by Kristine Williams
"Yep. Gotta transfer these two to the Federal Holding Facility in Olympia while the lawyers from all sides hash out the details. With three states involved, it's going to be quite some time before they get things worked out. But me, I'm dropping them off tomorrow, and hitting the trail. Time for some serious vacationing."
"Sounds great. Where to?" Jim moved to follow Mills as he retrieved his coat.
"Mexico, I think. Some place nice and hot. Let the sun bake this case right out of me." He put on the coat, then shook Jim's hand. "Ellison, again, thanks for the help. I'm sorry it turned out the way it did, but without you it would have ended with another death, I'm sure."
Blair heard Jim clear his throat, and from where he sat could only imagine the clenching of his partner's jaw.
"I'm just glad it's over. Let me know if they mention a third man, I'd be anxious to help clean up this loose end."
"If indeed there is one. Sure thing." Mills looked over Jim's shoulder back at Blair. "You take it easy."
Blair nodded, smiling. "Thanks."
Jim opened the door, then turned back also. "I'll be right back." He followed Mills out the door, closing it behind him.
Blair sat there, alone at the table, too tired to move and too sore to want to. Jim had been in a good mood all through dinner, and even talked about the case. Maybe he was over his little problem already? God, he hoped so. Facing Jim Ellison, trying to get him to change his mind when he'd become fixed on a subject, wasn't an easy thing to do, even when Blair felt good.
Speaking of feeling good...Blair was just pushing off the table, slowly and with some effort, when Jim came back inside.
"Hey, time for you to get back into bed." Jim came over to him immediately and took one arm, helping Blair get to his feet.
"I get the feeling Mills isn't convinced about a third man." Blair had to grit his teeth right after that sentence as a stab of pain shot through his side. He didn't protest when Jim began to usher him to his room.
"It's still possible there wasn't, Chief." Jim pushed open Blair's door and helped him to the bed. "Unless those two confess, we may never know."
Blair sat down on the edge of the bed, shaking a little from the effort. The pain medication he had taken had worn off an hour ago, and as much as he hated taking so many drugs, he was considering taking his next dose. Maybe taper them off tomorrow. Before he could comment, Jim reached over to the nightstand and retrieved all of the bottles.
"I know you think I'm invincible, but it's possible one of the two in that mens room hit me." Jim was opening each bottle, and taking out the required amount of pills. He then handed them to Blair.
"No, I don't think so, Jim." Blair accepted the pills, but held them as he thought about that night, what little he could remember. Jim held out a glass of water, and Blair took it in his other hand. "If Raymond and I were down already, then we must have just then gone out. I mean, that stuff works fast, but you were just outside the door."
"The club was packed, Chief. I had a few bodies to push through just to get inside."
Blair wrinkled his eyebrows as he considered that. As he did so, Jim pointed to the pills in his hand. "Right." He put the pills in his mouth and washed them down with the water, then shook his head. "Still, that door swings in, and you couldn't have gotten very far inside before being hit. Someone had to be behind you."
"Well, we may never know. Unless one or both of them confesses, and turns in their accomplice. I can't picture anyone going up for life and leaving 8 million for someone else to spend. Anyway, it's over as far as we're concerned. The FBI will take care of any loose ends." Jim took the glass from Blair and set it back on the nightstand. "You need some help?"
"No, I'm fine." He knew it wouldn't take long for those drugs to take effect. "Are you going in to the Station tomorrow?"
"We'll see. Get some sleep." With that, Jim turned and left, shutting off the light and closing the door behind him but not pushing it all the way shut.
Blair lay back on the bed, too tired to take off his sweats or to care. He was beginning to feel that otherworldly, floating feeling from the pain meds, and thought he'd just better get comfortable before he fell completely asleep. Jim's attitude about the case was confusing. It could mean he was just happy it was over, and as soon as Blair was able, he'd be allowed back to work with Jim. Or, he could be keeping his answers short and to the point, not wanting to let Blair get any more involved in his work.
God, he wasn't ready for this topic of discussion! After
all he and Jim had been through, he'd been beginning to believe it would never
come up. Sure, one of these days he'd publish his paper, but there was still so
much to do between now and then. Even after that, he knew his study of Jim would
never really conclude. There was just too much to know, too much to learn. And
there was something else...something his tired mind was trying to tug at, but
the drugs were stronger, and Blair gave in to the sleep that overcame him.
Jim woke with a start, instantly tuning in to his partner's room below his. Blair was still breathing in a normal sleeping pattern, his heartrate quiet and normal. What had woken him? The morning sun was streaming in, there were no other sounds in the loft. He rolled over and checked the clock. 7:00 a.m. Might as well get up. He tossed the blankets off his legs and got up, padding downstairs in bare feet to use the bathroom. A quick glance into Blair's room proved his partner was still sleeping. He showered, shaved, then dressed before Blair showed signs of waking up. Jim was coming back down stairs when he heard Blair's sharp intake of breath from the bathroom.
"You okay?" he called as he crossed the room.
"I'm fine." Blair's reply was forced between clenched teeth, judging by the sound of it.
Jim sighed, then stopped at the kitchen. Blair wasn't usually one to hide his discomfort, but Jim was pretty sure why he was now. He hadn't wanted to leave it hanging--Jim's decision to keep Blair from going on the job with him any more--but he'd been too tired and upset to explain it to Blair so that he would understand, and not take it so personally. But then, just as he was telling Blair that being his Guide wasn't a job, not like the police work was, he had seen it again. Right behind Blair, for one fleeting instant, he had seen the panther.
That's what he'd expected to hear. Jim hurried into Blair's room and found him half in, half out of his old sweatshirt. "Hang on." Jim took the shirt and eased it over his partner's head. "You okay?" Blair nodded as his head came through the shirt, but Jim could see the tension in his jaw and neck. Blair winced again and put his right arm closer to his side, still nodding. "Yeah." Jim put a hand on Blair's back. "Listen, if you're going to be okay for a few hours, I need to go in to the Station this morning."
"Sure, I'll be fine," Blair replied, teeth still clenched.
"Did you take your..."
"Yes, Jim, I took the pills!"
Jim sighed, moving his hand up to the back of Blair's neck. "I know, partner, it's frustrating. Just give it some time. You'll heal."
Blair nodded again, then held a hand up. "I know. I'm sorry, Jim."
"Nothing to be sorry about, Chief." Jim gave the back of Blair's neck a gentle squeeze. "Come on out, I'll make breakfast before I go."
"Yeah, I'll be out in a minute."
"Okay." Jim left Blair in his room and returned to the kitchen, keeping an ear tuned in just in case. He could appreciate his friend's frustration, and he knew it wasn't completely due to the slow recovery of serious injuries. Jim had been surprised at Blair yesterday morning, letting the argument drop so quickly. He'd expected quite a fight, and he was prepared for it. Blair never gave up an argument, and could be very adept at changing Jim's mind when he wanted to. But this subject wasn't one he wanted to be changed about. It was just too dangerous for Blair to be out there with him in the field. If he had died...No, he needed his Guide, but he needed Blair alive. It would work out. It had to.
He looked up and watched Blair come out of his room, slowly walking to the kitchen table. "Coffee?"
Jim poured a cup and brought it out. He could see Blair's mood wasn't improving. "Do you need me to pick up anything at the University? I can drive by there on my way home."
"I need to call Professor Kinyon, find out who's been taking my classes. Maybe I can get over there tomorrow and..."
"No way, Chief." Jim turned and walked back into the kitchen. "The doctor said 2 weeks."
"Jim, I can sit at a desk. The doctor was talking about police work," Blair replied somewhat heatedly. "Which you don't think I'm qualified for anymore."
Jim shook his head. "Sandburg, I've never said that."
"Then what's the problem, Jim?"
"The problem is you getting hurt."
"Which was a freak." Blair leaned forward, his hands back to their expressive state of entreaty while his arms at least remained somewhat still. "You're the one who keeps telling me we need to stick together."
"And we will, just not in the field." Jim was trying to keep his voice level, but he could feel Blair's attempts to get under his motives and tear them up in front of him.
"Dammit, Jim, I have to be there with you!" Blair was putting his entire attention into an argument he was destined to lose.
"Well, you're not going to, Chief. It's too dangerous." Jim could feel his anger rising and he tried to maintain control. He couldn't give in, not this time.
"Just like that, you decide what's best for me? When do I get a say in this?" Blair's temper was rising to meet Jim's determination. "I've got a stake in this too, you know."
"Sandburg, you're in this for a paper, nothing more. Your publishing isn't worth dying for, is it?" Jim flipped the eggs over, taking a few seconds to check his temper. This wasn't going well. He'd never expected that it would.
"That's what you think? After all this, you still think I'm in this just for the paper?" Blair stood slowly, holding his right arm close to his side. "Jim, we've been over this before. If I was just in this for the paper...Hell, I would have gone to Borneo with Dr. Stoddard if that was all this was about!"
"Maybe you should have." Jim knew that wasn't the right thing to say. Before Blair could react to it, he continued. "Listen, Sandburg, I want you here, safe and alive, where you can help me and not risk your life doing it." He'd turned off the stove and was now holding the pan, looking at Blair. "You're a big help with the cases, Chief, you know that. And you still can be, just not out there."
Blair was shaking his head, his face in one of the most disagreeing poses Jim had seen yet. "No, Jim. I made that choice already. It's not that simple."
"Yes, Sandburg, it is that simple. If I have to, I can have Simon revoke your ID."
"Just like that, huh?"
"Just like that."
Blair took a step forward, then put a hand on the counter for support. "This isn't about you anymore, Jim. I've got a stake in this, like it or not. I've devoted the last year to you and your Sentinel senses. That's a year I can't get back. I'll be damned if I'm throwing it all away now!"
"You've got plenty of stuff for your paper, Sandburg. Maybe you need to find another subject." That damn paper again. Jim stopped himself from adding more. Blair was angry, and upset, and he was playing into it. If he went any farther, he could lose the friendship he was trying so hard to save. Blair might not be able to separate the issue from the relationship, but Jim could. He could stay in control, and not let his emotions take over.
"This really sucks, man!" With that exclamation, Blair nearly doubled over, teeth tightly clenched as both arms covered his injured side.
Dammit! Jim set the pan down and hurried around the counter, putting both hands on his partner's shoulders. As soon as his hands touched Blair, he straightened up and glared at him. Jim refused to let go. "You're right, Chief, it does suck." There was intense pain in his friend's eyes. Pain that he couldn't hide by clenching his jaw and not uttering a word. Jim pushed on his shoulders until Blair relented and moved towards the chair he had just vacated. "Sit down."
He shrugged both arms, removing Jim's hands from his shoulders. "I don't want to sit down, Jim." The anger was still obvious, even through the pain that was causing his voice to quaver slightly. "You don't understand, this is bigger than both of us."
"What the hell does that mean?" Jim had let go of Blair, but remained right beside him.
"Jim, your senses, you've used them countless times to save innocent lives. You can't just stop using them."
"I don't plan to stop using them. You can still help me with them."
"Jim, I need to be with you."
"You can be at the Station, Chief."
Blair shook his head again. "No, Jim, that won't work."
"It'll have to." Jim could feel his anger coming out again. His friend just wasn't willing to see reason here. He put a hand on Blair's shoulder and it was immediately shrugged off. This time the movement elicited a cry of pain from his partner and Jim took him by both arms and forced him gently into the chair. "Would you just take it easy, please?" Blair sat down, and within a few seconds had regained control. He nodded, but said nothing, so Jim released his arms and walked back into the kitchen to finish breakfast.
"What are you going to do if you're out on a case and zone out, huh?"
"I'll handle it." He'd known Blair wouldn't take this well, but his voice was quieter, probably due to the pain. And yet he still wasn't giving up.
"No, Jim, you won't handle it. Without me to watch your back, you could zone out and get shot before anyone else knew what was happening."
"You'll just have to teach me how not to, then." Jim was determined not to let Blair provoke him further. The decision had been hard enough.
Blair shook his head emphatically. "You can't avoid it. That's what you need me for, Jim. Zoning out is part of being a Sentinel, it's natural."
Jim sighed, putting down the pan. "Listen, Chief, this has just gone too far. You could have been killed. Then what would I do?" He picked up two plates and filled them with the eggs, then caught the toast as it popped up. "You can come to the station and help with the cases, but no field work. And that's that." He carried the plates out to the table and sat down.
"Jim, I can't work with you, with your senses, if I'm not with you when you need them." Blair's voice was taking on his instructor's tone, trying another track. "It's your job as a Sentinel to use the senses, but it's my job as your Guide to help you figure out how best to use them and watch your back while you do."
"And it's my job as a cop to keep you safe and alive. I'm not out there watching for wild animals, Chief. I'm chasing killers, going after psychopaths. It's not the same." Jim finished his sentence by placing a forkful of fried egg into his mouth. He could tell Blair was nowhere near ending this, but he did seem to be losing steam, by the tired look in his eyes. He watched Blair's eyes as his partner shook his head, preparing for another try. For an instant--one instant--he saw those eyes change. Jim's heart nearly skipped a beat; it happened so fast, he wasn't even sure he'd seen it. Blair's eyes, for one heartbeat, were those of a cat.
"...you'll feel differently in a week," Blair was saying.
Jim blinked, trying to rid himself of the image of Blair's pupils changing shape. "We can talk about it then if you want another argument, but my mind is made up."
Blair shook his head, but said nothing more. They finished breakfast, then Jim cleared the table. His partner was still being quiet, and he knew he'd be in for another round of complaints later that day. It seemed both Simon and Blair felt Jim would change his mind in a week or two. He didn't see how. A week wouldn't change the fact that Blair could have died. No, he'd come around, and see that they could still work together this way. And work or not, he still wanted Blair as a housemate. They had developed quite a friendship over the many months together, there was no reason to believe that would have to change.
"I'm gonna go in for a few hours. Do you need anything?"
Blair was still sitting at the table, a look of frustration barely hiding behind his eyes. He pursed his lips and shook his head in reply.
"What are you going to do?" Jim found the cordless phone and picked it up.
"I've got some work to do on the computer. Get some of my notes typed up. Seeing as how that's all I'm qualified for anymore."
Jim nodded, refusing to rise to the bait, and handed Blair the phone. "Out here?"
"I'll bring it out." He walked into Blair's room, found the laptop and several notebooks on top of it, and carried them out. Blair rolled his eyes and looked even more frustrated. Jim ignored the look. "What else do you need?"
"I'm fine, Jim." The anger was still there, barely held in check.
"I know you are, Sandburg. What else do you need before I leave?" He knew better than to take his friend's frustration personally. It wasn't easy being in need of help. It was made even harder to tolerate when you were in pain, and had just lost an argument. He needed time to cool down.
Blair shook his head and refused to look at Jim. "Nothing."
Yep, definitely needed some cooling down time. "Okay, I'll just be a few hours." Jim retrieved his coat. "You call me if you need anything." He pulled on his jacket and fished the keys out of his pocket. "Let me know if you want me to stop at the University." He paused, one hand on the door knob, waiting for Blair to acknowledge him.
Blair looked up, anger and frustration still showing plainly on his expressive face. "You going to dictate what I can and can't do there, too?"
Jim sighed, flexing his jaw muscles for a moment as he fought to control his voice. "I'll be back around noon."
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