You Seen This Child?
Notes: I hope this isn't 'cheating'. This is part of a birthday gift-fic I wrote for a friend back in December. It's never been posted and I'm sharing it here with her permission. Thanks, Spacey!
Have You Seen This Child?
Blair wiggled himself, cross-legged, into a comfortable position on the couch. He possessively clutched the remote in one hand while readying his notebook and pencils with the other. A few minutes later Jim sidled into the room and plopped down on the opposite end of the couch. He glanced at the TV and frowned. Looking around the immediate area…floor, coffee table, couch…his gaze finally came to rest on the object of his search. A brief skirmish ensued and Jim, grinning in victory, brandished the remote in his right hand. The channel quickly changed to ESPN.
“Come on, man. I had the remote first.” An unsuccessful attempt to recapture the small black object failed.
“PBS, Chief? You’ve got to be kidding. It’s the playoffs.”
Blair knew there was no way he was going to win this one, but he had to make the token effort. “It’s an assignment. For a psych class I’m taking this semester. There’s a documentary on about missing children…you know…who would abduct kids and why. The motivation, psychological profiles…”
Jim raised his eyebrows skeptically. “Right. You have a professor who says you have to watch this show, right now…tonight?”
Blair pursed his lips and stood with a huff. He threw the notebook and pencils on the table and trudged over to the TV. Wordlessly, he began pulling tapes from the rack until he found one still sealed in clear cellophane wrap.
As Blair began fingering the buttons on the VCR, Jim stood and came over to watch, an odd, quizzical look on his face. “What are you doing?”
Ignoring the older man, Blair continued playing his fingers across the machine. After several minutes, he tore the blank tape from its wrapper and shoved it into the VCR. Still kneeling on the floor in front of the TV, Blair placed his hands on his thighs and stared up at Jim. “There. Happy?”
“I would be if I knew what the hell you just did.” Jim still had a puzzled look on his face.
Blair began to laugh. “You’re kidding? Right?” Jim’s expression clearly stated that he wasn’t. “Oh man…I don’t believe it! You don’t know how to program the VCR, do you? Is that why the time keeps flashing for days after an outage? Cuz you don’t know how to reset it?” Blair had rolled onto his side and was laughing manically.
Jim was smiling in spite of himself and nodding his head. “Laugh it up, Junior.” He walked back to the couch and sat with a bemused, tolerant look on his face as he watched his young roommate try to compose himself.
Blair crawled across the floor and pulled himself up onto the couch, still laughing. He giggled on and off throughout the entire first quarter, until Jim sent him a look that suggested that any possible humor that could be found regarding Jim’s technical skills had been exhausted.
The young grad student wiped the tears from his eyes and the smirk from his face as he settled, once again, into a comfortable position and watched the rest of the game with Jim.
Blair decided to watch the tape that same night. The next few days promised to be quite hectic…lectures, classes, office hours, meetings at the PD, a stakeout with Jim…he didn’t know how soon he’d have the time otherwise.
The documentary had ended and a public service clip was being aired. The announcer stated that there were still hundreds of open cases of missing or abducted children and the last twenty minutes of their allotted time would be used to run pictures and names. An 800 number scrolled along the bottom of screen, advising viewers to call if a face was recognized.
Blair scribbled in his notebook, absently glancing up periodically at the young innocent faces popping onto the screen. He stretched and rubbed wearily at his eyes, before grabbing the remote to stop the tape and rewind it. He took one final look at the TV and froze. The face that just vanished had looked familiar. A shaky hand reached for the remote and wobbly fingers fumbled with the buttons until the correct one was found. He re-played the tape slowly.
A girl, a girl, a boy, a girl…a boy. “Omigod.” The anguished whisper escaped his lips before he was aware he’d uttered it.
He knew that face… Jacob Preston.
Blair jumped to his feet and began to pace back and forth in front of the TV. His hands alternately combed through his curls, and then waved about aimlessly as his mind raced. As he passed the TV for the ninth time he stopped, transfixed, and stared disbelievingly at the smiling, happy, innocent face of Jacob Preston. He tore his gaze from the screen, turned to begin his pacing anew, and ran straight into Jim.
“What’s wrong, Chief? Your heart is going a mile a minute.” His guide’s agitated state had brought Jim out of the light sleep he was in. Blair had not even been aware of the older mans’ approach.
The young grad student silently willed himself not to look at the TV; his nimble mind went blank; he was trembling. Jim was holding him by the upper arms now, a concerned look creasing the handsome face. “You’re starting to scare me here, Junior.”
His resolve faltered and Blair’s eyes darted quickly, almost imperceptibly, to the frozen picture on the screen and then back to Jim. The detective caught the rapid eye movement and his gaze followed Blair’s.
Jim relaxed his hold and guided Blair and himself to seated positions on the couch. Blair closed his eyes and slumped against his friend. Jim kept one arm draped across the kid’s shoulder, holding him upright.
The message banner across the bottom of the screen was frozen, its message slightly fuzzy and wobbly. “Have you seen this child? Jacob Preston… Age 8…Last seen September 29 1977 Call 1-800-93…”
The deep blue eyes…the brilliant smile…the untamed riotous curls, still harboring strands of toddler-gold…the blue flannel shirt, which had an adult sized twin hanging in the closest of the small room under the stairs.
“Blair.” The softly whispered word was both a statement and a question.
The kid rested his head on Jim’s shoulder, his eyes glued to the image in front of them.
A light rain began to fall and tiny drops rattled against the glass balcony doors and overhead skylight. A soft, lonesome howling blew through the alley below as the wind picked up.
Jim repositioned them both, allowing Blair to draw his legs and feet up onto the couch and curl into a ball, his head now gently cradled in Jim’s lap. Jim pulled the afghan from the back of the couch and dropped it onto the small, trembling figure.
The sentinel drew his guide to him protectively as a faltering, impossibly young-sounding voice began recounting the story of Jacob Preston, Age 8.
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