The Watchtower, Part 1

by Liz

Disclaimer: These characters, aside from the originals, are not mine. They belong to Michael Sloan and Warner Brothers. No copyright infringement is intended.

This is an AU story. I'm not a KFTLC aficionado. I just like some of the characters. Thanks as always to my beta, TAE and to my Blaisdell-beta, Paige.

Part One 1980

He turned into the drive and parked his car. In the kitchen, a chime sounded when the car crossed the electric eye and she smiled, knowing he was home. He got out of the car slowly, shut the door and locked it, then walked up to the house. He unlocked the door and walked in, hanging up his coat in the closet. In the kitchen, the chime chirped differently and she knew he was on his way upstairs to change his clothes.

He walked up the stairs and into their bedroom. Unstrapping his holster, he hung it up on the door of the closet. He kicked off his shoes and emptied his pockets into the dish on his bureau. Walking back into the closet, he took off his suit, hung up his tie, and put on a pair of comfortable grey trousers. He slipped his feet into a pair of moccasins and loosely tucked his shirt in before walking downstairs.

He walked into the kitchen, his shoes making small squeaks on the tile floor.

"Hello, sweetheart," Annie said, turning from the counter to face him.

"Hello, Babe. Sorry I'm late," Paul Blaisdell said, kissing her.

She put her arms around him, drawing him against her for a strong hug. She felt his ribs as he breathed and wondered silently when he had dropped that weight. Paul buried his face in her hair, breathing her wonderful scent. They stood in the kitchen, kissing, and caressing for several minutes before Annie broke, holding him loosely around his waist.

"Much as I would love to stand here all night with you, I made some terrific beef stroganoff that I think you should try," Annie said, smiling.

"Okay, Babe. You're the boss," Paul said, drawing her face to him for one last passionate kiss.

"Would you like a glass of wine with dinner?" Annie asked.

"Yes, please. Can I do anything to help?" Paul asked.

"No, why don't you sit down. I can handle it," Annie replied.

He loved Kelly, Peter and Caroline, but he cherished these moments when he and Annie were alone. They had developed a quiet routine, meals in the kitchen, cuddling on the sofa listening to music, going to bed early. This week, however, the routine had been disrupted; his past was invading into his dreams.

"Paul?" Annie repeated, putting her hand out to touch him.

"Yeah, hon? I'm sorry, I guess I was distracted," Paul replied, taking her hand and squeezing it to calm her fears.

Annie brought the plates to the table and then returned with two glasses of wine. Paul carefully took them from her and waited until she sat down. He put the wine at her one o'clock position and placed his own on the table. Paul took his napkin, put it in his lap and took a forkful of the stroganoff. He groaned, in spite of himself, at the amazing taste in his mouth. He swallowed and looked up at her.

"Annie, you're right. This is terrific beef stroganoff," Paul said, reaching his hand out to touch hers.

She blushed in spite of herself and smiled. He grinned back, loving it when she blushed.

"Thank you, there's plenty left," She said.

"Well, you know Peter will be by this weekend, so we could freeze it," Paul pointed out, continuing to eat his dinner.

Annie nodded and started to eat her stroganoff. She worried about Paul. He wasn't sleeping well and although she felt that they could talk about everything, there were parts of his life that he refused to speak about.

"Penny for your thoughts?" Paul asked, looking up at her.

"It's nothing, never mind," Annie replied.

"Babe, please, tell me, what's got you so concerned?" Paul asked, setting his fork down.

"Paul, if you can't talk to me, you must talk to somebody. You haven't been sleeping well for the last two weeks and your nightmares are becoming more violent," Annie said, quietly but firmly.

"Annie, we've talked about this," Paul started, "Wait, what do you mean, violent?" Paul asked, his eyes narrowing.

Annie didn't want to upset him further, but the night before, Paul had really scared her.

"Last night you had a nightmare. Paul, you picked me up and held me against the wall. You were strangling me," Annie said, listening for his response.

Paul stood quickly, jostling the table, causing the red wine to spill. Annie stood also, listening to him back away from her.

"You didn't hurt me. You let me go. But, Paul..." Annie said, stopping when he stopped moving.

"What?" he whispered.

"You scared me," She whispered in return.

Paul walked towards her, gathering her in his arms, and pulling her close. He tried to be gentle but he wanted to hold her tightly, his emotions running high.

"Oh, Babe, God, I am so sorry," Paul said, his voice catching.

"It's over, I'm fine, and I'm just worried about you," Annie said softly, reaching up to feel his face.

She was not surprised to feel tears on his cheeks. Paul turned his face to her hand and kissed it. They stood together for a time, just holding each other. Suddenly, Paul stiffened and stepped out of her embrace.

"I've got some work to do," He said, starting to clear his side of the table.

"Did you have enough to eat?" Annie asked, already knowing the answer.

"Yeah, I'm full," Paul said, leaning forward to kiss her.

Paul left the kitchen and Annie was left trying to figure out what decision he had just made. She walked to the refrigerator and felt for the phone on the wall. Picking up the receiver, she called the one person who might be able to help her husband.

"Hi, Annie, what's up?" the voice said.

"Kermit, it didn't even ring on my side," Annie replied, slightly distracted.

"Oh, sorry, what can I do for you?" Kermit asked.

"Can you come over here tonight? Paul's been having some trouble and maybe he'll talk to you," Annie said.

"What kind of trouble? Never mind, I'll be there in forty minutes," Kermit replied.

"Thank you," Annie said.

"Don't worry, Annie. He'll be okay," Kermit said.

"I hope so, bye," Annie said.

"Bye," Kermit said, hanging up the phone.

Paul walked into the study and closed the door. In the dark, he walked quickly to his desk and turned on the light. Comforted by the pale glow, he reached for the remote control and pressed play. Billie Holiday's voice came through the small speakers hung in the ceiling. He walked to a small cabinet, opened it, and poured himself a glass of scotch. Closing the cabinet, he walked to the desk and sat in the leather chair, his back to the light. Paul sipped the scotch, and thought about what Annie had said. He knew he wasn't sleeping well, but until Annie said that he tried to kill her the night before, he hadn't put it all together. Paul balanced the tumbler of scotch on his chest and closed his eyes.

Annie took her plate and put it in the microwave to heat it up. She waited the thirty seconds and removed the plate. Walking back to the table, Annie sat down and resumed her dinner. Twenty minutes later, Annie had finished her dinner and was putting dishes into the dishwasher. The chime rang and she knew that Kermit had just driven up. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the kitchen door. Annie walked to the door and opened it.

"Ah, Annie," Kermit said, walking in to hug her.

"Kermit," Annie said, and burst into tears.

"Annie, you're scaring me here. What's going on? Where's Paul?" Kermit said, holding her at arm's length.

"Kermit, I'm losing him. His nightmares have returned, but he isn't aware that he's having them. We're both scared," Annie said, calming somewhat.

"All right, where is he?" Kermit asked.

"In the study, I think. He said he had work to do," Annie said.

"Well then, you'll know where I will be." Kermit said, releasing her.

"Thanks," Annie said, quietly.

"What are friends for?" Kermit asked with a smile.

Kermit walked out of the kitchen and went to the study door. He knocked softly and got no response. Opening the door, he slipped inside and shut it behind him. He smiled and took off his glasses, folding them and slipping them into his pocket. Kermit walked to the desk and saw that Paul had fallen asleep, his feet on the file cabinet behind his desk. Kermit reached over and removed Paul's glass and put it on the desk and turned down the volume on the stereo. He then walked over to the cabinet and poured a drink for himself. Sitting opposite Paul, Kermit sipped his scotch and waited.

Kermit finished his scotch and stood to get a refill. As he walked to the cabinet, Paul started to dream. At first, he was just mumbling, nothing coherent, but then it became clearer. Kermit put down his glass and walked around the desk to face Paul. His eyes opened suddenly and he leapt to his feet, slamming Kermit against the bookcase. Kermit didn't resist until Paul shifted his forearm over his neck. Kermit put two hands up to keep Paul from strangling him.

"Paul, Paul, it's me Kermit. Paul, wake up," Kermit said, through his clenched teeth.

Paul's gaze never wavered and it was a look Kermit didn't want directed at him. It was a look of pure murder. They struggled for a few minutes before Kermit felt Paul's strength begin to wane. Kermit took the opportunity to turn the tables and slam Paul against the bookcase, hoping he would wake up. Paul growled and spoke again. Kermit's head snapped up when he realized what Paul was saying. They were words that he hadn't heard in over fifteen years.

"Paul, I swear to God, I'm going to slug you if you don't snap out of this," Kermit said, trying to keep Paul pinned against the bookcase.

Paul took a deep breath and shoved Kermit away from him. He moved to the center of the room facing the bookcase. Kermit fell onto the chair in front of the desk and quickly regained his footing. He looked up quickly to see Paul's fist coming at him. He moved just out of reach, stepped in and punched Paul square on the jaw. Paul fell backward and landed on the sofa; out like a light. Kermit walked over to him, grabbed his collar and positioned him so he wasn't uncomfortable. Kermit turned to go back to the cabinet to make a new drink. He drank it quickly and poured another one. Kermit leaned against the bookcase and wiped his brow with a shaky hand. He leaned over and righted the other chair at the desk. Pulling it up to the couch, he sat down and stared at his friend. What the hell was going on? Sure he had memories, maybe a flashback or two, but he didn't scream in Vietnamese at the top of his lungs.

Paul started to stir and Kermit took a chance.

"Co bao nhieu Viet Cong?" Kermit said.

Paul continued to stir but did not awaken.

"Co bao nhieu Viet Cong?" Kermit repeated, loudly.

Paul opened his eyes and stared hard at Kermit. "Cho," Paul said, slowly.

"Why are you speaking to me in Vietnamese?" Paul asked, feeling his sore jaw.

"Why did you speak to me in Vietnamese and ask me where my tunnels were hidden?" Kermit asked.

"What?" Paul asked, sitting upright, staring at Kermit.

"You grabbed me and shoved me against the bookcase. Five minutes later, you threw your forearm against my windpipe and tried to strangle me while asking where my tunnels were. You didn't wake up, so I slugged you. Sorry," Kermit said, standing now, to pace off the energy.

Paul looked to the floor and put his face in his hands. He took some shaky breaths and tried to keep it together.

"I almost killed her," Paul said, softly, looking at the floor.

"What?" Kermit said, dropping to his knees in front of Paul, gently lifting his head to look into his eyes.

"Last night, I had the same nightmare, dream, whatever you want to call it, and I put my forearm against my wife's throat and I tried to kill her," Paul said, looking at his friend, tears now streaming down his face.

"But you didn't, you stopped. We'll get through this, you and I. You'll be fine. Now, wipe your face, go find Annie and tell her you love her. Then tell her that just for tonight, you'll sleep down here with me," Kermit said, seriously.

Paul wiped his face with the sleeve of his shirt and stood. Kermit stood with him and walked him to the door.

"I'll get some ice for that chin," Kermit said, with a smirk.

Paul smiled and walked out of the room to go talk to Annie.

He walked up the stairs slowly, feeling the fatigue in his body catching up to his brain. He opened the door of the bedroom and wasn't surprised to see Annie reading in bed. The lamp on the night table on Paul's side of the bed was on, as she always did, and the rest of the room was dark. She looked up at him, putting her book down beside her. Paul walked to the bed and sat on the edge gathering her into his arms.

"I am so sorry I'm scaring you," Paul whispered into her hair.

Annie started to cry and Paul held her as tightly as he dared. He kissed her softly on her forehead and gently wiped the tears from her face.

"Is Kermit helping?" Annie said, sniffling slightly.

"Let's say we had a meeting of the minds," Paul said, reaching for her hand and placing it on his bruised chin.

"Oh, sweetheart," Annie said, placing a kiss to the bruise.

"Annie, for tonight, Kermit feels I should sleep downstairs in the study," Paul said, quietly.

"What happened? I heard you shouting but I couldn't hear what you were saying." Annie asked.

"I had the same nightmare with the same result except that when I went to strangle Kermit, he was strong enough to push me away," Paul replied, looking down at his hands.

Annie reached again for his face, the face that she knew so well, ran her hands across it, trying to read his emotions. His face was flushed and she felt the heat emanating from him as well as the dampness beneath his eyes.

"I understand. Sleep well, my darling. I love you," Annie said, pulling him into a kiss.

Paul kissed her passionately in return and stood up.

"Take the extra blanket from the hall closet for Kermit. You know he always gets cold," Annie suggested.

"Thanks, Babe," Paul said, leaving the room for the night.

Annie began to weep silently for the man she adored, feeling helpless and alone. She took her book and put in on the night table, pulled the covers up to her chin, and waited for morning.

Kermit slipped on his dark glasses and walked to the kitchen. He found a zip lock bag and a kitchen towel and set them on the island counter. Opening the freezer, he pulled an ice tray out and opened it into the bag. Filling the ice tray, he replaced it in the freezer and shut the door. He zipped the bag, getting most of the air out, and wrapped it in the kitchen towel and then walked back to the study. He heard Paul's steps in the hallway above and watched him walk down the stairs with the extra blanket. They walked into the study and closed the door. Kermit removed his glasses and traded the ice for the blanket. Paul heaved a heavy sigh and sat down on the sofa. He kicked off his moccasins and lay back, stretching his length out on the sofa. He put his ice bag on his chin and groaned softly.

"Serves you right, you know," Kermit said, tossing the blanket on to the chair.

Paul opened his eyes and shot a glare at him.

"Want a drink?" Kermit said, with a grin.

"Please, what time is it, anyway?" Paul asked.

"Ten or thereabouts," Kermit replied, his hands busy with scotch.

Kermit walked to Paul with the drink and handed it to him, settling in his chair, sipping his own drink. Paul sat up a bit more and took a large mouthful of scotch. The two men sat in silence, the CD long since over.

Kermit looked over at Paul and noticed that he had fallen asleep, the ice bag now sitting on his chest and the empty scotch glass on its side on the sofa. Kermit stood and removed the ice bag and glass. He reached to the back of the sofa and opened the plaid wool blanket, stretching it out over his friend. Kermit moved his chair to be out of harm's way in case Paul had another violent dream, and fell asleep.

Annie walked downstairs and listened at the study door. Hearing nothing, she walked into the kitchen and started her normal breakfast schedule, black coffee and cereal for Paul, tea and scrambled eggs for herself.

Kermit had given up on the chair, opting for the thick carpet. He slept soundly, waking up when he smelled the coffee. He got up and cracked his neck, wrists, and knees to relieve the pressure. Glancing at his watch, seven, he then looked at Paul. He had turned onto his side, facing the back of the sofa. Kermit smiled, knowing that in the old days Paul would never have put his back to a door. Kermit removed his jacket and replaced his holster.

"Paul? Let's go, time for breakfast," Kermit said, as he finished the last adjustment.

Paul groaned and rolled onto his back. His chin was a lovely shade of purple that extended along his jaw. Kermit reached over and took the blanket from him, folding it and putting it back onto the sofa. Sitting up, Paul quickly put his hand to his head. He reached down with his other hand and slipped his moccasins back on. When he looked back up he saw Kermit's outstretched hand. With a tired smile, he took hold as Kermit pulled him to his feet. Kermit walked out of the study first, with Paul following, on their way to the kitchen.

Kermit reached into his pocket and began to jingle the change in his pocket as he approached the kitchen.

"Morning, Kermit," Annie greeted him.

"Morning, Annie," Kermit replied, kissing her neck as she cooked.

"Is he up?" Annie asked.

"I'm up and I have a killer headache," Paul said, walking into the kitchen.

Annie put the spatula down and turned to give him a hug. Paul hugged her back and kissed her. Releasing her, he walked to the coffeemaker to pour himself a cup.

"Can I do anything to help?" Paul asked, leaning against the counter.

"Kermit, are you eating solids this early?" Annie asked.

"Coffee will do just fine, thanks," Kermit replied, sitting at the table.

"Sweetheart, do you want eggs today or just your cereal?" Annie asked.

"Cereal will be fine, thank you," Paul said, turning around to get a bowl from the cupboard.

"Then you can get yourself breakfast. Mine should be ready shortly," Annie answered.

Paul half-filled his bowl with Cheerios, topped it off with a bit of milk, picked up his mug of coffee, and headed for the table. Kermit nudged a bottle of aspirin towards him. Paul tapped out three tablets onto the table to slug down with his coffee when it cooled. Quietly they sipped their coffee, waiting for Annie to join them. Shortly, she finished with her eggs, turned off the stove and headed to the table.

"How did you sleep, dear?" Annie asked, sitting down.

"No dreams," Paul answered, starting to eat his cereal.

"If your head is really killing you, why don't you take the day off?" Annie asked, in between forkfuls of scrambled eggs.

"I can't. I have to go to the range for my monthly test," Paul replied.

"When's your appointment?" Kermit asked, quietly.

"I think around two," Paul responded.

"Just take it easy today, Paul," Annie said, gently.

"I will, Babe," Paul replied.

The rest of breakfast was filled with small talk, mostly about the upcoming weekend.

"I've got to take a quick shower, and change. See you at the office?" Paul asked Kermit.

"Yeah, what's your schedule?" Kermit asked.

"I'm running late, so I'll be in around nine," Paul replied.

"Okay, see you there. Thanks for the coffee, Annie," Kermit said, standing.

"You're always welcome, Kermit," Annie replied.

Kermit walked out the back door and Paul stood to lean over to kiss Annie. He took his dishes to the sink and then walked back to her.

"I'm going upstairs to shower," Paul said, putting his hands on her shoulders.

"All right, dear," Annie said, tilting her head to touch his hand.

He kissed the top of her head and walked out of the kitchen. Walking upstairs, Paul went into the bedroom and pulled a fresh suit, socks, shorts, shirt and tie and laid them out on the bed. He unbuttoned his shirt, tossing it in the hamper. He kicked off his shoes and picked them up, placing them neatly in the closet. Taking off his trousers, he hung them up, removed his shorts and socks; throwing them in the hamper as well. Padding into the bathroom he looked at his face and noticed the bruising on his chin and jaw. Shutting the door of the bathroom to keep the steam in, he reached into the shower and turned the water on, catching a glimpse of himself in the full length mirror. Sighing again, he stepped into the shower stall and ducked his head under the hot spray. He washed and soaped and washed again, trying to feel a little more human. Turning off the water, he stepped out of the shower stall and wrapped a towel around his waist. He walked to the mirror over the sink and looked again at his face. The dark circles under his bloodshot blue eyes and the bruise on his chin distracted from the fact that Paul hadn't shaved. He toweled off, hung up all of the towels and walked into the bedroom to dress quickly.

Finishing tying his tie, he then pulled it loose and unbuttoned the top button. He walked to the closet and took his pistol and harness from the door. He slid into it, relaxing to the comforting feel. Finally, he put on his jacket and picked up his wallet, pens and change from the bureau. Taking one last look for anything that might injure Annie, he walked downstairs.

"Babe?" Paul called.

"In the living room," Annie answered.

Paul walked in and found her reading a book. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.

"I've got to go. I'll call you this afternoon. I should be home by eight," Paul said, straightening up.

"Kelly's still on that school trip until Saturday, remember," Annie said,

"I haven't forgotten," Paul said. "Love you, see you later."

"Love you, too," Annie said.

Paul opened the door, listening to the chime from the kitchen and left the house.

Paul walked into precinct and endured the questions and the teasing about his chin. He carefully did not mention Kermit's bruised hand . Paul walked into his office and shut the door behind him. He pulled off his coat and hung it on the coat rack before sitting in his worn leather chair. There was a knock on the door.

"Come," Paul said.

Kermit walked in, dark glasses firmly in place, and flopped down in the chair opposite Paul. "How ya doing?" Kermit asked.

"Fine, really," Paul said, standing to pour himself a cup of coffee that some kind soul had started earlier.

"We never got a chance to talk last night. I am concerned. So I think maybe you and I should have a heart to heart; get blind drunk this afternoon after you qualify," Kermit said.

Paul looked again at this young man whom he considered to be one of his best friends. He sat down and sipped his coffee, his eyes lowered. He was never any good talking about himself or his problems, but he knew that Kermit wasn't going to let this go. Very slowly, Paul nodded.

"Fine, I'll meet you at the range at a quarter to," Kermit said, standing up.

The rest of the day flew by. Paul sat at his desk, slogging through reports, four hours without a break. At one o'clock the phone rang.

"Blaisdell," Paul answered, rubbed his eyes.

"Just a reminder, see you in half an hour," Kermit teased.

"Yeah, I'm leaving in fifteen minutes," Paul said, the fatigue showing in his voice.

"Okay, just checking," Kermit said. "See you then."

"Right, bye," Paul said, then hung up the phone.

Kermit sat in his office and looked at his computer screen. After having coffee with Paul and Annie, he went home to shower and change. The episode with Paul got him to thinking and he pulled a box of photos from under his bed. He opened it and pulled ten photos. Laying them on his scanner, he scanned them to his computer and then down loaded it to a floppy. Now, he was looking at a photo of himself and Paul in 1966. A lifetime ago.

Kermit picked up the phone and dialed a number.


"Hello, Annie," Kermit said, with a smile.

"Hello, Kermit. How are things today?" Annie asked.

"We're going to have a heart to heart talk this afternoon. I was wondering if you wanted to maybe go out and have dinner with Peter or a girl friend," Kermit suggested carefully.

"Is this going to be as hard for him as it sounds??" Annie asked cautiously.

"I would say yes," Kermit replied.

"Maryjane has been asking me to go shopping with her. Maybe we could go to the mall. I don't want to abandon Paul, though, Kermit," Annie said.

"I know you don't. But we both know him and he won't want to talk about it in front of you and hurt you," Kermit pointed out.

"All right, I'll be here until you come home and then I'll leave," Annie said, quietly.

"Thanks, I gotta go and meet Paul at the range," Kermit said, standing.

"See you soon, Kermit," Annie said.

Kermit hung up the phone, turned off his computer and left his office. It was a short drive to the range and there wasn't any traffic, still he beat Paul there which was his intent. He stood leaning against his car. Five minutes later, Paul drove up.

"You look beat," Kermit noted.

"Thanks," Paul answered, getting out of his car and locking it.

They walked in together. Paul signed in, showing his badge and ID.

"Hiya Paul. I've got you at the other end of the building. Sorry. The cadets are in so you'll be in the SWAT range," The Sergeant said.

"No problem, Jimmy. Want me to take shooters from here or do you have them over there as well?" Paul asked.

"Take a pair from here. Kermit? You're not scheduled today," Jimmy said, looking at his calendar.

"Yeah, I'm just here with Paul," Kermit replied.

"Okay, good shooting, Paul," Jimmy said.

Paul and Kermit walked the long two block building and finally arrived in a large room, one hundred feet by three hundred feet.

"Captain Blaisdell?" a young man in cammos asked.

"Yes, but call me Paul," Paul replied.

"Yes, sir. You're here to qualify on your service pistol. My paperwork says you have a Smith & Wesson 659. Is that still accurate?" the man asked.

"Yes," Paul said, removing it from his holster, ejecting the magazine, and clearing the chamber before handing the gun to him, butt first.

"Nice gun, good weight to it. When did you fire it last?" the man continued.

"I was involved in an altercation on the fifteenth of this month and had to discharge my weapon," Paul said.

Kermit turned to him in surprise. This was the first he was hearing about it.

"And after you were cleared by the Shooting Board, you cleaned your weapon?" the man queried.

"Yes," Paul answered.

"Okay, I put the target on the chase bar, so you're ready to go," The man said.

Paul nodded to him, taking back his gun and reloading it. He put his shooters on and gazed at the target in the distance. Kermit knew Paul could qualify in his sleep, he was still rated as a marksman. Paul raised his gun from his side and shot five bullets in quick succession into the target. He lowered his weapon and looked back at the young man. The target came back to them. The five bullets were all in the center in a dice-configuration. The young man smiled and put up another target, sending it back out into the warehouse. The next test was also for five bullets but this time the gun had to be pulled from the holster. Paul holstered his now cool gun counted to three and pulled the gun, again shooting five bullets quickly. The target came back in the exact condition as the first.

"Paul? Is that you?" a voice called from behind them.

Kermit tapped Paul on his shoulder and pointed. Paul took off his shooters and turned around.

"Fitz, what are you doing here?" Paul asked, holstering his pistol before embracing the other man.

"It's intro to big guns for the cadets today," Fitz replied.

"This is a friend and colleague, Kermit Griffin," Paul said, introducing them.

"Hi, Jack Fitzsimons," Fitz said, extending his hand.

"Hi," Kermit said, shaking the other man's hand.

"Hey, I have something to show you," Fitz said to Paul.

Fitz walked to a table where two large gun cases lay.

"You used an M-16, right?" Fitz asked, opening the brown case.

"Yes," Paul said, looking at the gun case with interest.

Kermit came to his side immediately to look at the weapon.

"This is a Remington 700, or the Police model, which is what SWAT is using now," Fitz said, handing Paul the rifle.

Paul moved away and sighted down the gun, feeling its weight. He handed it to Kermit, who smiled.

"This is mine. It's a M21 the upgrade from the-" Fitz started.

"M14 sniper rifle we used in Vietnam," Paul finished for him.

He reached over and gently took the gun. It had a polished wooden stock with an Adjustable Ranging Telescopic sight. It was a beautiful weapon.

"Go ahead. Mikey, set up Paul with a couple of targets. How far do you want to go?" Fitz asked.

"The building is only three hundred feet long, so I guess the wall," Paul said, accepting a magazine.

"Well, actually, we do sniper qualify outside. We start at two hundred meters," Mikey said.

"Set him up for three hundred meters, three targets," Fitz instructed.

"Yes, sir," Mikey said, leaving the building.

Fitz zipped up his other guns and locked them up in the wire locker. The three men left the warehouse out to the exterior range. Five minutes later, Mikey came back.

"All right, Paul. Three targets at three hundred meters. I have to go in to check on the cadets. Fitz,..." Mikey asked.

"Yeah, I'll stay with them. Just tell the cadets that two old farts are messin' around out here," Fitz said with a grin.

Kermit grinned too, but Paul was very serious. He walked out to the edge of the field and raised the gun to his eye to sight the first target. He dropped to the ground, ignoring his suit. Reaching out, he picked up a handful of dirt and dropped it. Watching the wind move the dirt he adjusted the gun. He knew the target was at three hundred meters out and estimated 2 meters high, so he adjusted for altitude. Now he just had to take the shot. There was noise behind him but Paul didn't hear anything. Kermit turned and stared the group of cadets down. Mikey handed Fitz a pair of binoculars. Fitz locked in on the first target, Bugs Bunny. He watched, heard the gun discharge and saw the nose and whiskers disappear.

Paul searched for the next target and found it; Wiley Coyote. Paul chuckled and shot him quickly. The last target was the Tasmanian Devil. Paul counted to one and that was it. He stood up and handed Kermit the smoking gun while he dusted himself off and removed his shooters. Mikey set out on the dirt bike to collect the targets. The cadets were yammering about what kind of shot this guy could be. Fitz walked up to Paul and spoke quietly in his ear. He reached up and they embraced. Mikey came back and tried to hand the targets to Paul. Fitz walked up and gently took them.

"Gentlemen, this is what a marksman does. No fanfare, just his job," Fitz said, holding up the three targets.

The cadets were silent.

"Let's get going Kermit. Annie will worry," Paul said, turning to walk back to the car.

Mikey took the shooters from him and smiled.

"Come by anytime, Paul. You are more than qualified," Mikey said.

Paul was silent walking back to the car, his hands dug deep into his pockets.. Kermit snuck looks at him but said nothing.

"Paul, what shooting were you involved in?" Kermit asked.

Paul turned quickly, is finger in Kermit's face. Kermit raised his hands up to surrender and noticed that Paul was shaking with anger. Paul turned and walked to his car, got in and sped off. Kermit stood in disbelief. He ran a hand through his hair and then walked to the pay phone.

"Strenlich," the familiar voice answered.

"Frank, it's Kermit," Kermit said.

"Are you and Paul coming back from the range?" Frank asked.

"No, Paul's got something going on and I'm trying to help him out," Kermit said.

"What do you mean?" Frank asked.

"Frank, he's having flashbacks. What can you tell me about the shooting a couple of weeks ago?" Kermit asked.

"Paul was following up on a case. He had to interview a guy who worked at the zoo. The guy pulled a gun, Paul's a better shot," Frank said.

"Did you talk to Paul afterwards?" Kermit asked.

"No, I had to go talk to the brass about budgets. I didn't see him till the next day," Frank replied.

"Ok, thanks. I'll keep in touch," Kermit said.

"Please do, Kermit and if I can help in any way, call me," Frank said.

"Thanks, Frank. Goodbye," Kermit said.

"Goodbye, Kermit," Frank said.

Kermit walked to his car and got in. He started the engine and headed towards Paul's house.

Thirty minutes later, he pulled into Paul's driveway and was surprised not to see his car. Kermit pulled the Corvair to the side and walked to the kitchen door. He rang the bell and Annie opened it a few minutes later.

"Hi, Annie. Has he called you?" Kermit asked, stepping into the kitchen.

"What? No, he hasn't called. Where is he, Kermit? What's happened?" Annie asked.

Kermit sat her down at the breakfast table and held her hands, explaining what happened at the range.

"Annie, did Paul talk to you about a shooting that occurred a couple of weeks ago?" Kermit asked.

"No, why?" Annie asked.

"I think that's what started it," Kermit said.

His pager went off but he didn't recognize the number. Kermit walked over to the phone on the wall and dialed the number.

"This is Griffin, someone paged me," He said, into the receiver.

"This is Pete Dugan, from The Skunk Pit,"

"Okay, what can I do for you?" Kermit asked, looking at Annie across the kitchen.

"I got a guy here at my bar. He's pretty drunk. He gave me his keys and wants you to come get him," Pete said.

"Let me guess, looks like he was in a bar fight? Bruised chin, bloodshot eyes, unshaven?" Kermit asked, seeing Annie standing up and walking to him.

"Yeah, that's him," Pete said.

"Okay, this is important. You tell him 'Kermit has his six'. You got that?" Kermit asked.

"Hey, Kermit says, he has your six," Pete said. "He gave me the thumbs up sign."

"Good, that's the correct sign. I'm on my way. Uhm, where are you?" Kermit asked.

"I'm on Laurel beyond Cordon Drive. Can't miss us. There's a forty foot skunk outside," Pete said.

"Gotcha, thanks," Kermit said.

"No, thank you," Pete said, hanging up the phone.

"He's all right. He's drunk at a bar. I'm going to go get him," Kermit said.

"I'm staying here, Kermit. He's my husband and what upsets him affects me," Annie said, crossing her arms.

"You are the most obstinate and wonderful woman I've ever known," Kermit said, kissing her on the forehead, and then walking out the door to his car.

Twenty five minutes later, Kermit saw a brightly illuminated gigantic skunk. He turned his car into the parking lot, found a place, and got out. Walking into the dark establishment, Kermit folded his glasses into his pocket and walked to the bar.

"Pete? I'm Griffin, where is he?" Kermit said, to the only person behind the bar.

"After I hung up with you, he asked if he could lie down. He's a real orderly guy, not the normal crap that comes in here. Oh, here's his keys. Hey Joanie, take this guy to my office," Pete instructed.

"Thanks, Pete. What's the bar damage?" Kermit asked.

"He paid for his drinks ahead of time. He knew exactly what he was doing. He paid for eight scotches and he drank eight scotches," Pete said.

Kermit smiled and then followed the pretty brunette to the office. She unlocked the door and he walked in, shutting the door behind him. Paul was lying on a cot, asleep. Kermit put on his glasses and turned on the overhead fluorescents.

"Paul, it's Kermit. Time to go home," He said softly.

Paul didn't move.

"Paul, let's go," Kermit said, loudly.

This time, Paul opened his eyes and then immediately squinted against the glare from the fluorescents.

"Hey, Kermit," Paul greeted him.

"Hey, yourself. Can you stand?" Kermit asked.

"Not without a crane," Paul said, smiling.

"Then I am at your service," Kermit said, reaching down to pull him up to a seated position.

Kermit reached over and pulled him to his feet, sliding his arm across Paul's back.

"Come on, help me, would you? Put your arm across my shoulder. Thanks," Kermit growled.

Together they walked into the bar and then out into the parking lot towards Kermit's car.

"You can throw up now," Kermit instructed.

Paul stepped away but kept a grounding hand on Kermit's arm. He held on so tightly that Kermit knew there would be bruising tomorrow. When Paul was done, he pulled a handkerchief from his hip pocket and wiped his face.

"Come on, we've got to get you home," Kermit said, helping him to the car.

"What time is it?" Paul asked.

"Around five," Kermit answered, reaching over to strap Paul into his seat.

Paul reclined the seat slightly and put his head back against the seat. He was asleep before Kermit left the driveway.

Kermit turned into Paul's driveway and drove all the way to the rear, not wanting to have to manhandle Paul in public if he couldn't wake him.

"Paul, we're home," Kermit said, opening his door.

Paul looked at him blankly. Kermit reached in and undid the seat belt. Paul turned his body and placed his feet on the ground. Kermit pulled him to his feet and helped him up to the kitchen door. Seeing Annie in the kitchen, Kermit knocked on the door. Annie opened it quickly and smelled the scotch emanating from Paul.

"Ah, the boozehound is home, I see," Annie said, turning on her heel and walking out of the kitchen.

"I'm sorry, Annie," Paul murmured, looking at the floor.

"Paul, sit down. You need some fluids before you go back to sleep or you are going to be one hurting puppy tomorrow," Kermit said, helping him into a chair.

Kermit walked to the fridge, opened it and looked through the shelves. Finding what he was looking for, he removed a large glass and filled it full. He walked back to the table and set it in front of Paul.

"Drink all of it," Kermit instructed.

Paul looked up to see the large glass of tomato juice and groaned. He picked it up and started to drink slowly. Kermit got another glass and filled it with room temperature water, setting it in front of Paul.

When Paul finished both glasses, his colour was better, but the fatigue had returned.

"Okay, big guy. Off to bed now," Kermit said.

"I don't think I'll be welcome upstairs," Paul said, quietly.

"No, and I'm not sure that a dinner comprised of scotch is going to chase away your nightmares, either," Kermit said, helping Paul to his feet.

They walked to the study and Kermit carefully helped Paul to the sofa. Paul sat on the sofa and laid his head back.

"I'm going to go get you some more water. I'll be right back," Kermit said.

"Not going anywhere for a while," Paul said, softly.

"Oh, yeah," Kermit said with a smirk.

Kermit closed the door behind him and walked to the kitchen. Passing the living room, he noticed Annie sitting on the sofa. She appeared to be reading but Kermit heard some sniffles too.

"Annie, you okay? Can I do anything for you?" Kermit asked.

"Kermit, I am so mad at him. He can't talk to me but he can go get stinking drunk? Why doesn't he trust me?" Annie asked, standing to walk to Kermit.

"Please, please believe me when I tell you that he adores you. I don't think he trusts himself right now. He's full of rage and raw emotions from memories that he thought were long buried. He can't put a face to these memories, but if he tells you, then you will know a part of him that he has worked very hard to hide," Kermit said, embracing her.

"Kermit, I know he loves me but I am so frustrated," Annie said, into his neck.

"I know, sweetie, I know. You just need to be patient with him. He is trying in his way to protect you. I'm going to talk to him now. Don't wait up for him. In his current state, he won't be fun to sleep with anyway," Kermit said, pulling back to look at her.

"Thank you, Kermit," Annie said, wiping her eyes. "Can I make you any supper? I was going to throw a salad together,"

"No thanks, but I will walk with you into the kitchen because I need to get him one more glass of water. I figure I'll fix a sandwich later," Kermit said.

"All right," Annie said, leading the way to the kitchen.

Kermit pulled a glass from the cabinet, threw in some ice, and filled it with tap water.

"Take care, Annie and try not to worry," Kermit said.

"I can't help it," Annie said, turning to face him.

Kermit walked up and gently hugged her, taking care not to spill Paul's water. He kissed her forehead and then walked back to the study.

Opening the door, he walked into the study, closing the door behind him. Kermit walked to the desk and put the glass of water down. He went to the cabinet and poured himself a scotch. He took his jacket off as well as his gun and harness, putting them on the desk chair. Picking up his scotch, he walked to the chair and sat down opposite Paul.

"Let's go," Kermit said, sipping his scotch.

Paul opened his eyes and looked at him.

"Paul, I have flashbacks about 'Nam from time to time. Certain things set me off, a smell, a sound, a situation. But I don't act on them and I don't speak in Vietnamese, hell up until last night, I didn't know that I even remembered any," Kermit said in a low voice.

Paul didn't answer but changed his glance to the ceiling. He crossed his arms over his chest, his hands clenched into fists. The room was quiet except for the settling ice in Kermit's glass.

"I couldn't stop it," Paul said, softly.

Kermit looked at him closely.

"You couldn't stop what, Paul?" Kermit asked, keeping his voice soft as well.

"I went to do follow-up on a guy that we were pretty sure was part of a car theft ring. Maybe I should have had backup but nothing in this guy's jacket suggested he was violent. He worked at the zoo. Everything was fine until I arrived at the building he worked in; the Asian building. There's a rain forest that rains and animals from the rain forest are there; that sort of thing. I was supposed to meet him at his office, behind the animal habitats. I walked in and then I was in Vietnam. There was that same smell of rotting vegetation, animals, mud, everything. I guess he saw me and panicked. He turned off the lights putting us both in the dark. Suddenly it was a night patrol. I heard the snick when he cocked the gun," Paul paused.

"But he didn't hear you because you had taken off your shoes. He had no idea where you were," Kermit said, softly.

"He started firing wildly and the animals became agitated. It was loud and dark and," Paul paused again.

"And just like the night patrols we would do," Kermit said, remembering.

"So I fired back," Paul said, turning his gaze to Kermit.

"And he died," Kermit said.

"Yeah, he did. I had to get out of there but I couldn't see an exit sign so I started to search," Paul said, standing up, starting to pace.

Kermit stood as well and walked to the bookcase, leaning against it. He sipped his scotch and watched the way Paul moved.

"What happened next?" Kermit prompted softly.

"I came to a door and opened it. I walked in, it was ink black, and I fell face first into a pile of rotting plants. The smell was so strong. I jumped up and ran back into the open room and then the lights turned on. There were two police officers with guns drawn, a corpse<...> and me," Paul said, stopping to drink the glass of water.

"Okay, that explains why Vietnam is in your thoughts. But what about these nightmares?" Kermit asked.

"I went to the precinct and showered, but the smell was in my clothes. I came home, changed clothes, had dinner, and came in here. I could still smell it. I started to remember what I had tried so hard to forget," Paul said, turning to face him.

Paul's face was flushed, the perspiration dotting his shirt.

"Take off your jacket, Paul," Kermit recommended.

Paul took off his jacket and threw it on the desk. He followed with his tie and then unbuttoned his cuffs, shoving them to his elbows. Kermit's eyes were drawn to Paul's wrists and the angry scars that had not entirely faded.

"It was one of our first missions as Team Apostle, June of '66. We were supposed to take out a couple of NVA guys in Laos. They choppered us to the border. We were thirty five klicks from our FOB in Kon Tum and we humped in from there. God, it was so long and so hard. There were just seven of us, then. Me, Ryker, Steadman, Jensen, Francis, Cavanaugh, and Harris."

"We had pretty good intel but this was still early in the war and we really didn't understand the VC well enough. We headed to a village in Attapu province. From there, we were supposed to be able to track down our targets, but we ran into difficulty."

Kermit walked to the cabinet and refilled his scotch. Paul had resumed his pacing. He had also removed his shoes and socks. As he told the story, his body reacted to each part.

"We reached the ville and waited outside, just looking and listening for two hours. I couldn't explain it, but something felt wrong. Ryker felt it too and started to get nervous. To top it off, it started to rain. Finally I decided we had no choice but to go into the village. So we started in, classic formation and the first bouncing betty went off. That took out Harris and blew any element of surprise to hell. The second one went off behind me and took Francis. I got hit with a bunch of shrapnel, although most of it went into my pack. So now we are five men trying to do the job of seven. Steadman starts doing a hooch search and finds an old woman sitting on the floor spitting betel juice. I took his six and as he turned to talk to me, she pulled out a gun. I pushed him and fired a warning shot above her head."

Paul stopped. Kermit looked at him, setting his glass down. Paul had started to shake. He looked at Kermit and then at his hands. His shirt was soaked and clung to his body. The waistband of Paul's trousers were wet from the perspiration running down his torso.

"I lost it...I lost control. I handed my M-16 to Steadman , knocked the gun out of her hand and picked her up by her clothing, slamming her against the wall. Co bao nhieu Viet Cong? I kept shouting. Co bao nhieu Viet Cong? But she wouldn't answer, so I put my forearm against her windpipe and started to push. Ryker, of all people, pulled me off of her. I was so positive that she could tell us where the VC were.

"So here we were, without the intel to finish the mission. Steadman handed me back my gun and went out on his own to see what he could find out about the NVA guys we were supposed to hit. Steadman was something of a linguist and studied Vietnamese at Sandhurst. Twenty minutes later he returned with a guy and tells me he's our guide. The mission was back on.

"The rain was falling so hard we could barely see. It was getting dark and we headed back into the jungle. We walked until morning without rest. As the sun rose, the temperature did as well. We took a break, trying to regroup. Jensen tried to call in a status report but he couldn't raise anybody."

"We walked for two more days, evading VC patrols. Finally we were in the area of our NVA targets. I had been carrying the sniper rifle after Francis had been killed and only then did I have a chance to fieldstrip it. The stock was shot to hell but it was fine otherwise. Ryker was my spotter and we left the camp early the next morning to complete the mission. The rest of the team stayed in reserve, a radio call away."

"It was easy, really. Only one thousand feet out, one shot one kill. Ryker and I were in and out quickly and made it back to camp. In that time, Steadman had vectored where we were and established that we had to walk at least twenty klicks east towards Vietnam to have any chance of an air evac. So off we marched and fought for days until Steadman turned to me and smiled. At last, we were within range. Jensen called for an extraction and we waited to pop smoke until the chopper was near enough."

Paul walked to the cabinet and poured himself a scotch without water and took a large gulp. He then reached into his desk and pulled out a cigarette. Lighting it quickly, he took a drag and drank more scotch. Kermit took notice of Paul's first cigarette in fifteen years and also the fact that there had been an open pack in his desk.

"Cavanaugh got hit first. He was dead before he hit the ground. Bullets were flying everywhere so we just started to run toward the LZ. Ryker led, then Steadman, Jensen and me. We got to the edge of the clearing and I could just make out the noise of the Huey above the firefight. I grabbed the radio to make sure they knew the LZ was hot and we were ready. We had our backs to the LZ, using up ammo like there was no tomorrow. I heard Ryker scream for me and I turned and ran towards the chopper. Jensen was right next to me and went down. I slung him over my shoulder and ran for the chopper for whatever I was worth. I got him in the Huey and it took off. I jumped for it; half in and half out. Ryker and Steadman grabbed me and pulled me into the chopper."

Paul paused again, his scotch glass empty, his cigarette out. He walked back to his desk and pulled another cigarette and lit it immediately. It was only then that Kermit noticed they had no filters. Paul poured himself more scotch and continued.

"Jensen was dead, of course, but I didn't know until I turned him over and saw the hole in his chest. The three of us just looked at each other and...and..." Paul stopped speaking.

Kermit walked up to Paul and caught him as he collapsed, dragging him to lean against the sofa. Paul wrapped his hands around his bent knees, pulled up to his chest and started to rock slowly. Kermit reached over and removed the cigarette from Paul's tight fingers. Walking to the desk, Kermit picked up the scotch glass and refilled it, field stripping the cigarette automatically.

"What happened in the chopper, Paul?" Kermit coaxed softly.

"We started with seven men and then we were three. We just started to cry. It was all so senseless," Paul said, as tears slipped from his eyes.

Kermit put the scotch glass into Paul's hand.

"Take a sip of that, Paul. You'll feel better," Kermit advised.

Paul took a breath and chuckled a little. He took a sip and was quiet.

"What happened when you got back to your FOB?" Kermit asked.

"Such a mess as we were, they sent us back to Camp Radcliff, outside of An Khe which was our main camp. I remember getting out of the chopper, there was so much blood, and we were all covered with it. The medics couldn't figure out if we were hit or not. I started to walk to my hooch and I remember, someone calling my name. I didn't stop, just kept walking. Somehow I got to my hooch and walked inside. I think I sat on the floor, sort of like this," Paul said, looking at his knees.

"Yeah, you did," Kermit confirmed.

"And there was this kid sitting on my trunk. The most serious kid I had ever seen," Paul said.

"Yeah, that was me. I had just turned sixteen and faked my id to get into the Army and out of the reach of my parents," Kermit said softly. "You sat on the floor and just stared. You were covered with dirt and blood and stunk like I don't know what."

"Bartholomew Kermit Griffin," Paul said slowly.

"Yes, but you knew someone called Bart and you hated him, so that day, I became Kermit," Kermit said, shyly.

"You took care of me," Paul whispered.

"You were hardly able to take care of yourself. After much discussion you let me take your rifle. I got you to your feet and got you down to shorts and boots before escorting you to a hot shower. Your back was covered with small hunks of metal from that bouncing betty, you had bug bites, elephant grass cuts, your feet were a mess and you were exhausted. I got you into clean shorts, and then back to the hooch where you passed out for two days straight. Ryker and Steadman stopped by and they coerced some blonde nurse to take a look at you," Kermit said, looking at Paul.

"That would be Nancy," Paul said, his voice stronger.

"That sounds about right. When you finally woke up, you didn't remember the mission, or if you did, you never told me. At least not until tonight. All I knew was the next day I was Team Apostle's new sniper," Kermit said, softly.

"God, I am so tired," Paul said, leaning his head back against the sofa.

"I know," Kermit replied, looking at his watch; three a.m. "Let's get you on the sofa and you can sleep here tonight."

Kermit helped Paul stand up and removed his gun and harness. Paul sat down and then stretched out on the sofa. He turned his back to Kermit as he stretched the blanket out again. Kermit picked up the scotch glass and looked around the room. Locating his own, he poured another scotch and sat in the chair again, watching Paul.

A loud clap of thunder woke Kermit. He had slept in that chair and his back was not in good shape. His watch read seven am. Four hours, functional, okay, he thought to himself. Kermit stood and cracked his neck. He pulled Paul's blanket up to his chin and left the study. He could hear Annie humming in the kitchen. As usual, he jingled his change as he walked into the kitchen.

"Good morning, Kermit," Annie said, walking towards him to give him a hug and kiss. "Kermit Griffin, you were not smoking in this house."

"Actually, it was Paul," Kermit said.

"You need a shower," Annie remarked, going back to the stove.

"I'll go home and leave you guys alone when he wakes up. He'll be okay, but you guys need time alone. He's pretty fragile right now." Kermit said.

There was another clap of thunder and the lights went out.

"Damn, great," Kermit said, walking quickly out of the kitchen.

"Kermit, what's wrong?" Annie called.

"Power's out," he replied over his shoulder.

Kermit walked to the study and opened both doors to allow the weak daylight to enter the room so it wasn't pitch dark. Paul couldn't be in a dark room and Kermit had no idea why. Confident that if Paul did wake up right then that there was enough light, Kermit walked back into the kitchen.

"Still sleeping. Can I help you?" Kermit asked.

"No, but you might want to drink the coffee before it gets cold. Thank God for gas ranges," Annie said with a giggle.

"Oh, yeah," Kermit said, pouring himself a large cup of coffee.

Kermit and Annie spent the morning together. The power came back on after a couple of hours. Kermit called in sick days for Paul and him, assuring Frank that they would both be back to work the next day. The thunderstorm continued, with high winds and driving rains. Perfect weather to sleep in.

Kermit sat in the living room with Annie on the large sofa.

"Good morning, I hope?" Paul said to Annie, his face drawn with fatigue, not able to look at her.

Annie ran to him, knocking him against the open door. She hugged him hard, not wanting to let him go.

"How are you?" Annie asked, softly, into his ear.

"A little rough; not enough sleep or food." Paul replied, groaning from her tight grasp.

Annie released him and took a step back.

"Or hygiene, Thaddeus Paul Blaisdell, until you shower, shave, and brush your teeth, those scotch and nicotine ridden lips aren't coming anywhere over here." Annie said.

"I'm sorry," Paul answered, sadly.

"Sweetheart, I love you unconditionally. I will love you whether you clean up or not, whether you're able to tell me your life story or not, and whether you're a cop or not. You are my best friend and that's all I need from you." Annie said, looking towards him, fighting back tears.

Kermit smiled, but Paul seemed to still be uncomfortable. Kermit walked up to him, standing next to Annie.

"And you're my best friend. Paul, you don't have to do everything by yourself. You can lean on me, sometimes. I'm not going anywhere. Hell, how many soul-searching sessions have you and I had where the topic of discussion was my marriage?" Kermit asked.

"I know I guess, it's just..." Paul started.

"Hard, I know sweetheart. Just remember, if you ever get scared again, we're both here." Annie said.

"You're both my anchors, keeping me grounded and focused." Paul said, looking at his two best friends.

"It's mutual." Kermit replied.

"You saved me today. I don't know how to thank you," Paul said, embracing Kermit.

"You don't need to. We're even. Pleiku, Kundahar, Beirut, Belfast....the list is too long," Kermit said.

"I don't .....I ...." Paul started, not knowing what to say.

"Paul it's okay. You need some more sleep and I do, too. I'll pick you up tomorrow at seven. We have to go rescue your car from the Skunk Pit," Kermit said, stepping back.

"What?" Paul asked.

"I'll tell you later, dear. Seems we have a bit of catching up to do," Annie said, standing by his side.

"Night, Kermit, and thanks," Paul said.

"Night, Paul. Night, Annie," Kermit replied, and left through the front door.

"All right, Paul, shower and then into bed." Annie said, linking her arm in his.

"Is that an order?" Paul asked.

"You bet it is," Annie replied, walking with him up the stairs. "and then I'd like to talk to you about those cigarettes you have hidden in the study...."

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