AARRRrruuuuuuuggggghhhhh!!!!! My muses are back on-line, I've got the rest of both of the stories I'm working on, and I left the disk at work. whimper
Well, I guess that this is good news for CEY, who has a request. The title comes from the song 'The Cat's in the Cradle'. This one refers to everyone's favorite episode, Cypher.
All the usual disclaimers still apply. I still don't own them (darn it) and I still don't make any money at this (which is OK, really. It's helping me hone my minimal skills as a writer before I embark on that novel that's been baking in the back of my mind for the past year or so.). So, please don't sue me.
I'm Gonna Be Like You, Man, You Know I'm Gonna Be Like You
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"Hey, Professor! Wait up."
Blair Sandburg stopped and turned back to the voice, recognizing it. "Hey, Kyle. What's up?" Smiling, remembering when he was sixteen and starting college. Kyle was brilliant, but far more insecure than Blair had ever been.
"I was wondering if you had time for lunch?"
"Gee, I'm sorry, Kyle, but I'm meeting someone. Maybe some other time?" Smiling to indicate that having lunch with his oh, so young student wasn't something he disapproved of.
"Oh. Uh, OK. Maybe tomorrow?" Hopeful, trying to hide his disappointment.
"Well, I'm pretty busy all the rest of this week." Blair pulled out his dayplanner and checked. "How about ... next Tuesday? I've got some time then." He looked up with a smile, wanting to reassure the young man.
"That'd be great, Professor. I'll meet you at your office, OK?"
"Sure. That'll be just fine. I'll mark it in my planner." Suiting action to words. "I'll see you in class, later, OK?"
"Sure thing, Professor Sandburg." The young man turned and walked away. Disappointed for the day, but looking forward to Tuesday.
"OK, class, that's it for today. Remember, there's a test on Thursday, covering chapters eight through twelve. My office hours are until five, and from one to three tomorrow. I'll see you all on Thursday." He started to put his books and notes in his backpack, looking up to answer whatever question the students gathered at the lectern might have.
"Hi, Professor Sandburg. Great class, today. But then, your classes generally are really good."
"Thanks, Kyle. Did you have a question?"
"Uh, no. I...Would you like to go for coffee?"
"Sorry. I have to go work on my diss." He smiled. "I've got this partner who desperately needs my expertise with computers to get his reports done." Hoisting his backpack over his shoulder. "I need to get to my office, I'll see you Thursday. Have a good one, Kyle." Turning and making his way out of the classroom, never noticing that Kyle had bought a new backpack that looked almost exactly like his.
"Right on time, Kyle. Where did you have in mind for lunch?" Smiling at the young man.
"Uh, I don't know. Why don't you choose?" Unsure.
"Well, what kinds of food do you like?"
"I don't care. What do you like?"
Sighing softly in exasperation, Blair looked closely at the adolescent. "Kyle, you need to decide for yourself what you like and not to predicate it on what you think others want you to think. Now, where do you want to go to eat?"
"Um, how about that little deli just off campus?"
"You mean Dilly's Deli?"
"Um, yeah? Is that OK?"
Blair smiled at the kid's uncertainty. "It's fine. I eat there a lot, actually. They have an absolutely fabulous turkey sub, and they're cheap, too. Always a consideration when you're a student." Smiling and clapping the smaller youth on the back. He held the door for the younger man, locking the office door behind him automatically. Trying to get his young companion to talk as they walked to the deli.
"So, Kyle. How do you like your first year of university life?"
"It's OK, I guess. I'm not real sure, yet. It's kind of scary. I heard that you started here when you were sixteen, too?"
"Yeah. I spent the first semester living in the dorms, but there were too many parties all the time, and I was here to study, besides which, I wasn't old enough to drink, not that age ever stopped some of my classmates from trying to recreate 'Animal House' every Friday and Saturday. It just made it hard to get any studying done. Well, I just didn't fit in, I guess. So, I kept to myself and my studies. I still love to hang out at the library. It's one of my favorite places, always has been, actually. What about you?"
"Well, I'm living with my grandparents, over off of sixth, but you're right, it is hard. I really don't fit in, anywhere. I'm not a jock, I'm not a party animal, like you said most of the people here are, I'm kind of lost, really." Gazing worshipfully at the older man, envious.
"Hey, there's a group for you. Try one of the literary societies, or a Language club. Not everyone is a party animal, or a jock. There are a lot of other people here, as well. Keep looking around. Have you decided on your major yet?"
"Um, no. I'm still taking mostly the required subjects. A little heavier in the math and electronics, cause that's what I'm good at. And your class. I heard about you even before I graduated from high school. You've got quite a reputation." The worship palpable in his voice.
Blair blushed. "Well, I admit that I like what I teach. I guess it comes through the lectures. I always got the most out of classes where the teacher was enthusiastic about his subject matter. And I'm real enthusiastic about anthropology. I always have been, I suppose. Ever since I was a kid. What about you? Is science or computers your strong suit? Does it excite you?"
"Some. It's fun, though. Easy, too. For me, anyway." They arrived at the deli. Blair ordered his favorite turkey sub, unsurprised when Kyle followed suit. They chose to sit outside at one of the umbrella'd cafe tables.
"So, Kyle. What did you want to talk about?" Blair asked as he took his first bite of his sandwich.
"Uh, well. What was it like starting college when you were sixteen?"
"Well, I was a little nervous, but I was actually pretty well prepared for it. I was used to being on my own for brief periods of time, This was just a little bigger place, is all. Since I'm into anthropology, I spent a lot of time studying my fellow students. I was pretty shy, being not only so much younger than everyone else, but shorter, as well. I had a few run-ins with some bullies. I'm sure you have, as well. But all-in-all, it was a pretty positive situation."
They made more small talk over their lunch. Blair never noticed when Kyle started emulating his movements. The way he moved his hands when he talked, even the way he bit into his sandwich. When they had finished, Blair looked at his watch. "Well, I've got a class in fifteen minutes, I'll see you later, OK?"
"Sure, professor. Thanks for eating with me. Maybe we can do this again, some time?"
"Sure. Take it easy, Kyle."
"You too, professor." His gaze tracking the older man as he ran across the street and back to campus. Studying the way the man moved. Practicing the way Blair shouldered his backpack, the way he walked and even looked for traffic.
They had lunch a few more times before Blair noticed how Kyle was changing. "Hey Kyle, did you get a perm?" He'd noticed that the kid was letting his hair grow, but suddenly, it was curly, although still blond. He finally realized that Kyle was copying the way he dressed, matching his own wardrobe as closely as he was able to Blair's own. Even down to the brand of shoes and backpack. Now his hair was long, and suddenly, curly.
"Yeah. You like it?"
"Well, it's a little long for you. I thought you looked better with the short hairdo, but whatever floats your boat, man." Suddenly a little discomfited by the idea that Kyle was mimicking him. It brought back memories of another man who had wanted to 'be' Blair Sandburg. He shuddered at the memory. "Kyle. We need to talk, man. Now."
"Sure, professor. What's up?" He even had Blair's habit of bouncing a little.
"Stop it, Kyle. I can see what you're doing, and I don't like it."
"What do you mean, professor?" He'd even managed to duplicate the puppy-dog eyes. Blair shivered.
"Kyle. I know what you're doing. Dressing like me, matching my shoes and backpack, copying my mannerisms, letting your hair grow, and the like. But and this is a very big but, you need to decide who you are. You can't be me. The best you're going to get is laughed at by people who notice you copying me. Besides, I don't like it." His voice had become strained. "I don't want to be emulated. I don't want you to be like me. I want you to stop this and go back to being who you are. Please, Kyle. You have no idea how this is freaking me out. You know?"
Kyle's face had gone from curious, to surprised, to hurt, to angry. "I don't know what you're talking about, professor. This is the style, these days. Take a look around, I look like half the campus. I think you're the one with the problem. Turning and stalking angrily away.
Blair watched the boy. Recognizing that Kyle had even managed to copy his head-down, shoulder hunched angry walk. He shuddered again at the resurfacing memories, suddenly afraid...
"Hi, Jim. How's the testimony going?" Trying to not sound as upset as he really was. Wishing his partner was there in person to talk to.
"Boring, Chief. How's it going there?" He missed his partner's presence, only noticing how much the peripatetic young man brought to his life when he suddenly wasn't there. Recognizing how lonely he was off in the state capitol, testifying before a grand jury, without his almost constant companion.
"It's going." Wanting to tell his friend what had happened with his student, the realization he'd come to, but afraid to upset the older man, since he wouldn't be able to do anything about it until his return in a week, when he had finished testifying.
"What's wrong, Blair?" Sensing his friend's discomfort. "Come on, Chief. Tell me what's wrong."
Blair sighed. "Sometimes, it's a pain having you and your hearing focused on me. It's one of my students. Kyle, you remember me telling you about him?"
"Yeah, sixteen, a lot like you were at that age, lost in the university. What about him?"
"He's started copying me. Not just the backpack and the shoes, but the rest of my clothes, as well. He's letting his hair grow long, and just got himself a perm. At least he hasn't dyed it to match mine, yet. I finally realized it today, with the perm, but his has been going on all semester. I'm pretty freaked out, man. I told him off, but I don't think it did any good."
"Have you seen him around the loft? Has he been following you, other than at school?"
"No, I haven't seen him, but then, I haven't been looking. I just think he's messed up a little. Lost and needing a friend, I..."
"Call Joel. He's in charge with Simon here with me. I want you to tell him everything, Chief. I don't want you taking any chances. You might even see about staying with them until we get back. Please, Blair. Just do it. I don't want you hurt."
"OK, Jim. But I can't just run away from this, you know. It's just..."
"It's just like Lash. I know, buddy. I wish I could be there."
"I know, Jim. Me, too. He hasn't threatened me, or anything. But I did make him pretty mad when I told him off this afternoon. He's only sixteen. What can he do?"
"Blair, nine-year-olds are killing people. Look, I'll let you go. I want you to call Joel, immediately. I'll call you back in half an hour. Please, Chief."
"OK, oh Blessed Protector." But there was a smile in his voice. Something about Jim taking the situation so seriously gave him a warm feeling inside, knowing that his safety was important to his friend. "I'll call Joel, then I'll call you back. Deal?"
"Deal, Chief." They ended the call, and Blair immediately dialed the home number of the Taggarts. Mable answered on the second ring.
"Hi, Mable. It's Blair. Is Joel there?"
"Of course, let me get him for you." Blair could hear her call to her husband. He obviously was in a different room, from the volume of her voice, but not very far, as he could hear the big man's response.
"Blair? Is something wrong?"
"Well, I'm not sure. I have this student, Kyle Davis. He's sixteen, in college, kind of lost and forlorn, if you know what I mean. He's been hanging around me all semester, and I finally noticed today, that he's mimicking me. Clothes, shoes, backpack, and today he added perming his hair, he hasn't dyed it to match me, yet, but that's about all he has left to do. I...I kinda freaked and told him off. It was a little intense, at least on my part. I know he left angry, that's when I realized just how much he was emulating me. Jim just called, and knew I was upset, I told him and he said to call you. What should I do? I haven't seen him following me, but then, I haven't been looking."
"OK. Take it easy. You have your doors locked?"
"Yes." Looking to check.
"Good. I'm on my way. Pack yourself a bag for about a week, you're coming home with me. I should be there in half an hour. Don't open the door to anyone but me, understand?"
"Do you really think that it's that serious?" Suddenly feeling foolish about his fears.
"Maybe not. But you don't need to be alone there if there's even the slightest possibility of trouble. Jim would have my hide, and anything left, Simon would finish pulverizing. I'll be there in about half an hour." He repeated.
"OK. I'll be waiting for you. And, Joel? Thanks."
"You're welcome, Blair."
He packed hurriedly, not wanting to make Joel wait. He went out on the balcony and looked around, searching for...nothing. No one was out on the street. He was feeling more and more foolish about how he'd overreacted. The ringing phone made him jump, though.
"You didn't call back, Chief." Jim's voice indicating his concern.
"Oh, sorry, man. I was packing. Joel wants me to stay with them until we find out if there's anything to worry about. I'm OK, man. Honest."
"Good. Stay on the line until Joel gets there. I just want to make sure you're safe."
"Thanks, Jim. I appreciate it. So, what's happening in court?"
"Not a whole lot. Simon was testifying today. He'll be up tomorrow, and then, I hope, I'll get called. Tell them what I saw and heard, and be on my way home. Not that I expect it to be that easy."
"It never is." Blair chuckled. "Hold on, someone's at the door." He recognized Joel's voice identifying himself. "It's Joel. I'll talk to you later, OK?"
"OK, Chief. Be careful." Was the parting admonishment.
"I will. See you Saturday, if they're through with you by then."
"I hope so. Go let Joel in before he breaks down the door, Blair."
"OK, Bye." Blair hung the phone up and went to open the door.
"Hi, Joel. Thanks for all this. I'm sorry I'm so much trouble, but..."
"Don't worry about it, Blair. It's no trouble. Besides, Cecilia would be awfully upset if anything happened to you." He smiled. "This your bag?" Indicating the duffel bag on the floor.
"Yep. I guess I'm ready whenever you are." Blair locked up the loft and followed the older man out.
"Thanks for letting me stay here, Mable." He said for probably the fifth or sixth time.
"Blair, you're always welcome here. You should know that by now."
"I do, it's just..."
"You still haven't gotten used to having quite so many friends, right?"
"Well...yeah, I guess."
"Well, stop worrying about it. You're always welcome here. If ever you need anything, and I do mean anything, you can always come to us. Understand?"
"Yes, ma'am." He smiled at her, looking for all the world like a small child who had just been granted permission to do some very grown-up thing that he'd never thought within his reach before.
Breakfast with the Taggarts was a quiet affair of coffee and pancakes. Blair was impressed. Mable was up and fully functioning so early in the morning. Joel had been up for several hours, already, working out in his home gym, left over from his rehab the previous year. He'd lost weight and built up muscle. Blair was impressed at the older man's dedication. Mable, as always, was a warm, comforting presence. Blair found himself feeling warm and protected in their home.
"Do you have classes today, Blair?" Joel asked.
"Yeah. Two of them. Nine and noon. "What should I do?"
"Well, keep to well populated areas, I'll drop you off and pick you up, I'll also want you to call in and check with me before and after every class. If you see Kyle, stay away from him. I'll run a check on him and let you know what I find. If you want, I can assign someone to stay with you. That's up to you, however."
"What do you suggest?"
Joel looked at the younger man. Marveling at how if it were Jim he was having this conversation with, he'd probably be demanding that he could handle it, "Well, you made him mad, yesterday. I'd just as soon have someone there, just in case. I know you can handle yourself pretty well, but not if he comes at you with a gun. If it's OK with you, I'd like to send Rafe over to keep an eye open for any trouble. He's not a lot older than you are, and he looks less like a cop than most of the guys. Besides, he's a student, already, isn't he?"
"Yeah. He's working on two degrees. It's fine with me. I just..."
"I know, Blair. It brought back the memories of Lash." Placing a hand on the smaller man's shoulder, feeling him flinch at the name. "It's OK, Blair. It'll be OK. You'll see. Let me call Rafe to meet us at the university, OK?"
Blair nodded his agreement. Only looking up when Mable reached out to take his hands in hers, squeezing them. Their eyes meeting, the warmth and concern providing the needed comfort for the younger man. Smiling at one another in understanding.
Blair was disturbed when Kyle didn't show up for class. Rafe kept a close eye on the smaller man. Joking with him to relieve the tension.
"I feel like such a wuss." Blair muttered as they ate lunch. "He's only a sixteen year old kid, Brian. I shouldn't be this afraid."
"Why not?" Brian Rafe replied. "Just because he is young does not mean he cannot cause trouble, or hurt someone. It is better to be safe than sorry, isn't it?"
"Yeah. I guess so. I just feel that...Oh, hell. I don't know. I think I just blew it yesterday. When I realized how much he was starting to look and act like me, all I could see was Lash, and I panicked."
"That's OK, Blair. It's perfectly understandable. I'd be more surprised if you didn't freak out. Hey, I'd freak out, if it were me. Don't sweat it. With any luck, we'll see him and you can explain to him why you got upset, maybe you can convince him to, I don't know, find himself, maybe? He just wants to be like you, so you need to steer him back onto his own path, right?"
"I guess so. He's never missed a class, before. I hope he's OK."
That night, Blair started getting the frightening phone calls on his cell phone. He'd answer it, only to hear nothing on the other end. After the third call, he was starting to get annoyed. "Kyle, I know that's you. Talk to me, man." He heard the click at the other end. There were three more calls before Blair finally gave up and turned off his cell phone. Joel had Blair call the loft and listen to the messages there. There were more than a dozen, all dead air.
"Now, it's getting serious." Joel murmured to the upset Blair. "Now it's becoming a case of stalking and harassment. I can have a trace placed on the phone at the loft, if you want, although, if he's smart, he's using a pay phone, which means we can't really connect him to the calls."
"If I can get him to speak, though, it will, won't it?"
"I don't want this. I want to explain to him, why this is wrong. He's just a kid, scared, alone. I know. I've been there, I...."
"You didn't stalk anyone, Blair. He's just a boy, that's true. But he's old enough to know that what he's doing is wrong. I won't allow you to take on the blame that rightfully belongs to Kyle, Blair. It isn't your fault." Seeing Blair about to protest, he hurried on. "I know that Kyle couldn't have any idea why you would be so upset by his mimicry of you, but, unless we can find him and sit the two of you down to talk about it, he's a danger to you, not to mention himself and anyone else who might stand in his way. I've put out a request to find him and bring him in for questioning. His grandparents haven't seen him in almost a week. That's not a good thing. It may just mean that they don't bother keeping track of him, or that he's gone to ground somewhere."
"He's only sixteen, Joel. They should know where he goes, who he sees. This sucks, man."
"Yes, Blair. It does. I hope we find him, soon. I want this to have a happy ending for everyone. But if it's a choice between you and Kyle, you're the one I'm going to protect. At any cost."
Blair looked up into the intense gaze of the older man. Seeing the concern in the dark brown eyes. "Yes. Thank you. But you'll try not to hurt him, won't you?"
"Of course. Like you said, he's only a child. Lost and confused. If he calls again, try to get him to talk to you."
The next day was basically a repeat of the previous one. Rafe hung around Blair, watching out for him, looking for the sixteen year old, to no avail. Sitting in Blair's office while he held his office hours. The phone rang.
"Yeah, this is Blair Sandburg." The distracted man spoke into the phone. He froze at the silence on the other end. "Kyle? I know it's you. Can we talk, please? Will you let me explain?" Rafe was instantly on his cell phone, initiating the tracing procedures.
"What's to explain?" Kyle's distraught voice whispered into Blair's ear. "I thought you were different. That you might actually like me. But you're just like all the others." His words followed by a stifled sob.
"I do like you, Kyle. Please, just listen for a minute. Please, man. It isn't so much that you did anything really wrong, it's just that I...well, I was... There was this serial killer a couple of years ago. He would drown people and take their place. We were looking for him, well, the police were looking for him. I was working with Jim, you know Jim, my roommate?"
"The cop?" Kyle's voice barely audible.
"Yeah, that's him. You know that I've been an observer with the police?"
"Yeah. I'd heard. What happened?"
"Well, it turned out that the killer, his name was David Lash, had killed the FBI profiler who was sent to help us, he took the guy's place, we were all taken in by him. Well, he decided he wanted to be me, next. Kyle, he almost killed me. He was wearing a wig to look like me. He had practiced trying to sound like me. He'd stolen some of my clothes and was wearing them. He had me chained up and forced me to swallow the same crap he'd doped up his other victims with, he was going to take me to see the ducks..." Blair couldn't choke back the sob talking about one of the most terrifying events of his life. Rafe reached out to place a comforting hand on the smaller man's shoulder. "Kyle, when I realized that you were copying me, trying to be like me, I lost it. All I could think of was what that madman had almost done to me. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, Kyle, but..." He couldn't go on. He choked. Rafe moved closer, putting his arms around the smaller man, offering a hug as Blair struggled for control. Finally, gasping, he continued. "Kyle...please...come in? Let me help you? Please?"
"You thought I wanted to hurt you?" Shock evident in the voice. "I wouldn't hurt you. I could never do anything like that. I just wanted to be like you. I mean, you're so smart, and everybody likes you. I...I'm sorry. I...Oh, man." He started to cry.
"Kyle? Come to my office. Now. Please? We can work this out." Blair pleaded.
"What about the cops? Won't they arrest me?" Afraid.
"No. Rafe's a friend. He won't hurt you. I promise. Please. Just come in, OK? We can talk. Please?"
"I...I guess. I can be there in fifteen minutes. You're not really mad at me?" Plaintive.
"No, Kyle. I'm not mad at you. We just need to talk."
"OK." The call disconnected. Blair looked up at Rafe, who shook his head.
"It's a cell call. They couldn't get a trace. Are you sure it'll be all right for him to come here?"
"I don't think he's dangerous, Brian. Only confused. If I can talk to him, I think it'll be all right. At least, I hope that it will."
"It's your call. But I'm not leaving you alone with him." Rafe insisted.
"I don't really want you to." Blair admitted, with a slight grin.
It was more like half an hour, before the tentative knock came at the door. Rafe opened it and stood back to allow the teenager in. He then moved back to his corner, to allow them as much privacy as possible, but he was still going to keep a close eye on the situation, just in case.
"Hi, professor." Kyle stood, head down, not meeting Blair's eyes. He looked like Blair did after a weekend of frenzied grading of tests and papers on top of a week of stakeouts with his partner. Blair was glad Jim wasn't there, as even he could tell that Kyle hadn't seen a shower or fresh clothes since the last time they'd met.
"Hi, Kyle. Are you OK? I talked to your grandparents, and they hadn't seen you, recently." His voice gentle and concerned.
Kyle risked a quick glance to see if Blair was being honest with him, and only saw concern in the blue-green eyes. He started to shake. "I didn't mean to scare you, professor. I'm sorry. I just wanted to be like you. Everyone likes you, I just..."
"Hey, Kyle, it's OK. I do understand. I should be flattered, but with what happened before, it's not your fault, but it scared me. It's OK, honest." He circled his desk and reached out to gather the young man into a hug. "Shh. It's OK. The problem isn't so much that I don't want you to mimic me, but that you need to find your own self, be you, not anyone else. Yeah, your probably the youngest person on campus. So what? That just means that you're smart and talented. Work with your strengths. Why don't you tutor? It's a great way to meet people, to make friends. I remember tutoring Bonehead English to a bunch of jocks one semester. At first, they thought they could bully me into doing the work for them. I just told them that even if I were to do the work for them, I couldn't take the tests, and then everyone would know the truth, especially since I told them that I'd scream it from the library steps if they forced me to." He smiled encouragingly at the boy he was still hugging. "I like you as you, Kyle. Not because you've started emulating me. I liked you before you ever started that. I'll like you when you stop... Uh, you are going to stop, aren't you?"
"Yeah." He liked the feeling of concern from his teacher, liked even better, being held and comforted. He tentatively returned the hug, wrapping his arms around the smaller man and dropping his head to Blair's shoulder. When Blair didn't push him away, he started crying, softly. Blair started rubbing the younger man's back,
"Shhh. It's OK. I'm not mad at you. You're not in trouble. It's OK, Kyle. Shh." He glanced over the taller boy's shoulder at Rafe, who smiled back at him and nodded his understanding. But he still wasn't going to leave. Blair couldn't repress the answering grin, he understood Rafe's position, and agreed wholeheartedly.
Eventually, Kyle calmed down. He mumbled a blushing apology. Promising to 'be good'. Blair picked up on the words.
"Kyle. You're always good. I just want you to be happy being you. Not trying to be someone else, something you're not. OK? Are we OK, now? Huh?" Holding the teen at arm's length, ducking a little to gain eye contact. Smiling when he finally succeeded. "OK?"
"Yes, sir." Kyle answered, tremulously.
"Good. Now, I want you to go home, take a shower, get something to eat and then go to bed. I expect to see you in class tomorrow, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Understand?"
"Yes, sir." Smiling now.
"Good. Get going."
"Thanks, professor." He turned and headed out, barely glancing at Rafe, holding his head higher than when he had entered.
"Good job, Blair. You think he'll get a haircut, too?"
"We can only hope."
Joel still insisted that Blair stay with them until Jim returned. He also kept Rafe assigned as body guard, just in case. The next day, in class, Kyle was in his usual spot in the front row, taking notes like his life depended on it, gazing with worshipful eyes at Blair. Rafe kept a close eye on the young man, just because. He needn't have worried. Kyle had, indeed, gotten a haircut. He was clean and back in his original preppy clothes. His eyes were bright and he was extremely attentive. After class, he only hung around long enough to get the notes for the class he missed from one of his classmates. He waved to Blair on his way out, and smiled at Rafe, as well.
When the classroom had emptied of students, Blair heaved a sigh of relief. "Thanks, Brian. Wow. Did he change back fast, or what?"
"Yeah." Brian replied, looking pensively down the hall, maybe too fast. But he didn't tell Blair about the bad feeling he was getting. No need to worry the smaller man.
Friday. Jim was due back late that night, or perhaps the next day. Blair was feeling safe and wanted to go . Joel told him no. Blair became angry and belligerent. Joel became adamant.
"No, Blair. I don't care what you want. You are not going to spend the night in the loft by yourself."
"Joel, I told you. Kyle's fine. He's not going to do anything. I'm not a child. I can spend the night alone. I don't need you to baby-sit me any more." He was pacing. Furious at the idea that he needed a keeper.
"Blair, please. It's only one more night. Why take a chance?" He was trying to be reasonable, but Blair wasn't listening.
"I want to sleep in my own bed, Joel. I am going and there is nothing more to be said."
"No! I'll be fine. Stop worrying, OK?"
Joel realized that there was nothing he could say that would change the smaller man's mind. He sighed in resignation. "All right. Fine. Go home." He turned his back on his friend before he said anything he might later regret.
Blair realized that he had hurt the big man's feelings, but he was just so tired of having someone monitoring his every move...well, someone other than Jim, that is. He grabbed his duffel bag and said a polite good-bye to Mable as he left. The Taggarts looked at one another. "Go." Mable told her husband. "Just in case."
Joel smiled. "You always know the right thing to say, Baby." He leaned down to kiss her, then grabbed his coat and headed out to keep an eye on their errant young friend.
It was a warm, humid, night in Cascade. Joel was sweltering from the unusual heat-wave. He had put in a ten-hour day at work, and was now pulling an all-nighter keeping an eye on Blair, just in case. He was almost dozing when the sound of a real rattle-trap of a car pulled up in front of the loft. Joel straightened in his seat, once again alert and on guard. He watched as the driver of the old junker climbed out of his car. Joel recognized Kyle from his description. He watched as the boy looked cautiously around, then opened his trunk and pulled out a five gallon gasoline can. Joel grabbed his cell phone and called in the possible arson, then, as Kyle made his way into the building, Joel quickly got out of his car and hurried across the street to follow the shadowy form into the building, making surprisingly little noise for such a big man. He nearly had a heart attack, when another shadowy form joined him in the doorway, then he recognized Brian Rafe.
"What are you doing here?" Joel hissed at the younger man.
"Mrs. Taggart called me and told me what was going on. I decided to watch the side. I saw Kyle drive by, not to mention hearing him. I'm just here as your backup." He smiled, his teeth gleaming in the limited light from a street-lamp.
"You saw the gas?"
"Yeah. We'd better hurry, or Jim's going to be really pissed; he probably won't be able to get any homeowner's insurance if anything happens to the loft."
They took the stairs to the third floor. Carefully opening the door, they peered out, spotting Kyle working on forcing entry to the loft. Glancing at each other, they prepared to charge the youth. Just as they were about to move, Kyle managed to force open the door. As the boy entered the loft, gas can in hand, the two detectives ran in near silence after him. Bursting through the still ajar door, they drew their weapons and yelled simultaneously,
"FREEZE! Cascade PD!" Joel flipped on the lights, while Rafe kept the kid in his sights. Kyle paled to a pasty grayish white color. Blair erupted from his room, rumpled, in boxers and a tee shirt, Blinking blearily at the scene before him.
"Wha? Kyle? What are you doing here? What's that smell? Joel? Rafe? What's going on? I..." Suddenly, the smell from the open can registered. "OHMYGOD!" He stared at the teenager before him, horrified and shocked. "Why, Kyle? Why? I thought we were friends..." plaintive.
"After what you said to me? You think I believed you? That whole story was just bullshit..."
"He told you the absolute truth." Rafe interrupted. "I know, I was there."
Joel was confused. "What are you talking about?"
"Blair told him about Lash. Obviously, Kyle didn't believe him." Rafe pulled out his handcuffs, checking that Joel had Kyle covered, he reholstered his pistol and handcuffed Kyle's hands behind his back. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say may be used against you in a court of law. If you so desire and cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge, before any questioning. Do you understand these rights as I have told them to you?"
"Yes." A terrified whisper. Staring at Blair, seeing the fear he had produced in the man he had striven to emulate, to be like. "You were telling the truth?"
"Yes." Blair just stared at him, trembling in horror at what almost happened. The only good thing about it, was by having been home, with Joel and Brian keeping an eye on him, despite his protests, they had prevented what would have been an awful fire that would have destroyed the loft, and probably the rest of the building, as well. Blair wrapped his arms around his body, watching in new terror as Rafe led Kyle from the loft.
"Will you be all right, Blair?" Joel asked softly, quietly approaching the smaller man.
"No. I don't know. I thought he understood, Joel. What did I do wrong?" Lifting plaintive, hurt eyes to his friend. "What's Jim gonna say?"
"Chief? You all right? I saw Rafe taking someone away in handcuffs, not to mention a couple of patrol cars downstairs. What happened?" The weary detective came in, dropping his suitcase on the floor under the coat hooks, his gaze sweeping the loft and seeing for himself what had almost happened. "Blair?"
"Oh, man. Jim. I'm sorry. I..." Blair made a sudden dash for the bathroom, Jim right behind him, holding him as he retched, soothing his fears with soft, calming words and gentle touches; holding his hair out of the way; rubbing his back. Even cleaning him up afterward. When he was finished, Jim led him back to the living room. Joel had left, taking the can of gasoline with him.
"Better?" Jim asked, once he had gotten his friend to sit down.
"Yeah. I thought I had gotten through to him, Jim. I really did. Oh, man. If Joel and Rafe hadn't..." He started to shake again.
"Hey. Shh. It's OK. It's all going to be fine. Kyle will get the help he needs. It's OK." He thought about how Blair had disobeyed his instructions to stay at Joel's until he got home. If he had, they would have lost most of their belongings and their home. So, in a way, it was a good thing that Blair hadn't followed orders. Even better that their friends had insisted on protecting his partner, despite his attitude. "You did fine, Chief. It's OK. It'll be all right." Jim pulled the smaller man into his arms, holding him close, as he would a child. Rubbing Blair's shoulders and back, soothing the smaller man with his touch and soft words of encouragement. Finally, when the terror had been banished once again, when Blair was ready, he let go.
"Oh, man. Sorry there, Jim. I guess...I'm sorry."
"It's OK, Chief. Hey, if you hadn't been here, then Joel and Rafe wouldn't have been outside watching for trouble. You did fine, buddy. It's OK. I'm not mad at all. Just worried. Are you going to be OK?"
"Yeah. I just thought he understood about how I felt. I guess I missed the mark on that one, huh?"
"You did your best. You're not a psychiatrist or psychologist. You can't be expected to know everything; in spite of how you make the rest of us feel." His smile told his friend that he was teasing, just a little. "Like you're always telling me, Chief. You're not God, either. You can't know everything. Certainly not about everyone you meet. You just have to do the best you can, OK? I'm just glad that you're safe. You did everything you could. It's time to let it go."
"You're right, Jim. I just feel so...I don't know. Guilty, I guess. I realize that he was just trying to be like me, but he isn't me. He needs to learn to be him.
"Yeah, he does. It's out of your hands, now, Chief. He'll get help. That's all you can do."
"Yeah, I guess." He tried to stifle a tremendous yawn. "Oh, man. I'm wiped." He looked up into the haggard countenance of his partner. "You look pretty wiped out, yourself, Jim. I think I can sleep. How about you?"
"Yeah. Sounds like a good idea to me, too." He stood up, extending a hand to pull his friend up, as well. "I'll see you in the morning, well, later this morning." He went back to the door, made sure it was locked, the chain on; picked up his suitcase and headed for the stairs. Glancing at his friend, who was still standing and staring at the place Kyle had been arrested, "Blair?"
The younger man shook himself. Looking up, "I'm OK, Jim." He sighed and turned toward his own room. "I'll be OK."
"If you need to talk, or anything, I'm here."
"Thanks, man. I'm just going to try to beat out the nightmares."
"I'm sorry this happened, Chief."
Blair stopped and looked up at his friend, who had stopped half-way up the stairs, "Me, too."
Kyle tried to commit suicide that night. Fortunately, one of the drunks saw him take off his jeans and try to hang himself with them, and started yelling for help. The guards on duty were alert and came to see what was wrong and managed to cut the boy down in time to save his life. He was transferred to the county hospital Psych Ward, where he was evaluated and placed in protective care. The consensus of the multitude of doctors, was simply that Kyle needed to grow up some more before being thrust into the adult world. He actually got the help he needed, and eventually became a productive member of society. He did, however, move to another state to make a clean start. Much to one particular anthropology professor's relief. Not to mention, his partner's.
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