The Watchtower, Pt. 2

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.

Wednesday 1980

Paul had woken up just after midnight from a nightmare. He was running in the jungle, trying to get to the LZ. Every time he jumped for the helicopter, he missed and fell to his death. Paul knew he couldn't go back to sleep immediately, so he thought he'd go downstairs and get something to drink. He put on his slippers and walked downstairs in his pajamas, the top unbuttoned. Paul walked into the kitchen and opened the fridge. He stood in front of the door for five minutes, seeing nothing. Shutting the door, he took a rocks glass out of the cabinet and filled it with ice. He opened another cabinet and removed a bottle of scotch. He filled the glass, topping the last quarter inch with tap water. Paul took his glass of scotch and walked to the living room, shutting the door behind him. He walked to the piano and turned on the clip light on the music stand. Paul set his glass in the coaster and sat on the bench. Opening the cover, he reached up and took a mouthful of scotch before he started to play. Soon he was lost in the music, unaware of time or anything else

Annie rolled over in bed and reached for him, only to find his side of the bed empty and cold. She listened to the house and it was quiet. Annie stood up and put on her bathrobe and slippers. She left their bedroom, walked down the hall and started down the stairs. When she reached the landing, she smiled. Paul was in the living room, playing the piano. Music was always a source of solace for him. She continued down the stairs, trying to recognize the sad jazz piece he was playing. She opened the door to the living room quietly and walked in. There was no break in the music. Annie walked to one of the love seats opposite the piano. She sat down, kicked off her slippers, and tucked her legs beneath her. Paul continued to play. Annie didn't have a watch on, but she didn't care what time it was. She was warm, happy, and with her husband.

Paul paused and took a sip of his scotch. There was a noise in the room, very soft, across from him. He looked over but couldn't see anything in the darkness. He started to play again. The piece was slow, sad, and dark. After a long time, Annie finally said something.

"Hey, soldier, come here often?" Annie said, walking up to him from the darkness of the love seat.

"Hi, babe. Sorry to wake you." Paul said, taking his hands from the keyboard to put them around her waist.

"I woke up and you weren't in bed. I was worried." Annie said, biting her bottom lip.

"Annie, I'm sorry. I woke up and needed something to help me relax." Paul said, hedging the truth.

"Did you have a nightmare?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered quietly, lowering his head.

Annie reached for his face and made him face her.

"Was it about Vietnam?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied, staring up at her face.

"Was it the same dream?" Annie asked.

"No, it was a recurring dream. I just haven't had it for a while." Paul said, turning his head to kiss her palm.

Annie put her hands around the back of his head and drew him to her. Paul put his head between her breasts and felt the warmth of her through the thin bathrobe. She ran her fingers through his hair, listening to him breathe in the stillness of the house. He hugged her tightly and she traced circles on his back. Slowly he stood, loosening his hold on her slightly.

"I love you," Paul whispered.

"I love you, too." Annie replied.

She took his hand and led him away from the piano to the general darkness of the center of the room. He trusted her as he always did, but still began to feel slightly anxious in the dark. Sensing his mounting anxiety, Annie turned him to face her. She reached to put her arms around him and was somewhat surprised that his pajama top was unbuttoned.

"Aren't you cold?" she asked, sliding her arms to feel his bare back.

"Not with you near me." Paul said softly, as he put his hand to her jaw, guiding their kiss.

Annie returned his kiss softly. It was a game they enjoyed playing; soft sensual kisses and caresses until one or the other lost control and panted 'uncle'. It had been several weeks since they had last been intimate. His sleeplessness and nightmares had taken the place of foreplay and sex. This morning, Annie was in charge and he was thankful. Paul wanted her desperately, but he didn't trust himself to be gentle. Her words, 'you scared me' still echoed in his ears.

"Hey, are you okay?" Annie asked, pulling back a little, feeling him distance himself.

"Yeah, sweetheart, I'm fine." Paul said, evading her question.

"Don't you want to make love tonight?" Annie asked, her hands on his face, feeling his emotions.

"I do, Annie with all my strength, I do. It's just..." Paul said, his voice catching.

Annie felt the tremor in his body and she understood. She felt down for his right hand in hers and led him out of the living room and up the stairs. Walking into the bedroom, she removed her bathrobe and slippers. Paul stood by, not knowing what was about to happen.

"Paul, would you please just hold me tonight? I just need to feel you with me." Annie asked, getting into bed.

He didn't think he could speak without tears so he simply got into bed silently. He lay on his back, her head nestled into his shoulder, his arms encircling her. Her left arm lay across his chest, gripping it tightly. As her breathing slowed, her grip lessened. He tilted his head and kissed the top of hers, blinking back the tears, before he fell asleep himself.

6:30 am

The doorbell rang and there was a pounding on the door. Paul and Annie both woke up. Paul got out of bed and walked to the window, pulling the curtain aside.

"It's okay, it's Kermit. I'm going to go let him in. Be right back." Paul said and left the room.

He walked slowly down the stairs and opened the front door. Kermit walked in and looked at him closely.

"I knew you'd be rough, today, but Jesus, Paul. You look like hell. Look, take a shower, I'll start the coffee. Is Annie up?" Kermit asked.

"Awake, yes, up, no." Paul replied, closing the door.

"Just ask her, no never mind, tell her I am making breakfast. Paul we need to be on the road no later than seven-fifteen to get your car." Kermit said.

"Uhm, okay." Paul said, walking back up the stairs.

Paul walked into the bedroom and started to disrobe. He walked into the closet and pulled out a sports coat, trousers, shirt, tie, socks and shorts.

"Kermit is making breakfast. I need to shower and shave. Do you want to join me or get some more sleep?" Paul asked, leaning over her and giving her a kiss.

"You're already one step a head of me! Yes, I'd love to join you in the shower. You may shave by yourself." Annie said when she reached her hand out to touch him and felt his bare hip.

"Meet you in there," Paul said, picking up his pajamas to hang on the back of the bathroom door.

He looked around the bedroom to see if there were any traps on the floor and spied her slippers.

"Slippers, two o'clock," he called.

"Yours or mine?" she quipped , stepping to pick them up.

"Yours," he said, turning on the water.

Paul opened the shower stall door and walked in. This was their one extravagance. Six years ago, for her birthday, Paul had a five foot square shower installed. The floor was a special composite no-slip ever surface. The same surface covered grab bars that were at Annie's elbow level, and were on all the walls, including the door. The two shower heads were attached to the ceiling and simulated heavy rain. Paul stood under the steady stream of hot water, trying to revive, when the door opened and Annie slipped in. She heard the water break across his back. Annie reached for him, turning Paul to face her. Their wet bodies touched, slick to each other as they kissed passionately. Annie and Paul kissed, touched, and explored until Annie again felt Paul hesitate. Gracefully she reached for the soap and started to soap his back, diffusing his emotions again.

Fifteen minutes later, Kermit heard the shower turn off. Annie arrived first, pink and clean in her bathrobe and slippers, her wet hair pulled back.

"Morning, Kermit." Annie said, stopping at the doorway until she heard him.

"Morning, Annie," Kermit said, walking to her and kissing her cheek. "Tea on the table. Pot at twelve o'clock. Omelet will be done in a minute. How is he today?"

"Better, tired still, but better." Annie said, sitting at the table and pouring her tea.

"Morning, Kermit," Paul said, walking into the kitchen.

He looked like a new man, clean shaven, hair brushed back out of his eyes, crisp clean shirt, polished shoes and clear eyes.

"Hi, Paul. Cereal good for you?" Kermit said, handing him a mug of steaming coffee.

Paul walked to the fridge to grab two ice cubes, and looked at his watch: seven o'clock.

"Nah, just coffee. That will be fine for now," Paul said, putting the ice in his mug.

"Fine then, Annie, would you call him at noon and order him to eat something?" Kermit said, as he joined Annie at the table, giving her the plated omelet.

"Most definitely," Annie agreed as she started in on her breakfast.

Paul sighed and sat down at the table opposite her. He drank his coffee quickly and went to pour himself another cup.

"More coffee, Kermit?" Paul asked, holding up the pot.

"Please," Kermit said, half turning in his chair and holding out his mug.

They finished breakfast in silence until Kermit skidded his chair from the table.

"We have to get going, Paul." Kermit said.

Paul stood up and took his mug to the sink. He returned to the table and leaned over to give Annie a kiss on her cheek.

"I love you. Please don't ever doubt that." Paul whispered into her ear.

"I love you too; and I've never doubted it." Annie whispered back.

Paul stood, cleared his throat and wiped a tired arm over his face. He walked out of the kitchen, leaving Kermit in his wake.

"Don't worry, Annie. I'm watching him." Kermit said, squeezing her shoulder.

"Yes, you have his six." Annie replied, softly.

Kermit walked out of the house and found Paul leaning against his car. They looked at each other briefly and then got into the car. Kermit drove to the Skunk Pit without a word. Paul looked out the window.

"Great," Kermit said, driving into the parking lot.

Paul's car was there, but one tire was stolen and the passenger's side window had been broken. Paul quietly got out of Kermit's car and walked to his.

"Here you go," Kermit said, tossing him the keys.

Paul caught them deftly and opened the trunk. The spare was there and intact. He removed his sport coat and tie, putting them in the trunk. Then Paul yanked out the spare and rolled it up to the front right hub. Kermit removed his coat and tucked his tie into his shirt. He walked to Paul's trunk and pulled out the jack. Fifteen minutes later, Paul was lowering the sleeves of his shirt and putting back on his sport coat and tie. Paul shut the trunk and got in the car. It started up immediately and he drove off to the office with Kermit in pursuit.

They arrived fifteen minutes late to work, but no one said anything when they walked into the precinct house. Paul walked into his office and shut the door. Kermit paused for a moment, then walked to his office, leaving the door open. Moments later, there was a knock. Kermit looked up.

"Anything I should know?" Frank Strenlich asked.

"Nah, just give him some space. He'll be fine." Kermit said.

"I understand he is now an expert marksman with sniper rifles." Frank said quietly.

"Someone wanted him to test a new rifle..." Kermit replied lamely.

"Right, okay, just keep me in the loop." Frank added.

"Always intended to," Kermit replied.

"Check your inbox, there was something Caine wanted you to look up for him. He's out on a stakeout." Frank said.

"Okay, will do," Kermit responded.

Frank left Kermit alone to start his research.

Paul took off his sport coat and hung it up. Loosening his tie, he poured himself a fresh coffee and sat down at his desk. He looked at his inbox and sighed at two piles ten inches high. He reached into his shirt pocket and removed his glasses before settling down to reading.

1200 pm

"Captain? Your wife on two." The temporary receptionist announced.

"Thanks. Hi, Babe, how is your day going?" Paul asked.

"Fine. I wanted to remind you to eat something. You're getting too thin." Annie chided.

"All right, I'll order a sandwich." Paul relented.

"I'm going to go to the mall with Mary Jane. I'll be home by five." Annie said.

"Okay, have a nice time. I don't think I can get out of here until at least seven." Paul said, sadly.

"I will have a lovely time. Please eat something, and if you get tired, just take a nap on that couch." Annie said.

"What couch?" Paul asked innocently.

"The dark brown leather one to the left of your office door." Annie replied.

"I'll get Kermit for that." Paul replied.

"Actually, that information came from your son." Annie said.

Paul chuckled. "All right, I understand. Please don't worry." He finished.

"I do and I always will whenever you're not with me." Annie said softly.

"I love you. See you soon." Paul said.

"Love you too, see you tonight." Annie replied before hanging up.

Paul looked at the phone and then clicked the intercom.

"Yes, captain?" the voice replied.

"Would you mind ordering a roast beef sandwich on rye with lettuce and mustard for me?" Paul asked.

"Not at all, sir. Consider it done." She replied.

3:00 pm

His sandwich had come hours before and Paul only ate half before getting distracted by the paper work.

"Come on, Peter's in trouble." Kermit said, bursting into Paul's office

Paul jumped to his feet and put his jacket on, following Kermit.

"What happened on the stakeout?" Paul asked.

"We don't know for sure. Shots fired." Kermit replied.

Kermit opened the door of his Corvair, slid in, and stretched to unlock Paul's door. Both in the car, Kermit drove swiftly to the stakeout location. Even with their beacon, the beat cops wouldn't allow them closer than three blocks.

"What gives? We need to get closer." Kermit asked flashing his badge.

"We have a sniper. He's already picked off two officers. So you're car stays here and so do you." The uniform replied.

Paul looked around and saw the SWAT truck. He took off at a run with Kermit in pursuit. Arriving at the truck, he saw a familiar face.

"Paul? Hot damn! Okay, we have two bad guys in that warehouse over there. They have three police officers pinned down." Fitz said.

"Yeah, one of them is my son. Where's your sniper team?" Paul asked, removing his tie and unbuttoning the two top buttons of his shirt.

"Directly opposite. They say they can't get a shot." Fitz said. "I need you, Paul. I have a spotter on that red brick building and he says he does have a clear shot. Trouble is I don't have a qualified shooter for that distance."

"Fit me with comms." Paul ordered.

"Thanks, Billy is waiting for you." Fitz said, turning back to the truck.

"No, Kermit is my spotter, no one else." Paul replied, his eyes dark blue.

"All right, okay. No time to argue, anyway." Fitz replied after a moment.

Kermit stood next to him, getting his own comm set fitted. Fitz handed the M-21 to Paul and extra bullets as well as the spotter's kit to Kermit. As they turned to leave, Paul took the worn baseball hat from Fitz's head and put it on, shading his eyes from the lowering sun.

Paul took off, cradling the rifle in his hands. Kermit ran beside him. They reached the target building and then started up the four flights of stairs. Neither man was in perfect shape and yet they appeared barely winded when they got to the back side of the roof.

"This is Blaisdell, we're on the roof, getting into position." Paul said, crouching as he walked to his position.

"Roger that," a voice replied.

Paul looked up as he started to round the corner of the elevator housing and saw a man in black crouched behind the parapet. Paul reached to the rooftop and picked up a pebble. He tossed it towards the man who turned around quickly, a sight in his hands. He motioned for them to come ahead.

Paul and Kermit ran to the parapet and dropped to their knees. Paul pivoted his cap, brim facing backwards and looked over the edge through his scope. Kermit looked over the edge with his spotter's scope. Billy had been right. They had an unobstructed view through a side window of the sniper's room. There were two men with rifles in black clothing. Paul watched as they raised their guns and each took two quick shots.

"Distance, eight hundred point three two one meters. Down one point two meters. Wind is at ten crossing left to right." Kermit reported.

"Plus four, minus one, left two," Paul replied.

The chatter on the comm system exploded. Someone yelled officer down, and the voices stepped on top of each other trying to get information. Kermit reached over and turned Paul's comm set off. Switching to the backup frequency, Kermit announced.

"We are taking the shot." He said, tapping Paul on the shoulder lightly.

Paul exhaled and shot twice. Both men were dead before they hit the floor. The whoops and hollers from the other sniper team were heard without the need for electronics. Paul picked up his cooling empty casings and put them in this pocket. He stood and turned his hat back around. Billy and Kermit stood as well, looking down to the street below. Kermit reached over and turned Paul's comm set back on.

"Blaisdell, Blaisdell, come in, damn it." A voice Paul recognized to be Frank Strenlich, yelled.

"This is Blaisdell, over." Paul replied, keying his mike.

"Good shooting, Peter's okay. One of the uniforms caught a ricochet." Frank reported.

"We're on our way." Paul replied.

The three men started to walk toward the staircase when Paul stopped. Kermit looked at him and knew what was going on.

"Go ahead. He just needs some air." Kermit said.

Billy nodded and continued to the stairwell. Kermit reached over and gently took the rifle from Paul's hands. He noticed they were shaking. Clumsy, with his hands full, Kermit directed Paul to the wall of the elevator house where he crouched, his back slightly bent over his feet, his buttocks touching his heels. It was a comfortable position that he learned in Vietnam, when they were waiting in muddy fields. Paul was breathing fast and he took off his cap to brush his sweat-dampened hair back with his hands. Kermit leaned the rifle against the wall within reach and put down the sniper kit and box of ammunition before squatting next to him.

"You okay?" Kermit finally asked.

"I'm not sure." Paul admitted, looking down onto the gravel-covered roof.

"When you're ready, we need to go downstairs. You just added two hours of paperwork to the day." Kermit tried to joke.

The door to the roof burst open and Paul was on his feet sighting his rifle at whoever was coming around the corner, protecting Kermit. Peter Caine skidded to a stop, raising his hands above his head. Kermit reached over slowly and pushed down the rifle, looking at Paul's intense face.

"Paul? It's me, Peter." Peter cried.

Kermit took the rifle from Paul's limp hands. Peter lowered his arms to his sides and walked up to his father. He looked at him and was scared at the fear he saw in his father's eyes. For the first time in his life, he pulled Paul into a hug. Peter felt his father tighten his grip and thought he might have heard a sniffle.

"I'm okay, Paul." Peter said, softly.

Paul couldn't speak, he just held on as tightly as he could. He felt another set of hands on his back and knew that Kermit had joined his son to calm him. He took a deep breath and relaxed his grip, taking a step backwards, wiping his face with the sleeves of his jacket.

"Man, I need a scotch," Paul said, trying to lighten the mood.

"Yeah, I think we all do. Here kid, make yourself useful, carry this." Kermit said, handing him the spotter's kit and box of ammo.

Peter smiled and took the items from him and headed down the stairs. Paul walked to the elevator house wall and picked up the rifle, cradling it again, and followed his son down the stairs. Kermit, as always, brought up the rear, shutting the roof-access door behind them.

The three men exited the building to the madness of a shooting site. Paul looked for Fitz, who was waiting anxiously for his weapon. They walked up to each other and Paul handed him the M-21.

"It tugs a bit." Paul reported.

"Yeah, well I'll have to clean it now that you used it twice." Fitz said, trying to tease him.

Paul pulled off the ball cap and handed it back. Fitz put it on and Peter looked over at him. As he handed Fitz the spotter's kit and ammo he noted the words on the cap: An Khe 1966.

"Paul? Paul?" Frank said, making his way to his friend.

"Yes, Frank." Paul said wearily.

"You and Kermit need to go and talk to I.A. and also the investigators over there. I'm sorry but I will need your reports today." Frank said.

"Let's go, Kermit." Paul said, walking towards a group of men in black ill-fitting suits.

"See you Fitz, Peter." Kermit said, hustling to catch up.

"Uhm, bye Kermit, Paul." Peter said, confused.

"You Paul's kid?" Fitz asked.

"Yes, I'm Peter Caine." Peter said, directing his attention to this older man.

"Jack Fitzsimons, I'm a friend of your old man's." Fitz said.

"Pleased to meet you," Peter said, shaking his hand.

"Likewise. Look, I'm gonna give it to you straight. Your dad's going through something right now. Just give him some room, okay?" Fitz tried to explain.

"What do you mean? What's going on?" Peter asked.

"Your father or Kermit will have to give you details. I'm simply suggesting as a friend of your father, just give him some room to work this out." Fitz said.

"Fitz, I'll need that rifle. Where are the empty casings?" a man whose ID identified him as Jason Gately, asked.

"Uhm, check with Paul Blaisdell. They're probably in his right jacket pocket." Fitz said, handing over the rifle.

"Which one is he?" Gately asked.

"He's the one in the plaid sport coat, salt-and-pepper hair, six feet tall. See him?" Fitz said.

"Is he with Griffin?" Gately asked again.

"Yes, Kermit was his spotter." Fitz replied.

"Well, that ought to be a good story." Gately said, walking away.

"Nice meeting you. I have to get back to the precinct." Fitz said.

"Nice meeting you, too." Peter replied, standing by himself in a group of sixty policemen.

Paul stood talking to the investigators, accepting a cup of coffee from a young man on the sniper team.

"Are you Paul Blaisdell?" Gately asked.

Paul turned to face him. His badge hung out of his breast pocket. Kermit stood nearby.

"Yes, I am Captain Blaisdell, what can I do for you, Detective Gately?" Paul asked, slightly irritated, reading his ID.

"Fitz said you might have the M-21 casings." Gately explained.

"No, I don't have them." Paul said, looking at him in the eye.

"He suggested you look in your right jacket pocket." Gately said, softly.

Paul shifted his coffee to his left hand and reached into his pocket. He pulled out the two shell casings and handed them to Gately.

"Thanks," Gately said, walking away.

Paul watched the man's back as he vanished into the crowd. Kermit tugged at his sleeve.

"Let's get back to the precinct. We still have paperwork to do. You might want to call Annie before Peter does." Kermit advised.

"Oh, God. What time is it?" Paul asked.

"Five o'clock, approximately, why?" Kermit asked.

"She was going to the mall with a neighbour. She might have heard the whole thing on the radio by now. Get me to a phone, please Kermit." Paul asked.

"Just follow me, I saw a pay phone on the corner." Kermit said, leading the way.

Paul followed him closely. They reached the pay phone and Paul pulled a quarter from his trouser pocket. The phone rang and the machine picked up. He left a message anyway, even though Annie was still out shopping.

"Hi, babe, it's me around five. I just want you to know that I'm okay. There was a shooting at work but I'm fine. I'll be home around seven. Please call me. I love you." Paul said, and then hung up.

"So?" Kermit asked.

"She wasn't there. I left a message." Paul said.

"Let's get to the office, then. We still have to fill out reports and speak to IA." Kermit said.

"Yeah, great," Paul muttered.

Kermit chuckled and put a hand on his friend's shoulder, guiding him to the Corvair. They got in and Paul slumped, leaning his head back against the seat as Kermit drove to the office. Fifteen minutes later, Kermit parked his car. He looked over at Paul and knew he wasn't asleep.

"I have aspirin in my desk." He said.

"That will be a start," Paul said, opening his eyes.

They got out of the car and walked into the precinct. The officers were remarkably subdued as they walked through to their offices. Paul opened the door to his office and removed his jacket, tossing it on the chair in front of his desk. He noticed the temp had washed and cleaned his coffee cup as well as brewed a fresh pot of coffee. She might have to stay, he thought. Paul poured a cup of coffee and sat down heavily in his leather chair. He took a tentative sip and put the cup down on his desk, resting his left hand across his eyes. He heard Kermit at the door and motioned him in with his right hand. Opening his eyes, he sat upright in the chair with a sigh. Kermit had a cup of water and three aspirins. He picked up Paul's sport coat and laid it on the couch, before sitting in the chair himself. Paul tossed the aspirins back and chased them with the water. He squinted at his watch, trying to estimate when the pounding in his head might cease. Then he noticed the stack of messages. Again, the temp was marvelous. She had separated the messages into work, personal, and who knows. He looked at the personal messages, one from his brother in Manhattan, one from Caroline, two from Peter, and three from Annie.

"You okay?" Kermit asked.

"Check with me in a half an hour. See if this headache is gone. Do me a favour, turn out the overheads on your way out?" Paul asked.

"Yeah, sure." Kermit said, doing as instructed and then closing the door behind him.

Paul picked up the phone and started returning messages. He spoke to Caroline, left a message for Peter and another for Annie. He took a sip of coffee and then returned the call to his brother.

"Yes?" the voice answered.

"Got your message." Paul said.

"Look, little brother, I don't know what you've gotten yourself into but it's been keeping me up at night. You want to talk about it?" Jim Blaisdell asked.

"Yeah, but I can't; not yet, not now. I'm just calling to tell you that I was involved in the shooting but that I'm okay." Paul said, softly.

"Do you need me to come up?" Jim asked again.

"Don't worry about me, just continue to save the world." Paul replied with a small smile.

"You and me against the world, remember?" Jim queried.

"That was a lifetime ago." Paul said, sadly.

"Kermit still with you?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, it seems to fit him. Less stress than if he worked for you. What about Robert?" Paul asked.

"He quit the Company." Jim replied.

"You're kidding. Well I always knew Robert had balls, just not that big." Paul responded with a chuckle.

"Yes, well, let's just say the process is ongoing, shall we? I have to go. Take care, Paul. When you're ready to talk about it, just call." Jim said.

"Where are you now?" Paul asked.

"Uhm, I'm not at home. That's the best I can do. Give my love to Annie, and the kids." Jim said.

"I will. Jim?" Paul asked.

"Yes?" Jim replied.

"Thanks for the call." Paul said.

"Any time," Jim said, hanging up the phone.

Paul hung up his receiver and sipped the cooling coffee. He opened his desk drawer and pulled out the reports that he needed to fill out if he was ever going to leave the office. He fed them into the typewriter and started to work.

6:30 pm

There was a knock on the door.

"Come," Paul answered, as he stopped typing.

The door opened and two men in black suits walked in.

"Randolph and Watkins, we're from IA." The taller man said, flashing his badge.

"Have a seat." Paul said, sipping some more coffee.

"We just have a few questions. We know that Chief Strenlich called you and Det. Griffin in to the scene. How did you become the sniper?" Randolph asked.

"The sniper team was in the wrong place but that didn't really matter because the shooters saw them. If they had moved, the officers who were pinned down would have been shot immediately. The shooters didn't know the sniper team had no shot. I came on the scene and Fitz said that it was up to me. He had a spotter who had a position. He just needed a long-range sniper." Paul explained.

"And you happened to be sniper qualified?" Watkins asked.

"Yes, I am rated expert marksman in pistols and rifles." Paul said.

"Two shots, two kills?" Randolph asked.

"Yes," Paul said, rubbing his temples.

"Well, I think that's it for now. If we have any more questions we know where to find you." Watkins said, standing.

Paul reached to his desk lamp, and tilted it away from him, leaning back in his chair, his eyes shut.

Randolph frowned, standing, and the two men opened the door and left the office. Kermit walked in, shutting the door behind him and right in the face of Randolph.

"No better?" Kermit asked softly.

"Migraine coming. I...I drank coffee but it didn't help." Paul said.

"Do you have your meds with you?" Kermit asked.

"No, they're at home. I haven't had a migraine in six months." Paul said, every word feeling like a dagger to his brain.

"We gotta get you home." Kermit said.

He walked to Paul and helped him to his feet. Leaning him against the desk, he helped him on with his jacket. Then Kermit reached into his own jacket and produced another pair of dark glasses.

"Paul, try opening your eyes now." Kermit instructed.

He opened his eyes and the pain was constant, not increasing due to the light. It was a very slight improvement, but he would take what he could.

"Captain Blaisdell is leaving for the day. Any personal calls, direct them to the house. Any work calls will have to wait until tomorrow." Kermit said to the temp.

"Yes, Detective." The temp said, looking at her boss and his co-worker in their dark glasses.

"Excuse me, what is your name?" Paul asked, quietly.

"I am Sally, Sally Michaels, sir," Sally answered, standing.

"Thanks for coming to work today, Sally." Paul said.

"You're welcome, Captain. Feel better." Sally said.

The two men turned and walked to the door.

"Wow, smart and good looking. You need to keep her." Kermit said, not out of earshot.

"Yeah, don't I know it." Paul replied.

The chime rang as Kermit pulled into the driveway. Paul had told him he kept the migraine medication in the refrigerator, so Kermit pulled the car to the back of the driveway. Paul opened the door, but barely had the strength to stand. Kermit reached in and grabbed his shirt, pulling him to his feet. He pulled Paul's left arm over his shoulder and held him tightly around his back with his right arm. They got to the back door and Annie opened it.

"Kermit, is that you?" Annie asked, knowing he was the only one to drive to the back of the driveway.

"Oh, yeah. Paul is having a migraine. Where do you want him?" Kermit asked.

"Damn," Annie swore softly, "the study is easiest and darkest for him."

"Let me get him to the sofa and I'll come back for the medicine." Kermit said.

"Okay," Annie said, softly.

Kermit helped Paul into the study and gently onto the sofa. He pulled Paul's sport coat, harness and gun off and set them on the floor. He pulled Paul's loafers off and eased him back against the cushion.

"Hang on, Paul." Kermit said softly.

He left the room and walked back to the kitchen. Annie had turned on the overhead in addition to the small light that turned on when she entered any room in the house. Kermit opened the refrigerator and looked for the pills.

"Check the door, top shelf, toward the hinge." Annie recommended.

"Yep, here they are. Two tablets, okay." Kermit said, taking two from the container.

"Here's water, make sure he drinks the whole glass." Annie said.

"Okay, are you coming with me?" Kermit asked.

"I will when he's down. He's in so much pain, Kermit, I can't bear it." Annie said.

"I understand; I'll be right back." Kermit said.

He walked quickly back into the study. Removing his dark glasses, he turned on the desk lamp to the first click. Walking to Paul, Kermit sat next to him and put one hand on his shoulder. Paul opened his eyes and looked at Kermit. He put the pills in Paul's hand. Paul put them in his mouth and swallowed them dry. Kermit handed him the glass of water. Paul took a small sip.

"You need all of the water, Paul." Kermit said, softly.

Paul's hands were shaking badly, so Kermit held the glass while Paul guided it to his mouth. Kermit put the glass down and helped Paul lie down on his back. Kermit removed the dark glasses and spread the wool blanket on top of him. Quietly, he put the glass on the desk and hung the jacket and harness on the desk chair. Paul's breathing was ragged as he waited for the medicine to catch up. An eternity later, Paul heard a click, and the pain was gone as he slid into the darkness of sleep.

Kermit walked into the kitchen, jingling his change.

"I poured you a scotch. Would you like to stay for dinner?" Annie asked.

Kermit noted the hope and fear in her voice.

"I would love to, thank you." Kermit said, picking up the glass of scotch and draining half of it.

"It's just chicken..." Annie started.

"It will be wonderful, as always." Kermit said.

"Kermit, would you hold me, please?" Annie said.

"Oh, of course." Kermit said, setting his glass on the counter and embracing his best friend's wife.

"I listened to the messages, but he didn't tell me what happened." Annie said, breaking from the embrace to stand at the stove.

Kermit gave her the short version without Paul's encounter with Peter on the roof.

"How long is he out with this medication?" Kermit asked, picking up his scotch, standing with his back to the countertop, looking at her.

"It's seven-thirty now. He won't be awake until five a.m. and he won't be one hundred percent for another twelve hours after that, sometime tomorrow afternoon." Annie said.

"Strong medication." Kermit said.

"That's one of the reasons they're in the refrigerator. We were scared for Kelly when she was little so we always put it in the fridge. He's been so much better recently. He hasn't had a migraine for several months." Annie said.

"That's what he said. Well, he's sleeping, now. What can I do to help with dinner?" Kermit asked.

"You can set the table." Annie said.

"I can handle that," Kermit said.

Annie cooked and Kermit sipped scotch for the next half hour, just chatting about inane things, until the phone rang. Annie picked it up quickly, while Kermit walked to the stove to continue stirring the risotto.

"Hello?" Annie asked.

"Hello, Mom, it's Peter." He said.

"Hello, Peter, how are you?" Annie asked.

"Uhm, fine, how's Paul?" Peter asked.

"Well, right now he is sacked out in the study, sleeping off a migraine that he got at work today. Do you want to come for dinner? Kermit is still here. We're having chicken." Annie asked.

"No thanks, Mom. Rain check?" Peter asked, remembering what Fitz had advised.

"Sure, Kelly is back from her school trip on Saturday and I have some beef stroganoff for you." Annie said, smiling.

"Great, thanks, Mom. I love you." Peter said.

"I love you too, Peter." Annie said.

"Goodnight," Peter replied.

"Goodnight," Annie said, and hung up the phone.

"I think the risotto may be done." Kermit announced.

"Oh, Kermit, thank you, I almost forgot." Annie said, resuming her role as chef.

Kermit helped to finish the meal, carving the roast chicken and dishing the plates.

"Would you like wine, or are you happy with your scotch?" Annie asked.

"I am most definitely happy with my scotch." Kermit said, chuckling. "May I pour you a glass of wine?"

"Yes, please. There's an open bottle in the door." Annie replied, walking to the table.

Kermit refilled his scotch and poured Annie her wine. He carried the plates to the table and then the glasses. He sat down and sighed.

"Long day?" Annie tried to joke.

"Long month," Kermit replied, taking a sip of his scotch.

They ate dinner in relative silence, trying not to talk about Paul.

"Would you like any more?" Annie asked, standing.

"No, thanks. It was wonderful. What can I do to help clean up?" Kermit asked.

"Would you go check on him? Make sure he's warm." Annie asked.

"Sure," Kermit said, walking out of the kitchen.

Kermit opened the door of the study and took off his glasses. Paul was still on his back, not having moved. Kermit adjusted the blanket so it covered him from chin to the bottom of his feet. He put on his glasses and left the room.

"Snug as a bug," Kermit said, as he walked into the kitchen.

"Thanks," Annie said, wrestling the chicken into a smaller dish.

"Let me help you with that," Kermit offered.

"I can do this!" Annie said, forcefully.

Kermit waited a moment. "I know you can, Annie. I just wanted to help."

"I'm sorry, Kermit. You are the last person I should be yelling at." Annie said.

Kermit helped her clean the kitchen in relative silence. Finally, everything was clean, food in the fridge, breakfast things laid out.

"I think I'll be going, if you're okay." Kermit said, holding her hands in his.

"We'll be fine, thanks. Unless you see him at eight, he's taking a sick day." Annie said.

"Right, have him call me when he's better. Oh, and tell him I'll get the window and tire fixed, then I'll drive his car over at some point tomorrow. I still have that extra set of keys." Kermit said.

"Thank you, Kermit. Really, some days I can't think of our life without you." Annie said, kissing him on the cheek.

Kermit blushed deeply, squeezing her hands in return, before he left through the back door.

Annie walked to the study and opened the door. She heard Paul's quiet breaths but little else. Walking into the room she located a chair and the spare blanket. She moved the chair so it was opposite the sofa, yet close enough that she could put her feet up on it. Sitting in the chair and spreading the blanket over her, she settled for the night.

Thursday 5:00 am
Paul groaned in pain and rolled onto his right side, away from her. Annie woke immediately and sat on the sofa beside him. She put her left hand on his shoulder while her right hand traced circles lightly on his back. Paul reached up and held her left hand tightly, fighting the medication and the fleeting pain. Slowly, his grip on her diminished and he fell back asleep. Annie slipped her hand from his and returned to her chair.

7:30 am

Paul started coughing in his sleep and woke himself. He sat up and faced Annie, eyes closed, face red. Annie dropped to the floor in front of him, reaching up for his face.

"Paul, we've been here before. Just listen to my voice. You're all right. It's the medicine. Just slow down your breathing. Listen to me, sweetheart; in one two three, out one two three. That's it." Annie said, in a monotone voice.

Paul grabbed Annie's shoulders and held on tightly while he coughed. After several minutes he got his breathing under control.

"Would you like some water?" Annie asked.

Exhausted, Paul could only nod. Luckily, Annie still had her hands on his face. She stood up and walked to the kitchen, searching for a plastic go-cup. Finding it, she filled it with cool water and walked back to the study. Annie walked to her chair and sat down. She reached for him and found his right hand. She placed the plastic cup firmly in his hand.

"Here's your water, Paul. Drink all of it." Annie recommended.

Paul raised the glass and drank slowly, eventually finishing it. He sat back on the cushion, the cup in his lax hand. Annie got out of the chair and felt for him. He was very close to sleep but Annie wanted him to lie back on the sofa.

"Paul, you have to help me. Please stretch out on the sofa." Annie said.

Paul leaned to his left and swung his feet up to the sofa. Annie reached for the wool blanket and spread it over him. She waited for several minutes, listening to him breathe, before she decided to go upstairs and take a shower. Annie knew that he would be sleeping on and off for the day, trying to fight the side effects from the medicine.

12:00 pm

Paul rolled over and woke up. He was thirsty. He stood up, unsteady at first, and walked to the door to the study. He staggered his way to the kitchen and had to use the fridge door to hold himself upright. Suddenly, there was a knock at the back door. He looked up, but couldn't really focus on who was there. He heard Annie before she came into the kitchen. As she walked into the room, she sensed he was there. Annie opened the door and Kermit walked in.

"You're up! Great. I dropped off your car. I can't stay; I had a uniform tail me. See you tomorrow." Kermit said, kissing Annie on the cheek, handing her the keys, and leaving again.

"Morning, sweetheart. Can I help you?" Annie asked, putting the keys on the hook by the door.

"Water?" Paul croaked, walking two steps towards her voice, holding onto the counter.

"Orange juice coming up. How are you feeling?" Annie asked, as she poured the juice into another plastic cup.

"Dizzy, tired, just hurt." Paul said, softly.

"Drink this and then let's get you into bed. You'll sleep better there." Annie said, handing him the juice.

Annie didn't let go of the cup, sensing he didn't have a good grasp. Instead she helped guide the cup to his lips.

"Did you drink it all?" Annie asked, taking the cup from him.

"I think so. Having a hard time focusing." Paul admitted.

"Well, it's not as if we haven't done this before." Annie said, sliding an arm around his back.

"What?" Paul asked, confused.

"You know, the blind chick helping the police detective." Annie said, with a smile.

Annie and Paul walked slowly up the stairs to their bedroom. He stood with his back to the bed, swaying slightly. Annie loosened his belt, opened his trousers, and they fell to the floor. She reached up to his shirt and started to unbutton it. Paul reached for her out of reflex.

"Sweetheart, you need to sleep. Just help me get you out of your clothes." Annie said.

"Any time, babe." Paul replied, as she pulled his shirt off of him.

Annie smiled to herself, at any other time she would have loved to disrobe her husband and make love to him, but not now, when he was so vulnerable. She helped Paul sit on the bed and pulled off his trousers and socks. Dressed only in his shorts, he shivered.

"Get into bed, sweetheart." Annie coaxed.

Paul lay back on the bed as she covered him with the sheet and comforter. Annie sat on the edge of the bed and listened to him breathe. Finally, she heard his breathing deepen and even out, knowing he was truly asleep. She got up and shut the door, walking downstairs to the living room.

5:00 pm

Paul woke up in his bedroom, alone in the dark. Quickly, he reached for the lamp and knocked it onto the floor, breaking the light bulb. He swung his legs over the bed and put his feet on the floor. The door opened quickly and Annie walked in, activating the motion detector lights. Paul started to calm down immediately.

"Hi, what happened?" Annie asked, walking to him.

"I'm sorry; I knocked over the lamp and broke the bulb. It was....it was dark and I..." Paul stammered.

Annie touched his shoulders and helped him stand. She embraced him tightly and he responded, burying his head in her hair. She rubbed his back, feeling his breathing slow to normal.

"Well, you are on schedule, it is five o'clock, are you interested in supper?" Annie asked.

Paul thought for a moment. "I'd like to take a hot shower, and then explore my options."

Paul touched her face and kissed her deeply. The buckle on her belt bit slightly into his torso as her sweater rode up. He held his ground, though still a little dizzy. Annie kissed him passionately, feeling the old Paul return.

"I think you're ready for your shower, now." Annie said, breaking the embrace.

Paul took a breath, trying to calm his racing heart. "Yeah, a cold one at that." He joked.

"I'll be in the living room." Annie said, finishing with a kiss.

Paul stood in the bedroom, feeling cold in just his shorts, yet flushed with passion. He looked at the broken lamp and carefully knelt down to pick up the glass shards from the carpet. He put the glass in the bathroom waste paper basket and made a mental note to remind Annie. Paul pulled off his shorts and turned on the shower. He opened the door and stood under the hot spray, slightly uncomfortable with the pressure on his bruised shoulder. He soaped and washed twice, trying to get the cordite smell from his skin. He knew if he could smell it, Annie definitely could. Paul stepped out of the shower, dried off, then padded back into the bedroom for some clothes. He chose a V-neck soft brown wool sweater, grey pants, and moose hide slippers. Paul brushed back his hair with his fingers and walked downstairs.

He walked to the living room and found Annie reading. Paul walked into the room and turned on the first table light.

"Hi, babe," Paul said, softly.

Annie put her book to the side and stood, waiting for him.

"How are you feeling?" Annie asked, embracing him.

"Tired and a little anxious; the usual." Paul replied, hugging her in return.

"What do you need? Something to eat? Something to drink?" Annie asked.

"Can we just stay here?" he whispered.

"Sure, sweetheart." Annie said, sitting on the love seat.

Paul walked over, picked up her book, and put it on the coffee table. He sat down and felt Annie's strong arms surround him. He took a shaky breath and put his arms around her. It seemed forever since they'd simply held each other, no kissing, no tender caresses. He leaned back on the love seat and she followed, lying on top of him comfortably. She rested her head on his chest, one arm on his shoulder, the other on his waist. His arms embraced her comfortably.

7:30 pm

The phone rang, waking them both up. Paul reached over his head and searched for the phone that he knew was on the end table.

"Hello?" he said.

"Hello, Dad," Caroline said.

"Hi, how are you, Caroline?" Paul asked.

"Did I interrupt something? You sound tired." Caroline asked.

"Your mother and I were just taking a nap. What's up?" Paul asked, tightening his hold on Annie.

"Oh, uhm, I'm just checking up on you, I guess." Caroline said.

"Honey, I'm fine." Paul replied.

"They said you didn't come in to work today..." Caroline said.

"Sweetheart, I had a migraine. You know I get them from time to time. Mom thought I should take the day off. I'm fine." Paul said.

"Okay, if you say so." Caroline said.

"I don't just say so, I am." Paul said, getting annoyed.

Annie jabbed him in the ribs.

"Your mother wants to talk to you." Paul said, handing her the receiver.

"Hi, are you coming for dinner Saturday? Kelly will be back and I think Peter is coming." Annie asked.

"Sure, Mom. We'll be there." Caroline replied.

"I have to make dinner for your father. I didn't realize how late it was." Annie said.

"Okay, Mom. Say goodnight to Dad and tell him to get well soon." Caroline said.

"Goodnight," Annie replied.

"Goodnight," Caroline responded.

"We're having a family dinner party on Saturday." Annie said, hanging up the phone and sitting up.

"Apparently," Paul said, dryly.

"They're worried about you. What is wrong with that?" Annie asked, facing him.

"There's nothing they can do. It's a waste of time." Paul said, quietly.

Annie stood up and stalked out of the living room to the kitchen to make dinner. Paul swung his legs over to the floor and put his head in his hands. He'd screwed up and now Annie was furious. The problem was, he couldn't see a solution. He stood up and walked into the study. He poured himself a stiff scotch. Paul leaned against the desk and felt the liquid slide down his throat. He pulled a cigarette out from the drawer and a pack of matches. Carrying his scotch, he walked out the front door, hearing the chime, and sat on the stoop. He lit the cigarette, enjoying the rush, and sipped his scotch in the chilly evening air.

Annie heard the door open and blinked back tears. She continued to heat up dinner and hoped Paul would come back inside. She was mad at him, but madder at herself for leaving him like that. She set the table for dinner and felt the clock; he had been out there for more than half an hour. Double checking that everything in the kitchen was safe from burning, she walked to the front door and opened it. She smelled the cigarette smoke and grimaced.

"Sweetheart? Are you still out here? Dinner will be ready soon." Annie said.

"I'll be in in a minute. "Paul replied, not looking up.

Annie shut the door softly and leaned against it. The walls that came down yesterday had gone back up again. She could only hope that she could reach him tonight. Annie walked back to the kitchen. She finished the potatoes and peas and heard the front door open. Paul walked in and stood in the doorway.

"Would you slice some chicken?" Annie asked.

"Sure," Paul said, walking to the counter where the chicken was.

He carved the chicken and placed the slices on the plates. Paul carried the plates to the table where Annie had already poured wine. She sat down, not paying attention to him. Paul sat down, feeling miserable now for the way he had spoken to her, in addition to his fatigue and stress. They ate in silence, hearing the clock from the stove tick in the background.

"I'm sorry, Annie." Paul said quietly, putting down his fork, finally.

Annie raised her face towards him. She looked so sad that he stood quickly and walked to her. Kneeling before her, he put his hands on her face and kissed her passionately, feeling the tears fall down his face. Annie put her hands to his face, feeling his tears.

"I love you so much, Paul, but you are so hard on yourself." Annie whispered in his ear.

"I love you but I don't deserve you." Paul said, holding on tightly to her.

Annie felt her watch. It was eight thirty and about the time when the medication from the migraine should have run its course. This depression was Paul's current state.

"Help me clean up the kitchen, okay?" Annie said, pulling away and holding his face in front of hers.

"Of course," Paul said, his breath hot on her skin, standing up.

He helped pack up the food, load the dishwasher, and clean the countertops. But by the time he was done, he was truly exhausted.

"What do you say we go to bed early?" Annie asked.

"Sounds great to me. Let me start turning out the lights and I'll be right up." Paul said.

Paul double-checked the door in the kitchen and started turning out the room lights. He got to the front door and double-checked it as well. He walked upstairs and Annie was in bed, covers up to her neck. Paul went to the walk in and stripped down. He walked to the bathroom and put on his pajamas, again not buttoning the top. He reached down and turned on the nightlight just inside the bathroom. He got into bed and leaned over Annie to turn off her light. The weak light from the nightlight made little impact. Paul settled on his back and soon felt Annie resting her head on his shoulder, her arm on his waist.

Friday 12:00 am

Like clockwork, Paul woke up, heart pounding, sweat streaming down his chest, from a nightmare. This one was real; this one wasn't fiction. He sat up and rotated his wrists, subconsciously; touching them, feeling the scars. Paul stood up and walked out of the bedroom to find his haven. He walked first to the kitchen for a scotch. Having poured that, he walked to the living room. Closing the door behind him, he turned on the table lamp and walked to the piano. He removed the old scotch glass and put the fresh one in the coaster. He sat at the bench and took a breath. He put his fingers on the keys and started to play.

6:30 am

Annie woke up to the alarm. She hit the off button and rolled over to feel Paul. Annie sighed heavily, feeling the cold empty sheets beside her. She got out of bed and put on her bathrobe and slippers. Annie walked downstairs and stopped at the study. The door was open and she walked in to listen. It was silent. She felt the sofa. It was cold and empty. Annie walked back into the hallway and entered the living room. She listened again. It was quiet. She walked to the loveseat and put her hand down. She felt Paul, in his pajamas, cool, not warm. Annie knew there wasn't a blanket in the living room. She walked back to the study and took the one from the back of that sofa. Annie carried in into the living room and spread it over her husband, feeling his body react to the warmth. She kissed him lightly on his forehead and walked to the kitchen to make breakfast. Annie set the kitchen alarm for seven a.m. and went to work making coffee, tea, and scrambled eggs.

7:00 am

The kitchen alarm went off and Paul was still sleeping. Annie turned of the alarm and went to the living room to wake Paul up. She walked into the room and knelt by him.

"Paul, wake up. Time for breakfast." She said.

Paul opened his eyes and groaned. Two hours of sleep sucked, no matter what. He sat up and put his feet to the floor.

"What time is it?" Paul asked.

"A little after seven." Annie replied.

"Would you rather I eat before I shower?" Paul asked, softly.

"I have scrambled eggs and coffee ready now." Annie said, not really answering.

"Great, I'll have breakfast then." Paul said, standing slowly.

Annie walked out of the living room and Paul followed her to the kitchen. He pulled a mug from the cabinet and poured coffee, stopping at the fridge to get a couple of ice cubes to cool it down. Annie handed him a plate of scrambled eggs and he walked to the table and put the plate down.

"Can I help you?" Paul asked.

"No, I'm all set." Annie said, walking to the table with her tea and eggs.

They sat down and ate breakfast in silence.

"Paul, did you get any sleep last night?" Annie asked, quietly.

"A little," he replied. "My piano playing is improving, though." Paul said, smiling.

"It isn't funny. This has been going on for weeks. You can't exist on two hours of sleep every night, forever." Annie said, angrily.

Paul stood up and took his plate and mug to the sink. He turned and faced her.

"Leave it alone Annie, please." Paul begged quietly.

"You're my husband," Annie said, standing to walk to him. "I can't leave it alone. What affects you, affects me."

"But you can't help me with this." Paul said, kissing her softly on her forehead before turning to leave the kitchen.

Annie listened to his footsteps as he walked away. She turned around and wiped the tears from her face.

Paul walked up the stairs to the bedroom. By rote, he pulled out his clothes for the day and laid them on the bed. He pulled off his pajamas, hung them on the door hook and showered. He shaved in the shower, toweled off, got dressed and came downstairs to get his gun from the study. He reached into the sport coat he had worn two days before and pulled out his badge, wallet, and house keys. Double checking he had everything, Paul walked into the kitchen. Annie was sitting at the table, her hands around a steaming cup of herbal tea, her eyes red, her cheeks tear streaked. He walked up to her, his shoes making soft noises on the linoleum. She didn't look up at him. Paul reached for her and helped her stand, enveloping her in his embrace. He pulled back and wiped her face gently, kissing her cheeks softly.

"I'm not trying to hurt you, babe. I just don't know what to do." Paul whispered.

"I'm scared, Paul." Annie said, bursting into tears again.

"Please don't be scared. I'm trying to figure this out. I'm not trying to upset you." Paul said.

"I know, I know. Just hold me, please." Annie said, feeling his arms tightening around her.

Paul didn't want to leave her, but he had to go to work, having missed the previous day. He pulled back from her and kissed her forehead.

"I've got to go to work, babe. I'll see you tonight." Paul said.

"Call me a couple of hundred times today, would you?" Annie asked.

"Yes, ma'am," Paul said, smiling.

He took his keys off the hook by the door and gave Annie one last passionate kiss before leaving for work.

8:15 am

Paul walked into the precinct with a sigh.

"Good morning, Captain. How are you feeling today?" Sally greeted him brightly.

"Good morning, Sally. Much better, thanks," Paul replied, heading for his office.

"Detective Griffin was asking for you this morning." She said, over her shoulder.

Paul changed directions and headed to Kermit's office instead. He knocked on the door and went in. Kermit was deeply engrossed in his computer.

"Hi, looking for me?" Paul asked, sitting down in a chair opposite the desk.

"Yeah," Kermit said, looking up at him for the first time. "You look worse than yesterday, if that's possible. Did you get any sleep?"

"A couple of hours before the nightmare set in." Paul said, looking at the floor. "Kermit, I don't know what to do. Annie is scared. Hell, I'm scared to go to sleep at this point. I don't know which nightmare I'm going to get and what my response will be."

Kermit walked from around the desk and put his hand on his friend's shoulder.

"I'm gonna make some calls." Kermit said.

"No shrinks, Kermit. I can't talk about this to them." Paul said, awkwardly.

"I have an idea of who to call." Kermit said.

"Okay, I'm going to go to work now." Paul said, standing wearily.

"I'll see you for lunch." Kermit said, to the disappearing figure.

Paul walked into his office and took off his jacket, hanging it on the coat tree. He sat at his desk and started in on his messages before he attacked his files.

Kermit opened a file on his computer and read the coded number. He picked up the phone and placed the call.

1:00 pm

"Captain? How did you get by me?" Sally asked the man standing in front of her desk.

"Actually, I'm his brother, Jim. Is Kermit in?" Jim asked.

"Yes, his office is in the corner over there," Sally said, pointing.

"Thanks," Jim said, walking away.

Jim knocked on Kermit's door and walked in. Kermit looked up and took(DID) a double take. He always forgot how much they looked alike.

"Jim, good to see you," Kermit said, standing to shake his hand.

"No hand shakes, Kermit," Jim said, walking around the desk to give his friend a hug.

"You look good," Kermit said.

"Thanks. Paul's right, this place does agree with you." Jim said

"Did you stop by the house?" Kermit asked.

"Yes, I saw Annie, told her the plan, and picked up some things. Are you squared away here?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, I'll be up sometime tonight. Do you have your sat. phone?" Kermit asked.

"Yes, so call me before you leave the city." Jim said.

"Will do," Kermit asked.

"Wish me luck," Jim said.

"Good luck," Kermit replied.

Jim left his office and walked a short distance and knocked on the door, before opening it. Paul was deep into the open file on his desk. Jim hadn't seen his younger brother for over a year and was shocked at how thin he had become.

"Hey, kid!" Jim said.

"Jim! What on earth are you doing here?" Paul asked, standing up to walk to his brother.

"I'm here to drag you away. Put your coat on." Jim said, hugging Paul.

"I can't leave work," Paul said, backing out of the embrace.

"You can and will leave. This is a paid sick day." Frank Strenlich said, from the doorway.

"I've got to call Annie," Paul stammered.

"Done," Kermit replied.

Paul looked up and saw Kermit standing behind Frank. Kermit nodded once to Paul who nodded in return. He sighed and put on his jacket. Picking up his glasses, he folded them and put them in his pocket.

"Guess I'll see you Monday." Paul said to Frank as he passed him in the doorway.

"Take care, Paul." Frank said.

"See you later," Kermit said.

"Right, Sally, I'm gone until Monday." Paul said, walking by her with Jim in tow.

"Okay, have a good weekend," Sally said, returning to her typing.

Jim and Paul walked outside.

"I parked over here." Jim said, walking towards a jeep.

Paul followed, getting in the passenger side. He put his seat belt on and sighed.

"Relax, would you please? We're going to the cabin. I picked up some stuff from your house, a coat, for instance, for you. Annie says there are plenty of clothes up there. We'll pick up some food at the general store." Jim said, pulling out of his parking place.

Paul was silent, just looking out the window, but Jim could tell from his body language that his emotions were all over the chart.

The drive to the cabin took three hours. They stopped at the store where Jim purchased enough food for an army. Paul listlessly walked the two aisles.

"Grab a couple of bags, Paul. We're ready to go." Jim said.

Paul walked back to the check-out counter and picked up two paper bags. Jim had the hatch opened on the jeep and Paul put his bags in, noting two large black bags lying diagonally across the back cargo area. He got back in the Jeep and buckled up. Twenty minutes later, Jim drove up to the cabin door. A light rain had started to fall. The man at the general store said there would be snow by midnight. The temperature had already begun to drop. Paul ran to throw the switch on the generator and the outside light came on. They carried the bags into the cabin, putting them on the kitchen table.

"I'll get the rest of the things out of the back. Would you put this stuff away?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, sure," Paul said.

Paul put the food away and folded the paper bags. Jim brought in the large black duffle bags and the two small bags from the Jeep. He looked at his younger brother, catching him in a yawn.

"Why don't you change out of those clothes, put on something comfortable and take a nap on the sofa? I'll start a fire in the fireplace." Jim said, walking to the great room.

"No, I'm fine." Paul said, standing uncomfortably in the kitchen.

"Paul, it's just you and me here. You need to sleep." Jim said, kneeling at the fireplace.

Paul walked to the master bedroom without a word. He changed out of his jacket, tie and trousers, opting for corduroys and a thick wool sweater. He walked back into the great room to the heat from the fledgling fire.

"I've got some paper work to do. I'll be sitting in the kitchen if you need anything." Jim said, walking back to the kitchen to set up his portable office.

Paul looked across the great room to the open kitchen, watching his brother for a minute before sitting on the couch. He pulled off his shoes and groaned slightly when he rolled onto his side. Jim looked up briefly from his work.

6:00 pm

The fire had died down to embers and the great room was dark with a flickering shadow on the ceiling. Paul was caught in the throes of his nightmare. Jim walked into the room to watch him. Suddenly Paul woke up and jumped to his feet, his hands rubbed at the scars on his wrists. He started to panic in the darkness.

"Paul, it's me, Jim. I'm here. You're okay." Jim said.

"It's dark, have to get out, have to get out." Paul said, the fear in his voice palpable.

Jim reached down and turned on a light. In the pale glow, he saw the sweat on Paul's face and the terror in his eyes.

"Paul, it's over, now. We're at the cabin, remember?" Jim said, reaching for him.

"Jimmy?" Paul asked, still caught in his nightmare.

"Yeah, it's me, Paul. Come here and give your brother a hug." Jim said, standing with his arms open.

Paul walked to him quickly, just as he used to do when they were boys. Paul was the quiet son and Jimmy was outgoing. Then they were drafted and went to Vietnam and they became much closer, more like twins than brothers born ten months apart.

"Are you remembering the tunnel?" Jim asked.

He felt Paul stiffen and realized that was part of it. He pulled him tighter.

"You want to talk about it?" Jim asked.

"No, I can't, not yet, not now." Paul said quietly.

"I'm letting you off the hook for now, but we are going to talk tonight. That's why we're up here, you know. You have some things you need to say, so I'm here to listen." Jim replied.

Paul pulled back and dragged his arms across his eyes, like he used to do as a child.

"Okay, kid, time for you to earn your keep. It's going to get very cold tonight. Please go chop wood, not a foot or an ankle, please, just wood." Jim said.

"What are you going to do?" Paul asked, slightly annoyed.

"I'm going to make dinner." Jim said, walking to the kitchen to pack up his office.

Paul thought for a moment, put on his shoes, grabbed his coat and went out to chop wood. As soon as the door closed, Jim's sat. phone rang.

"Yes?" Jim answered.

"Hey, it's me. I've gathered everything you need. Are there any changes?" Kermit asked.

"No, but you were right to call me. He hasn't been this rocky since our parents died." Jim said.

"Okay, see you in three hours give or take." Kermit said.

"Wait, Kermit, I just remembered, one gallon of Rocky Road ice cream." Jim added.

"Oh, yeah. He still loves the stuff. Annie stopped buying it. Said it was making him fat." Kermit said with a chuckle.

"Yeah, well, this weekend, he gets what he wants. Drive safely and I'll see you soon." Jim said.

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

Jim hung up his phone and looked out the window. He saw chips flying from beyond the corner of the cabin. He watched for a while, comfortable that Paul was in a rhythm. Jim cleared off the kitchen table and thought about dinner; steak, potatoes, Annie said liquor was never an issue up here. Jim walked to a cabinet and upon opening it found forty bottles of wine, mainly reds. He chose a Zinfandel, four bottles, and brought them to the counter top. Jim took the steak from the fridge and proceeded to make a marinade. He covered the steak and returned it to the fridge, noticing the time. He took a can of cashews and a can of peanuts and mixed them in a large bowl to keep them going until Kermit arrived. Jim looked around the cabin and started lighting kerosene lanterns throughout, creating a soft glow. He cleaned the fireplace, getting it ready for the new firewood. Luckily there was a fire shed so the firewood was dry and ready for the fire. The door opened abruptly and Paul lurched in with an armload of firewood.

Jim took the top two logs off and set them on the floor. Paul carefully dumped the rest into the log carrier to the side of the fireplace. Jim stirred the embers as Paul brought more firewood in. Twenty minutes later, Paul finished bringing in the firewood. He took off his coat and brushed back his hair with his hands. Jim looked at him and squinted. He walked over and took Paul's hands, turning them over, palm-side up. Jim looked into Paul's face.

"Sit down," Jim said, directing him to a kitchen chair before he walked to the bathroom for the first aid kit.

Returning, Jim sat next to Paul. Carefully, he reached over and took Paul's hands gently, laying them out, palm side up on the table. The blisters from the axe were open and bloody on both hands. Jim knew they ached. He stood up, retrieved a glass, and poured two fingers of scotch, setting the glass in front of Paul. Jim took Paul's right hand, the more damaged one, and put the numbing anti-bacterial ointment on it. Paul looked at his hand distantly. When it was bandaged, Jim put the glass of scotch closer to Paul's hand. Paul took the glass and started to drink the scotch while Jim cleaned and bandaged his left hand. When he was done, Jim returned the first aid kit to the bathroom and walked into the great room to finish adding some kindling to the fire. Pleased with the result, he lit it and replaced the screen.

"Paul, open the black bag with the blue stripe, would you?" Jim asked.

Paul walked over to the two bags and picked up the one with the blue stripe. He brought it into the great room and opened it. It was an electronic keyboard with a stand.

"Annie said you'd been playing the piano again. It has eighty eight weighted keys. Why don't you give it a try?" Jim said.

Paul took the keyboard out and set it aside. He set up the stand and then placed the keyboard on it. Paul plugged the power in, took a chair from the kitchen and sat down. He hit a key and a squawk emitted from the machine. Concentrating, he read the manual and reset the system. Paul hit another key and it sounded more like a piano.

"Uhm, there's one more thing..." Jim said, picking up one of the smaller duffle bags.

He removed a small speaker.

"Just take this wire and the sound of the piano will come out the speaker. Or at least that's what the man at Sam Ash said to me." Jim said, smiling.

Paul plugged in the speaker to power and the piano to the speaker. He hit a key and smiled. This was the smile that Jim remembered and the one he had always counted on. He squeezed Paul's shoulder and returned to the kitchen to think about dinner. Paul started to play the same dark jazz piece he'd unknowingly played for Annie.

8:00 pm

The snow had begun to fall outside, but the cabin was warm. Paul had been playing the piano for over an hour and was totally focused. Jim refilled Paul's scotch glass and put it within reach on a side table. He sat down in the kitchen and lit a cigar. Listening to Paul play piano, sipping his own glass of scotch and smoking his cigar, he floated.

Half an hour later, Jim lit the oven, getting ready for dinner. Kermit should be there soon.

As if on cue, there was a brief knock on the door. Three men walked in, covered in a light dusting of snow. Paul stopped playing and looked up in amazement.

"Andrew? Matthew? Kermit? What is all this?" Paul asked, standing.

"This is an impromptu meeting of the Apostle Team. I believe you needed to see us." Matthew Steadman replied.

Paul looked uncertainly at Jim and Kermit.

"It's okay," Kermit said softly.

Paul walked up to his friends and they hugged.

"Have anything to drink, Paul?" Andrew asked.

"I'm running this operation, Andrew, and yes. We have scotch and a lovely zinfandel for dinner." Jim answered.

"Then I will have a scotch." Andrew said, lugging his duffel into the spare bedroom.

"I'll have the same," Matthew said, following Andrew.

"Make that three," Kermit said with a grin, dumping his gear in the great room, knowing that he had the couch.

Jim put the steak fries in the oven and set the timer. He opened one bottle of Zinfandel to breathe.

"Paul, you playing again?" Andrew asked, looking at the keyboard.

"Yeah," Paul answered, quietly.

Andrew and Matthew exchanged glances. They picked up their scotches and stood together.

"To Team Apostle!" They said.

"To Team Apostle!" Paul, Jim and Kermit echoed.

The timer went off and Jim put in the steak, resetting the timer. While Paul played the keyboard, the other men caught up.

"Kermit, would you set the table?" Jim asked.

"Sure thing, Jim." Kermit replied.

Fifteen minute later, the five men sat down to their first dinner together since 1968. Paul had gone quiet again, thinking about something. Jim tried to engage him in conversation, but he knew that look and gave up.

"Great dinner, Jim." Kermit said, wiping his mouth.

"Yes, Jim, excellent." Andrew and Matthew echoed.

The men looked at Paul. His colour was gray and he was staring at his plate.

"Paul? You okay?" Kermit asked.

"Tell us about it, Paul." Jim urged.

Andrew lit a cigar and pushed his chair away from the table. Matthew did the same. Kermit hunched over the table and watched Paul.

"In '65, I was assigned as a sniper on a LRRP team. We had four members; leader, communications, ordinance/medic, and sniper. It happened near Pleiku, we went into a village, looking for VC. There were tunnels and I was ordered to go flush any VC out of them. I handed my rifle to the ordinance guy, Clark, took my knife and my pistol and went in. I walked, well crawled really, maybe thirty yards and there was an explosion. When I woke up, my hands were tied behind me and then up to a hook." Paul stood and started to pace.

Kermit looked at him and knew that Paul thought he was in Vietnam at that precise moment.

"I got the call that the LRRP team was missing. When my team found him it was three days later." Jim said quietly.

Paul was rubbing at the scars on his wrists now, continuing to pace.

"They had killed the other members of Paul's team the first day. On the second day, B52s pounded the area, collapsing the tunnels." Jim continued.

Paul started to shake and squatted on the floor in the corner of the kitchen, the same way he did on the rooftop earlier in the week.

"When I found him, he was in a chamber, in the dark, with four corpses. To this day, Paul cannot be in a dark room. When he first married Annie, it was a huge problem. She, of course, had never needed light. I had his house wired with motion detectors so when Annie walked through the house lights would turn on. There are also nightlights everywhere." Jim said softly.

"Paul? You okay?" Kermit asked.

Paul looked up at his friends, his face grey with fatigue, eyes red rimmed from stress.

"No, I don't think so. I'm scared to go to sleep. I'm scared what dreams will invade there." Paul said, standing slowly.

"Are you tired?" Andrew asked.

"I can't describe to you how tired I am." Paul said, honestly.

"So go to bed. Sleep on the couch and get the heat of the fire. We're not leaving you, Paul. You won't be alone." Matthew said.

"Okay?" Kermit asked.

"I don't know," Paul admitted.

"I do, let's go, little brother." Jim said, standing.

Paul walked to the couch, sat down, kicked off his shoes and then lay down. Jim spread a woolen blanket over him and squeezed his shoulder.

"I've got first watch," Kermit advised, refilling his scotch glass and walking into the great room.

"Fine, where are the cards, Jim?" Andrew asked.

"Do you have any ice cream?" Matthew asked.

12:01 am Saturday

Paul woke up and grabbed Kermit, throwing him against the wall near the fireplace.

*"Nhung duong ha o dau?"* Paul shouted.

Jim, Matthew and Andrew ran in from the adjoining kitchen.

"I'm okay," Kermit said, although Paul had his forearm on his windpipe.

"Paul, we've got to Di Di out of here, buddy." Andrew said, quickly.

"Nah, this guy knows where the tunnels are." Paul repeated, not moving a muscle.

*"Lai day,"* Matthew said, in a low voice.

"Sir, this prisoner knows where the tunnels are." Paul said, looking at him, but keeping his grip on Kermit.

"Captain, Lai day," Matthew repeated.

Paul dropped his arms and walked towards Matthew. He stopped about one foot away. Paul's face was flushed and his pupils were dilated. He was hyperventilating and perspiration flowed down his face. Matthew pointed to the couch.

*"Nam xuong."* Matthew ordered.

Paul looked at the couch, walked over and lay face down, arms folded under his head. Jim walked to his side and started tracing circles on his back, knowing that Paul would remember that feeling and relax. Twenty minutes later, Paul was asleep.

"Is this what he's been dealing with, Kermit?" Matthew asked.

"From what I can tell, yes. Since the shooting at the zoo, when he sleeps, he goes back to Vietnam. He thought he had a handle on it until Annie told him he tried to strangle her and that she was scared. He's spiraled since then." Kermit replied, watching his friend sleep.

Kermit recounted the story of that day in June 1966.

Jim motioned everyone into the kitchen to sit at the table. Pouring fresh scotch for everyone, he asked, "Does anyone have any ideas on what to do?"

"First of all, that's not what happened." Andrew said, softly.

"What do you mean?" Jim asked.

"Matthew wasn't doing the hooch search." Andrew said, looking at him.

"No, and Andrew didn't pull the gun from Paul's hand." Matthew said quietly.

"What the hell happened out there?" Jim growled.

"It was true, I felt a foreboding, I guess, when we got to the village. We were tired, it was raining, but there was something else. Paul ordered us in, hell we'd waited for two hours, the weather wasn't getting any better; so we went in. Harris set off the first bouncing betty and Francis set off the second. Paul's back was covered with shrapnel; his uniform, covered in blood, but he didn't seem to notice. He started a hooch search and found the woman spitting the betel juice. He turned to give me some instructions and she raised an AK-47 from under some reeds. I pushed him and shot twice, killing her instantly." Andrew said, a slight tremor in his voice.

"The sound of the gun was deafening at that distance. Paul was livid; angry with himself and mad at the victim.

"So here were the five of us, thirty five klicks from Vietnam, in deep shit." Andrew finished.

"I went in search of anyone who could tell us where these two NVA guys were. I found a young man whose family had just been wiped out He was more than willing to be our guide." Matthew said.

"Paul was freaked. The rain had started again, and Steadman was in charge because he had the guide, so Paul felt, uhm off-balance. We walked for three days. Paul said maybe one word the whole time. When we reached the area where the NVA guys were, I pulled Paul aside. I looked in his eyes and I knew the problem. He had gone to LRRP school with us in Australia, but he had never actually shot a human long distance. He was nervous and his conscience was bothering him." Andrew said.

"I watched him strip and rebuild that gun four times. The stock had been destroyed when Francis was killed; that was the only damage. But Paul wasn't as convinced. The next morning we went out for the hit. He was a different man; cool detached, void of emotion. Two shots; two kills. Totally textbook," Andrew said, sipping his scotch.

"But it was one thousand feet out. At that time, there were maybe four guys who could do that shot in East Asia and that was his first?" Jim asked.

"Yeah," Andrew replied.

"I'd have nightmares too, I think." Jim remarked.

"That's not all of it. Tell them about Jensen." Matthew urged.

"Our mission accomplished, we called for a dust-off. Unfortunately, our LZ was hot. Paul led, not Matthew. Paul provided cover for the team. He was unstoppable, or so we thought. Cavanaugh got shot and then Jensen, who was right next to Paul. Paul picked him up and threw him into the Huey. He turned to jump into the Huey and slipped on the blood, he was holding on by his hands as the VC were shooting at us and we were gaining altitude. Matthew and I grabbed him and pulled him into the chopper. It was truly heroic. Paul turned Jensen over and saw he had no face after the gunshot. He looked at me and Matthew and we all started to bawl like kids. We had been out for ten days, ran out of food after seven, lost four members of our team, finished the job, and were still alive." Andrew said, running a nervous hand through his hair.

"You landed and were all covered in blood. I never saw such a thing. Paul got out of the Huey and started walking towards his hooch. I kept calling for him but he never responded. He just kept walking." Jim said, softly.

"He walked into the hooch, leaned his gun against the wall, and sank to the floor. He was shaking, covered in blood, dirt, and something else." Kermit said.

"He was covered in what was Jensen's brain. They were four inches apart when Jensen got it." Matthew said.

"I convinced him to give me his gun, strip, shower, and then go to sleep." Kermit said.

"I was his saviour in his first nightmare, you were his saviour in his second. What had him so upset?" Jim asked.

"He hasn't talked about the Huey ride back." Matthew said softly.

He looked at Andrew and then to the floor.

What are you guys not telling me?" Jim asked.

"They're not telling you that I let go twice." Paul said, from the living room.

Jim stood and walked in to help Paul to the kitchen table. He was pretty shaky and sat down on the nearest chair.

"What do you mean?" Jim asked.

"I dumped Jensen on the Huey and I jumped, catching the bottom glide of the door. I was tired, I didn't know you were still alive," he said, looking at Jim. "and I had shrapnel in my back, so I let go. The first time, Matthew caught me, I don't know about the second time." Paul said,

"Let's get something straight, shall we?" Matthew said, standing to bleed off some energy. "You didn't let go. You passed out. Yes, I caught you the first time; Andrew the second. When Nancy came to look at you in your hooch, she was surprised at how advanced your malaria was. Said she was amazed that you were able to stand, let alone go out on a mission."

Silence surrounded the table.

"I don't know about you guys, but I'm tired. I'm going to bed," Kermit said, standing up.

"Me too," Andrew replied, looking at Matthew.

"Oh, yeah, right. See you guys in the morning. Great dinner, Jim." Matthew replied.

Andrew and Matthew went to the spare bedroom and shut the door. Kermit walked into the living room, put three more logs on fire, stretched out on the couch, and fell asleep. Paul looked at Jim and smiled.

"Ready to go to bed?" Jim asked.

"Only if you're in the next bed to watch me." Paul replied.

"Kid, I've been doing that all your life." Jim said, walking to the master bedroom.

"I know, I've come to depend on it." Paul said, following him.

7:00 am

Jim stretched in the cold morning air and looked at Paul's bed; it was empty. He cursed silently and walked out into the great room, dressed in his shorts.

"He left about an hour ago. He took your bow. Needed to clear his head he said." Kermit replied from the kitchen.

"Be back in a minute." Jim said, padding back to the bedroom.

Jim dressed quickly, ignoring a shave. He walked into the great room and put on his wool coat.

"Hunting hats in the main closet." Kermit noted.

Jim opened the main closet and pulled out a hunting vest and hat. He put them on quickly and walked out the door.

8:00 am

The front door opened loudly as the Blaisdell brothers arrived with breakfast. Ever inventive, Paul shot lake trout with Jim's custom bow. Kermit smiled and took the rack of trout and started to clean them.

"They up yet?" Jim asked, gesturing to the quiet bedroom.

"Not to my knowledge." Kermit replied.

Paul smiled and walked into the great room to start a fire in the fireplace. Jim cleaned the arrows and put away the bow into the black case with the red stripe. Soon, the cabin smelled like fish and the bedroom door opened.

"Nirvana! What a glorious smell!" Matthew said, as he emerged in pajamas with matching bathrobe and slippers.

"Trout, terrific!" Andrew said, equally resplendent in a long bathrobe, with only pajama bottoms visible.

"Paul and Jim went hunting this morning." Kermit advised as he continued to cook.

"Paul hunted the fish, I hunted Paul." Jim clarified, pouring coffee for the newcomers.

"Great, what else are we eating?" Andrew asked.

"Aside from fresh lake trout? I could rustle you up some potatoes." Paul said.

Jim looked at him. "Since when do you cook?" he asked.

"I'm married, remember. Annie has her dishes and I have mine. We try to split the cooking up evenly." Paul said, reaching in to pull out the potatoes.

"Will wonders never cease." Jim said.

9:30 am

Jim lit a cigar, as did Matthew, as did Andrew, and as did Kermit. Paul looked at them, confused. He wished he had a cigarette. Jim handed him his cigar.

"Take a hit. Remember, not into the lungs if you want to live another twenty years." Jim grinned.

Paul took a hit, holding the smoke in his mouth, feeling the burn. He exhaled and handed the cigar back.

"Not yet." Paul said, suddenly remembering something and walking to the mantelpiece.

He pushed a brick and another brick pushed back out. Paul pulled a box of English Ovals out and lit one. Blowing smoke rings, he looked at his friends and started to laugh. Soon the others joined him, feeling relaxed.

"Hey kid, any dreams?" Jim asked.

"Just of Annie. I really screwed up with her." Paul said, softly.

Jim checked in with his office while the others did the dishes and fed the fireplace. There was five inches of snow on the ground. Jim's office reported another five to ten inches on the way. The cabin was warm and comfortable. Paul played the keyboard and relaxed.

12:00 pm

Paul heard a car horn and stopped playing. Who would be crazy enough to be driving in this weather, he thought. Suddenly, he knew and ran out of the cabin without a coat or hat.

Annie stood by the car with Kelly. Paul ran through the snow and stopped in front of her.

"Hi, babe. Want some lunch?" he said, trying to be casual.

Annie broke into a wide grin and held her arms out to him. Paul hugged her, pulling back only to kiss her passionately.

"Dad, should we go inside?" a voice said.

Paul broke and looked at the source of the voice.

"Hey, Caroline, hi, Todd. Yeah, Uncle Jim is inside with some friends. Maybe you can help Kermit." Paul said, turning his attention to the quiet child to his right.

"Hi, Kel." Paul said.

"Hi, Daddy." Kelly said, nervously.

Annie had told her that her father was very tired and not to expect too much from him.

"What? You go to Washington on a field trip and you can't kiss your old man?" Paul asked.

"Oh, Daddy," Kelly said, flinging herself at him.

"I missed you too, Kel. Uncle Jim is inside. Be sure to tell him thanks for the special tours." Paul said.

"Dad, it was great we," Kelly started.

"Sweetheart, tell us all at lunch. I want to be able to really listen." Paul said with a smile.

Kelly looked at her mother and suddenly understood, and turned to go inside.

"Hi, there." Paul said, again kissing Annie intensely.

"Ah, this is the Paul Blaisdell I married." Annie breathed into his ear.

"I'm so sorry, Annie. I want to make it up to you." Paul said.

"Oh, yeah?" Annie asked.

"Oh, yeah," Paul said, kissing her again.

A soft skid sound of tires on snow and Paul knew who had arrived.

"Hi, son." Paul greeted the tall young man.

"Hi, Dad. Mom, I'm not late, am I?" Peter asked, always a little insecure.

"No, you're perfect. Go in and talk to Uncle Jim." Annie directed.

"Wow, Uncle Jim is here?" Peter said, walking quickly to the cabin.

"Now, where were we?" Paul asked.

"You want to make it up to me." Annie confirmed.

"I can't wait to make it up to you or make out with you in every which way." Paul growled.

"We have a full house tonight, sweetheart." Annie reminded him, planting kisses on his cheeks.

"I am infinitely patient." Paul said, reaching his hand to her breast, through her clothes.

"Oh, yeah," Annie replied, reaching up to his face to kiss him passionately.

She held him tightly, sensing that he was better, but not completely well. One step at a time.


  Please post a comment on this story.
Search for another story

Failed to execute CGI : Win32 Error Code = 2