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Authorís Note: This story picks up where my other story, A Sense of Family, left off, however, it is not necessary to have read that one.

Jim came down the stairs, wrapping his robe around him and tying the sash.  He stopped by Blairís room, peeking in on his roommate, smiling as he saw that Blair was still sound asleep.  He was happy to see that the lines of pain that had been present the night before had smoothed out.  Jim continued on to the bathroom.  After finishing his morning ablutions, he made coffee and retrieved the paper.  He was careful to move about quietly, not wanting to disturb Blair.

Jim looked up from the morning paper as Blair stumbled out of his room and to the bathroom.  A few minutes later, Blair wandered into the kitchen.  Jim directed him to sit down, then poured him a glass of orange juice and set it in front of him.

"How do you feel, Chief?" he asked solicitously, sitting down next to him.

Blair took a long drink of the cold juice.  "Like somebodyís been using me for a punching bag about the head, neck, and shoulders."

Jim nodded.  "You were pretty tensed up last night.  That migraine really had a hold."  He leaned back and watched Blair for a moment, then asked, "Does that happen often?"

Blair shrugged.  "Not really.  Usually just if Iím really stressed out or havenít been sleeping."

"Finals are next week, arenít they?"

"Iím OK, Jim, I swear."

"No, youíre not, but you will be.  I donít want to see you at the station until after finals, all right?  Besides, Iím going to be in court all next week, Iím scheduled to testify at three trials.  All youíd be doing is sitting around anyway.  And Simon wants me to get some of my paperwork cleared up before then.  Iíll ride a desk the rest of the week, itís only two days.  You can concentrate on school and sleep.  And eating, no skipping meals."

"Címon, JimÖ."

Jim shook his head.  "No, Blair," he said softly.  "I was really scared last night.  You were hurting and there was nothing I could do.  I donít like feeling helpless."

Blair lowered his eyes.  "Iím sorry, Jim.  Iíll try not to let it happen again."

Jim shook his head.  "Do you remember what I made you promise last night?"

Blair frowned, glancing at Jim.  "Noooo," he said slowly, thinking.

"I made you promise to come to me if you need me.  I mean it, Blair.  I donít care what it is, if you need me, you call me.  Especially if youíre in pain."  Jim hesitated, then leaned on his elbows on the table.  "Blair, I want you to think of this loft as your home, too.  You are welcome and wanted here.  You donít have to walk on eggshells.  I like having you here.  Itís nice to know someone cares about me.  Let me care about you in return."

Blair stared at Jim in shock.  "Youíre serious," he said.  Jim nodded.  "IÖI donít know what to say.  NobodyÖ."  Blair trailed off and looked away.

Jim reached over and clasped Blairís arm.  "Thatís their loss, Chief."  Jim smiled.  "Címon.  Letís go down to ĎSandraísí for breakfast.  Have you ever eaten there?  Itís near the precinct?"  Blair shook his head.  "They have the best blueberry pancakes youíll ever put in your mouth.  My treat."

The two men dressed and headed for the small family restaurant a block from the precinct.  They found Simon there, also enjoying pancakes, and he invited them to join him.

"How do you feel this morning, Sandburg?"

"Iím fine, sir.  Thank you, and for last night, too."

"Glad I could help."

They lingered a little over coffee, then left together.  Jim and Blair both had the day off and were planning to just take it easy at home, while Simon had a meeting with the commissioner later that day he wasnít looking forward to.

As they walked toward their cars, Jim stopped, adopting a listening posture.  Blair put a hand on his arm.  "Concentrate.  Filter out normal sounds.  What do you hear?"

"A child.  Crying.  Running.  Someoneís chasing her, and he doesnít sound very happy!"  Jim took off, Blair and Simon following.  He headed into an alley.  Rounding a corner, a small child ran into him.  The little girl began to scream as he grabbed her.

"Itís OK, itís OK, sweetheart, Iím a cop, Iím a police officer, youíre safe!"

The girl threw her arms around him.  "Donít let him get me!  Please donít let him get me!" she shrieked.

Jim looked up, saw a man stop and look at them, then take off running.  Jim pushed the child into Blairís arms, threw his cell phone at him as well, shouting, "Call for backup!" and took off running, Simon following.

Blair led the little girl, who was about seven or eight, out of the alley, calling 911 and requesting backup.

Jim stopped and looked around, listening.  He could hear the manís breathing.  Just as Simon caught up with him, Jim pointed his gun at a dark doorway and yelled, "Cascade Police!  Come out with your hands up!  Now!"

After a momentís hesitation, the man appeared, hands over his head.  "Hey, man.  Whatís going on?"

"You tell me, sport.  What were you chasing the kid for, and why did you run when you saw me?" Jim kept his gun on the man as Simon cuffed him and read him his rights.  They werenít sure what was going on, but they werenít taking any chances.

The man refused to talk to them aside from snarling threats about suing for false arrest.  The man was handed over to the uniforms whoíd responded to Blairís call.  They found that Blair had taken the child into Sandraís, sitting her down in a back booth and getting her some orange juice, wrapped in Blairís jacket.  She was obviously afraid.  The left side of her face was badly bruised.  She seemed afraid of Jim and Simon as they approached.  Simon held back, while Jim crouched down, bringing himself down to her level.

Jim smiled at the child.  "Hello.  Iím Det. Ellison.  Whatís your name?"  He kept his voice low and soothing.

"Manda," she sniffed.

"Manda.  Thatís a pretty name.  Manda, can you tell me about the man who was chasing you?"

Tears filled her eyes again.  "Terryís my mommyís boyfriend," she said softly.  "He wants to be my daddy."

"Did he do this to you, sweetheart?" Jim gestured at her face.  Manda hunched down further into Blairís jacket.  "Itís OK, Manda.  I promise you, youíre never going to see him again.  Heís never going to hurt you again."

"Cross your heart?"

"Cross my heart."  Jim motioned the sign of an X across his chest.

Mandaís lip trembled.  "He hurt me," she whispered.  "He made me touch him.  I didnít want to, and he hit me."

The Guardian inside Jim saw red.  He wanted to rip the man apart.  He pulled the trembling child into his arms and held her, whispering reassurances to her.  Simon went to charge Terry.  Jim held the frightened child until an ambulance arrived, as well as a female officer.  He made sure Manda knew she would be safe with the other officer.

Jim watched Manda leave.  He felt eyes on him and turned, to find Blair watching him with a smile.  "What?"

"Protecting the tribe, man.  And sometimes, that means holding and comforting so that the youngest, most vulnerable ones, feel safe."

Jim smiled, but it was a sad smile.  "I just wish I could protect all of them, Chief."

"I know, Jim.  Your senses will give you an advantage, allowing you to do more, but youíre still a man, not God.  As much as we want to protect them all, we just canít.  But we will do all we can."

"ĎWeí, Chief?"  Jim smiled and tugged on a stray curl.

"ĎWeí, big guy.  Iím in this for the long haul, man."

"Good.  I canít see myself doing this alone, Chief, and thatís a real strange feeling for me.  I need you to teach me how to do this teamwork thing."

"Me?!  What do I know about teamwork?  Man, I run at the first sign somebodyís looking for commitment!  I donít know nuthiní Ďbout teamwork!"

Jim put an arm around Blairís shoulders and turned him toward the truck.  "Well, what say we head over to the hospital to see Manda and talk about this partnership thing on the way?"

"OK.  Think they found her mother yet?"

"If that woman knew what was good for her, sheíd run and never show her face again."

They reached the truck and got in.  Blair buckled his seatbelt and looked at his friend.  James Ellison presented a stone face to most of the world, but Blair could see behind the mask, and what he saw was a
tender, caring man, a protector in every sense of the word, who would make sure that one abused little girl would never be hurt again, he had no doubt.  Blairís smile grew.  He had found the big brother heíd always dreamed of having, and he was never letting go.