New Arrivals
Author-Alicia
Titles

Code Blue
by Alicia

Summary: Henri faces every parent's worst nightmare. (Part of the Henri Brown series; also part of the Blood and Friendship AU where Blair and Brian are brothers.)

Notes: A thanks to my beta reader, Elli McGrath!

Disclaimer: I do not own the charcters of TS. If I did I'd take much better care of them! They are owned by Pet Fly and Paramount.

"You want to what? But why?" Henri asked his wife.

"Henri she's almost two years old, I've stayed home long enough. We talked about this all ready…you knew I was going to go back to work. Besides, it's only a few hours a day, three days a week." Shelia explained to her husband.

"But day care…can't your mom watch her?" Henri whined.

"Henri, mamma can and loves to watch Marissa, but just not all the time. Having other children to interact with will be good for her, and then she can have a heads up at getting a spot in the preschool program…"

"Geesh, Shelia, why don't we just skip all this preliminary stuff and send her right to college," Henri groused. "I'll get hair boy to bring the application to work."

"Henri Brown you're being unreasonable…"

"Baby, I have nothing against you going back to work, I know you miss it and get lonely…I'm just not comfortable with some stranger watching my baby girl…"

"Well that is one problem easily solved…I know one of the teachers at the center and I'll only be two buildings over. Listen, why don't we take a long lunch one day this week and you can go see for yourself, if you're still uncomfortable we'll find another way."

**********************

"Hi Maggie, hope this isn't a problem…Henri is a bit apprehensive about having Marissa out of his sight…" Shelia said to the day care director.

"Hey, I think it's great. Most fathers leave all the day care decisions to the wife and never have a clue what's going on. Come on in, look around, ask questions—let Marissa down to explore and play with the other children."

Henri watched as Shelia put Marissa down inside the large 30x30, carpeted play enclosure. The baby immediately toddled off in search of a toy. He looked around and saw several children about Marissa's age toddling about and playing, two more were being rocked and another was asleep in a crib. He was startled by loud voices coming from the far side of the room and saw a group of older children, maybe four or five, being led in song by another adult. "What's that?"

"That's the preschool program…we employ a certified teacher for the program and we also work closely with local kindergarten programs. We are proud to say most of our students adjust well and are well prepared for kindergarten—most beyond their peers that stay home until school age."

"What, like they can read and stuff…"

Maggie gave a chuckle, "Well, occasionally we get a child that shows a readiness for reading but mostly its following rules and routines, developing listening skills and following directions, developing motor and coordination skills for writing and just basic pre-reading skills that prepare them for the more formal learning process."

"Okaayy…" Henri said slowly, with a slow nod of his head.

"She means they teach them to hold a crayon like a pencil and teach them to sit still and take adult direction so that they will be prepared to do seat work and focus on learning when they get to school," Shelia explained to her clueless husband.

"I knew that." He pouted.

"Listen, Shelia, I've got to go help prepare the children's' lunches, why don't you and Henri go into the toddler area and observe for awhile. See how Marissa adjusts and how the rest of the staff interacts with the children, that should do a lot to ease any fears you have."

"Thanks, Maggie."

Henri sat on the floor near where his daughter was playing. He watched quietly as another toddler came and plopped down near them. The blue-eyed child eyed Henri curiously for a moment then held out the toy he was playing with.

"Thank you buddy," Brown said with a chuckle as he accepted the offered toy, causing the little boy to smile broadly and clap. Soon two more children came over, each waving a book. ".ead…ead…ead."

"Huh," Henri said catching the books before they hit him in the face.

One of the women in a rocking chair smiled. "They want you to read them the story."

"Oh, I can do that." He sat up and immediately all three little boys crawled into his lap.

Brown got through the first two pages before one of the toddlers squirmed out of his lap and bounced off to find a new toy. The other was listening intently while the third kept trying to turn the book back to the previous pages.

The woman from the rocking chair got up and put her sleeping charge in a nearby crib and came to sit next to Henri. "Their attention span isn't really long enough for a book. Just go through and point to the pictures on the pages, name one or two objects on the page and see if they'll repeat it. It's great for language development."

Bored with Henri one of the boys scampered off and the other went to plop down next to his teacher. "Ead?"

"Yes, we'll read. Come sit on my lap."

Once the child was on her lap and the book opened she began paraphrasing the book.

"Lookie, doggie—how's doggie go?"

"Ooff…ooff." The child responded.

Turning the page, the young woman said, "I see a farm. There's a ducky and a moo cow."

Curious at the ‘fun' noises coming from her father's direction Marissa got up and went to stand by the teacher's shoulder. She squealed excitedly, pointing to the book. "Mooo cow, mooo cow."

Henri and the young teacher looked at Marissa and laughed, while the toddler was trying to find a place on the teacher's lap to see the story better.

"Now, Marissa, don't push," Henri scolded his daughter lightly.

"Oh, daddy, she's quite all right." The teacher said rearranging the two children now on her lap. "This lap has held three and four at a time."

Since his daughter was now occupied, Henri decided to get a better look around. He went over to the kitchen area and watched as several people, including his wife, prepared the preschool children's plates. He watched as several children were called to wash their hands and help set the small tables. Once that was done he watched as the children quietly found their special placemats at the table. After each child was given a plate, an adult sat at either end of the table and began eating with the children, encouraging the children to try any new foods presented and talking with them about their day at school so far.

"Henry, why don't you go get Marissa? She can eat with the other babies today." Maggie directed, while placing another child in a nearby hi-chair.

"Oh, okay." When Henri reached down to pick up Marissa one of the toddlers from the earlier story-time also held up his hands to be picked up. "Two for the price of one." He said, carrying both children to the hi-chairs.

"You're a natural." Maggie commented, taking the little boy and indicating another chair for Marissa.

"His world revolves around his little princess." Shelia smiled. "He's even cut back on his work schedule a bit, which is no small task."

"A police officer, right?" Maggie asked, handing him a bib.

"Detective." Henri answered.

"Maybe we can get your help when the older children do their unit on community helpers?" Maggie suggested, raising an eyebrow.

"What, talk to the kids…like give a speech?" Henri sputtered. "I don't know about that."

Shelia laughed at her husband's exaggerated terror. "Maybe you can get Blair to help you."

"Yeah, he would fit right in over there. They might decide to keep him though." Henri mused.

*************************

"So, here is all the paperwork that you will need to fill out. If you want the spot let me know before the end of the week, I've got eight more names on the waiting list." Maggie said as she handed over a manila envelope.

"Thanks Maggie." Shelia said taking the envelope. "We'll let you know by tomorrow."

"So?" Shelia asked as they walked towards the car.

"Well, it was okay, I guess. I mean it was clean, the food was okay, Maggie is a real nice lady…"

"So that means you like it?" Shelia prodded.

"All right…it's all right." He answered. "Satisfied?"

**********************

THREE DAYS LATER

After a half an hour of hearing Henri tap his pencil nervously, pick up his phone then put it back down then sigh heavily and do it all over again Jim had had enough.

"Brown." He snapped irritably. "Stop doing that or I'm going to break your fingers. If you have a phone call to make just make it all ready."

"Huh! Oh, sorry." Henri apologized. However, two minutes later he was back to doing the same thing.

"Henri." Jim warned looking up. He spied Henri's partner getting off the elevator and called out to him. "Rafe, what is up with your partner today?"

Rafe looked over at Henri, who had the good grace to look chastised, before turning back to Jim. "Today is Marissa's first day at day care."

"Ah." Jim offered in understanding.

The sentinel looked back over at the distracted father a moment later, a frown on his face. "Which daycare? Do they do background checks on all their employees? You did have it all checked out right…all the paperwork is in order?"

Rafe laughed. "Just who is the father here? One nervous, distracted father is enough."

Henri and Jim both glared at their fellow detective, who just shrugged his shoulders and went back to work. Jim noticed Henri look at the clock again and stare wistfully at his telephone.

"Listen, things are slow right now. How about an early lunch, Blair's going to be at the university all day so I need a lunch partner." Jim said trying to sound casual and failing miserably. "Maybe…maybe, we could…uh, maybe, stop over at the center and you could, well, put your mind at ease. I mean, this being her first day and all."

"I don't believe you two. The child is only going to be there four hours. You act like she's gone off and joined the army or something." Rafe said in exasperation.

"Spoken like a man who has no children." Said Captain Banks, standing in the doorway to his office. "Go ahead and check on that baby girl of yours, Brown. I'm sure your sympathetic partner can finish the paperwork on the Gibson case while your gone. And if the 'blessed protector' thinks he's sneaking out too then I better get lunch out of it."

Both men grabbed their jackets and were to the elevator before Rafe finished groaning about the paperwork. "Ellison doesn't have kids." He grumbled.

"No, he has Sandburg." The captain said with a grin.

"Ah. Point taken." Brian commented at the captain's mention of his little brother.

***********************

They arrived at the center at lunchtime. The two detectives stood near the doorway and watched the organized chaos until one of the teachers went and nudged Maggie and pointed to the two men. She smiled and went to greet them.

"Ah, Detective Brown. I thought Marissa was going to be with us until two thirty today?"

Maggie questioned knowingly.

"Oh, well, she is. I mean Shelia will be here then to pick her up and all…"

"But you just needed to check on her, right? It's quite all right, you are welcome here anytime; you know that." Maggie said.

When both men continued to stand there she prodded. "In or out gentlemen. You know the routine detective, you're here you help; and I see you brought a friend today?"

"Oh, sorry. This is one of my co-workers, Detective Jim Ellison. He's on the emergency pick up list." Brown said.

"Yes, nice to meet you detective Ellison. I think detective Brown listed half the police force on his pick up list." Maggie said, shaking his hand. "Now get over there and feed your daughter…and you detective can help feed Harper, he loves making new friends."

Before he knew it, Jim was sitting on a stool in front of a slight, blue-eyed little boy who was getting more food in his hair than in his mouth. "Ah, hi ya' little fellow. You eating? Is it good?"

The little two year old smiled and held out a greasy handful of mashed potatoes. "Eat!"

"No thanks, kid, uh, Harper." Jim said

The child continued to hold out his hand, shaking his fist so bits of potato flew in all directions. "Eat! Mashies…eat!"

Maggie reached down and put her lips on the child's hand and made noisy eating sounds.

"Good mashies, now it's Harper's turn to eat mashies. Harper eat his mashies."

With that the child squealed happily and put his whole fist in his mouth.

"He was trying to share." She commented with a chuckle at the man's grimace.

"Oookkay. Do you always let them eat like this…with their fingers? Do they get enough? Seems most of it ends up everyplace but their mouths?" Jim questioned with a frown.

Maggie smiled at him. "You don't have children, do you, detective?"

"No."

"Children need a chance to explore and this develops fine motor skills and coordination." Maggie explained. "Faces and floors clean."

"Okay." Jim said under his breath, looking over a moment later when he heard Maggie chastising Henri.

"Don't you dare! Give her back that spoon right now, detective. She's two years old, she does not need to be feed like an infant."

"But…but, she's wearing it…it's getting on her dress." Henri defended, not giving up the baby spoon.

"Your wife packed her two other outfits. Clothes wash. Now let your daughter eat." Maggie said. "If you're so keen on spoon feeding, you can feed Keesha, she's only ten months old and needs the help."

"Oh, all right." Henri muttered, giving the spoon back to his daughter.

"Okay, Henri. I think we've seen enough. We need to swing by and pick up lunch." Jim said standing.

"Yeah. We can go."

Jim winced when sudden loud chattering and childish squealing hit his sentinel ears. He looked to see a horde of preschoolers filing in from an outside door.

"Hey man, guess I should have warned you. There are twenty-- four year olds here too." Henri said with a chuckle.

One young boy broke from the group and came running over. "'Etec' ive Henwi. Etec'ive Henwi. You'se back to pway?"

"Hey, Kaleb. I don't know buddy, I think it's time for you to eat." Henri answered the boy with a smile. "Maybe for a minute if Miss Ally says its okay."

"Kaleb." The teacher's voice warned. "Where are we supposed to be?"

"Mith Awey, can 'etec'ive Henwi pway wif us?"

Miss Ally looked at Henri questioningly. "If detective Henri has a minute he can come over and do the safety song with the group while we wash hands."

Looking over at his daughter who was happily playing in her green beans, Henri laughed and let the young boy lead him to the carpet where the other children were sitting. Jim watched as Henri found the right song and instructed the children to stand and sing the song with him.

Catching Jim's amused look, Henri motioned for him to come to the carpet. "Look, kids, I brought a friend with me today. His name is detective Jim. Say hi to detective Jim."

Jim tried to wave them off but the excited cries of the children propelled him forward with a low growl. "I'll get you for this Brown."

Twenty minutes later the two men were finally back in the car. "You missed your calling…you should have been a teacher." Jim commented.

"What? Can you imagine going through that every single day? No thanks, man. Takin' down a warehouse full of perps is a whole lot easier than trying to keep twenty four year olds and ten infants entertained all day." Henri exclaimed. "And the mess!"

"Think they'd have a spot for Sandburg?" Jim chuckled.

"As a teacher or a student?" Henri teased.

The days passed into weeks and somehow Henri, with Jim in tow, managed at least one trip a week to the center to "check" on Marissa.

"Hey, Brian, where's everybody?" Blair asked his brother as he bounced into the Bullpen. "Thought I could catch you guys for some lunch?"

"You'll have to settle for just me today." Brian smirked. "Ellison and Brown are…*out*."

"Out? Working on a case?"

"No. Out to lunch actually."

"Why didn't you go? Is something wrong…midterms and all I've hardly seen Jim at all the past couple of weeks." Blair asked in concern.

"No, nothings wrong." Brian laughed and shook his head as he got up and grabbed his coat. "Come on, you'd never believe me if I told you."

****************

"Brian, bro, why are we in front of Tiny Tots Daycare?" Blair asked suspiciously as Brian pulled into the parking lot.

"I told you you'd never believe me…just come and look."

Blair followed his brother into the building and into the observation room with the one- way mirror for parents to monitor their children without drawing their attention.

Blair's eyes scanned the room, his eyes widening in shock, as his eyes came to rest on one 'tough as nails, stoic, cop'…one James Joseph Ellison, sitting on the carpet reading a story to a group of small children.

"Is…is that…is that Jim?" Blair gasped out.

"Told you, you wouldn't believe me!" Brian smirked.

"Uh, how…why…?"

"Henri was all uptight when Marissa started here about a month ago…Jim got all uptight right along with him. They came to check on her that first day and have come once a week, every week, since." Brian explained.

"How come I'm just now finding out?"

"Don't ask me, he's your room mate!" Brain said. "Is this, well, is this some sort of…sentinel thing or something. I mean, come on, the man barely tolerates people as it is and he's in there with all those noisy little…creatures. Wouldn't that kind of…screw with his sense of hearing or something?"

"He has it dialed down, no doubt." Blair commented his brow furrowed in thought. "It's his protective streak…the sentinel *is* the watchman of the tribe. And he is even more protective of the people closest to him…and Marissa being the youngest and most vulnerable member of his inner circle…the sentinel needs to know she's safe."

"If you say so." Brian shrugged. "Let's beat a retreat before we get caught and have to do story duty."

********************

He had to go to three different bookstores before he found what he was looking for but the effort would be well worth the look on his sentinels face come that evening. To soften the 'blow' Blair set out to prepare one of Jim's favorite meals.

The key turned in the lock just as Blair was scooping the vegetables in the wok for stir- fry.

"Good timing, dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes."

"Smells great. Gives me a chance to clean up." Jim said.

When Blair heard the water running in the shower he quickly went to the couch and pulled the book out of a bag he had hidden behind a pillow and hid it under his friend's placemat and went back to cooking dinner.

He was spooning the stir-fry out on plates and bringing to the table when Jim padded down the stairs, dressed from his shower.

Jim immediately noticed his plate was slightly off balance and raised slightly above the table. "What the…"

Picking up his plate and placemat as one he peered under them and say a small book sitting on the table, the title clearly visible…"Sesame Streets, I Want to be a Policeman".

Blair just looked at him innocently. "Something wrong Jim?"

"Uh…chief…this book…"

"Thought you'd like it…you seemed to enjoy it this afternoon."

"This afternoon? This…aftern…you, you came to the center?" Jim blustered. "But why…how did you, wait…Brian told you, didn't he?"

"More to the point, my friend, why didn't you tell me?" the question was without malice, only curiosity.

"I really don't know. Maybe I just didn't want it analyzed to death." Jim shrugged.

"Not much to analyze…you're a sentinel, a protector. It would only be natural for you to be drawn to the most vulnerable of the tribe." Blair said.

"Always back to the sentinel stuff." Jim frowned.

"Okay, how's this." Blair said with a grin. "One James Ellison is not the big, tough, old meany he lets the world see and is in reality just a big ol' cream puff."

" 'Big old meany'? Such scientific and technical words you use." Jim snorted. "How about I was just helping out a friend?"

"A friend? You mean Brown? I'm sure he doesn't need you to hold his hand while he peeks in on his daughter." Blair piped in with amusement, raising his eyebrows "And somehow I think story time goes above and beyond here Jim."

"Can it Sandburg…I've all ready asked for enrollment paperwork!" Jim smirked, eying his guide pointedly.

"Enrollment papers, what…hey, I'm a big boy…well past story time and afternoon naps!"

"Don't know there chief, Brian did say he'd go half on the fee…" Jim said with mock seriousness.

"*You* are a bad influence…" Blair grumbled, waving a finger at his friend.

"Hey, who said it was my idea." Jim defended, barely containing his laughter.

"Because…because, Brian isn't…isn't, a big meany like you are." Blair stuttered.

"Eat your dinner chief, it's getting cold." Jim said with a laugh.

*******************

Weeks turned into months and the two detectives, the forever young observer and even, from time to time, Captain Bank's himself, became regular fixtures at the center. Only Brian refused to be a part of the "baby brigade" as he had come to dub it.

"They're noisy and…and they're messy…I've watched those little 'creatures' through the window. I mean, they are all always dripping from some orifice or another…and I saw how they eat…yuck!" Brain defended, smoothing out his suit. "Besides, someone has to hold down the fort while you guys go 'play'!"

"Oh, come on man." Blair cajoled. "You don't know what your missing 'til you hold a baby or see a kid's face light up when they learn something new."

"Yeah, well you're the teacher…you're supposed to like that stuff." Brian shot back. "I'll stick with catching the bad guys, thank you."

"I'll remember you said that the next time we got to chase a perp through the mud or some greasy warehouse." Henri chuckled.

*****************

"Damn." Henri cursed, dropping the receiver onto the cradle.

"What?" Rafe asked, looking up.

Brown's eyes were skimming the bullpen, before another curse escaped his lips.

"What?" Rafe asked again more forcefully.

"That was the DA's office, the deposition on the Gibson case…they want it this afternoon." Henri groused.

"So?"

"Shelia is at an all day meeting…I was counting on a slow afternoon and an early day." Henri grumbled, his eyes again scanning the bullpen. "I was supposed to pick up Marissa today."

"Can't your mother in law watch her?" Brian asked.

"I'm sure she can, I can give her a call. But, I still have to pick her up and take her over there…their car is in the shop for a tune up."

"Listen, you call Louisa, make sure she's able to watch her. I'll go pick the kid up and take her over there." Brian said with a shrug.

"What? Is that *my* partner, Mr. Brian Rafe---offering to go into the lion's den?" Henri said with surprise, teasing. "Who are you and what have you done with my partner?"

"Geesh, it's not that big a deal…run in, run out. How bad can it be? Not like *I'm* going to stay for story time!" Brian said.

"You sure about this…I mean, I'm sure that Jim or Blair or even Simon can do it." Henri said cautiously.

"I'm sure I can handle it. Now make those phone calls before I change my mind." Brian shot back.

"It's all set." Brown said a few minutes later. "The center is expecting you at two and Louisa knows your coming."

*****************

Jim and Blair were just pulling into the garage as Henri was putting the car seat into the back of Brian's car.

"What's up guys?" Blair asked.

"The Gibson deposition got rescheduled so my brave and valiant partner has offered to pick Marissa up from daycare and take her over to Louisa's." Brown explained, crawling back out of the car. "There all set."

"Hey, man, I'm not busy, I can do it." Blair piped in.

"I *can* do it." Brian said in exasperation. "Besides, the seat is all ready in my car."

"Need company." Blair pressed.

"No. I *do not* need company! I *do not* need any help!" Brian said in annoyance. "Geesh, guys, I'm just going to pick up a two year old and take her to her grandmother not climb Mount Everest or something."

"Okay. Okay." Brown placated holding up his hands in surrender, a grin on his face. "Thank you very much for your brave endeavor on behalf of my daughter."

"Brown!" Rafe warned.

"I'm sorry, man, couldn't resist." Brown apologized with a laugh. "Go, get out of here. I've got to get to the DA's office."

"Call if you need anything." Jim said as Brian got into his car.

"Not you too?" the man groused. "I can handle this…scout's honor."

*****************

Brian paused hesitantly right inside the door, looking around unsure.

"You must be Detective Rafe." Maggie said approaching him.

"Uh, yeah. I'm, uh…I'm here to pick up Marissa Brown. Her father, Henri, called." Brain stammered, his eyes on the "chaos" that made up the room.

"You're a few minutes early yet…she's having her snack. Come on in and we'll gather up her things." Maggie said turning to walk back into the room, stopping after only a few steps when she realized the young man was not with her. "Detective, this way."

"Uh, yeah…couldn't I just stay…uh, right here?"

"Uhm…no." she answered succinctly.

"What? What do you mean no?" he said in surprise.

"No. N.O." Maggie answered again, turning quickly so Brian could not see the grin on her face before continuing. "Come on in and sit with the…how did it go…'the noisy little creatures'…until Marissa is done. All of our families have to participate."

"But, uhm…I didn't mean…I mean, I'm not family…Henri, he's my partner and all…and I do love kids…well, as long as they belong to someone else and all." Brian stammered in embarrassment.

"Brother's in blue…" Maggie said, quirking an eyebrow at the uncomfortable young man. "I'm familiar with how close cops…partners, can be. I know you're one of Marissa's 'favorite' uncles. She talks about you all the time."

Before he knew it he was sitting with the four year olds, a few cookies and a glass of juice sitting in front of him.

"Class, this is Detective Brian…one of Detective Henri's friends. Say hello to Detective Brian." Maggie instructed the children.

"Uh, hi kids." Brian said, waving his hand.

"Now, while you are enjoying snack time with the children I'll get Marissa ready for you. Be right back."

"But…" Brain turned, but Maggie was all ready gone. Brian looked around the room suspiciously as all the adults seemed extremely preoccupied with whatever task they were currently engaged and not one ever looked his way.

"I'm going to get you for this, Brown." Brian grumbled quietly. "You are so dead!"

Brian gave the kids a weak wave and a lopsided grin before picking up a cookie and taking a bite.

"You weally a 'tective like Misser Henri?" asked one of the little boys.

"Yep, really a detective. He and I are partners…uh, that means we work together."

"You work with misser Jim and misser Blair too?" asked another child.

"Yeah, sweetie, I work with mister Jim and mister Blair."

The conversation was halted by the approach of their teacher, Miss Ally. "Class, finish your juice, its time to go outside."

"You 'tum outside wif us?" asked a little boy.

"Sorry, kiddo, I have to take Marissa to her grandmother and then go back to work."

Brian watched the teacher, Miss Ally; expertly get the children to clean up their mess and don hats and jackets for the playground. He briefly wondered if his little brother had made a move on the young teacher yet. 'Maybe story time wouldn't be so bad after all.'

The detectives musings were interrupted by a man entering the center from the side door that led to the playground, Brian noted with unease that the man's features were hard and dark as the stranger's eyes scanned the room before making a bee line for the group of preschoolers.

"I'm here for my son." The man demanded as he came up behind Miss Ally.

"Excuse me? I'm sorry sir, if you could tell me your name and the name of the child you are here to pick up…" Ally said evenly.

"Stephen. I'm here to pick up my son Stephen." The man snapped out impatiently, looking at the group of children. "Stephen. Stephen, come on, it's time to go."

"I'm sorry. But I was not informed that anyone else would be picking Stephen up today…"

"I'm telling you now. Just get his stuff." The man interrupted impatiently, turning his gaze back on the uncertain group of children. "Stephen, I said get over here, now, boy."

"I'm afraid it doesn't work that way sir. I need to see some ID and I need to call his mother." Ally informed the man, stepping in front of the children.

"I don't need yours' or that bitches permission to pick up my son." The man spat out angrily, attempting to push past the young woman. "Now get out of my way."

Brain had decided to step in when Maggie stepped past him and confronted the two arguing adults. "Is there a problem, Miss Ally?"

"This gentleman wants to pick Stephen up. I've tried to tell him I need to call his mother and see some ID…"

"And I said I'm the boy's father, so stop interfering…"

"Sir, if you cannot calm down I'll have to ask you to leave." Maggie said.

"You think you can just kick me out of here…keep me from my son. I don't think so." The man sneered.

"Maybe she can't, but I can." Brian said, coming up to stand beside Maggie. "I suggest you leave now, sir, before you get into some serious trouble."

"The only trouble I see is you getting that pretty face all busted up for something that don't concern you."

"You can try, but I wouldn't recommend it." Brain said.

"And why's that?"

Just then a tiny, but angry little voice shouted out from the knot of frightened children. "'Cause 'tective Bwien will 'rest you and take you to jail you ol' meany."

The man raised an eyebrow in surprise and Brian groaned inwardly, as any chance of the situation ending peaceably decreased dramatically.

"Cop, huh? Sent you here to watch the place, try to nail me when I show up to get my boy…well, he's my son damn it and that bitch ain't keeping him from me." The man said angrily, pulling a gun from his waistband.

Several people screamed and still more children began to cry in terror.

"Shut up. Just everyone shut up." The man yelled angrily, waving the gun around.

Brian pushed Maggie behind him and took several steps backwards, giving the gunman some space before he panicked, and was pleased to see Ally pushing the other children back towards an office.

"Maggie, back up slowly and go calm the other workers down." Brian whispered before turning his attention back to the gunman.

"Whoa, man, ease up. You don't want that gun going off accidentally and hitting a kid, maybe even yours." Brain said quietly, hands in front of him. "Come on man, we can work something out, you don't want to hurt anyone here."

"Don't I." The man sneered. "When's that bitch getting here? Shoulda' done something about her a long time ago…"

Suddenly realizing there was no one behind him he yelled. "Where'd you go? Where's my son. Bring me my son bitch or I start shootin'."

The door to the office slowly opened and Ally came out with a terrified boy clinging behind her.

"Get over here boy." The man snapped.

The boy made no move to go to the raging man, clinging more tightly to his teacher.

"Look what you're doing to him. You're scaring him to death." Ally snapped. "Is that what you want, for your son to be afraid of you?"

"He's my kid, I'll do with him what I see fit." The man snarled. "I said get over here boy."

The boy whimpered and hid deeper behind his teacher. "He doesn't want to go with you. Why don't you just leave before you cause any more harm to him."

The sound of sirens in the distance suddenly got everyone's attention and Brian really hoped Ally had used her few minutes in the office to call 9-1-1, and that those sirens were heading towards the center.

The gunman, hearing the sirens grow louder, leveled the gun suddenly and fired. "You bitch."

Brian reacted, and jumped at the suspect, only to get the butt of the gun crashing into his temple, stunning him momentarily.

The man reached over and grabbed the petrified boy and dragged him out of the door while Maggie raced over to help Brian up.

"Oh, god, Ally!" Maggie said in panicked whisper as she and Brian knelt beside the injured teacher.

"It's a shoulder wound, it's a lot of blood but she should make it. Keep pressure on it and call 911." Brain instructed quickly, heading out the door in pursuit of the fleeing man.

The child was starting to fight his father and the man was having a hard time keeping a hold of the child and keeping him moving towards the car. Across the parking lot Brain raised his weapon and yelled. "Hold it. Cascade PD."

The man turned and fired, sending Brian rolling for cover as the first squad cars came barreling around the corner.

"Give it up." Brian yelled.

"Like hell." The man yelled back firing several more rounds in Brian's general direction.

As squad cars slid to screeching stops and cops pored from the cars and took defensive stances against the gunman, the man retreated backwards toward the front door of the center, keeping his son between him and the officers.

Knowing the real potential for a full-blown hostage situation if the gunman made it back inside the center, Brain raced towards the gunman, weapon at the ready. "Stop. Hold it right there. Don't make me take you down in front of your son."

The man stopped, mere feet from the door to the center, and swung his gun to point at the new threat. "You just had to make it complicated didn't ya'?"

"The only person making this complicated is you." Brian said. "Let's just end it now, before anyone else gets hurt."

"No, damn it. It's that bitch. Trying to keep me from seeing my son." The man spat out angrily.

"Yeah, man, let's talk about your son for a minute." Brian said. "Is this how you want him to know his old man…as a criminal…a killer."

"I ain't killed no one…yet" he shot back.

"That woman inside…you shot her, and if she doesn't get help soon she could die. Then you'll never see your son. Is that what you want?"

"What I want is for you to back up and let me walk to my car and get out of here."

"Can't do that man. I can't let you walk away with the kid." Brian said. "What kind of life is that for him… you running, always looking over your shoulder."

The felon just shook his head and gave a quick look out toward the squad cars in the parking lot, taking a few steps backwards to lean against the glass door. "Damn, it wasn't supposed to go down this way."

"Just give it up…"

"Give it up? You just don't get it man. I'm done, three strikes and your out man. This was my last shot…I go down, I go down for good this time." The man said. "I just needed to get away, start over…"

"Then why did you pull this stunt man?" Brian asked in apparent sympathy.

"He's my son damn it. She's poisoning him against me, she got the judge to give her full custody."

Across the parking lot from where the tense drama was playing out a worried guide was pressing his sentinel for answers. "What's going on Jim? Is Brian all right, the kids?"

Jim held up a silencing hand as he listened to the detective and the gunman. "Brian's trying to talk him down, but the guys not buying it…if he goes down for this he goes down for good."

"Damn." Blair cursed. "That makes him more dangerous, if he feels he has nothing to lose."

Just then Simon sidled up to the truck where the two men were under cover. "I've got units in the back trying to get in and get all the kids and teacher's out…how's Brian doing?"

"He's stalling, but this guys not going down without a fight Simon. We may have to take him out." Jim reported succinctly.

"Damn." Simon cursed with a frustrated sigh, eying the car careening into the parking lot he deflated further. "And things just went from bad to worse."

Turning towards where Simon was looking they saw Brown jump from his car and come quickly to their position. "What the hell is going on?"

"Get down Henri." Jim ordered, grabbing the detective's jacket and pulling him down.

"Marissa? Where's Marissa and…god, is that Brian?" Henri gasped, seeing his partner in an apparent standoff with the gunman.

"From what we got from the 9-1-1 call some father came to pick up his kid and when the staff got suspicious and refused he pulled a gun…" Simon started to explain.

"But why…why pull a gun?"

"His wife has custody, and from what we can gather he has a record, too." Simon answered.

"The kids? How, where are the kids?" Henri asked in agitation. "Where's Marissa?"

"As far as we know all the kids are fine." Simon said forcefully. "But a teacher was shot--we don't know how bad yet. I've sent units around the back to extract them while Brian keeps him busy."

"How?" Henri asked as he looked over to where his partner was still in a stand off with the gunman.

"Brian was in there when the guy pulled the gun, chased him into the parking lot and kept him from getting back in the center." Simon reported. "Kept the situation from escalating further."

Blair gave Jim a look and quirked his head towards Brain and the gunman, his _expression clearly asking, 'what's going on?'

"Simon, we've got to do something soon. This guy's not giving up." Jim reported after a moment.

Reaching into Jim's truck Simon grabbed the mic. "This is Bank's. Status."

"We're inside, sir. We've got one injury, a teacher. The kids all appear fine, just frightened. We're stabilizing the injured party now then we're pulling out with the hostages." An officer reported.

"Report back when you're clear of the building." Simon ordered the rescue team, then turning towards his detectives he said, "As soon as it's clear Jim, take your shot."

"Understood." Jim said with a nod.

Four tense minutes later the rescue team reported a success. Simon rose up from behind Jim's truck, bullhorn in hand. "It's over son. Turn your weapon over to the detective before this ends badly for everyone."

"No. I'm not going back to prison." The man yelled, waving his gun at Brian. "My fingers on the trigger man, you shoot me I shoot your cop friend here."

"Give up son, we don't want to hurt you." Simon again asked. "It's over."

"You're right it's over, but I'm not going alone." The man cocked his weapon, his finger closing over the trigger when two shots fired hitting the gunman high in the chest.

The gunman looked down in surprise at the growing bloodstain spreading across his chest, his hold on his son loosened enough for the boy to wiggle away and dive behind Brain's legs, grabbing him around the knees with a death grip.

As the other officer's slowly approached, Brian kept his gun trained on the felon as he fell to the ground in a heap, holstering it and grabbing up the crying child only after Jim and Simon came in with the cuffs.

Hugging the child tight, Brian petted the child's head and whispered comforting words. "Sshhh, buddy, it's okay. It's all over now. Ssshhh, you're okay. You're going to be fine. We'll find your mommy and you'll be just fine. Ssshhh."

*******************

Later that evening

"…and so the potentially long and lethal hostage situation was averted by the quick actions of a Cascade police detective Brian Rafe, who kept the would be felon from retreating back into the day care center and keeping his attention while Cascades special tactical team got the hostages out safely from the rear of the building." As the reporter moved on to the national news the TV was flipped off.

"That's what I like to hear. A nice clean operation." Simon said with a smile. "We ought to be good for positive press on this one for months to come…a hero in our midst and all."

"Uh, cap. just doing my job." Brian said sheepishly, embarrassed by the attention.

"Think the mayor's talking commendation even." Jim piped in with a smile.

"Guys!" Brian protested.

*END*

Notes--in this day and age of high school shootings and child killers this situation is not so unrealistic. In the type of school situation I teach (the federal Head Start program) I have come across parents in bitter divorces and custody disputes as well as domestic violence. Always be prepared and cautious. Protect yourself and your children. In the school I work 'Code Blue' is an actual intercom code that indicates there are weapons and/or weapon carriers on the premises!