by Gemini
Beta read by Cheri Allen and Danae
Written for PetFly by Gail Morgan Hickman

Rated PG
internal thoughts in italics

Prologue (8 years ago)

A girl, her dark hair spread out on her pillow, lay sleeping in her room, silently guarded by stuffed animal sentries. Then a hand touched her shoulder and a well-known voice spoke.

"Stacey? Stacey, honey, wake up."

She opened her eyes. "Hmm? What?"

"Stacey, you have to get dressed."

She blinked sleepily. "Mom, why?" The girl hugged her stuffed dog closer.

"Look, I don't have time to explain. Just hurry." Her mother gently took the stuffed dog from the girl's grasp and stood up.

Stacey slipped from her bed and started pulling on her clothes.

A few minutes later, Stacey walked quietly down the stairs. There were a couple boxes in the entryway, and some suitcases next to the front door. When she reached the first floor, she looked around the corner into the living room and saw her father near the fireplace. He was throwing some papers into the fire. He turned and looked at her for a moment, then returned to his task. Stacey's mom came by and put a few more suitcases down by the front door.

Stacey asked, "Mommy, what's going on?"

"We have to go on a trip. Tonight."

"Where are we going?"

Her mom looked at her for a moment. "We don't know yet," she said gently.

Once everything had been packed and taken out to the car, they locked the house and hurried to the car. Stacey got into the back seat, and her parents finished packing the suitcases into the trunk. The car rocked slightly as Stacey's dad closed the trunk.

He said to his wife, "We better stay off the main highway. We'll take the back roads."

She nodded to him, worry creasing her brow. As he moved towards the driver's side, she walked towards the passenger side, where Stacey sat. Careful to put a reassuring expression on her face, she leaned down and handed the stuffed dog in to her daughter. "Don't want to forget Bowser."

Stacey smiled back at her mom, who then took her place in the car. Stacey hugged her stuffed animal tightly to her chest and rested her head on it as the car pulled away from their home.

Behind them, a large truck started up and followed their car at a distance.

Rain was slashing down as the family drove down the dark, deserted road. The truck was still behind them, its bright lights on. Stacey's father was having difficulty seeing because of the reflections from the headlights of the truck. Her mother was looking back at the truck, fear evident in her face.

Stacey jerked upright, eyes wide, when she felt something bump the car, hard. Whirling around, she saw the truck that had been following them, right behind the car. It pulled forward and hit the car again. "Mommy! What's happening?"

Her mom shouted, "Brian, what's he doing?"

The truck bumped them again and again.

"He's going to kill us," Brian said grimly.

The car lost the battle against the larger truck, falling through a guardrail and off the road.

"Hold on!" yelled Brian.

Stacey screamed.

After what seemed like forever, the car stopped moving. Stacey found herself lying against the inside door of the car, looking up the hill toward the truck, which was parked on the road above them. She saw a man outlined in the headlights of the truck for a moment, then the throbbing in her head overwhelmed her, bringing a welcome darkness and relief from pain.

Act I (Present)

A young woman, her dark hair spread out on her pillow, lay sleeping in a hospital room. Sensors taped to her forehead were attached to leads that were, in turn, hooked to monitors that stood as silent sentries as she slept. But when she moved her head in her sleep, the leads disturbed her, bringing her to panicked consciousness.

Sitting up suddenly, she reached up and tore the sensors from her head, flinging them away from her and trying frantically to untangle the leads that twisted around her arms and hands. The monitors started beeping and flashing, frightening her even more. Completely panicked now, she pushed a tray away from the bed, causing it to crash loudly to the floor, its contents scattering. She fell off the bed, landing on her hands and knees next to the tray. Catching her reflection in the silver tray, she picked the tray up and stared, then shook her head. Her eyes showed her confusion and disbelief as she looked at her image in the makeshift mirror.

Out at the nurses' station in the hall, the night nurse was talking on the telephone. When she heard the clattering from Stacey's room she spun to look in that direction and said into the phone, "Oh, God. It's Stacey Newman. She's pulled out her monitors again. Let me call you back." Hanging up the receiver, she hurried to check on her charge.

Tossing the tray aside, Stacey pushed herself to her feet. She looked around wildly, then rushed behind the door to hide.

The nurse slowly moved into the room. Seeing no sign of her patient, she called out, "Stacey? Oh, my God." She started to walk over to the empty bed. Behind her, Stacey shoved the door at the nurse, knocking her down, then skittered out of the room and down the hall.

The nurse called, "Stacey!" but the young woman did not respond.

Stacey ignored the nurse's call as she hurried away. She ducked into a stairwell and headed down the stairs, clutching tightly to the railing with both hands; her descent was somewhat awkward, even with her careful handhold on the railing. When she reached the ground floor, she stopped for a moment, glanced around nervously, and then pressed the wide bar that opened the door. Taking a deep breath, she stepped outside.

It was cold and damp out. Distant sounds of traffic were somewhat muted. Lights from street lamps glinted off puddles on the sidewalks and streets around the huge hospital. She shivered, pulling the thin robe around her. She wandered along the sidewalk next to the hospital, looking at the many lights and parked vehicles with a dazed expression. She idly tugged at her ID bracelet while she walked. As she wandered past the main entrance to the hospital, the ID bracelet finally broke loose. With a sigh of relief, she let it fall from her fingers. Not watching where it fell, she kept walking, away from the lights of the hospital, and into the relative darkness of the surrounding city.

Dr. Kevon Tarloff ran down the hospital hallway, swearing softly under his breath. He came to a stop by the south elevators where a security guard was waiting for him. At the guard's questioning look, he said, "She wasn't in intensive care or physical therapy. Now, I want you to go down and check the basement to see if she's hiding down there."

As the guard left, the night nurse from Stacey's floor approached him. "Dr. Tarloff!"

He turned to her, brows furrowed in concern. "You have any luck?"

She held up a broken ID bracelet. "I found this outside the main entrance."

The doctor grimaced. "Stacey's ID bracelet. Go tell Security that she's outside the hospital. Go, go, go!"

Blair Sandburg steered his Volvo down the city street, singing along to Angie Ferris' song, 'Coming Back to Me Now.' Without warning, a blur of white ran in front of his car and he slammed on his brakes. The Volvo screeched to a stop. Blair sat for a moment, stunned. "Whoa!" He scrambled to get out of the car.

Walking carefully over to the alley where the blur had disappeared, he saw a young woman huddled next to the wall of the building, knees drawn up to her chest. "Hey," he said softly. "Hey, you okay? You scared me there. You need some help?"

The woman--she seemed more like a girl, almost, though she looked old enough to be a woman--looked up at him with an expression that was both fearful and hopeful.

Blair squatted next to her. "Um, my name's Blair. What's your name?"

She blinked at him, but did not speak.

He took in the hospital gown and robe and slippers. "Do you know which hospital you were in? I could take you back there."

She just looked at him, the fear in her eyes increasing. If anything, she seemed to huddle into herself more.

"Hey, it's okay." He made calming motions with his hands, smiling at her gently. "Okay, I tell you what, why don't you come with me, and I'll help you get home, okay?" He stood slowly and held out his hand.

With a shuddering intake of breath, the young woman took Blair's hand and rose to her feet.

"Hey, you look cold. Here, put this on." He took off his coat and slipped it around her shoulders. She smiled shyly at him.

They walked over to his car. He helped her into the passenger seat and showed her how to buckle her seatbelt. Clutching the coat around her shoulders, she looked up at him as he closed the door. He smiled at her, then walked around to the driver's side of the car.

"Sure, Steven, sounds great. Next Tuesday, noon, at McAbee's. See you then." Hanging up the phone, Jim Ellison moved over to the balcony doors and stood for a few minutes, looking out over his city. It was still awkward talking with his brother, but they were both trying, and he was glad for the chance to renew their relationship. Meeting for lunch was another step on the path to reestablishing the connection their dad had worked so hard to sever.

He finally turned back toward the table where his sandwich awaited him. Seating himself, he turned the Jack Kerouac book over, found his place, and picked up the sandwich. Jim was just about to take a bite when the door opened. Sighing, and wondering if fate didn't want him to eat this meal, he set it down again. So much for my quiet night alone.

Blair entered, at a much slower rate than usual.

That's odd. Sandburg moving at only half light speed? Jim thought. "Sandburg, I thought you were going to the movies."

"Yeah, uh, I was, but something happened." He turned toward someone standing in the hallway, reaching out a hand. "Come on in. It's okay."

Curious, Jim watched as a tall, slim young woman hesitantly entered the loft. She was dressed in a hospital gown and robe with Blair's coat over her shoulders and only socks on her feet. Her posture radiated diffidence, and she held her head to one side, her eyes looking away from Jim.

What the hell? Jim stared at her for a minute, dumbfounded. Where did he find her? God, Sandburg is too kindhearted for his own good; the kid brings home strays. "Who's this? Your date for the evening?" Even as he said it, Jim winced. Damn, that sounded nasty.

Blair gave him a disbelieving look. "Jim--!"

"Sorry," Jim mumbled. "I didn't mean…" He cleared his throat. "Who is she?"

Watching the girl, who was wandering around the loft, looking at the various objects on the shelves, Blair said, "I almost hit her with my car. She jumped right out in front of me. She's not talking, she doesn't have any ID, and… she looks terrified."

Tilting his head, Jim cast a professional eye at their unexpected guest. "Judging from the gown, I'd say she's an escapee from the psych ward at Engelman General. I'll make a few calls. See what we can find out here." He headed toward the telephone in the kitchen.

Blair watched the young woman wander around as Jim called Engelman General. "Yeah, this is Detective Jim Ellison from Cascade Police Department. I was wondering if any of your patients are missing."

While Jim talked, the girl's attention was drawn to a handmade doll on a shelf. She picked it up and began gently stroking its hair.

Jim looked at her with a practiced eye, then continued speaking into the phone. "A Caucasian female, about five foot, five inches, between, uh, one-ten, one-twenty. Uh, brown hair… Well, she's got that green gown on…."

Listening as Jim continued his telephone conversation, Blair decided to see if he could start a conversation with their guest. "You like that? That was made by a tribe in the Pacific Northwest called the Haida Nation." She startled slightly when Blair spoke from just behind her, but did not respond.

Blair heard Jim's voice from the kitchen as he ended his telephone call. "Yeah. All accounted for. All right, thanks." Jim hung up the phone and moved toward them. "She's not from Engelman."

Blair squeezed the girl's shoulder reassuringly. "There's a ton of other hospitals in Cascade, Jim."

Jim turned away and walked back toward the table. "I think we should just take her down to the station and let them sort it out down there."

Moving toward Jim, arms moving through the air to emphasize his words, Blair said, "No, no! That's why I brought her here, man. The station'll terrify her. There's too much going on."

Jim swung around and looked at Blair, his head tipped and one eyebrow raised. "You got a better idea? Come on."

The young woman continued hugging and rocking the Haida doll.

The telephone rang and Jim answered it. "Yeah, it's Ellison…. Uh-huh…. All right. I'll be there in fifteen minutes. Where are you guys again? … All right." He hung up and turned toward Blair.

Leaning back against one of the kitchen chairs, Blair looked at Jim when he was off the phone. "What's up?"

"That was Brown. He's on a stakeout. Dolinski was supposed to relieve him. Only Dolinski just called in with the flu." Jim moved over toward the kitchen as he spoke. He put on a holster, brought a gun out from a drawer, checked it and put it in the holster.

"You got to take over for him?" Blair asked

"Yeah." Jim snagged his black leather jacket off one of the hooks behind the door and slid it on. He picked up his ID from the drawer, and slipped it into one of the pockets of his jacket.

Blair asked, "Well, uh, why don't we just let her stay here tonight until we figure out what to do with her?"

Their guest had moved over toward the couch and lay down while they were talking.

"Chief, we don't know anything about this girl. She could be a doper, have outstanding warrants. She might need medication."

"Come on, Jim. What are you talk--" Blair peeked over the couch and looked at her as she lay on the couch. She was curled up, her eyes were closed, and she had the doll wrapped up in her arms. "Jim, come on, take a look. How dangerous could she be?" His voice was softer.

"Sandburg, I just don't think it's a good idea…"

"Well, what should I do?"

Jim sighed. "All right. Call Missing Persons. You ask for Bellows. Any problems, call me on my cell phone."

"All right," Blair said.

"And Sandburg? Why don't you lock up the cutlery?"

Blair laughed a little. Jim had just reached the door when Blair asked, "Hey, Jim, you don't want your sandwich any more, do you?"

In a few long strides, Jim retrieved his sandwich and returned to the door.

"I'll see you in the morning." He left.

Blair returned to the couch. He carefully draped a blanket over the young woman. "Goodnight," he whispered.

Then he moved into the kitchen, dialed the phone and, a few moments later, said, "Missing Persons, please…"

The sun was shining into the loft, gently lighting Blair, who slept curled on the yellow chair, and the young woman, who still lay on the couch. The silence was broken by a knocking on the door.

Hurrying to the door, Blair called out, "Who is it?" He glanced at his sleeping guest as he walked past her.

A man's voice responded, "We're from Somerset Rehabilitation Hospital. We got a call from the police. You found one of our patients."

Reaching the door, Blair said, "Uh, yeah, yeah. Hang on." He opened the door and two men came in. "Hey, how you doing? Good morning. Come on in. Blair," he said, indicating himself.

One of the men responded absently to Blair's introduction. "Peter."

"She's right over here," Blair said, indicating the couch.

The girl, who was now awake, got off the couch and edged away from the two men who were closing in on her. She tried to dodge them, but there were two of them, and it took them only moments to capture her. She twisted and tugged, but could not get away. Within a couple minutes, they were leading her through the door, down the hall, and into the elevator. Blair followed, frowning.

By the time they reached the street, the situation had gone from bad to worse. The two men were trying to force the girl across the sidewalk into the hospital's van, and she was fighting with all she had, arms and legs flailing every which way.

Hoping to calm her, Blair said, "There's nothing to be afraid of. Hey, hey." Then, objecting to the men's rough handling, he shouted at them, "Hey, hey! Take it easy!"

Peter said sternly to the girl, "You're just going to take a ride to the hospital. Come on, Stacey."

Blair said indignantly, "Don't be so rough with her!"

Peter had by now forced Stacey into the van. The other man climbed in with her and Peter shut the door. Irritated, Peter turned to Blair. "This is our job, okay? Just let us do it."

"I understand it's your job, but come on." He moved to look in the van's side windows, where a frantic and frightened Stacey was looking pleadingly at him, her hands splayed against the glass. The man inside the van with her was trying to pull her away from the window. "Hey!" Blair yelled, "You don't have to be so rough with her!"

Pulling out a gun and aiming it at Blair, Peter said, "I told you to back off."

Blair raised his hands and backed away carefully. "All right, all right. Take it easy. Just calm down."

Holding the weapon on Blair, Peter moved around the van, got in the driver's seat, and drove away.

Blair hit the back of the van as it left, then stood, looking helpless and frustrated, as it disappeared. He heard a vehicle coming from his left. Turning, he saw Jim approaching in his Expedition. He waved at him excitedly. "Hey, Jim! Come here!"

The truck pulled up next to him. "What's up?" Jim asked.

"Hey, man! There were two guys, they told me they were from the hospital." He clambered into the passenger seat of the Expedition. "They pointed a gun and they took her! Let's go!"

Turning on the siren and police lights installed in the truck, Jim took off after the van, in the direction Blair indicated.

It was only a few moments before Blair lost their trail, however. "Where'd they go? They couldn't have got too far. Maybe they went up Franklin here or they're heading for the freeway, you know?" He looked worried.

Glancing at his guide, the sentinel flashed a half-grin.

Blair noticed it and shrugged, his expression a bit sheepish. "Yeah, okay, so do your stuff!" He laid one hand on Jim's arm.

Jim's expression became serious. "Be quiet." He had stopped the truck near an intersection. He listened for a few moments. Then his expression turned grim. Flipping on a signal, he turned the large vehicle and swung onto the cross street.

"What did you hear, Jim?"

"The girl was crying, and one of the goons threatened to hit her," he ground out.

Blair pressed his lips together and stared out the windshield as they tore down the street, siren blaring and lights flashing, in pursuit of the kidnappers and their victim.

Stacey crouched, frightened, in the back of the van. The vehicle turned a couple corners, fast, causing her and the man next to her to slide back and forth in the narrow space. She slipped to the floor, and then tried to scramble back to her feet.

She had just gotten to her feet and managed to turn toward the double doors at the rear of the van when the vehicle stopped suddenly. Stacey shoved the man next to her away and grabbed the door handles. Twisting them, she opened the doors and scrambled awkwardly out of the van and onto the street. She started running away as fast as she could.

The man she had pushed down worked his way out of the van and hurried after her, grabbing hold of her. "Hey! Come back here!" He called back over his shoulder, to the man in the van, "She's getting away!"

The man who was still in the van, yelled, "Bring her back! Hurry up, man! Come on! Let's get out of here!" He hurried out of the van to help.

Stacey continued struggling with all her strength. A siren could be heard in the distance, slowly growing louder. The kidnappers both stiffened, listening.

Stacey tried to jerk away from their hold.

The man who had been driving shouted, "Come on! Let's go! Come on! Cops are coming!"

Suddenly, Stacey found herself alone in the middle of the street. The two men dashed to the van and jumped in, one of them shouting, "Go, go, go!" Then they tore off down the street, one rear door still hanging open as the van disappeared.

Stacey stood there, her robe hanging open, crying a little.

Jim and Blair saw Stacey standing alone in the middle of the street when the Expedition pulled up a minute later. They spilled out of the doors and rushed over to Stacey.

Jim asked, "Are you all right?"

Stacey looked up at Jim and sighed. She fainted into his arms.

"Okay," Blair said, a bit nonplussed.

"Oh, good lord," Jim said, as he caught her. After a moment, he lifted her carefully. "Open the back," he said to Blair.

"I'll get the door," Blair agreed as he hurried over to the truck ahead of Jim.

Act II