[AnneACK's
 

Friends Are Forever

by


This is a story that was first released in Chinook One, a multi-fandom zine. The illustrations there are fantastic! http://www.t1goold.net/Blackfly/ is the link if you are interested in buying a copy. As this was done for a zine it is not part of my usual fu unizerse.

Usual spiel, I make no profit, neither does the fan zine above, I do not own these characters.
 


The tall graying man let out a sigh and stretched in his chair. The bleep, bleep, bleep of the machine monitoring the man sleeping in the hospital bed was almost hypnotic. By no means was this the first time that the younger man had been in a hospital on life support. And this was not the first time that his friend had sat by his side waiting for his companion to wake up or die. Both men had been on both sides more times then they wanted to think about.

When he had returned from his lunch meeting and was told that two officers had been shot in the line of duty he knew that it was going to be a long day. Then he was informed that the officers were his and he knew it was going to be a bad day. When he was told that the officers were his foster son and one of his oldest and dearest friends, he quit thinking. He vaguely remembered returning home and collecting his wife, Annie. He had taken her to Peter and checked on the young man himself before going to find out the status on his friend.

Taking a deep breath, he closed and rubbed his eyes, in a vain attempt to relieve some tension. "What am I going to do with you, Kermit? You may or may not have gotten yourself killed and I can't yell at you for it because you won't wake up; and because you did it saving my son. Of course, I can't thank you for doing that because you aren't awake for me to thank. Sometimes I think you have been trying to get yourself killed from the moment we met; either that or you think you're immortal. Of course, you would probably say that I'm not much better," he snorted, his blue eyes cloudy with emotion.

"Dad," a voice came softly as the door opened to admit a tall young man with dark hair and haunted eyes.

"How's the arm, Peter?" Paul Blaisdell, captain of the 101st precinct, looked away from his friend briefly to greet his foster son, whom he had considered a son since the day he picked him up from the orphanage. He was sporting a cast on one arm now, but was otherwise healthy and in one piece. This quiet and sedate Peter was a little frightening. Peter Caine only addressed the older man as Dad when he was at a crisis and preparing for a meltdown. His constantly moving hands were another sign that all was not well.

"Broken, but I'll live. Has Kermit woken up?" The younger man asked, pointedly not looking at the patient, but adding his prayers that the detective would wake up and demand his trademark green shades.

"They've done all they can. Now it's a waiting game; either he wakes up or he doesn't," Paul sighed. He really, really hated this part. This in between place where nothing more could be done to help but there was no knowing what the outcome would be.

"Is he expected to wake up?" Peter asked, walking around the room, nervously wiping his good hand, then putting it in his pocket, then taking it out again as if trying to figure out what to do with it. His bad hand he clenched and unclenched in nervousness.

Paul sighed again, this was going to be hard on the kid, but he was always honest with Peter. "No Peter, they don't really expect him to wake up. Marilyn took the kids up to a friend's fishing cabin in the middle of nowhere and we haven't been able to get hold of her."

Peter glanced at Kermit and making a gulping, sniffing sound, he bolted out the door nearly upsetting his mother on the other side.

"Peter?" She asked after regaining her balance. "Paul, Peter knows doesn't he?"

"I just told him. Listen, why don't you stay here with Kermit while I go after Peter and try and head his guilt trip off at the pass?" Paul asked, taking his bride by the arm and leading her to the chair.

"It'll give me a chance to say my goodbyes," Annie sniffed, not ashamed in the least of her grief and worry. She had known Kermit Griffin almost as long as she had known her husband, and the ex-mercenary was part of the family.

He gave her a hug and went off in search of his son.

"Kermit Griffin if you die I swear I'll never make gingerbread for you again!" Annie Blaisdell vowed as she sat next to him. She had served it once when he was over for dinner and he had let slip that he loved the dessert and had not had it since he was a boy when his mother would make it for him. Since then, every year on his birthday, which she found out from Paul, she made it for him; as well as on any other occasion she thought he would accept the small thank you from her.

"Not to mention that Paul will be miserable without you. You and Peter were the sons he never had, and if you think for one moment he considers you any less precious or that you are more expendable than Peter to him then you are even blinder that I am. He needs you every bit as much as he does Peter. Paul claims you two are the ones that keep him young because he can't afford to get old with you guys around."

No change showed in the steady beep, beep, beep of the machine.

For once there was no flip or sarcastic reply.

Taking his hand in hers, Annie wept. She wept for the friend she was losing, but mostly for the pain her husband and son were going to go through. Kermit was the big brother Peter didn't have and always wanted; as well as being one of the few truly close friends Paul had.
 


Leaving the room after seeing to his wife, Paul looked both ways down the hall and saw no sign of Peter. A glance in the door showed him he was not in the men's room. Without the Stealth here, he wouldn't be able to leave, so Peter was here somewhere. Where would he go for privacy? After a moment's hesitation, the police captain headed to the roof.

As he exited onto the top of the building, Paul glanced near the wall. With Peter's fear of heights he would be as far from the edge as possible. Actually, if there were any other place to go and be alone the detective would probably be there.

Peter was sitting on the roof leaning against the wall, holding his head between his hands. The last time Paul had seen Peter looking this lost and bewildered was when as a rookie he had been forced to kill a man. There had been no other options, but that had not helped the distressed young man as he worked through the emotional fallout. Even Eppy, Peter's training officer, had not been able to get through to him. Luckily, with a lot of patience, Paul had been able to reach his son and help him work through it.

Wordlessly, Paul sat down next to his son. When Peter was ready he would talk. Actually Peter was almost always ready to talk, but getting him to talk about what was bothering him required more patience than any saint possessed. Paul Blaisdell may not have been a saint, despite what some of the people he had helped over the years thought, but he did have the patience to wait his son out.

"Sometimes I really wish I hadn't stopped smoking," the younger man commented after a few moments.

"I have the same wish sometimes; I gave in to it once and it was another four years before I was able to stop again," Paul sympathized. He had no idea what Peter's smoking or not smoking had to do with Kermit being in the hospital, but the kid would let him know in good time.

"Kermit still smokes, doesn't he?" Peter asked, looking over at the older man.

"Yes, but only when he's keyed up or the occasional cigar," Paul confirmed.

"He should quit, it really isn't healthy," Peter commented after another few minutes of silence.

Paul chuckled. "Once he wakes up you can tell him that."

"But he's not going to wake up, is he?" Peter asked, looking over at Paul with he same expression he had as a young teenager when he thought Paul was perfect and had all the right answers.

"They can't be certain, Peter. It doesn't look promising, but Kermit has been there before and come out all right. He's already incredibly lucky to still be alive, a fraction of an inch any direction and his heart and lung would have been injured instead of nicked and he would probably already be dead."

"He wouldn't there at all if not for me," Peter snarled, his fingers absently playing with some stones on the roof.

"You made him go with you to question the accountant in the Dalton case?" Paul asked.

"Of course not!"

"Then you made him go to the bank on the way back to the precinct?"

"No, he wanted to ask John Durham about some of the answers that didn't seem right," Peter responded.

"Kermit would have been there whether you were with him or not, Peter; it is not your fault!" Paul informed him.

"Yes it is! He wouldn't be in there if he hadn't shoved me out of the way."

"Peter, if you are going to blame anyone, make it the person who put a gun in the hands in a thirteen-year-old." Paul instructed. Nothing frustrated him or saddened him more than the rising number of kids involved in crimes. He had his own ideas on what should be done to people who would give kids weapons or drugs; but he would be arrested himself if he carried any of them out.

"Have they found out anything about the kid or where he got the weapon?" Peter asked harshly.

"He's crying so hard that they can't get anything out of him," Paul stated evenly. He much preferred a situation like that than dealing with the kids who where already so hardened that they didn't care what they did or whom they did it to. The fact that this kid was so upset at least gave some hope that he was somewhat reformable.

"If he killed Kermit, hell if he killed any cop, he should be scared," Peter growled.

"And he is, son," Paul assured him, gripping his shoulder reassuringly.

"You really think Kermit isn't going to make it this time don't you?"

"The doctors are saying it's probably only a matter of time, but I've seen him come back from supposedly fatal injuries before," Paul answered after a moment.

"But you're telling him goodbye this time," Peter pointed out.

"I've told him good bye before as well and it hasn't stopped him from sticking around."

"When was the first time you told him goodbye?" Peter asked, looking over at the older man.

"Back in `Nam, our unit had been hit and he'd gotten the worst of it. We carried him to the nearest MASH unit and they said it was hopeless. Blake and I stayed with him all night because we didn't want him to die alone. Kermit surprised everyone by waking up in the morning," Paul chuckled remembering the looks his friend had gotten when he had woken up after he was supposed to be dead.

"You and Kermit have been together a long time," Peter observed quietly.

"Longer than Annie and I have been," Paul acknowledged.

"I can't tell Kermit goodbye!" Peter blurted.

"You don't have to," Paul assured him, gripping his shoulder in compassion and understanding.

"I'm just not ready to give up on him yet, he`s got to make it" the younger man explained, hoarse with grief.

"Keep believing that, son," Paul encouraged, not ready to give up on his friend and protge yet himself.

Slowly they got up and returned to Kermit`s side.
 


"Daddy!" A black haired, blue-eyed young woman launched herself at Paul as the two men entered the waiting room on Kermit`s floor. A nurse was in with Kermit at the moment so the Kelly and Annie were not in his room.

"Kelly, how did you get here?" He asked returning the enthusiastic hug. He knew for a fact that her car was scheduled to be in shop for brake work. If she had driven here with bad brakes...

"I heard about Kermit, and I had to come, "she explained.

"Thank you, imp, but how did you get here?" He repeated his question, while accepting the comfort and support that Kelly offered in her hug.

"Missy's a nurse here and gave me a ride," she answered, smiling warmly at the use of one of his favorite nicknames for her.

"Thanks for coming. Do you want to look in on Kermit?"

"I saw him while I was waiting for you with mom; he doesn't look very good." she commented.

"He probably doesn't feel too good, either," Peter groused with a snort.

Kelly stuck her tongue out at him.

Peter almost smiled, but then Kelly always could get him out of a funk with her pranks and teasing.

"Kel, Peter, I need you two to head home with your mother," Paul instructed after seeing how late it was getting.

"We'll have to take your car," Peter reminded him.

"I know, I'll get a ride home after things here are done," Paul told them quietly.

"All right Daddy, but I'm driving. I've seen what Peter does to cars he's driving," Kelly replied.

"No way squirt, I'm driving," Peter retorted.

Paul shook his head as his oldest and youngest began a debate about which one of them was driving.

"Maybe I would be safer taking a cab," Annie whispered in her husband's ear.

Paul couldn't help it, he laughed. The sound silenced both of the youngsters.

"Kelly gets to drive since you're on pain meds Peter," Paul said ending the playful disagreement between the siblings.

Peter gave his sister a mock glare and then grinned acceptance of the decision.

"Sure you want me to go, Paul?" He asked as the women prepared to head home.

"I'll feel better knowing that you're resting and taking care of that arm; that means taking those pills you were given."

"He'll take them since he's going to be staying with me at least over night," Annie remarked, taking her son's good arm. "Doctor Soburn told me that you hit your head as well as breaking your arm and she wants you watched for the next 24 hours, so you're staying at home with me."

"I'm definitely driving if you have temporary brain damage Petey," Kelly chortled.

This time Peter was the mature one and stuck his tongue out at her. But he was smiling, so Kelly had achieved her goal.

"Thank you, Kelly," Paul whispered in her ear as he hugged her goodbye. She always could get Peter to smile.

"Let me know if there's any change," Peter asked, looking at Paul imploringly.

"The second anything happens I'll call; I promise," Paul assured him while gripping his shoulders.

The younger man visibly relaxed, Paul never promised anything if he was not certain he could make good on it. As a result he rarely promised anything, but if he did you could be certain that he would keep it.

"I'll call you in the morning and see how he's doing," Annie said as she received a hug and kiss goodnight form her husband. As much as he hated spending the night away from her, she knew he wouldn't be home until Kermit and passed on or woken up.

"Thanks, Babe," he whispered in her ear, getting a second hug before she took her son's arm.

The father and husband took a mental photograph of the trio leaving with Annie shaking her head and smiling as her two children still playfully debated which one was the safer driver. He would need the joy and happiness of that scene to combat the dark and depressing hours ahead at his friend's bedside.
 


Sighing, Paul sat down steepling his hands in front of his face. Looking at the unconscious man, the police captain saw the teenager he had met a lifetime ago in a jungle halfway across the world. He had gone there to pick up a replacement non-com that he had heard a lot of good things about. He left with a rebellious, mouthy, boarder-line insubordinate kid, who was also inventive, creative, determined, and fiercely independent. In other words, he was exactly what Paul was looking for. He had taken the kid no one else wanted and had never looked back or regretted the decision.

"Do you remember when we met, Frogman? I had been out in the bush for almost two months, and probably looked like something that had climbed out from under a rock. We were a man short so were told to report to the base and pick up our new member, some kid with a really hot reputation. Finished his training with top scores so was deemed perfect for us. Needless to say, it wasn't you."

He chuckled and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye, as he took Kermit's hand.

"I had only showered the first six layers of dirt and grime off and had about a quarter of the sleep I was behind on, but I had to at least let this wonder kid know I was there. With the help of a very nervous sergeant I located Corporal Lasher. He gave me a nice crisp salute and then told me he had only ever heard of a Lt. Colonel Blaisdell. I told him I had gotten a field promotion for surviving and I doubted he would get one unless he changed the attitude. I also figured that if the kid went with me I would end up fraging him to put him out of my misery."

A nurse came running in as the machine bleeped faster. Paul quickly and quietly rose and went to the corner out of the way.

"Is that good or bad?" Paul asked the nurse once she was done checking the machine and the patient.

She jumped and spun around like a top. "I didn't see you over there."

"I'm sorry I startled you, I didn't mean to. My name's Paul Blaisdell, I've been staying with my friend," he explained.

"He's a detective isn't he?"

"Yes he is, and I'm his captain," Paul replied, politely. He never wanted to upset nurses in case he was their next patient; besides like cops, they had the most thankless tasks in the world. "I would still like to know if there was any change."

"I'm sorry, but no, no real change. We'll just have to keep watching and waiting."

"I know visiting hours will be over soon, may I stay anyway? They don't expecting him to make it and I would hate for him die alone," Paul admitted.

"Certainly you can stay; Dr. Soburn made a note in his file that you could. They say that patients in comas can hear when people talk to them, maybe your being here will help him pull through," the woman smiled.

The graying man smiled and thanked her as she headed out, and folded his lean frame his seat once more.

"Sorry about that, Kermit, I guess you didn't know that Lasher was the one I was supposed to pick up that day. I had forgotten how you and he react to one another. I was still seeing red from meeting him when I met up with Jason, a friend of mine that you knew as sir, in the mess hall. He agreed with my opinion of Lasher, but said he had a kid there that I might like. Seems this private had a knack for overhearing everything as well as being able to get into all kinds of places he was not supposed to be in but never exactly got caught doing any of those things. It also seemed that this guy held the camp record for the most time being on report. Jason figured that the boy was made for covert ops and was being wasted on their stuff. It was interesting, at least, so I told my friend it sounded like there was some potential and I would be willing to take a look at his problem child. I was not shocked to hear that I could find you cooling your heels in the stockade; you had certainly been threatened with it enough times. Seems you had disobeyed your sergeant on your last mission and in doing so pulled off the mission and saved most of the team."

Paul gave a rumbling chuckle. "You should have heard that guy hemming and hawing when the captain asked him exactly why it was that one of his privates had not only known what the mission was but knew the plan for carrying it out better than the sergeant in charge did. After hearing you had done that I really wanted to meet you. And there you were sitting on the bunk in your cell scowling at the world. Hearing who I was you merely raised an eyebrow and said `I see they gave you the bird, sir.' No salute, but honest respect. I could live with that. The sergeant was more than happy to get rid of you; especially when he figured out that it meant his screw up would be excused that once."

Paul smiled softly at his companion of so many, many years. "The only decisions I ever made that were better than choosing you, was when I married Annie and when I adopted Peter."
 


"Sir?" A woman called from the doorway.

The captain sat up straight, a life time as a soldier having taught him to wake up instantly alert.

"I didn't mean to wake you, sir," she apologized, knowing that the captain had been here all night and had only gotten a few hours of light naps all night.

"I wasn't sleeping, just resting my eyes," he replied stretching mightily as he got up from the chair.

"There's a call at the nurse's station for you, Captain Blaisdell," the nurse informed him, a note of awe in her voice since she has never met a police captain before.

"Thank you," he said following her out of the room. Either the nurses were getting younger and younger or he was getting old. This nurse looked young enough to be his granddaughter.

"I heard about Kermit, Daddy, how's he doing?" Carolyn Mccall, Paul's oldest daughter asked once he was on the line.

"He's still in a coma but he's hanging in there," Paul answered, touched that she had called.

"I'm sorry I can't come over but Todd's out of town and the baby's sick," she explained with a yawn.

"Sound like the little guy had you up most of the night," he commented, remembering a few times he had been up all night with a sick child.

"He finally went to sleep about half an hour ago, I thought I would call and check on you and Kermit before I headed for bed myself," she answered with another yawn.

"I'm fine; I appreciate your calling though."

"Let me know if there's any change in Kermit, Daddy" instructed the bond woman who, unlike her sister, resembled Paul's late first wife more than she did him.

"I will baby, and you call and let Mom and I if you need help with the baby while Todd's gone," he told her reiterating the standing offer to help with his grandson.

"I'm all right daddy, just tired, if your namesake gets too demanding though, I'll let you know," she thanked him.

The call ended with their exchanging love.

Paul thanked the nurse at the desk for letting him use her phone, and returned to his lifelong friend.
 


"Do you remember when you rescued that sheik's daughter?" Paul chuckled at the memory of that mission, or at least some of the results of it.

"We were going after an arms dealer, we had taken out the main force and you were going through the house to make certain that we had everyone. You found that poor girl lock in one of the inner rooms Moshe translated for us and we found out she had been kidnapped to ensure her fathers silence on certain terrorist activities," he continued, wishing his friend would show some kind of reaction.

"We took her home and her father had that huge elaborate feast and all either one of use wanted was to go home. Annie and I had just recently married and I wanted to get back to her and girls; you were married to, Melody, that southern belle of yours and wanted to get home and patch things up while you were still married."

"I take it he didn't get home in time to stay married?" A voice asked from the doorway.

"Skellany, come on in," Paul smiled invitingly at one of his detectives. "No he didn't get home in time to convince her to stay, but he did manage to convince the Sheik that he did NOT need to be given two women of his household as a reward," Paul commented.

"Do I dare asked what he got instead?" the tall dark haired woman asked humor in her eyes.

"Ten camels, four Arabian horses, and two Saluki dogs. He gave the salukis to Blake and Mary and the Arabians went to a man he knows that breeds horses; what he did with ten camels he never did say," Paul related, enjoying the woman's grin at one of the more humorous situations Kermit found himself in.

"Probably found some zoos or something, but then I wouldn't put it past him to have found a boarding stable or something and still have them as pets," she smirked, eyes watering. She really was going to miss her unique friend. With Kermit you could never tell what he was going to say or do next.

"I thought I would bring you the latest update in person and see how was Kermit's doing," she explained with a bit of a sniff as she tried to not cry.

"He`s still hanging on, but no change," Paul informed her wryly. "It's really too early to be certain of anything though. The doctor's are not expecting him to make it, but Kermit never has been one for doing what was expected. It's actually kind of incredibly that he made it this long, it was a chance in a million of hat bullet going between his heart and lung and not hitting either one."

"He always had been one for making his own rules. It's so weird to see him just lying there. I would even let him keep calling me sweet britches if he would just do something," Mary Margaret Skellany said. He always called her that and she would always growl good-naturedly for him to stop calling her that. It had gotten to be kind of a joke with them.

"I think he would regret that," Paul responded in a gentle voice of understanding. Kermit only gave nicknames to people that he liked, and it was well known that Kermit was the only one allowed to call her Sweet Britches. One of the patrol officers had tried and the results had not been good, the guy was still scared of the detective.

"I think he would, too," she admitted, sniffing. She was really fond of her mysterious and sarcastic co-worker.

"So what is the latest from the station?" The captain asked.

"Oh, sorry, the boy's name is Tony Wilson; he's a thirteen-year-old orphan. We left a message with his foster parent's, the Doyle's, before taking him down to juvenile detention last night, but haven't heard back from her." she started.

"They didn't get back to you to find out how he was or just to make certain it was actually him you had?" Paul asked a bit disgusted. He knew exactly how fast he or Annie would have been calling if they had gotten a call about Peter even remotely like that. Of course, Peter would have been more afraid of her than anything the law might do to him.

"No, no one from the family has called us. We got hold of the social worker in charge of his case though and she'll be at the station this afternoon. It was the soonest she could come," Skellany explained, shaking her head at the delay in getting the information about the kid.

"Who's handling the kid?" Paul asked. Peter was usually there best bet for getting sullen angry kids to talk, having been that way himself for a lot of his adolescence. Peter, however, would be off today since he didn't always react well to pain medication and usually needed twenty-four hours to come off the ceiling.

"Shaky Blake if you can believe it," she answered. "He got the idea from Tony's reaction when we mentioned that we had called his foster parents that we might want to investigate his foster parents before returning him to them."

"Blake's got good instincts on things like that so leave him as the one handling the kid, and it sounds like looking into the guardians might be a good idea," Paul instructed. He knew just how good Blake's instincts were with kids, because he knew where they came from. A lot of the cops assumed that something in Blake's mercenary past caused his nervous habit. Some of it was triggered by those years, but more of it was from earlier. When Paul had met him, Blake had been quiet and mousy and introverted. It was a miracle if you could get two sentences out of him. Paul also found that he appreciated the man's quiet humor and sensitivity to others, as well as his doggedness when given a task. There was the added plus, as very few people really knew, that Blake never missed anything. Even now he said very little, but the shy man heard and saw everything. If Paul's own eyes and ears missed something or just wanted a confirmation; Blake, even more than Kermit, was his man.

"I'll pass it along, sir," the tall dark haired woman replied, looking over at the man in the bed, comatose and not expected to wake up. Ever.

"I can go get some coffee or something if you want a few moments alone with him," Paul offered quietly.

"I, thank you," she sniffed, as the captain rose and silently guided her to his chair and left the room.

"You and the captain are the only ones in the entire station that I can't wheedle any information out of. It's like you're living puzzles. I was so glad that you came out of your office and let us get to know you at least a little, Kermit the hermit. If I was having a bad day I always knew I could count on you showing up with a cup of your personal coffee, which was the good stuff, not the bargain store special," she said, blinking away a tear or three.

"Did I ever tell you how touched I was the time that Simms was still with us and found herself being held hostage at the bank and you picked me to go with you and Blake as back up? I never understood why you did that; I'm not the best shot, or the most creative thinker. Whatever the reason was, I thank you for choosing me to help you that day. I...I... I`m really going to miss you," She sniffed again.

"Miss, I'm afraid that you'll have to leave for a few moments, I need to tend to this patient," A nurse said in a kind voice from the doorway.

Nodding, Mary Margaret Skellany left the room, and found Paul waiting in the waiting room. Seeing her wiping a tear, he wrapped her in a hug. Mumbling her thanks for the shoulder to cry on, she slipped out and back to the station.
 


"Here, I thought you could do with some lunch," Dr. Soburn said entering the room and handing him a bag with a sandwich and some chips in it and an apple in it.

"I appreciate it, but it was hardly necessary."

"I'm willing to bet that you haven't left his bedside more than a half a dozen time since he was put in this room and never for more than ten minute. I would also bet that is the only thing other than coffee you have put in your stomach since your detectives were brought in here. Do me a favor and eat so I won't have to treat you for low blood sugar," she instructed him. She both liked and respected the graying captain, but she also knew what he was like when one of his men was here. He was from the old school that believed the people under him were his responsibility. She heard and believed that he personally regretted to inform when it was called for, and knew that he would stay at the bedside of any of his people until family arrived. And when there was no family, he would stay himself. No one that he was responsible for was left alone until it was known that they would be all right. That fact that it was Kermit Griffin he was staying with this time made it all the sadder, because the doctor knew how strong the friendship between these two men was.

"Has anything changed?" he asked as she looked at the charts on the computer that told her what had happened since the last time she saw this patient.

"Outside of a brief fluctuation, everything is the same as it was yesterday. I think your friend must be part cat, he certainly has enough lives for it," she commented.

"Part frog maybe but, not cat. A cat doesn't have nearly as many lives as Kermit does, doctor," Paul snorted.

"However many lives he has, he's expended a couple more in last few days. The blood loss alone should have done him in; if the bullet had gone it at any other angle it would have killed him, and the fact that he survived the operation to extract the bullet was miraculous. When a patient like this goes into a coma, it's usually caused by the body starting to shut it self down," she instructed him sadly.

"I understand that, and I appreciate your being honest with me," Paul replied, remembering once more why she was the doctor that he preferred dealing with his people. She was good not only with her patients, but also with the family and friends waiting. He had never known her to give up on a patient, but she didn't hold out false hopes either.

"I have to continue on my rounds, but let me know if you need anything, Captain," she said heading for the door.

"I will, and it's Paul," he told her.

"Right, Paul, and I'm Nancy if you need me," She responded, leaving him to his vigil.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but I need to take care of this patient," a nurse Paul's age said, stepping into the room.

Paul retreated to the waiting room, figuring that even unconscious Kermit wouldn't want an audience while he was bathed and shaved. The doctor headed down the hall to check on her next patient.
 


Paul eased himself slowly back into the chair at his friend's side as the nurse quietly slipped out. He had long ago lost count of the times he had sat waiting. He couldn't remember who was at who's bedside last; he had a hunch though that last time it had been Kermit waiting on him. Not that it would have made any difference at all; they had long ago given up keeping track of who did more waiting.

"It's me again, Froggy. Remember the last time we used that code? It was the last mission you went on before you joined me at the precinct in semi-mercenary retirement. That South American drug lord had caught you. Of course that meant that I had to go in and rescue your sorry butt. I had no idea that one person could be that many shades of black and blue. You never did tell me exactly how he caught you. When I asked all you did was glare at me and growl not to ask you. That always made me wonder if there wasn't some woman involved in it somewhere. It certainly wouldn't be the first time one of us got in trouble due to the female of the species. Thankfully I'm an old married man now and safe from that kind of trouble."

Paul shook his head as he remembered all the difficulties his friend had gotten into when helping some poor damsel in distress or other. Not to mention the broken hearts he had supported his friend through. In fact one of the first real bonding times he and Kermit had had together had resulted from Kermit's first and truest love.

"Remember that Vietnamese girl you fell for? Mai Dinh was her name, I think. You had been with us about two months when you met her in Saigon and fell for her like a ton of bricks. Every time we got back there you just couldn't wait to see her again. We had been together about six months when we were supposed to meet for dinner and you didn't show. I knew something was wrong since that wasn't like you. It took half an hour but I found you in a bar drunk out of your mind. Turned out you had been there a good share of the day. You had been sitting in the back corner drinking and staring at a picture. When I asked, you told me Mai had left Saigon for some reason and been killed by a sniper attack. We never did find out why she left," Paul admitted before getting up from the hard plastic chair and walking around the room a bit. He didn't want to leave Kermit but he was in desperate need of stretching his legs.

"I ended up dragging you into that hotel so you could sleep it off. You woke up asking if you were dead, when I said you weren't you asked me if I could change that for you. You were one sick tadpole that morning, Frog. You were feeling too sick to want to go out and we spend the whole day in the room playing cards with Blake, who joined us with breakfast. I swear when he brought that food in you went as green as your namesake. I wonder if we had any idea just what we were starting that day?" Paul asked looking down at his friend and thinking about all the missions they went on, all the fights they had fought, everything they had been through together.

And then, sitting back down and holding his head in his hands, he wept. He did have a very few old friends left alive, but none of them were Kermit.
 


"How's he doing, Paul?" A bull of a man in short graying hair asked from the doorway sometime later, as the captain wiped his tears away

"He's not dead, but he hasn't woken up either," the older man said, getting slowly to his feet. "I appreciate your coming by, Chief."

Frank Strenlich, Chief of detectives at the 101st, came all the way in. "Kermit maybe be weird, but he's one of us."

"I think he finally was starting to realize that," Paul replied, sad that just as Kermit was accepting his place in the precinct family, he was going to be taken away from them.

"Being taken out by a kid," the large man snorted. "Seems so senseless to go like that after all the things he's done."

"He won't be the first cop to die a senseless death by senseless violence," Paul answered tiredly. He had long ago lost count of the number of his friends who died senselessly in fights that had seemed so important but changed nothing.

"Not the last, either. Unfortunately," Strenlich agreed.

"How Tony doing?" Paul asked sitting back as much as he could, and closing his tired eyes. He really did more than a few hours sleep in a hospital chair every day and a half.

"He's scared. He's scared of juvie, scared of Pine ridge and scared of his foster family. He's staying silent until he decides what he's most scared of."

"Have we found anything out about his foster family?" Paul asked, wondering why the boy was scared of them, but remembering some of Peter's stories about foster homes he had been placed in before the system gave up on trying to find him a home just as he and Paul had found one another.

"He's their third foster kid, but the first one they were given that was this young; he's also the only one they've have along term. We got in touch with the previous two foster kids they had but neither one wanted to talk about the Doyle's. We've tracked the family down, they're was staying with the mom's sister, all they said was the kid's been hanging out with a bad crowd and that we should do what we need to, they're also our main suspects in the attempted robbery," Strenlich said, briefing the captain.

"What does the social worker say about the boy?"

"She says that he's a good kid and has never given them any trouble," the chief said.

"Where do you think the kid fits into this mess?" Paul asked, curious as to what the veteran officer would say.

"I think they used him as a watcher because the legal system would go easy on a kid with no record. I doubt he had ever held a gun in his life before yesterday," Strenlich explained.

"Do you think that might be what was going on?" Paul asked.

"Either that or the kid's a born actor and should get an Oscar," came the answer.

"What's being done about his family?" Paul asked in a harsh voice. Nothing upset him like people hurting an innocent child or using children instead of protecting and loving them.

"We're putting our case together and making certain Tony isn't in their custody."

"Where is Tony?' Paul asked.

Tony's back in the custody of social services and residing at juvie while at least one of the foster home inspectors is going to be answering some questions tomorrow. Blake's the only one on our end that's really dealing with the kid, we figured it would be easier on Tony to only have one person dealing with his case, and Blake seems to have connected with him"

"You think Blake can get him talking?" Paul asked.

"Yeah, he got some food from McDonald's and a deck of cards. Last they were seen they were sitting in the interrogation room eating their dinner and playing cards. Guess the game got the kid relaxed because when Blake started talking to him and asking him questions the kid was answering. Who would have guessed Shaky had it in him?" Strenlich shook his head in disbelief.

"Shaky's family is one where kids are seen and not heard and only seen when it serves some need of the adults. I gathered that not doing exactly as told when told could be painful. Blake understands where the kid's coming from, he's been there," Paul commented.

"Certainly explains about Blake," the bear of a man said after a few moments. He had never known Blake had been abused. "Seeing Shaky and that kid, it's a shame he and Mary never had any of their own."

"What makes you think they didn't?" Paul asked, smiling slightly.

Strenlich didn't say anything; he simply looked at his boss open mouthed. Who would have guessed that Shaky Blake had kids?

"Any leads on the Doyle's?" The other man asked, his sapphire eyes hard as diamonds as he returned to the original topic.

"Jodi and Skellany are looking into the family and checking their alibis for yesterday."

"Sounds like everything's covered," Paul commented, not that he expected less from his crew.

"We'll let you know if we find anything out," the Chief said. Turning he faced Kermit. "I always thought you were tougher than this Kermit; prove I'm right about you and wake up."

With a final clasp on Paul's shoulder for support, the human bear left.
 


"Nam' am I right?" the older nurse asked, coming into the room and offering him a cup of coffee.

"Yeah, we started out together there, but that was a lot of memories ago," he confirmed, taking the cup gratefully. He had now been here over twenty-four hours and he was feeling each and every one of them.

"Spent a tour there myself, so I can usually tell when someone's been there, and you two obviously had," she explained with a slight smile.

"First of way too many fights, I'm afraid," he answered tired with more than just the time in the hospital.

A young man stuck his head in the room and the nurse pointed to a phone jack in the wall. The youngster quickly plugged in a phone he was carrying and hustled out to his next repair and maintenance task.

Paul looked at the instrument in surprise.

"Technically we aren't supposed to let anyone use the nurse's phone, so the doctor requested a phone for this room while you're here," the woman told him.

"I appreciate your bending the rules for me," he smiled to her, making a mental note to thank Dr. Soburn.

"I just wish all of our patients had someone like you with them, maybe more of them would make it then," she said returning the smile and heading back to the nurses desk.

Looking at his watch, he debated a minute and picked up the phone. It was late afternoon, but Blake might still be at the station.

"Blake," came the short response to Paul's dialing.

"It's Paul, were you able to get anything from the kid?" Paul asked, ignoring small talk as he didn't like it much and Blake was never very good at it.

"Tony claims it was an accident; he says he didn't know the safety was off and he was trying to give it to Peter, not shoot him with it," Blake answered.

"Do you believe him?"

"Yes; He doesn't know anything about guns and is afraid of them so for him to have wanted to have or use one would be strange. He said the Mr. Doyle and the three oldest sons were robbing the bank and told him to stand and yell if the cops came," Blake said, relating what he had learned while have cheeseburgers with the boy.

"And he agreed to it because he was scared of what they would do if he disobeyed?" Paul asked.

"He was afraid of what they might do to him if he didn't do as he was told, and he was afraid of being sent back to social services. When he saw Peter's badge he figured he had a way out because he could give Peter the gun and say that as a cop Peter had taken the gun from him."

"I take it this was not his first foster home?" Paul sighed; thinking about the ones Peter had been in before joining the Blaisdell family.

"He was in two before that, the first one there was some trouble when the family's kids picked on him and blamed him when ever something went wrong, so the parents sent him back because he was upsetting their own kids. The second one was working out well, but he lost his job and they couldn't support three kids."

"Ouch. So you agree that he's a good kid being misused by his foster family and that his shooting Kermit was an accident?" Paul inquired.

"That's about how it looks to me, we'll know more when Peter gets in tomorrow or Kermit wakes up. How is Kermit?" Blake asked, worry in his voice now. He had known and be friends with Kermit as long as Paul had.

"He's still hanging in limbo, not dead and not awake; we're all still waiting to see what happens," Paul sighed, a little of the strain he was feeling sounding in his voice.

"Do you want me to spare you for a bit?" Blake asked, concerned.

"No, you stay on Tony since he's talking to you, if anything changes here, you'll be the first one called.

"Oh, a couple of things I need your okay for," Blake said quickly.

"Okay, what do you need?"

"Tony had some trouble with come of the older boys at juvie last night, is there a way to get him separated until it's decided what actually happened at the bank?" Blake asked.

"The best we could do is request isolation for him until the case is solved," Paul responded. "I'll call on that though."

"Thanks, also John and Megan Durham wanted to talk to Tony. Megan was standing with him while the scene was being sorted out and I guess she took a liking to him and talked to John so they want to see how he's doing."

"I don't see a problem with that," Paul agreed, the Durham's were friends of his and it would be like them to want to help the kid; they were very loving and giving people.

"I think they might actually be interested in taking him in when all of this is sorted out," Blake suggested.

"He couldn't ask for better parents," Paul commented.

"Speaking of parents, how's Dexter doing?"

"He'll be graduating form MIT this spring and would you believe that I'm going to be a grandfather?" Blake was stuttering with joy.

"Congratulations," Paul smiled, knowing how proud Blake was of his son and only child. It was good to hear some good news right now.

Both men signed off, one returning to a lost boy and one to a very likely dying friend.
 


Paul settled once more in the hard plastic chair by his friend's bed after returning from a quick walk down the hall. Hopefully the Durhams would be allowed to take the boy in; if not maybe he would talk to Annie. They had taken in another boy once when something about him had told Paul he was worth saving. He had thought about it through the night and if Annie was willing he was will to consider another round of patenting; though John and Megan would be a better choice in his mind.

"Remember when you had to watch the girls for me for a week? I was called into Washington and the girl's grandma got sick at the last minute and wasn't able to take the kids. I hope I thanked you for that. I still can't believe how close I came to rescheduling that trip and then I wouldn't have met Annie. She about died laughing when you called and asked her to remind me that while I was off playing in the city you were stuck at home with the children. You were the only one that wasn't shocked by our deciding to marry only three months after we had met. We just knew it was right somehow," the captain reminisced.

"Is there any change?" A middle aged woman asked from the door.

Paul stiffened. This was not a woman he wanted to see, and Kermit definitely would not have wanted her here. Paul had been gone while they were dating, but was well aware of their break up. It had been the last heartbreak Paul had helped Kermit through.

"No, he's the same as he's been the last two days, Commissioner Simms, not dead and not awake," Paul replied curtly, making the title almost a curse.

"I do care about him, Paul," she said, cautiously entering the room. Any other captain she would have reprimanded for speaking to her like that, but Paul knew the truth about why Peter Caine had briefly been forced to give up his badge.

She had taken over his precinct while he had taken an indefinite leave of absence. He had come back to find that she had been sleeping with Kermit, who was one of her detectives, and had told Peter she was not going to support him against a corrupt cop that he had taken down. She and Commissioner Kincaid had informed him that he was to back off or find himself standing alone with the entire police force against him. Peter had turned in his badge rather than back down and let the corrupt cop off the hook.

Within a week of his return, Commissioner Kincaid had been asked to resign, and Karen Simms was offered his position. Paul had kept quiet about her relationship with Kermit, and the furious breakup that followed it, as well as her attempted to cover up a corrupt cop. The reinstated captain might not like her, but he knew her, and knew the other candidates. She was by a narrow margin the lesser of all the evils offered.

Paul's only reply to her statement of caring about the detective was a piercing glare.

"How was I supposed to know how much that stuffed Muppet thing meant to him?" She snapped in exasperation.

"His stuffed Kermit the frog," Paul clarified. He remembered all too well going over to see Kermit and finding the frog had been decapitated by a hurt, angry, and frustrated owner.

"Yes, that damned frog! Kermit couldn't honestly expect that bringing a stuffed animal along when he came to spend the night wasn't going to get a reaction of some kind," she snorted disparagingly.

"But he did have the right to expect respect and understanding from you, instead of teasing him about it," Paul shot back.

"Understanding that he takes a doll with him to his girlfriend`s?" She asked, sneering.

"Being a police commissioner, you, of course, know that almost all cops and soldiers have PTSD to some degree. Whether they are diagnosed with it or not is dependent on how severe the symptoms are. Kermit was a borderline case, but it was decided that he was not severe enough to be labeled as PTSD. He has quite a few symptoms, among them is that he can't sleep in a strange place. The frog is what might be called a safety object. If he has to sleep somewhere unfamiliar he takes it along to tell himself that it's okay for him to relax and sleep. You wanted him to stay so he did what he had to do to do that, and you laughed at him," Paul reprimanded her in the cold quiet voice that would have had anyone who knew him cowering.

She blushed and hung her head knowing he was right, and that she was wrong, and that her behavior was not only inexcusable but was hardly in keeping with that of someone who cares about another person.

"Do let me know if there's any change," She requested, as she moved to leave.

"I will, Karen," Paul answered a little more kindly than when she had come in.

"Kermit, I won't say I ever really understood you, but I'll miss you," she said quietly to the man in the bed.

Alarms went off and nurses and doctors came flooding into the room, shoving the Captain and commissioner aside. The two stood back and let the medical professionals tend to their friend.

"Doctor?" Paul asked Dr. Soburn, a favorite among the 101st's crew when one of them was in need of medical care.

"Just a false alarm, Captain. When someone's in a coma they can sometimes have reactions like this, as though they were having a bad dream or something. He seems to have calmed down again," the doctor informed him.

"Can I continue staying with him?" Paul asked, crossing his fingers that he would be allowed to. This was starting of day three here

"Absolutely, if he doesn't wake up it would be sad for him to die alone; if he does, I have dealt with this patient enough to want you between me and him," the doctor said, shuddering slightly at the memories of this patient waking up confused and alone in the hospital. None of the staff took more than one session with Kermit to decide that having Paul around was a good thing if Kermit was here.

"Thank you," Paul replied gratefully. "Karen, I'll let you know if there's any change," he assured her again.

"I would appreciate that, Paul," she responded before leaving.

"Did she say or do something that upset Detective Griffin?" the doctor asked, looking up from the patient's chart.

"Not intentionally; she told him goodbye. I guess he heard her," Paul answered in a rumbly voice that was casual, but also said it was private matter.

"I guess he did at that," the doctor agreed. She liked the captain and knew that he would have been here for any of his men, but Kermit was special. Paul wouldn't be leaving until his friend either woke up or died.

"I'm just getting off night shift, but I left instructions that allow you to stay and any other guests to have short visits. If there's any change at all the nurse will tell you and call me immediately," She continued.

"Thank you, have a good day doctor," Paul said, taking the chair again. His butt was going to be molded in that form at the rate he was going.

"You're welcome," she said, and turned towards the patient. "Kermit, wake up again so I can have my most difficult patient back." Sending up a silent prayer that the comatose man would once again beat the odds, she left.
 


Smiling to himself slightly, Paul reached into his suit jacket pocket and pulled out a pair of green shades.

"Here, you look almost indecent without them," he said, placing them on his friends sleeping face.

"I still remember the first time I saw you with those things on. You had been called away on a job; I knew it was important because you turned down a jaunt through the jungles with me to do it. I came back from my job and you were still gone," Paul closed his eyes remembering the sick feeling in his gut when he realized that Kermit had been gone far too long for it to have just been another job.

"I was calling everyone I knew, everyone you know, and anyone that owed either of us anything. No one knew anything about where you had been or what you were doing. Then one night, well early morning actually, you show up on the doorstep in a set of green shades, carrying a duffle bag and looking like something no cat would touch. You said that you had been gone longer than you planned and your wife had moved out and taken everything with her and since you no longer had an apartment or a bed could you borrow a corner of a couch for the night," the graying man shook his head at the memory.

"That was the first time you crossed Annie, too. I don't know which upset her more; you thinking that all you rated with us was a corner of a couch, or the idea that a guest in her house would be relegated to the couch. You protested that you were too much of a mess to put in a bed and a couch was fine, you just wanted to sleep. She told you the bedding could be washed when you were done and sent you up to bed. I told you when you met her that you can never win a fight with Annie. She was a little scared, I think, when you slept for three days straight, but then you looked like a corpse in need of a grave," Paul continued.

He took a sip of some water he had gotten when the nurses and doctor had been settling his friend after the last time the whistles and bells had sounded. "I did eventually find out what happened. You went to Lebanon after American prisoners and broke them out, but got caught in the process. I still can't believe that after three weeks you managed to break out, inspite of sunburned corneas. You looked like death warmed over when you got home, but you made it. I just need you to wake up and make it through this as well."

"Kermit hurt his eyes in Lebanon?" Peter asked from the door, stepping quietly into the room.

"Sunburned Corneas I think they called it, his eye sight is fine, but he's photosensitive," Paul informed the son of his heart if not his body.

"He has light sensitive eyes like mom?" Peter goggled.

"I think I resemble that remark," Annie chuckled.

"You knew Kermit had light sensitive eyes?" Peter said amazed as he looked at his mom.

"Paul darkening the house when Kermit would come over was a clue," she smiled.

"He can take the light easier than Annie can, but the darker the better as far as he's concerned," Paul said joining the conversation.

Peter goggled as he saw Paul for the first time in three days. Paul was not only looking old, but he was in need of a better clean up than was possible in a hospital restroom.

"Are you going into the station today?" Paul asked; glad to see Peter back to being himself.

"I'm on my way there now; mom wanted to come and see you so I said I would give her a lift," Peter explained.

"Your arm's feeling all right?"

"For being busted it is, just means I'll be doing paper work for a while; maybe I'll finally get caught up on my reports," he smirked.

Paul snorted at the likelihood of that, but grinned.

"Folks, I'm sorry but I have to get this patient cleaned up," a nurse informed them, as she came in with a cart holding the necessities for a sponge bath and a shave.

"We didn't mean to be in the way," Paul apologized as he took Annie's arm and lead her after Peter towards the door.

"Captain, Dr. Soburn said to tell you that you should feel free to use the locker room at the end of the floor. It's there to allow family of critical patients to shower and change without leaving the building."

"Thank you, I'll make certain to go and find it," The captain answered, a bit embarrassed at how he must look.

"I'll wait in the lobby," Annie informed him handing him a duffle bag with a change of clothes, and getting a hug of gratitude.

"Keep me updated from the station son," Paul instructed his son as the younger man headed to the elevators. The detective responded with a cross between a wave and salute.

Twenty minutes later Paul and Kermit both looked better than they had, freshly showered, in Kermit's case bathed, and shaved. Paul re-entered his friend's room to find Annie sitting and saying nothing but holding their friend's hand. Annie always was one that could speak volumes without saying a word.

"Good morning, babe; and thanks for the clothes," he said coming over and giving her a proper good morning kiss.

"I thought you might need some after three days," she chuckled.

"Annie, there's something I want you to think about, you don't need to say yes or no right now, just think about it, okay?" he asked her.

"Certainly, Paul; what do you want to discuss?"

"Tony Wilson, the boy who shot Kermit, well, it's looking like it was an accident," Paul began, sitting diagonal from her in a chair at the foot of Kermit's bed.

"He was standing outside a bank with a gun while it was being robbed and it was an accident?" Annie goggled.

"He's an orphan and his foster family were the ones robbing the bank. He agreed to be their watcher because he was afraid of being sent back and never getting a family."

"Poor child," Annie said softly. She dearly loved children, but after two miscarriages had given up and her and Paul having any together.

"It's all getting sorted out at the station right now. It sounds like the Durham's are going to try and see about taking him in," Paul told her. They both knew that the Durham's wanted children and had none, so had been talking about adopting.

"That would wonderful if it works out," Annie responded.

"Yes it would, but if it doesn't I was thinking that maybe we could take him in," Paul replied, broaching the subject he had been thinking about since the boy had come to his attention.

"We've raised three kids Paul, are you up to a fourth?" she asked, hesitantly.

"I don't know Annie, I know I can't do it alone, and you've always been the one keeping the house and the kids. Would you feel up to another child?" He asked, acknowledging that a lot of the parenting fell on her because of the hours that he worked.

"If I had to I could, but to be honest Paul, I was looking forward to our nest being empty."

"You were?" He asked, surprised.

"Paul I love the kids and love having them in and out of the house, but we have never had a time when it was just us. We dated with kids waiting at home for you; we got married with kids watching. We came home from our honeymoon to kids waiting for us. Paul, I was looking forward to some years without kids, just you and me."

"We never have seemed to get much time just us have we?" He said realizing suddenly how many of the vacations they had talked about for just the two of them had never happened. Most of their vacations had been family vacations. It was time to do something about that. He got up and went over to his, to his mind at least, slightly neglected wife.

"Not a lot, but the kids came first for both of us, and I always knew there would be a time when the kids would be gone and we could do the things together we had talked about. I'm not saying no to taking Tony in, just that I'll miss it being time for us," She told him, taking one of the hands resting on her shoulders in a loose hug.

"So, we both think about it more and if the Durham's are turned down, then we talk about it seriously?" Paul suggested as a plan of action.

"Yes, and in the mean time enjoy the empty house as much as possible," Annie added saucily.

"Either way, Babe, we'll take those trips we've been putting off," he promised her, leaning over to give her a kiss.

"I know, I never doubted that we would, sweetheart," she said returning the kiss.

The morning passed with them sitting together in quiet contentment, occasionally talking quietly but mostly remaining quiet with their friend.
 


"Paul Blaisdell," he answered as the phone rang.

"This is Major Jim Halstrom, I heard my fa..., Kermit Griffin had been injured," a man's voice came sounding far away, and a little hesitant.

"I know who you are, son," Paul smiled; so Jim had figured it out, or been told.

"Right, how is he?" The younger man reiterated his question.

"It doesn't look good; he's been in a coma for four days now and isn't showing signs of regaining consciousness," Paul informed him. Regretting to inform had always been something Paul hated and he was feeling like that was what he was doing here, except it was involving a father and son who didn't really know one another.

"Um, do you think his family would mind if I came?"

"His only family is Marilyn and her kids and she knows about you and would love to meet you; he has a lot of friends who consider him family and we would love to have you come as well," Paul assured him.

"Thanks, I'll be there as soon as I can get emergency leave," the major said.

"Call me when you have a flight and time and I'll have somebody come and get you, Jim," Paul told him. "I would also like to get the chance to thank you in person for helping my son, Peter Caine, like you did."

"I was glad to do it, he's a good man," Jim replied. "I'll call you as soon as I know when I'll be getting in."

"I'll see you then; and hopefully with better news," Paul said as they ended the call.

"How's the frog doing?" A middle aged man with a British accent asked, entering the room.

"Hanging in limbo, he's not dead, but he hasn't joined the living either," Paul answered, lookup at another of his few old and dear friends.

"I wanted to check on Kermit, as well as thank you for letting Megan and I see Tony," John Durham said, coming over as Paul offered him the chair by Kermit's beside.

"I could hardly take your seat," John told him.

"John, if I spend one more hour in that chair my butt will becomes permanently warped into that shape," Paul groused.

John chuckled, and took the seat while Paul stood.

"I heard you and Megan are interested in the boy," Paul mentioned.

"We've talked about adopting, but after a lot of discussing we've thought that we might be better suited to an older child than a baby or toddler. We've both spent time with Tony, and he wasn't what we had been talking about, but somehow he's what we were looking for if that makes sense," John sighed.

"When I went to Pine Ridge to talk about police work I already had two girls and the last thing I was wanting or feeling the need for was another child to raise, especially a teenager. But, when I meet Peter, it was like meeting a long lost member of the family. He was exactly what we needed to complete our family and hadn't even known it," Paul smiled, remembering the day he and Peter had meet over a Basketball.

"You don't think it's crazy that I want to take into my family the same boy that evidently tried to kill one of my dear friends?" John looked up at him.

"John, Tony has been saying all along that it was an accident; that he meant to give Peter the gun, not shot him. It's looking like that might indeed have been what happened. We know that his foster family were very likely involved in the robbery and Tony was doing his part out of fear and saw Peter as an excuse to not help them. He says he was handing the gun to Peter when Kermit saw it and threw peter to the ground jumping on top of him."

"I was aware of what he was saying, and I really did want to believe him," John sighed with relief that his friend had obviously heard that version as well and believed it.

"It's looking more and more like the shoot was a misunderstanding. The only ones at fault are the Doyle's."

"Megan and I have applied for temporary care of Tony as foster parents. We're doing all of the paperwork right now," John informed his friend of so many years.

"That's wonderful, you and Megan will be excellent parents for any child," Paul said, clasping his friends shoulder in encouragement.

"Thank you, I thought the military made you do a lot of paperwork, they have nothing on social services," John snorted.

Paul chuckled his agreement, remembering when he and Annie had been signing all those same forms to get Peter.

"I was just going to get some coffee if you want a moment alone with the Muppet," Paul offered.

"Thank you, I would appreciate that," John said, as Paul nodded and headed out.

"I still can't believe how stupid I was that day when I decided to end it all; I'll never be able to pay you back for stopping me. If you hadn't I wouldn't have found Megan and be contemplating parenthood, even if it's not in the usual way," the Brit said, thinking about how he had planned to end his life on the anniversary of his first wife's death. The only person he felt that would care if he lived or died was Kermit, since Paul had not yet returned from his own fight with the demons of his life.

"I sent you an e-mail telling you good bye and explaining why I was going to end my life, and you came and gave me back my life with new meaning. And here I am telling you goodbye, your being shot may have been an accident, but you died saving a friend, and I think you would have liked that if you had a choice in how you would die. You've never minding risking death, as long as it wasn't going to result in an empty or meaningless death."

Looking at his friends face, John laughed at the trademark green shades carefully places on his friend.

"You've already survived so much in your life; it seems a bit anti-climatic to die because of a misunderstanding, and a child that was given a gun without knowing how to use it, or wanting to use it."

"You saved my life more than once, Kermit. I just wish that I could figure out a way to save yours now. All I can think of though is just to remind you how much I'll miss you, besides I never had a change to get you for telling Megan about my having been MI6. Blake too, quite the double act you two were that day with him pretending not to understand what you meant by the circus," John chuckled slightly remembering that conversation. "Come back to us, Froggy, so I can at least make an attempt to get even."

"Someday you'll have to tell me what you want to get even with him for," Paul said grasping his friends should from behind in support and sympathy.

"I don't think so, old man. It was kind of a private thing between us. My demons caught up with me one day and I didn't see a future; Kermit helped me find my way out their grasp," John explained, using his nick name for a man only a few years older than himself.

"I'm glad he was there, he's helped me out of a few places like that as well," Paul admitted.

"I need to get going to a meeting with social services; you'll let me know if there's any change?"

"Absolutely John, you let me know how things are going with getting Tony and if there is anything Annie and I can do to help," Paul offered, seeing his friend to the door.
 


The ringing of the phone woke Paul for his light early evening nap. The last twenty four hours had been unusually quiet here as the station was scrambling to get their case against the Doyle's nailed down. There had been a lot of calls to check on the injured man, but oddly, no one had stopped by since John.

"Blaisdell,"

"Paul? It's Marilyn, how's Kermit?" A distraught woman asked.

"He's in still in a coma, not awake and not dead, but they really aren't expecting him to come out of it, so we were told to contact people. How are you and the kids?" He asked. They were visiting a friend's remote cabin he knew, and a sudden storm had disconnected the phone service and flooded the roads out. If she was calling maybe the roads were in service again. He had left a message with the local sheriff explaining that her brother had been hurt and it was imperative that she call him.

"We managed to get into town but the roads out of town won't be passable for another couple of days. I asked about a helicopter maybe, anything; but there's no way out for a few more days," she said almost crying.

"Marilyn, it's all right, I'm here with him and I'll tell him he needs to hang on until you can get back and badger him into rejoining the living.

"You, you'll call me if, if he passes on?" she asked, remembering too well another call she gotten telling her David had died. She had already lost her baby brother, now she was going to lose her big brother as well.

"I'll let you know, and if he regains consciousness you are the first person I'll have him call," Paul promised.

"Sound like you're needed elsewhere Marilyn," he said here her kinds squabbling in the background, "I do promise to keep you updated on his condition."

"I do have to go; thanks Paul," She said before hanging up.

He sat in the bedside seat and signed. Marilyn was going to take this hard. She had already lost so many people in her life, and now was losing her last family member. Well, their father was still alive, but he had deserted them years ago when they were only teenagers and their younger brother David just a baby.

"There's a thought, Kermit. If I dragged you father in here I bet you would get up," Paul snorted.

Once more the alarms pierced the air and the nurses came in on the run. Paul again stepped into the corner out of the way and dragged the chair with him. Dr. Soburn raced in with everyone else. The machines were silences and everything quieted down as she looked at his chart.

"Just another fluctuation, Paul, I wish I could say it was more," she said sadly, turning to face him.

"At least he's alive still, and considering his reaction to my mentioning people he's not found of, I would say aware on at least some level," he responded.

"They say that people in comas are aware of every one and everything around them, so maybe you're being here is what's kept him staying with the living," she observed, before heading out to continue her rounds.

"I promise not to get your father if you feel that strongly about it," Paul quipped, giving his friend a smile, and replacing the glasses that had been set on the bedside table.

"Paul?" Came a familiar voice from the doorway.

"Blake, I thought you were staying with Tony until they found a place for him for the night," Paul responded, turning to see his old friend. He knew that Peter had agreed that Tony might have been trying to hand him the gun. That and the boys clean record, and resulted in the decision to place him in foster care again instead of remaining in Juvenile Detention. Pine Ridge was still a possibility, but they wouldn't have a free bed for a few days at least.

"Social Services found a place for him and we're going there now, Tony was wondering if he could apologize to Kermit. I told him I thought it would probably be all right but you would have the final word on it," Shaky Blake explained.

Paul nodded his permission. "It's good of you to want to apologize, Tony,"

"It, it was the only thing I could think of. It was an accident, but it's not like I can undo it or anything, but if mom was alive she would have wanted to me to at least say I was sorry," the small sandy brown haired boy stammered as he looked at the man with the detective he had shot.

"That's the thing about guns, you can't undo the damage they cause, and I'm certain Detective Griffin understands it was just an accident," Paul said, praising the boy's attempt to do something to make up for his actions.

"Is, is he a friend of yours?" The boy asked, timidly.

"Yes, he's a very good friend of mine, so is detective Blake," Paul answered.

"Tony, it's late, why don't you apologize so we can get you to Dominick's at a decent hour," Blake hinted. He understood the boy's need to say he was sorry, but it was late and the boy had had a long day and should be in bed.

The kid nodded and turned to the bed and the sleeping detective. "Uh, Detective Griffin, I'm really, really sorry you got hurt. And I hope your friend is okay. I didn't mean for any of this to happen, I didn't want to be there at all but they said I had to and when I saw your friend had a badge I figured I could give him the gun and say he took it away from me. I honestly didn't know the safety thingy was off. I, uh, I just wanted to say I'm sorry and I hope you get to feeling better."

Biting his lip, he turned back to the nice man who had stayed with him through all of this. "Thanks for bringing me, Mr. Blake."

"You're welcome, now we really do need to get you to Dominick's," the detective said, ushering his charge towards the door.

"I'll let him know you were here and said you were sorry," Paul assured the youngster.

"Thanks, Captain Blaisdell," Tony said, remembering what Blake had said the man's name was.

The duo headed out and Paul was once more alone with his companion of so many years.
 


"I, I was on my way home and thought I would drop in and see how he was doing," came a quiet voice.

"Come on in Jodi," Paul smiled a welcome to the small blonde detective. "Do you mind sitting with him for a minute?"

"No; no not at all," Detective Jodi Powell said, quickly entering all the way. She liked the captain, but didn't want to intrude on his grief. Everyone knew that Kermit and Captain Blaisdell had a history together before Kermit joined the 101st precinct.

"I appreciate it, I need to stretch my legs but I don't want to leave him alone," Paul explained, getting up.

Looking at Kermit, in the bed with shades placed over his closed eyes, she gave a laugh that turned into a sob. Paul went over and hugged her.

"He didn't look right without them," Paul told her, confirming her suspicions as to who had put them on the injured man.

"Oh, yeah," she responded, with their friend's catch all-phrase for most situations.

Seeing that she was in control of herself again, Paul gave her a last clasp on the shoulder and headed out to relieve himself and get some coffee. He needed the walking and it would give her a chance to say her farewells in privacy.

"So, now what?" She asked, moving over by the bed once the captain had left.

"The last time I was in the hospital was when Kira died, and I do not want to go through losing someone else here. I knew you were going to be different the first time I met you. We were trying to find that missing girl and you needed me to go and get those things off of the guy's computer while Peter tried to be Dirty Harry. I couldn't believe it when you calmly offered us gummy bears while we waited for your computer to finish doing whatever that was it was doing. No one had even seen you leave the office on a case before much less carry a gun, and suddenly you pulled out that elephant gun of yours and said you knew where the girl was. When you got that girl I was even ready to forget your calling me sweet lips. I'll forget it again if you wake up," She sniffed.

"Just wake up, Kermit, so this nightmare can end," She ordered before turning from the bed, wiping a tear.

"He always has had a hard time not doing what a woman in tears wants him to, maybe that'll get him up," Paul commented.

"Why am I not surprised that the green knight is a sucker for a damsel in distress," she sniffed again.

"Because you know Kermit," Paul chuckled.

"Jodi, you've pulled a double shift two days in a row, go home and get some sleep," he ordered, seeing how tired she was.

"I was just heading home; you'll call me if there's any change, right?" She asked.

"You'll be among the first," he assured her, walking with her towards the door.

Seeing as Kermit was resting quietly, he walked her to the elevators. One of the nurses smiled to him as he passed.
 


"Shakey should be back fairly soon from dropping the kid off. Come to think of it, I think you were the first one to call him that. Considering what happened you can't blame him for getting a permanent case of the nerves," Paul sighed at the memory. That had not been one of the good times, but then no time in Vietnam had been a good time.

"No one ever did know how those Viet Cong knew we had troops moving through there. I still have nightmares about the bodies we found, and the look on Blake's face when we opened that holding cell and found him there. Sitting in back and shaking like a leaf in a hurricane."

"And your small distraction didn't help that matter any," Paul snorted. He had never known how much Kermit enjoyed blowing things up until that mission.

"Kermit doesn't do small distractions, Paul," Blake said from the door as he came in.

"I hadn't known that, at the time that we came to get you back in the jungle," Paul clarified, standing up and offering the chair to his friend. It was fitting somehow that things end like so much of their lives had been spent, the three of them together.

"That was when he blew the fuel truck, right?" Blake asked, not wanting to remember that night if he didn't have to.

"Yeah, I told him to give me a small distraction at the far end of the compound while I got you and anyone else alive out of that holding hut thing they had. Next thing I know, the fuel truck is exploding and Kermit has this completely insane grin on his face," Paul smiled slightly and shook his head.

"You have always had style, Muppet Man," Blake said, looking at the man in the bed and swallowing a lump in his throat.

"I remember that Kermit half carried me out of that place to the landing zone were picked up at," he continued after a moment of silence

"You were shaking so bad you could barely move, so Kermit got an arm under you and half dragged half carried you along with us," Paul added, remembering the sight of the smaller, younger man helping his friend along the path. It was hardly the last time that Kermit ever saw Blake through a hard spot, but it was the first. It was also one of the last times the trio split up for a mission. From that time on, unless Falcon's wing was called in, they worked together if at all possible.

"I didn't stop shaking for a week, and never have completely stopped," Blake admitted. "I still don't know how you found out where I was."

"Kermit intercepted a conversation on the radio," Paul explained. "If it's electronic he just can't leave it alone; a habit he learned from you."

"Thanks, Kermit, that's another one I owe you," Blake said, taking the empty chair, finally.

"Why am I not surprised to find out that he was the one that found me? I had been sitting in there for nearly two weeks, almost nothing to eat or drink. Each day they would take another of us out for questioning and then we would hear the shot and know he wasn't coming back. I was the only one left when you got there. The door opened and I could have sworn that they were coming for me," Blake explained, demonstrating how he got his nickname

"Anyone else would have been crazy by then," the captain said, putting a hand on his old and dear friend's shoulder.

"You think I wasn't?" Blake snorted.

"You were on missions with us a month later, Blake," the captain reminded.

"Excuse me, I'm guessing one of you is Captain Blaisdell," a young man in an air force uniform entered, setting a carry on by the door.

"I'm Paul, and this is Detective Blake, another long time friend of Kermit's," Paul said raising and coming over to shake hands with new comer.

"I'm Major Jim Halstrom," he said shaking hands with both men.

The officer turned to look at the man in the bed. "You don't look very good, Dad."

"You should see how I feel," croaked a voice before a coughing fit hit.

Three heads shot around and grinned broadly. Blake hit the button calling the nurse in while Paul reclaimed the shades before the nurse could confiscate them. Jim just laughed in disbelief.

"Paul, it was an accident, the kid was trying to give Peter the gun, not shoot him," Kermit said as a coughing jag hit.

"We know, you just relax and let the nurses take care of you," Paul instructed before being pushed aside.

The nurses bustled in while Paul slipped out to make a few calls and Blake and Jim stood by watching. His friend was going to make it, Kermit would live to continue teasing and harassing him.

"How did you know," Kermit asked as his son took the seat by the bed that Paul indicated was his.

"After the thing with Stryker I told mom I needed some answers. I overheard Caine telling you that I was enough like you to be your son, and you didn't deny it, you just smiled and left. It made me curious so I asked mom," he explained.

"How is she?" Kermit asked.

"Still kind of a party girl, Uncle Jack and Aunt Midge mostly raised me," Jim answered.

"Good people Jack and Midge," Kermit smiled with heavy eyes. Comas were apparently not the same thing as sleeping because all he wanted was to sleep for about a week.

"Can I stay with you for a bit?" Jim asked hesitantly.

Kermit gave him a rare real smile. "Go home with Paul, kid; he'll bring you back here in the morning, when we've both gotten some sleep."

"Come on, son, there's some home made cooking and soft beds waiting for us," Paul said, gratefully that Annie never minded unannounced guests.

"See you in the morning dad," Jim said picking up his bag and moving to follow his host.

"See you then, son," Kermit answered as they left.
 


Two Weeks later:

"Kermit?" Megan Durham asked as she looked into the detective's office.

"Megan, a delight and a treat; you have a shadow I see," he commented.

"Hi, Detective Griffin, I'm really glad you aren't mad at me," Tony blushed. He knew the man was a friend of John and Megan's, but he had shot him.

"It was an accident, Tony; just don't touch any more guns. How did it go at social services?" the man asked, lowering his shades slightly to look at the pair.

"I get to stay with the Durhams!" Tony almost squealed.

"Thanks for your help, Kermit," Megan smiled.

"I was glad to do it," he smiled back.

"The party is at seven tonight and we expect you to be there," she told him.

"I wouldn't miss it if Libya erupted again," Kermit assured his guests as they went to leave to inform Paul of the news.

"Good, because it's at Paul's and it's to welcome both our son's into the family," She said.

Smiling, Kermit glanced out his door and saw his son chatting with Peter and from the hand motion he was making describing some mid air adventure he had had. He was glad Jim had a month's leave so they could spend time getting to know one another. Now that he was out of the mercenary world, mostly, it was safe to admit to being the father of the young man he had always been so proud of.

"Kermit?" Skellany asked, breaking his rare introspective mood.

"Yes, Sweet Britches?" has asked smiling broadly at her.

"What did you ever do with the ten camels you were given?" She asked, hoping to catch him off guard by knowing about the camels.

"I never got them, I declined the camels," Kermit answered without missing a beat.

"The only way you could have done that with out giving great offense would have been to have taken the two women from his household," Paul said coming up to join them having seen his guests out.

"His daughters didn't want to be forced into arranged marriages, and if I took them home with me they could go to good boarding schools and get good educations and marry some nice men here. Besides they needed help, no one should be forced to live their whole lives subservient to someone else," Kermit explained.

"You took the daughter as your wives?" Mary Margaret asked, almost fainting.

"No, I was married and they were teenagers; they were officially my wards. I sent them to school and college and they're both married and doing very well. I see them every Christmas," the detective explained.

"That's your mysterious Christmas trip?" Paul laughed.

Kermit just grinned.

Kermit had surprising his friend and mentor for over half their lives and hopefully would continue to do so for another lifetime.


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