe was scared for his kid sister, but there was no way in hell he'd admit it.

"I thought that hooking her up with the department shrink would be a first step, but I was obviously wrong. God, I should have never left her alone." Megan sounded exhausted, on the verge of tears.

When Rafe just stayed in the same spot, Jim said the words that he thought his colleague should hear. "It's not your fault. Trina doesn't have a history of running away or anything. You did what you could. And I promise you, we're going to find her."

The sooner the better. That, he didn't say out loud, Megan knew the odds just as well as he did, and probably she was, like him, thinking of the last case he and Blair had worked on. The victims had been about Trina's age.

At that, Rafe turned around, his eyes blazing with anger. "And what have you done about it so far?" he asked icily. "Nice idea about that diary, but we don't even know if she kept one. I'm going to look for her."

A moment later, the front door slammed. Megan shook her head in obvious frustration. "Damn it, what the hell am I still doing here?" she asked rhetorically, tossing back the stuffed teddy bear she'd picked up from Trina's bed.

The sound of the bear hitting the cover was all wrong, like there was something harder encased in there.

"Good work, Connor. There's your secret hideaway."

Looking at Blair, Jim knew they both felt the same relief. Hopefully, they'd find some trace as to where Trina had gone, and that was what they had to concentrate on now. Everything else was for Megan and Rafe to work out. Jim didn't envy them that task.

***

They had made a fire and slept in their sleeping bags - kind of romantic, Trina thought, but she was rather relieved now that Chris had not made a move on her. She had to admit it wasn't truly what she needed. She felt safe with him, and it was a good feeling to be able to trust someone.

Maybe, there would come a time when she'd be able to trust herself again.

She was barely awake when Chris returned from the morning swim he'd taken in the river, wearing only his jeans now, his wet hair shining in the sunlight that came in through the opening of the cave. Trina sighed inwardly. She needed a friend more than anything else, but the sight was sure... nice.

When he bent to pull a shirt from his duffel bag, she watched idly, sitting up to take a closer look when she saw the tattoo on his hip. Some kind of mystical figure, what was it called already? A pierot? No. "Interesting tattoo," she remarked, getting up to stand behind him.

He turned to her, smiling. "Yeah, I thought that, too."

She traced the lines with her finger, feeling daring when he shivered at her touch. Trina remembered the term finally. "It's a jester."

"That's right," he said, pulling her into a light embrace.

***

The diary, hidden within the teddy bear, had indeed been informative, but it was yet unclear if the news was a reason to be relieved or even more concerned. Megan had made up her mind quickly: "I'll kill that bastard if he's touched her! Ah, scratch that, I'll kill him anyway. What the hell is he thinking?"

The address Chris Foley had given them when he joined the CPD as a ride-along, didn't really exist - no one had bothered to check before, and now it turned out that he seemed to have disappeared, too. From the entries in Trina's diary, it seemed a valid guess that the two of them were together.

Jim and Blair had left in the wee hours of the morning, but were unable to find sleep as they puzzled over this new turn of events.

About four hours later, Blair felt like he still hadn't slept at all, but the distinct sound of the phone had woken him. Carefully, he disentangled himself from Jim's embrace, whispering, "On my way already."

The caller was a doctor from the Cascade General, wanting to inform them that McDougall had, against all odds, woken from the coma.

***

Later, they had a breakfast that wasn't really all that rustic, given the fact Chris had bought bagels from a bakery, and coffee from a 7-Eleven earlier. With the place still smelling faintly of the fire, and the sky over them, Trina felt much better than she had in ages. Chris didn't need to know yet that she hadn't told Brian any details as to her whereabouts, or who was with her.

He hadn't asked anyway. And after they'd disposed of the garbage, he had promised to show her something. Trina had started at the sight, but Chris remained calm. "I've been thinking," he said, "this drinking thing, it's all about feeling helpless, isn't it?"

She shrugged. What more was there to say?

"Of course, it is making you even more helpless to keep on with that shit. Do you want to stop feeling helpless?"

"What kind of stupid question is that?"

"Well, okay then. Come on over here. If you're going to handle a weapon," he explained, "you always have to take care of safety first - for you and others. Don't point it at anyone unless you really mean it."

Trina watched in astonishment as he loaded the weapon, then laid it in her hands, observing carefully while she examined it, gauging the weight, then slowly raised it to the paper target he'd stuck to the tree trunk. "It's heavy," she said, surprised.

"Exactly, and that's why you have to be so careful. You wouldn't want to discharge it accidentally - besides, you can get arrested for it, in addition to all the other bad things that can happen."

Chris moved behind her, covering her hands with his, steadying them. She felt excited and very safe at the same time.

"Isn't it good to be in control?" he whispered.

"You're going to let me shoot?"

"Try. Pull the trigger."

Trina breathed deeply, then she took aim. She felt her heart beating fast, but she wasn't afraid. Not of this. He trusted her to be able to do it. Slowly, she pulled back the trigger, then started at the sound. "Jesus, it's loud!" she exclaimed.

"Yeah, well. Try again."

After three shots of which two were close to the target, Trina felt all exhilarated. "I'm not that bad, am I? Come on, admit it."

"You're screwing up," Chris said, and she stared at him in disbelief.

"Every day a little bit more. You think that felt good? Keep up with the drinking, and you'll lose more than good aim. Are your hands shaking when you don't get your fill? Do you have trouble concentrating at school?"

"God, you're such a prick," she spat. "Why do you always have to spoil a good moment?"

Chris chose to ignore her words. "You're not that bad, but you're still shooting like a girl. Come on, let me show you something. And stay behind me." In short succession, he fired three shots, all of them right into the center of the target.

Her anger forgotten, Trina stared in unwitting admiration. "Wow. That is--"

"That is you without the alcohol. You're getting there, Trina. I promise you."

***

Who needed breakfast anyway...? While Blair was going to assist Megan in the search for Chris Foley and Trina, while Jim had gone to the hospital to talk to McDougall. Did he really have all that breakthrough information for them, as they had hoped all the time, or would it turn out to be just another dead end?

In any case, McDougall would have to answer why he had known about Micki Baker's true profession. If it got them any closer to Lazar - even better.

"Only for a few minutes," the doctor warned. "He's still weak, but I got the impression he really wants to talk to you."

Well, if that wasn't a good start... McDougall looked a whole lot frailer in that hospital bed than Jim remembered him, but that was not the only reason he wanted to make this conversation a short one - he still had a bad feeling about Trina disappearing with Foley.

"Sometimes it's hard to be the one who's different, but somebody's got to do the job."

Chris' words from the poker game came back to him, and he remembered Blair had used similar words to characterize the Jester. Coincidence? Not very likely.

"Mr. McDougall, I'm glad to see you're doing better. I'll try to be as quick as possible." Determined to get answers, Jim leaned closer to the man in the bed.

***

Two actors playing out a scene on a stage, the medieval Jester holding up a mirror to his King. In the myth, the Jester had been granted lots of power, because he was allowed to tell the truth that no one else dared to speak aloud.

This time though, it was different. The King grinned in smug satisfaction at the image in the mirror, and the Jester stumbled back, his expression one of shock:

In the small mirror, there was the reflection of Trina. The scenery behind her looked like some kind of forest, and the mouth of a cave, looking familiar somehow, but then--

"Sandy! Are you okay?" Megan asked worriedly.

Orientating himself again, Blair mentally filed away the details of the vision. They had come back to the station to check Foley's personal file once more, and see if anything turned up. It had been futile until one look at Foley's picture had brought on the new vision.

Damn, if only he could remember where he'd seen that cave before. He was pretty sure it existed, and that he'd been there, but couldn't put his finger on it.

He didn't want to tell Megan about that one particular detail, either, because this vision seemed to make sense in a scary way when put together with the earlier one - Trina could still be in danger from the killer; Lazar was involved somehow, as was the Jester, of course.

"Yeah, sure," Blair answered after a moment, distractedly. Where the hell was that cave? It had to be in an area where he and Jim had been hiking before, but without any more details, it would be searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Then he knew what to do. "Megan, I think I have an idea how we can find Trina. How far can they have gotten since yesterday evening? We need to search for any clue as to the term 'King'."

She looked at him quizzically. "You know, I think I'm kind of used to all the weird things that always happen with you and Jim, but please, once again in plain English. What on earth did you ever see in that vision?"

"Remember the archetypal meaning of the Jester," Blair told her excitedly. "He held up the mirror to the King, and that was Lazar in my vision. I know it's a reach, but let's check the net and see if we find anything." He could tell she was still not understanding everything, which was more his fault, because he'd very deliberately left out something important, but that couldn't be helped now.

There were quite a few hits from the search, but only two that fit with the image Blair had seen in the background of the mirror image - King's Creek, and King's Park, both within driving distance. They'd check both. In the parking garage, Megan hesitated a moment, then she said, "You're so awfully sure about the location. Why do you think is he going into the woods with her?"

Blair hadn't wanted to think too hard about that, either. "I don't think Chris will hurt her. He seemed to genuinely like her, and this running away together doesn't have to be tied in with the case."

"I'm more worried about Lazar," she admitted, then they parted without further words.

***

"My nephew... came to me about the first set of cards. I got suspicious when he ordered more and more." Finally, McDougall seemed to be ready to talk, acknowledging now that the person he'd wanted to protect all along had taken it too far.

"Why?"

Even in his condition, McDougall managed a wry smile. "Because the people who... usually buy this -- they don't need more than one or two sets - and they want them complete. Chris, however--"

"Chris? What's his last name?"

"You should know. It's Foley. He always said he was going to the police and would change it from the inside out, when his sister was regularly beaten up by her husband. But I swear to you, he would never kill anyone. Never." He began to cough, obviously getting upset.

"I believe that," Jim said, remembering the first interview they'd done with the guy. He'd been lying all right, but he'd been truly upset by the suggestion that the Jester could be involved in a murder. "The first death seemed to be accidental, but Chris has stepped on some powerful people's toes. Do you know where he could be...?"

It wasn't the most important goal to find the Jester - but to find him and Trina before Lazar's people could. They just couldn't place it before, but Blair had been right on the money with his vision: Maybe it hadn't been Foley's intention, but he had drawn Trina right into his game with Lazar.

***

As soon as he found the small stream, King's Creek, it wasn't that much of a problem anymore. Blair remembered he and Jim had taken a look around inside the cave when they'd been hiking in the area a few years back, even set up camp not far away. And this time, inside, he found who he'd been looking for--

"Trina!"

She spun around, dropping the can she'd been holding. Thank God, she looked okay, if a little shocked to see him. For a moment, both of them waited for the other to speak, then she said, "It's not Chris' fault. I didn't tell him what I wrote in the note; he thought it was okay, that you all knew I was with him."

"Well, he should have known anyway that it wasn't the best idea to just run away. Trina. Megan and Brian are worried about you. This is not the right way."

"So what is, then?" she asked bitterly, close to tears again. "We couldn't talk anymore. I couldn't stand them trying to replace my parents, because that's just not possible. I'm sorry I lied to Jim, but -- I didn't know what to do, everything was such a mess."

"No one's mad at you, just worried." Blair laid a hand on her trembling shoulder, while taking a look around. The set-up sure didn't look like a spontaneous flight. Foley had probably prepared this place before he got to know Trina.

The one who did things differently and got away with it. Then again, more than one court jester had probably taken it too far back then and got hanged anyway. "Where is he now?" Blair asked quietly. He'd bring Trina back first, but they really had to find Chris. The vision didn't bode for anything good - Lazar would try to get back at the Jester, and chances were, he'd gotten closer to revealing his true identity.

"Please don't give him trouble because of me," Trina insisted miserably.

"Oh, don't worry, there are just some questions we need to ask him."

"That's exactly what I'm here for, too."

The voice startled them both out of their conversation. It didn't belong to Chris, but an older man, tall, forty, maybe. He was holding a gun on them both, and Blair would have bet that the cruel grin was the last thing Vanessa Masters had seen before she died.

He was the new player in the private war game between Michael Lazar and the Jester.

***

Right on the money indeed. Jim cursed after he'd hung up the phone with a very concerned Megan who'd told him she couldn't reach Blair. King's Park had turned out to be a dead end, but King's Creek had obviously been a hit. He and Megan had agreed to meet at the place in fifteen minutes.

Please, be careful, Chief.

***

Blair couldn't help it, he had to stare at the man who'd just entered the barren room of Michael Lazar's cabin they'd been brought to. He looked different, wearing a suit, his hair slicked back. Casting a quick look at Trina showed Blair that she was just as shocked. He'd always known that there was something mysterious about the guy, but he'd never thought they'd be betrayed by him like this in the end.

All along, Blair had wanted to see the Jester as some modern-type Robin Hood, but he had to admit that he'd been sadly mistaken. He was a criminal, plain and simple, no better than the ones he'd helped bring down. "Chris, what the hell are you doing?" Maybe it was disappointment, or that he still had a hard time believing his judgement could have been that bad.

The younger man stared back at him indifferently. "Sorry, but you left me no choice. You'd better tell Mr. Lazar all he wants to know, so there's maybe a chance we can keep this from getting ugly. This is only about the details - your cover is blown to pieces anyway."

"Are you nuts? How much more ugly can it get anyway? You know that I'm not the Jester. And you know what, I'm starting to believe you are."

Trina opened her mouth, but stayed silent when Chris shot her a warning glance.

He turned to his companion with a sarcastic smile. "Told you he'd say that. Now, let's see if Mr. Lazar has everything ready for this conversation. He's sure been waiting a long time for it."

They both left, leaving both Blair and Trina in shocked confusion.

***

Trina was crying quietly. "I swear I didn't know," she said. "I'm so sorry. If it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be in this mess right now."

She had a point there, but of course Blair didn't say that. He raised his bound hands to gingerly touch his jaw, wincing at the pain. Well, at least it didn't seem to be broken. The man had been acting like a pro from the first moment, forcing Trina to put the cuffs on Blair, and then adding a punch just to be sure.

"I don't blame you, Trina, we all fell for him. But it's important that we keep calm now. Did he tell you anything about why he's been doing this Jester act?"

"Not really," she said. "He always tried to show me how stupid this drinking thing is, and you know what's funny? I even started to believe him. And he taught me how to shoot," she revealed ruefully. "I don't get it. I always thought he was a friend."

"Don't beat yourself up over it." Blair tried to smile at her, even though it had to look rather crooked. Felt that way, in any case. "He was around cops all the time. The perfect cover for the Jester - but I never thought he'd be working for Lazar."

"I'm scared," Trina admitted. "Do you think they're going to kill us?"

"I think there's still time. And the others will surely figure out where we are in time."

Blair was very aware of the fact that he hadn't given her a definite answer to her question, and he guessed she had noticed it, too. They both stayed silent after that.

***

When the door opened again, it was another bad surprise for Blair - it was the same man he'd seen in his vision. The brutality seemed even stronger now that he was for real; and Blair assumed that it was the killer who was supposed to replace Baker.

Would now be the moment of Lazar's revenge, right in front of Trina's eyes? Blair closed his eyes, then tried to put all his resolve into his gaze and his voice. "Why don't you let the girl go? She doesn't know shit. It's me you want."

The man's eyes strayed over Trina who cowered in the corner, her eyes showing the same fear Blair had already seen in the vision. And a split second before Lazar's new contract killer spoke, he knew with sickening certainty. "Leave her alone," Blair said urgently. "She's the sister of a cop. Believe me, man, whatever's on your mind, it's not a good idea. Nobody will miss me, though."

"I'll deal with you later, punk," the man growled. "Let's see if she can help loosen your tongue a bit."

Oh God, no. He would hurt her with no hesitation whatsoever, but what was even worse, Blair had seen the greed in the man's eyes.

"No! Stop it! I swear I'll kill you if you--"

Trina screamed, too. Blair yanked at the cuffs so hard they cut into his wrists, but he didn't feel the pain, intent on doing whatever he could not to let this happen, but it was useless. The pipe he'd been cuffed to didn't give an inch.

***

"Blair was here. My guess is that he found Trina, and then - somebody found *them*."

"Chris?" Megan asked briskly.

"No. It seems like he prepared all this, and I think he and Trina slept in here."

At the anger welling up in Megan's eyes, Jim shook his head. "Nothing like that. I'd smell it, remember?"

She shuddered. "Yeah, right. Do you get anything about where they could have gone?"

Jim took a moment to concentrate, to separate the various scents and other information. It took a few minutes hovering on the edge of a zone, but then he found it: The person who had been here besides Blair, Chris Foley and Trina. He couldn't have said why, but all of a sudden he knew with certainty who it had been: Lazar's killer, the one Blair had seen in the second vision, chasing after Trina.

Which meant they were both in ultimate danger.

"Footprints are going in this direction." He pointed to the ground. "Let's go."

***

Trina fought hard, but in the end, she was no match for the man who slapped her hard, pushing her against the table in the corner of the room. God, hadn't the girl been through enough already? All Blair knew was that he couldn't stand to just sit by and watch this, no way. "Let her go, you pervert!" he shouted again.

"I'd consider that a good idea, too." The words hadn't been spoken loudly, but somehow they managed to bring the nightmare scenario to a halt.

It seemed that in this case, the surprises were never ending: There was Chris again, holding a gun with a silencer on the would-be rapist.

"Or else?" The killer easily held Trina down, ignoring Foley. It was obvious he didn't consider the younger man much of a threat.

"Or I blow your brains out," Chris promised calmly.

"You wouldn't dare."

When the man's hands tightened around Trina's throat, Chris pulled the trigger without hesitation.

***

"Quick, we've got to get out of here."

"Man, you know I could arrest you right here and now, don't you?" Blair rubbed his aching wrists, after Chris had opened the cuffs with the key he'd taken from the unconscious killer. "And what was that shit about me being the Jester?"

Before he answered, Chris walked over to Trina who was still cowering in a corner, crying quietly, the shock evident in her features. "It's okay, babe," he whispered, pulling her up and into his arms. "You'll be okay."

"Sorry about that," he finally directed at Blair, "but I didn't have all the information I needed, and I was too close to Lazar - if he'd found me out... but I guess you know that. I meant to warn you, but the timing was all skewed, and I honestly didn't know what he wanted that Death card for. I never meant to kill anyone, not even that bitch Micki who he'd sent after me. Oh, and I don't think you're going to arrest me. I'm going to give you Lazar and his whole bunch on a silver platter. Now, quick."

Chris had taken the gun from the killer and given his to Blair. "I hope you can put aside any plans on making an arrest just now, until we've gotten Trina out of here." He pulled her close to him again. "Hey, don't cry. It'll all be over soon."

If there hadn't been so much pressure, Blair would have marveled at how the younger man easily slipped from one role into another. But there wasn't time.

"How many men are here in the building? Is Lazar really around?"

"I promise you'll get all the necessary information to bring him down," Chris answered. "But I want Trina to be safe first."

"Of course."

***

For once, they'd been lucky. The footprints in the grass led deeper into the forest, then, as the ground got rockier, they disappeared altogether, but at that moment they could already see the cabin in the distance.

Jim had already heard the shots being fired, the sound of a gun with a silencer being discharged too familiar to ignore.

"Can you hear if Trina's in there?" Megan asked urgently, and Jim allowed himself a moment of guilty conscience, because out of habit and absolute necessity, he'd checked for Blair's heartbeat first.

"She is," he confirmed a moment later. "Along with Chris and Blair, and they are -- damn it. We gotta move."

***

"Where are you going, Chris?"

"Bringing you the prisoners. I thought you wanted to interrogate them."

Just for a second, Blair wasn't too sure on which side of the fence the younger man stood anyway, but then Chris raised his weapon.

"You've been so ridiculous, it was too easy to play you for a fool, Michael. Game's over now. You won't be putting weapons into the hands of men who kill their own fellow-countrymen. And for sure, you won't be paying lawyers for bastards who beat up on their wives."

"What are you talking about?" Lazar asked exasperatedly. "Are you stupid? Well, you really must be. How far do you think you can get with my men securing the place?"

A grin spread on his face, and spinning around, Blair could see that a couple of men from Lazar's personal security had come up behind them, all of them armed.

"See?" Lazar continued with satisfaction. "Sorry, Chris, but even the Jester can't get you out this time, 'cause as you see, he's in no better position. Mr. Sandburg, there were some things I've been interested in, but the good boy has just given me all the answers I need - he's the one who's been leaking the information to you."

"Whatever." Blair figured that it didn't matter at the moment who Lazar thought the Jester was - they were surrounded anyway. "But this is between me and you. Let Trina go; she doesn't know anything."

"Which is not completely true," Lazar smirked. "She's going to be a witness to murder, and that's one thing I don't need. Kill them," he ordered. "The Jester first, then the girl."

***

Everything happened very fast; the shot ringing out, and Blair was vaguely surprised that he didn't feel any pain when the blood was all over him, but then Trina cried out, "No!" and fell to her knees beside Chris who had stepped into Blair's way the moment Lazar had ordered his men to kill.

And then there were more shots fired, exchanged, in fact, because the cavalry had finally arrived.

***

It would take about forty minutes until the paramedics got there, and all they could do in the meantime was to try and stop the bleeding.

Lazar was now the one wearing cuffs; the danger averted with him and his men apprehended, but the price was still high. Jim knew that he and Megan wouldn't have been close enough to intervene in time when Lazar gave out the command, but Foley had.

Trina was still leaning over Chris, Blair showing her how to apply pressure to the wound.

"He'll be okay," he told her quietly, and then Megan rushed to her quasi-daughter, embracing her briefly before she took Blair's place. It was then that Jim got to take a first good look at his lover.

He seemed all right except for the bruise on his face, but Jim wasn't easily fooled. He supposed that the fact that Chris had taken this bullet - the second time for a member of the Major Crimes unit - was only the tip of the iceberg of today's events.

Blair gave him a tired smile. "Your timing's perfect, again."

"Yeah. I wanted us to be home on time for dinner. Your night to cook, remember?"

Jim didn't mention that he thought his timing could, and should have been a lot better. And then he started at a certain smell that didn't fit at all.

***

"Please, don't leave me alone! Not you, too!" Tears were streaming down Trina's face, fear making her almost choke on her words. So she was all the more shocked when Chris suddenly spoke to her, his voice calm and clear, not pain-stricken as she had expected.

"I won't, but listen, Trina, I need to get away from here. Think you can help me?"

"I'll try. Hell, of course." She knew she had to keep calm, but still gave him a quick private smile. "Thank God," she whispered.

***

"Where's Trina?"

Blair gave him a surprised look, and Megan, who had checked to see that Lazar was still safely cuffed although looking quite pissed, turned around.

"She said she needed a moment to herself, wanted to step outside. Why? Oh damn it," she cursed when her gaze followed Jim's.

The space where Chris had lain was empty. As Jim crouched down beside the red dark stain, taking a whiff and cautiously picking up some of the fluid with his index finger, he knew what he had smelled: Fake blood.

***

"Why don't you turn yourself in? I'm sure you wouldn't be punished that badly."

Chris smiled at her warmly, after he'd shed the stained shirt and the kevlar. "But I can't take the risk, you know? The Jester needs his freedom; he can't be locked up. And I promise you I'll be back for you after you're eighteen."

"You'll be an old man then," Trina teased him. "Don't expect me to wait for you that long."

He cupped her face with both hands, gazing into her eyes seriously. "I expect you to live your life. Promise me that."

With a sigh and a quiet 'yes', she stepped closer, and they kissed.

"I've got to go now. Say hello to your folks for me - they're okay. It was cool hanging out with them."

"Will do. And, thank you -- you know, for --"

"You're welcome. And please give this to your folks. It's my parting gift." He opened the clasp of the thin gold chain he was wearing, handing it to her. There was a key dangling from it. "They'll know what to do. Goodbye, Trina."

"Goodbye."

Trina waved after him as he walked away. When she couldn't see him any longer, she turned to go back to the cabin where the others were surely waiting for her, a smile still playing over her lips.

Amz_Trina.jpg (18868 bytes)

***

Trina's expression told Jim all he needed to know: Chris Foley had gotten away.

"I'm sorry, guys. He just came to say goodbye, and he didn't tell me where he's going - just that the Jester needs to be free. He left this for you."

"The guy has his own cliché down pat," Blair muttered, as he took the key with the chain from her, but he seemed kind of amused. "Anyway, we got Lazar. I, for one, can live with that."

"He saved more than my life," Trina said, a shadow crossing her face for a moment.

They still had a job to do, but Jim supposed that the contents of the safe deposit box wouldn't give away anything as to the Jester's current whereabouts, but if he was guessing right, there'd be enough information to nail Lazar and a few others for good.

A beautiful prospect, Jim had to admit that. He was also well aware that Chris had helped save both Blair's and Trina's lives.

However, the next time they met, he'd still remind Foley that it had been a mistake to suggest to Lazar that Blair could be the Jester.

***

The safe deposit box contained a stack of folders containing the information Foley had promised. There were pictures, statements of accounts regarding Lazar and the man and woman who had posed as Julia and Darren Edmonds. Darren would be arrested shortly, and it appeared he was high up in Lazar's organization, coordinating the illegal weapons export.

There was also detailed information on the Jester's earlier investigation, and how they were connected to Lazar; plus a few discs.

Taking a look at the pile of evidence, Simon shook his head. "This stuff is invaluable, granted, but I can't believe we all fell for this imposter. Fooled us all good."

"He did more than that." Everybody looked up at the sharp tone in Trina's voice. "If he hadn't come when he did, I--" The realization seemed to catch up with her all of a sudden, and she started crying. Megan was beside her in an instant, pulling her close.

"Yeah, and I'm grateful for that."

"We all are," Blair said, giving Jim an intent look.

It wasn't all that hard to understand - they'd talk about the details later, so Jim refrained from saying more. They'd talk about the details later - sure, he was grateful, too, but if it hadn't been for Foley, Blair and Trina wouldn't have been in this situation in the first place. However, he agreed, Trina didn't need that kind of discussion now.

"That's right." He briefly laid a hand on the girl's shoulder. "He sure risked a lot. And I believe he was a good friend to--"

Jim broke off the sentence when he saw Brian Rafe come rushing though the double doors of the bullpen; Megan had called him the moment she knew Trina was safe. Would he finally come around or would he make another scene?

He sent a questioning gaze to Blair, but simply got a shrug in return.

"Katrina - thank God." Over Trina's shoulders, Brian and Megan shared a look - hers hopeful, his apologetic, then he embraced both his lover and his sister.

After a moment he turned around, hesitating a moment before he spoke. "I-- I want to thank you for bringing Trina back. Guys -- I'm sorry. I've been an ass."

"You sure have, partner," Henri Brown spoke up before anyone else could answer. "You know that these guys have to work together, and that it's not about cutting them more slack than any other couple working in the department."

Rafe looked abashed as he said, "I know. And I apologize."

"Apology accepted," Jim granted after a short, wordless exchange with Blair. Rafe sure hadn't made things easier over the past few days, but it was a relief to see that this wasn't going to last. He seemed honest in his attempt to make up. It had already been a long day, so why not acknowledge it?

"I know it's not easy to understand," Blair chimed in. "Hell, some of the things that have been going on will remain mysterious even to us - but we're not shutting out anyone here. Just ask. Only not today, because I think we all really want to go home now."

That statement brought a smirk to Simon's face. "Oh, I don't know about that. It'll take a while to go through all this evidence, but there's enough for a first conversation with our Mr. Lazar down in holding. Who'll be doing me the honor?"

That brought a collective groan from the group.

"Too bad I'm not even here anymore." Henri whistled as he tried to step away from the table, and head towards the door unobtrusively.

Megan stroked her hand over Trina's dark hair. "Captain," she said softly, "I'm sure you will grant us some family time after all these tribulations, right?"

"Wouldn't that be discrimination against same gender couples?" Blair wondered, grinning mischievously, and at that moment, Jim really wanted to go home with him. Badly. Instantly.

***

It had taken them a while longer to get home, leaving a choleric Lazar behind in the holding cell. The Jester had played him pretty good, infiltrating his organization under the guise of someone who'd leak important information from the investigators to the crime lord - all the while it had been the other way around.

It was bad enough for the hastily called lawyer to advise Lazar to confess, the only thing that could go in his favor.

Jim and Blair had dinner on the way home, neither of them very inclined to cook. Later, at home, Blair found himself enjoying the relative quietude after the rather loud and hectic day, and admittedly, there were times when even he didn't need many words.

Snuggled up beside Jim on the couch, he found himself pondering this vision business, thinking it had to have been the closest he'd ever get to understanding how Jim felt when he suffered from sensory overload.

It wasn't all that hard to interpret them now --

Seeing himself as the killer when they still suspected the Jester, and Lazar thinking that Blair was the man he was after.

The next -- that one still made him shudder; even thinking about it made him feel Trina's pain so clearly. "I still wish we could have found the meaning to these visions sooner," Blair found himself saying. "That bastard almost raped Trina, and I couldn't do a damn thing--"

When his composure was about to slip, Jim was there in time. "It wasn't your fault," he reminded Blair, gentle kisses and touches dimming the obtrusive quality of the memory. "It's hard to be always on time. It's like with my senses, you know? Pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together. And except for letting Foley get away again, we did okay."

"Yeah, okay. But the hero was somebody else this time, right?"

"What, you're still jealous he won the pool game?"

"No. I'm jealous about something else."

"And that would be...?"

"The way you were checking out his backside."

"I wasn't--", Jim said, a bit puzzled. Then he smirked. "Well, it was in my line of vision. Doesn't mean anything, really. I went home with you, remember?"

"Oh yes, I remember."

"Good. Because there's a chance that the phone will not ring tonight, should I feel like checking out -- you." Underneath the joking, there was an intensity that had a lot to do with having escaped yet another near-fatal situation, and the need for reassurance.

As tired as he might be, Blair thought that a slow, sensual lovemaking, and falling asleep in each other's arms afterwards was just the thing to do.

"Perfect, man." He grinned. "Live for the moment, the Jester would say."

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***

Trina felt dizzy from all the emotions welling up inside of her at once. There was still shock about what had happened today, the disgust at the unwanted touch - but also amazement at having seen her brother's friends in their day job. Her brother, who was finally talking to her again.

And, to her relief, he wouldn't split up with Megan, as Trina had secretly feared.

Not all was well; she still had to go and see that shrink, but there were worse things - today had clearly shown her that she wanted to live. Thinking of her parents still made her cry, but Trina had to smile through her tears - they'd surely appreciate the promise she'd made. And she intended to keep it.

When the apartment seemed silent, Trina picked up the teddy bear that had been a little mutilated during the search for her. She supposed it was the best hiding place on earth; nobody would think about looking there twice.

The card with the Jester, the motive of Chris' tattoo, had been her parting gift.

There was a number on the back, together with two words, neatly written.

 

For emergencies.

 

The End

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