The first thought that Magnum had was that Blair Sandburg looked "nothing" like the picture he carried in his shirt pocket. A picture that showed a clearly ebullient Sandburg, huge grin on his handsome face, energy evident even in a one dimensional photo, surrounding the compact, muscular body, and most telling, the strange, erotic mixture of ancient wisdom, maturity beyond his chronological age, and youthful mischief radiating from incredible blue eyes.

The man who stood before him now, was so still, so ~ "immobile", *he* could have been the photograph, and the eyes, so expressive in the picture, were now almost, blank, or maybe, "shuttered" would be a better word. A simplicity seemed to be the only thing visible in those eyes, and without a glimmer of the intelligence so evident in the photo. This man gave no feeling of strength, rather, an extreme sense of "fraility" surrounded him, as if the slightest breeze would blow him away, and Magnum found himself feeling very protective, almost, fanatically protective toward this vulnerable young man.

Only Magnum's daughter, Lily, had ever brought out this protective streak so ferociously, until now.

Blair offered him a seat, with a movement of his hand and Magnum sat, his eyes watching the interplay between man and dog, and a twitching started around his mouth and soon blossomed into a full grin.

"New puppy?"

Blair put Joey down and walked carefully over to the chair opposite the couch, carefully because Joey was trying to walk on his feet, as he answered, "yes-s, new, yest-terday."

No one had told him about a stutter, and he was surprised, after all, the man had been a teacher, and a very good one, by all accounts. How the hell would this go over with a jury?

"You don't seem surprised that I'm here, Blair. May I call you Blair?"

"Yes. And no, I'm n-not. I read."

"So you were expecting someone?"

Blair just nodded, having already said more to this man than he had to any other human in weeks.

Thomas felt the subponea in his pocket, and at that moment, he knew he wouldn't use it. *Couldn't* use it. Not on this wounded man, because that was what he was, one of the walking wounded, and he'd seen that haunted expression too many times not to recognize it.

The puppy had somehow managed to "crawl" up Blair's pant leg and was now curled up in his lap and sound asleep. Blair's hand was absently petting the furcoat, allowing the action to calm him, to ready him for what he knew was now inevitable, his return to Cascade.

"Beverly want-ts me to....t-testify?"

"Yes. I'm afraid so, but I'm sure we can do without, somehow."

Blair's head tilted, as he looked at his visitor, puzzling at his new words. "You fly all t-this way, t-to *not* use - me?"

Caught. Redhanded. To cover his discomfort, he stood and walked around, looking at the items on shelves, at the books, on Anthropology *and* Police Science, on artifacts, gracing the walls, and he knew Blair was watching him, gauging him, so he walked over to one set of shelves, noting the several framed pictures, one of which was a copy to the one he had in his pocket. He looked at each photo, saw Blair and another man, fishing, saw several men, in tux's, at a racetrack, saw a few of a younger Blair, obviously on expeditions, and then his eyes stopped, froze, on one picture. A picture of a young woman, maybe 16 or 17 years of age, with long red hair, sitting under a tree, an open book on her lap, smiling for the camera.


Blair had a picture of Naomi. Controlling his voice, he asked, "Who is this?"

"My mother."

Of course, his mother. Naomi. Blair.

He could no more have stopped the questions, than he could have stopped breathing.

"Do you know when this was taken, and where?"

"I t-think, Maryland. Summer, 1968."

But of course, Thomas "knew" that. He'd taken the picture.

August and September, 1968. Two months of wonder, of passion, of love. With a woman named Naomi, Naomi Iris. And then, the Naval Academy and she was gone. And he'd suffered through his first broken heart. His first real love. His "only" real love.

He turned to the man, sitting in a deathly stillness, watching him and

he felt the words come, words he didn't even want to stop.

"When were you born?"

And Blair, a frown knitting his forehead, answered, "May, 1969."

Thomas turned back to the picture, picked up, turned around and said, "I took this picture. But she wasn't Naomi Sandburg. We had two months together. August through September. I left for the Naval Academy on October 3, 1968. She was devastated, so certain I wouldn't go, but I had to and I hoped she'd understand, but she ~ didn't. I never saw her again."

If it was possible, Blair's body became even more still as he said, "Iris. She t-told me once, she used her favorit-te flower, the iris, as her last name."

Blair glanced down at the puppy, whuffling in it's sleep, then back up to the tall man standing at his bookshelf. "I never knew my.....fat-ther. She said she didn't-t know, who.....".

"We were together for two months, Blair. No one else, just Naomi and me."

"I was conceived in late September, according to Naomi."

Magnum's legs would no longer hold him, and he collapsed onto the chair, behind him. Naomi, Blair, his ~ son? Yes, his ~ son. Had to be. Could be argued, but he *knew*. There were blood tests, but he also knew they would be unnecessary, a simple phone call, to Naomi. But for him, even that wasn't needed. He *knew*.

He looked at his *son* and smiled, a gentle, experimental smile, then waited.

"What-t should I say?"

"What are you thinking?"

"T-that I seem to have found my father. Should I call Naomi?"

"Not for me, Blair. I don't need the call. Other than to talk.....with her."

"T-this was....quick. One minut-te, testifying, the next, a picture, a fat-ther."

"Yes, quick. But I couldn't *not* say, not tell you, I'm, *glad*, you see?"

The curly head dropped down, the voice, muffled, "won't be."

Thomas sat forward, concern written in every line of his body, as he asked, "What? What did you say, Blair?"

"Won't-t be. Glad."


Blair stood suddenly, and with a burst of manic energy began to circle his apartment, Joey chasing after him, Blair's arms waving at his surroundings.

"I'm not-t anyone you would-d be glad to know, now, *t-this* is who I am. And you don't-t know me, can't"

Thomas was up and by Blair's side in one long stride, his hands on Blair's shoulders. "Wrong, I do know you, I'm an investigator, I made it my business to know the man I was sent to bring back to Cascade. And I'm *glad*. That isn't going to change."

Blair shook his head in resignation, because he knew it *would* change, would have to change, once he testified, but in the meantime, he'd pretend, hold onto this for awhile, luxuriate in having a "father", and maybe, when the trial was over and he was back here, the feeling would keep him going, keep him alive a bit longer.

"When d-do we leave?"

The change of subject threw Magnum for a loop, but he bounced back and answered, "Blair, we have time. Time to get to know one another a bit better, and you don't really need to come back, I'm sure we can handle the case without your testimony." But of course, he wasn't. He *hoped* Beverly would understand, would see that Blair testifying was *not* the thing to do, but if not, then he'd be there with him, making it as easy as possible.

Joey had started to whimper, probably at being ignored for so long, so he was quickly gathered up in Blair's arms and cuddled to his chest as Blair looked at Magnum and smiled, shyly, and asked, "Where are you st-taying?"

"I have reservations at the Hyatt, downtown."

Blair stroked Joey, who'd managed to turn over so his tummy was within rubbing range, and without looking up, said, "You could-d, couch, folds out-t, kinda comfortable."

"I'd like that, Blair. I'd like that very much. Let me go down and get my bag and then we'll get this "getting to know each other" stuff started."

He was back in minutes, his garment bag over his shoulder. Blair smiled and asked, "Okay, so where d-do you want to start?"


Cascade, Wa.

Jim Ellison sat in front of the television, remote clicking aimlessly, eyes focused but not seeing. He was not really there, at that moment, but rather, he was in a place he'd been frequenting a great deal lately - the past. Reliving moments, words, laughter. Remembering a particular laugh, a laugh that could move through his body, like some magical elixir, sending pleasure waves from the top of his head all the way to the bottom of his feet. And a voice, with words that could mean nothing and everything, a voice that could warm Jim Ellison like a toasty fire in December, with snow billowing outside, and nothing but heat and safety inside.

The loft darkened as night came, and still, the Sentinel, who was no longer a Sentinel, sat, unmoving, living only in his mind, smiling and nodding as he heard that voice and responded to it, as if it still resided there, with him, instead of in his memory.


San Francisco, Ca.

The park was nearly empty, with only a few joggers and one or two couples occupying blankets, enjoying a picnic inspite of the complete absence of the sun.

Thomas sat at one of the park tables, a plate of leftover Chinese food in front of him, taking some bites every now and then, but enjoying the antics of Blair and Joey more than the food.

Blair was on the grass, Joey crouched a few feet away, in harness and leash, but watching Blair's socked toe, as it waved and invited a thorough pouncing, which, if Joey's butt was any indication, would be forthcoming. Thomas wasn't disappointed, as with one last wiggle of his butt, Joey pounced and with small teeth, latched onto the toe, to the joy of Blair. They tussled a bit more, but finally Blair scooped him up and joined Thomas at the table.

He swung a leg over the bench, grabbed a juice bottle, twisted off the cap and swigged some down, then placed the puppy on the grass under the bench, where he quickly fell asleep, spreadeagled, content, with his head on Blair's foot.

They'd had twenty-four hours together, and in that time, Blair had learned *everything* about his father, including the fact that Blair had a sister, Lily, who was a student at Rainier. He knew about his naval days, his time as a private investigator in Hawaii, living on the estate belonging to a favorite author of Blair's, Robin Masters, and he learned about his friends, about how he'd finally found his daughter, and about the two months spent with Naomi.

But Thomas had yet to learn anything significant about Blair, other than what he'd already known. Blair had been an anthropologist, an observer for the Cascade Police Department, and a teacher. And now he worked at a club, the Deep Six, two blocks west of the Castro District. Not good for an investigator with almost twenty years in the business.

"Your boss going to be okay with this time off?"

"Yeah, he's cool. Besides, I work several shift-ts, for some of t-the guys, they'll cover me."

Magnum's pocket began to "ring" at that moment, and with an apologetic smile, he reached in and pulled out his cellphone and hit send.


//I hope you've found him, because they just got the trial moved up to this Friday//

"Hello to you too, Beverly. And yes, I'm with him now. And I'll call you later." With that, he hung up before Beverly could say anything else.


"Um, yes. The trial has been moved again. To this Friday."

Blair immediately began stuffing containers back into the duffel bag, knowing his time with his father was over.

"Blair, there's no rush."

"We both know t-there is. Friday and t-today is Wednesday."

He had no choice, he began to help and moments later, with a now wide awake Joey taking the lead, they went back to the car.


Magnum pulled up in front of Blair's apartment house, shut down and turned to his son.

"I'm going to take Joey for a bit of a walk, we'll be in shortly, okay?"

Blair wasn't fooled, he knew his father was going to call Beverly back as soon as he left the car. He nodded, grabbed the bag and slipped out of the car. He didn't look back.

Thomas watched as Blair went inside, then he pulled out his phone again, punched in Beverly's number and she answered on the second ring.

//Magnum, this better be you//

"It is. I couldn't talk with Blair sitting right next to me. Why didn't you tell me about the stutter?"

//Stutter? What stutter? What the hell are you talking about?//

"Blair's stutter. He's in no shape to testify, Beverly. And what the hell happened to him in Cascade? He's so ~ fragile, a stiff breeze would break him apart."

//Jesus, that's not the Blair Sandburg I know. He could talk you silly, but no stutter, ever. And he has to testify now. I've received some information, and don't ask about my source, that they have tied Blair to Crawford, *and* that Blair had sex with Kincaid, that that was how he controlled Kincaid, in order to milk Crawford's company out of all that money. It will be Blair's word against Kincaids. We *need* him//

"Fuck. Beverly, you don't believe any of that, do you?"

//I've told you where I stand regarding Blair. But do I hear a change of tune with you?//

"I....know him, now."

//Well, then, you must want to protect his reputation as much as I do, not to mention keeping Kincaid off the streets. You're booked for American Airlines Flight 216, leaving SFO at six o'clock, arriving here at eight thirty. I'll meet you. I've made reservations for Blair at the Connaught//

"Cancel the Connaught, he'll stay with me."

He could almost hear Beverly's sigh of relief.

//See you at eight thirty. And my office, tomorrow at ten//

He disconnected and looked up at the apartment house. There was *too* much he still didn't know about his son. He got out and as promised, took Joey for his short walk.


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