The cell door clanged open and Blair cracked an eye, hoping against hope that he'd see Jim standing there. It was Castillo.

"Up, Sandburg."

Blair stood and was immediately shuffled out and to an elevator. They went up two floors and he was led into an interrogation room. Still no Jim.

He was brusquely seated, biting back a moan as Griffin took the seat across from him. Castillo leaned against the wall. For just a moment, the old Blair flared up. These two men were ridiculous. How many times had he seen just this act? He wondered which one would play the bad cop.

"Care to tell us why you killed Wagner?" Griffin's voice was polite, curious.

Blair's voice was equally polite as he answered, "Care to tell me why you're even trying this without my lawyer present?"

"Come on, Sandburg, we're all cops here. You can tell us."

Blair shook his head in wonder. "I want my lawyer present." He waited. They hadn't mirandized him, and now they were questioning him without his lawyer....if they would just ask again.....

"Now, now, you don't really need one. We're just being friendly. Why did you kill him? Was his wife worth it? How long had you been planning it?"

Could these guys really be this stupid? He said it one more time. "I want my lawyer present - now."

"Sandburg, you're going down for this. Make it easy on yourself, confess."

"Fine. I killed him. Happy now? Killed him with one little punch. Must not know my own strength." They couldn't be this.......

"Buddy, take him back to his cell. Our work here is done."

...stupid. But they were.

And Blair fully understood. But they'd blown it big time. No miranda, and he *knew* they'd forgotten they'd been interrupted.

He was led back, but before the elevator could close, a uniformed officer hailed Castillo.

"Hold it Castillo. Is that Sandburg?"

"What if it is?"

"Upstairs, now, room 3. Captain's orders." The officer didn't notice the sudden pallor of Det. Castillo, but Blair did. For a moment, the detective stood uncertainly, then, with a loud sigh, he punched the *one*.

As they stepped out, Blair's head turned in each direction, hoping......and there he was, Jim, striding toward him, eyes searching, seeing the new bruise, and Blair saw anger flare up in those pale, now icy cold blues, but Simon overoad him, pushed him aside and took over.

"I'm Captain Simon Banks. This is Cheryl Booker, Blair's lawyer. Take him in room three. Now." His voice brooked no argument.

Minutes later, Simon, Cheryl and Jim were alone with Blair.

Jim put the bag of Blair's clothes on the small table and pulled out a shirt, socks and shoes.

He took the flannel shirt and as Simon talked, he literally dressed Blair. His senses had picked up the scent of blood, of a heart rate that was too slow, and his eyes had seen the whiteness beneath the flushed skin.

"Sandburg, you okay?" Simon asked, worried.

Blair nodded as Jim slipped his arms into the shirt and added, "Simon, the bruise on his temple, that's new."

Cheryl had yet to say anything, but she already hated the way her friend looked. His eyes seemed glassy and now that the initial flush of embarrasment had ebbed, his pallor stood out.

"Blair? What's happened so far?"

He turned to her and gave her a small, grateful smile and as Jim squatted down to put socks on his feet, Blair spoke for the first time, his voice so quiet, Simon and Cheryl had to lean forward to hear.

"you're gonna love it, cheryl. they didn't mirandize me. they questioned me without you, in spite of repeated requests for a lawyer and they booked me. the whole nine yards. a lawyers dream." And then as an afterthought and with the first glimmer of the real Blair, he added, "oh, yeah, and I confessed." His grin was downright wicked.

For a moment, no one said a thing. Then Cheryl hissed out, "You what?"

Jim sat down on the floor, looked up at his partner and added his own, "You what?"

Simon, not to be left out, chimed in with his own incredulous, "You what?"

Blair shrugged and repeated, "i confessed. kind of and they swallowed it."

Jim braced himself on the table, hauled his body up, sighed, pulled out a chair and sat down facing his best friend.

"Let me get this straight, Chief. You confessed. To murdering this Wagner guy, yes?"

"kind of. They asked me to make it easier on them, promised it would go easier on me, if i just confessed. so I said, *Yeah, I killed him, happy now?* then i said something about one punch and not knowing my own strength, see?"

Cheryl smiled. A huge, light up New York City smile. "I can't believe you did that, Blair. Apparently all those nights helping me study paid off."

He shrugged, the last hour catching up to him. His own smile faded as he stepped into his loafers. "can I go home now?"

"No, Blair. Your arraignment is scheduled for Monday and until then.....", her voice trailed off.

"They booked you, Chief. The bastards. I'm sorry."

He looked dejectedly from one face to the other, then back to Jim.

"I need - a ---- doctor, Jim."

Ellison reached over to feel the bump on Blair's temple, but Blair pulled back, shaking his head.

"no, Jim.....they - did a - strip search. full body."

"Jesus Fucking Christ!" Simon hissed out.


The flurry of activity that followed both Blair's announcement and Simon's exclamation, resulted in Blair being moved to Captain Lopez's office and a doctor being summoned.

As they were escorted to Russ's office, Jim managed to keep his anger in check, not an easy thing to do at the moment, not while watching the way Blair was walking. Why hadn't he noticed it before?

Blair was moving slowly, body slightly hunched over, and obviously in pain. The door to the Captain's office was unlocked and the four people stepped in, as the officer who'd let them in, said, "As soon as the doctor arrives, we'll send him in. Captain Lopez is on his way." Then he stepped back and shut the door.

Jim made a move to Blair, to assist him, but was waved off as Blair went to the one couch in the corner and lowered himself gently. If anything, his face was even whiter now, his lips grey tinged.

Simon couldn't watch, so he turned his attention to Cheryl.

"I'm uncertain how Castillo and Griffin's failure to mirandize is going to help Blair. His confession was, from what he said, hardly real." Cheryl pulled up a chair next to the couch and addressed Simon, "It's more than that, Captain Banks. We're talking *due process* here, and the State of Washington is a stickler for due process. Those two dickheads failed in every aspect and if the judge that Blair goes before takes this whole fiasco any further - wham - I hit him with due process. It's a technicality, but here, in Washington, it's a good one."

Jim was on the couch with Blair, and he added his two cents worth. "So basically, you're saying that the confession has to be their main thrust on Monday?"

Cheryl nodded and said, "Exactly."

Blair's head was back, resting against the corner of the couch, his eyes closed, but he added, "we need to find out what francie said, what she told those two detectives....".

All eyes turned to him, for the first time realizing that there *was* a story to be told. Cheryl took the bit between the teeth, pulled out a legal pad and bluntly asked, "Blair, tell me what happened last night."

Blair gave out a large sigh and started his story.

He told them how he'd met Francie, at the Cascade PD charity carnival, how they'd started dating, and finally, about their last evening together, including Randy's interruption, words, the two blows and Blair's exit. He finished and the room was silent for several seconds. Then the lawyer in Cheryl took the lead. "So, you struck him once, he slugged you once, both blows drew blood. Correct?"

Blair nodded tiredly.

"His blood, could it have gotten on your clothes?"

"yes. i wiped my hands on my jeans, and perhaps a bit of splatter on my sweater. Same with my blood on his clothes. Consistant with blows struck, yadda-yadda."

Cheryl made some final notes, capped her pen and said, "Here's hoping this friend of yours, Captain Banks, will give us everything they have."

"Please, it's Simon, and I'm sure he will."

At that moment there was a quiet knock and the door opened.

"Um, the doctor is here. We don't really have facitilites......" he was interrupted by Simon.

"Fine, show the doctor in here. Thank you, Officer."

A few seconds later, Dr. Walter Brent, a physician well acquainted with Major Crime and specifically with Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg, walked in, bag in hand.

"Care to leave me alone with my oft time patient?"

Simon stood, shook hands and said, "Thank you for coming Walt. He has a bruise on his temple as well. We'll be just outside."

Jim stood last, none to eager to leave his partner. "Chief?"

Tired eyes opened slowly as Blair smiled slightly and nodded, "go on, i'm fine."

Jim joined Simon and Cheryl outside, but he watched as the door closed, and as the blinds were drawn. He was tempted to listen, but the very idea of further invading Blair's privacy stopped that thought in it's tracks.

While they waited, Captain Lopez stepped out of the elevator. He strode down the hall, hand outstretched. "Simon, I'm so sorry about this." The two men shook as Simon responded, "Thanks, Russ. The doctor is with my man now. It seems that inspite of knowing that he was a detective, in spite of knowing that they'd dragged him nearly naked from his bed, they decided it was necessary to do a complete body search. And apparently none to well. He'd better be all right, Russ. This whole business has been unconscionable."

Lopez's brown eyes flicked to his office and back to his friend as he said, "I'm already on top of this. Hargrove should be here any minute and I have both detectives in one of the interrogation rooms right now, waiting for me. I just wanted to check in with you first. Would you care to join me in my discussion with Castillo and Griffin?"

"Very much, Russ. Let's go." Simon turned to Jim, who'd started to move with them and held out his palm, "No, Jim. You stay here, I don't want you anywhere near those two men.

Besides, Blair needs you right now."

Their eyes met, locking, but Simon's words penetrated, especially the last ones and Jim finally nodded. He watched as the two Captains moved to the elevators.


"Look, I'm telling you, we didn't know he was a detective. And frankly sir, it shouldn't make a difference. A man is dead, and Sandburg is our prime suspect."

Castillo had a stubborn set to his chin, having decided to take the high moral road in this *discussion* with his captain.

"Prime suspect based on what? I read your report, Castillo. The wife says here," Russ Lopez lifted the report from the table and read, *It must have been Blair, it must have. He had to have come back after I left.....dear god.* Pray tell, how does *that* translate into *both* a search warrant *and* an arrest warrant?"

"We didn't get them, the Lieutenant did. He had them when we arrived in his office. He told us to go pick up this Blair Sandburg, so we did."

Lopez leaned into his man and hissed, "You're telling me Lieutenant Hargrove had this all fixed based on this report?"

"That's what I'm telling you."

Lopez looked from one man to the other, noting the sweat gathering on Griffin's upper lip, and the small twitch at Castillo's right eye.

"And neither of you thought this was the least bit unusual? And how about the full body search? I suppose that wasn't your idea either?" Castillo shot a surprised look at his partner, who shrugged helplessly but answered for both of them, "We turned him over to booking, sir. What happened after that....."

"You disclaim all fucking knowledge, right?"

Castillo stood quickly, shoving his chair back as he did, anger in every line of his body.

"Captain, we're *your* people. Sandburg was a suspect as far as we were concerned. Period. This whole thing stinks. Who are you protecting, I mean, I know who he is now.....and he's nothing. We're good men, good detectives, he's a liar and a cheat. *HE* should be in this room, not us. *HE'S* the suspect, not us."

"HE'S THE FUCKING SUSPECT YOU DRAGGED OUT OF HIS HOME, WEARING ONLY SWEATPANTS, *AFTER* YOU DISCOVERED HE WAS A DETECTIVE. HE'S THE FUCKING MAN YOU DRAGGED OUT OF THE CAR THEN LEFT HIM BRUISED, AND HE'S THE FUCKING *SUSPECT* YOU BOOKED *BEFORE* YOU EVEN INTERROGATED HIM!" Lopez took a deep breath and with a much quieter voice added, "You broke every procedure in the book on this one. You didn't have the evidence to do more than *ask* him to come in for questioning. AND YOU BOTH KNOW IT."

A rap on the door and an officer sticking his head through stalled any further comments.

"Captain? I was told to let you ambulance has been sent for - to transport the prisoner in your office."

Simon was up and out the door, a muttered, "Fuck," his only words.


Simon got out of the elevator in time to see a Blair laden gurney being wheeled from Russ' office, an anguished Jim on one side, Walt on the other and Cheryl bringing up the rear.

He moved next to Jim and gazed down at Sandburg, whose eyes were tightly closed.

"Jim? Walt?"

Jim just shook his head as the gurney was maneuvered into the elevator Simon had just exited.

The ride down was silent, with Simon seething, needing to hear what was wrong with his man, but understanding the need to hold off until they had some privacy. Blair still had not opened his eyes, but he was conscious, Simon could see that by the grimace as the gurney bounced over the ridge in the elevator as they exited and turned toward the lobby doors and the ambulance that waited curbside.

Blair was lifted in, with Jim and one paramedic following. Simon watched as the doors were closed, and as the vehicle pulled away, he turned to Walt.

"Okay, spill."

Walt's eyes were still on the fast disappearing ambulance as he answered Simon. "Who ever did the exam should be shot. And believe me, Simon, your man has one hell of a law suit here." He turned to Cheryl, who'd stood silently, her lips a thin, grey line. "Am I right, Ms. Booker?"

"Oh, yeah. And I'll make sure they pay for this."

"Walt? I want the details."

"To put it succinctly, no lubrication, at least two fingers were inserted, possibly three, he's torn and bruised. No excuse, Simon. None. It was done maliciously, and as far as I'm concerned, with criminal intent. He needs to be examined, but I'm really moving him to get him the hell out that place. I have no intention of letting him go back there either."

This was more than he ever would have believed could be done. His anger was now almost a living thing but thank god for Walt.

Simon turned to Cheryl, his voice low and even. "I'm going to the hospital, would you get back to Russ, let him know? He's still with Castillo and Griffin," Simon's voice then hardened as he added, "And find out *who* did this. Please?"

"I'll take care of everything, Captain. Go."

He nodded, shook her hand and he and Walt walked quickly to their respective vehicles.


Blair didn't speak on the way to the hospital and his eyes remained shut. Jim wanted to take his hand, to hold tight, but didn't believe that would be welcomed, so he sat, staring at the strained, pale face, while planning all the different ways that he could use to kill the man who'd done this. And then the different ways he could kill Castillo, Griffin, Frances, Hargrove.......

As they were wheeling Sandburg down the hall and into a treatment room, he finally opened his eyes and said, "Homework, Jim. You list all the ways *you* want to kill 'em, and I'll list all the ways *I* want to....okay?" He gave a small smile, jerked his head to the waiting room and added, "Now, go - sit. I'm fine."

As the gurney disappeared behind the curtain, leaving Jim standing, openmouthed, he shook his head and wondered, not for the hundredth time, how the hell Sandburg did that. Did Jim ever have a thought Sandburg didn't know? He turned, walked to the waiting room and as instructed - sat.


Simon spotted Jim, sitting dejectedly in the waiting room and with a nod to Walt who headed toward the cubicle currently hosting Sandburg, he walked to Jim's side.

"Walt filled me in, Jim. Blair's going to be fine."

Jim tore his gaze from the floor and glanced up at his Captain. "Yeah, I know. Fine, always fine. Doesn't matter what they do to him, he's always *fine*......"

Simon took the seat next to his best detective and spoke quietly. "Jim, snap out of it. He *is* going to be fine. Cheryl is working on the D.A. as we speak, I've already sent Rafe and Connor to interview the wife and Joel is digging into their background with everything we've got. This will be over, Jim."

Ellison's expression didn't change as his eyes focused on his clasped hands. "Over for who, Simon? Over for Sandburg? You think he'll just drop kick this one? You think he doesn't know *why* this went down the way it did?" Jim's voice grew weaker as he added, almost in afterthought, "....and what if he loved her? You think he can just get over what was done to him? What she did to him?"

"Jim - he didn't love her. And sometimes, you're a real jackass. But don't mistake my words, just because he didn't love her, doesn't mean it won't hurt. He's trying to make a life for himself, to move on, and he just keeps hitting this fucking brick wall, so yeah, it's going to be tough for him, but this is......"


Banks turned his head to lock gazes with Ellison and said, "What?"

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

Simon gave an exasberated shake of his head and answered, "You, Blair. Okay, so you don't love him the way he loves you. He accepted that, he's trying. And the first time he finds someone he thinks he can connect with, WHAM, he gets one, right in the kisser. But this is *Blair* - he bounces. Always. So it will be hard, he'll need his friends, but we'll come through, like always."

Jim shot up as if a 1000 volts of electricity had just been forced through the chair, his expression telling Simon he'd scored a direct hit. Before the man could bellow out an response, Simon carefully pulled him back down and hissed into his ear, "If you have something to say to Blair, I suggest you wait until you're in the *same* room. Got it, Detective?"

Jim stared at his Captain, the range of emotions playing across his face giving Simon a great deal of satisfaction. Take that, James Joseph Ellison.

Further discussion or satisfaction was interrupted by the appearance of Walt. Both men stood anxiously as Walt waved them out to the hall.

"He's fine, we've done what we can to make him comfortable for now. He's cramping up, which is to be expected, he could go home, but Simon....."

"No, you're right, keep him here, Walt, until we hear from Cheryl. This is better than a cell."

Walt patted Simon on the arm, gave a concerned look at Ellison as he answered Simon with a "you got it", then turned his attention to Jim.

"Detective Ellison, you can see him, I won't move him unless we get bad news from Ms. Booker. Go ahead, he's awake."

Jim nodded and walked slowly and uncertainly toward the treatment room.

"Is he really gonna be okay, Walt?"

Both men were watching Ellison as he entered the room and Walt waited until Ellison disappeared before answering, "I guess *okay* will depend on how this all pans out. He's handling what happened to him during the so-called *search* better than I am. And frankly, that worries me."

Simon turned from the curtained room and faced his friend. "Why?"

Walt absently rubbed his chin as he said, "It's almost as if - he believes he - deserved it, Simon."


Blair turned his head toward Jim as the bigger man stepped up to his side. "Hey, man."

"Hey man, yourself. You're looking better."

"Feeling fine."


Blair frowned in concern as he realized that Jim had not made eye contact with him since joining him in the treatment room. "Are *you* okay, Jim?"

"Not to use this word again, but - yeah, I'm okay and I'm fine."

"Right. Um, when do I go back?"

Jim had been standing beside the hospital bed, moving anxiously from one foot to the other, his mind jumbled by Simon's words, by his own feelings and at the moment, by his need to take Blair in his arms, so Blair's question threw him.

"Back? Back where?"

"Duh, earth to Jim......Back to jail. You know, under arrest, booked - murder......", his voice trailed off as Jim paled. "Look, Jim, why don't you go - home? Or, go - somewhere."

Jim finally *looked* at his partner as he said, "You want me to leave?"

Blair breathed out a sigh of impatience, shook his head and said, "Jim, look, we both know what all this means, and I'm not even sure it isn't for the best. We've had a rough few - months," his head moved restlessly away from Jim, "my reputation wasn't much to begin with, and now, no matter how this turns out, it's finally gonna get buried completely, which will make it impossible for Simon to keep me with the department. I think it's time you cut me loose. You don't owe me a thing, Jim. Step back, take a breather."

"step back - take a breather?" Jim repeated, confused.

Blair had this sudden overwhelming need to have a good, old fashioned, *breathe into a bag - think I'm gonna die* panic attack. He certainly deserved one. He felt the tremor start in his hand and quickly said, "Jim, do you mind? I'd really like to be alone, please?"

Jim was still in a state of *take a breather* shock thus making him especially vulnerable to any suggestions Blair Sandburg made, so he nodded like an idiot and backed out of the room.

Which left him frozen out in the hall, kind of half in and half out of a zone, or more appropriately; *in* a Sandburg zone. Or would that be a Sandburg *induced* zone?

He pivoted once, then again, checked down the hall to his left, then his right, as if he expected an army of giant bad asses to storm the hospital.....


His breathing was coming fast and furious now, he could feel the sweat building up, and the tremor which had begun in his hand had moved up and become total body shivers. And he let it happen. Just - let - it - happen. It was his own version of *letting go*.

He'd been hanging on far too long. Hanging on to a life he couldn't have, to a home that wasn't legitimately his, and hanging on to a man he had no right to......

Stuck now with his own private thoughts, Blair had no choice but to admit his folly. He should never have moved back to the loft after returning from Sierra Verde. For months now, he'd kept himself busy, first finishing his dissertation, the academy, then police work, and finally, Frances. All to accomplish one thing, to meet one goal - to help him forget that he'd moved back in knowing, or at least suspecting, that Jim didn't want it.

It was time to make a change. Start over. A different life. To cut ties that bind.

Blair's private thoughts were doing nothing for his current condition. He was forced to roll onto his side, his arms wrapped around his cramping stomach muscles. He arched his neck, trying desperately to bring air into his tortured lungs, his mind screaming at him that he *could* breathe, but his lungs were screaming just the opposite.

Wallow over - get a grip, Sandburg. Deep breathing excercises, go to your safe place....

NO! Can't go there anymore......never should have changed from that jungle waterfall to Jim's arms for my safe, quiet, peaceful place.

STUPID! Okay, we can deal with safe place, coming right up.

Mountain stream, cool, rushing water.....tripping over shiny rocks, a breeze just wafting through the tops of the trees, providing that wonderful little *whooshing* sound.....The sky - azure, small tufts of powderpuff clouds.....

//you've been around Francie too long, Sandburg//

.....the quiet that only the forest can provide, the merest whisper of the wind through the bushes, your fishing line cutting the water, Jim's hand, on your shoulder....SHIT! Where's a director when you need one.....CUT! Get the man out, back to an *empty* stream......YOU"RE FUCKING ALONE, SANDBURG!


He could do alone. Been there - done that.

Alone. Okay, not so alone in prison.

Oh, yeah, think *prison* Sandburg. *That'll* kick this panic attack to Timbuctoo.....NOT!

Have you ever tried to *not* think? So, give it a try you dickhead.


Simon found himself drawn into his own thoughts as Jim finally joined Blair. Thoughts about his best team, thoughts of the two of them - together - a couple and it was a natural progression of his private thoughts.....he'd been aware for some time that there was more to Ellison and Sandburg than met the eye.

In their early days, when Jim first took the younger man as his ride-a-long, and then when Blair moved in and *stayed*, there'd been surprisingly little discussion. Blair was an obvious favorite with the ladies and if anyone had thoughts about Jim and his preferences, well, he was *Jim* and 'nuff said.

But gradually, over the years, Simon had seen it happen. Watched the closeness develope, the bond strengthen between the two men. And he'd watched Blair Sandburg fall in love. Watched as dates vanished, as he struggled to enter Jim's life, to *be* a partner Jim could use, could respect, and at some point, a point in time Simon could not identify, Jim had fallen for his roommate. Fallen hard. And fought it equally hard. And therein lay Simon's conundrum.

Why would Jim fight something so right? It's not as if Jim were a stranger to being with a man, Simon was one of a close few who knew that much about the man. So why fight it?

Had Simon done the right thing earlier? Giving up the ghost, so to speak?

He glanced up and out the waiting room door, into the hall and sighed.

Jim stood there, looking as though he'd just lost his best friend.

He should do something about it......

Wearily, Simon got up and headed out to the hall and his best friend.