Why Go Home?

(Part Three)

There were plenty of things Jim should have done after learning Blair's secret. He should have called Simon, reported back to the department, worked out a plan of action with his superior officer, waited for Dr. Thompson's office to call about the results of the three day evaluation and then proceeded with their plan. He should have taken a deep breath, a walk around the park, anything to give himself an opportunity to calm down.

He didn't do any of those things. Instead, he hurried back to the truck and tore off toward Larchmore, too panicked for his partner to give a damn about proper procedure.

I knew there was something up with him. It's not like he's especially good at hiding things from me, and I let him walk into this mess anyway. Shit! What the hell kind of Blessed Protector am I?

It would have been bad enough if it was simply that Blair was too personally involved, but Dr. Thompson had run Hill Crest when Blair was employed there. Even if Dr. Thompson hadn't personally fired him, even if he'd never met him, the man could have seen his personnel file, like Jim had, the one that contained his picture. It may have been ten years ago, but it was the kind of thing that would stick in a person's mind. Even if the doctor hadn't recognized Blair during their interview, it could come to him at any time. If there was any possibility that Blair was in danger, there was no way Jim was going to leave him there.

He pulled into the parking lot and stopped the truck with a squeal of rubber against blacktop. He dashed into the building and straight to the front desk.

"I made a mistake," he told the nurse stationed there. "I've come for my brother. I'm going to take him home. Now."

"Sir, calm down. I have no idea what you're talking about, but if you slow down a little and explain, I'm sure I can help you. I'm sure your brother is receiving the best possible care..."

Jim turned away from her impatiently and headed toward the director's office.

"Sir! Excuse me, sir! You can't go in there. I'll have to call security."

Jim didn't look back or stop, striding purposefully down the corridor. As he opened the door into the outer waiting room of the director's office, his secretary was just hanging up the phone, obviously a call from the woman at the front desk.

"I'm sorry, sir," she said, standing up, trying to block his way. "Dr. Thompson can't see you right now. He's tied up with hospital business. Perhaps we could schedule an appointment for a more convenient time?"

Jim ignored her, pushing his way into the doctor's inner office.

"Yes, I'm glad to hear that," the doctor was saying into the phone, seated behind his desk, surprised when Jim barged in. "Keep me apprized of the situation. I'm sorry, Dr. Thornsen, I have someone waiting for me. I need to go. Yes. Very well then. I'll see you at the conference in New York. Bye now." He hung up the phone, watching Jim curiously.

"I made a mistake," Jim told him. "I'm here to take my brother home."

"I'm sorry, Dr. Thompson. I tried to keep him from just bursting in like this," the secretary apologized.

The doctor waved her off. "That's okay, Sally. I can see that Mr. Ellis is rather upset about his brother. It's not your fault. I'll take care of it." He motioned Jim toward a chair. "Please, take a seat, Mr. Ellis. Let's discuss your reservations. I feel certain we can put this whole thing to rest."

Jim sat down, and Sally reluctantly left, closing the door behind her. Dr. Thompson took his seat and regarded Jim across the desk, his expression composed, with the measured patience of his profession. It annoyed the hell out of Jim.

"So tell me, Mr. Ellis, how can I help you?"

"I've thought about it some more, and I realized that it's Blair's life. He's gotta be who he is, not who I want him to be. I have to respect his choices, even if I don't agree with them."

"Mr. Ellis, I've examined your brother, and I have to tell you that he is a very unwell young man. His inappropriate sexual behavior is only a surface issue. On a deeper level, he's extremely depressed, perhaps due to unprocessed feelings related to the death of his parents. I couldn't in good conscience release him now. He could very well pose a danger to himself and quite possibly to you as well. He has a great deal of anger and aggression towards you. Blair is really just an explosion waiting to happen. In my professional opinion, he requires further treatment and counseling. That's what I planned to tell you when we met to discuss the results of my evaluation. It's my opinion that Blair needs a longer stay here."

"How long?"

The doctor gave Jim a patronizing look. "It's not like fixing a car, Mr. Ellis. I can't give you an estimate. The human mind is complex and unpredictable. But I can tell you that we're already beginning to make progress. This is only the third day, but Blair seems to have adjusted well to being here. He's talking in his group therapy. He's accepting our rules and our standards. Don't give up on us just yet. I think you'll be very pleased with the positive improvement in Blair once we've had a chance to work with him longer."

Jim took a moment, putting on a thoughtful and agonized expression, as if he truly were wrestling with what to do. Finally he said, "You know, Dr. Thompson, I really appreciate your position and everything you want to do for Blair. I really do. But I made a mistake. I see that now. I just want to take my brother home with me. If he needs help, I'll make sure he goes to therapy, but I don't think he belongs in a hospital. I want him released. Now."

Jim watched the doctor's entire demeanor change, becoming terse and glacial. Oooh, it just got chilly in here.

"I'm afraid I can't do that, Mr. Ellis. You'll find I have the legal authority to hold Blair for 30 days for further evaluation. I'll need that time to determine the full extent of his problems."

"I want another opinion," Jim demanded.

"He's also been reviewed by Dr. Hannigan, the staff psychiatrist in charge of his treatment. She concurs with my diagnosis."

Jim began to feel desperate. "At least let me see him."

The doctor shook his head. "That's against policy. We find that seeing family members, especially at the beginning, interferes with the therapeutic process."

There was no way Jim was going to leave the building without seeing Blair. "I understand that rules are rules. But it would really help me feel easy about Blair staying here for a whole month if I could just see him for myself and make sure he's okay. That way I won't feel the need to call in an outside doctor for an independent opinion."

He could see the doctor calculating his options. Oh, yes. Got you where you live.

"Well...perhaps there is something we can do," the man finally said. "I mean it really is out of the ordinary, but if it will give you confidence in our work and peace of mind, then I suppose..." He hit the button on the intercom. "Sally, can you have Ralph report to my office?"

A few minutes later, the same orderly from the other day materialized.

"Ralph, you remember Jim Ellis, Blair's half brother?" the doctor asked, reacquainting them.

The orderly shook Jim's hand. "Yes, of course. How are you, Mr. Ellis?"

"Mr. Ellis is a little concerned about how his brother is doing under our care," Dr. Thompson explained. "Even though it's not our usual policy, I think it will be okay in this case if he visits with Blair briefly. Can you go find him and bring him to the conference room? Try to prepare him for seeing his brother as well as you can." He turned to Jim. "You see, Mr. Ellis, we tell our patients not to expect visitors. We don't want to jar him."

"I understand," Jim said.

"I'll see to it right away," Ralph said, leaving the room.

Dr. Thompson rose to his feet. "It will take him just a moment to prepare Blair. Why don't we get a cup of coffee on our way to the conference room?"

"After you, Doctor."

Blair was sitting next to Ritchie and Jennifer in the day room, watching a rerun of Quantum Leap, wishing he could jump into another life and take his friends with him, anything to get out of Larchmore, when Ralph touched him lightly on the shoulder. He started.

"Sorry to pull you away from the show, Blair," he said. "But you've got a visitor waiting for you in the conference room. I came to take you down there."

"A visitor?" Blair asked, knowing it must be Jim, coming to check on him at the three-day mark, like they'd agreed.

Ralph smiled. "Yeah, it's against rules, but I guess you got lucky. Doc said it's okay for your brother to see you."

"Oh, okay then. Now?"

"We don't want to keep the man waiting."

Blair got up, and Ralph followed him out of the room, making small talk as they went. Once they were halfway down the hall, the orderly's demeanor changed radically. Even though Blair had been wary of him, it still managed to surprise him. The last thing he'd expected was to be slammed up against the wall.

Ralph got in his face. "That brother of yours is making trouble for Dr. Thompson. I don't like trouble, Ellis, and I certainly don't like troublemakers."

"Hey, man. Let go. I don't have any control over what Jim does. It's not my fault. You got a problem, take it up with him."

Ralph grabbed him by the throat, cutting off his air flow. "Let me lay down the law for you, Ellis. You speak when I tell you. Otherwise, you shut up. Got it?"

Blair could only nod.

"Now, you're gonna go into that conference room to see your brother, and you're gonna convince him that everything's fine. That you understand why you're here. That you think you need to stay. You got it?"

Blair nodded again, and Ralph released his grip. Blair gasped for air.

"In case you get any thoughts about pulling something funny, I'll be in the room the whole time, listening to every word you say. If I hear anything that even remotely sounds like you're trying to send a message, you'll pay for it later. Understand?"

Blair nodded, his eyes wide with shock, the cold fear beginning to grip him.

"And just in case that's not enough for you, I'll come after your little girlfriend too."

Blair felt distinctly sick, realizing the man was threatening Jennifer.

"That's right, pretty boy. I see the two of you hanging out all the time. I know you like her. Wouldn't want anything to happen to her, would you? Wouldn't want some unfortunate accident to meet up with your little dyke gal pal, huh? Would we?" Ralph taunted.

Blair shook his head silently. Now he couldn't even signal Jim that he was in trouble. He didn't have the evidence to help Jennifer yet, and there was no way he'd leave her alone in this place, defenseless, at the mercy of this sick bastard.

"Good. Now you just remember what I told you when you're talking to that big brother of yours. Remember that everything's fine. You like it here. You're already feeling better. This is where you need to be. Got it?"

Blair nodded, too shaken to speak.

"Good," Ralph said. "Now let's get you reunited with your family."

Something was terribly wrong. That's what every instinct Jim had shrieked at him. Blair shambled into the room and sat mutely down in the chair the orderly pointed to. His partner wouldn't meet his eyes, keeping his gaze carefully downturned, as if the wood grain of the conference table was the most interesting thing he'd ever seen. The orderly hovered behind Blair's chair, and he had to wonder if it was his presence that was making Blair act so strangely.

"I'd like some time alone with my brother," Jim told the man.

The orderly shook his head. "No can do, I'm afraid. It's strictly against policy. The doc gave specific instructions."

"Couldn't you at least wait outside with the door open?" Jim snapped at him.

He shook his head again. "Nope. Still against the rules. I have to be present at all times during a visit. It's for the patient's well-being, in case they get upset."

Jim finally gave up and turned back to his partner. "So how are you, buddy? Everything okay?" Jim asked him.

"It's fine, Jim," Blair said.

Blair finally glanced up, and he really did look like a kid, strangely vulnerable. That shook Jim. Blair was usually so strong and capable, gutsy even. But there was fear in his eyes today. Jim could see it. He could smell it, hear Blair's thundering pulse, the product of terror.

"I was a little worried about you," Jim told him, trying to remember to stay in character, to act like the older brother.

What he really wanted to do was draw his gun, arrest anyone who tried to get in his way and get his partner the hell out of there.

"There's no need for you to worry. Things are going good. I'm starting to feel better," Blair assured him, but his every vital sign told a different story.

"I came to take you home. I'm so sorry, Blair. I really thought this was the best thing for you, but this morning, I woke up and realized I'd made a terrible mistake. You're fine, just the way you are," he told his partner, earnestly, impassionedly, willing him to understand.

But Blair shook his head. "No, you were right in the first place. I do need to work some things out. I realize now that I have been having some problems since Mom and Dad died. Dr. Hannigan, she's my individual therapist, has really been helping. I like her. I don't mind staying. I really... I think it'll be good for me."

He stared at Blair in disbelief. Come on, buddy. Give me the sign. Let me get you out of here. Whisper it. I'll hear you. Come on, Blair. Damn it! You're over your head, whether you realize it or not.

But Blair didn't give him the signal. He just sat there quietly, his eyes cast down, not volunteering anything, answering only when spoken to. Jim kept asking him questions, covering and recovering the same ground, hoping that Blair would whisper some special message for his Sentinel hearing, but he just kept saying the same things, how great the hospital was and how much he needed help.

Someone got to him. Someone's made him afraid to tell me anything. They don't want him to leave for some reason. Oh God, what if they know who he is? He would give me the sign, wouldn't he? That's what the damned thing is for.

"Okay, Blair, it's time for your individual session with Dr. Hannigan," the orderly finally said, urging Blair to his feet, guiding him to the door.

"We're not finished yet," Jim protested.

"Sorry, Mr. Ellis, but you don't want your brother here to miss his therapy, do you?"

Fuck you, asshole. The only thing I care about is getting my partner out of here.

"I suppose not," he finally said, managing to control himself.

Even though every instinct he had screamed at him just to end this whole charade once and for all, another part of him insisted on trusting Blair. He's no novice at this. He knows what he's doing. If he wants to stay, there must be some reason. I've just got to have some faith in him.

"Blair?" he called after his partner. "Take care of yourself."

Blair nodded. "Bye, Jim."

"Bye, Chief."

The look Blair gave him at hearing the familiar nickname nearly broke his heart; his expression was absolutely forlorn, as if he wished he were going home with Jim but couldn't allow himself to do it for some reason. It sent Jim into a tailspin, making him seriously doubt his decision to let Blair stay. But finally he just watched as Ralph led him out of the room.

Dr. Thompson met him outside the conference room. "So, Mr. Ellis, I trust you enjoyed the visit with your brother?"

He nodded, distracted by worry.

"How did Blair seem to you?" the doctor asked.

"Fine," Jim said. "Eager to stay."

"See? I told you we were making progress already. Believe me, Mr. Ellis, we will help your brother. You just have to trust us to do our job."

I wouldn't trust you as far as I could throw you. I'm only leaving Blair here for now. We'll see what Simon has to say about this.

"Thank you for your time, Dr. Thompson," he said out loud. "I appreciate the opportunity to visit with Blair and see for myself."

"It was our pleasure, Mr. Ellis. We want our patients' loved ones to feel confident about their care."

I'm sure you do, asshole. I'm just sure you do. Wouldn't want anything to jeopardize all that insurance money you're raking in. But make no mistake, doctor, I will find out what the hell is going on around here, why Blair was so terrified, and then I'm bringing you down. Bet on it.

By the time Jim returned to the station, he had a pounding headache and a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. That last image of Blair, looking so desperate, played over and again in his head. He parked the truck and waited for the elevator, jabbing at the button impatiently until the doors finally opened. By the time he made his way up to Major Crimes, his agitation had only gathered steam.

"Hey, Jim," Brown said. "How's it going? Heard anything from Hairboy?"

"Later, H," he said, waving off the other cop, making a beeline for Simon's office.

He went in and shut the door behind him. "We need to pull Sandburg out of Larchmore immediately."

Simon looked up from his paperwork, annoyed by the interruption. He sighed heavily. "I thought we had this settled. Look, Jim, I know you're not crazy about the idea of Blair going undercover, but we need him on this."

"He's in trouble, Simon," Jim said, hesitating about how much of the story he should confide in his commanding officer. "I found out some stuff... Blair's been through something a little like this. That's why he identifies so much with Stacey Walters. It's why he volunteered to help Jennifer Ross. His emotions are involved. It's not safe."

Simon's face showed his surprise. "How do you know all this?"

Jim couldn't quite meet his eye.

"You checked him out, huh?" Simon guessed.

Jim nodded.

"You realize he's going to hit the roof when he finds out."

"Respectfully, sir, that's nothing compared to his safety, his life. Even if Sandburg hates my guts, it would be worth it."

Simon watched him, appraisingly. "I hope you're right about that."

"There's something else too, Simon. The other hospital where Blair worked? The same doctor in charge back then is now the director at Larchmore—Dr. Thompson, the one we met with that first day. Blair's cover could be blown."

"So this Dr. Thompson knew Blair when he worked at the other hospital?"

Jim stared down at the floor.


"Maybe not. Apparently he was something of an absentee administrator."

"You didn't get a feeling during the interview? Nothing register with your senses?"

Jim shook his head. "No," he admitted, grudgingly.

"Then I doubt he connects it. It's been a long time. And you didn't sense anything from Blair during the interview, that he recognized the guy?"

"No, not then. But I got a terrible feeling when I saw Blair today. Something is definitely wrong now," Jim insisted.

"You went back to Larchmore without clearing it with me first?" Simon asked, his voice rising testily.

Jim looked a little sheepish. "I was worried about him. We have to get him out of there."

"They let you see him, huh? It doesn't exactly sound like they're trying to cover up anything, does it?"

"He didn't look like himself. I swear, there's something going on. Come on, Simon. I'm a Sentinel. I know shit like this.

"He give you the high sign?" Simon asked, watching him carefully.

Jim hesitated, not yet ready to concede.

"He didn't, did he?" Simon pressed.

"No. But something was definitely wrong. I'm telling you. His vital signs were off the charts. He was terrified. I could smell it. For some reason he couldn't give me the signal."

"Jim, Blair's not a cop. As well as he handles himself in these situations, it's not reasonable to expect him to be as cool under pressure as, say, you would be. That doesn't mean he isn't doing okay. In fact, seeming kind of scared works for the situation he's in. It's good for his cover."

"Like you said, Simon, Blair's not a cop. He's personally involved. Plus, there's someone at Larchmore who could recognize him. We need to get him out of there now. You know what almost happened at Conover."

"That's a facility for the criminally insane, Jim. It's hardly the same situation at Larchmore. If the director didn't recognize him during the initial interview, it's doubtful he ever will. It's been over ten years, after all, and you yourself said that Dr. Thompson probably never even met Blair back then. I doubt the man's changed much over the years. Probably isn't any more involved in the day-to-day running of things than he was years ago."

"But Simon—"

"No, Jim. I'm not going to underestimate the kid here. Sandburg's shown in the past that he's perfectly capable of handling himself. If he didn't give you the signal, then he must think there's still something he can find out. If we're going to help Miss Ross, we'll need evidence."

Jim began to pace, growing more agitated by the minute. "I can't believe you're saying this. You do remember that Sandburg's a civilian, right? That it's our responsibility to keep him out of dangerous situations?"

"Don't take that tone with me, detective. I'm perfectly well aware of our responsibilities toward our civilian observer."

"Fine, sir. I'll go back to my desk and work on typing up those reports I owe you while Sandburg's rotting away in that place. But so help me, if anything happens to him..."

"Go ahead and finish it, Detective Ellison," Simon said, both his voice and his expression downright arctic.

Jim just set his jaw and looked away, unwilling to out-and-out threaten his friend and commanding officer. "I just wonder if this has something to do with what happened between you and Blair during the Roy Williams case," he finally said.


"Blair didn't feel like you trusted him, he got pissed, you two had words. I just think maybe you're overcompensating now."


"You heard me."

"I'm going to ignore the fact that you're questioning my judgment and my ability to command, because we've been friends so long and this is Sandburg we're talking about. But Jim, don't you think the truth of the matter is that you're the one who's too personally involved here?" Simon asked quietly.

Jim flushed deeply, staring at his captain in disbelief, before leaving his office without another word.

Jim paced the loft like an agitated panther, in what had become a habit since Blair had gone undercover at Larchmore. His mind buzzed with disturbing thoughts, and his body was still clenched with anger at what Simon had said to him. You're the one who's too personally involved, Jim. Another ragged surge of fury overtook him as he replayed it in his mind. He knew exactly what that meant coming from Simon, and he couldn't believe his commanding officer would resort to bringing that up. He'd worked with Simon for years now, and his captain had never once thrown that in his face, never once questioned his ability to do his job because of his sexual orientation.

Simon had clearly demonstrated from day one that he didn't care how Jim swung—the other way or both ways or no way at all. It just had never mattered to him, so Jim had never been particularly concerned with what he knew. Hell, at this point, most of Major Crimes had his number, and they'd probably figured it out long before he had. It had come as something of a surprise that no one had ever hassled him about it. But he kept it out of their faces, and that seemed to be enough for them.

Of course, when Blair had first started working with him, he'd heard the buzzing voices pick up again, puzzling over Sandburg, his relationship to Jim, most of it just idle curiosity. Oh, a few people had sounded hostile, calling Blair Ellison's boytoy or that little long-haired faggot. Eventually, they'd all come to believe, as he had, apparently in error, that Blair was as straight as the day was long, and that had been the end of the buzzing voices. They'd accepted Blair after that, most of them at least, and he'd finally been able to relax the "fuck with him and you fuck with me" attitude he'd projected whenever Blair was working with him at the station.

It made Jim smile sometimes when he thought back to how he'd schooled Blair at the beginning never to say they were partners and then how quickly he'd discarded his own advice. He'd never been very good at working with other people, but Blair had been an unexpectedly natural fit. He truly was Jim's partner, the best he'd ever had, even though he wasn't a cop, maybe precisely for that reason. Even Simon now accepted him as part of the team. Hell, Simon was crazy about Blair, respected him, not that he liked to go around broadcasting the fact. But he wouldn't have trusted Blair with this assignment if he didn't. So why was Simon bringing up all that old stuff, suggesting that there was more to his concern for Blair than simply looking out for a partner, a friend?

Jim paced around the loft with increased agitation as the answer to his own question started to dawn on him.

Because his feelings tended to creep up on him. Hell, he was often the last to know. Because Simon was objective and a trained observer, a damned good one too. Because Simon had realized, even if he hadn't, that his feelings for Blair had long since moved beyond friendship. Because he was so impossibly in love with Blair he couldn't see his way clear.

Oh, shit!

Jim had been so careful since he met Blair. Whatever Blair's history, whatever David Donnelly had meant to him, as long as Jim had known him, his only interest had been in women. Jim had never once smelled a man on him, had never seen him respond to any guy, never accept any of the numerous offers he received, never even pause to think about it. Jim had found it strangely fascinating—the assumptions people made about Blair based on his long hair and earrings, his emotional openness and hippie attitudes. It was completely contrary to what Jim's senses told him was the actual case, that Blair slept exclusively and extensively with women. Or at least that's what he had thought until today.

That's why he'd never even let himself consider Blair. In fact, he'd schooled himself against it, exerting his will, even in the most extreme of circumstances—when he was supporting Blair's trembling body as he walked him away from Lash's lair, when he was touching his partner's warm, naked skin as he bandaged his ribs, when he was cradling him in his arms waiting for the ambulance after the Golden incident. Never, not in all their time together, had he once let himself imagine what it would be like to have Blair Sandburg love him.

From the very beginning, he'd known it was imperative that Blair stay, and so he'd built a careful wall around him. It was the only way he could keep separate what he could have, Blair as best friend, partner, guide, roommate, confidante, from what he could never even hope to have. But now he could see that the wall had been in serious disrepair for some time, that it had never really done the job, had never been much of a match for the inexorable effect of all the time he spent with Blair. The more he knew Blair—all about him, his virtues, as well as his foibles—the more his sad excuse for a wall crumbled even further.

Until finally, he'd arrived at this moment when there was nothing left to do but admit the truth to himself. He loved Blair Sandburg, with everything he was—body, mind, soul, for all that he was worth—and he had for such a long, long time.

He could see now that forcing himself to keep that love under such strict, iron-willed control had all been a function of fear, the sick dread that Blair might feel threatened, that he might leave. He'd been so circumspect around his roommate, more than he'd been with anyone else since he finally came to the conclusion, after the mistake of his marriage, that he was gay—not bi, not experimenting, not confused—just gay, plain and simple.

He'd been so careful not to spook Blair that he sometimes wondered if he even realized that he dated men. Most days he thought he did, that he must have heard the gossip around the station, must have noticed Jim's responses to the men he found attractive, so very different from the way he handled the women who sometimes set their sights on him. Oh sure, in the beginning, Blair had tried to push him at women, but not lately, not in a long time. He'd reacted with such surprise when Jim had told him that Lila might have been the one. Because I was lying to myself and to him, one final self-delusion to try to deny what's so perfectly clear. That Blair's the one, always has been, always will be. I just couldn't let myself go there, not when I thought he couldn't possibly be interested, when I believed it would only drive him away.

But what about now? Now, he knew Blair had been with at least one other man. At a minimum, he didn't have to worry about disgusting him. The wall had crumbled for good, and his love for Blair, his desire for him, converged with all the other ways in which he valued him—as friend, partner, family, guide. Now, he could freely allow himself to admit the forbidden truth, the undeniable reality that had been with him for so long. I cherish Blair Sandburg. I am so in love with this man.

Now all I have to do is get him back, so I can tell him.

The next day, Blair sat in a corner of the day room, curled up in a chair, staring out the window at the wooded park behind the hospital building, thinking that the outside world had never seemed further away or more appealing. He still had not really stopped shaking from his run-in with Ralph. He thought of how the orderly had shoved him up against the wall, hands tangled in his shirt, manhandling him, scaring the shit out of him. He kept hearing Jennifer's warning in his head, her suspicions about what this man had done to Dougie. Blair now felt like there was every chance Jennifer's suspicions were true. There had been a fury, a capacity for violence in Ralph. Hell, the man had taken pleasure in terrorizing him. Rapists got off on their power. He shivered as he imagined what the sadistic bastard might have done to that poor defenseless boy, all the sick ways he could have misused his power over him.

Blair had also gotten the distinct impression that Ralph was the director's errand boy, in charge of carrying out his orders, doing his dirty work. Ralph had nearly said as much when he'd threatened him. But still, he needed evidence. Right now, it was just his word against the other man's. It certainly wasn't enough to make a case. He needed to move quickly. Tomorrow Simon would pull him out, and if Jim had his way, he felt certain it would be even sooner than that.

In fact, he half expected to look up and see Jim striding down the hall, coming to get him, his jaw set, not taking no for an answer. Blair knew there was no way Jim had missed the fact that something was wrong with him yesterday. Jim was a Sentinel, after all, and even if he hadn't been, he was still his best friend and knew him like no one else did. No, he felt certain Jim had realized he was petrified. Blair had seen the growing panic in his partner's face. His only explanation for why he was still at Larchmore was that Simon must have countermanded him and decided it was safe enough to leave him in place the extra two days. Blair knew, like he knew the sun would come up tomorrow, that if it had been up to Jim he'd be back home at the loft right now, safe and sound, under Sentinel protection.

"Hey, Blair," Jennifer said, sitting down beside him.

"Hey, Jen," he said, trying to sound normal, not really managing it.

She frowned. "Are you okay?" she asked, reaching out to touch his arm.

"Uh, yeah. I guess."

She shook her head. "Try again."

"I...well, I kind of had a problem with Ralph."

She turned completely pale. "He didn't...he didn't hurt you did he, Blair?"

Blair shook his head. "He just sort of got in my face about my brother demanding to see me. Said he didn't like it when patients made things difficult for the director."

"Did you tell your brother that he'd threatened you?"

"I couldn't."


"I just couldn't, okay, Jennifer?"

"Who'd he hold over you? Me or Ritchie?"

Blair gaped at her. "How... I..."

"I bet it was me, huh? That's why you didn't want to tell me," she said, a speculative look on her face. She put her hand on his. "Thank you for wanting to protect me, but I wish you hadn't sacrificed so much. If your brother knew what was going on, maybe he could get you out of here."

"I'm not leaving without you," he told her.

Jennifer blinked back tears. "I can't tell you how much it means to me that you feel this way. You're a true friend. But you can't hold yourself back because of me. There's nothing you can do to help me. Nobody can."

"Don't say that. It's not true. There are a lot of people who want to help, who are trying to get you out of here."

The minute the words left his mouth he realized he'd said too much.

She stared at him. "What do you mean? How would you know?"


"Who are you?" she demanded, her expression becoming closed, her voice suspicious.

"I'm a friend. Stacey sent me. My name is Blair Sandburg. I teach over at Rainier. I had Stacey in my introductory anthro class last year. I also work with the Cascade PD as a consultant. My captain sent me in under cover to try to find evidence of what's going on around here, so we can blow the lid off this place and get you out of here. You and all the other kids who have been unjustly committed. My brother is actually my partner, Detective Jim Ellison. He's kind of…protective of me, since I'm not a cop. That's why he came back yesterday demanding to see me, probably felt like something wasn't right. Jim's got great instincts."

Jennifer's looked stunned. "My God, I can't believe this."

"I didn't tell Jim about Ralph, because he would have dragged me out of here right then. I'm not leaving until I have the proof we need. I only have until tomorrow, Jennifer. I need you to help me, so I can help you get out of here."

The girl's face remained filled with surprise, and he could see her trying to process this new development, trying to regain her composure. "Of course. God. Yes. Whatever I can do. I can't even begin to tell you how it feels to know there might actually be some hope. I'd really started to think that I was never..." she broke off, her voice ragged with the tears she was holding back.

Blair took her hand, quickly scanning the room for staff, something he'd learned to do in just the few days he'd been at Larchmore. Public displays of affection were strictly against the rules. "It's okay, Jennifer. It's almost over now. I just need you to help me figure out how we can catch them, how we can prove it. You're a very observant person. What have you noticed? Where's the chink?"

Jennifer frowned, concentrating hard, searching her memory. Finally, she shook her head, her expression sinking into disappointment again. "I can't think of anything. I'm sorry, Blair. I just don't know."

He patted her hand. "It's, okay. You keep thinking about it. We'll figure something out. With all the things that are fucked up around here, there's got to be something we can use. I mean, they're arrogant sons of bitches. They think nobody can touch them, so they're bound to have been careless at some point. We just have to keep our eyes open and figure out where they screwed up and how to make it work to our advantage."

"Hey, you guys," Ritchie said, flopping down onto a chair opposite them. "Her Highness Dr. Hannigan was really on my case today about my personal choices, quote, unquote. I guess I haven't been quite as convincing as I like to think with the old macho routine." Ritchie stopped when he realized both his friends had gone suddenly quiet. "Hey, did I interrupt something?"

"Uh..." Jennifer stuttered, looking to Blair, her expression asking permission to let Ritchie in on the secret.

"You okay, Princess? Nurse Ratchett hasn't been giving you any trouble, has he?"

Jennifer shook her head. "No. Actually, Blair's the one he's been bothering."

"Are you all right, Curly? He didn't...he didn't do anything to you, did he, honey?" Ritchie asked, as grave as Blair had ever seen him.

"No, no, Ritchie, he just hassled me a little, gave me a hard time because Jim insisted on seeing me. He didn't try anything. He just wanted to scare me."

Ritchie let out his breath in relief. "God, that's good news. Geez, you really had me worried there for a minute."

"Ritchie, there's something I do need to tell you," Blair said. "I haven't been entirely honest with you. I'm not a college student. My brother didn't have me committed. I'm working with the police. Stacey told us what happened to Jennifer, and we wanted to see if we could find a way to help."

Ritchie stared at him amazed and then began to laugh. "Curly, honey, you're not seriously trying to tell me you're a cop, are you? 'Cause there's just no way. Forget the hair and the earrings. You just don't have that...whatever that edge is. Now you've gone and made old Ritchie here have to worry that you really are cracking up."

"You're right. I'm not a cop. I'm an anthropologist. I teach over at the university. I'm working on my dissertation that has to do with the police department, and I've been with the Major Crimes unit as an observer while I'm doing the research. My captain let me come in under cover because I've had experience working in mental institutions, and since I don't have that edge, I blend in better."

"Oh, my God! You are for real, aren't you?" Ritchie asked, sounding stunned.

"Yeah, man, I am. And I need your help so I can get you and Jennifer and all the other kids who don't belong in here free of this place."

Ritchie continued to gape at him, trying to take it all in. Blair waited for him to get over the initial shock. He expected the boy to be relieved once he'd gotten used to the idea, to be happy or impatient or nervous about what would happen if they got caught before they could gather the evidence they needed. He never would have predicted that he'd be angry.

"That's just great!" Ritchie said, his lips pressed tightly together, his eyes bright and hard. "You just go and lie to me like that, Blair, make me believe you understand what I'm going through. Make me think I've found another friend, like I have in Princess. And it's all a big act."

"Ritchie, Blair's here to help us," Jennifer said, trying to soothe him, trying to make him understand.

"No, Princess. He's here to help you, to help you get back to the life you left behind, to make sure you get to go home to your girl who loves you. I don't have a life to go back to. There's nobody out there waiting to welcome me with open arms. There's just my Pops who's never gonna accept that his namesake's a prissy little queen who isn't going to be following in his macho, beer-drinking, football-playing, pussy-loving footsteps. And there's my Moms who never says a word or lifts a hand to help me when Pops goes to town beating my ass, 'cause it's for my own good. Why even go home? When I'm always going to be the little faggot nobody loves?"

Ritchie's lower lip trembled. Tears rolled down his cheeks, and he quickly wiped them away with the back of his hand.

Jennifer put her arm around his shoulder. "You know that's not true. You know I love you, for just exactly who you are. I'd never want you to be anyone or anything else."

Ritchie's voice became very soft. "You're the only person I ever had that really felt like family. You're the only person who really cares about me. When we leave here, I won't have anybody. I don't want to go back to being all alone."

Jennifer frowned. "But we'll still be..."

"No! We won't. You got a life with your girl. What are you gonna need me around for? I'll just bring up bad memories."

"No, you won't. You'll remind me that even during the worst moments of my life there was someone who befriended me, who helped me, who kept my spirits up, who made sure I went on fighting, who took care of me. My friends mean the world to me. You ought to know that by now. I would never turn my back on you. You're right that I am going back to my life with Stacy, but you'll be a part of that too. You're my family. I love you. That will never change."

Ritchie looked torn, still worried, but more hopeful than before. "That's...I wish...but Stacey won't want..."

Jennifer shook her head. "You do not know Stacey. Anything you did for me will be just like you did it for her. She'll love you just as much as I do."

Ritchie stared down at his hands, suddenly shy. "Thank you," he said, very softly.

For a moment, Jennifer forgot where she was and threw her arms around her friend, hugging him hard. "You big goofball," she said, her voice warm with sisterly affection.

Blair cleared his throat, nervous that one of the orderlies would catch them, and Jennifer quickly pulled back.

Ritchie rolled his eyes. "You'd expect they'd think it was good for my condition to have a pretty girl hugging on me."

They all burst out laughing.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Jennifer asked him.

He nodded. "Yeah. Just got scared there for a minute, wondering what I was ever going to do without my Princess."

Jennifer shook her head. "You're never going to have to find out."

Ritchie smiled brightly. "Then I guess all that's left to do is help Curly here find what he needs so he can spring us out of this rat trap."

"Blair thinks they must have left some kind of evidence somewhere. He was asking me if I could remember anything that might be useful. You know, anything mysterious, anything out of the ordinary."

Ritchie snorted. "Well, everything's whacked around here. It is the nut house, after all. And as for mysteries, there are tons of them. Like what was that dinner last night and how did we all live through it? Where'd the art therapy go just when I was getting so good with that modeling clay? Where'd they find that prick Ralph and why are we the ones locked up while he's still running around free. How come I hardly ever see my therapist—not that I'm complaining, mind you—when I'm supposed to have therapy twice a week? You know, honey, there are more mysteries here than we can ever begin to solve."

Both Blair and Jennifer snapped to attention.

"Of course! That's it!" Blair said.

"We'd still need evidence," Jennifer reminded him, but the light in her face belied her cautious words.

"What?" Ritchie wanted to know.

"They must keep records. Double records," Blair said.

"Hey, wait, I bet I know where they are. When I first got here, the director gave me a so-called evaluation, and as I was coming into his office, he was just locking up a drawer in that chest on the side wall, the one that looks like a curio cabinet."

"Yeah, I remember that. You could be right."

"But do you really think they'd keep stuff that would incriminate them?"

"What are you two talking about?" Ritchie demanded.

"Insurance fraud," Blair said. "And yes, I do think they'd keep records of it. Like we were saying before, they don't think they're ever going to get caught. They'd want to know how much they're getting away with. They're just that greedy, just that arrogant."

"But how would that help us?" Ritchie wanted to know. "Even if the cops come swarming around here and arrest the whole administration, we'll still be stuck in here."

"Hopefully not. An insurance fraud scandal would cast doubt on everything that goes on around here. My real hope is that we can get Dr. Hannigan on our side when the truth comes out. I honestly don't think she's involved in the fraud."

"No way, Curly. Her Highness gets her panties in a twist if the things on her desk aren't lined up so straight they look like she used a ruler. The lady does not like a mess."

"Definitely too straitlaced," Jennifer agreed.

"She has to have some inkling that the patients are being short changed, but she's been turning a blind eye to it, trying to go along to get along," Blair speculated. "In her heart she must know it's wrong to keep people here simply because they're gay. But she has such strong personal convictions on the subject she lets it override her professional judgment."

"That's probably why Thompson hired her," Jennifer said.

"Yeah. That would make sense," Blair said.

"So what do we do?" Jennifer asked.

"Not we," Blair asserted. "Me. I can't have you guys involved in this past the planning stage."

"Now hold up there a minute, honey. We're all in this together. Like the three Mousketeers."

Jennifer smiled. "I think you mean Musketeers."

Ritchie shook his head. "You have your fantasy, honey, and I'll have mine. I'm not much for wearing tights, but I'd look real cute in those ears," he said, batting his eyes.

Jennifer rolled her eyes. "You are just incorrigible."

"Incorrigible is cool. But I can't let you be foolhardy," Blair said. "There's no way to do this other than to break into the director's office. Time's running out, so it's got to be tonight. If I get caught, I can tell them who I am, and the cops will come to my rescue. You guys don't have that luxury. I don't want you in here at their mercy. God knows what they'd do to get back at you."

"You're going to need help," Jennifer said, matter-of-factly. "And we're the only ones you can trust."

"Yeah, honey," Ritchie said. "You ever stop to consider how you're going to get off the dormitory floor and over to the administrative wing when Nurse Ratchett will be stationed by the only exit?"

"Or how you're going to get into the director's locked office and the equally locked cabinet?" Jennifer asked.

"I can pick a lock," Blair said. "Don't ask." He held up a hand, forestalling any questions about how he'd come by such knowledge, not wanting to go into the employment histories of some of the more questionable members of the Sandburg clan or how they'd gladly shared their special skills with him.

"What are you going to pick it with?" Jennifer asked.

"Uh, well..."

"See? You do need our help." She carefully looked around and then slipped her hand inside her shirt, into her bra. "Here," she said, pulling out a hair pin, handing it over to him.

"You're not supposed to have that. Where..." Blair started to ask.

She waved her hand at him. "Don't ask. Let's just say I hoped it would come in handy some day."

"Thanks," Blair said. "It really will."

"Hold the phone there, Curly. You've still got to get past our friend Nurse Ratchett."

"Yeah, Ritchie's right," Jennifer said. "That could be a tough one. Not to mention dangerous. I know you said you'd just tell them who you really are if you get caught, but somehow I don't think that's going to stop that neanderthal. He likes to hurt people."

"I'll just have to make sure he doesn't catch me."

Ritchie smiled, looking very pleased with himself. "For that, you'll be needing a distraction, honey, and I know just the guy for the job."

"And the girl," Jennifer insisted.

"Goes without saying, Princess. You and me, we're a team."

"I don't know you guys..."

"Honey, you might as well go ahead and throw in the towel. In a battle of wills, you are no match for me and Princess."

"So when do we do it?" Jennifer asked.

Blair sighed, realizing he was beaten. He also knew that his plan would have a far greater chance of succeeding with their help. He'd just have to make sure nothing went wrong, that he got the evidence he needed, so he could get himself and them out of there all in one piece. "Let's make it an hour after lights out. You guys just distract Ralph long enough for me to slip out. Don't do anything more than that."

"No problem, Curly. One distraction coming up."

"Ralph will never know what hit him," Jennifer said, smiling evilly.

"You guys are really starting to concern me," Blair said, shaking his head.

"Not to worry, Blair," Jennifer said. "This is the only fun, not to mention the only shot at freedom, we've had in an age. You can count on us. We're not going to screw this up."

God, how do I get myself into these things? Who do I think I am? Freakin' Rambo? Blair sat on the edge of his bed, his heart pounding despite his best efforts to calm down. I can do this. I can do this. He chanted it over and again in his mind like a mantra, but it didn't quite do the trick. Jim's right. I should leave this shit to the cops. This is the last time. Just this one last adventure, and I'm sidekick boy from here on in. He nodded his head earnestly, for a minute or two, before finally breaking out in a nervous grin and rolling his eyes. Yeah, right. Blair, old son, you may as well face facts. There's no going back to the merry-go-round for you, not without you kicking and screaming the whole way.

He squirmed and twitched, nervous and impatient. Where the hell are they? He sighed heavily and began to wonder if perhaps something had happened to prevent Jennifer and Ritchie from staging the diversion. He was just starting to get worried when he heard it, their voices raised and argumentative, around the corner, getting louder all the time. He smiled. There they go. Now I just have to hope it keeps Nurse Ratchett occupied.

Blair stood by the door and pressed his ear against it, listening for the squeaky sounds of the orderly's rubber-soled shoes to pass by his room. He didn't have to wait long. The squeaking moved quickly by him and around the corner to where Jennifer and Ritchie were pretending to have a knock-down, drag-out fight about who had the better fashion sense.

He slipped out of his room and carefully made his way down the hall, keeping an alert eye out for Ralph. The plan seemed to be working though. He could hear the orderly arguing with Jennifer and Ritchie, trying to get them to quiet down. As he neared the nurse's station, he slowed down and flattened himself against the wall. But it was empty, the one overnight nurse on her dinner break, as Blair had thought she would be. Thank God for budget cuts. The door to the ward was unlocked and unwatched. He rushed through it and hurried into the adjoining administrative wing, practically running, knowing that he had no time to waste.

He was panting by the time he made it to the director's office, adrenaline pumping through his system, making him feel wired all over, as if he were on speed, his heart hammering wildly in his chest. The door to the outer office was open, and he let himself in. It was dark and silent, deserted for the evening. He took the hair pin Jennifer had given him out of his pocket and quickly picked the lock to the inner office. The door swung open and he went inside. He felt his way over to the desk and turned on a lamp. It would have been better if he'd had a flashlight, but that wasn't exactly standard issue for patients at the facility. He just had to hope that no one would see the light coming from the window or would simply assume the director was working late.

The file cabinet Jennifer had noticed stood against the wall to the left of the doorway. Blair used the hairpin to pick its lock. Inside were shelves that held books and some decorative objects, and below that, two drawers. They were also locked, but with cheap, flimsy locks. It took Blair only a few seconds to open them. He found a neat line of manilla file folders in both drawers, each with the name of a patient on it. He picked out his own folder and flipped it open. He sifted through the papers. There were copies of Dr. Thompson's evaluation, along with Dr. Hannigan's, results from the battery of tests they'd put him through when he was first admitted, daily charts showing what treatment he'd received, nothing out of the ordinary.

Blair was seriously beginning to think he wouldn't find what he was looking for. Perhaps they weren't stupid enough to keep records. It was even possible that there was no insurance fraud at all, that his suspicions were misplaced. He was almost ready to give up, return the file and race back to the dormitory before he was found missing, when he realized there was something folded up and clipped to the back of the folder, concealed beneath a psychiatric report. He pulled it loose and began to read. His heart sped up with excitement. It was a detailed record of everything the insurance company had been billed for, similar to the daily chart he'd found, but nearly five times as long. He couldn't decipher all the codes, but it was clear that the hospital was charging for drugs, therapy, supplies and so many other things he'd never received.

He dug out Ritchie and Jennifer's files, as well, and found exactly the same thing. He stuffed all three charts beneath his shirt, closed the drawers and shut the cabinet. He hurried over to the phone on the director's desk and dialed the number to the loft, nervously tucking his hair behind his ears. Now all he needed was to get a hold of Jim. He had the proof they needed to help Jennifer and Ritchie, and he could finally go home.

The phone rang, once, twice, three times. Sometimes, when Jim was home alone and not particularly in the mood to talk, he screened. Come on, man, pick it up. The answering machine had just clicked on when a shadow loomed in the doorway.

"Put down the phone, Mr. Ellis," Dr. Thompson ordered.

Ralph was with him and crossed the room in three long strides. He grabbed the phone away from him and slammed it down. The guy wrenched his arm and jerked him away from the desk.

"Just what do you think you're doing in here?" Ralph demanded.

"I...I, uh," he stuttered, his heart racing wildly with fear. "I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't have. I just wanted to talk to my brother. I needed to tell him how bad I feel for everything I've put him through."

"Oh, yeah?" the orderly said. "Then what's this?"

He yanked up Blair's shirt and pulled the file folders out of the waistband of his pants.

"Tsk, tsk, Mr. Ellis. That really won't do," Dr. Thompson said. "You realize, of course, that patient files are highly confidential. We can't have just anybody getting into them."

"I...um..." Blair said, tongue-tied, starting to sweat.

"You know, I begin to think you're not quite who you said you were. In fact, suddenly you remind me of someone who caused me a great deal of trouble a number of years ago, someone I never actually met, who was still quite a thorn in my side nonetheless. Like you, he was a busybody who didn't know when to mind his own affairs. We don't like people like that, do we, Ralph?" the director asked.

"No, sir, Dr. Thompson. We're not at all crazy about troublemakers."

"Thompson," Blair said, putting the pieces together. "Oh, God."

"That person got off rather easily way back when. He just lost his job. That's not really such a big deal, is it, Ralph?"

The orderly snorted. "Pretty lax, if you ask me."

"Yes, I thought so, too," Dr. Thompson agreed. "But it was a first offense. I suppose it's good to give a person a chance to learn his lesson, let him off lightly the first time and hope he has sense enough not to do it again. It's really a shame you didn't do that...Mr. Sandburg, isn't it?"

"You won't get away with this. I'm working with the Cascade police department. The best thing you can do is turn yourselves in before you make the situation any worse."

"No, I don't think that's at all the best option for us. You know, it's a funny thing about mental hospitals. They can be really quite dangerous, what with all the unstable people who reside in them. Sadly, unfortunate accidents do occur. It really is a terrible shame, isn't it, Ralph?"

The orderly nodded his head and smirked. "Tragic, doc."

"We have a number of patients being treated for paranoid delusions," the doctor told Blair. "Most of them have never been violent, but you never know when one of them just might snap. It would be so easy for such a person to imagine all kinds of things. Say, for instance, that another patient, a known homosexual, was coming onto him, making lewd, unwanted advances. It wouldn't be hard to understand how that could lead to a violent mishap. The paranoid patient probably wouldn't even remember what he'd done. That's not unusual for someone who suffers from delusions. It's a tragic possibility, but unfortunately, these things do just happen. And wouldn't it be even more tragic later on to find out that the victim wasn't even a patient, but an undercover police officer. I can't even begin to tell you how bad we'd feel about that, how hard we'd work to make sure the paranoid lunatic who'd committed the offense never got the chance to harm anyone else ever again."

"You'll never get away with it," Blair said, with much more bravado than he actually felt.

"You know, I really think I will. Not that there won't be any suspicions, but they'll never be able to prove anything. The patient I'm thinking of is so lost in his fantasies he'll easily believe he did it and confess to anything I suggest to him. You'll be out of my way, and I'll be free and clear. Just a little work straightening up these files, and no one will ever be the wiser."

"Help! Somebody! Help me!" Blair started screaming.

"Ralph, it seems Mr. Ellis is becoming agitated. Why don't you walk him down to the isolation room and take care of him."

Ralph roughly took hold of him, fingers digging into the tender flesh of his upper arms, and started dragging him from the room. Blair grabbed onto the side of the desk and held on with a strength borne of terror and desperation. The orderly started to pry his hands away, and Blair kicked at him, trying to keep him at bay. Finally, though, Ralph was simply stronger and managed to yank him loose, half throwing him across the room toward the door, back to the outer office.

"No! Help! Help me!" Blair yelled at the top of his lung, hoping someone, anyone, would hear him.

He clung to the door frame and continued to scream. Ralph pulled and punched and kicked at him, trying to dislodge him.

"Really, Mr. Ellis. This unseemly display isn't going to help anything. Just go along with Ralph like a good little patient."

"No fucking way, man!" Blair said. "Somebody! Help me! Anybody!"

"What on earth is going on here?" asked Dr. Hannigan, as she rushed into the room. "Ralph, you're terrifying the patient. Dr. Thompson, how can you allow him to brutalize Blair this way?"

Blair had never been so glad to see anyone in his entire life. He thanked every deity he could think of, including a few he probably just invented.

"Christine, I didn't realize you were working late tonight," Dr. Thompson said, managing to sound completely casual.

"I was trying to catch up on some case files. What is all this about, Dr. Thompson?"

"I'm afraid Ralph and I found Blair in my office. He'd snuck off the ward, was able to break in somehow. We found him going through patient files. When we caught him, he became highly agitated and began ranting about conspiracies and people out to get him. This is precisely why I wanted him admitted. I'm afraid his condition is far more serious than I'd originally hoped was true."

"No, Dr. Hannigan, please. Don't believe him. My name is really Blair Sandburg. I'm working with the Cascade PD, investigating criminal activity here at the hospital. I found evidence of widespread insurance fraud. Please, you have to help me."

"See what I mean, Christine? Poor Blair is suffering from paranoid delusions. Ralph was just trying to help me get him back to his room. I'm sure you can understand how concerned I am for his safety."

"Now, just come on, Blair, and cooperate with me," Ralph said, in that false voice of his, smooth and professional, effectively covering up the psychopath within that had been so painfully evident just a few minutes beforehand. "Let's get you back to bad."

"No! Dr. Hannigan, please! They're going to kill me for what I know and try to say that a patient did it. You've got to call the cops."

With a determined tug, Ralph managed to pull him free of the doorway and then hustled him out of the room.

"Please, Dr. Hannigan!" he begged.

"Try not to be so upset, Blair," she told him. "They're just trying to do what's in your best interest. You'll be given a sedative and restrained for your own good, just for a day or two until you're calmer. You'll see. Everything will be better soon."

Ralph pulled him out the door and into the hall.

"You know things aren't the way they should be around here," Blair continued to scream, hoping somehow to convince the woman. "You know something's wrong. You know I'm not crazy. You have to help me. You have to call the cops."

Blair felt a gun pressed against the small of his back, and his panic escalated. Ralph dragged him all the way down the corridor, around the corner and through the doors into the treatment wing. When they were well out of earshot, in a deserted stretch of hallway, the orderly threw him up against the wall, banging his head, trapping him there with his body. Blair could feel the cold, lethal metal of the gun against the back of his neck and the man's hard on pressing into his hip.

"I guess I'm gonna get what I wanted after all. Yeah, sweet thing. Before I take care of you like I promised the doc, we're gonna have a little fun, you and me," the man said, reaching around with his free hand to grab Blair's cock and balls roughly through the fabric of his pants.

Blair cried out, but that only made the man squeeze his genitals harder. His groin throbbed with pain, and his whole body shuddered with terror. He could feel the orderly's breath, hot and humid and repulsive against the side of his face.

"If I use a rubber, they'll never be able to track it back to me. They'll probably just think you've been acting like a slut since you've been here, giving up your sweet ass to anybody who wanted it. I wish I didn't have to do it, though. Use a rubber. 'Cause I got to tell you there's nothing I'd like more than to leave my cum up that tight little hole of yours. You like the thought of that, sweet thing? You ready for one last fucking before you say goodnight? Huh, pretty boy cop? I sure hope so, 'cause it's gonna be the fucking of your life."

Ralph pushed him forward, toward the isolation room. He stumbled and nearly fell. The orderly grabbed him by the back of the collar, opened the isolation room door and pushed him through it, following him inside. The sliding of the lock into place was the most god-forsaken sound he'd ever heard. He closed his eyes and sent up a silent prayer, a single word. Jim.

Why Go Home continued in Part Four.

Back to the Library.