by Kristine Williams
"Hey there early bird." Katie smiled and poured a cup of coffee that she handed to Blair. "How are you feeling today?"
"Fine, thanks." He took the cup and sat down facing her. "I was fool enough to get talked into diving today."
She laughed, turning eggs in a pan as they scrambled. "I heard. Good for you. You know how I feel about cold water diving."
"Yeah, you and Jim. You two should join one of those polar clubs."
"Don't think I haven't considered it." Katie turned her head to see down the hall. "Breakfast in ten minutes!" she shouted. "Hey, could you bring up some urchins while you're there? We were talking about that last night and I got a craving."
Blair smiled, nodding. "Sure. I haven't had those in a long time."
"I think your friend wants to try them."
"Jim? You think Jim wants to eat an urchin?"
"No, I don't think so Chief." Blair turned to see Jim standing next to him. "Your cooking leaves something to be desired when it comes to the more exotic items."
"Come on Jim, you eat these raw. No cooking involved. Perfectly safe. It's an old native delicacy that is just now catching on again in some of the more cultural restaurants in the area."
Jim shook his head and accepted a cup of coffee from Katie. "No thanks Sandburg." He sat down beside Blair to drink his coffee. "Now, a lobster, maybe some shrimp?"
Katie laughed, dishing up the eggs and handing each of them a plate full. "Bring up anything you see that you'd like to eat, I'll cook it for you."
Jim smiled at her. "You're on."
Blair was laughing, then he saw the other students coming down the hall and he stopped, glancing quickly at Jim. The sight of Kenny only reminded Blair of Emily, and the way he had felt when she told him how important family was to her, and that she was going to take her mother's advice and start seeing Kenny Pritchard. Kenny ignored them both as he stepped over to the counter, helping himself to coffee, which he then diluted with so much milk, Blair wondered why he even bothered. Larry and Ross followed suit, then each took a plate of eggs and sat down at the table behind Blair, out of sight unless Blair turned around, which he had no intention of doing. Lucy came down the hall next, and just took coffee, sitting beside Ross. Amy was behind her and got a plate and a cup, smiling at Katie, then she sat next to Blair and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
"Hey, long time."
He nodded, smiling back at her. "Can we talk later?"
"Definitely." she replied, smiling at Jim. "Did I hear right? You two are going down to the wreck today?"
"Yep." Blair replied. He could hear Ross behind him whisper something to Kenny and he shot Jim a quick glance, wondering if his partner was listening. Jim was looking at Amy, but Blair could tell he was picking up everything being said at the table behind them. He'd have to wait, as always, to find out what had been said.
"I'm sending Igor down today. I can follow you two with him."
"Hey, keep your eye out for lobster, would you? Jim has put in a request for dinner." Katie sat down with a cup and smiled at Amy. "If anyone can find a good lobster, it's Igor."
They laughed for a moment of shared memory, then Amy rolled her eyes and turned to Jim. "I had Igor down one day, and thought I found something from the ship. But his lens was dirty, and I could see well. So, I get all excited, thinking I've just made a wonderful find, and grab it. All the way back I'm trying to see through his lens, trying to figure out what this wonderful artifact could be. Then of course, Igor comes up, after I've announced to everyone that I had something. Turns out it was a lobster."
Blair laughed, as did Jim.
"Well, it was delicious," she added, smiling.
"So, you ready?" Jim looked at Blair expectantly.
He shivered, raising his eyebrows and reluctantly nodded. "Sure. Let's go freeze our..."
"Ah, am I the last one up again?" Clive came out from the door at the far corner of the main room where he and his wife shared a large, private suite.
"You, my dear, are always the last one up. And the last one to bed." Katie smiled at him and rose, going to the kitchen to start more eggs. "Blair, there's plenty of wetsuits down on the barge. Once you get in, the cold will be a distant memory."
He nodded and reluctantly pushed himself away from the table. He could feel eyes on his back from the next table, but he didn't turn around. Jim had stood and taken both their plates to the kitchen.
"Hey, I'll be down in a minute," Amy called to them as they both reached the door.
Blair nodded at her and grabbed his coat, looking up at Jim. "You sure about this?"
"You're not afraid of getting cold, are you Chief?" Jim teased, pulling his coat on and opening the door.
"Okay. Just checking." He followed his partner out the door. The sun was farther up in the sky as they made their way down the landing to the pier. Blair marveled at the new length of the dock, extending now more than twice what he remembered. The barge docked at the end was familiar though, and he couldn't help the smile that crossed his face as they boarded it. "Man, this brings back some memories." Blair said as he hurried over to the room containing Igor.
Jim followed, "Yeah, I heard about a few of those last night."
"Oh man, that is SO not fair," Blair said, glancing back at Jim for a moment before stepping through the doorway. "When do I get to meet your old army buddies? Huh?"
Jim just laughed, shaking his head. "Relax, Sandburg. They didn't dish up any dirt. I'm beginning to doubt that there is any."
Blair rolled his eyes and stepped over to Igor, running his hands over the machine lovingly. "I can't believe they still keep it running after all it's been through."
"It hasn't been easy, believe me." Amy stepped inside then, grinning at each of them as she approached.
"You send it down often?" Jim asked.
"Sure. Almost each time a diver goes down. It's easier to find your way to the wreck when your following a diver with the camera, especially if the water's churning up. I'm going to send him down with you two today, but it's clear water now, so I can use him to lead you down."
Jim slapped Blair on the back, pushing him towards the doorway. "Come on Chief, the water's not getting any warmer."
Blair shuddered, but let Jim push him out and towards the hatch. Once below they each found wetsuits and gear to fit and began the arduous task of pulling on the tight rubber suits. Blair hated this part. Stripping down in a freezing cold room, to a bathing suit, of which there were always plenty at the station, then pulling on the wetsuit. He beat Jim in donning the outfit, having hurried to get something on against that cold air, and started to check the tank he had chosen. The gauges on all the tanks read full, so he took the first in the row and checked the regulator. Satisfied, he picked up the tank, grabbed a mask and flippers, and climbed back up to the deck. Jim was right behind him and was already putting on the mask, following Blair over to the edge.
Blair stopped at the edge of the barge, glancing down at the clear blue water before sitting down to don the flippers and mask. Jim slapped him on the back, then jumped in, sending a cascade of ice cold water up to meet him. Blair grimaced against the cold water that hit his face, and would have shouted at Jim if he thought he would have only been heard by his Sentinel friend, and not also by Amy who was standing at the other end, lowering Igor into the water. He was shivering by the time Jim's hand came up and tugged on his foot, pulling him into the bay.
He hit the water and held his breath, waiting for that awful moment of pure shock to subside and start his heart beating again. Within seconds, the bubbles cleared away and his body adjusted to the numbness. Jim was in front of him, waiting, and he waved him on, following closely. They swam side by side when they reached the edge of the barge, and Igor joined them. After a few yards, Blair led the way deeper, following the camera as it lead the way to the wreck.
Blair had to consciously force himself to stop biting down hard on the regulator against the cold hitting his face. Once he did so, he found himself relaxing more and enjoying the dive. Igor wasn't fast, so he stayed well enough back to keep from overtaking the little machine and glanced around. They passed a large rock covered in anemones, urchins, and sea stars. Blair paused along with Jim, watching the colors dance with the current in a display of reds, purples, and oranges. Blair could almost forget his discomfort watching the show before him. The water was so clear, he could see color everywhere, and could imagine what Jim was able to see with his Sentinel sight under there. That was something he would have to remember to ask. They had never been diving together, and Blair was suddenly curious as to whether or not the water was having an affect on his partner's senses.
Jim touched his arm then and motioned for them to continue. It only took a few more minutes to reach the bow of the ship, poking up from the sand. They swam over the bow and looked out at a large section of deck still intact. Jim led the way and Blair followed, scanning the barnacle encrusted deck. There was more of the ship there than Blair had thought, but a lot of it was buried in rocks and sand. Jim continued on to the stern where part of the wheelhouse was visible and leaned inside. Blair joined him after a few more minutes of marveling at the ship that he must have swum over a hundred times before it was found. Jim pointed inside and Blair shook his head. His partner wanted to swim down into the hold, but he had never gone inside a wreck before, and knew the dangers. Jim pointed again and Blair shook his head again, waving at him. He held up three fingers and went inside, leaving Blair above.
Great, go in there and get stuck. I'm not coming in after you. He knew he would, of course, if his diving partner wasn't out in three minutes. But he didn't want to. Blair pulled the regulator gauge around and looked at it, using it as a watch like he always did while diving, judging the minutes by the drop in air pressure. He was just at the point where he was going to have to make one of those decisions he hated to have to make when Jim came back up. He tried to glare at his friend from inside the mask, but Jim just nodded and pointed back the way they had come. Blair agreed and let Jim lead the way, with Igor close behind them both. They took their time swimming back, both enjoying the scenery from under the waves. Blair could almost forget the fact that he could no longer feel his feet as they watched an octopus quickly escape their proximity. He could ignore what felt like ice crystals on his face as Jim played with a brightly colored sea slug for a few minutes. But he could not ignore the air pressure dial as it inched closer to the red. He tapped on Jim's shoulder and pointed up, ascending only after his partner nodded and set the slug down to follow. Igor was right beside Blair then and he waved at the camera lens, then pointed to a clump of urchins on a rock, watching as Amy directed the machine over to the creatures and used the clawed arm to pry one off.
They reached the surface next to the barge and Jim was first to the ladder, climbing out of the water after pulling off his flippers and tossing them up. Blair had to tread water and wait, trying to keep his teeth from chattering.
"Come on Jim, it's cold," he complained, waiting for Jim to get all the way up. Once there, his friend turned around and held out a hand.
"Toss em up." Blair obliged and tossed his flippers to Jim. "Hey, I think it wants you."
Blair turned to see Igor next to him, handing out the urchin. He laughed and took the crustacean, handing it up to Jim. "Hey, Katie wants enough for dinner!" he shouted.
"No problem!" Amy shouted back from her control room. "I'll have to keep looking for lobster!"
Jim set the urchin aside and reached down for Blair. "Man, that was incredible. I haven't been down in these waters in a long time."
Blair let Jim pull him up, then sat down on the edge of the barge to remove his tank. "Yeah, I'd forgotten just how alive everything is down there. But God it's cold!" His hands were shaking too much to unclip the tank and Jim reached over to do it. How come he never seemed to feel the cold? "I can't believe there's so much of that ship down there, all this time."
"You should have come inside." Jim had pulled off his own tank now and was unzipping the top of his wetsuit. "It's in amazing condition considering the age and the currents here. Must be due to the temperature. And it's still full of old shipping trunks and things, in pretty good condition."
"Yeah, the temperature." Blair's teeth were chattering now and he stood, lifting his tank. "Man, I'm getting out of this and into a hot shower." He hurried down below and stowed the gear, placing his used tank at the far end of the row, then sat down and began the very difficult task of removing the wetsuit. Jim came in with his halfway down already and Blair shivered seeing his friend, standing there in that cold, seemingly unaffected. "What the hell is it with you anyway?"
Jim laughed a little and looked at Blair, questioningly. "What?"
"You aren't even shivering. Your fingernails aren't blue." Blair made a face as he pulled the wet rubber off of his chest, trying not to dislocate both shoulders as he pulled each arm loose. "I can't see you turning down your sense of touch enough not to be cold."
Jim was smiling as he pulled the rest of his wetsuit off. "I just have a higher level of tolerance, Chief. Always have."
Somehow Blair got the rest of his suit off and he quickly toweled off, rubbing hard to warm his skin. "Yeah, well, don't count on me going back down for your lobster."
"Don't worry Sandburg, I'll find someone else to go down with next time. I wouldn't mind having another look at the inside of that ship. There was a lot of room in there. Room for all sorts of supplies. I wonder what they've found?"
"You can have a look at some of it," Blair said, stuffing his arms into his sweater. "They've got a lot boxed up in the basement." He shoved the sweater on and grabbed his pants. "And Clive should have a list of what the historians expected to find on board." He zipped his jeans and looked for his socks, then noticed the thoughtful expression on his partner's face. "What? What are you thinking?"
Jim had been glancing at the tanks while dressing. "I was just wondering how often these tanks are replaced. Seems like a lot of equipment for just a handful of divers."
Blair was about to form a response when he heard his name called.
"Hey Blair, come help me with Igor, would you?" Amy called from above. "If Katie wants enough for dinner, I'm going to need some help."
Jim smiled and pulled on his shirt. "I'm going to go up and have a chat with Clive about that ship. Just keep your eye out for lobster, okay?"
Blair smiled and nodded. He was going to try again to convince Jim to try sea urchin, but after the little mess in the loft, he knew his partner wasn't going to be keen on anything he suggested for dinner for some time. They both climbed back up to the deck and Blair assured him it would be lobster or nothing, then entered the control room and took a seat next to Amy.
Blair took the controls while Amy went outside to attach a net to one of Igor's arms, then he sent the machine down to the rock where he had seen the bounty of urchins earlier. It felt good to be back at the controls after such a long time. Finding that native canoe in the channel had been the first time Blair used Igor. There wasn't much call for propeller driven cameras in anthropology, but he wasn't completely unfamiliar with machines, having invented most of his own for testing Jim's Sentinel abilities. There was a space heater on in the control room, so Blair quickly warmed up, then was able to enjoy himself, maneuvering Igor around the sea floor in search of lobster. He had better luck with the urchins, and after a few dropped ones and three that were crushed beyond recognition, he was able to gather a bag full and brought Igor back to Amy's waiting arms.
"This should keep you and Katie happy for the night." Amy held up the dripping bag, laughing. "I can't stand the things myself."
"Have you tried them?" Blair asked, smiling at her from the other side of the sack.
"Well, no. But I'm not sure I will be any time soon." She set the bag down and looked around, trying to see down the pier. "Hey, can we talk later?"
Blair looked up and raised his eyebrows. "Sure. Anytime."
She nodded, glancing over her shoulder again as they heard footsteps approaching. "Not now, but maybe after lunch?"
Blair glanced past her and saw Kenny and Lucy coming up the pier. "Yeah, okay." He nodded then picked up the bag. "Hey, do me a favor. Keep an eye out for lobster."
"You got it." Amy patted Blair on the back as he passed her and stepped off the barge. Kenny was there, waiting to board.
"You surprise me, Blair. Coming all the way up here to help Emily out like this." Kenny stepped aside while Blair jumped off the barge and turned to look at him. "Although, considering her parent's position, I would have thought the University would send someone a little more...in keeping with her status."
"Someone has to be responsible, Kenny. I only hope you grow up some day soon." Blair picked up the bag of urchins and left before he could say any more. Seeing Kenny, walking around without even the hint of sorrow or regret, made his blood run cold. He knew Kenny's type more than he knew Kenny personally, and he knew the strongest emotions people like him felt were towards themselves. How could Emily have fallen in love with a man like that? When Blair knew her, she was so vibrant and full of life and love for everything. They'd had fun together, but Blair wasn't ready for anything serious any time soon. And Emily was. But Kenny Pritchard? From what he'd heard, Kenny wasn't even a very good student. Professor Kinyon wasn't too fond of him. Neither was Jim.
Blair glanced up to the top floor windows of the center before starting up the steps. He could see Jim standing there with Clive, both of them looking down at the pier. Hadn't Jim said something last night about Kenny? Blair started up the stairs and caught a glimpse of Ross and Larry standing on the landing, watching him. There was something strange going on with those two. Something that was beginning to give Blair a nervous feeling he couldn't quite identify. He smiled at the two as he passed them, entering the building. They both just stood there, watching him like two fleshed gargoyles.
Blair set the bag of urchins down in the mud room and hung up his coat, then went looking for a bucket to carry the dripping creatures into the kitchen with. There was nothing on the main floor he could find, so he went downstairs where he knew he'd find one or two tucked away in the closet. Once at the bottom of the stairs, Blair kept his eyes from wandering to the freezer. There were boxes stacked everywhere, and several of them were pressed up against the closet he needed to get into. Most of the crates were nailed shut and lifted easily, so he began to reposition them in order to gain access to the bucket he could see against the far wall. He had just moved three crates and was lifting a fourth when his hand hit something sharp.
"Ow!" Blair pulled his right hand back quickly, seeing blood dripping off his index finger. He pressed his thumb over the cut and bent down to examine the offending crate. Several nails were sticking out from the lid that had been hastily put together. More often than not, the hammer had missed it's mark, and more than half the nails were bent. Blair looked at his finger, then found a safe handhold on the crate and moved it aside. Before reaching for the final one, he examined it closely, finding the same hasty construction. He moved that one aside with his foot and reached the bucket he was looking for, taking it back up the stairs.
"Hey, did you get dinner?"
Blair was halfway back to the mud room to gather his urchins when Katie came down the stairs. "Yeah, sure did. Where do you want them?" Blair picked each one out of the bag and put them into the bucket.
"In the sink. I'll need to rinse them out good. Clive likes them boiled, or he won't eat them at all." Katie walked over and took the now full bucket from Blair's hands. "Want some coffee?"
"Sure. I just need to wash up. Where's Jim?"
"Upstairs. Clive is showing him the historical record of that old wreck. Here, there's soap at the sink, wash your hands."
Blair nodded and walked over to the smaller sink at the opposite end of the kitchen. He couldn't help the sudden intake of breath as the hot water hit his finger. "Ow, man...Do you still keep the band-aids in the same place?"
"Of course. What happened?" Katie walked over and took Blair's hand in hers, looking at the cut on his finger. "What did this?"
"I had to move some crates to find the bucket." Blair tried to pull his hand away when she took a closer look at the cut. "Some of them have nails sticking out and I found one the hard way."
Katie shook her head and pulled Blair by the hand. "Come on, let me clean this out before it gets infected."
As she still had his hand, Blair had no choice but to follow Katie across the room and into the small medical station she kept set up just across from her and Clive's private quarters. Once inside she had him sit on the one bed while she opened a cabinet and produced bandages and antiseptic soap.
"I'd better have Lucy fix those boxes. It's not like her to do a shoddy job packing artifacts. In fact, packing and cataloguing is what she does best."
Blair tried very hard not to complain as she began to scrub his finger. "Hey Katie, was Kenny the only one on the dock with Emily, when it happened?"
She finished scrubbing the cut and patted it dry. "No, actually Larry and Ross were down there too. Kenny was diving with her though. By the time I got down there, they had been trying to resuscitate her for five minutes." She finished drying the cut and put a bandage around it. "I still can't get over it. I imagine I never will, not completely. Clive and I, we feel so responsible for all of them when they come up here."
"She knew what she was doing. So did Kenny. I don't understand how this could have happened. Thanks." Blair glanced at his finger when she finished and nodded.
"You know, that friend of yours has been asking about it too. And not just in a curios way. I suppose, being a Detective and all, he sees these things in a different way than the rest of us. But I have to tell you, he's starting to make me wonder myself."
"Yeah, Jim does that." Blair stayed on the bed and Katie took a seat on the stool beside the small counter.
"He told me about how your apartment got blown up and he took you in after that. At first, I had a hard time picturing the two of you together. But after getting to know him, I can see how you might compliment each other. He's a good friend."
Blair nodded slowly, raising his eyebrows. "Yes, he is." He smiled, remembering the paint fight of just yesterday. It had taken him totally by surprise and his stunned reaction was all Jim needed to get the advantage. Blair still didn't know when it was okay to relax around Jim and when it wasn't, but he was learning all the time. Just the fact that Jim Ellison still wanted him around often surprised him. "I've never met anyone like him before. He's so...deep. I mean, I can't even explain it myself, but this guy's just not your average policeman. He's not your average anything, really. Scares me sometimes."
Katie frowned, leaning against the counter. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not sure." Blair shrugged, realizing he may have used the wrong words, but it seemed true. "I've just never known anyone who was always...There. I mean, I thought our working together was going to be pretty temporary, and I still keep expecting him to call it off. But, I don't want it to be over, not anymore. And he keeps me around, even with my occasional screw up. God, I just don't know how to deal with it sometimes. But I want to."
Katie smiled, "He's had an effect on you. I can see it."
Blair looked at her then, wondering what she meant, but afraid to ask. "Everybody has an affect on me."
She shook her head, still smiling. "No, not everyone. Clive sees it too. You've changed since we saw you last. And it's not because of Emily."
At the mention of Emily, Blair lowered his eyes for a moment, still struggling with his emotions, or lack of them, even after Jim insisted it was okay. He wasn't sure if he had been more upset about his feelings, or what Jim would think of him if he were to find out. But Jim had found out. He'd found out and hadn't even thought twice about it.
"I don't know exactly what you do for the Detective, but take my advice...Stick with him. He's been good for you." She stood then and Blair got up. "And, though I never met him before, I'd be willing to bet you've had an effect on him, too." She patted Blair on the shoulder and they both left the aid room. "Like you do on everyone you meet."
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