Simon threw open his office door. "Ellison! In here, now!"
Jim frowned, and did as he was ordered, no sign of his thoughts visible on his face.
That impassive countenance could be useful, but there were times when it drove Banks
crazy. Times like now. Jim closed the door.
"What's up, Simon?"
"Why didn't you tell me about Sandburg?"
For a second, there was something behind the blue eyes, something that looked
like--panic? But it vanished, so fast that Simon wasn't sure he'd even seen it.
"What about him?" Jim asked.
"What about him?" Simon echoed. "I've got a report on my desk submitted
by the hospital."
"Hospital? Blair's in the hospital?"
"You don't know?"
Ellison shook his head. Jesus, the man had no idea. This wasn't going to be easy.
"You'd better sit down, Jim."
"What happened?" Jim demanded. "How bad is it?"
Jim sat. Simon seated himself behind his desk and picked up the report. "Sandburg
walked into the emergency room at approximately 12:30 this morning. He'd been severely
beaten; he sustained a couple of cracked ribs and a lot of deep bruising. When he'd talk
at all, he told the hospital personnel he'd been mugged. At approximately 5:30, he refused
any further treatment, and left the hospital."
Ellison was staring at the paper in Simon's hand. "I never should've let him
"What are you talking about? Jim?"
"I knew something was wrong with him. I should've made him stay in the loft. But I
was so mad, I couldn't think straight."
"Are you going to explain this to me, Ellison? Or do you want to just keep talking
Jim shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He refused to meet Simon's eyes. "When I
got home last night, Blair--"
Ellison cleared his throat. "He came on to me."
Jim nodded, his gaze fixed on the wall.
"Was he drunk, or high?"
"Blair doesn't do drugs. And I would've smelled alcohol. I don't know why he did
it. He said he wanted to see if my Sentinel abilities extended to--sex. When I
said no, he started--well, I had to push him off. He got mad--Hell, he went crazy--and ran
out of the loft. I just let him go. It's my fault he was out there alone."
"It's not your fault, Jim. Sandburg's an adult."
"He's a kid! He can't take care of himself on the streets. Jeez, no wonder he
wouldn't talk to me this morning."
"You saw him?"
"Not exactly. He was in his office at the University, but he wouldn't let me in.
Told me to get out and leave him alone, or he'd call security. I should've broken the door
down." Jim shot out of his seat. "I'm going back there, and this time,
he's going to talk to me."
Ellison paused in the doorway.
"The report: there's more."
"More?" Jim took warning from his tone. He closed the office door again and
resumed his seat. This time, the blue eyes met Simon's straight on.
Simon steeled himself to say the words. "According to the attending physician,
Blair wasn't just beaten. He was also raped."
Jim sat still as stone, the muscle jumping in his jaw the only indication of his
feelings. "Are they sure?"
Simon nodded. "Sandburg denied it. But there was tissue damage, and--semen in his
"My God," Jim whispered. "Blair."
"You've got to handle him carefully, Jim. You can't just go over there and kick
his door in."
"What am I supposed to do? He won't talk to me."
Simon took his glasses off, and rubbed the ache between his eyes. "I don't know,
Jim. I don't know."
Simon gazed out the window at the lights of the Cascade night. The squad room was
quiet, for a change. Everyone else was long gone, and he'd personally kicked Ellison out
an hour ago. Man was useless anyway, all he could think of was Sandburg. Jim'd tried
calling the kid, but either Sandburg wasn't in his office or he wasn't answering his
phone. Simon figured the latter. He hoped Sandburg had gone back to the loft, but
he doubted it. Simon shook his head. Something weird was going on here. Yesterday, he'd've
said the idea of Sandburg coming on to Jim was ridiculous. The kid was definitely one for
the women, and a lot of women responded, though Simon had never been able to fathom what
they saw in him. It just didn't make sense that he'd suddenly--
The door to his office opened. Simon's hand went for the drawer where he kept his gun,
but he never touched it. Blair Sandburg walked in, stopped short when he saw Simon sitting
at his desk.
"Uh--Sorry, Captain." Sandburg tried a smile, and winced. "I didn't
think anybody'd be here."
Simon just stared. Sandburg looked worse than he'd imagined. Blood matted the brown
curls. One side of his face was purple-black with bruises, his lower lip was split, and
there were purple lumps on the other cheekbone and along his jaw. The clear blue eyes were
dull with pain.
"That bad, huh?" Sandburg said. "Well, maybe I can model a mask after
it. That'll scare away any passing demons."
Simon found his voice. "Sit down."
"No thanks. I just came by to return this."
Sandburg took something from his jacket and laid it on the desk: his Cascade Police
Observers' ID. The smiling, eager-eyed visage in the photo bore little resemblance to the
young man standing across from him now. Simon looked his question.
"I won't be needing it anymore." Sandburg turned back to the door.
"You're quitting because you got mugged?"
Sandburg shook his head. "I--just can't do this anymore. See ya, Simon."
Sandburg turned around, trying to smile again. "That's the first time you've ever
called me by my first name. Well, better late than never, I guess."
He started to walk out. Simon rose from his chair. "Sandburg! Get your skinny ass
Maybe it was habit. Maybe he was just lucky. Whatever the reason, Sandburg did what he
was told. He sat gingerly, twisting his fingers together, eyes fixed on the floor. Simon
pushed the ID toward him.
"Take this back."
Sandburg looked up for a second, eyes wide and blue as the summer sky. He shook his
head, lowering his gaze again. "I can't."
"Sandburg, I know what happened."
The gaze flashed up again, panicked now.
"The hospital sent a report."
"Oh." The kid's fists clenched. "They had no right."
"They had an obligation. You know that. This was a criminal assault." As
gently as he could. "Sandburg, did you get a look at your assailants?"
"One," Sandburg said distantly. "There was only one."
"Did you get a good look at him? Could you identify him?"
"Are you sure? Anything would help. Anything you might have noticed."
Sandburg didn't answer. Years of experience said he was lying, but Simon didn't want to
press it. Not yet. He'd seen rape victims before--too many--but he'd never seen anyone who
looked as devastated as Blair Sandburg. The kid belonged in a hospital.
"Why don't you go home? Jim's been worried sick."
Sandburg almost laughed. "I'll bet he has."
What was that supposed to mean? "Go on home, Sandburg."
"It's not my home!" Sandburg leapt to his feet. A mistake: he swayed, and he
had to brace himself on the desk to keep from falling over. Bruises ringed his wrists,
bruises in the shape of a man's fingers. Sandburg lowered himself back into the chair.
"I can't go back there, Simon."
"Where are you staying, then?"
"I.... In my office. On campus."
Simon heaved a sigh, mostly for effect. Reaching into his desk, he pulled out a key and
tossed it at the younger man. Sandburg caught it, uncomprehending.
"You're staying at my place," Simon said. "You remember where it
Sandburg nodded. "But I can't--"
"Yes you can, and you're going to. There's an extra bedroom, Daryl uses it when he
visits. There's some clothes there that should fit you--he's grown lately. But not
Sandburg ignored the jibe. "Captain--"
"Go on. I'll be out of here in about an hour. Can you make it on your own, or do
you need a police escort?"
Sandburg bristled. "I'm fine."
"Then get going. I've got work to do."
Blair stood slowly. He paused at the door, looking back. "Thanks, Simon."
"When you get there, take a shower. That's an order."
Sandburg smiled faintly. "Yes, sir."
He left the office, closing the door behind him. Simon waited a minute, then picked up
the phone and dialed the number to Ellison's loft.
The shower felt good, better than Blair had expected. He washed his hair, trying not to
see the red that swirled down the drain, and scrubbed himself with a washcloth. He wanted
to go through the whole process again, but he'd taken some psychology courses and knew it
wouldn't help, that the dirt was on the inside and that it would take time before he felt
clean again, if he ever did. Knowing didn't make the feeling go away.
Ice shot through his body, paralyzing him. A sound. He'd heard a sound--a click. Hadn't
he? Blair couldn't breathe. He forced himself to reach out, to turn off the water, and
Nothing. No answer, and no other sound. Must have been his imagination. He was
seriously jumpy. It was just another reaction to--last night, but he was getting tired of
his heart beating twice as fast as it was supposed to. Adrenaline surges were not the rush
he'd once thought. He slid the door open, and reached for a towel.
A hand closed on his arm, yanked him out of the shower, and threw him against the
bathroom door. Pain knifed his ribs, and he blacked out for a second. When he could see
again, Jim was grinning down at him.
"How ya doing, Chief?"
No. No, not again. Blair swung at him, but Jim was faster. He caught Blair's wrists and
forced them against the door. Blair drove his knee up, but Jim blocked it with his thigh
and moved in closer, too close for Blair to try again. He struggled to free himself, until
Jim got tired of it. Pinning Blair's wrists above his head with one hand, he knotted the
fingers of the other in Blair's hair and slammed his head into the door. Blackness
threatened. Blair fought to stay conscious: he couldn't pass out, not now. Jim's quiet
voice penetrated the darkness.
"Don't make me hurt you again, Chief."
His vision cleared, to find Jim's face too close to his. Rough fingers travelled over
his face, following the bruises.
"This looks sore."
Blair twisted away, trying to escape the painful caress, but Jim's fingers clamped onto
his chin and wrenched his head around. Ellison's lips pressed hard against Blair's, trying
to force his mouth open. Blair bit down.
Jim jerked back. "You little shit!"
The back of his hand cracked across Blair's face. Blair felt blood trickle from his
mouth. At least Ellison was bleeding too. Satisfaction died when an iron grip seized his
"You want me to hurt you, Chief? Is that it? You like it rough?"
"No," Blair croaked.
"No?" Jim began to squeeze. "Then be a good little boy. Stay still, and
you won't get hurt. Understand?" The pressure increased. "Understand?"
He couldn't get any sound out. Blair nodded, and Jim's grip relaxed. Blair coughed,
gasping in air. Jim waited until he recovered, lightly rubbing his throat. His hand moved
up; his thumb ran across Blair's lower lip.
"Let's just test that, okay, Chief?"
Jim kissed him again, crushing Blair's already bruised lips. His tongue slid into
Blair's mouth, probing the sore spots. Jim released his wrists, but Blair remembered the
hand at his throat and was afraid to move. If he fought anymore, Jim would kill him.
Jim's hands cupped his face, pulling his head up while the kiss intensified. Jim's lips
ground cruelly against his, his tongue thrusting into Blair's throat. The hands trailed
down his neck, over his collarbones to his chest, tweaking the hair. Fingers teased his
nipples, tugged gently on the nipple ring, then pinched hard.
Blair couldn't stop the sound that escaped him, or the flinching, but they only made
Jim more excited. The hands left his nipples, traced his ribs, pressing harder on the
cracked ones to elicit another groan from Blair. Jim's hands moved down to his waist, and
his hips, then slid around to his ass, pulling him away from the door, against Jim's body.
The kiss finally ended. Jim's tongue withdrew from his mouth, leaving Blair panting with
sickness and fear.
"You've got a great ass, you know that, Chief?" Jim's fingers dug into his
buttocks. "Fucking you was even better than I imagined."
"Don't!" Blair hated himself, but he couldn't stop the words. "Please,
Jim smiled. "Now, I know you don't mean that, Chief. You want it as much as I do,
you're just too scared to admit it."
"No!" Blair tried to push him away, knowing it was useless, but he couldn't
just let it happen. Not again. "Let go, you bastard! I don't--"
Jim's hand clamped over his mouth. Blair struggled, sure he was about to die, but
Ellison paid no attention to him.
"Company," Jim announced. "Sorry, Chief, we'll have to finish this
Jim slipped out the door, and was gone. Just like that. Gone, as though he'd never been
there at all. Blair stood in the bathroom, staring at the door, water still dripping down
his body. He started to shake, and he couldn't stop. He sank to the floor and curled up on
his side, shivering uncontrollably. He lay there until he heard a door open and close, and
Simon's voice calling him. He couldn't let the Captain find him like this. He couldn't.
Blair pushed himself to his knees. He tried to stand, but bile rushed into his throat
and he lunged for the toilet. His stomach was empty, but it didn't care. He retched until
he thought he'd pass out from the pain in his ribs. When it finally let up, he sat on the
floor with his arms wrapped around his ribs, too sore and shaky to move. Simon knocked on
"You okay, Sandburg?"
He couldn't tell him. Simon would never believe it, not about Jim. The Captain would
think he was crazy, or lying. He couldn't tell him.
"Fine," he answered, and knew he didn't sound anything like it. "I'm
just going to take a shower."
Hooking an arm over the sink, Blair pulled himself to his feet. His nipple throbbed.
Blood had dried on the gold ring, and in a trickle down his chest. Taking the ring between
his hands, Blair yanked it out and threw it down the drain. He turned on the shower,
stepped inside, and scrubbed himself raw. It didn't change anything. It didn't do any good
When he finally came out of the bathroom, Simon had dinner ready. Blair toyed with it
for a while, to be polite, but he couldn't eat. He'd get sick again if he did. Simon
watched him playing with his fork, but didn't say anything until he'd finished his own
"I know I'm rusty at this bachelor thing, Sandburg, but I'm not that bad a
Blair smiled slightly. "Sorry. It's not the food."
Simon leaned toward him. "Sandburg--"
Blair cut him off. "Not now, okay, Captain? I'm really not in the mood for an
Simon sat back in his chair. He sipped his coffee, and put the mug down again, never
taking his eyes from Blair. Blair controlled the urge to run, but he couldn't bring
himself to meet the Captain's gaze. He'd never been alone with Simon before. He'd always
figured Simon didn't really like him, just tolerated him for Jim's sake. That Blair was
here now was probably more a tribute to Simon's friendship with Jim than to any feelings
he might have about Blair.
"You look like shit, Sandburg," Simon pronounced. "Go to bed."
"Simon Says," Blair muttered.
Sharply. "What was that?"
As ordered, Blair got up from the table and left the room. Banks' voice followed him
out of the kitchen.
"I called Jim and told him where you are."
Blair whirled. "You told him?"
Simon raised his eyebrows. "Is there some reason I shouldn't have?"
Blair found his hand at his bruised jaw, deliberately lowered it. He couldn't tell
Simon the truth. He couldn't tell anyone. "No. Good night." He moved through the
living room, hardly able to focus on where he was going.
"You're safe here."
He wasn't safe here. He wasn't safe anywhere in Cascade. But he nodded, and Simon let
him go without any more questions.